Salt is very important to my well-being due to the fact that I live with dysautonomia. We tend to use sodium to raise our blood pressure which will help abate some of the symptoms associated with dysautonomias. Personally, I'm hypovolemic so serious amounts of water and electrolytes, including sodium, are needed each day to combat that issue. Because these electrolytes are so important to my health I to keep various forms of salt, electrolyte drink mixes and some Thermotabs on hand at all times. To keep the salt on hand I've been using the Light My Fire Salt and Pepper Plus now for about five months. I keep it in the front pocket of my IsoPack usually but if I won't be using my backpack and I know that salt might be something I won't have access too throughout the day I will toss it in my purse along with a few other health items that come with me everywhere.
The color option I chose was fuchsia (of course, I LOVE pink) but there are many possibilities: pink, orange, black, green (bright green), red, yellow, cyan, blue (dark blue), dark green, lime and, of course, fuchsia. If I bought another one I would either choose black or green I think but they are pretty much all lovely vibrant colors.
In the Salt and Pepper Plus there are three compartments for spices, one is labeled S for salt, one P for pepper and one simply has a dot for anything you choose to put in it. Right now I have pepper and sea salt in the P and S and the additional compartment is Himalayan pink salt. If I was going camping with it I might put paprika, lemon pepper or garlic powder in the final compartment for cooking. When I opened mine to take a photo of the inside I jostled the salt and pepper a bit unfortunately and got some pepper in the salt compartments... so that is a slight problem with this model. If you are one to only refill when things are out it really wouldn't be an issue at all I imagine.
(Sorry about the not so awesome photos of the tabs... they didn't want to focus on my cell phone sadly.)
The labeled tabs are simple to pop out to sprinkle your ingredient onto food but they stay attached so that you don't lose the stopper... a plus if you tend to drop things like me.
Durability wise I would give it 5 stars. Like I mentioned, I drop stuff... a lot... but it still looks brand new on the outside and even using the shaker regularly at work and when I'm out and about I still haven't seen any problems with the tabs/stoppers in the 5 months I have had it. For $9.99 I was pretty happy with my purchase and would make a second purchase if I was a regular camper (I'm not) so that I could travel with more spices easily. I love cooking and adding a few spices to my bag for the space of half a pack of tissues is something I would totally chose to do.
Does the salt come out too fast? Not at all, both myself and my brother-in-law have used it without issue. I mention him because I can't always tell if something is too salty but he doesn't eat salt as often as I do so he would be able to tell if he accidentally used too much. I use the salt and pepper at lunch reguarly and if I angle the container slightly down and shake slightly I get exactly how much I want every time. It might be easy to over pour though if I dumped it vertically over my food... but the same would happen with any salt shaker.
Another thing that I like is the fact that it is difficult to open the top to refill it. I know that seems to make no sense but the fact that it takes a bit more effort has meant that it has never opened accidentally in my bag or otherwise. It's a little annoying when it comes time to refill it but the lack of mess the rest of the time makes up for it in my opinion. As I mentioned at the beginning though, if you are refilling it when it is still mostly full you may have some cross contamination so don't refill it if you don't need too.
I'm really liking this company's products so far. I may be ordering one of their Sporks in Titanium (I snapped my plastic Spork in two when traveling sadly but I loved it while I had it and my parents are still loving theirs as well) and a Pack-Up Cup here in the next couple of months. If I do I'll let you know how I like them compared to the other Spork and collapsible cup I had purchased and reviewed in the past.
I think there is a misconception that people who eat a Paleo/Primal type diet are basically carnivores and eat the occasional vegetable... the truth is that is a myth. The bulk of my diet is produce when you look at my plates (as I'm sure you have seen on Instagram for my lunches at least- @reallifewithheather).
This week's produce haul for instance had:
And my weekend is eating out for Friday's dinner as well as Saturday's lunch and dinner and Sunday's lunch as I will be at a conference this weekend! If it wasn't there would be even MORE produce on this list. Thankfully the conference is nearby so I can eat breakfasts at home but since it is at a hotel I didn't think bringing my own food would be appropriate other than snacks (as I'm sure it will be mostly pastries and cookies on offer then and there is no way to make that work in the paleo framework.) Main meals I can usually find something on the menu that is a decent option at the hotel's restaurant or wherever we are going as a group for the meal.
I also keep some Spirulina and Chlorella in the pantry (algae) along with shirataki "noodles" and sometimes veggie chips of various types if I'm feeling in the mood for a crunchy snack and they are on sale. You'll often also see cucumbers, celery (I can't actually chop this as the scent gives me a migraine- random I know- so it's mostly just for bone broth/stock use), zucchini, squash, pumpkin (I have some puree in the pantry and some sweet potato puree frozen in the freezer), radishes, red potatoes, the occasional avocado (not my favorite, yet!), peppers, various lettuces/salad greens, spinach, an assortment of mushroom varieties, and more on my shopping list... it just depends on what I planned meal wise for the week and what looks great at the market.
Of course, we don't just eat produce... there is meat, nuts, oils/fats, and etc. This week I have:
If I was eating at home this weekend I would have about 1 lb more of meat most likely along with a lot more veggies. When eating out there is typically more a focus on the meat that the veggies as many options are offered that way (steak, chicken, pork chop, burger, etc. with x sides is how they are presented and veggies aren't plentiful on the plate as I'd prefer) but I try to get a good portion of veggies when available.
That's this week, things vary from week to week but when I plan meals I have one line for meat on each meal and 2-3 for veggies/fruit (and they aren't small 1/4-1/3 C portions for each veggie side either) so that should say something about how I eat. No two 'paleo'/'primal' eating plans are the same of course- I eat low carb and higher fat for instance so you will see a lot more fat rich foods on my meal plans and less starchy veggies but most of the people that I know buy their veggies (and fruit) plentifully and widely varied, many seasonally
I am really loving Dropbox at the moment for all things e-file as I can view/listen to them from my phone but still pull them up on my laptop so I don't have to type out edits on my phone. It's cold right now so my fingers often get cold and a bit stiff which makes typing on my phone a hassle... plus, I simply don't enjoy typing out much of anything on my cell phone when I can do it in half the time with a keyboard. My keyboard supposedly will work with my cell phone but I have yet to try it out as I may as well use a larger screen if I am at home with my keyboard. :)
That's all said only so that you understand why I have come to use my current meal planner- the simplicity of moving back and forth by keeping it on my Dropbox. I have been experimenting with various ways of meal planning over the past few years with the goal of being able to do this but there aren't that many apps that also have a laptop version that syncs that aren't a subscription service (though if I missed one please let me know!). I've tried using Cozi, which I absolutely LOVE as a calendar, but I need a tablet or laptop in order to be able to menu plan on their app... and I don't have a tablet at the moment so I can't really use the planner on the go. I did love that I just click one button to add a recipe's ingredients to my shopping list though so all I had to do was delete what I already had in stock... super simple process on my laptop... just bulky to cart around my laptop. I also didn't like the fact that it is just a dinner plan... I eat more than dinner so I need to plan for more than dinner if I don't want to have to keep popping out to the store for something (and overspending because I didn't plan). I've tried many ways to plan and I still haven't found a way that I love enough to make it my forever way but I've found something that works for me for now so I thought I'd share. Right now I am using a separate recipe storage that I haven't gotten to where I want to share it but know that my recipes file is sometimes used in conjunction with my meal planning.
As an fyi, right now I am living at my parents' house in order to save up money for a bigger down payment on a house since I was being outbid right and left when I tried to purchase a house several months back (they are awesome for inviting me to do so!). I only prepare dinners for everyone in the household a few days per week as not everyone is home in the evenings to have meals together. For myself though, I plan and prepare for all of my meals (with the exception of weekend meals if I will be eating out)... so I need to know which days to shop for meals that will feed more people and which days it is only me eating or I will have over/under prepared and we could potentially waste a lot of food and money. To track this and help me visually see what was going on each day I added a row above the 'dinner' area on my meal plan that says "Who?". If you end up using my planning spreadsheet you can easily change what this says to fit a variety of options: evening activities, who will cook, etc. or remove it altogether. A similar method worked just fine when I was on my own and when I was married though so I think that this will work for just about any family with a little tweaking depending on your lifestyle.
So, the first step to planning my meals is to sit down with my schedule and see what is going on... when will I be home for dinners, what days do I need to have more flexibility, what meals do I need to pack to take with me on the go, who will be home on days I am home for dinner, etc. I note this in the "Who?" line and then move on to checking my freezer.
Before I pick out recipes/meals I check my freezer. I like to keep my freezer stocked with meats of various kinds so that I can purchase when something is on sale verses when I run out. I am out of ground beef at the moment but have many other options (I'm using chicken to make tacos this week instead for instance) and don't feel pressured to purchase just because I am out which helps me to not over spend on my grocery bill. Normally I prefer to have at least one meal's worth of all the meat types I would typically gravitate to in the freezer but I am on an 'eat from the freezer/pantry' challenge at the moment so I didn't purchase ground beef when I ran out. I've got plenty of other options though! Starting by picking my main protein narrows my choices on recipes straight from the get-go so I don't spend half an hour flipping through recipes to decide what sounds appealing. This week I picked a pork roast, some chicken thighs and a whole chicken. Some weeks there will be a new recipe I really want to try and I may need a meat I don't have but I count that in with occasional deviations.
Usually when I am looking in the freezer I already have meal ideas churning based on what I've been interested in recently but if I don't I head to my cache of recipes and quickly thumb through until I find a main dish that sounds like it would fit the time allotment I have for each given evening. If I am not going to be home until late then I won't want to cook an hour long dish or even a half hour dish most likely for instance so I would want it to be a crock pot dish or even have leftovers from the day before. I do incorporate leftovers into my meal plan... and multiples of the same meal per week, especially in breakfasts and lunches! It saves me time and money in the end, both of which I prefer to spend less of in the kitchen if I can help it. This week I decided to make a roasted chicken on Monday in my crock pot (I am making the cooking style from my rotisserie chicken but with the BBQ dry rub this week), eat leftovers of it with my parents on Tuesday (and make some stock for soup from it), grab a meal I already have in the freezer from previous weeks' leftovers for Wednesday and Thursday since I will not be home until late, whip up some chicken soup from the stock on Friday and finish with a roasted pork loin on Saturday... Sunday evening would be leftovers of the soup and loin.
I head to my lunch mains next. Lunches I am mostly getting from the pantry this week due to the challenge but I plan them similarly to dinners in that I check what I have protein-wise first and go from there. This week I will be having tuna boats (made with homemade mayo!) but I decided to try out some 'taco boats' this week as well so I tossed some chicken thighs, taco seasoning, and a can of salsa on the stove to cook on low last night and now I can mix it up and have tuna some days and taco meat the others. I will save half of the taco mixture for the freezer for another week as I made more than I needed for just that purpose. It could also be for a dinner that I planned poorly or planned to eat out but ended up not feeling up to getting out... planning ahead with a few meals in the freezer is rarely a bad idea I have found.
Breakfasts often will be a rotation of 2-3 meals for me, I'm not very picky when it comes to my breakfasts but I need it to be a protein and lower on the carbs if possible. Sometimes I will make a paleo breakfast bread for the week though and have a little of than with my protein option. Other times I will have a smoothie with lots of veg and fruit plus some algae for the iron and protein content. It has to be fast in the morning and keep me going until 1-2pm as I don't always know when my lunch will be. I love paleo pancakes but I'm not a morning person so those are typically saved for 'breakfast for dinner'... which should probably make it onto next week's rotation because yumm!
The final thing I do is add my veggies and fruits to my meal plan. I insist on at least 2-3 servings of non-starchy veggies with lunch plus an optional fruit depending on my breakfast choices. For dinners I insist on at least 2 servings of non-starchy vegetables and I have one starchy vegetable depending on the rest of the meal plan for the day. I try to limit my carbohydrates as an excess of them tends to make my more symptomatic but that's my personal preference. Occasionally this is different, for instance I plan on having a whole baked potato tonight with my roasted chicken and green beans... that is more than one serving of starchy vegetable but it isn't an every night occurrence and I have no plans tonight other than resting (I am sick so getting over this cold with rest is a must) so I don't need to worry so much about carbs so long as I don't go crazy.
Once I have my meals planned out I double check my fridge, freezer and pantry for everything I need to make my meals before I head to the store. For instance: chicken soup needs an onion, chicken, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. All these items are in the pantry other than the onion... did I add an onion to the produce section of my list? I did and I have everything else so I'm done with that meal. I also make sure that I went over my household goods stocking list the week before (One of my to-do's during the week is to check on things like pantry staples, toiletries, pet items, etc. and add things that I am low on to my shopping list. This week I added toilet paper, borox and dog treats for instance.) so that I don't run out of anything during the week. I also double check my stock of homemade items like mayo, ketchup, salad dressing, and etc. based on my menu needs to ensure I have enough for the week. If I don't it get's added to my to-do list in the Notes area of my planner... a condiment is usually something I can make in a few minutes during the meal prep for the week if I am prepared.
Then I head to the store. The whole process, minus the shopping, usually takes me about 30 minutes but it took longer at first until I got into a pattern so be prepared for that. I have saved money and noticed that food waste has gone down significantly as well and that is always a good thing!
How do you meal plan?
I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions… I know that seems abnormal with today’s society of fad diet crazes, cheaper gym plans, cleanses, and post after post of organization tips and meal plans in January. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I think they give you an excuse to not take an action that you know you should because your start will be a later date. I prefer to make a goal for myself and start it whenever it needs to be started, preferably sooner rather than later. I started one of my goals about 3 weeks ago for instance. This year I will make an exception, a week late, and make my current goals into ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ that I will share with all of you. Some of these goals are ones I have had for a while but updated to start as of Jan. 1. I have spent the last month or so doing an evaluation on my life and priorities and this is the outcome.
This may be a lot of goals… but I don’t do Resolutions so this is a first for me. Perhaps next year I can chose one or two to highlight and call Resolutions for the year but I doubt it.
[Edited on 1/11/16 to add financial goals which I had forgotten to put on here as they were continuations and just part of my habit 100% by the original date of this posting.]
One of the first things I was told to do once I started seeing a cardiologist for my condition (even before getting a diagnosis... remember, I was doing symptom management long before ever receiving a diagnosis as it took 6 years) was to up my salt intake drastically as well as my water. At this point, I'm pretty good about maintaining my salt intake as I have learned to listen to my body's signs that I need more salt and have adapted strategies that are, by this point, ingrained habits that get my sodium in.
Water is a different issue though as I get lost in whatever I am doing and lose track of the time quite easily, especially if I'm out of my routine. The key I've found for my average workday is to keep two water bottles on my desk and just drink whenever I am thirsty... no stopping what I am doing, just reach for it and take a drink or two. Whenever I finish one I move on to the other... and usually fairly soon after that I need a bathroom break so fill the first back up while I'm already away from my desk. It's working fairly well so far when I have a normal day at work. I use two 0.75 L Camelbak bottles that I referenced in my travel post if you were wondering.
If I drink when I am thirsty and stop when I'm not, I drink between 3-5 liters per day. I don't know many people who drink that much water unless they are making an effort to do so personally but perhaps everyone I know is just dehydrated all the time (not unlikely). I've found that, for me, if I aim for 4L then I'm needing IV infusions of saline less... which is a plus. Unfortunately drinking too much water can make you nauseous so I have to be careful to space it out well... and you are constantly needing to take bathroom breaks it seems, which is a bit annoying. But you do what you have to do, right?
NOTE: I would not recommend drinking as much water as I do without taking care of your electrolyte needs as well so as not to end up with an imbalance. This is a point I cannot stress enough. I am not a doctor and do not claim to know about how much water you personally need for a happy and healthy body, I just know what I have to do for my specific body to function well. My needs are rarely the same as the 'norm' so do not take my daily requirements to be average in any way. If you are concerned you are not getting in enough (or too much) fluids please consult your doctor to ensure a healthy outcome.
But what about those days that are not 'normal'... or the weekends? Well, there's the issue. I simply do no meet even the 3L minimum it takes to stop me from being thirsty (which they tell me is a sign of dehydration... bad news for someone like me) and definitely not the amount that has decreased my trips to get IVs when I'm out of my normal routine. So I started looking for apps to help me track as I always seem to misplace a paper version of a tracker and I'm never going to remember how much water I've had from the beginning of the day to the end unless the number is super low if previous experience has taught me anything about myself.
I must've tried half a dozen apps and dismissed at least that many based on the reviews alone but I finally got down to the last three. I tracked with them both for a few days and finally landed on WaterMinder as the one I would keep due to its simplicity and ease of reporting.
When you enter the app (after registration) you will see an outline of either a woman or a man. Since I am a woman, I see this lovely outline. As the day progresses and you log more water the blue level raises and the percentages on the bottom portion labeled "Your Daily Fill" update. One interesting tidbit about that blue level is that it changes how it fills the outline based on the position of your phone, like water in a cup. I got a bit of fun out of that I'll have to admit. Anyways, to enter a serving of water simply click the plus sign and the 'cup' sizes you selected in the settings tab will appear for quick entry. A regular bottle of water is 500mL so I would click on the 500mL bottle to show I had finished one of those for instance. Since this is customizable it is completely up to you how many options you have, or if they are in in mL or oz.
As you can see, once I added a 750mL bottle to represent my Camelbak it showed up on the quick add menu. To add a custom 'cup' click over to the Settings tab and tap "Add Cup" then enter the amount of water you wish to represent. Since my app is in the mL setting it asked for the amount in mL but if you have set your settings to oz then yours will ask for it in oz of course, no conversion necessary.
Another way to add water quickly, if you are using an iPhone, is to add it directly from the Today tab in the Notifications menu. Simply swipe down from the top of the screen to access the Notifications menu.
The other two tabs on the app are History and Tips. I wasn't super impressed with the Tips area as they don't appear to ever change but rather has a small essay on the benefits of water. I found it less helpful than a tip a day type option personally and didn't learn anything new but it is worth a quick read through in case there is something new to you. I have added a screenshot of the table of contents below.
The History section was useful in that I can track my intake over just the day, the week, month or even the year. You can see that I had one day near New Years that I didn't come close to my goal in a quick glance as well as see an average for the time period and where I'm at today so far.
Other useful things about this app:
Have you found a water tracking app that is better than this? Have another app that you're sure I would love? If so, let me know! I'm always trying new health apps and would love to check it out.
Laundry detergent has a ton of chemicals and fragrances in it typically that I don't want in my house... and it's much more expensive than it needs to be. I'm sure we've all seen more than a few articles and posts in the past few years that made us question if we should be using detergent at all: the scary piece in the news about brighteners, a blurb on social media saying that detergent manufacturers are telling you to use too much detergent in order to get more of your money, detergent remaining in clothes after washing and potentially causing skin irritation, detergent destroying your clothes... yikes! Were any of these pieces accurate? What was the alternative if they were? If you are like me you may have thought there was none and just kept using your detergent for a while but kept a watchful eye open. Eventually I decided I didn't want to continue using detergent on my clothes any longer so I searched for alternatives. There are tons! I found all-natural brands of detergents, homemade detergents of various types as well as laundry balls and probably more that I haven't come across yet.
I used a laundry ball for about a year and, to be honest, I really liked them. I was able to run my washer on cold water which saved me money, my laundry cost was low as I only needed to replace the ball after a large number of washings, my clothes seemed to get clean, all was right in the world but people kept asking me how I knew they were really clean if I didn't have any soap or detergent in the wash. Eventually though I decided I felt better about using some form of cleaning agent in my laundry. I continue to read information on alternates to store-bought laundry detergent regularly. It's a personal preference and I may change my mind someday but, for now, I'm back to using a detergent. The difference this time is that I make it myself so I know what is in it. As a plus: it saves me money and is soooo simple to make. Score!
I had a bit of trouble finding Washing Soda and Borox in my store after I moved as few people apparently request them there... so here are the boxes of the brands I am using in case you run in to a similar issue.
1. You will need to start by flaking/grating your soap. There are at least two options to do this: grate it with a cheese grater or toss it in the food processor. Zote does come in a flaked form but I had read some reviews about using it in detergent that I wasn't very happy about so I'm back to Ivory now. One cool thing about Ivory is that you have a third option: microwave! I don't know if this works with other forms of soap as I haven't attempted it. (If you do, let me know! I'd love to find out!) If you are using Ivory and want to use a microwave here's how:
1. Chop your soap bad into smaller pieces and arrange them on a microwave safe dish.
2. Then place the dish in the microwave and microwave it for about 1-2 minutes... you'll know you've reached the right time when it looks like this.
3. Let the 'soap cloud' cool. It may smell a bit at first so if you leave it in the microwave for about 45 minutes or so it will be cool to the touch and won't really smell anymore.
4. Place the soap cloud into your food processor and it will turn into powder! Ok, this step isn't 100% necessary, you can use your hands to turn it into powder as it will crumble very easily. I just prefer doing it this way and I already had the processor out for another project so I blitzed it quickly and moved on with making my soap.
I've found that the most efficient way to make detergent regularly has been to grate up enough soap for 3-4 batches all at once so that I can quickly measure out the ingredients and get on with my day when it comes time to making detergent again every month or so. Again, a personal preference.
5. Mix your borox, washing soda and soap together in a 2:2:1 ratio (so 2C borox, 2C soda, 1C soap or 1C borox, 1C soda, 1/2C soap, etc.).
6. If you want to add some baking soda or OxiClean (both are optional) you would make this at the same amount as your soap.
7. Done! You will typically need between 1/8-1/4C of this detergent per load depending on size. I keep mine in an airtight container with a scoop in it so that I just pop it open and put 1-2 scoops in and am on my merry way come laundry day. :)
What alternatives to store bought laundry detergent have you used? Which worked best?