Young, hungry, and on a budget (in Chicago)

The old saying goes “you live and you learn” and that’s exactly what this blog post is about. I have only been in the city for a week, but I have have already learned some things and know fully well that I will keep learning more. This post is a work in progress. Expect more posts and tips on city living, (mostly) healthy eating, and having fun without breaking the bank. Expect to learn as I learn! My boyfriend and I are both recent college grads with more schooling ahead for both us so we will definitely need to stick to a budget! 😛

My tips (so far) for having fun and (mostly) healthy living on a budget in the city:

1. Stock up on essentials, especially if there are sales. Case in point: you will always need toilet paper and baking ingredients such as flour. We stocked up on those things. Now the rest of our shopping trips for the next month or so will be solely food!

2. Don’t buy groceries at convenience stores such as Walgreens. Convenience stores often sell grocery items, such as peanut butter, for more than the local grocery store. It is worth the slightly longer walk or bus trip in the city to go to an actual grocery store.

3. Buy groceries on a weekly basis. Only buy what you plan on eating for the week with the exception of sales on any essential items such as baking ingredients.  This tip is also in part because when you walk most places or rely on public transit you can’t carry ten bags of groceries home. Before moving to Chicago I would only grocery shop a few times a month and really stock up on each trip. Unfortunately every once in a while I would buy more produce than I could eat before it went bad. Wasting food makes me sad in general and on a budget I really don’t want to waste so hence weekly grocery shopping. Make a detailed list before shopping and try to stick to it…

4. …BUT also shop the sales/ be flexible. What I mean by this is say you planned on buying whole wheat bagels in a particular grocery trip, but only whole wheat English muffins are on sale. Buy the English Muffins instead. Make a detailed grocery list, but also go to the store with an open mind and be willing to make substitutions in order to save a few bucks.

5. Check out the Farmer’s Market.One way to buy produce on a weekly basis is to checkout your local Farmer’s market. While they can be pricey for some items they also have some great deals. Also, for me personally, I am willing to shell out a few extra bucks on occasion to support local farmers and eat food that hasn’t been grown in a different country and shipped thousands of miles to our local supermarket.

I went to one yesterday and they had a lot of great deals on vegetables and then my boyfriend and I each picked one “splurge item”. For me it was homemade fruit jam and for him it was a homemade salsa. We got a delicious loaf of bread and all the produce we need for the next week minus a bag of carrots and perhaps some fresh fruit!

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6. Check out free or reduced price events in your area. In Chicago there are a lot of free concerts and outdoor movies throughout the summer! At Taste of Chicago Thursday we saw a free Janelle Monae concert which was cool. She was talented and is relatively popular- she was an act at Bonaroo a month ago.  There are also several relatively cheap events such as Wicker Park Fest in a few weeks that we plan to check out. I hear Millennium Park has free concerts each week too so that will be worth checking out!

7. Look for deals at your local restaurants and bars. As a person who recently moved to Chicago I am not yet sure which places have to best deals, but know I will be searching! I will be on the lookout, especially, for deals on beers and pizza, but I’ll keep my eye on healthier deals too. 😛 When you know the deals maybe limit yourself to going out to eat or to grab drinks on the nights/days with deals (if this is a reasonable compromise).

8. Make your own snacks. Snack items such a protein bars, chips, snack mixes, etc. are considered convenience items so they often charge a lot for them. In the long run you can save your wallet and your health by making your own. All making snacks cost is a little time if you use ingredients you always have on hand (for example most of my snacks use oatmeal and nuts/seeds since I always buy those things in bulk). I tend to chose snacks that are simple to make, made with ingredients already in my kitchen, and are not very time consuming.In the last week I’ve made banana oat protein bars, granola, and peanut butter energy bites as snacks for my boyfriend and I to eat in  addition to fresh produce, hummus, and popcorn.

For anyone interested here’s the recipe for peanut butter energy bites which I adapted from the Oatmeal Nut Butter Balls recipe on www.pbfingers.com– a blog that I highly recommend to others who want some healthy recipe ideas (http://www.pbfingers.com/2013/08/15/no-bake-oatmeal-nut-butter-balls/). 🙂 They are super easy and only take about ten minutes to make.

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

yield: approximately 10-12 bites

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked oatmeal

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup milled flax seed

1/3 cup honey

dash of cinnamon

dark chocolate chips (if desired)

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1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Once combined roll into balls.

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2. Stick the bites in the refrigerator and grab one whenever you want a quick snack!

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(9. One last money saving tip!) Instead of going out for pizza and beer on a Saturday night make a frozen Gino’s East pizza and buy your own beer. It’s PRACTICALLY the same thing, right?! 😛  I’m actually KIDDING, even on a budget you should go out sometimes, but that was definitely my boyfriend and I last night!

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We were too lazy to brave the pouring rain/crappy conditions and go to an actual bar last night.We plan on checking out some of the local watering holes later this week!

Well, I hope you all have a great rest of your Sunday. 🙂 It’s time for us to get a workout in, get the rest of our groceries for the week, and who knows what else. 😛

What are your favorite ways to have fun on a budget?

Wise Wednesday- organic foods: don’t get confused by the labels

DISCLAIMER: I am not a registered dietitian. I am a student who is studying nutrition and preparing to become a registered dietitian, though. I still do want to share with you nutrition and healthy living topics that I find interesting and am learning about in my classes or through my own research.

Organic food and labels

Today I wanted to share what I learned in my summer class a few a weeks ago about organic foods. I was a little surprised by what I learned and I think that you guys could benefit by knowing this information! First of all, it is worth mentioning that organic has an official definition as defined by the USDA, but the following commonly used terms do not: certified organic, free-range, organically produced, natural, hormone free, pesticide free, and raised without antibiotics (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16). What this means for consumers, typically, is confusion.  I don’t know about you, but certified organic sounds pretty official.  Now why does it matter? Well, it matters because if you buy organic food you probably purchase it because you want food free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that have not been exposed to hormones or antibiotics and have not been genetically modified. Furthermore, organic food tends to be more expensive to purchase so if you are shelling out the extra bucks, don’t you want to buy food that is actually organic? It seems to me that those unofficial terms may just be a way to sell the product for more money and they may not even contain USDA organic ingredients. This does not mean you should not buy those foods, you just need to decide for yourself how you feel about the labeling. So, what should you look for when buy food to ensure it is actually organic? Look for the USDA organic label or the terms Made with Organic Ingredients and Contains Organic Ingredients (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16). USDA organic means the food product contains 95-100% organic ingredients and the other two terms mean 70% of the ingredients meet the organic criteria or less than 70% of the ingredients meet organic criteria (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16).

I shop organic when I can, especially for produce. It does tend to be more expensive so I pick and chose what I buy organic because as a student I am on a budget. I know that apples are one of the fruits highest in pesticides so that is probably the top food I buy organic when I can. Just remember that non organic foods can be healthy, safe, and you do not necessarily have to buy organic to be healthy! I personally eat a combination of organic and non organic foods and both have a place in our diets and budgets.

I have a helpful picture below that I often refer to when grocery shopping. This picture lists the dirtiest (in terms of pesticides) and the cleanest produce. It may help you decide which produce you want to buy organic and which you want to buy non organic (courtesy of environmental working group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews).

EWG1

I hope you all found this helpful! After learning about organic foods in my class this summer, I have been checking food labels more often. It’s nice to know which foods are actually organic and which are labeled with uncertified terms. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pay organic prices for nonorganic foods! Another thing you can do is to buy produce that is in season and local. Your local farmers market is a great place to check! The food at a farmers market is typically fresher and travels less distance than what you buy at the local grocery store. You can even ask the farmers what kind of pesticides, hormones, etc. they treat their food or produce with. I’m excited to move to my apartment this weekend which is just down the street from a local farmer’s market! I’m probably going to be a regular there Smile with tongue out.

What foods do you buy organic, if any? Do you go to a local farmers market? If so what do you buy there? Do you ask the farmers or producers about how they grow, treat, and produce their food?

 

 

 

Wise Wednesday- organic foods: don’t get confused by the labels

DISCLAIMER: I am not a registered dietitian. I am a student who is studying nutrition and preparing to become a registered dietitian, though. I still do want to share with you nutrition and healthy living topics that I find interesting and am learning about in my classes or through my own research.

Organic food and labels

Today I wanted to share what I learned in my summer class a few a weeks ago about organic foods. I was a little surprised by what I learned and I think that you guys could benefit by knowing this information! First of all, it is worth mentioning that organic has an official definition as defined by the USDA, but the following commonly used terms do not: certified organic, free-range, organically produced, natural, hormone free, pesticide free, and raised without antibiotics (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16). What this means for consumers, typically, is confusion.  I don’t know about you, but certified organic sounds pretty official.  Now why does it matter? Well, it matters because if you buy organic food you probably purchase it because you want food free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that have not been exposed to hormones or antibiotics and have not been genetically modified. Furthermore, organic food tends to be more expensive to purchase so if you are shelling out the extra bucks, don’t you want to buy food that is actually organic? It seems to me that those unofficial terms may just be a way to sell the product for more money and they may not even contain USDA organic ingredients. This does not mean you should not buy those foods, you just need to decide for yourself how you feel about the labeling. So, what should you look for when buy food to ensure it is actually organic? Look for the USDA organic label or the terms Made with Organic Ingredients and Contains Organic Ingredients (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16). USDA organic means the food product contains 95-100% organic ingredients and the other two terms mean 70% of the ingredients meet the organic criteria or less than 70% of the ingredients meet organic criteria (Understanding Food Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown pg. 16).

I shop organic when I can, especially for produce. It does tend to be more expensive so I pick and chose what I buy organic because as a student I am on a budget. I know that apples are one of the fruits highest in pesticides so that is probably the top food I buy organic when I can. Just remember that non organic foods can be healthy, safe, and you do not necessarily have to buy organic to be healthy! I personally eat a combination of organic and non organic foods and both have a place in our diets and budgets.

I have a helpful picture below that I often refer to when grocery shopping. This picture lists the dirtiest (in terms of pesticides) and the cleanest produce. It may help you decide which produce you want to buy organic and which you want to buy non organic (courtesy of environmental working group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews).

EWG1

I hope you all found this helpful! After learning about organic foods in my class this summer, I have been checking food labels more often. It’s nice to know which foods are actually organic and which are labeled with uncertified terms. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pay organic prices for nonorganic foods! Another thing you can do is to buy produce that is in season and local. Your local farmers market is a great place to check! The food at a farmers market is typically fresher and travels less distance than what you buy at the local grocery store. You can even ask the farmers what kind of pesticides, hormones, etc. they treat their food or produce with. I’m excited to move to my apartment this weekend which is just down the street from a local farmer’s market! I’m probably going to be a regular there Smile with tongue out.

What foods do you buy organic, if any? Do you go to a local farmers market? If so what do you buy there? Do you ask the farmers or producers about how they grow, treat, and produce their food?