Meal Plan Monday - September 28




Last week I made a big pot of black beans, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous about my children's reaction to eating them. They've eaten beans before, but I usually try to hide them in other foods (i.e. quesadillas). I didn't need to worry though; both of the boys liked the beans and ate them without complaint.

It is amazing how far we have come with an extremely picky eater just two years ago to eating beans! A little over two years ago I wrote Hope For Parents of Picky Eaters and we still use many of the points that I wrote about in our home today.

Last week I also made these Banana Blueberry Bars. I made them for Bible study since there is a family that follows a Vegan diet. Much to my surprise, the bars are delicious and reminded us of banana bread. They are also very, very healthy with no added sugar! While some of the ingredients are more expensive than what I would normally buy, I will occasionally make this recipe since it is a wonderful dessert that my husband can enjoy on the low sodium, low saturated fat, heart healthy diet that we've been following since his heart attack a year ago.

Here's my meal plan for this week:

Monday:
    Whole chicken in the crockpot, carrots, mashed potato, yogurt biscuits 

Tuesday:
     Monterrey Chicken Skillet (without bacon), green beans, leftover biscuits

Wednesday:
    Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo, carrots

Thursday:
     Spaghetti with homemade sauce, carrot and cucumber sticks

Friday:
    Whole Wheat Calzones, Carrot French Fries

Saturday:
      Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas, apple slices, carrots

Sunday:
     Enhanced Macaroni Salad and any leftovers from the week



Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Simply Saving Saturday - September 26



I had a very busy week this week and I didn't get everything done that I had planned to.  I am a substitute teacher for our local school district and I was called several times this week to fill in for teachers in the elementary and middle schools.  Each day I brought a lunch from home so that I didn't have to buy food from the cafeteria.

The gardening season is just about over for this year.  I've started cleaning up the garden, but still have quite a bit to do.

I picked more carrots this week and there are still a lot more to pick.  I love fresh carrots and I don't think I could ever get tired of them.

I also picked more banana peppers to make pickled peppers.  Surprisingly, the pepper plants have held up well to the colder fall temperatures and the light frosts.  I was hoping that a few more small peppers that are on the plants would ripen, but I'm not sure if they will before the temperatures get colder.

The boys helped me rake leaves and I added them to the compost.

While I was making pickled banana peppers, I saved the seeds and dried them to plant next year.

My husband put the air conditioner away.  We haven't turned the heat on yet, but with temperatures in the low sixties today we know it won't be long before we'll be needing it.

I cut the boys' hair.


Our on-going savings:

**Compost kitchen and garden scraps.

**Wash laundry in cold water.

**Use online bill pay to pay our bills.

**Earn Swag Bucks for gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Earn Bing Rewards points for gift cards, Hulu Plus subscription, Skype credits, etc.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Meal Plan Monday - September 21



I noticed this black beans recipe on Pioneer Woman that can prepared days ahead and used in several different meals.  I decided to make it this week and try it in a few meals since it's going to be a busy week for us.  The recipe looks delicious - if you like black beans.  I'm not sure yet how the boys will like these meals.

One of the things that my husband has really missed since we started eating a heart healthy diet is sausage.  I found a recipe for homemade turkey sausage that I am excited to try this week.

Here's the plan for this week:


Monday:
     Sweet and Sour Chicken, carrots, yogurt biscuits

Tuesday:
     Creamy Rigatoni with Homemade Turkey Sausage, corn, leftover biscuits

Wednesday:
     Poor Man's Burrito Bowls, carrots

Thursday:
     Spaghetti with homemade pasta sauce

Friday:
     Black Bean BurgersCarrot French Fries

Saturday:
     Creamy Avocado Alfredo Pasta with chicken and broccoli, cucumber and carrot sticks

Sunday:
     Tuna Noodle Casserole



Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Simply Saving Saturday - September 19



This week I made pickled banana peppers with banana peppers from our garden. This was the first year that I was able to successfully grow peppers!  It's hard to grow peppers in our area because of the short growing season, but this year I started growing them inside at the beginning of May and we've also had an unusually warm fall, making it a perfect environment for growing peppers.

I picked more cucumbers and we had more cucumbers than we could possibly eat, so I made another batch of refrigerator pickles.  I also picked onions, carrots, tomatoes and the last of the zucchini and made Zucchini Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies.

I grew sunflowers for the first time this year.  I planted the giant variety and it was so fun to watch them grow to almost 10 feet tall!  I cut a few heads off and let them dry in the sun, but I think I might have tried to harvest the seeds a little too early.  I think I need to wait at least another week or two before cutting the heads off the other plants.

If I get enough sunflower seeds, I would love to try this Sunflower Butter recipe.  Sunbutter is extremely expensive and since one of my children is allergic to peanuts, this would be a great alternative to peanut butter!

I bought a large container of parsley that was on sale at Walmart that was less expensive per ounce than the parsley that I usually buy.  Since starting our low sodium heart healthy diet, I have been using a lot of parsley for flavor.  I won't have to buy parsley for quite a while.

I used water from our rain barrel to water our garden.

Our family borrowed several books and a DVD from the library.

I earned 210 Recyclebank points this week.


What are your favorite ways to live frugally?



Our on-going savings:

**Compost kitchen and garden scraps.

**Use the air conditioner only on very hot days and keep it set at 75 degrees.

**Wash laundry in cold water.

**Use online bill pay to pay our bills.

**Earn Swag Bucks for gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Earn Bing Rewards points for gift cards, Hulu Plus subscription, Skype credits, etc.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Heart Healthy Living: The Danger of Hidden Sodium Part 2



The main culprit of the high sodium American diet is processed foods.  About 75% of the sodium in our diet is hidden sodium in processed foods.  My husband and I had no idea how much sodium we were consuming and I don't think many Americans realize just what the food manufacturers are putting in the foods we eat.

First, let's look at the #1 source of sodium in our diet.

Would you be surprised if I told you that the #1 source of sodium in our diet is bread?  Most breads are not high in sodium, but there is a lot of bread in the American diet and all those milligrams add up quickly.

Here's an example of how bread can add a lot of sodium to our diet:

Breakfast: Bagel approx. 400-500 mg of sodium

Lunch: Sandwich (2 slices of bread) approx. 200-300 mg of sodium

Dinner: Dinner roll with meal approx. 200-300 mg of sodium

Conservatively, that's 800 mg or 33% of the recommended daily intake of sodium just from bread. You can see how quickly the amount of sodium we eat can add up.

Let's look at another high sodium food that is common in the American diet:

A common meal in American homes is pasta.  Pasta, in and of itself isn't bad, but in many cases, it's what we put on our food that is the problem.  Prepared pasta sauce is very high in sodium.

Hunt's Traditional Pasta Sauce
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Sodium: 560 mg per serving

Compared to the recommended amount of less than 300 mg of sodium per serving, the 560 mg in just 1/2 cup is extremely high, but believe it or not, there are others that are even worse.  Some pasta sauces contain over 600 mg of sodium per serving.

Seeing these numbers on the pasta sauce on my kitchen shelves was a real wake-up call for me.  I made a pasta meal for my family at least once a week and I often purchased Hunt's Traditional Pasta Sauce.  In one meal we were eating almost 1/4 (if not more) of our daily recommended sodium intake.

I have noticed more and more foods labeled as "heart healthy", but I've noticed that many times they still don't meet the recommendations for sodium intake.  Prego has a Heart Smart pasta sauce and while it has significantly lower amounts of sodium per serving and is a much better option, it still doesn't meet the recommended amount of sodium per serving:

Prego Heart Smart Pasta Sauce
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Sodium: 360 mg per serving

What about a staple in many American homes with children: macaroni and cheese?

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
Serving size: about 1 cup
Sodium: 570 mg per serving

My children can easily eat 1 cup or more at one meal.  That's over 1/3 of a child's recommended daily sodium allowance in just one meal.  Don't be fooled by the "healthier" versions that say they contain whole grains.  Like many processed foods that are called "whole grain" they contain even more salt than the original versions.

Now that I've given you the bad news, I do have some good news!  It is the amount of sodium that we eat over a long period of time that affects our health.  If you have been eating a high sodium diet, you can make a change now and still make a difference!

There are some simple steps you can take to limit the amount of sodium in your diet:

1.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  Look for "no salt" options when purchasing canned vegetables and be sure to check nutrition labels of dressings for raw vegetables and salads.

2.  Look for a lower sodium brand.  Check the nutrition labels on packaged foods; the amount of sodium in a certain product can vary a lot in different brands.

3.  Make it from scratch.  Instead of adding salt, use herbs, spices and salt-free seasonings to flavor food.  Check back for some of our family's favorite heart healthy recipes!

Once you've reduced the sodium in your diet, eventually your taste buds will be able to tell you when foods are too salty and the less sodium you will want.



Source:
Top 10 Sources of Salt in Your Diet

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian and I don't have any letters after my name.  I am a wife of a heart attack survivor who was surprised by the facts that I learned about heart disease and the American diet and want to share what I have learned with others.  If you are under the care of a physician, please follow your doctor's recommendations.

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Heart Healthy Living: The Danger of Hidden Sodium Part 1



Before my husband suffered a heart attack in August of 2014, we thought that we were a pretty healthy family.  We didn't eat the really bad foods and always made sure we had fruits and vegetables in our home.  But our ideas about what was healthy and what was unhealthy were turned upside-down after learning what was really in the food we were eating.

Why should we limit sodium?

High amounts of sodium over an extended period of time can lead to high blood pressure.  High blood pressure is also called "the silent killer" because most people who suffer from high blood pressure have no symptoms.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the amount of force it takes for the blood to flow through the blood vessels.  If a person has high blood pressure it takes more force than normal for the blood to flow through the blood vessels which could result in damage to the blood vessels, leading to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.   According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S.

What are the recommended sodium amounts?

The upper level recommendations for sodium intake are less than 2,400 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt per day) and less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.** The recommended daily sodium intake for children younger than 14 is 1,500 mg per day. An adequate amount of sodium for all Americans ages 9 to adult is 1,500 mg.

So how much sodium are Americans really consuming?  The average daily intake of sodium for all Americans ages 2 to adult is 3,400 mg per day, but that doesn't really tell the whole story.  A closer look at the sodium intake of each individual age group shows some shocking results.  Adults age 30-39 average the most sodium intake per day with males consuming 4,600 mg per day and females consuming about 3,200 mg per day. (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 chart pg. 22)

The amount of sodium that young children are consuming is also disturbing.  Boys ages 2 to 5 are consuming an average of 2,300 mg of sodium per day and girls are consuming an average of 2,100 mg of sodium per day. Boys and girls ages 6 to 11 are on average consuming more than the recommended daily intake of an adult.  Boys average 3,200 mg per day and girls average 2,900 per day. (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 chart pg. 22)

The more I learned about heart disease and the American diet, the more clear it was to me why heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country.  Americans starting as young as 2 years old are consuming much more sodium than they should be! 

Most of the sodium in the American diet can be found in processed foods.  In May of 2012, the FDA stopped regulating the amount of sodium in our food, which I believe will only make a bad situation worse.

In Part 2 of this series, I will be highlighting some common foods in the American diet that have high amounts of hidden sodium.



**(These recommendations are for healthy adults under age 51.  If you are over 51, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease or are African American, the daily recommended sodium intake is 1,500 mg per day.  Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations.)


Sources:
American Heart Association
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 Chapter 3 pgs. 21-23
Sodium in Your Diet: Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Heart Disease Facts

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian and I don't have any letters after my name.  I am a wife of a heart attack survivor who was surprised by the facts that I learned about heart disease and the American diet and want to share what I have learned with others.  If you are under the care of a physician, please follow your doctor's recommendations.

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meal Plan Monday - September 14







Monday:
      Honey Soy Baked Chicken (made with low sodium World Harbors Teriyaki sauce)Carrot Fries, mashed potato

Tuesday:
     Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo, carrot and cucumber sticks

Wednesday:
      Tuna Noodle Casserole

Thursday:
    Sweet Potato Hash (without bacon), green beans, apple slices

Friday:
    Bruschetta Chicken, corn, carrot and cucumber sticks

Saturday:
    Pizza with whole wheat crust and homemade sauce

Sunday:
    Quick Chicken and Corn Wraps



Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Simply Saving Saturday - September 12



This week I picked tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and zucchini from the garden.  I made another batch of Roasted Tomato Sauce with some of the tomatoes and carrots.

I turned the air conditioner on for a few days and I collected water from the air conditioner and used it to water the garden.  I also used water from our homemade rain barrel to water the garden.  Since the water rates have increased this year, using rain water from the rain barrel has been a really good savings for us. 

I received a Disney Movie Club offer in the mail this week.  The Disney offer always comes with a sheet of stickers and before throwing it away, I saved the sheet of stickers for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

I downloaded several free kindle ebooks to my Kindle for PC.


In our school district, all children starting in fourth grade have the opportunity to learn an instrument and participate in band.  The lessons are given for free by the band teacher, but families are responsible for the instrument.  Our son wants to learn to play the trumpet, and since we are a musical family and it is important to us to give him this opportunity, we looked into our options.

We had the option to rent a used instrument for $21/month with 2 months free.  There was also another $5 per month fee for insurance which was highly recommended.  The total cost for 10 months plus insurance was $260.  This option seemed like a lot of money for an instrument that was used and I was a little nervous about my 9-year old being responsible for something that we didn't own.

I decided to check musiciansfriend.com, and to my amazement, found a beginner's trumpet on sale for $120 (reg. price $400).  Not only was it much less expensive, but if for some reason it doesn't work out, we have the option to sell the instrument and recoup some of the money we spent.

Our on-going savings:

**Compost kitchen and garden scraps.

**Use the air conditioner only on very hot days and keep it set at 75 degrees.

**Wash laundry in cold water.

**Use online bill pay to pay our bills.

**Earn Swag Bucks for gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Earn Bing Rewards points for gift cards, Hulu Plus subscription, Skype credits, etc.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Meal Plan Monday - September 7



Monday:
     Baked ravioli with homemade pasta sauce, corn on the cob, cucumber and carrot sticks

Tuesday:
     Baked teriyaki chicken, creamy coleslaw, peas

Wednesday:
      Spaghetti with homemade sauce, homemade garlic bread

Thursday:
    Melt in Your Mouth Chicken Breast (my low sodium version), rice and veggie stir fry

Friday:
    Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas, applesauce, cucumber and carrot sticks

Saturday:
    Honey Soy Baked Chicken (low sodium version), mashed potato, cucumber and carrot sticks

Sunday:
    Leftover night


Read about our new heart healthy lifestyle and find out why we are eating a low sodium and low saturated fat diet.


Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Simply Saving Saturday - September 5



This week we are still harvesting a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden. I made Roasted Tomato Sauce (one of my favorite recipes!) with the tomatoes.  I have already made pickles twice, so we are eating the cucumbers by themselves, putting them in salads and slicing them for sandwiches.  I made zucchini "meatballs" and froze the rest of the zucchini that we picked this week.

I also picked some carrots this week.  It is a little earlier than I planned, but I grew carrots in wide rows this year and I needed to thin them a bit.  I picked the ones that were ready so that the smaller ones will hopefully have a chance to grow.

I turned the air conditioner on when we had a few hot days this week.  I was able to collect water from the air conditioner and used it to water the garden.  I also used water from our homemade rain barrel (a large trash can with a spigot attached to the bottom) to water the garden.

I went to the second hand store to look for something in particular for one of my children.  I didn't find what I was looking for, but while browsing I did find a brand new sweater with the tags still attached for $3.99--regular price $65!  I love shopping at second hand stores; I never know what I'm going to find!

At Walmart I was able to get a few good deals by price matching and using coupons together on a few items.  The cashier was surprised by the deals that I had and said, "I need to start doing that!"

A new Dollar General opened nearby last month.  I entered a drawing for a $50 gift card at the Grand Opening thinking that with over 200 people there, there was no way I would have a chance to win. Well, I was shocked to find a $50 gift card in the mail a few weeks ago!  I stocked up on cereal, paper towels and toilet paper that was all on sale this week and spent a little over $25.  I used a $5 off $25 coupon for more savings and will watch their flyer each week for another sale on paper products and laundry detergent.

Before throwing away a shirt that had a hole in it, I saved the buttons to use for another project.

I earned 234 swag bucks this week, beating my goal of 200 swag bucks.  Next week I'm going to try to reach 250.  For many years we have used the swag bucks that we earn to buy gift cards and used the gift cards to buy gifts for our family.

How was your week?

Our on-going savings:

**Compost kitchen and garden scraps.

**Use the air conditioner only on very hot days and keep it set at 75 degrees.


**Wash laundry in cold water.

**Use online bill pay to pay our bills.

**Earn Swag Bucks for gift cards that I use to buy gifts.

**Earn Recyclebank points for gift cards, coupons and free magazine subscriptions.

**Earn Bing Rewards points for gift cards, Hulu Plus subscription, Skype credits, etc.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.  

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal and other homemade breakfasts several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Our New Heart Healthy Lifestyle

In the summer of 2014 I read Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and thought that our family was pretty healthy.  Yes, we ate some processed food, but not the really bad foods like potato chips and Little Debbie snacks and we tried to eat fruits and vegetables with our meals.

But in August 2014 my then 42-year old husband suddenly, without any warning, suffered a heart attack. While his cholesterol was considered “borderline”, he was very physically fit; working out and running several times a week. We discovered, though, that genetics plays a big role in heart disease and with a strong family history, my husband had a high risk for the disease.


We also learned that the food we were eating wasn't as healthy as we thought it was.  My ideas about the "healthy" food we were eating were turned upside-down after we talked with a nutritionist in the hospital.  

For a heart patient, sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat should be watched carefully.  We learned about the huge amounts of sodium that are hidden in our foods and the high amounts of saturated fats in some of our favorite foods.  I started reading labels on the food in our home and was surprised to see the high amounts of sodium in everything from spaghetti sauce to cereal; from the packaged seasoned rice to the bread we were eating.

Even more surprising is that the guidelines for sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat are for all Americans, not just heart patients.  So why don't many Americans know about these guidelines? Why did it take a heart attack in my family in order to learn about hidden sodium in our food and the way that saturated fat affects us?  It is clear to me why heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. - many of us just don't know the facts.

The doctors told us that my husbands heart attack was mild and we are very thankful that he has made a full recovery and is enjoying all the activities that he did before that day in August.  I am now on a mission to share what we have learned.  Look for heart healthy recipes and more information in the coming months!



Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net