In life, it’s the little things that count. Not the great big momentous occasions, but the daily moments that all strung together, make up your own personal circle of life. We cannot measure the quality of our lives by the big events like birthday celebrations, weddings, baptisms and graduations. It’s the day-to-day stuff that makes up your life.
This is also true with eating. It’s not just the big meal occasions—dinner out, Thanksgiving, birthday cake and such. Becoming a healthy eater has everything to do with daily decision making over what will go in your mouth, rather than worrying about a special occasion (I say, splurge and enjoy it! The next day, do penance and throw in a little extra exercise and pare a few calories off your daily intake for the next few days.)
But it’s those daily decisions that count; to choose not to drive thru and wait an extra 15 minutes to get home to real food. It’s choosing fruit over donuts; water over soda and not to have that bowl of ice cream watching TV. Those are the little decisions that matter much more so than eating an extra piece of pie at Thanksgiving. Yeah, overindulging is hard on your body and we talk about being “Thanksgiving full” as the ultimate test of fullness, but the daily awareness of what you put in your body is what the definitive cause and effect of how your body looks, feels and operates.
Sometimes it’s easy (like the above example of fruit over donuts). Other times, it’s harder to know what to do. Here are some easy swaps to help you to save calories, your health and your sanity, too, so you know that what you’re doing will make a difference!
Instead of a blueberry muffin (which, let’s be honest, is really a cupcake with blueberries in it!) have a cup of Greek yogurt with 1/2 a cup of blueberries stirred in. Save yourself 249 calories (and some considerable carbs!).
Instead of a 2 slices of whole wheat bread, have 1 Orowheat Sandwich Round (whole wheat also), saving yourself 140 calories!
Instead of 1 cup of white rice, have 1/2 cup of brown rice mixed with chopped steamed broccoli. You’ve just saved yourself nearly 100 calories (and ratcheted up the fiber count, too!).
Instead of a pork chop, go for an equal serving of pork tenderloin and save yourself 50 calories (plus a lot of fat grams!).
It’s not that difficult to make a big difference a little bit at a time. Awareness counts as much as calories do. Keep that in mind as you hit the grocery store this week!
Our Dinner Answers menu planner allows you to completely personalize your grocery list and do your grocery shopping from your PHONE! Check it out!
One of my favorite pastimes is cooking with my children. Do you have kids? If you do, I want to heavily recommend that you teach them the joys of the kitchen while they’re still young and look up at you like a superhero that has all the answers. Teaching your children how to cook is more than a rite of passage; it’s just plain fun. To me, the kitchen is like a magical land that can create a special type of community and intimacy with the simple act of making a meal.
There are some little things you should look out for when you start to integrate your children into the cooking world: the basic do’s and don’ts.
DO assign simple tasks. When starting out, show them how to wash veggies, how to stir sauces to not let the sides burn, how to scramble eggs, etc.
DON’T let your child use a knife and cutting board without supervision and being taught proper technique.
DO give them a bit more responsibility as they show they understand. Show them basic vegetable cutting, but once you pass that knife from your hand to theirs, watch them like a hawk. (younger ones can use pumpkin carving knives safely, so save yours!)
DON’T let your child remove anything from the oven. But explain how it’s done as you do it; this way, when it’s time, they’ll be ready.
DO explain how when you’re using a pot or pan that you need to turn the handle to the side so it’s not sticking out so no one can run into it or accidentally knock it over.
DON’T allow them to handle meat until they’ve had a couple seasoned years under your training, but explain the safety issues and demonstrate thorough hand washing after you touch it.
ALWAYS let them sneak tastes of their labor in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I get to taste along the way, and I can guarantee that it’ll be a favorite among your children as well.
Well folks, there you have it! Show your children what a kitchen is and how to use it. My daughter is a college graduate now and she tells me all the time how surprised she is that hardly anyone her age knows how to cook. Regardless, your children are going to love learning this new skill! For them, it’s like finally getting to know the secret behind a magic trick. Have FUN!!
There is a true intimidation factor in cooking for some people—I get the emails from them so I know this is true. For me, having grown up in a home with parents who cooked, rarely eating out, I learned how to navigate my way in a kitchen early on.
It was (being honest here) a bit of surprise when I first started my website back in 2001 to learn that not everyone knew how to chop an onion. The cooking terms that I learned before I got my first Girl Scout badge (The Cooking badge naturally—I’ve got it taped to my bookcase, LOL!), have fallen by the wayside. Terms like dice, mince and julienne have turned into much simpler terms like chop, chop fine and chop into matchstick-sized pieces. But who cares, right? The deal is to get the cooking DONE, not worry about semantics.
Check out this testimonial we received from Heather:
Okay, I finally decided to try your system.
Well, first I get the menu – looks good, but I’m worried, because spaghetti and sauce is about the most I do. Then I see the grocery list – there are things on there that I’ve never ever bought before!
I go to the grocery store with your list in hand. For a family of 6 my average grocery bill was always over $120/week. With Leanne’s list – I spent $67.52.
Now, I decide to prepare the meal. First thing that I discover, a fancy sounding name doesn’t mean hours of cooking. Second thing, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to cook the whole thing! Finally, I find out that my kids eat things that don’t include mounds of sugar.
Thank you for helping me save money and my family’s health!!
Me again—the trick is, as Heather wrote, was not to be intimidated! She took a tool (the menu) and dove in and did the work. She discovered that doing so saved her a ton of money, her sanity, and made her feel like a hero in her own home! Isn’t that what we all want?
Don’t be intimidated by cooking! I’ve said in a million times, this is not brain surgery and it is something everyone can do, I promise! If you need help, I’ve got it for you in every way imaginable from free daily newsletters, to recipes and tips, grocery lists, freezer cooking, you name it. Don’t lose hope and think you can’t do this thing called cooking. YES, you can!!
Ready to try Dinner Answers like Heather did? We’ve got it right here for you.
Why is it the last thing to get cleaned in a kitchen is the inside of the refrigerator? I know that’s true for a lot of people; it certainly was for me!
The fridge was the last frontier for me in the kitchen. I could keep the kitchen clean, unload the dishwasher regularly, keep the floors up, the pantry reasonably organized. But the fridge? I would let it go. And then it would be a bear to deal with. I had a perfectionist attitude with my fridge—it was an all or nothing proposition. I would spend an hour or more cleaning every last nook and cranny. Tossing stuff left, right and center, cleaning the rubber gasket with a toothbrush, pulling everything out, disinfecting it and making the whole thing gleam. Honest, I could see that thing shine from my bedroom!
One day it dawned on me that I did not have to clean my fridge like that. I could do it one shelf at a time! I could keep things rotated and wiped down in as little as 2 minutes at a time. But the secret for making that happen was what I like to call Refrigerator Awareness. Cleaning the fridge does NOT need to be a project!
All that means is adding Refrigerator Awareness to your radar screen and don’t let that big, old appliance turn into that nasty, dreaded cleaning project! It truly does NOT have to be that way!
Oh and lest I forget. There is a TREMENDOUS bonus that comes from picking up the RA skill (Refrigerator Awareness). You save money. Gobs of it. Your food gets eaten, not shuttled to the back to develop into a science experiment. Your produce doesn’t develop slime, wilt or become fossilized. And, you may just find something in there you didn’t know you had that needs to be used up! Isn’t that just the coolest thing ever? (pardon the obvious pun!)
To recap: 2 minutes a day. That’s all. Let’s put an end to Project Refrigerator Clean-ups. I don’t know about you, but I’ve HAD it with those big jobs!
The same awareness goes for the freezer! Is yours cleaned up enough to handle some handy freezer meals?
Have you ever removed a tray of meat from the freezer only to find discoloration and ice crystals? If you’ve forgotten about a carton of ice cream in the freezer for any length of time, you may have opened it to find its surface covered in ice. Freezer burn, we tend to call it.
Freezing food is a great way to extend the life of our perishable items, but when you freeze foods, you stand the chance of having your food become freezer burnt.
Freezer burn presents itself as discoloration on the surface of frozen foods such as bread and meat. Ice crystals are another sign of freezer burn, which we can find in frozen produce and ice cream.
To understand freezer burn a bit better, it helps to know more about how the freezing process works. When food is frozen, most of the water content of that food is converted to ice. Some of the water, though, is converted directly to water vapor and is released from the food all together. This process is called sublimation.
This water loss causes food to become dehydrated over time, like ice cubes that eventually shrink when they’re left in the freezer. So, in essence, this process freeze dries parts of foods, resulting in freezer burn.
In air-tight containers (like ice cream), that water vapor forms frost on the insides of the container and/or on the surface of the food. In open containers or containers that aren’t perfectly sealed, the vapor that escapes actually leads to that build up of ice on the inside of non-frost-free freezers.
And what we’re left with is food with strange flavors that’s difficult to chew.
When you have freezer-burnt food on your hands, you should do your best to discard the areas that have been affected. But you know I just hate food waste, so let’s talk about how to prevent freezer burn all together.
Tips to prevent freezer burn
- Remove as much air as you can from packages you freeze food in. The closer your food is to its packaging, the less chance there is of it losing water.
- Don’t leave your food in the freezer longer than you have to. The longer your food is frozen, the greater the chance of it becoming freezer burnt.
- Set your freezer at the lowest setting that you can in order to help avoid sublimation from occurring, as it’s less likely at lower temperatures.
- Always use high quality zipper-style bags to freeze food, and try to wrap foods in a bag that fits just right.
- Don’t place hot food in the freezer. You risk increasing the temperature of your freezer, and some of your frozen foods may even start to thaw.
- Avoid opening the freezer door more than it needs to be opened. This will help keep the freezer temperature from fluctuating, which can lead to freezer burn.
Making meals out of the meat/poultry/fish and produce you buy as soon as you get them home from the grocery store is another way to ensure that your food doesn’t get wasted and forgotten about at the back of the freezer.
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With packing up to move to our new home this week, it has me thinking again about the kitchen basics. What kitchen essentials does any college kid, newly married couple, or just someone starting out in the kitchen, really need to get started?
First: A toaster oven. This little gem is really a great multi-tasking work horse. It will bake a potato, heat up leftovers and make toast. Considering that most people aren’t cooking for a family just starting out, this little oven works great for one or two and keeps costs down in the utility department too.
Staff Pick: BLACK+DECKER Counterop Convention Toaster Oven
Second: Blenders are a fantastic little marvel. Smoothies are one of my favorite and most often used quick, to go breakfast options, and I wouldn’t get very far if I didn’t have my blender to rely on! They also prove to be useful beyond mixing smoothies or drinks, but blenders can also puree soups, and chop softer ingredients as well.
Staff Pick: Blendtec Total Blender Classic, with FourSide Jar or NutriBullet Pro
Third: Coffeemaker or hot pot. Keep your money and make your coffee at home! If you’re the parent of a college kid, I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough, LOL! The little hot pot is great for heating water for tea, hot cocoa or those dreadful instant noodles college kids consume by the truckload. (I certainly don’t condone this practice of eating those noodle cups, but it is a fact of life and part of the growing up process!)
Staff Pick: Hamilton Beach Single Serve Coffee Brewer and Full Pot Coffee Maker or Bodum CHAMBORD French Press Coffee Maker, Copper Classic Collection
So there you have it. There are several other appliances out there to be had, but that will come later. For me, walking into the appliance section of a store is like walking into a toy store. I love it, but we only need to start with a few and these 3 are definitely a good start!
What is the ONE kitchen appliance that you absolutely can’t do without?