Top tips to eat healthy on a budget

Want to start eating healthier, but don’t have a big food budget? With a little planning and some tweaks to how you think about cooking, you can make it happen.

I work on certain principles for healthy eating:

  • Be a pig with veggies.
  • When in doubt, eat as close to natural as possible.
  • Eat less at a time.  Don’t give your body a chance to gorge.
  • Eat more frequently.  Don’t give your body a reason to store food as fat.
  • If you don’t carefully plan all your nutrients, variety is the spice of health.
  • Make healthy eating a habit, so it’s just what you do, rather than a chore.

[Read more…]

The best healthy treat. Ever.

What if the healthiest treat imaginable was also the tastiest? Here is how to turn pure fruit – nothing but pure fruit – into scrumptious ice cream.

Close your eyes. Imagine sucking gently on your favorite flavor of gelato, slowly letting it melt and trickle down your throat.  Feel the cool sensation.  Taste the delicate flavors.
Gelato is how Europeans eat their ice cream, and is easily one of the most delicious treats.

Now close your eyes again.  Imagine you could have all this taste, all this sensation, all this smoothness without any fat and without extra sugar or any chemicals added.  That’s what Yonanas is.  The ultimate healthy frozen treat
[Read more…]

Review: Yummy Young rice tea

Yummy Young rice tea by Karma Kisses got three thumbs up from our review panel, but they were unable to agree on what that intoxicating aroma was.

It came via courier, a plain brown paper wrapped around with packing slip paperwork. Inside was a box, and inside was a fancier box. Not garish, but nice and classy. You can see the presentation in the photos below.  When the review panel opened the inner box, they pulled out an envelope of Yummy Young rice tea from Karma Kisses Tea house.

Yummy Young Rice Tea as shipped

It would be fair at this juncture to disclose that A) Karma Kisses is a writing client of mine, and if this product sucked I would not be publishing a review, and B) the sample was provided free by Karma Kisses, but no other compensation was extended to me to do this review.

The review panel consisted of:

  • Mrs. Happy Guy
  • My mother-in-law
  • Barb, a family friend

I was not part of the review panel; my job was to turn on and off the video recorder. The reason there is no video in this post is because of how well I did my job.  Sigh.

The Yummy Young review

The review panel cut open an envelope of Yummy Young and immediately the room filled with a rich, exotic aroma. Thus begun a  discussion that would prove to be inconclusive, as to whether we were smelling Indian, Vietnamese or some other oriental scents.

Yummu Young package

The review panel was impressed by the ingredients (listed below). Barb is well-versed in organic and non-GMO products and gave her stamp of approval.

The water having come to a boil, it was ceremoniously poured over the tea; each panelist drew in the aroma, then tasted.

If I had done my video recording job properly, this is where you would be hearing a lot of “Ooh” and “Ah” and “That’s really nice” and “It’s sweet”. In fact, there was a lot of discussion over how pleasantly sweet the beverage is. Barb explained that several of the ingredients  probably lend sweetness, in particular the brown rice (compared to green tea or British style tea, for instance).

The only negative comment at all was on the presence of Stevia – a healthy, natural sweetener – because Barb was able to taste the Stevia, a flavour of which she is not particularly fond. Nevertheless, it did not impede her enjoyment of the tea and plenty of positive comments and compliments.

Overall, the ladies of the review panel gave three thumbs up and still could not agree on what country’s aroma they were enjoying.

Yummy Young Rice Tea

Yummy Young rice tea ingredients

  • organic whole grain brown rice
  • organic rice germ extract
  • organic red wine grape extract
  • organic apple extract
  • organic bilberry extract
  • organic aronia berry (chokeberry) extract
  • organic blueberry extract, organic sour cherry (tart cherry) extract
  • red seaweed astaxanthin extract
  • sugar-free sweet leaf extract (stevia herb extract, natural erythritol)
  • tree gum
  • natural fruit extracts
  • spices and flavors

Six Sneaky Juicing Diet Tips

Are you considering a juicing diet? Juicing makes a very powerful supplement to a normal, healthy diet.  Here are some handy tips to help you juice your way to a better you.

Juicing is certainly not new, but recently it has taken off as new nutritional fads like the Paleo diet include juicing and CrossFit enthusiasts have taken to juicing, too. Fruits and vegetables are essential to any well balanced diet, and unfortunately, the majority of us are not meeting the recommended quantity. Even if we get enough fruits and vegetables, they often contain much fewer nutrients than promised.

Juicing - better supplements than packed-powder pillsSneaking extra fruits and vegetables into meals can be tricky at any age, but juicing has proven to be a popular and effective method to getting around that. While juice alone is not a fully-balanced diet, it is a superb way to top up one’s diet to ensure that yo get the nutrients you need.

Here are six sneaky tips you should know about juicing should be considered before you start your juicing journey.

Fun For All Ages

Juicing is not solely for fitness devotees – but for all ages. Children are reluctant to eat their fruits and vegetables, but yummy juices can turn them into fans of vegetables without them knowing.In fact, it is a time-honoured practice for parents to sneak fruits and vegetables into sweet drinks and gravy so that kids get nutrients they won’t take any other way.

This also applies to seniors. As you age, you especially need to keep nutrition in mind. Fluid intake is especially important in latter years.  Juicing provides both the vitamins and minerals you need and the fluids that elderly people often miss.

Juicing is a Supplement or a Dessert Replacement

Juicing should never be your only means of getting nutrients, unless a juice-specific cleansing is recommended by your doctor.  Consider juicing for the following:

  • A tasty snack between meals.
  • A supplement at meals – better than just popping a packed-powder pill.
  • Better than chips and cola when watching TV.
  • Breakfast when you don’t have time to sit down to eat.
  • A great mix with alcohol instead of a less-healthy mix.
  • Freeze them as popsicles as a dessert replacement.

Relying solely on juices can be actually detrimental to your health because you won’t receive the protein, fiber, fat or other micro-nutrients that your body needs from a larger variety of foods.

Learn To Conserve

Juicing can be expensive because it can take a lot of fruits and vegetables to make the amount you would most likely want.  The juices are also unpasteurized, so it is suggested to drink the juice on the day of. To sneak in the most bang for your buck:

  • Buy fruits that are in season.
  • Buy fruits when they are on special.
  • Freeze fruits for later. Tip: chop them up before freezing and place in a freezer bag.
  • Freeze juice in ice trays for later.
  • Freeze juice in popsicle forms for later.

Juicing Diet ≠ Whole Produce

The disadvantage of juicing is the nutrition you lose in the process, especially for fruits you might eat whole. The peel and seeds hold lots of nutrients – not necessarily the same nutrients as the flesh of the fruit – and eliminating them leaves you with only part of the fruit’s value.

Although there are many benefits to juicing as a supplement to a regular diet and as a replacement to less healthy foods, it does not replace the real thing.  A juicing diet is not a complete diet. You should still snack on fruits and follow your mother’s advice to “eat your vegetables” – both raw and cooked.

Whole fruit - Often the peel and seeds are stockpiles of hidden nutrients.

Potential to Fill Various Needs

The juice extracted has a lot of antioxidants and disease fighting elements. There are a lot of great juicing recipes out there to help you find what you are specifically trying to target and conquer.  Remember that juicing should be considered a supplement to an already “normal” and healthy diet.  So you can use juicing to target specific nutritional needs, knowing that a basic diet is more or less covered before even factoring in the juice.

Bonus nutrients

Want to sneak in even more nutrition?  And add some exotic taste at the same time?  Try adding spices.  I often add cinnamon to my juice.  Sometime nutmeg.  And coriander.  Maybe you have some favourite spices you can add, too.  Did you know that many spices are chock full of nutrients that you might not get any other way in your diet?

On days when I am lacking protein, I also add some whey powder.  But then if you’ve read my post on protein powder in soups and shakes, you would already know this, right?  Once again, this is NOT a replacement for getting protein from a wide variety of sources – meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, beans and nuts – but it is an excellent way to supplement on days when you are too rushed to fire up the barbecue.

These are six things that that first-time juicers should be aware of.  Do you have any other tips?  Please feel free to share them in the comments below.


Protein Powder – not just for shakes! (Bonus: Protein Power Pumpkin Soup Recipe)

Inexpensive and versatile, protein powder is a great way to top up the protein you might be missing from your diet without breaking your budget. It goes into almost any liquid or semi-liquid food, including the creamy pumpkin soup recipe in this article.

I wrote earlier about the price of various sources of protein.  One of the more reasonably priced sources is protein powder, usually from whey. They are most often used to make shakes and smoothies after a workout.

But protein powder has so many other overlooked, but handy, uses.  In fact, it might just be the flexibility of the product that makes it more attractive than the price.

protein pumpkin soupSuppose you want a complete meal, but you don’t want to cook up meat.  So you make a salad and grab a yogurt and…that’s not a full meal.  Yogurt has very little protein.  Even the best Greek style yogurts don’t have enough for a complete meal (unless you eat a lot of yogurt, I suppose).  No problem, just toss a bit of powder into your yogurt.

Soup and salad for lunch?  Just add protein powder – preferably to the soup, not to the salad.  In fact, there is a creamy pumpkin soup that I love that makes a complete meal when you add a bit of protein powder.  The picture is to the right. The recipe is below.  The evidence is currently in my stomach.

A fully cooked meal, but you don’t feel like meat?  Mashed potatoes with protein powder.

Vegetarian lasagna or spaghetti or Fettuccine Alfredo…just add protein to the sauce.

Oatmeal for breakfast?  Pancakes for supper?  (Yes, if you add the magic powder, there is no reason they can’t make a very good supper.)

In fact, can’t get your kids to eat their meat? Add protein powder to your cake recipe.

Tweet this quote: “Can’t get your kids to eat their meat? Let them eat cake!

In fact, you can add whey powder to pretty much any sauce or cream or to anything you bake – cookies, cakes, muffins, pies…even meatloaf (but that would be kind of pointless, right?)

pumpkin soup slice

Protein Power Pumpkin Soup

Here is the pumpkin soup recipe…
Pre-cook one medium-sized pumpkin or three average sized butternut squashes, and discard the seeds (you can roast them later for tasty snacks).  You can just put the pumpkin or squash about 20 minutes in the microwave; they don’t need to be fully cooked, just soft enough to scoop out of their skin and into a very large pot.

While the pumpkin or squash is pre-cooking, peel seven apples and three onions and cut into pieces, discarding the apple cores, of course.  Toss into the pot with a cup or two of water and start cooking.

Grate about two inches of fresh ginger root into the pot.  Powdered ginger will not be the same – the soup will taste VERY different.  The best way to grate the ginger root is to keep it in the freezer and remove it only when you are ready to grate.  You want the ginger root to be frozen hard for grating. Yes, your hands will freeze before you get it all grated, so wear gloves if you insist on being a wuss (like me).

pumpkin soup slice

Add a touch of powdered nutmeg.

Add a touch of powdered pepper – this tastes better if you grind it fresh, too.

Add a touch of salt.

All these touches really depend on your personal taste.  Best to start off with very little and experiment in your bowl later on.

Add the pumpkin or squash and keep cooking until everything is nice and soft – pumpkin, apples and onions.  Add water as needed, and be careful not to burn the bottom of the soup.

pumpkin soup slice

While the soup is cooking, grate some cheese. This cheese will be for sprinkling on your soup when it is on the table to serve.  Some people prefer just a very gentle sprinkling.  Other people, like me, want lots and lots of cheese. I like cheddar best for this purpose (I am not that big a cheddar fan, but this combination just seems to work well), but mozzarella is good, too, and most hard cheeses should do nicely.  Put the cheese aside.

When everything in the pot is soft and cooked, you can cream it in the blender.  You will probably have to divide it into about five or six batches for this.  But first, add the protein powder.  How much protein powder depends on how much cheese you will eat in the soup.

If you are like me, you really need very little protein powder to make this soup a complete meal.  But if the cheese is just a garnish for you, then I suggest putting enough protein for however many meals you plan to make out of it.

pumpkin soup slice

This pumpkin soup recipe is just one thing you can do with protein powder. It is a very healthy meal, because pumpkins are loaded with vitamins and who do you know who gets enough fresh ginger in their diet? But the protein powder is an ideal way to add convenience and control costs almost any time with almost any food.

The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

Protein is one of the most important nutrients in our diet.  It is the one responsible for growth and bodily repair.  It is also one of the most expensive nutrients, which is why the protein part of your meal (the meat) costs the most.

But wait!  Not all protein is as expensive as your filet mignon.

So I set out to put together a short study of the various sources of protein readily available and their cost, as much for my own use as for blogging here.  The goal is to find out how I can get a complete serving of protein for under a dollar.

I used the assumption that a complete serving is 20 grams, although you might want more right after a workout…and also you should have some between meals, because 60 grams of protein per day is pretty low.

Before reporting the results of my study, I must offer two big caveats:

  • First, I am strictly reporting on the cost of various sources of protein.  I am not judging the value of the sources, some of which might have a lot more fat or sodium than others, or a lot more other important nutrients than others.
  • Second, prices vary.  They vary from store to store.  They vary over time.  They vary from brand to brand or even from package size to package size.  I attempted to report pricing based on the most common package size available at regular grocery stores.  Specialty stores might sell for more, discount stores for less – and, of course, you can always get your protein for less by watching for sales, couponing and all the other sorts of things that a frugal-minded shopper will do.

One last thing before reporting the results, because I really need to get this off my chest…

funny gifs
Yes, trying to convert back and forth between grams and kilograms and ounces and pounds and cups and… Aaauurgghhh!

Well, now that that’s over with, here are the results:

Copy this code to publish this table on your site:


So you can see that there are several fairly frugal alternatives to steak. For instance, making a milk shake or a smoothie with protein powder allows you to control both the taste and the levels of other nutrients. I often add some protein powder to “milk shakes” (mostly fruit, some milk and just a little ice cream) as a snack for my kids.

Peanut butter is also quite inexpensive, although pretty high in fat. Peanut butter on a whole grain bread gives a nice between-meals level of protein.

Do you enjoy mixed nuts? Very healthy, great for protein, but not great for fat if you eat too much of them. Make sure you have plenty of peanuts and dry soy beams in the mix – a great frugal way to add protein, and the soy beans will dilute the overall fat content.

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

Turkey and canned tuna are still the cheapest meat sources of protein. Both make great sandwiches or great salad toppings.

Chick peas and lentils are both also quite cheap and very healthy. Both go well in pretty much any salad or soup, and most meat dishes. The only problem with them is that to get enough protein form them alone, you would have to eat an awful lot. However, they are not complete sources of protein, so they would need rice or bread or some other grain with them, anyway.

Rounding out the under-a-dollar sources of protein are eggs, milk and chicken. Most people drink milk anyway for the vitamin D and the calcium, but it can also be a great source of between-meals protein. Chicken is very similar to turkey, but usually pricier (although often on sale – hint, hint). And eggs are packed with other nutrients, too, and if you don’t mind it turning out more like scrambled eggs, you can usually squeeze more veggies into an omelet than eggs.

As for the rest of the protein sources, some of them are also very healthy in many ways, but they will cost more. So if you are committed to frugal, there is only one thing you can do about these – watch for coupons and specials.


Why You Should Take Fat Seriously

If you have never thought about the fat and sugar content of all those prepared foods you eat – not just ice cream and chips, but cold cuts, crackers, energy bars and other “normal” (but unnatural) foods – here is one good reason to start reading the nutrition labels.


You wouldn’t purposefully crash your car, would you? Now look again at the chart. You wouldn’t purposefully eat more calories than you burn off, would you?

Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

It’s not Wendy’s. It’s not McDonald’s. It’s not the Colonel. It’s…

… your freezer.

Yes, fast food is as close as your freezer. The appeal of fast food is that it is fast. No cooking. No time spent cooking. No cleaning twenty pots and twenty pans. But it does cost a bit – certainly much more than eating in.

Sure, it’s fun to make a Nasi Briani stir fry, and much cheaper than eating out, but fast food is – fast!

But so is your freezer.

What? Your freezer has tubs of ice cream, frozen peas and something that looks like it once was gravy? Or spaghetti? Or something?

Next time you cook Nasi Briani, spaghetti sauce, any casserole or dish, cook lots. Cook enough for five or six meals. Cook two different dishes at the same time (many of the ingredients might be the same, so you need only grate cheese or chop tomatoes once for two dishes (10-12 meals).

Eat one of the dishes – that’s your supper. Yum.

Once the others have cooled enough, separate them into 9-11 containers. Label each with what is in the container – including the date it was frozen, so you can keep track and not leave it too long (ideally, eaten within 6-8 weeks).

Nasi Briani with rice
One portion
April 23, 2012


READ ALSO: The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

FRUGAL: So a traditional fast food meal that might cost something like ten dollars to eat, will cost you more like three dollars at home. Not much of a dent in your budget for one day, but if you can replace 100 meals a year this way, you have saved about $700. When you factor in taxes, that’s like getting close to $1000 raise!

GREEN: Have you ever given a moment to really review how much paper and plastic and foam you throw away after eating at a fast food restaurant? No? I don’t blame you. It’s enough to make anyone who hopes for a future on this planet churl their stomach. Save the planet at your own, personal fast food outlet – your freezer.

HEALTH: It’s no secret that traditional fat food – oops, I mean “fast” food – is not exactly very healthy. Loaded in fats and sugars, and bearing little resemblance to anything Mother Nature has grown for us, fast food has been fingered as to blame for much of America’s obesity epidemic.

PERSONAL: Do you want food prepared just for you, the way you like it. Freezer fast food is 100% customizable. Put in what you want. Nothing more. Nothing less. Like t spicy? Like it mild? Want a big portion? Want a small portion? You decide how you will serve yourself.

Fast food in the comfort of your home, made exactly the way you like it, easy on the planet, easy on your body, easy on your pocket book. Time to check your freezer fast food.

Top 10 nutritious foods

We are blessed with so much variety of foods that we are truly spoiled. But what if that variety suddenly disappeared? What if we were left with just ten foods?

Imagine you were stranded on a desert island and had only 10 foods at your disposal.  For your health you had better hope there was more than cheesecake, chocolate truffles and jelly beans.  Most lists of the world’s top ten most nutritious foods don’t seem to take variety of nutrients across all ten foods into account – the balance between the top ten.  Many of those lists have only fruits and vegetables on them, and occasionally salmon.

READ ALSO: World’s healthiest foods

The truth is, it is incredibly hard to choose just ten foods, but these are my picks.

For the record, I am no dietician, but I believe these make a good combination of pretty much all the nutrients we need.  I would love to hear some discussion of this, so please provide some feedback in the comment space below.

  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Milk (1%)
  • Multigrain bread (kind of cheating, I know)
  • Cantaloupes
  • Garlic
  • Beans (not sure which type, maybe lentils)
  • *

Of course, the reality of being trapped on a desert island would be that you would have mostly fish and leaves to eat, but this is just for fun.

READ ALSO: The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

Now tell me…what ten foods would you choose if you were stranded on your own (And “the buffet” doesn’t count!)
* If I get to choose an 11th food, maybe I would slip in a slice of cheesecake here. After all, you need something to eat with the blueberries.