Saturday, November 21, 2015

Healthy Eating on Vacation - Part 5. The Emergency Hotel Stop

Now on to the final part of my "Healthy Eating on Vacation" series: when you have an emergency overnight at a hotel.

Our trip, while we were blessed with some of the best summer weather in the northeast, probably ever, was cursed on the way home.

The storms hit the day we were to fly home out of Albany.

The flight from Albany to Newark was delayed 2 hours, so we missed our 1 hour 45 minute connection.

At the airport in Albany, after a few calls to United, we were rebooked on a flight 2 hours after the first.  That flight was also delayed because there was a period of time with a ground stop at Newark.

The end result was that instead of touching down at 9:50 pm in LAX, we touched down at 1:35 am.
- We  missed the last shuttle to the hotel where our car was parked
- Husband and older child took a cab while I waited at baggage claim with tired/ sleepy toddler and bags
- We pulled out of the airport at 3 am finally.  At this point, my spouse and I had been awake for 23 hours.  While we'd lucked out on our new long 5.25 hour flight with seats in Economy Plus (more leg room), we did NOT luck out in that we were the row in front of the emergency exit, and thus could not recline.  So no napping on the plane.
- The 2 or 3 hotels we tried to call in the LAX area were already booked.
- We headed north, and after we hit the 101, I called (and eventually connected) with a Hampton Inn and Suites in Thousand Oaks.

We crawled into the king bed (all 4 of us) at 4 am.  At this point, the parents had zero sleep in 24 hours, and the kids had 6 hours each (5 on the plane and 1 in the car).

At 6 am the kids awoke, and at 6:30 am I gave up on sleeping because they were awake, and I took them to breakfast.

Hampton Inn and Suites have similar breakfasts in every hotel that I've ever stayed in.  And it's really our hotel of choice when we travel.  Generally spacious, often a fridge/ microwave.  Breakfast and a pool.

So how do you eat healthy and stick to an eating plan in a Hampton Inn?  Here are some options, depending on your eating plan.  They have three hot options: one egg, one meat, and one carb.

General/ clean eating:
- eggs
- whole wheat toast
- oatmeal (nuts as a topping)
- fresh fruit
- yogurt (there is sugar in the yogurt)

Paleo/ Primal:
- eggs (always an egg dish)
- bacon (depending on the day)
- fruit
- nuts from the oatmeal bar

- oatmeal (toppings available include nuts)
- fresh fruit
- toast

Gluten free (may have to be careful on the preparation of the items)
- fresh fruit
- eggs
- bacon
- potatoes (this is a sometimes item)

21-day fix:
- eggs (red)
- fruit (purple)
- toast (yellow)
- butter (tsp)
- oatmeal (yellow)
- nuts (orange or blue)

Other, less healthy (but yummy, and yes, I did have them) options are:
make-your-own waffles
bagels and cream cheese
a variety of breads to toast
pancakes or french toast
cold cereal
fruit juices
coffee and tea

My children both ate their weight in bacon (seriously!)  But it kept them busy  while daddy slept a little longer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Couple of Frugal Meals and CSA News

So first up: the bad news.  The CSA we have been members of for 15 years is closing for the rest of the season, approximately 6 weeks early.

That is a measure of how bad the drought is in California.  The farm did a great job of reducing water usage 50%.  But agricultural rates tripled, and their costs went up so much that for much of the year, they've been operating at a loss.  The board opted to end the season early.  Members have a choice of: (1) free rental of the pizza oven + area for a party (but you'd still need a caterer), (2) gift basket of farm canned tomato sauce and squash, or (3) donating the remaining weeks.

I'm glad they gave the three options.  Though when you join, they let you know that it's "Community Supported" and there is risk involved.  You take on risk with the farmer.  So some years are great and some, not so much.  Honestly, this is the only year that they've had to close early.  So we obviously donated the shares.

That's going to make my budget a little tighter.

That said, today I shopped with an extra eye at the 99 cent only store, to see what other items were there that I wouldn't normally buy.  I tend to only see what I want to see.  I am on the hunt for dried lentils right now, but I'm not willing to spend more than about 0.80 a pound.  That means I have to wait for a sale.  Today I looked in everyone else's cart in the produce area.  I found one single bunch of asparagus (for 0.99), and a 3 lb bag of baby potatoes (as opposed to the 10 lb bag of russets) for a treat.

All in all, I came away at $12.40.  Let me tell you what meals I made today.

Dinner tonight:
Grilled lemon/herb/garlic chicken breasts: $2.00 ($1.77/lb on sale, plus herbs, garlic, olive oil.  I cooked up about 3 lbs, will last several meals)  (This recipe, except it took more like 15-20 min to grill.  My breasts were fat.)
Sauteed asparagus: $1.20 (asparagus and olive oil)
Roasted baby potatoes: $0.75 (half the bag plus herbs and oil and garlic)

Food for four (though there were only 3 of us): $3.95

Prep for the week:
Refried beans in the crockpot, from 100 days of real food (except I don't mush them up)
1 lb pintos: 0.75
1/2 onion: 0.13
2 cloves garlic: 0.05
spices: 0.05
Total: $0.98

Spanish rice in the rice cooker:
1.5 c white rice: 0.26
1/4 can tomato paste: 0.20
1 T onion flakes because I'm lazy: 0.20
2 cloves garlic: 0.05
olive oil: 0.20
diced pepper: 0.25
cumin, tomato bouillon, parsley, salt, pepper: 0.30
dried corn: 0.25
Total: $1.71

About 12 cups of bean/rice mixture, because that's what I do with it, for $2.69.  This will last us several meals, and we will probably get so sick of it that we'll throw some in the freezer for a Friday night in future weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Cooking Chores again

We now interrupt this "Frugal Eating on Vacation" series (mostly because I've written #5, but not #4) to discuss weekend cooking again.

My weekend cooking has been coming and going with the crazy weekends and back to school stuff.  Oh, I usually cook at least one thing.  And I make something for the pot luck.  But honestly, the thought of prepping everything for a week is kind of daunting, and I haven't been doing it.

Yesterday was a busy day with swim lessons (I helped a friend with twins who needed a second adult in the pool with her 2 year olds), then beach, then lunch out with toddler friends, then more beach.  It ended with babysitting the neighbor girls (3 of them) so that their parents could celebrate their anniversary.  Our kids are all great buddies, so they played, screamed, made lots of noise, ate popcorn, spilled popcorn all can probably imagine.

But Sunday, well, that's food prep day.  My nine year old decided to try playing baseball.  The practice league just started, so today was his first game.  They left at 9:30 and didn't get home until 1 pm.  Toddler didn't want to go, so I got busy cooking for 2 hours while he spent way to much on the pad.

Here's what's cooking:
Pork chops in crock pot (easiest way to cook them). I know, a waste of good pork, but I'm going to stretch it by putting it in fried rice.

Fried rice: I cooked up some rice.  I chopped a million tiny green onions, plus some cilantro. I will also add peas and maybe carrots. This is going to be dinner/ lunch for much of the week.

Blueberry muffins.  So, we have these freeze dried blueberries from Costco, that you buy on line - big bucket of various fruits.  Cheaper than the little bags at Trader Joe's.  But this one bag got opened and then left  open, and they are soggy not crunchy.  So I have this buttermilk, and I found a recipe for muffins with buttermilk... (I have buttermilk because I came home from a school function to find that spouse hadn't put food away after dinner, including the ranch dressing.  So I bought buttermilk and made some instead of buying it.)

Butternut squash. Yes, in this heat, I had the oven on. I need veggies for the week, so I roasted the squash.  It gets mashed and mixed with pomegranate seeds (first of the season), toasted walnuts, chopped apple, raisins, and cinnamon.  Yum.

Salad.  Yes I washed 2 heads of lettuce.  At least they were small.

Green beans and yellow peppers.  Washed and sliced, and destined for a stir fry side.

Salmon salad (with mayo, cottage cheese, and pickles) - half for today, half for tomorrow.

Only half the dishes

On an unrelated note - I realize those of you who occasionally read my blog do not do it for my awesome photography.  And that's a good thing.  Because I cannot seem to get photos anymore.  My computer doesn't recognize my phone to download, and the few other ways I had it set up (google photos, google drive, picasa albums), well, those don't work either.  It's like my phone is it's own little monster.  If I figure it out I'll add them back in.  (Had to email them to myself.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Healthy Eating on Vacation - Part 3. Train travel

Welcome to Part 3 of my Healthy Eating on Vacation series - Train travel.

Mid-way through our trip, we took a train from my family's to my in-laws house.

This involved:
1.  2 hour drive to the "big city" (Erie)
2.  Dinner in Erie
3.  Overnight hotel stay
4.  Breakfast at McDonald's (included in the hotel stay)
5.  Train trip to Upstate NY

Train travel is much like airplane travel.  The food on Amtrak sucks (I know this by experience).  Luckily, this was a short trip - supposed to be 6 hours (was actually 7 due to construction).  I've been on 24 hour trips fun in the food department.

This trip had a few new challenges:
1.  We had to carry all our bags with us (no checked bags)
2.  We were leaving from a hotel room, not from home. That limits your food choices.
3.  We were in the city for dinner, with no kitchen

Let's start with step 1: dinner.  Erie is like any other city, with many restaurants and grocery stores.  I knew that my stepdad would want to have dinner at a restaurant, and truthfully - we hadn't eaten out all trip at that point.  I chose Applebees, because I know they have paleo-friendly, lower calorie options.  I also know that they have meals that my stepdad likes.

In general, I avoid sit-down restaurants with the kids because the 3 year old cannot sit still.  And in fact, he didn't.  When his older brother was 2 to 4, we didn't eat out either.

I ordered the Napa chicken with portobellos.  I have to say, it was kind of bland and overcooked.  But my 3 year old loved it.  So much for choosing healthy - I ended up eating one of his mini-sliders. I tried to talk him into getting chicken, because he likes chicken, but NO.  (Step #1 of a good mom, always order something that your kid likes.  Step #2 be willing to trade with him.)

From there we went back to the hotel to go to bed.  We had a room with 2 double beds.  My stepdad was next door.  We all slept great!  Okay, I lie.  My toddler fell out of the bed.  So my husband joined us so we could trap him.  Two adults, one toddler, in a full bed.  And the toddler did NOT want to share, so he woke up every half hour to push, kick, and complain.

Train left at 7 am.  So we were up at 5 am.  We went to McDonald's for breakfast.  I know, I know.  But this particular hotel had no breakfast, but they gave you a voucher to the McD's across the parking lot.  Again, you have to be flexible.  Big boy ordered pancakes, but only ate one.  Toddler ate the other one.  I had a coffee (my second, the first was from the hotel office), and an Egg McMuffin, because I figured it would be filling.

Next thing we did is pack up.  This particular room had a fridge.  I'd taken some snacks in a cooler up with us.  This is a good tip - your food choices expand when you have access to refrigeration.  It was very nice of my stepdad to drive us up and stay up overnight to take us to the station.

Snacks from the fridge that we packed up:
1.  string cheese
2.  hard boiled eggs - I peeled them at the hotel and put them in a baggie with salt and pepper
3.  apples
4.  raw veggies again (cucumber, carrots mostly)

Other snacks:
Granola bars
2 small bags of M&Ms from grandpa's house.  That candy did come in handy.  My newly potty trained toddler is afraid of public restrooms (can you blame him?) His reward for using the train bathroom was the M&M's.
Water bottles

So my meals looked like this:
Breakfast: egg McMuffin
Snack: shakeo protein shake (I just made it and shook it up and drank it on the way to the train station)
Lunch/snacks on the train: Quest bar, raw veggies, apple, eggs, string cheese.
Dinner: birthday party at my MILs house!  Did I mention that we were traveling on hubby's birthday?

Again, my husband and kids bought some additional snacks, coffee, water, and lemonade from the train.

All in all the 7 hour trip wasn't too bad.  Amtrak seats are pretty comfy and spacious. The kids napped, watched movies, colored, played games on the pads.  We enjoyed the sights, the brief view of the lake.  We had to stop 2x for construction, which made us an hour late.

Probably the most exciting/ scary/ stupid part was watching people at the Erie station.  There was a cargo train that went by before the passenger train.  About 1/4 mile down the tracks there were two people purposely standing in front of the train and jumping out at the last minute.  For both trains.  I hope they were arrested.  Sometimes I think about Darwin, but really you have to feel bad for the guys driving the train.

Have you ever traveled by train?  Do you have any other tips on packing food for the train?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Healthy Eating on Vacation - Part 2. When you are the cook

Welcome to Part 2 of my series: Eating Healthy on Vacation.

Part 2 covers "When you are the cook", aka "When you have control".

Let's face it, when you are cooking at home, you have control over what goes into your food and what you eat.  Traveling has a whole other set of problems.  I went over my method of controlling my food on an 18-hour day of driving and flights (basically, take all your own food).  Now I'm going to review my methods when I'm the cook.

We spent a week with my stepfather.  He doesn't cook, so I did the cooking. This is a good thing!  However I had to navigate some picky eating - his and mine.  And my brother's family was over for dinner a couple of times, resulting in my cooking for 8 or 9 people.  This wasn't too terrible because I normally batch-cook anyway.  There were just no leftovers.

The difficulty in a new place is the type and quality of food.  My options were Walmart and... Walmart.  (That's not totally true, there is a farmstand and family gardens.)  My stepdad insisted on buying vegetables ahead of time, which is hard when he doesn't eat them. I am picky about my veggies.  I get very high quality in California (hello CSA!)  So when in other places, I am likely to look at the veggies, and the price, and make choices.  For example, I may go in looking for cucumbers and peppers, but leave with cauliflower and carrots, because they look better.

That meant I was doing a LOT of winging it with what he got.  He generally wasn't interested in the veggies himself, so I tried to make what we had tasty.  Here's what I made:

raw veggies: peppers, carrots, cucumbers (from his and my sister's gardens) with hummus
Greek salad (onion, peppers, cucumber, olives, tomatoes)
Sauteed frozen broccoli
Sauerkraut and kielbasa (homemade sauerkraut from my BIL!)
Baked chicken tenders with hashbrowns

I also went to a family party (took the Greek salad to it). My siblings brought lots of yummy foods, homemade mostly.  I tend to give myself one meal "off" a week, so I don't need to stress in that situation.  And I didn't!  I also have a bunch of recipes saved for later.  There was cowboy beans, pulled pork, jalapeno dip, corn pudding, pie, meatball sandwiches, veggies and hummus, salads...

The big difficulty during this week was the junk food - candy, cookies, chips, gatorade, soda, beer.  (This was also a challenge for the second half of the trip.)  It's hard to say no to it all the time, and my 9 year old is a gatorade fiend (we almost NEVER buy it).  I ended up hiding the candy so that they didn't know about it, and they only really had chips or cookies a couple of times.  I admit to a beer (or a few) and some sodas.  The liquid calories were the killer all around, especially gatorade for the big kiddo.  The little one was fine with water and milk.

It's hard to say no when it is there!  This is why my #1 recommendation for anyone trying to lose weight or be healthy is this - KEEP IT OUT OF THE HOUSE.   Now, there are some things that I didn't realize would even be tempting - like the soda! I don't drink it anymore.  But it was.  Seriously tempting.  Because: there it is, staring at you.

Many people don't want to "deprive" their spouse or kids of the junk food, so they still buy it, and are still tempted.  I say "what??"  I mean the spouse and kids can get it EVERYWHERE - so let them eat it out of the house!  Not stocking it doesn't mean they never get it.

All in all, I did pretty well this week.  It's nice when you have control.  Then, when it's hot out, you can enjoy a little ice cream.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Healthy Eating On Vacation - Part 1. The all-day plane travel

If you are a friend, or follow me on FB or Instagram, then you know my family recently traveled on summer vacation.

This was the year that we traveled to visit our families on the opposite side of the country, for two weeks.  The vacation started with one VERY long day.  We left the house around 5 or 5:30 am, drove two hours to Los Angeles, parked the car and took a shuttle to the airport.

Next up was two 3 to 3.5 hour flights, with a short layover in between.  Then another 2 hour drive to my family's house (luckily my stepfather picked us up AND borrowed an Explorer from his brother).

So, how do you eat healthy traveling all day?  It can be tricky.  You can buy food in the airport, but it is rarely healthy.  If you find healthy food, it's expensive (I paid $7.64 for 2 bottles of water at LAX).  You can find salads, but I find that many salads from "elsewhere" make me sick - as if they don't wash the greens first.  My niece travels for business and she carries ALL her own food, often for 3 full days - otherwise she'll go off plan.  (You can read her blog here.)  That's a little much for me, and I'm not sure how well the food would keep when traveling for as long as we did.  (By the time we made it to the house, we'd been "on the road" for 18 hours).

It's of course frugal to bring your own food, also.

Well let's start with my parameters.  First of all, my breakfast is pretty much shakeology every day.  I prefer to blend it with ice and banana.  On the long flight, that's what I did - made it, chugged it, and rinsed out my container and packed it before we left.

I'd really planned on staying "on track" with the 21 day fix for the full trip.  Here was my loose plan on the first travel day:

Breakfast: Shakeo w/ banana (1 red, 1 purple)
Snack in the car: 2 hard boiled eggs, Mary's gone crackers (1 red, 1 yellow)
Lunch at LAX: Vega One shake, apple, raw veggies (1 red, 1 purple 1 green) (I chose Vega One because they mix will with just ice and water)
Snack on the plane: Cashews and cucumber/tomato salad (1 orange, 1 green)
Dinner in Houston: Quest protein bar and more veggies (1 red, 1 green)
Snack: Kind bar: (1 blue, 1 tsp)

I did pretty well, but honestly don't remember exactly what I ate.  We spent a couple of hours or more at the United Club in LAX.  They had nice breakfast options (and good coffee), so I may have had part of a bagel.  They had switched over to lunch before we left.  For my lunch I had packed a tomato and cucumber salad - the lunch offered included hummus and kalamata olives, so I took some of the olives to add to my salad and some hummus to eat with my veggies later.  I also tossed some cheese cubes in my container to go with my crackers.

Of course I drank a ton of water, but carefully timed because you don't want to be stuck on a plane having to pee when the seat belt light is on.  Which the boys and I BOTH had to do when we weren't allowed up.  When the light went off again, yes I went to the bathroom FIRST.  But on the other hand, I let my old son pee in a bottle, while I held a blanket to cover him.  Those $7 bottles of water came in handy.

Bonus: they have bubble water/ seltzer as an option now on United flights, which beats juice/ soda for me.

More about the Vega One: I got the vanilla chai based on online recommendations, and it was yucky. And now I have 28 more of them.  I think I may try to blend them with blueberries, and see if it gets better.  Or bananas.  Or donate them.  Because, yuck.

So, what did my family eat?  Well, I wish I'd taken a picture.  But I didn't.  Each family member got two small baggies with their name on them.
One had raw veggies (carrots, snap peas, cucumber, peppers)
One had other snacks, like nuts, granola bars, or a small chocolate bar.
Each family member also had an apple.
I also took string cheese that I'd frozen so it would defrost as we went.

I did not worry about lunch and dinner for the family.  They ate at the airports.  It's too much work to worry about me AND them, and they like eating out anyway.  Honestly, I don't even remember what they ate at the airports, aside from the free food in the United Club.

In summary, recommendations for healthy eating for long plane travel:
1.  For produce, pack as many fruits and veggies as you'd normally eat during that time.
2.  Fruit: pick things that keep well: apples, oranges - not bananas that mush easily.  Berries or melon in a tupperware container will be good too, and more of a "treat" (with a plastic fork).
3.  Vegetables: raw is your friend. Maybe you can find hummus at the airport.  Chopped salads are great, especially ones that you can pre-dress, like cucumber or bean salads or kale salads.  Depending on how long you are waiting to eat them, I'd avoid dairy.
4.  Pre-pack in baggies or containers with everyone's name, so you don't forget anyone.
5.  Make sure to pack "treats" (100 calorie chocolate bars for us) for the trip.
6.  Bring an empty water bottle for each person (I paid $7.64 for 2 bottles of water at LAX).
7.  Bring some protein - hard boiled eggs, string cheese, nuts.  You can bring tuna packets but do NOT eat those on the plane!
8.  Eat the perishable foods FIRST.  Early in the day you'll be eating the eggs and cheese and berries.  Later in the day you'll be eating apples and nuts.
9.  For inspiration, pretend like you are camping without refrigeration
10.  Pack an "emergency" snack bag, in addition to bags for each family member.  I cannot tell you how many times we have been traveling and we ended up running between flights - so NO time to get food in the airport.  Then, on the next flight, we'd end up in the back of the plane - they would run out of food for sale before they got to us.  My emergency snack bags usually have nuts, fruit, candy, granola bars, crackers.

Let me know in the comments if you have any more tips!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Word on Variety

A continuation of the theme of "Why do people...?" instead of cook.

I think a lot of it is variety.

Think about that a little.

When I was a child, my mother cooked "American" food.  It was pretty repetitive.  Chicken, meatloaf, spaghetti, chili, burgers, scrambled eggs during lent, corned beef and cabbage, sauerkraut and kielbasa, ham and bean soup, mashed potatoes, canned vegetables.

I have friends from "elsewhere".  A lot of my Chinese friends eat mostly Chinese food.  My Indian friends make Indian food.  My Mexican friends eat Mexican food (you see where I am going here?)

As I hit adulthood and left my small town, I was able to try other cuisines.  And I liked them.

I love Indian, Thai, Korean, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Greek food.

I like variety.
I get bored with the same old flavors.

But eating different foods comes with a cost.

If you don't know how to cook it, then you are eating out.  How many people know friends who, for lunch or dinner, often say "what do you feel like, Indian or burritos?"

If you do know how to cook it, then you have time and money invested in learning how to cook the dishes (they are all very different), and in the ingredients.  Cumin is great for Middle Eastern,  Mexican, and Indian, but a lot of the other cuisines use many other spices and ingredients.

And of course you must practice.  I made a mean stir-fry in my day, but now I tend to slow cook things, and I end up overcooking the stir-fry.  Because I'm out of practice.

Mr. Money Mustache talks a lot about hedonic adaptation.  How as you get used to things - air conditioning, nice vacations, nicer cars - they become necessary and you must move the next bigger better thing - because you no longer enjoy what you used to have.

I think the same thing holds true with food.
When you get used to having someone else serve you and cook your food, you don't enjoy doing it yourself anymore.
When you get used to having *any* kind of food you want, whenever you want, cooked properly - you lose the ability to enjoy your own home cooked repetitive meal.

And of course, there is the expense - both time and money.
- money - all the different spices and ingredients for each type of cuisine
- time - if you want to have a great burrito, or salad, based on a restaurant - you have to make the chicken, the salsa, the guacamole, and then shred the cheese, wash and prep the lettuce and vegetables, etc.  There are several steps involved.

Another really good source of "frugal simple food" for me is Frugalwoods.  I recently found this blog and enjoyed reading some of their archives.  One of the things that they do is cook up a batch of beans and rice on the weekend, and they eat it every day for a week for lunch.  They also have oats for breakfast, and rotate dinners.

This is frugal and simple:
- the ingredients are cheap
- they are "used up" and not wasted because you eat them until they are gone
- it's very simple - the meals themselves are simple to make, and they are made once and reheated.

This, of course, prompted me to cook up a batch of beans and rice over the weekend.  There were definitely some comments on their blog with "I could never do that, I'd get bored".  I think, personally, you would get used to it.  Another blog that used to post their meals (I don't think they do anymore) was Path to Freedom in Pasadena.  They are urban homesteaders.  They would also make a batch of beans and rice, and eat it for lunch and dinner until it was gone, and then make something else.  Food is fuel.

There was a time, after baby #2 when I was only working part time, when that was my method.  I would cook up a batch of "something" for dinner for the week, and a separate batch of "something" for lunch for the week.  The lunches tended to be beans and rice, or spaghetti, or sandwiches.  The dinners varied by time of year.  And then Wednesday was crock pot day (which also aligned with "we are out of dinner #1" day).  It helped that it decreased the tendency to overeat at lunch, because by Thursday or Friday, you are tired of the food.

Of course times change, and I'm back full time.  I still use some of the techniques, but not as many.  The challenges I face now are:
- weight loss.  I've lost a bunch of weight, but it was never going to happen on beans and rice, or sandwiches, or spaghetti.  I cannot eat that many carbs.  So I tend to eat salad, which I can only prep a day or two in advance.  (I have 10 pounds to go, and these are the stubborn ones.)
- CSA - we get a lot of variety, and they aren't necessarily conducive to "one-pot" or "prep ahead"
- kids - I find myself packing lunches during the school year
- time (always!) - Last night we had a date night, and I didn't feel like packing lunch. So, I went to bed late, and skipped the gym.  I thought about going for a walk when I woke up at 5:30 am, but opted to prep my lunch for the day ... it took an hour.  Washing and chopping cucumbers, green onions, peppers, and tomatoes for a salad.  Washing and peeling a bunch of carrots for a snack (I eat at least 3 cups of veggies a day, and have to prep them all).  Packing lunch for the 9 year old.
- volume - I am cooking and prepping for four people (though I don't have to do lunch for my child in daycare and during most of the summer I don't have to pack lunch for my 9 year old.  And I also don't pack my husband's lunch anymore, but I *do* make sure we have lunch things available.)

It's always good to be reminded of how lack of variety makes life more simple.  It's really okay to eat raw veggies and a protein for lunch every day.  It certainly also helps me lose weight - just instead of "beans and rice" for lunch, it's "vegetables and protein".

How much variety do you need in your life?