Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life On Weight Watchers . . . On Plan, On a Budget - Protein, Protein, Protein!

I am a meat eater.
I love red meat, white meat, dark meat, light meat.
If it once walked upon the ground, clucked, swam, mooed, baa'd, gobbled or oinked, chances are I will LOVE it.
But it's not easy to be carnivorous in this day and age.
Have you SEEN the price of chicken?
And let's not discuss the cost of lean beef or lamb.
So, how do we get our protein in without hurting our budget?

First -

Buy chicken breast in bulk, on sale, and only buy it once a month. A bulk package of chicken comes with 10-12 breasts and usually runs about $10-12. This is a MEGA bargain and one that you should NOT pass up. Buy one or two packages, separate the breasts out into 1 and 2 breast portions.

Now, here's the fun part about chicken breasts - if you have a food scale weigh one - just one. It will probably weigh about 6-8 oz. This is TWICE the serving size of 3-4 oz. So, nights that you want just some grilled chicken, take one and cut it in half horizontally. This will give you a correct portion size, while stretching your meat budget.

Another option is to create a casserole, soup, stew, or chili using 1 or 2 chicken breasts - for the entire recipe. If you need to, you can bulk with extra veggies or beans. This is a trick I've been doing for YEARS. Two chicken breasts in a casserole is MORE than enough to feed a family of 6.

Chicken Legs
Drumsticks are one of the best bargains out there. Very VERY low in points and cheap. You can buy a bulk package of drumsticks for about half the cost of a bulk package of breasts. And you can do anything with them. Roast them with the skin on or pull off the skin and cook them in some barbecue sauce (who likes rubbery barbecue chicken skin anyway?).

Chicken Thighs
These are way cheaper than breasts as well - buy them boneless and skinless and treat them like you would a breast. Plan on one - and ONLY one - per person.

Okay, lets face it, red meat is WAY to expensive to serve on a daily basis, as much as I hate to admit it. Come to think of it, even ground beef has gotten up there in price. So here are a few tricks -

Ground Beef:
Well, simplest here - don't buy it. You can get ground dark meat turkey AND ground turkey breast for less than ground beef if you buy it in the packaged rolls (you pay way more for Styrofoam packaging). If you HAVE to have beef every once in a while, buy in the packaged rolls. If you can find lean or extra lean ground beef in bulk and on sale, though, snatch it up because that price will be comparable to the ground turkey.

Oh, I am a girl that loves her some steak. Give me a rib eye as big as my head and I am a happy girl, let me tell ya'. But steak is just not a practical purchase for a mommy on a budget. Unless you learn some sneaky tricks (like me) - You can buy pre-packaged frozen steaks in most supermarkets. These will be smaller in size (ideal for WW's) but will also cost less than buying them from the fresh meat counter. There are also some wonderful bacon wrapped chopped steaks that are to DIE for when they're grilled up. And yes, even with the bacon, they're WW friendly!

Other cuts
Flank steak, rump roast, and briskets still top the charts for the least expensive cuts on the market. Trim them well (especially the brisket!) and marinade or brine them for up to 24 hours to tenderize them, then cook them low and slow - think crock pot, smoker, or oven for 3-4 hours.

Pork is fairly inexpensive when compared with chicken or beef, and is very versitile. You can buy "mixed pork chops" which will have some bone in and some bone out chops. Trim them up, take the bone in ones off the bone, cut the meat into strips and you have meat ready to go for stir fries or fajitas!

Even boneless pork chops can be budget friendly - I buy a bulk package, pull some out to grill that night and freeze the rest for later in 1 and 2 chop packages.

Pork tenderloins can be a bit pricey, so buy a 2 pack once a month (on sale), split it in 1/2 and freeze both loins separately.

Turkey is one of the most versatile meats available out there. Loins, breasts, drumsticks, ground . . . You can do anything with this meat.

Ground turkey is a wonderful substitute for ground beef in just about everything. Meatloaves, meatballs, sauces, soups, skillets, even burgers - and it's about 1/2 the price of lean ground beef. Look for ground turkey in packaged rolls rather than Styrofoam packages - you'll save a TON.

Turkey loins can run about the same price as a pork loin, but they're usually a bit larger. Like their pork counterparts, buy them on sale!

Turkey breasts are a great alternative to a whole roasted turkey, especially in families where everyone fights over the breast meat. You can also slow cook them in a crock pot with some barbecue sauce and make a wonderful pulled turkey sandwich.

Turkey legs are a bargain and you can buy them raw or smoked. If you buy them smoked, they're a great alternative to a ham hock or bacon in a pot of beans. Raw can be roasted, boiled, broiled, grilled, smoked . . . Very versatile, VERY delicious and VERY VERY inexpensive!

Oh, how I love a good lamb chop.
Sadly, even on sale lamb is still way to expensive for this mommy's pocketbook.
So we save Mary's cute little friends for special occasions.

Salmon is SUPER expensive unless you can get it frozen and on sale. I stick to tilapia or cod,  which are relatively cheaper. You can dredge them in bread crumbs and bake them and your kids will think they're eating fish sticks!

When it comes to shellfish, shrimp is going to be the best bargain. Stick to buying it frozen with the shell and tail on - it will be much better quality that way. And unless you live directly on the coast, chances are that "fresh" shrimp your buying has been frozen and re-thawed. This actually goes for ALL shellfish and most fish.

You DO know that you can get protein from other sources, right?
Of course you did!
Tofu, beans, peanut butter, nuts, lentils . . . these are all wonderful meatless alternatives that will give you your protein allowance for the day. And each of them are a LOT less expensive than meat. Although . . . Not quite as fun to eat!

There you have it - Meat on a budget.
Some further tips -
Once a week, go meatless! Serve beans, spaghetti with no meat, stuffed mushrooms, veggie stir fries.
ALWAYS buy in bulk and buy ON SALE when it comes to the terrestrial meats.
Don't make meat the star of the meal - use it in casseroles, soups, stews and bulk with lots of veggies and a few whole grains!

Here's to Being Losers in 2011!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Life on Weight Watchers . . . On Plan, On a Budget - Gettin In Your Daily Five on the Cheap

Both here and my other blog, I have done several posts about healthy eating on a budget. With doing a plan like weight watchers, I thought I'd revisit that idea, from a Points Friendly Perspective:

Fresh Fruits and Veggies:

This is the center of the Weight Watchers program. All fruits and most veggies are free foods. But they can be quite pricey. But what you might not know is that even frozen and canned fruits and vegetables count - as long as they're packed in water. So that is something to consider when shopping.

Frozen mixed vegetables and stir-fry mixes are great for in a hurry stir fries, to mix into soups or casseroles, or to just steam (*hint* steam in chicken broth for even more point-friendly flavor!). The bonus is, you can stock up on these for a fraction of the cost of all the veggies it would take to make up one bag.

Frozen fruits are also wonderful additions - berries and peaches are a lot less expensive on the frozen food aisle, and you can quickly and easily thaw them for a quick mix in for oatmeal or cereal, for a topping for pancakes or waffles, or for a delicious fruit salad.

Canned veggies are perfect quick side dishes, and you can also add these to soups and casseroles, like their frozen counterparts.

Applesauce and canned fruits (packed in water) are great quick snacks.

And lets not forget the bargains in the fresh fruits and veggies aisle - apples, oranges, and bananas are often on sale, as are lettuces and tomatoes. Fresh carrots, cabbage and celery are also less expensive then the gourmet veggies that are en vogue right now.

Try taking a non-buying trip to you local grocery store. Look at your favorite fruits and veggies and write down their prices - fresh, frozen, and canned. You may be surprised to see that getting in your daily Five WON'T break your budget.

Here's To Being Losers In 2011!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lighten Up!!

WHY does weight loss have to be so SERIOUS.
People need to laugh at themselves for a change, really.
I have found that I have found my humor on this journey.
Honestly, sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

Recently I started coming up with a list of "things that will be awesome when I lose this weight"
Among the things on this list are:

1) I'll be able to wear knee socks that won't cut into my cankles.
2) I'll be able to look at myself naked in the mirror and not throw up a little in my mouth.
3) People will no longer mistake me for the fat kid in "Goonies"
4) (Rennie edition) When I wear a bodice I will no longer look like a beached whale shoved into a high top sneaker.
5) When I go for a run, people will no longer assume I'm chasing the ice cream truck.
6) My clothing size won't resemble a porno rating.

The list could go on and on.
And so I leave you with just one point to ponder:
Can fat people go skinny dipping?

Here's to being losers in 2011!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Life on Weight Watchers . . . Accountability

I never thought in a million years that weight loss would be this easy.
Sure, I've only been at it really for two weeks, and tomorrow is only my 3rd weigh in, but I feel like I have come farther and been with this longer than anything. I've certainly seen more results from this than from anything.

The thing is, I KNOW all the information - I know what I need to do, how I need to do it. I know that I need to "eat right and exercise". I know all the names of most major additives and preservatives and what many of them do to your body. I know all the major "power foods" (NOT the WW list) that are said to hold the most antioxidants.

I am a wealth of nutritive knowledge.
Clearly this is NOT an issue of ignorance for me.

The problems I've had in the past rested on one thing and one thing only -
I have never in my life been held accountable for my weight issue. Not by my parents or friends or my husband. Not even by my doctors. I may hear every now and then, "Jen, when you're thin, you're going to be beautiful". or "You know your BMI is ------- (insert double digits over 30 here)" But I was never really held accountable.

With this program I am in so many ways.

I think the largest part of it is the fact that I have a lot of people counting on me to be a part of this. My mother in law, my best friend, my sister in law, a good friend from church, and a good friend I used to work with . . . All are friends, all are as close to me as family. If I don't show up, how is that going to feel for them. These people - many of whom started because of ME. That would be pretty . . . well, this is a G-rated blog so let's go with "not cool".

And then you have the weigh in. You can't fudge it when someone else is weighing you in, writing it down week by week. With online weight loss, you can fudge it all you like. It's a lot easier to fool yourself that way. But here, there IS no fooling yourself. Everything you do, every morsel you put in your mouth, every step you either don't take or do is right there in your face - and in someone else's. You want the number on the scale to go as low as possible every week (within healthy ranges, of course) and you certainly don't want the embarrassment of gaining.

So, in a nutshell, accountability is everything when it comes to my personal weight loss goal.

Oh, and for the first time in my life, I finally decided that I want to be out of the 200's completely when this is all over. In fact, my total target weight is 150. I have never in my life thought that it could be attainable, so I always set my goals lower. But now, I know it can be done. Now, I know it WILL be done.

Here's to being losers in 2011!