Fighter Diet & Time Management

I’m short on time today so thanks for letting me stop by to check in and keep things simple.  I am learning (again) how to restructure my time to meet changing commitments and my journey into Fighter Diet is something I would still like to bring into conversation for the duration of this challenge.

As I’m getting acclimated towards a hefty amount of meal prep (What was I thinking when I thought it would be less meal prep?) I notice I’m struggling to find time for everything.  My reliance on already prepared (and mostly prepared) foods is changing as I see how much work it is to set up multiple meals for the week.  The more I open my eyes the more I need to tweak my routine.  I will say I miss some of the convenience of chow hall life now as I am no longer carefree to saunter in, grab food off a chow line, eat and then deposit my dishes for someone else to wash!!!

What a privilege that convenience was as a young adult.

Tomorrow signifies the end of the first two weeks and I’m no perfect person (hello junk food I’ve eaten along the way) but I find the workouts easier to stick with than the eating habits.  Even in late elementary school, I liked running and because the weightlifting is helping me make huge strides in reducing my back pain I power through those no problem.

Right now I’m playing with trial and error a lot with one of my least favorite ingredients, the kale.  I know it’s not a forever food item but I have plans to forego eating it for quite some time after this challenge concludes.

I am looking forward to getting back into Marine Corps shape (or hopefully, better) after undergoing this twelve week transformation.  I am already eating healthier than I do on a regular basis and haven’t consumed a glass of wine or beer since Day 1.  That’s a good start.

It would be nice to show everyone that you can leave the military and work on picking up a healthier lifestyle along the way, especially if you were like me and ate a lot of junk food as a service member.  Looking back, I do wish I had cared to adopt healthier eating habits much earlier in life.  Now, it takes some serious work and I’m stumbling along the way with all this meal prep.

With a full 40 hour week schedule plus almost 2 hours of commuting free time does not come easy.  Additionally, I don’t sacrifice (much) on sleep.  I’ve established a regular sleeping routine as it’s one of the key things that helps me more successfully manage my chest pains.  I like going to be no later than 9:30-10:00 p.m. as best as possible and ideally I’d like to wake up at 6am but with my commute, I get up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. most days.  For this challenge, I’ve tried waking up at 04:30 a.m. to help prepare breakfast and lunch before my day wakes for the day and it wasn’t conducive to my lifestyle.

Hence, biting the bullet and losing free time on my weekend.  The end result is worth it. I ended up with 9 full size waffles and one kid-sized one, 2 dinner sides for Monday, dinner entrees Monday through Friday, and lunch sides (so long as my creations are edible) for two days.  I put the kale in my slow cooker which is why I say “so long as my creations are edible” they count as lunch sides.  I attempted to do a healthier version of collard greens but this one might be a failure.  It’s hard to tell by smell alone with kale whether the end result will be good.

I think my favorite unexpected part of this weekend was learning you can use whey protein powder to make a latte.  This item makes the plan easier to enjoy.

I can’t wait to enjoy the “extra time” I got back in my week thanks to prepping today.  Have a great week ahead.


Waffles for days!!!
Chock full of Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips.

Fighter Diet: An Up-Close Look at Food Spending

The week ahead I will start my fitness challenge and I recognized today my desire to regain physical strength and health, often a matter of privilege, also coincides with another area of privilege or disadvantage–depending on your income levels–which is food spending.  Just recently, I shared with you all a number of goals for the year and how important it is for me to consider my financial ability to meet those objectives.

If you’ve had the chance to check out my Instagram account you’ll notice I ‘talk’ a lot about food; dining out, grocery shopping, and home cooked meals are frequent subjects in my photographs.  I love exploring food culture and experiences and in the past, I didn’t write to you all about why I am that way.

As a child, one of my earliest memories about the importance of a food budget came in elementary school.  One of my teachers assigned our class to construct a pretend food budget using store circulars.  I loved this assignment.  I thought it was fun to ‘spend’ pretend money and a seed was planted about the enjoyment of providing for one’s needs.  I cut out all sorts of images (with the food prices) to round out my budget.  I do not recall what my budget was (this was back in the 1990’s) but I wish I had recalled if my teacher had us plan for a family or for a single person’s grocery budget.

My parents raised four children and although both of my parents worked (my dad served in the Navy), my mother also used child support from my biological father to meet our needs.  I knew early on I did not see myself raising a family mirroring the one I grew up in; I’m pretty certain around eleven years of age I told my dad I wasn’t having children.  After my mother’s passing–and my dad started his life again with my stepmother–I inherited two new siblings.  Being in a household of six children, I recognized more and more how difficult food spending can be on a family, especially during the teenage years.

While serving as a United States Marine, I also recognized outside the institution of family,  other institutions impact our access to food and food spending.  The Marine Corps provided me with what’s known as a basic allowance for subsistence (BAS). The 2014 numbers show $357.77 per month for enlisted service members.  During boot camp, combat training, MOS school, and while I lived in the barracks, my meals were provided to me, instead of receiving the dollar amount of the BAS. (As a related matter, instead of receiving a basic allowance for housing like married service members, when I was in training and a single Marine early in my career, I instead receiving accommodations in barracks.  These accommodations are in my opinion not equitable to the freedom married service members have in using their funds to find their suitable family residence, be it an apartment, condo, or single family home.)

The chow halls have their own rotating menu selections, including entrees, sides, drinks (no alcohol, obviously), and dessert options.  During boot camp, my fellow recruits and I were not permitted to enjoy desserts, although some people did sneak snacks at time and the group was punished for these individual actions.  While at MOS school, our instructors were not shy about criticizing us for indulging in ‘fat pills’ when we choose to eat pre-packaged snacks provided to us during training.   My first unit set up a coffee mess in our office so we could purchase pre-packaged snack items on site; the coffee mess permitted us to enjoy some nice snacks without always walking across our camp (Camp Margarita on Camp Pendleton) to the PX, which was closer to my barracks than work.  For both deployments, no one seemed to care whether you chose to eat healthy or eat junk, so long as you still met Marine Corps height and weight requirements.  I rather liked the chow hall selections on both deployments over the stateside chow halls with the exception of milk.  We had shelf-stable milk products (in regular, chocolate, and strawberry) in Iraq and on both deployments, I ended up with a package of spoiled milk.

After separating from the Marine Corps, I found myself for the first time in a position to be (almost) solely responsible for food budgeting, shopping, and preparation.  My husband was still serving so we had BAS to meet our food budget needs, but I taught myself how to cook by watching Food Network.  I tried shopping at the commissary on Camp Pendleton and it’s rather a tie between it and Walmart as my most despised places to grocery shop. On one side, the commissary has rules on what constitutes proper clothes (and you will be asked to leave if you are dressed inappropriately) so I’m not annoyed by people traipsing around in pajamas like every Walmart shopping trip I’ve ever had.  On the other side, it’s easy to find a Walmart everywhere I’ve ever lived and their selections do beat the sparse variety of military commissary shelves.

As I prepare for this fitness challenge, I am confronted by the fact my routines for food purchases and preparation require greater consideration.  Just as I have in the past, I allow myself greater freedom for initial stocking up purchases, like cooking oils, and I try not to berate myself if the first week of food is more expensive compared to my typical food purchases.  Usually, I have a lower grocery food budget because we also add in a dining out budget.  The USDA provides it own food plan costs across numerous budgets but I would say we try to spend no more than $100-$160 per week for our family of three.  Some weeks are more expensive because we are paying for bulk purchases like paper goods and cooking  oils and our less expensive weeks we might only be buying fruits and vegetables (those weeks we spend $30-$40 typically) when we have sufficient frozen meat products or leftovers.

Trader Joe’s Trip (7 January 2017)

Trader Joe’s happens to be one of my favorite places to grocery shop since I can maximize my budget more without sacrificing on my shopping experience (I know, I’m talking privilege here) because again, fellow Walmart shoppers drives me a little crazy (please wear real pants, that’s all I’m asking for).  If you can overlook the parking situation, Trader Joe’s has good prices on everything and they have a fairly good mix of things (produce, bread, meat and cheese products, even alcohol.  Keep in mind, you might not find everything you need there. (Thankfully, the Trader Joe’s I went to today also had a Sprouts conveniently next door.  Sprouts is more expensive than Walmart but they have some nice specialty items Walmart doesn’t carry and I love their bulk bin foods.) I implore you to shop there at least once to check things out; word of advice though: do go early, after they open at 9am.  If you go during the height of their busy hours, you just might hate me for encouraging you to visit their store.

We managed to get almost everything we needed for this upcoming week and most purchases were made at Trader Joe’s.  Our fridge is not big enough to purchase all the cauliflower we need so we’ll head by to the store about midweek and we might need to grab more ground turkey as well.  My husband’s trying the fighter diet as well, but with some small adjustments, like using cocoa powder instead of the Lily’s Dark Chocolate Stevia Sweetened Chips so we can save a little money.  I am happy though for the first four weeks of this fitness challenge, my diet will be approximately 1,700 calories and it’s filled with foods I like (egg whites, kale, shrimp, chocolate, cauliflower, Cheerios, although we are using Trader O’s instead) and things that will fill me out, even if I’m not entirely sure I’ll like them (oat bran and whey protein…I’ve tried some protein powders before that are terrible, so we’ll see).

Sadly, as I write you all, it came to my attention, I completely overlooked buying mushrooms for the week and I will be making another shopping run.  Because I was a bit absent-minded at times like today, we picked up oat bran at Safeway and since Trader Joe’s didn’t have hemp oil we picked it up at Sprout’s.

Excluding non-Fighter Diet purchases for our daughter, we spent $129.77 on our meal items.
Trader Joe’s didn’t have Hemp Oil so we picked it up at Sprouts ($7.99).

Groceries Tally for Fighter Diet (Most of Week 1 for 2 Adults)

Trader Joe’s                                                     $129.77

Sprouts (Hemp Oil)                                           $7.99

Natural Grocer’s                                              $12.50

(Lily’s Choc. Chips)

Safeway ( 4 boxes, 16oz. Oat Bran)            $11.96      (We bought more than a week’s worth.)

Total FD Spending                                          $169.22

***This week, we still need mushrooms (approx. 9-8oz. containers) which might run $18-$20 total and approximately 6 other packages of cauliflower, which would be $14.94 would put our total just over $200 for 2 adults.  I think the rounded number works best for future planning.  I’m not sure what most people would think if I tell them to imagine spending $100 per week on their food consumption, but we can easily go over that number when we grocery shop and dine out.

The Fighter Diet chocolate whey (sold individually) costs $54.95 and with approximately 37 servings, an individual portion costs $1.49.  A day’s worth (3 servings) is $4.47.

To keep things simple, our daily food cost will be just over $14 per adult and I’m using the amount $4.47 for daily whey protein consumption. I bought it as part of the package for my fitness challenge ($149.99).  This plan, for us, has a manageable food budget (compared to a food delivery service we tried not too long ago) and will be less expensive once we get into the weeks with food swaps.  Additionally, I am eager it doesn’t have a lot of meal prep; again, we tried others that wanted us to make 5-6 meals!  I’m happy to only have three meals and on-the-go snacks that don’t require significant time.

For less than $20 a day, I am fueling my body with three meals and two snacks and I’m ok with how insane this number might look to other people.  I won’t always be spending this amount of money but to get back on track with my health, I am choosing to sacrifice spending in other areas of my life which I don’t consider to be as important.


Note: In case you were wondering about my daughter, she’s got plenty to eat this week as well.  Aside from the less than $29 we spent today on school lunch sides, snacks,  and breakfast cereal bars, we also have pantry items, fresh veggies, and frozen leftovers on hand meant for her.  She eats like a champ (hardly ever indulging in soda and she mostly despises ice cream) and we ensure she gets as many nutritious meals and healthy snacks (fruit, cheese, etc.) as her little heart and stomach desire.












2007 Versus 2017: Goals, Goals, Goals

Hello, everyone.  I know New Year’s treated you well.  I spent my three-day weekend at home and enjoyed a slight decrease (much to my appreciation) in fireworks exposure.  My new neighbors don’t seem to go quite as crazy as the ones I had in the Willows neighborhood in Gilbert.  If you like fireworks, you might enjoy a stroll through this neighborhood on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve; I anticipate in a neighborhood of 586 houses so long as the Town of Gilbert permits fireworks, people will set up small fireworks shows just outside their front doors.  For today though, I’ll like to start my first 2007 versus 2017 post.

2007 was important for me because I completed my active duty service with the Marine Corps and started to explore what life beyond the Corps would look and feel like, my taste of adult freedom if you will.  I won’t say I made smart money moves back then so as we begin this new journey looking back and discussing my future in 2017, please know I will likely discuss money a lot.  My financial needs were met very well on active duty; Thomas and I did not have any kids while I was serving and we both collected a housing allowance.  Since we both served, we received one full housing allowance and the other received a partial housing allowance.  I do apologize that I do not recall the actual monetary amounts because I understand this knowledge aids our conversation greatly.  All too often, a young service member will complain about not having sufficient pay for food, housing, etc.  but for our household size and relative expenses, we always came out ahead even after I separated until we moved to Wyoming in 2009.  Stories for another day I know, but the short version is that many of our expenses, fixed and variable, remained the same and our housing allowance decreased significantly.

In 2007, I had some lofty wedding reception ambitions, as you can see from my journal entry below.  While we never ended up having our wedding reception the reality is I spent a significant amount of time planning for a costly one-day event.  On the skinny spending side, I think we were looking at $8,000 to $10,000 for the venue, a photographer, hotel rooms, travel, food, etc.  The dream was dropped before anything was booked but not until after I purchased my wedding gown (we got married through the Justice of the Peace in 2006) and picked up some small wedding related items.


My desire to control my personal finances did not truly begin until we moved to Wyoming. Our crash course in the broke life lead us to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  Being introduced to Dave Ramsey’s program through friends and their church, we made headway towards undoing the financial damage.  It’s not fun, but without the substantial housing allowance we received in California, we had to take a serious look at our finances. Throughout the years, we’ve still struggled to stay on the Dave Ramsey path so I still refer back to the books and resources.  My in-laws also added more Dave Ramsey resources to our collection.  Additionally, I kept my Financial Planning notebook from my undergraduate studies because I want to ensure I update our financial goals (i.e. retirement planning, life insurance planning, etc.) as our family needs change over time.

With my husband still in school, 2017 does not wear the carefree face our lives did in 2007.  We just don’t have that same amount of money to play with on a daily basis.  Thankfully, he has one semester of Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits to help cover expenses this semester but law school is one of those endeavors where we are bringing student loan debt into our lives.  This decision obviously strays from Dave Ramsey’s teachings.  We take steps towards self-improvement and I would prefer to not be shamed for student loan debt; I do not make enough money to fully fund law school.  We considered ASU’s Employee Reduced Tuition but the reality is 100% of that tuition reduction is taxed for graduate programs and I am already working on a tight single income, the last thing I need is more money taken out of my paycheck at this time.  Now that we have a more transparent conversation (thanks for not judging me or keeping your opinion to yourself) I would like to share personal goals for the year.

My goals are broadly categorized under personal achievements, family activities, and home improvement.  Financial planning is important to each one of these endeavors.  I am in a place to either spend money for the results or I am saving money to complete the goal.    Although I am not outlining these as SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-based) for your respective purposes as the reader, these qualities are important whenever you desire to see a goal through completion and I’m keeping these factors in mind for each goal.

In lieu of resolutions, here are my planning goals for 2017:

  1. Finish Pauline Nordine’s Butt Bible Challenge to restore fitness discipline into my life (Challenge runs January to March).
  2. Attend an adoption education event, free other than cost to get there.
  3. Add $1,000 to my daughter’s savings before the close of 2017.
  4. Pay for a one recipient’s scholarship for the Rising Stars, Desert Nights Writing Conference.
  5. Close a credit card account.
  6. Finish painting my master’s bathroom (February).
  7. Complete a family vacation (no visiting extending family).
  8. Attend a family member’s wedding.
  9. Add additional money to our emergency fund (i.e. amount will vary depending on overtime worked and additional income received this year).
  10. Finish first draft of memoir by October.
  11. Set up college fund accounts for nieces and my nephew to be born this year in lieu of gifts and clothes for Christmas.
  12. Visit family who have not seen my daughter since 2011.
  13. Set aside money for an adoption home study (approximately $1,200 to $1,800) before the end of the year. (Goal is to adopt in 2019)
  14. Replace our large bookcase with wall shelves (May/June).
  15. Purchase (1) PAX wardrobe for master bedroom (September/October).
  16. Put in Astroturf and extend patio slab (March/April).