The last two months I have been sharing a bit about my journey over the last year to lose over 60 pounds gained from two back-to-back babies. If you're interested in reading about my practical mental strategies and how I was able to work out 3-5x a week with two toddlers in tow, check out our ARCHIVES page. You'll also find a delicious green smoothie recipe and a simple meal prep plan.


This month, I wanted to share some ways we were able to incorporate a healthier diet without breaking the budget AND some personal holiday confessions of my own setbacks that I did not turn into failures.  Here we go!


So first, I'll start with the confessions. October and November got me. I think I ate more Halloween candy this year than I have since I was trick or treating as a kid myself. It started when our neighbors "booed" us two weeks before Halloween, and that sugar addiction became real, really fast. Add that bucket of candy to the various Youth Group activities (where we volunteer) involving candy, soda and pizza and I knew I was on the path to personal destruction.

But guess what? It's okay! I told you two months ago that I fall off the wagon, because we all do! What I refuse to do is let it become a failure. So what I have I been doing to make a balance? I focus on salad-based meals and portion control.


What does that look like? I'm happy you asked!


I personally like to keep breakfast light. Breakfast is either fruit (like a banana) or protein (like 2 eggs with lots of onions, peppers, etc.). Then for lunch I almost always have a simple black bean salad (recipe below). For dinner it's a hearty salad with lots of protein. So even if I have a piece of candy (or 3), most of my intake that day is still full of nutrients and I am never over-eating to where I feel like I need to undo that top button on my pants to breath after a meal. My key rule is that no matter how good a meal is, the second I start wondering if I am full, I stop. I can still enjoy the good stuff, and have off-days without gaining all the inches. Speaking of the good stuff, I try to keep a bar of dark chocolate on hand. It's never been my favorite chocolate, but it is packed with healthy antioxidants and I can satisfy that chocolate craving with a couple squares of dark chocolate, and without the guilt! It keeps me, for the most part, away from the ice cream, cake and other temptations.


So there you have it, my holiday confession mixed with my recipe for not letting it turn into a failure. 


Now let's talk budget friendly meals!


My husband and I have been following Dave Ramsey for over two years now and finally went to Financial Peace University Sept-Nov. so our budget is extremely strict. With that, we have managed to cut grocery expenses and still eat healthy. How do we do this?


First, I always go for the low cost proteins and find a way to make it something I actually enjoy eating. For instance, chicken legs are $0.99 a pound. There are some delicious recipes on healthy homemade marinades. If I am trying a new sauce blend, I split the batch in half and make two different sauces to make sure I enjoy at least one flavor. I love pairing those chicken legs with a simple salad, maybe a little pasta (yes, you can eat carbs---portion is what matters) and some peas, broccoli or corn. Typically we spend less than $10 on this 2-night meal that feeds four of us.


Second, I stick to a routine shopping list, but switch up the flavors or sides.  I don't know about you, but we waste a lot of money when we don't go in with a plan or when we try to make different meals every night of the week.  I like to pick a couple meals and make sure they last 2-3 nights. For variety, I make something different the next week, or choose different flavors. I then rotate those meals each week so I don't get burnt out.


For the last 5-6 months, we have rotated between chicken legs, green chicken enchiladas, taco salad, and chicken salad. Those are pretty much the meals we have stuck to 5-6 nights a week. We usually pick 1-2 nights where we do eat out and I don’t give myself any restriction, aside from portion control. That helps us not get burnt out on our rotation. And honestly, I have learned through my own weight loss journey that I have to confuse my body regularly. If I eat the same exact meal 7 days a week, I will not see as much progress as I do having 1-2 lazy food days a week. It confuses my metabolism and when I fill my body with healthy food the next 2-3 days, my body is more likely to dig back into those fat stores. Plus, it makes the difference between maintaining a mostly healthy lifestyle vs. eating low-calorie, low-everything diet for a month or two only to binge and lose any and all progress.


Third, I buy frozen veggies! They are almost always less expensive and if I don't get around to making dinner that night, I have veggies another night! Plus I can buy a larger amount at a time without worrying about any of it going to waste.


Fourth, I stopped buying pre-packaged salads.  We get two large heads of romaine lettuce each week and have a large Tupperware. After I put the groceries away, I chop one head of lettuce, some onions, cucumber, celery etc. And mix it. It all stays fresh in that large container in the fridge for up to 4 days unless we eat it all first. It makes it much easier to stay on track when I have salad ready to go for lunch and dinner for most of the week! When that runs out, I just cut up the next head of lettuce and switch up the veggies.


Simple black bean salad recipe (perfect for lunch)


1.5 C Chopped romaine lettuce

1-2 T Chopped red onion

1-2 T Halved cherry tomatoes

1/4 C Black Beans

1-2 T C Shredded cheese

Whatever dressing you want (I like Ranch)


I eat this for lunch 4-6 days a week. And I still love it! Sometimes I take out the tomatoes. Sometimes I add corn. Sometimes I switch the beans for boiled eggs. Make it yours, make it something you love!


That wraps up this 3-month run of all the tips and tricks I could come up with on how I lost over 60 pounds in about 13 months. I truly hope there is something you were able to take away to apply to your own health goals. We are all on our own journeys, and these journeys don't end until we are dead. If there are tips you'd like to share please comment! I am sure there are lots of individuals that would love to hear what has worked for you as well!


Happy Holidays!


Stay safe, and I pray that God blesses your health journey wherever you are!

Meals and More
by Ashley Zanella

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