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The Don't Diet Digest
Stop Dieting.  Start Eating.

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Jeanne's Success Story
Ice Cream and Burgers Control Your Brain

Wow, it's already THAT time of year again.  Back-to-school, back-to-
work (for some), colder weather, fall chores...those "lazy days" are
gone for another year.  (By the way, who actually has "lazy days"
any more?  Is it just me, or is that only for kids, pets and a few
deserving, retired folks?  But I digress...)
I'm getting back in the swing of things and hoping to help you do
the same with helpful tips this week.
Some of these tips have nothing to do with food, but here's why
I'm including them:  if you get too busy, and if you get too stressed,
you'll probably make bad food choices!  So help yourself out by
navigating your schedule on purpose this year.  Eat with purpose
and live with purpose!
How do you handle all the "busyness" without getting stressed, which
usually leads to overeating?  How do you keep your family meals
nutritious?  How do you manage to enjoy family meals AT ALL?
We'll always fall short and hit the drive-thru at times, but the best
antidote to busyness is a little planning and organization.  Even if you
only get it right part of the time, you'll be cutting down on habits that lead
to overspending, overeating and overindulging (not to mention the guilt
that goes along with that).
1)  Start with a good planner.  I use two different methods:  a paper planner, and a Google calendar that my husband and I share online.  My paper planner of choice was designed by my close friend Tammy Matthews, who lives down the road.  The planner has fold-out pages and more than enough room for all my to-do lists, notes, plans, etc.
Tammy just made a YouTube video demonstrating her planner here:

Here's where you can get more info on her planners.  Tell Tammy that
Cate sent you!
The Google calendar is a nifty, free feature that Chris and I use to keep our family calendar on track.  We are the only ones who can make changes.  We overlaid US holidays, and set up dates like birthdays to recur on an annual basis.  Whenever we add a calendar item, it's instantly updated--so I immediately see anything Chris adds.  Even better, whenever we add a new item, we can opt for e-mail notices, pop-up notices, or both--and we can control when we get those notices.  I have a daily agenda emailed each morning at 4 a.m.  Finally, I always transfer each week to our paper calendar as a backup.  Nifty!
2)  Make busy days and nights homemade. You can still eat reasonably
healthy and save money by planning meals for busy days.  I've talked
before about using that crock pot, right?  Well, with kids' activities now
covering all five weeknights, I've made up a monthly menu that uses
crock pot meals at least 2-3 times a week.  Get a couple good cookbooks
that have crock pot meals you'll actually enjoy, and bookmark a couple
good recipe sites that feature crock pot meals.  We have a rotation of 5-6
recipes we really like.  That's plenty of variety for us at this point.
For meals outside the house, just plan ahead and keep it simple.  Crunchy
baby carrots and apples make great side dishes and desserts.  Reusable
water bottles are a lot cheaper than vending machines or fountain drinks.  Even the occasional healthier frozen dinner is a convenient choice, if you have a microwave handy.  Nitrite-free deli meat for sandwiches, kettle chips, soups, cheese, reduced-sugar yogurts...all are good choices for on-the-go and filling eats.  Just make sure you LIKE what you bring along!  You want to look forward to your meal, and enjoy eating it...or else you'll binge later.
Your goal is to grab-and-go...and with just a bit of planning ahead, you can make it possible.  Cheaper, healthier and even more of a time-saver than fast food.
3)   Make use of menus!  Menus are one of the best things I've ever
incorporated into my family's routine.
Once a month I take a couple hours and sit down to plan my family's meals
for the next four weeks.  I just photocopy a calendar or draw gridlines on a small sheet of paper.  I take a quick look at my paper calendar and asterik busy nights where I know we need to eat early and fast.  I also make note of nights where I need to have meals planned for hubby and kids because I'll be out of the house.
From there, I quickly inventory the contents of both freezers (one in the
kitchen, one in the garage).  I make note of meats and other items
available to create meals.   I also check what's on the shelf in the pantry and in the fridge.  (Usually, there isn't much, because I only buy what I need to make planned meals.)  I then take meal items I already have on hand, list out any additional ingredients or side dishes needed to complete the meals, and add them to the menu on specific nights. 
Once I've accounted for all the food that's already in the house, I take those empty nights on the menu calendar and come up with meals that will work best, using sale items from that week's grocery flyer, or my favorite
Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.  I also keep it easy by having certain meals
each week or every other week, such as spaghetti sauce and meatballs. 
Make it one week, serve frozen leftovers the next, and so on.  
Then I hit the local super Wal-Mart and shop for loss-leaders at the other
grocery stores.  In about 3-4 hours I've done the majority of my shopping
for the next month.  I supplement weekly with milk, egg and veggie runs.
Doing this is SO worth the couple hours I spend planning! Each morning
I check the menu to see what's on tap for that evening.  I don't have to think about what's for dinner.  I even make notes on my menu like "take out drumsticks", so I'm reminded to take certain meats out of the freezer with plenty of time for defrosting.  I save money because I can buy meats on sale, and use them for the following month's menu.  I don't stockpile food that goes to waste.  We eat healthier, and we eat together more often.  
Menus are AWESOME!
4)   Schedule must-do's and wanna-do's.  Empty space on a calendar
always gets filled.  Period.
So fill your calendar with appointments to get those fall chores done.  Cross off weekends to paint the house, rake leaves, clean the gutters, sweep out the garage.  
Don't forget to add dates for hobbies, family time, and just plain NOTHING.
Wanna try a new recipe, or big family dinner?  Schedule it!  How about
an early Thanksgiving in October, a practice run for the "big day" when
your mother-in-law is heading into town?  Schedule it!  
If you have a big "X" on the calendar, you won't fill it with anything else.
5)  ENJOY the season.   Whether your climate cooperates or not, we have the unique opportunity to enjoy a new "season" every three months.  So make the most of it.
What do you like most about this season?  Consciously enjoy it.
What do you want to try this season?  Schedule it.
What do you wish you'd done last season?  Start over again this season.  It's never too late!
Enjoy a simple pleasure each day.  In fact, I think I'll go light my Mulled Cider candle right now...
I hope you find these suggestions helpful as you get ready for fall (or spring, for our readers Down Under).  
Keep it simple and enjoy the little things--and that applies to eating, too! 


Until next time, "keep it real"!


Cate Brizzell signature

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