How to save money on food!

Meal plan. That’s it. End of story 😂

Ok this might not be a new concept at all, but it’s one I’ve really wanted to concentrate on starting in the new year. Every weekend we plan our meals out for the week. We also try to include at least one new recipe. What we learned by doing this just in the last month:

*Our grocery bills are about $50-$75 cheaper each week

*we aren’t throwing away food at the end of the week

*we eat out WAY less

*from the recipes we have tried, we now have several new favorite meals!

We also go to Costco about once a month to stock up on bulk items!

I am truly blown away by how much we are saving. Just when food prices started to rise, our weekly spending average had decreased!!! This is also a huge feat as we eat gluten free in this house! I also love that by the weekend our fridge looks bare which is a great thing. It means we didn’t buy things we didn’t need and no food is being wasted!

Cheesesteak casserole 😋
Stuffed pepper casserole 😋
Chicken bacon ranch
Chicken pot pie
Pork chops, homemade mashed potatoes and asparagus 😋
Sweet potato skillet 😋

Traveling Gluten Free

I’m in the process of being diagnosed with Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. This requires me to be 100% gluten free for several weeks. This of course all happened within days of leaving for vacation and my birthday, but we were up for the challenge.

My first stop was the store to stock up on gluten free snacks. This was for traveling and also to carry with me during our exploring of the different cities. Always best to have stuff with you when you don’t know if there are any safe places to eat!

Oh the struggle is real!!!! No restaurant is truly safe unless they are dedicated gluten free. We did find many lake restaurants that had gluten free buns. For the most part, the servers had some knowledge of what gluten is.

Our first night we ate at Boatwerks. It was right on Lake Macatawa and the views were beautiful! I had a burger with chips. John had their perch sandwich and chips! The waitress didn’t know if the burger was safe but she went and asked the chef for us.

Our hotel offered breakfast which made at least one meal a day a little less stressful. I had eggs and yogurt and John had all the goods 😉. I’m pretty sure the sausage patty is not gluten free and i should have known better 🤷‍♀️!

Day 2 we found a restaurant on the boardwalk of South Haven. The brewpub had several gluten free options. I went with the chips & salsa and a gluten free pizza. It was honestly the most flavorful restaurant pizzas I’ve ever had. John had fish tacos! We sat outside under an awning and just enjoyed the hustle and bustle on the boardwalk! **the awning was blue which is why the photos have strange coloring!

I’m super grateful coffee is gluten free!! I was so happy to find my FAVORITE coffee shop had this cute little spot on the boardwalk!

For my birthday dinner we ate at Salt & Pepper. I found it based off reviews from Find Me Gluten Free. It was delicious!!! I had a Kobe Steak, loaded baked potato, and a side salad. John had boursin bacon corn chowder soup, a Kobe steak smothered in Boursin bacon and roasted red pepper. For dessert we shared a flourless chocolate torte! AMAZING!!

Day 3 we started out at a gluten free bakery and yep i had a brownie and chocolate chip cookie at 9am 😂!

For lunch we ate at Red Robin. We hate eating at chain restaurants but i will say this place is really safe for gluten free. They have gluten free buns and a separate fryer for the fries. It was nice to know i could enjoy my meal without the worries of unsafe food.

For dinner we ate at Captain Lou’s on the river in south haven. They didn’t have many options so again i had a burger on gluten free bun and a salad. We ate there with John’s childhood buddy and his family. It was nice to hang out with all of them and watch the boats go down the river. We were right next to the draw bridge and Fisher was excited to watch it go up!

Finding places to eat was challenging, but we did it!!!

From the website

The terms non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) are generally used to refer to this condition, when removing gluten from the diet resolves symptoms, after testing negative for celiac disease and a wheat allergy. 1

Until now it was thought that people with NCGS/NCWS only experienced symptoms and did not have any intestinal damage. However, in July 2016, a team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, published a study confirming that wheat exposure in this group is, in fact, triggering a systemic immune reaction and accompanying intestinal cell damage.

It is estimated that the impacted population is equal to or even exceeds the number of individuals with celiac disease (the vast majority of whom remain undiagnosed).

J & J Diner summer edition

Steak and zucchini
Chicken Philly
Steak and potatoes
Spaghetti squash and non garlic bread
Turkey loin
Protein pancakes
Burgers and fries
Pork chop, veggies, rice
Smoked kielbasa, peppers and rice
Christmas in July stuffed peppers
Pork & potatoes
Grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup
Dinner salads
My favorite snack! Rice cake, PB2, strawberries
Steak tips and cheesy rice
Steak & corn on the cob 🌽
Pork, veggies, rice
Fajita burrito
Burrito bake
Burrito bake
Steak and potatoes
Blueberry protein pancakes
Strawberries and low carb quesadilla
Chicken pot pie 🥧
Zucchini boats
Grilled chicken and French fries!

J & J Diner reopening!

Hold the gluten….

Sadly over the past 8 weeks we haven’t been creating and cooking amazing meals. We absolute love cooking together and eating healthy meals at home.

Sadly my immune system was attacking my body for reasons we don’t know. Rashes, abdominals pain, asthmatic issues, racing heart, dizzy spells, had become the new normal. Several visits to the ER. Many doctor visits. Blood work. CT scans. Heart monitor. X-rays. No answers. Finally we got smart and switched from university hospitals over to the Cleveland Clinic. I found the most PCP who got me in immediately to see an immunologist. The universe finally aligned! Through what seemed like a billion more blood test, we maybe had an answer 😂. Most of my tests were normal which was bitter sweet. Nothing was giving us that home run answer we were looking for. We did discover i had Hashimoto disease, but my thyroid functions are normal. So now we have discovered i have an autoimmune disease. What the doctors think happened is i had some sort of virus (possibly even Covid) and it caused my immune system to flare and my entire system went out of whack. Basically for weeks i was reacting to anything and everything. It was absolutely miserable. So after living on gluten free bread, gluten free noodles and vegan butter, my body started to heal. So now I’m a week in to introducing real food to my body. I’m not in the clear by any means because I’m still dealing with stomach aches and my body relies heavily on antihistamines every 12 hours.

Bottom line between being gluten intolerant and having endometriosis and now Hashimoto disease, i need to keep gluten out of my diet like 99% of the time. I use to be able to incorporate it more often but that’s not the case anymore. I also need to watch my dairy intake. Anti inflammatory foods are the key to feeling my best!

So with all that being said, we are back to cooking together again. Just this time around we will hold the gluten!

We love salads
Homemade gluten free chicken nuggets
Local farm fresh eggs 🥚 from Jimmy’s chickens
Fresh walleye caught today, rice, asparagus
Grilled chicken salad, rice, asparagus

J & J Diner

We continue to live a healthy lifestyle. We concentrate on low calorie and high protein. We also eat gluten free when possible. Obviously we love to cook and bake at home which also makes staying healthy much easier!

Soup and grilled cheese
GF noodles and veggies
Turkey burger and potatoes
Salad and turkey wrap
Ham salad
Stuffed apricot squash
Roast beef and potatoes
Protein banana bread
Stuffed jalapeño
Steak salad
Pork chops
Protein muffins, eggs and shake!

Destressing after a busy week!

This week my oldest bonus daughter turned 16! We celebrated with family! Elizabeth chose sausage biscuit and gravy for her birthday meal and cobbler for her dessert. My husband made everything from scratch and it was delicious as usual!

This week at work started off normal but mid week my nanny boy fell ill. He was miserable and it broke my heart. My nanny girls and i stayed busy, while the little guy rested upstairs with his mom. He went to the doctor and we found out he had strep. Never fun at any age! Friday the oldest had her valentines party at school and she was so excited to show me all the treats and cards she received.

Mom completed part 2 of her cataract surgery. Both parts went great and she can already see so much better!

John and i continue to workout daily. We try to have a good mix of cardio, lifting and stretching. As always we continue to cook healthy and fresh food!

We also celebrate our 3 year dating anniversary by just hanging out and enjoying doing what we love together!

Mahi Mahi tacos
FF ground turkey, peppers, GF noodles
Cheesy chicken ranch
Stuffed acorn squash
Beef tips, veggies, GF noodles
Spaghetti spaghetti squash, GF baguette
Protein coffee after morning workout
New healthy snacks. Jury is still out on these 😂

Endometriosis 🎗Warrior

I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago with endometriosis. I am by no means a doctor or an expert in this field. I actually didn’t start “suffering” from endometriosis until the last few years….or so i thought!

So recently i have entered stage 3/4 of endometriosis and i decided to really learn about the disease. I have read several blogs, medical websites and brochures. Again, i am not an expert or a medical person, just a victim of the disease that has no cure. Through my readings i have learned just how much endometriosis has been effecting me for two decades and i had no idea it was all related! It’s quite fascinating and I’m mad at myself for not educating myself sooner. Also kind of mad for my doctor not encouraging me to learn more or letting me know just how serious it is. I was in my young 20’s and just kind of shrugged it off. I thought oh well i have some irregular cells on my cervix, no big deal. WRONG!!!!

I have learned that 1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis which is a condition where tissue, similar to the lining of the uterus, is found elsewhere in the body! There is no cure and ultimately having surgery is the only way to ease the pain or eliminate it.

Side effects that i suffer from are extreme pelvic pain, lower back pain, leg and hip pain. Also fatigue, bloating, nausea, infertility, anxiety, migraines, and allergies. Phew that’s a lot! Some things that help (a little) are rest, ibuprofen and a hot water bottle. Also regular exercise has really helped, yet some months are still rough.

People with endometriosis are significantly more likely to suffer from allergies. A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that 61% of people with endometriosis live with allergies. This includes environmental, food and medication. All things i suffer from.

Another major thing i suffer from is bloating. We aren’t talking just a little bloat once a month, we are talking internally. I’ve learned this can last hours, days of weeks. They actually call this SIBO which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Hmmm was this the pain that caused me to go to the ER? Was this the mystery stomach pain that had me in the hospital for several days in 2008? I’m 100% sure it was. Endometriosis tissue swells and because it isn’t where it should be, it gets trapped and causes digestive problems. Because i suffer from a comprised gut, it causes a histamine intolerance and allergies.

What this tells me is i need to adjust my diet, even though i really eat pretty healthy. Diet improves the response to pain. The wrong kinds of foods, like high fat foods, increase the level of circulating estrogen in the body. I just need to be conscious of inflammatory foods such as red meat, gluten, dairy, alcohol and caffeine. Strangely enough a lot of people with endometriosis have a gluten intolerance, which i discovered i do over a decade ago. For the most part i do avoid inflammatory foods but i love me some coffee 😬! I need to look into a low FODMAP diet more and also increase my fiber, which also could help with the “Endo belly!” Fresh fruit and organic foods are best and of course avoiding processed foods! Berries are good because they are high in antioxidants!

As you can see this disease is way more powerful than i ever knew. It’s not just a “once a month issue,” it’s completely unpredictable which makes it extra fun 🙄! I’m learning, but I’m also realizing how much it has affected me for decades. A lot of questions have been answered, yet i have a long way to go!

Getting back to normal….

Ok so the pain in my side is not going away but it’s dull compared to what it was at the beginning of the week. Is this all hernia related or is it the endometriosis? Either way i need to learn how to live a normal life without increasing the pain.

Saturday morning we went to the gym. I had not worked out for 5 days and my body doesn’t love that. I just did a nice easy mile walk. I did some arm exercises with the lightest dumbbells they had and not too many sets. Low impact but better than no impact! Also wore colored leggings for the first time ever!

Saturday evening our friends invited us over for dinner. They both work in the medical field and have been so great in giving me advice on my current situation.

They made creamy Italian pasta for dinner. It was all gluten free and they made mine separate with bacon instead of sausage and my sauce didn’t have garlic in it. Lol 😂 darn allergies but they are so awesome to make me a plate of my own. We also had salad and delicious GF cheddar biscuits. For dessert we brought a GF blueberry cobbler. Oh my goodness paired with some vanilla ice cream, it was perfect! Proud of my husband for putting it all together!

After dinner we played two games and shared lots of laughs. We played Mixed Doubles and Farkle. Both games were new to us but easy to learn. John loved Farkle because he is a gambling man. He also won so i guess gambling is a good idea.

My day wasn’t pain free, but it was nice to get off the couch. Hoping to continue to take steps forward over the next few days and also resting as much as possible!