Dietbet: Bribing myself to get fit

My friend Jenn told me about a Dietbet that she’s doing, hosted by Amanda from Biggest Loser Season 8 and Stephanie aka Fat to Fit Darling.  What is Dietbet, you ask?  Basically, you bet that you can lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time.  If you lose the weight, you split the pot among all the winners and you are guaranteed to get at least your initial investment back.  Most winners get 1.5-2x their initial bet.  Dietbet takes a chunk of the pot for operating costs, but if everyone wins they forgo their chunk to make sure no one loses money.  Chance to get fit and make a little money?  Sold.

I joined the New Year, New You with Amanda and Stephanie Dietbet, which is a kickstarter dietbet so the goal is to lose 4% of my body weight in 4 weeks.  For me, that’s roughly 5.5 lbs.  Totally doable.  The pot is currently over $49,000.

I am not going to share my weigh-in photo with you because I am not a masochist and it’s an extraordinarily unflattering photo.  But I did inadvertently wear a skeleton tank top in the photo and then had a dream I got kicked out for promoting anorexia.  Nope, I just like the shirt…

Here is as close as I can get to a recent photo: amber and liz

I’ll post a picture for comparison at the end of the month when I DESTROY this dietbet.

My game plan for winning:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Drink sparkling water instead
  • Avoid added sugar
  • Avoid refined grains
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Limit grains
  • Do something active every day
  • Start lifting

So, how are things going?  I kicked off the New Year with a NYE yin/vinyasa fusion class at Elan and was DD.  I took the day off on Saturday.  On Sunday (Jan. 3) I did a 75 minute vinyasa yoga class at CorePower, followed by some steam room/sauna time.  I also bought groceries so I’d be stocked up on healthy foods.  On Monday, I went to hip hop, had some sauna time and realized that the number of actually insane people using the steam room at Miramont is beyond measure, and filled our bellies with vegetables.  And we’ve consumed a stupid amount of sparkling water in the last few days.  Tuesday was trivia night and I won a beer, so I drank it.  And I ate pizza even though I ate dinner before in order to avoid eating pizza.  You win some, you lose some, I guess.  I am currently 1.4 lbs down from my weigh-in weight so I’m not beating myself up about it.

I anticipate next week throwing me some curveballs, as I’ll be attending two conferences and living out of a hotel room.  I’ll be doing a ton of walking though, as my hotel is about a mile from each of my conferences, which should balance out the crappy event food and Chinese delivery.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find a grocery store so I can get some fruit and veggies in my life.  I’ll also pack my yoga mat and nut butter, because those are the kind of things I do.  I’ll also be taking advantage of the hotel gym and pool in my free time.

Interested in joining the Dietbet?  Either click here or let me know and I can send you an invitation.

No Spend September: Day 2

Another successful day on the mission to only spend on Needs for a month.

I walked to the Max to get to work and had several meetings that filled up my day.  Our office provides coffee so when I can’t get coffee at home, I can get it at work.  I ate leftover roasted red pepper and tomato bisque for lunch because Andy ate the spaghetti with meat sauce I was dying to eat.  The sacrifices we make for love…

After cleaning out the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I realized I HAD to go grocery shopping.  I initially thought I was only going to get a couple of things, but I ended up stocking up so that we would be able to eat for a minimum of two weeks.  For tips on how I shop for maximum savings with maximum sanity, see Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries.

For dinner, I was inspired by this post on Smitten Kitchen:

I cubed a large cucumber, a ripe avocado, and two heirloom tomatoes and mixed them with a large dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.  I stirred in a little of a dill dip mix that Andy found at the farmer’s market.  Then I chilled it for a couple of hours in the fridge and let the flavors meld.  OMFG, this salad is a game changer!  Andy and I agreed that it would need to become a constant in our fridge.

Because we can’t live on salad alone, I also made a pizza with whole wheat crust (the kind in a tube because ain’t nobody got time for homemade crust on a weeknight), heirloom tomato slices instead of sauce, a generous sprinkling of basil, fresh mozzarella (thanks, half-price manager special!), some shaved parmesan, sliced uncured jalapeno cheddar bratwurst (again, thanks, half-price manager special!), and some artichoke antipasto from Trader Joe’s.  Andy said, and I quote, “This has to be one of the best pizzas you’ve ever made, and it’s not like your other pizzas aren’t great.”  I would call that a win.  Unfortunately, I don’t have photo documentation of the pizza, so I’ll just have to make it again.

We play Geeks Who Drink on Wednesdays so that was an activity where I knew there would be some temptation to spend money.  The whole reason bars and restaurants do Geeks Who Drink is to bring in people who are going to spend money on a normally slow night.  I usually try to order either a beer or an appetizer or something, but I stuck with club soda.  I like the carbonation and taste, and it’s hydrating.  If no one at our table had been purchasing food or drinks, I would have felt bad about not buying anything and taking up space at the restaurant.  However, we’re there every week, Andy tipped extra for the service I received, and the other five people at our table ordered food and at least two drinks each.  As soon as No Spend September is done, I’ll resume buying something during trivia because I like to support local business, but for now I’m sticking to the goal at hand.  Bonus: I won a beer so I can use that to save some $$$ when teacher training is done!  And our team won by 10 points!

Day 2 verdict: Success!

Spending: $153 on groceries, and I only used my car to go to the grocery store.

Income: $.60 interest income

 

 

Fall Challenges

Crow at Yoga on the Rocks last year

Crow at Yoga on the Rocks last year

I am going to start 200 hour yoga teacher training on September 5!  I have been thinking about this for a while and I shopped around for a program I like and that works with my work schedule, and the program at Elan Yoga & Fitness came out on top.  It is more affordable than other programs, I got an early bird discount for signing up in advance, I get a free membership during training, it’s focused on the two types of yoga I am interested in learning more about (vinyasa and hot yoga), and, most importantly, the studio is welcoming and dedicated to sharing yoga with everyone.  I’m really looking forward to starting the program, but I thought I would give myself a few challenges to help me fully commit to this experience in all areas of my life.  Training runs through mid-November, which will give me ample time to build some good habits.

No Spend September

This sounds really hard until I think about the fact that I’ll be busy every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Then Limited Spending October and November will follow (no fun money for two months is not really realistic).  I am trying to save up a six month emergency fund and this should help make a big dent!

Healthy Eating Challenge

I figure I should also focus on eating as healthy as possible during teacher training because I will be completely immersed in yoga and learning about the body.  I will eat whole, healthy foods.  With No Spend September, eating out and alcohol will already be cut because they are Wants, so it will be less of a challenge to focus on clean eating if I have multiple reasons.

Fitness Challenge

As part of the teacher training program I am supposed to take at least three yoga classes a week in addition to the lectures.  I’ll also have 24 hour access to the fitness center and studio.  I’m going to make a goal of doing two yoga classes that are more athletic (vinyasa, hot, anusara, etc.) and one yin class a week.  I will also work in at least two days of either strength training or cardio.

Stay Sane 

On days that I don’t do a yoga class, I’ll meditate for ten minutes.  I will also commit to getting at least seven hours of sleep a night (I do this anyway…I am a zombie with any less than seven hours.  If I could sleep ten every night I would).

Call Your Mom

I will remember to call my mom while I am busy.

 

I’ll do my best to document all of this, but you know how I am.  If you want to play along with any part we can do it together!  Let me know.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

I wrote this post last fall and for some reason never posted it.  Here you go:

In order to maximize our CSA share, I bought 30 lbs. box of roma tomatoes.  What does one do with 30 lbs. of roma tomatoes?

I suppose this was an option:

 

Instead, I opted for roasting them.  I think I made a wise decision.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT'S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT’S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

By buying in bulk, I saved on the normal cost of tomatoes, plus these are locally grown and so flavorful and delicious.

I halved all the tomatoes and laid them out on cookie sheets covered with parchment.  The parchment prevented the tomatoes sticking to the pan and allowed me to use the pan multiple times in a row.  I drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil and roasted them for 40 minutes at 375° and then increased the temperature to 400° for the last 20 minutes.

Roasting

Roasting

I had multiple batches so I seasoned them each differently.  I sprinkled some with red pepper flakes, some with oregano and basil, some with rosemary (the rosemary tomatoes were my favorite), some with 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, and left some unseasoned.

After they cooled, I put them into quart sized freezer bags, marked them with the date and the type of seasoning, and stacked them in the freezer.

These tomatoes were absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever made.  I didn’t use canned tomatoes or marinara sauce until they were gone.  I used up 30 lbs of tomatoes in probably less than two months–that’s how spectacularly good they were.  This fall I’m going to do at least 60 lbs. because I want my freezer to have these FOREVER.  I don’t think you’d get the same flavor using store bought tomatoes because fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes are so flavorful, but roasting helps bring out the flavors and caramelizes them slightly so that they are unreal delicious so it’s worth a shot if you can’t get your hands on farm-fresh tomatoes.

Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries

The biggest chunk of my flexible spending each month is definitely food, whether that’s groceries or eating out.  I love food, especially really great food, so it’s worth it to me to spend a little more sometimes.  I want to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck though.  Here are some ways I maximize my food dollars each month.  This post has my grocery rules, and part 2 will have tips for eating out on a budget.

  • Buy whole foods.  This is pretty simple.  Buy things that only have one ingredient: the thing you are buying.  My list tends to include produce, meat, tofu, eggs, grains, beans, etc.  To do this, though, you have to…
  • Learn to cook.  I feel very fortunate that my mom taught me how to cook when I was young so that I’m not dependent on frozen and boxed food now.  Not only do we eat healthy because I’m cooking with whole foods, I can find ways to use up all the food I buy so that we’re not wasting anything.  Cooking is also cheap therapy.  I love cooking because I can zen out in the kitchen and not think about anything else, so it’s ends up being like a daily meditation time.  I’ve learned that if I try to multitask while cooking I will probably burn the house down.  About a month ago I put 18 eggs on to boil and then went to weed the yard for a few minutes.  Two hours later, I had weeded most of the front yard, but then was reminded about the eggs by the smoke alarm and the most acrid smell I’ve ever smelled.  It took an entire scented candle and three sage smudgings to get the smell out of the house.
  • Leftovers.  I try to cook dinner most nights and then we eat leftovers for lunch.  Buying lunch out is a huge expense.  I know people who eat out every day and I honestly don’t know how they do it.  Near CSU you’d pay roughly $8 a day for a meal on average for a fast-casual meal.  That’s $40 a week, and $160 a month to eat.  If you’re eating at a sit-down restaurant, the cost goes up to around $240 a month.  For $160, I can buy groceries for two people for three meals a day for at least two weeks.
  • If you need to buy processed foods, look for better options.  We buy frozen burritos.  A lot of them.  I could make burritos and freeze them, but I generally don’t have time and they would all be consumed in two days.  I know this from experience.  But we used to buy the “fancy, healthy” burritos, until I realized that a) they were averaging $3/burrito, and b) they were filled with preservatives and junk.  I can buy a package of La Favorita burritos for $7/pack of 6 and the ingredient list includes things like “tortilla,” “beans,” “eggs,” “green chiles,” etc.  They are also a Colorado company so we’re supporting a local business, getting better food, and saving almost $2 per burrito!!!!  There are quality convenience foods that will save you money if you shop around and are smart about what you buy.
  • Coupons.  I am not a crazy couponer.  I don’t have time for it and people who coupon like it’s their job end up with processed garbage food like a pantry full of Hamburger Helper or 47 bottles of steak sauce.  But I shop at King Soopers with our membership card so they track our purchases and send coupons for things we actually buy.  My  personalized coupons usually include things like mushrooms, spinach, avocados, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, etc., and I get some in the mail almost every month.  I have a little coupon file that I put them in and throw in my purse before I go grocery shopping.  They usually send a couple of coupons for free things each time.  We generally get free eggs or frozen vegetables, but this last time we got a free bag of whole wheat bagels (The Boy loves bagels and it saved us 4 bucks).  I also make sure to log on to our King Soopers online account and load any e-coupons that are available that I might buy.  They will usually have something from the produce, dairy, and meat departments available. There are so many times when I’ll forget I loaded a coupon and it will magically save me money at checkout.
  • Shop generics and sales–always look at the price per unit!  I do a lot of comparing costs while I’m shopping.  For example, if I’m buying beans or oats or coconut milk, there is usually a generic brand and a name brand and a lot of times they will be in different sizes.  If you look at the cost per ounce, you’ll figure out how to get them most bang for your buck.  Most of the times the cheapest per ounce is the generic, but not always, especially if the name brand is on sale.  This is usually in tiny type on the shelf price tag.  Sometimes the units are different so you may need to do math.  Luckily for us, we all have calculators on our phones so it’s not so bad.
  • Bulk bins.  There are some things I almost never buy at our King Soopers because the one closest to our house doesn’t have bulk bins.  I will go to Sprouts for things like old fashioned oats, nuts, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, and spices because I can almost guarantee that the bulk price will be less than what I would pay for that item in a package.  Curry powder in a small shaker can cost up to $8, but I can buy a sandwich bag full from a bulk bin for less than $2.
  • Rewards cards.  This means two things: membership card and rewards credit card.  I use our King Soopers membership card to get sales and coupons and gas points (10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend on groceries…not a lot, but it helps).  I also have an American Express Blue Cash Rewards card because it pays 6% cash back on up to $6000 of grocery purchases a year.  That’s up to $360 back on things I’m already buying to live.  It pays 1% on all other purchases and 3% on gas.  There’s a $75 annual fee, but I typically earn that back in the first three months.
  • Get a CSA share.  We purchase a CSA share every spring.  It’s an investment up front, but will save you in the long run and support local agriculture.  It’s also really nice to not have to pay for produce during the summer–it feels free, but we already paid for it.  I’ve shared this before, but we have a market share through Native Hill and it is the greatest.
  • Freeze things.  We can get bulk boxes through our share for things like green beans and roma tomatoes.  Last year I prepped green beans and tomatoes and froze them for use over the winter.  An afternoon of effort means no shopping later on and you’re essentially locking in the best price.  If I find something at a store for a really good price, like BOGO Red Bird chicken, I’ll buy as much as I can fit in my freezer.  Last summer I purchased a 30 lb box of  Hatch green chiles from Whole Foods when they were on sale for $14.99 a box and then Whole Foods roasted them for me for free.  My mom helped me package them in individual freezer bags and I am still making green chili with them.  It definitely beats $3-5 a baggie at the farmer’s market or buying canned green chiles.
  • Stock up on pantry items when you find an unbeatable price.  I buy Kroger whole grain pasta.  It’s healthier than regular pasta, it tastes better to me than regular pasta, and the only ingredient is whole wheat (some brands’ whole grain pastas are only 51% whole grain).  It typically is priced at $1.00-$1.20 a box.  Last month I found “closeout” prices for $.75-$.88 a box so I bought all the spaghetti and rotini they had.  We’re going to buy it anyway so might as well stock up while I know the price is unbeatable.  And I swear, Kroger, if you actually stop carrying whole wheat pasta, I will never forgive you.
  • Use it all up.  When I chop vegetables, I save the odds and ends in a bag in our freezer for making stock.  If I cook a whole chicken, I save the skin and bones for stock as well.  It all goes into the crock pot together and I know that I REALLY got my money’s worth and I don’t have to spend $8 on the equivalent amounts of aseptic box broth later.
  • Eat your pantry/freezer.  I am often tempted to just pop over the the store to pick up new items for dinner.  This adds up.  My solution is to try to come up with meals entirely from what we have on hand.  It’s fun, in a frugal weirdo sort of way, to try to go as many days as possible without buying something new.  If you have a stocked up pantry and freezer, it’s easy.  But when you’re getting down to the odds and ends you have to get a little creative.  I have a can of salmon that I’m terrified to eat because the last one I opened had an entire spinal cord in it.  I also have a bag of frozen figs that I really want to use and I don’t know what to do with.  We’re probably eating fish spinal cord fig salad or something at some point.

While I could be saving more money on groceries, I know a lot of people “playing the grocery game” end up buying a lot of processed garbage or things they’ll never use, simply because they are free or dirt cheap.  These methods save us money on healthy items we will actually use and don’t take up all our time.

Condiments and packaged garbage for years…

How do you make your grocery budget work?  What tips do you have to save a little extra but maintain your life?

The Importance of the Emergency Fund

This is apparently my year of really excellent luck.  I have been MIA on the blog because I wrecked pretty hard on my bicycle last weekend and managed to fracture my ribs (most likely multiple).  The very quaint trolley tracks downtown that are for a trolley that no longer runs grabbed ahold of my tire and sent me ribs-first into the curb of the median.  It probably looked something like these pictures, minus my head spilling egg.

 

 

Thankfully, I wasn’t scratched up, but I did feel like I got hit by a bus.  It was also like the second time EVER that I forgot to wear my helmet and I feel so fortunate that my head didn’t look like the egg head guy.  WEAR YOUR HELMET!

So, besides the procurement of a new washing machine, the addition of unanticipated health related costs made me very thankful that I have an emergency fund in place.

Unanticipated costs as a result of my wreck:

  • Co-pay for doctor appointment where he told me what I already guessed and gave me a prescription that made everything worse
  • Prescription that made everything worse–I was SOOOOOO sick from the pain pills so I only took two before I stopped.  This was a generic so it only set me back $9.
  • OTC painkillers in two varieties (Aleve is a godsend), capsaicin pain relief patches, heat and cool patches, and thermal heat patches to try to find some solution to allow me to sleep through the night
  • Take out and easily prepared (ie not things I normally buy) groceries because I couldn’t do anything for myself
  • Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements (tart cherry juice, turmeric, detox tea, kombucha, epsom salts for bath, etc.)
  • Acupuncture five days in a row
  • Most likely an additional chiropractic appointment

It could have been much, much worse and cost much, much more and this is why it’s important to have an emergency fund in place.

I am feeling like a normal person again and the pain has localized, so I no longer feel like I got hit by a bus…or like I hit the hard concrete of a curb followed by the hard bricks of Mountain Ave., but I still have costs rolling in trying to care for myself.  On the bright side, I don’t have a yoga membership for two months and I’m not drinking because I’m taking pain relievers and I am trying to heal, so that balances out a bit of the unanticipated expenses.

I’ll have to get back to you on No Spend September posts because I was out of commission for a week.

 

Yoga–not just for the 1%

As I’ve mentioned before, yoga is an absolute necessity in my life.  I rewarded myself with a membership to CorePower when I got my new job in September after I tried it out for a week and loved it.  I was in an extremely stressful job and I was suffering from burnout in a major way, and I was taking out my stress and frustrations on the people I love (sorry, Andy).  I try to go around 5 times a week and I feel better physically and mentally when I’m going regularly.  I am pretty unflappable and adaptable, but yoga makes me even more so.  Quick example: Prexy is broken and can’t walk through doors sometimes, and I have been late to work or social engagements on several occasions because she’s shaking in the yard while staring at the door frame.  It used to be frustrating and but kind of adorable.  Then it got just plain frustrating in the height of stressed-out, burned-out Liz.  Now Yoga Liz can stand there alllllllllll day until Prexy summons enough courage to walk through the door and I love her even more.

I am a crazy dog lady who hates pants.

I am a crazy dog lady who hates pants.  Prexy loves me anyway.

Also, yoga has made me crazy strong.  I was pretty strong before from working in events and hauling boxes and heavy equipment up and down stairs for so many years, but yoga has helped me build muscle like crazy.

Photo from Pinterest.

But you know what I HATE about yoga?  The fact that I pay $109 every month so that I can actually afford to go frequently to classes I love.  I have a very reasonably priced gym membership, but there was only one yoga instructor at my gym that I liked, and then she left to open her own studio in a neighboring town.  Also, my gym’s yoga schedule is terrible and I can make it to about two classes a week.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to free up $109 each month for unlimited yoga classes, enabling me to go sometimes twice a day, but I do wonder if I should try something new and put that money to use somewhere else (I’m looking at you, emergency fund).

How to have a regular yoga practice without breaking the bank

  • Practice at home.
    This doesn’t do it for me and I never get around to doing it unless I’m actually going to a class.  But if you can do a home practice, it’s basically free.
  • Find free yoga classes.
    Today, I did yoga on the Oval for free.  I chatted up a former coworker who does yoga and mentioned that there was a CSU employee who teaches a free class each week on the Oval.  I found myself in a meeting with that person, introduced myself, and got the details on the free class.  The teacher was trained at CorePower and it was exactly what I am used to, but it was OUTSIDE!  Even better.
  • Take advantage of introductory offers.
    I mentioned above that I got a week of free unlimited yoga before I started my membership.  Most studios have an introductory offer available to help you decide if you like their style, space, and teachers.  Take some time to explore studios and you could probably hop around and do free or absurdly cheap yoga for a while.  Elan Yoga has a 20 days for $20 offer for unlimited yoga.  I want to put my membership at CP on hold to do this.
  • Work for it.
    Lots of studios have working memberships where you clean or do other work around the studio and get free classes in return.
  • Recruit other yogis.
    Drop my name when you sign up for a free week at CorePower and I get a $5 credit.  Thanks in advance.  This is a frugalness blog–did you really think you were going to get away without me at least trying for the free money?
  • Find teacher training classes and be a guinea pig.
    When yoga teachers are doing training, they need to practice.  I have been to a couple of studios for free classes as part of the wrap-up of 200 hour teacher training or extensions classes.  The teachers are certified, just new and needing to practice on real students.
  • Befriend a yoga teacher. My friend Riley has practiced on me by leading a class (basically a private lesson) in my backyard.  I have grand plans to get her to teach a SUP (stand up paddleboard) yoga class for me (I’ll provide the paddleboards, utilizing my outdoor industry connections).  If you go this route, make sure you are extra nice to them.  They are doing you a favor and you’re not a jerk.  Don’t take advantage.
  • Seek out donation-based classes. Last week, Riley and I went to Yoga at the Gardens on Spring Creek.  These classes are generally in exciting locations and the recommended donation is often a lot less than a drop-in price for a class.  I was willing to shell out for the class because it was outside and surrounded by beautiful flowers and sculptures, and all the money went to support the Gardens.  Bonus: we got free day passes to my gym, so Riley was able to go sit in the sauna with me later that day and will soon be forced to join me at a hip hop class, and we each got a packet of flower seeds.
This guy did yoga with us.

This guy did yoga with us.

You don’t need expensive see-through yoga pants made by a terrible company or to spend a lot of money to practice.  I am going to try to heed my advice and see if I can save some $$$ while maintaining my practice.

Namaste.