Healthy eating on a budget

The #1 question I get from blog readers is

“How do you grocery shop and cook healthy meals on a budget?”

It’s honestly a question I asked myself at the beginning of my own wellness journey. Mostly because I originally fixated on “organic” eating as my only option. Now don’t get me wrong, I try to eat organically, but it’s not always feasible when working with a weekly grocery budget. Organic foods can be more expensive, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find ways to fit in fresh and healthy meal options into your life.

For years I’ve been shopping at my local farmer’s markets, like Parkesdale Farm, for my produce. Today I made a trip out there with Mr. KKM’s mom and Monica. I spent exactly $9.45 and got all of this:
For less than $10 and I got 2 HUGE avocados, 3 red plums, 3 HUGE sweet potatoes, 4 tomatoes, 8 limes, a bunch of cilantro, a Spanish onion and 2 baking potatoes. That, my friends, is what you call a DEAL. If you don’t have a farmer’s market near by, consider joining a co-op! You’ll have fresh produce delivered to your door every month (or even every week in some cases). Look for a co-op in your neighborhood here.

As for everything else, I’ve never been a “loyal” grocery chain shopper. Here in Florida Publix is one of our biggest chain grocers, and although I do love shopping there (it is a pleasure, after all), it’s not always kind to my wallet. I typically do my shopping on Saturday mornings and will browse the ads to see who’s got the best deals. I’m totally ok with store brands, so couponing has never been my priority as I think many times you can save more money by going generic on most items, receiving equal quality and taste. Now, in a moment, I may lose brand-loyal readers, but I want to introduce you to a little store called Aldi.

Ever heard of Trader Joe’s? (oh, I bet I just got a few swoons and oooo’s and ahhh’s). Well Aldi is their discount chain and parent company. (Yes, it’s true!). When Tampa first got an Aldi, I decided to check it out. I had heard about it’s popularity over in Europe, so I figured I would see what all of the trans-Atlantic hype was about.

I have been HOOKED on Aldi ever since. Calling it a “discount” store is like putting it in the same category as Save-a-Lot or Dollar General, and that should be a crime. Aldi is in a different league all on it’s own.

With impeccably clean stores, specialty items and some of the freshest produce around, there is no doubt that Aldi is in the same family as the infamous Trader Joe’s.

I did my grocery shopping there yesterday, and wanted to share with you what I found. If you’re living on a budget (like me), then you should check out Aldi for all of your healthy meal planning needs. Let’s take a look at what I bought:

Let’s crunch some numbers:

1 gallon skim milk $3.19
ground turkey $1.69 x2= $3.38
black beans $0.59 x2=$1.18
pork tenderloin (1lb) $5.99
shredded part skim cheese $2.79
pecan halves (6oz) $3.99
chicken broth $1.49
baby carrots $0.59
parsley flakes $0.99
basil leaves $0.99
steak seasoning $0.99
diced tomatoes $0.59 x2= $1.18
dozen large eggs $1.39
turkey bacon $1.39
brown rice $1.29
tilapia filets $5.99
sweet potato chips $0.99
total= $37.80

Combine that with my farmer’s market buys and you have a grand total of $47.25!
That’s under $50 for tons of staples that can lead to amazing meals!

In addition to the above goodies, you’ll find things like:

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break your piggy bank. Give Aldi a chance and see what you think!

Do you have any favorite low-cost healthy recipes?


Know what you have

**Disclaimer** This post covers sensitive medical and wellness related topics involving breast cancer and preventative reproductive procedures. If you feel uncomfortable discussing or reading about these topics, please skip this post. I won’t be offended because I know you’ll be back! Additionally, I am NOT a medical professional. I am simply a patient giving my opinion on how to be proactive with women’s health issues. Please consult your own physician before attempting any medical procedure or self-diagnosing. Thank you for understanding and please leave comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback. -Steph 🙂

If you’re a regular Orangespoken reader, then you know that I lost my mom to breast cancer back in April of 2012 after a year long fight. Today I had an appointment to meet with my OB/GYN for my yearly well woman checkup; the first since her passing.  My priority was not only getting the exam, but also to discuss my own breast cancer prevention plan.

I had been dreading this conversation. Mostly because of this ridiculous genetic coding that my family carries that I’ve tried to overcome throughout the years. You see, many members of my family have the “no news is good news” mentality, and would even go so far as to not even visit the doctor for fear of facing the worst. So of course, internal genetics are a hard thing to quiet, but I knew that with my mom’s passing from triple negative carcinoma (the worst case scenario as far as breast cancers are concerned), that I would now be high risk and would need to take a proactive approach to my own prevention, even if it means having a scary and uncomfortable conversation with my OB/GYN.

I’m 33 years old, and have been going to this particular doctor since I became sexually active, around 20. Before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had many reproductive issues and eventually had to endure a full hysterectomy while I was young, so I have been exposed to the importance of reproductive health for a while now, and have never missed my yearly exam. However, I find it shocking when I hear about other women, my age (and sometimes older!) who have never had a pap smear or breast exam. I can even recall conversations with girlfriends who don’t regularly do self breast exams. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the ins and outs your body, so that when and if changes occur, they’re noticeable. Listen, whatever the reason, get over it, because there’s nothing more important than your health. If there’s anything positive that came out of my mother’s passing, it’s that realization. I saw my mother suffer through chemotherapy and its side effects, radiation, drains, losing the ability to walk, speak, and eat on her own. There is no preventative screening or checkup that will ever come close to the pain she felt, and anytime I’m scared to make that appointment, I think of her. If you haven’t built a relationship with a doctor or OB/GYN, put that on your priority list asap.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of these two life-saving checkups. First, the pap-smear, also known as a “well woman exam“. Most primary care physicians will do this exam (which encompasses more than just the pap-smear test), but, depending on your insurance, you can also make an appointment with a OB/GYN outside of your regular doctor’s visits (get with your insurance carrier for details). A regular well woman exam visit only takes 20 minutes at the most, and typically starts off with the removal of all clothes and undergarments (don’t worry, you’ll get a robe), vitals, then a breast exam (which we’ll get back to in a second), then the actual pap smear and vaginal (internal & external) exam. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t exactly a recreational experience, but like I said before, 20 minutes of mild discomfort is worth the information you’ll get about your body from it. If you’re completely new to the pap smear experience, here are some tools you’ll see in the exam room.

Tools used to collect a sample during the pap smear.

Posters that show the inner workings of the woman’s reproductive system and pregnancy.

A light to help the doctor see during the vaginal exam and pap smear.

Stirrups to place your feet on during the vaginal exam and pap smear.

The exam typically starts with the pap smear. A speculum will be inserted into the vagina to open it so that the tissue sample can be gathered using the tools seen on the counter above (long q-tip like tools). The pap smear literally takes under a minute from start to finish if you stay calm and listen to the doctor’s instructions. There is some mild discomfort and a tiny tinge of a temporary pinching feeling (for about 2-3 seconds), then the speculum is removed and the pap smear is over. It really is that simple! Tissue samples will be sent to a lab and if the results come back as abnormal, your doctor will contact you to discuss next steps. Once the pap smear is over, the doctor will examine the inside and outside of the vagina, and other reproductive parts using inserted fingers and pressure applied to the lower stomach area. This exam is painless (unless there is a problem, OR you haven’t emptied your bladder). So if you still have anxiety about this exam, and have put off making your appointment, talk to your doctor about your concerns ahead of time and see what they suggest to help make the situation more comfortable. Remember, it’s a simple and potentially life saving exam that all women should be having annually (or sometimes even bi-annually, at Dr.’s orders).

Now let’s revisit the breast exam. First let me say that if you’re not doing monthly self exams, start now. Get to know the way your breasts feel because believe it or not, you WILL feel bumpy areas, stretch mark textures and the like. Get to know what’s normal for your breasts that way when something changes, you’ll notice it. Here’s a great website that shows you how to do an accurate self breast check up, including the right time of the month to do them and changes to look for. If you’re under the age of 40, your doctor will perform a thorough breast exam that is identical to the one you should be doing at home, so take notice to what they’re doing and ask questions if you don’t understand or want clarification. Nobody should be silent during any medical exam. Ask questions, converse, and become familiar with these procedures so that you’re more educated on both your body and prevention. If you’re over 40, your breast exam will most likely be a mammogram. If you’re younger than 40 and are high risk (like your mother had breast cancer) they may have you do a mammogram earlier than 40 (which may or may not be covered by insurance, so do your homework). Early detection is key, and I plan on being as proactive as possible now that I’m in a high risk situation.

Was my visit a success? Yes. I have an amazing OB/GYN who took the time to listen to my concerns, and show me proper self breast exam tips today. As she probed about my mother’s illness, I got emotional and fortunately she understood my own anxieties on my future and plan. She also spoke to me about options like sonograms and genetic testing (see link below) as other ways to maintain and monitor my breast health and chances of developing this disease. She happens to work specifically with the Brac testing and gave me her cell phone number if  and when I was ready to discuss this option. There really are great doctors still left in the world!

Cancer is a killer. It took my mom from me, as well as grandparents, cousins and friends. The only way we can fight this beast is by being as proactive as possible with our own help. Listen to your bodies. Get checked. Don’t procrastinate. Right now you have the control, not the disease. So do what needs to be done.
Need more information? Check out these resources:

The Importance of a Yearly Pap Smear
Pap and HPV Testing
Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Brac Testing Information

Please share your thoughts, tips and stories. Let’s encourage and inspire each other to live our best lives possible.


Will you marry me…..Trader Joe’s?

This weekend a group of girlfriends/girlcousins loaded up the truck with coolers and coffees and headed south to Sarasota.

Last week we finally got something that northerners are oh so lucky to have- TRADER JOE’S.

I had been once before, but never actually shopped. I was more than excited to plan this “fieldtrip” and excited to try some specialty items that I’ve seen bloggers and people on the Twitterverse rave about for years. It only took about an hour to get there from Tampa, and only a minute to find a parking! (it WAS packed… we just lucked out). I was even surprised to see carts out front, as I thought they’d be all taken by the time we arrived.

I knew it would be busy, but I had NO idea just how busy.

I really had no rhyme or reason to my shopping, nor did I have a “list”. I figured I’d walk the store 5, or 6 or 20 times and grab as I peruse.

The deals were EVERYWHERE, and I put some items in my cart that I had never even heard of!

YES those are brussel sprouts in my cart. NO I didn’t like them when I made the recipe on the back tonight for dinner!

We all definitely shopped until we dropped.

Chris diving into her honey sesame almonds while waiting in line!

Monica getting the goods down below!

My cousin Chris’ cart! (Gosh, she’s such a wino!)

My cart!

This is Craig. He gave me the inside scoop on the best selling products!

The lines were L-O-N-G, but fast moving. We really only waited about 15 minutes. By the time we had loaded up the coolers and the back seat of the truck, we were beyond ready for lunch. We decided to play tourist and head to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. As we passed the infamous Columbia, we all knew exactly what we needed: SANGRIA!

Their black bean cakes are Ah-may-zing.

So, what WERE my favorite purchases from the almighty JOE?

Shrimp corn dogs (highly recommended from a few bloggers) Lentil Chips Jalapeno cilantro hummus

Frozen edamame! Yummy low carb wraps

A HUGE bottle of EVOO for $6! Lemon kitchen hand soap And….. the best thing I bought a Trader Joe’s…..
the legend…. wait for it… ary….. COOOOOOKIE BUUUUUUTER.

My cousin used this drug to make a no-bake cheesecake this evening that looked something like this:

She doesn’t blog, so hopefully she’ll send me the recipe via carrier pigeon or something. (I mean, how else would you share a recipe other than blogging?) 😉

So. Spill it. Did YOU drive to the new Trader Joe’s like we did? What did you score?
As I try more things that I bought, I’ll add to my list of favs!

-Steph 🙂


Friday Five: Current run tunes

This week was one of the best weeks of the year. Know why?

Tuesday was the release of the new DAVE MATTHEWS BAND ALBUM!

Now, if you know me, then you know what a rabid DMB fan I am. I first discovered them when I was in middle school and listened to Satellite on the radio. It would be years later in college when I actually started to follow them, love their music and overall obsess over all things Dave. (I went to my 11th concert this past July!) There are SO many amazing songs on the new album, but I seem to be gravitating towards two: Guacho and If Only. Check them out!

In honor of the new album, Away From the World, here are my current favorite run tunes that get me pumped and going on those early morning 1/2 marathon training days.

1. Electric Feel by MGMT This song gets me pumped and ready with a great beat and a good pace to start off a workout. I love love love this song so much it’s also my current ringtone!

2. I Hope This Gets to You by The Daylights Completely head over heels in love with this song. Amazing background music to make you feel inspired and strong.

3. My Body Young the Giant Ready to throw in the towel? Put this song on for a little re-energizing and motivation.

4. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay Consistent beat in this uplifting and amazing song. You’ll definitely be hitting repeat on this one.

5. Clarity by John Mayer My all time favorite cool down song. I find myself snapping my fingers to this tune the rest of my day!

So what’s on your current playlist? All time favorite song to run or workout to? Please share!

Steph 🙂



Sunday prose: Ode to camping

‘Twas the first night of camping,
And all through the site.
Many creatures were stirring,
Monica was in for a fright.

After saying she’d never,
Step foot in a tent
After begging and pleading
She came with little argument.

Monica and I watched,
Our men set up the camp.
We did help a little,
But they really were the champs.

Once things were all settled,
We went for a swim.
Then sat by the bay
And enjoyed the cool wind.

While we enjoyed the view,
We didn’t realize our fate.
Raccoons got into our tents
And all our food they ate! (well, not ALL).

Thank goodness our subs
Were safely secure
We ate under the stars
Delicious, for sure.

As the blue moon rose,
We started a fire.
We could not predict,
The crazy that would transpire.

When out from the bushes arose such a clatter.
I sprang from my lawn chair to see what was the matter.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But some nosy raccoons and some loud Cubans near.

Those Cubans would party
Until the wee morning hours.
With each passing minute
They grew louder and louder.

As we readied for bed, Tom assured his sweet dear
That those critters weren’t interested and wouldn’t come near.

As we jumped in our tent, the heat hit us hard.
I decided I’d go out and just sleep in the yard.

I’ve got one eye on you, raccoons.

I climbed on the lawn chair, dodging raccoons on the way
Curled up under stars; until the break of day.

And before I fell asleep, I heard someone say from out of sight
“Gente, por favor, callate” and to all a good night!

How was YOUR Labor Day weekend?
See you next time Ft. Desoto Campground!