Okay, so why so long between posts?

Okay, so where have I been?

Well, I just started a fantastic new job at a natural health food store in my area.   I absolutely love it.  I’ve always loved retail and I love helping people, plus, as it turns out I enjoy helping people move toward better health. So, this is an ideal job for me.

The only problem is that I have always found when I start a new job that it takes a while to not feel very tired at the end of the day/week, since everything is so new.  For me, it had been three years, since I worked full-time outside the home, so I am getting used to the whole “getting ready for work in the morning…what am I going to take for lunch” routine, etc.

On top of that, I have an enormous amount of information to study and learn for my new job, as I have a test to take in 3 months.  I am amazed by how knowledgable my co-workers are and hope to know as much as they do one day.

I am also continuing to figure out exactly what I want this blog to be, now that I no longer receive food stamps and I have less time to write and cook.  I do receive samples of vegan products at work, so I will probably review those, as I receive them, as one idea.

So stay tuned…while I work all of that out!

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We interrupt this blog to bring you the following message.

So, guess what?

I got a job!

And, would you believe it’s at a natural foods store?

I can’t.  I really can’t.

After my Dad passed away, a dear friend invited me to her home in St. Meinrad, Indiana to “decompress”, and begin the process of healing from the very last and very traumatic weeks of my Dad’s life.   I returned to Auburn about a week before Thanksgiving, whipped up a resume, and hit the pavement.  Honestly, I didn’t expect to find anything until after the first of the year, except, perhaps a seasonal position, and I knew I was late to be applying for those.

I applied for food stamps on November 19 and received my card around the first of December.  One of the things the DHR office said was that as soon as I found a job I was to notify them and my benefits would be reduced or eliminated based on my income.

I applied for a job at Peachtree Natural foods and I received word Friday, December 15 that they plan to hire me for this full-time position.  I start work on December 24.  I am thrilled, of course, but I now need to refocus this blog to some degree.

In other words, here I sit with a blog about being on food stamps…only starting January 18, I won’t have food stamps anymore.

God does write straight with crooked lines doesn’t He!

I really need to work on plumping up my savings account, and my new job does not pay that much, so I am still committed to blogging about eating healthy on a $139 a month budget.  So, I’m thinking I’ll see how healthy I can eat for how little with the goal being not to spend more than $139 a month, just as if I still had the EBT card.

I also feel that God has set me up on this path, through my father, and I hope to honor both of them by remaining committed to this journey.

The overriding concern I felt in my last couple shopping trips with the EBT card was that people on a very restricted budget still deserve healthy food.  No one should have to eat processed junk that only aggravates so many chronic conditions.  I, like many others in my situation, don’t have health insurance, so maintaining whatever level of health I have is paramount.

I just know that when I eat healthy, whole, food my blood sugar remains within normal limits, and when I eat the kinds of foods often offered at food pantries, or on fast food dollar menus, or when I eat cheap, processed food subsidized by the government, my blood sugar level jumps to prediabetic levels!  And quite frankly, I can’t afford to do that to myself on any level.

That’s not to knock people who volunteer or provide food for food pantries by the way.  It’s just that many food pantries predominately offer food like packaged macaroni and cheese, white pasta, fruit roll ups, jelly, etc., that I simply can’t eat because it sends my blood sugar soaring.  And if you don’t eat animal foods because you’re trying to protect your heart that further limits what is available.  Some people say, “well, beggers can’t be choosers.”  But what if we’re just trying to protect our health?  Then can we?

I am a Catholic, but I fully respect people of all faiths and feel we are here to help each other, so that remains my focus, as we travel together down this road to health.

God Bless all of you out there who find themselves in trying circumstances trying to eat healthy.  Together, we can figure out a way.

So, what’s with the empty Lara Bar wrapper?

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Okay, so let’s talk about what I purchased on my first trip to the store with the EBT card.

First of all, why’d I buy only 5 items?

And why’d I eat the Lara bar before I took the picture?

A big bag of white whole wheat flour?  What’s up with that?

Almond milk?  At $3 a half-gallon vs. a full gallon of cow’s milk for $4…why’d I make that choice?

And bananas….Zzzzzzzzzzz

Well, first off… I only bought 5 items because I had not yet made a full meal plan, and I didn’t want to load my cart with a bunch of stuff, only to find out that the EBT card would not work for some reason!  So, this was my test run, so to speak.

Banana Fanna Fo Fanna

The prize for the most healthy item I purchased goes to the bananas?  Why?  Because for one thing they are a whole food and any time you can eat food in its original form, or unprocessed, you have made a healthy choice.   Bananas are cheap and awesome.  They are one of the most portable snacks…the original “fast food”.  Kids love ’em.  I use them on my cereal, as a snack and when they get too old I freeze them and make ice cream out of them…more on that later.   I actually bought 3 bananas and ate one on the way home.  They were .57 a pound.  Bananas are full of Vitamin B6 among other nutritional benefits, according to a slew of people out there who went to school a long time to figure out such things.  Case in point,  if you google, “banana” you can see that dietitians  have spent an inordinate amount of time investigating the lowly banana and just how good it is for you.

By the way…here’s a bit of trivia.  I dislike banana bread, and based on how often I’m offered it that’s almost un-American!

White Whole Wheat Flour vs. Brown Whole Wheat Flour

I bought the big bag of white whole wheat flour, so I can make a Blueberry Bundt Cake this weekend, as my daughter is coming home from college.  She’s not a vegan, but I think she will like this cake.  It’s from a new cookbook written by Lindsay Nixon, called “Happy Herbivore Abroad”.    White whole wheat is made from the hard white wheat berry and I believe is  lower in gluten and lower in protein, but it is produces a lighter textured baking product.  If I were to use regular whole wheat flour in this recipe (as I have done, it turns out heavier and denser).  My plan is to make this cake and share it with people who stop by over the holidays to prove that vegan baking can be delicious! When I make this cake I will post a picture.

What’s with the empty Lara Bar Wrapper?

The Lara bar wrapper is empty because I ate it before I remembered about taking the picture for the blog.  Hey, what can I say…I’m new to this blog thing.  Rookie mistake!

So, I’ll be honest.   Lara bars are delicious, but they are expensive. $1.25 a piece on sale!  You can make your own at home, which I plan to do one of these days.  But for today…I was craving something sweet and while a Lara bar is not as healthy as a piece of whole fruit, it is infinitely better than the regular candy bars I used to eat every single day.  This Lara bar had dates, peanuts and chocolate chips in it.  While not labeled vegan, my understanding from the Lara bar website is that vegan chocolate chips were used.  I love them, but they are a once in a while treat, since they are expensive and I am trying to lose weight.

Kroger whole wheat pasta (not organic)

I was out of spaghetti, so I purchased this .88 box of Kroger brand whole wheat pasta.  Organic was $1.88.  In retrospect, I probably should have chosen the organic pasta over the conventional pasta and put the Lara Bar back.  But hey, what can I say….I am still an emotional eater…but I’m working on that!

What am I going to make with it?  Let’s say it together:  Spaghetti! Maybe I’ll get more adventurous later, but right now, I’m guessing I’m going to top this with marinara and call it a day.   That’s a quick and inexpensive meal, after a day of job hunting.

Almond milk vs. Cow’s milk

Okay, so if you have never had a plant-based milk you might be thinking…gross.   Well, here’s something even grosser: Cow’s milk.  Check out, Dr. Colin Campbell’s book, “The China Study” for some great information on why  you should avoid cow’s milk.   One of the many reasons I personally don’t drink cow’s milk is that it irritates my bladder and is a major diuretic effect for me. I also have more sinus issues when I drink cow’s milk, so I prefer a plant-based milk.  Give plant-based milks a chance, and you’ll never want to go back. I happen to like Almond milk, but there is also soy and rice and even hemp milks.  I had to taste all of them and try them sweetened and unsweetened before I settled on what I prefer, which is unsweetened almond milk. The taste varies a little bit brand to brand, so it helps to experiment.  You can make your own almond milk at home, which I plan to try as it would be a cheaper alternative to the ready-made almond milk in your local grocery.

Once I make a meal plan and once I get past the decadent, yet vegan treat I’m making on my milestone birthday on Sunday, look for vegetables to make an appearance in my shopping cart!

The nuts and bolts of it all

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Okay, first off, let me clarify some things about what I am and what I am not and what I have available to me.

What I am and what I have available to me, or why I am blessed!

  1. I am committed to maintaining my 30 pound weight loss as well  continuing my weight loss efforts, while remaining plant-based despite being on food stamps.
  2. I am lucky compared with most people on food stamps because I only have to feed and please myself.
  3. I have a huge advantage in that my food pantry is already set up to be plant-based.  That means I have most of the pantry staples like spices already in place.
  4. Before my Dad died, I started stockpiling foods like canned beans and frozen vegetables, so my cupboards are not bare.
  5. I am able-bodied, in good health and have marketable skills.
  6. I already have a collection of vegan cookbooks, but you can find many of them in the library and there are a lot of great websites with loads of great fat-free vegan recipes online.
  7. I have an amazing support group of people online through several wonderful Facebook pages and groups, specifically Happy Herbivore, Vegan Health and Plant Strong Wellness, Vegan Radiance and Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D’s Facebook page.
  8. I have a kitchen equipped with basic cooking equipment including a blender, mixer, toaster oven, food processor and microwave.

What I am not, or what I do not have:

  1. I am not an expert on nutrition.
  2. I am not an expert cook, in fact, I’ve only been cooking plant-based meals for about a year.  I would describe myself as a cook with average skills.
  3. I am not an expert bargain hunter, or shopper and I have to watch how much gas I use running around to different stores.
  4. I am not skilled at meal planning, in fact, I find it tedious.
  5. I do not live in a food desert, which is defined  as ” a district in an urban or rural setting with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Instead of such stores,these districts often contain many fast food restaurants and convenience stores”.  I have Kroger, Earthfare, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, Publix and Piggly Wiggly available to me. We do not have a Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s in the Auburn area.  So, if any Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s executives are listening:  “Come to Auburn, AL and I will be your first hard-working employee and I will promote your store to the end of the earth!
  6. I don’t have a big gourmet kitchen, in fact, I have a tiny galley kitchen.  But that’s okay because a wonderful plant-based author, Lindsay Nixon, wrote a plant-based cookbook called Happy Herbivore in a tiny galley kitchen like mine.  More on her books later.
  7. I’m not a politician (that’s probably a blessing), who is only doing this for a week, although I admire and respect their efforts.
  8. I don’t have a juicer, but I’m not a big fan of juice.

So, I got my EBT or food stamp card about a week ago.  I waited a few days to use it, since I still have food in the house and I was feeling a bit shy about it and then I  headed to Kroger.  (I grew up in Indiana calling Kroger, “Krogers”, and I have recently been informed by my college age son, that this is incorrect.)

My normal food stamp allotment will be $139 a month.  Since I applied for food stamps on November 19, they add last month’s prorated allotment to December’s allotment, so that I received $194 instead of $139.  My next allotment of $139 will be placed on my card on January 18.  So beginning with January I will have $139, unless I start working.   My hope is to get a job and be disqualified from receiving food stamps.  In that event, my plan is to continue to try to feed myself on $139 a month, so that I can build up my savings.

Obviously, I will be using up the food in my house along with food purchased with the food stamps.  I plan to point out when I am using foods that I already had at my disposal vs. food purchased with the food stamps.

So, in other words, at first this is going to a whole lot easier than it will be as the months progress.

Here’s what I am allowed to buy with my EBT card.   All food, except prepared food.  That means nothing that is already sold “hot” in a deli, so for instance, I could buy meat and cheese in a deli, if I were an ominivore, but I could not buy those ready-made rotisserie chickens, even if I wanted to do so. No paper products or pet food.  You can buy ice with food stamps.  No alcohol, vitamins or supplements.  If an energy drink is marketed as a supplement you can’t buy it, but if it’s marketed as a beverage, you can.

So, that’s the nuts and bolts….oh, and this blog is dedicated to my father, Walter Schumacher, who died at age 97 on October 17, 2012.  R.I.P Dad!  Those of you who commented that he gave me quite a gift when I stumbled upon that CNN special while he was hospitalized hit the nail on the head indeed!

In fact, that’s my Dad on his last birthday (Age 97) with me in the picture.  I weighed in around 210 at that point.  I’m down to 190 and I started at 222.

Budget Bean Eater?

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Hi…My name is Carolyn Hill and I’m a plant-based eater, or vegan, on a very tight budget.  So tight, that I had to apply for food stamps a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s my story:

For the past three years, I was a full-time caregiver to my very elderly father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

That was tough…very tough…physically, mentally, emotionally and financially, but I loved doing it.

Unfortunately, my father passed away on October 17, 2012 and about a month later I began to look for a job.  So far, I have been unsuccessful, hence the food stamps.

I’ve never applied for an EBT card, or any other government aide and I felt weird doing it, but even a bean eater has to eat.

And what’s with the bean eating?

Well, in August of 2011 my Dad was hospitalized.  When a person with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized it’s difficult because a family member has to stay with them, all the time, or as much as possible, so they won’t become even more disoriented.  On top of that, keeping my Dad calm required that I had to keep the TV tuned  to CNN 24/7, since that helped my Dad relax.

Well, it turned out that CNN was promoting a special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta called, “The Last Heart Attack”.  Over the course of the four days that my Dad was hospitalized, I must have seen that promo a hundred times. It was a show about how people who eat plant-based, also called, vegan, could actually reverse their heart disease?

What??  Seriously?

Yep… it turns out that a Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, had done a twenty year nutritional study where he discovered that eating a plant-based diet could not only prevent and stop the progression of heart disease, but it could reverse it!  He wrote a book about it called, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

Wait a minute?  I thought heart disease could only be “fixed” with very expensive, invasive surgery.

Well, it turns out that you really can reverse this disease nutritionally, which is amazing!

I don’t have heart disease (as far as I know)…but I don’t have health insurance either, which brings me to diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that has become an epidemic in the United States, amd is very common in my family, and is also very expensive.  I have no desire to become diabetic.  How would I afford it?  Not to mention that it’s  a devastating systemic disease.

But here’s the problem, I was already prediabetic, which often means it’s only a matter of time until you develop diabetes…that is until I went plant-based last October.

Wait a minute…isn’t diabetes permanent, too?

Nope, it turns out that you might be able to reverse that disease, as well, if you eliminate meat, dairy and don’t add oil to your food.

Does that mean you can only eat beans?  Not by a longshot!  And that’s why I’ve decided to write this blog.  I mean if you stop eating  meat, dairy and oil, what’s left to eat?  Isn’t it boring?  Isn’t it an awful?  How do you socialize?

In my next post, I’ll tell you what my first trip to the store with the food stamps was like, and why I chose to buy the things pictured on that particular trip.

Can you buy a dog with food stamps?  NO!

I didn’t intend for Kip, my Border Collie, to be in the blog, but he inserted himself in the picture and I didn’t have the heart to crop him out.  I think he took the “boring” right out of the shot.  Kip’s not a vegan…he’s an omnivore (an animal who eats meat and vegetables and grains), but he’s on a budget, too.  And the cat?  He’s a definite carnivore and, so far, wants no part of the blog or veganism.