the return of swag

Helloooooo Swagsters.

It’s been a while, huh? Thanks to everyone for your support during the rough time my family has recently been through. I can’t tell you enough how much that support made life easier to get through amidst a great deal of sadness. I’d prefer not to focus too much more on this, if that’s okay. We’ve all been working hard to start healing and move forward.

Allow me, instead to update you on other parts of my life. There was a lot going on at one time, and not all of it was bad!

School started!
It was a rough adjustment, given that I was still mourning my family’s loss, but I think it was very helpful to have a place to put my energy and a distraction from my sadness. I’ve quickly found that school is my happy place right now. I love being in my classes, even the ones that I would have previously considered “boring.” I think a big part of this is that I’m older, more mature and have had more experiences in life than I did the first time I was in school. I have a much greater appreciation for learning, and the opportunities that education has to offer. I’ve lived the “adult” life, paying my bills and working for a living in a job that doesn’t really allow me to reach my full potential. I am not taking college for granted this time. I see this as my chance, my opportunity to make life better.

Also, as I get older, I really see how affected our lives are by politics and by economics. As a younger adult, being still supported by my parents, it was hard to care about politics and the state of the economy. Now, as I’ve been supporting myself for half a decade, I’ve been affected by health care regulations, by the credit crunch, by decisions of elected officials. Subsequently, I find everything I’m studying, from Geography to Political Economics to be extremely relevant. Understanding the world around us in an informed, educated way is absolutely necessary. I might warn you ahead of time to expect to hear me talking about things like this more often. As much as I enjoy talking about food, exercise and personal growth, I am feeling a deepening urgency to have conversations about societal change, and to take part in it.

At any rate, I’m in love with academia, and so happy to be a part of this world today. I’m obsessed with my classes and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more sure about what I’m doing. Economics is something I loved studying. It’s one of those things that just clicks in my brain. It’s such a dynamic field of study and can be useful in so many different fields. I’ve already decided that I want to get my master’s degree once I finish here and I’m so thrilled with a program I found that fits what I want to do to a T!

FitFluential!
I was recently accepted as a FitFluential ambassador! I’m thrilled to be a part of this community on a more interactive scale. I’m extremely proud to be able to promote a healthy, happy, fit, vegan lifestyle to a broader audience, and I sincerely hope I will serve you and the FitFluential organization well.

Vegan Outreach!
Literally, as I was walking to the campus library to sit and give you all this update, I passed a girl who was handing out pamphlets. It turns out, she is working with Vegan Outreach and trying to organize a group of students on campus to promote the cruelty free life. I have always admired the work that Vegan Outreach does and I was so, so pleased to run into this girl and to find this grassroots movement getting started on my campus! I got her information and I’ll be emailing her today. I am extremely interested in being more of an active vegan advocate, and really hope to be an integral part of this movement growing more popular.

These are the major things going on right now, my friends.

Life’s really busy and I’m working to establish a new routine. All in all, I really believe life is headed in the right direction.

How was the end of your summer?
Tell me something exciting that’s going on in your life!

how to be a vegan on a budget

Swagsters!

Life’s been busy again, I worked a fair amount of doubles in the past few days. Pretty unlike me, but I’m trying to do as much as I can before school starts!

Yesterday I went grocery shopping for the week, as I do, and I got a pretty nice haul for $53.22 (without even using my friend’s discount… I felt like I was cheating the system using it! 🙂 )

a week’s worth of yumm!

A few people asked me how it is I am making this happen, especially when I am shopping at Whole Foods. So, today, that’s what I’m going to share with you!

One of the things that really grinds my gears is when people tell me they can’t be healthy or vegan because it is too expensive. This is one big reason why I have embarked on this budgeting adventure. I want to dispel this myth! It does not have to cost a lot to eat clean, or vegan, or both. Instead of all your money, what it really takes, is a little bit of planning, and maybe even some self-discipline.

Here’s what I do:

1. The night before I go grocery shopping, I make a menu plan for the upcoming week. I refer to my Tone it Up! meal plan, I look at recipes I’ve pinned, etc, and I come up with 3 meal options for each main meal I eat.

2. When I’m choosing recipes to make, I look for those that use just a few whole ingredients. I also look for recipes with overlapping ingredients. It’s easier and cheaper to buy something that you can use in several recipes as opposed to on ingredient for only one meal. Keep it simple =  keep it cheap.

3. I consider what I already have in my house. Maybe this week I have some left over ingredients, or I still have a large tub of cooked beans in my freezer. I’ll use those instead of buying more ingredients. This will help you waste less, too, and that’s a big bonus!

4. When I get to the grocery store, I shop produce first, like most of us do, and I follow one strict rule: weigh everything. This will help you see how much you’re buying and can help you keep on track if you have a budget goal. If you want to take it to the next step, keep your phone’s calculator on hand, and keep a running total of what you’re spending. I do this regularly, just to make sure I’m not about to overspend.

5. Do not buy more produce than you can consume in one week. Veggies and fruit will keep for about a week in the fridge. When you’re buying produce, especially veggies, buy them in servings. For instance, when I’m buying veggies for dinner, I think to myself, I want x-days worth of brussels sprouts, so I count out x-servings and no more. If I’m buying broccoli, I buy crowns. 1 crown =  1 serving. No more than I’m planning to eat!

6. Stop buying canned beans! One of the biggest ways I’ve started saving money is to buy dried beans and cook them myself. One pound of dried beans costs about the same as 2 cans of cooked beans, yet you get about 5 cans worth of beany goodness. It may seem overwhelming to cook your beans, but it’s very rewarding and so much of it can be done while you’re doing other things in your house.

7. Stop buying veggie burgers and hummus! Make your own with the beans you’ve cooked! You can end up making more  burger patties than you need, so you can just freeze them and save money next week by not needing to buy a protein source! As for hummus, it’s so easy to make and so much cheaper.

exhibit-A

8. Stick to your menu plan. Do it as best you can. Sometimes I’ll refigure things a bit and make a recipe I wasn’t planning, but I always use ingredients I have on hand and I make sure that it won’t leave me short by the end of the week.

9. Freeze stuff! If it looks like it won’t end up getting used, throw it in the freezer before it goes bad! It saves waste and it’ll be there to save you money later!

So those are my main rules to follow. I don’t really coupon, as most of what I buy is produce or store brand. Certainly it is also helpful to look for things that are on sale. If I normally buy 365 brand, but Pacific almond milk is on sale, then Pacific brand it is. If a certain fruit is on sale, I may buy that instead of what I was planning to snack on, etc.

Let me also address the fact that I do purchase things that are, by all standards, expensive. My tub of protein powder costs $20, then there’s my psyllium husk ($9) and my chia seeds ($12-$15) that I keep as a part of my diet. (The latter two ingredients are essential to my personal digestive health, so I refuse to give them up.) However, because I am budgeting the rest of my week so well, I give myself the ability to afford those “luxuries.” Furthermore, those three things tend to last me a while (about 3 weeks to a month, each). They are certainly not weekly ingredients, so they don’t add up as much as one might think.

So there you have it. This is how I plan and budget my week of food and how I also can do it at Whole Foods. I am a happy, healthy, well-nourished, clean-eating vegan and I do not spend an arm and a leg on my food!

I hope this helps and of you out there that are trying to budget and plan.

Let me know what you do, if you currently shop on a budget! I love to hear new things I can do to save a penny here or there. 

how to get results

Swagsters-

How many ways can I say “thank you” before I feel like you understand the depth of my gratitude?

Thank you so much, again, for all your love, well wishes and congratulations. I feel like this has all come at such an amazingly, stars-aligned time for me. I had been questioning myself as a blogger, questioning my purpose and direction, and wondering if I even had pertinent things to share. Then suddenly things seemed to explode with positivity and affirmation, and I feel so much more founded in the belief that wherever this goes, I’m on the right path. So thank you all, again, for your encouragement. I literally wouldn’t do this if it was for me alone- I seek connection, community and even companionship from this venture, and having that returned to me is outrageously affirming.

Addressing “The Question”

During my recent 15 minutes of fame, right after all the love , I received the following question several times over: “What are you doing to get those results?!” After meditating on it alone and consulting with my best/blogging friends/resources, Heather and Cait, I figured out how I felt I could best answer this inquiry.

If you’re sticking around to hear me tell you exactly what I eat, and what I do for workouts and how I devote every living, breathing minute of my day to this endeavor, then you probably don’t want to read any further, as I am not going to be telling you that.

But, why not?

The truth is, my life does not revolve around those things alone. The truth is… J’adore La Vie.

I am devoted to creating a life that I am proud of, a life that I love and a life that suits ME. I am devoted to upholding mindfulness and intuitiveness throughout my days. It’s the devotion to these things that yields me results, physically, mentally and spiritually.

What does that mean? 

It means that I eat foods that honor my body and make me feel good. It also means that when my friend comes to town, we share a tub of SoDelicious ice cream and literally almost eat the entire thing while watching Fashion Police. It means that some mornings I workout hard, and some mornings I eat breakfast first and other mornings I am gentle with myself or I skip a workout all together.

It means that sleep is a major priority in my life. Well-rested Jenny is a happy Jenny and, subsequently, a happy world around me.

It means that I meditate most days. It means that I spend time blogging and, if so inspired, I will journal. I take solace in the quiet parts of my day, reflecting or reading or just allowing myself the opportunity for aural detox. I take a minute every day to give myself praise for a job well done, big or small. I make space to give myself love.

It means that I make time for my most uplifting friends, doing things that make us feel good and proud and nurtured.

It means that I take care of the practical side of my life. I’m working on my budget and finances and trying to get myself in a more comfortable place. I’m going back to school to give myself more opportunities to find a job or a career that I love and that fulfills me.

In a nutshell, what I have done to get results in my life is to take control of my life. It is mine, and for all I know, it is the only one I get. In the grand scheme of things, we, as humans, don’t have time to waste. If you want something, tell yourself you deserve it and go after it.

Now I don’t mean that I tell myself what I “should” be doing. I mean that I check in with myself, I strive for authenticity and I do what feels good and natural.

And this, my friends, is how I get the ultimate result, to say, ” J’adore La Vie.”

J’adore La Vie is a campaign that was originally launched by (the previously linked and mentioned) Heather at For the Love of Kale. I want to be an ambassador for this campaign and I want you to join me!

I challenge you to devote your life to authenticity, peace and self-love. I challenge you to make your life yours. Eating a clean healthy diet and exercising are merely a fraction of this equation.

If you want results, tell yourself you deserve results and then go after them!

What are you devoted to in your life?
What makes you say, J’adore La Vie? (tell the world on twitter with #jadorelavie)

speechless gratitude

Swagsters, yesterday was OUT OF CONTROL.

I got a wild hair yesterday morning and decided to send a progress photo to my trainers over at Tone It Up!, Karena and Katrina. I’ve been following their plan since March, and I love it. They taught me how to eat in a healthy way, in a way that I could be proud of and in a way that left me feeling sure I was properly nourished. They also inspired me to get off the cardio machine and start weight training. And last but not least, the community they have built has brought so many amazing people into my lives. I’ve honestly never been part of a community of women that is so supportive and inspiring in my entire life. I swear to you, nothing has been the same since I joined this plan. Every part of my life has become more enriched thanks to them. I highly recommend joining the team to any girl who wants to manifest a happy healthy life for herself!

Okay, off my soapbox. (Disclaimer: This is my own opinion of K&K and the Tone It Up! plan. They did not ask me to review or opine in anyway. I’m just that happy with these ladies. ❤ )

So the picture. I decided to send it not because of the physical side alone, but because I was proud enough to do it at all. Does that make sense? I didn’t want accolades for the physical changes, I was just so pleased to be willing to share. The physical changes mean nothing if I hadn’t grown strong enough mentally to appreciate them and my hard work.

So I sent them this picture via Twitter and Instagram:

woohoo!

And much to my surprise, and pleasure, my trainers tweeted me back!

*starstruck*

I was so excited that they were as proud of me as I was. What a blessing!

The rest of my morning was mostly spent responding to encouraging tweets from this wonderful community. I felt very lucky and blessed. The sun was shining down on me.

That afternoon I was off to work. Shortly after I got there, my phone started blowing up. I had texts and missed calls and facebook messages and tweets like crazy. What was going on?! I thought. When I read the first text I got, I was directed to this:

say whaaaaa????

My trainers had featured me on their facebook page! And they mentioned my blog!

I was floored. I wanted to run out of my job immediately and spend all night tweeting and facebooking my appreciation and gratitude.

And last night I looked at my blog statistics and saw this:

average day?

Oh you know… from 50-something views to over 800. NBD.

Now, the next day, I am still riding the high of gratitude. This journey would be nothing without the support of my trainers and this community. This is what makes it fulfilling. The encouragement, support, love and kindness from everyone that responded to these posts yesterday is why I keep doing what I’m doing. When I’m feeling impatient, unmotivated and down, I can always turn to this community and I will immediately be uplifted.

I wish words could even do justice to love that has filled my heart right now. The love that came from you all. The love that I’d like to give right back.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In the yoga world, there’s an exclamation that is used to celebrate something with lots of love: Jai!

That’s what my heart is screaming right now. Jai! Jai! Jai! Namaste! Jai!

Much love to all of you, my Swagsters. You’ve really given me new life, new purpose, new affirmation, and I owe you everything I have.

life on the wagon

Swagsters!

I forgot to tell you about a very important event yesterday!… I bought my books for school!

Classes begin in exactly 3 weeks, and I can’t even explain to you how excited I am. This is really the start of something new for me, and for Markus for that matter. Once I’m finished, we’re really going to be on our way.  There’s so much to be excited about. I really have this feeling that the world is ours for the taking. 😀

Nerd Alert

So, in case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m going back to school to get a degree in Economics. This first semester back I’ll be taking two Econ classes and two Geography classes (I’ve decided to minor in Environmental Geography). I was planing to take one more class, but have recently decided to stick to four classes, as I will still be working full time. Anyway… outside of the cost, buying school books is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. I love looking at the required reading and getting a peak at what we’ll be covering over the semester. Like this gem…

*swoon*

I wish I was joking about how excited I am to dig into this book. I just find it all so fascinating and pertinent. I sincerely cannot wait! My anticipation reassures me that I’ve made a smart choice by going back to school. 😉

But let’s get serious for a second…

I’d like to switch gears and share something with you all that I’ve kept quiet for a while. Sure, some people in my life know about this, but tonight I felt like I was ready to go public, as what began as a sad situation has transformed into a source of immense pride for me.

Swagsters, as of today, I have not had a drop of alcohol in 25 days.

Through the course of the last few years, I struggled a bit with over indulging in beverages of the alcoholic persuasion. While I wouldn’t say I was an alcoholic, I would say that I had problems with moderation when I did chose to drink. I know that there were times, many of them, that I drank alcohol as a way to cope with and escape from my life.

Over the years I’ve usually been able to catch myself before things got too out of hand, but recently, I realized that I was spending too many nights saying to myself, “Tonight is the night I prove to myself that I can drink with moderation.” And then I would proceed to get drunk. The next day I would feel ashamed, embarrassed, depressed, bloated, uncomfortable, tired and just generally ill.

25 days ago, I hit a low. 25 days ago I finally awoke to the realization that even though I enjoy the taste of wine and beer, I could no longer put it into my body. I realized that, for me, the consumption of alcohol was pure poison to my body, mind and spirit.

(Side note: This does not mean that I think no one should drink. I mean to say that I, personally, should not drink.)

The first few days after I quit, I was glad that I had done so, but I was still left with the lingering guilt, gastrointestinal discomfort and body dysmorphia that drinking brought into my life.

But then, the clouds started to lift away and the sun began shining down on me. I remember thinking for a while beforehand that I always felt like there was a cloud hanging over me, and I was beginning to think I might actually be depressed. But as the days of sobriety wore on, I finally began to realize: that cloud was laced with booze. Slowly, but surely, I started to find happiness again. My heart began opening up and I started to see the real beauty in the world around me.

This week, I have really been noticing the changes. Body dysmorphia is nearly a thing of my past. In fact, I’m growing immensely proud of my strong, healthy body. I’m reaping the benefits of my clean eating and exercise, instead of nullifying them with alcohol. (I’m starting to see abs, y’all.) I have more energy. I don’t need naps. My mood is more stable. I am able to better focus. Without the cloud of guilt and shame, my spirituality has been set free.

Today, I was truly struck with pride. 25 days ago I was as close to hating myself as I could possibly be. Yet, instead of hating myself, I chose to see the open window of opportunity. The universe was offering me a chance to make a change, and I took that opportunity.

And I am so proud of myself.

I have never felt this level of pride for something I have done. I suppose I wanted to share this all with you because it explains the place I’ve been in the past few weeks. It explains why I have spent so much time examining myself, my authenticity, my Truth, my Me-ness.

The Real Jenny is stepping up now, and showing herself.

That being said, I hope you all will stay this journey with me. I feel conflicted because I do not know what direction this blog will take. It will be transforming into it’s authentic self right alongside me. I worry that people won’t like what I say or write, but I am going to keep plugging along, in the hopes that my purpose will reveal itself.

What do you say Swagsters? Dive in with me?

relax, recuperate, rejuvenate

A little later than intended, I’m back.

These past two days off of work have been wonderful, and as much as I kept telling myself, “Jenny, you should blog! You should write! Don’t neglect it!” I just couldn’t bring myself to do any “shoulds.” I just needed to focus on self-care.

So what have I been up to? Here’s a bit of what’s been going during my time off:

Relaxation

Yesterday, I walked to pilates class. The studio is a little over a mile from my house, and it was a gorgeous day to be outside. I felt little twinges, now and again, of guilt for giving up my shift… and then I saw this:

divine intervention

Signs from the Universe don’t get much more obvious than that! Silly as it may be, seeing this license plate helped me relax and know that I had done the right thing.

Pilates was kind of a bust, to be honest. It was a beginner’s class, but I didn’t find it very challenging. Either way, I was proud of myself for trying something outside of my normal workout tendencies, and, I told myself… at least I walked there! 🙂

I had a couple of errands while I was in the area, and the one I was most excited about was going to get a library card. I have NO idea why I haven’t done this any sooner. I’ve been swooning over some books online, reminding myself that I don’t need to spend a ton of money on books and suddenly the obvious hit me: get a library card, silly! So I did. 🙂

And I brought this baby home with me:

I’m a David Mitchell fangirl.

Number9Dream by David Mitchell has been on my to-read list for a while. My absolute, all time, nothing better, mind blowing, life changing favorite book is his novel A Cloud Atlas. I’ve been itching to read more of his work for a while now. I’m almost 100 pages in (oh man, I love days off), and so far I’m really loving it. It’s different than A Cloud Atlas, but not in a bad way. If it’s anything as life changing, rest assured, I’ll be writing about here. 🙂

#BudgetVegan food

Today was the last day of week 2 on my grocery budget. This week was much better than week 1. I found that by the end of the week I a) was not running out of as much food (I didn’t need a replenishment trip at all!) and b) was not bored by too many leftovers. I was able to add more variety in my diet this past week, and I even found room to stray a bit from my planned menu.

cheezy lentils stuffed pepper

This was one of my unexpected meals. I had bought this red pepper intending to make a tofu scramble, but somehow that never happened. In the spirit of wasting less, I decided to stuff it! The insides are just green lentils in a cheezy sauce. I’m still tweaking the sauce recipe, and then I”ll post the recipe for this baby. This was super yummy and I can’t wait to refine it. Even Markus was impressed with my fancy looking dinner!

warm peanut butter cup protein oats

I have really been enjoying my protein oats with cooked oats this week. This particular version includes cocoa powder and is topped with PB2, watered down to a saucy consistency. I’m not sure if it’s because the oats are cooked , or what’s going on, but this week I have not needed a snack between breakfast and lunch. This is such a satisfying meal that today I had to force myself to eat lunch 4 hours after breakfast. If you know me, you know that is a looooooong time for me to go without eating. I usually eat every 2-2.5 hours.

homemade hummus on quinoa flax bread

Lunch today was the first time I realized I was running low on things. Not too shabby, considering it took to the last day of the week to get there! I only had a small bit of veggies left, and those were reserved for dinner, so I made one of my favorite, most simple lunches. As I said, I wasn’t super hungry yet, so I went with something smaller. Markus bought some quinoa and flax bread from Whole Foods, and so I, um, borrowed (thanks, honeybuns) two small slices, toasted them and topped them with homemade hummus and avocado. On the side I had half of a grapefruit.

Then it was grocery time! Today was an exciting day: I got a discount at Whole Foods. I have a friend who works there and graciously allowed me to use his discount.

20%, y’all.

However, I didn’t want to use this as an opportunity to cheat. If I spent my whole budget ($55 this week) after the discount, I would have considered it a fail. So I still weighed all my veggies and fruit, only bought what I needed for the week, and chose brands that were on sale, etc. Before my discount I ended up at $60. I don’t know how that happened, except for maybe the part where I bought $9 (aka 3 pounds) worth of brussels sprouts. Oops.

Actually, I did buy a few extra veggies that aren’t normally on my weekly list, like chard and some mushrooms. Either way, going over by $5 is no big deal, and again, I won’t need to go to the grocery again until next Tuesday.

But lest we forget the discount. What I actually paid was $48.

Damn, that felt good.

I got a LOT of food for $60.

Moving forward, I will definitely be reconsidering my purchases to try and get closer to my budget goals. I figure a margin of $5 is not a terribly large margin, anyway. But maybe there was room for some rearranging and rethinking. Who knows! It’s still a process of learning and either way, I’m still saving between $60 and $70 a week by menu planning and paying strict attention to what I’m putting in my cart. I can’t fault myself for the extra $5!

So, Swagsters… What have you been up to the past few days?

 

mighty me

It’s Tuesday, and if you’re reading this you survived Monday, so HOORAY FOR EVERYONE!

My good mood and positive outlook are still with me today, as you might be able to see, even though the sun is not exactly shining today.

My morning routine was a little scrambled today, as I had an appointment to get to after taking Markus to work. So instead of going right into my morning workout, I woke up and did an 8 minute mediation before heading downstairs to breakfast. I decided I would workout after my appointment, when I had more time. Plus I had a big idea that I would go for a run today. I’ve signed up for the Rhythm Race on August 18th, so I figured I might as well prepare myself by, um, running.

My workout started with the Whistle Workout from BodyRockTV. I love this work out. It’s 16 minutes instead of 12, and those extra 4 minutes are killer.

I’ve done this workout 3 times now and I’m so glad that I started writing down my reps because today I saw some improvements I was not expecting! Check it out:

Here’s a list of the exercises. It’s 24 rounds of 10:30. (For full explanations of exercises, see the link to the video above.)

1. Surfer kick-outs
2. Alternating upright row with a twist
3. 5 high knees + 1 half burpee
4. Back lunge with kick (right)
5. Back lunge with kick (left)
6. 5 star pushups + 1 burpee
7. Ninja jump tucks
8. Exploding pushups

The first time I did this workout my reps looked like this:

1. 7/7/6
2. 15/15/15
3. 5/5/5
4. 13/14/13
5. 13/14/14
6. 2.5/2/2
7. 7/7/7
8. 8/14/13 (I ended up doing these on my knees after the first round so I could maintain form)

Now, after doing this workout 3 times over the span of a month, my reps looked like this:

1. 11/10/10
2. 15/14/15
3. 8/7/8
4. 12/13/13
5. 13/13/14
6. 2.5/2.5/2
7. 8/8/8
8. 14/12/13

I highlighted my notable improvements.  I was SO proud of myself when I saw this. It felt so good to see that my hard work is paying off. I’m getting stronger and faster. A lot of my (and most people’s) fitness adventure is kept alive on faith and trusting that changes will happen, aesthetically. That’s well and good, but sometimes we (myself included) forget about the changes in physical strength. It was a good reminder to me of what happens on the inside. Plus, having tangible results every now and again is just so inspiring! And I couldn’t not pat myself on the back. Not even my little negative voice can deny that I’ve made improvements!

After I caught my breath a bit, I hit the pavement for that aforementioned run. I have a little almost-2-mile path that I do in my neighborhood and I decided I’d go with that default run today. For not running very consistently, it went really well! I even went a little farther, since the run ends at my front door, and I wanted a chance to walk and cool down a bit.

woop woop!

Today’s been one of those days that reminds me why I actually work out. Not just to have toned muscles and a strong, healthy body. But to pat myself on the back, to build confidence. To stop and say to myself, “Wow, Jenny. That was impressive.” “Wow, Jenny. You are strong.” And to mean it. To see how hard I work and push and then see how I survive it. It becomes a metaphor for life. It’s how I get my swag and take it into my real world.

I can do anything. I am Mighty Me.

Have you done anything lately that makes you feel mighty?

Are you running any fun themed races soon?