The High Cost of Healthy Eating

As summer approaches (sort of? maybe?), I see many people getting on health kicks to get ready for bikini season. I’m not a huge water baby myself so the time I spend in a swimsuit every year is seriously limited, but I do love to go outside and enjoy the sun, and I love having the best body to do so.

I’ve been working out regularly for about 2 & 1/2 months now with mixed results.

I’m experiencing what everyone experiences on a new exercise plan: a huge amount of progress followed by a long, stagnant plateau of nothing. Every time I get stuck, I try to change something to see results again.

In my last $0 Weekend Post, I was singing the praises of the iPhone app My Fitness Pal, which alerted me to the fact that I was not getting nearly enough protein. No wonder my muscle-building was stagnating! I made some adjustments to my diet, but I’ve decided to take it one step further and follow the Blogilates 90 Challenge Meal Plan with some modifications*. I realize I won’t see perfect results by cutting corners on some items, but I’m not doing this to enter a fitness competition, I just want a better diet!

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My most descent grocery haul — almost $60!

The Blogilates Meal Plan is seriously heavy on protein, so it’s going to go over and above to solve my problem of not getting enough. There’s only one big downside:

Eating healthy is E X P E N S I V E.

And eating a protein-heavy diet is even more expensive. As a general rule I’m not one to cheap-out on food, but even I’m finding my new grocery bill hard to swallow (no pun intended!). For fun and spreadsheet-love, I actually calculated the weekly and monthly cost of following the Blogilates 90 Day Challenge Meal Plan:

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$360 a month on FOOD!

A $75/week grocery bill is big for one person, but as you can see, protein is the biggest culprit with chicken and tilapia costing nearly half of the total at $30/wk. I realize you’re looking at this and thinking there might be some places to cut costs but…

  • I know almost $5/dozen for eggs is expensive. I refuse to eat those cheap awful eggs with super pale yolks. Just no.
  • I’m loyal to 2 brands of yogurt. I cannot eat any other kind.
  • I’m limited to what grocery stores I can go to because I don’t have a car, so travelling far for marginally cheaper items doesn’t make sense. Additionally, I’m morally opposed to shopping at Walmart and all the produce at Superstore sucks.

I could elect to eat less healthy in order to save money, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I feel like you can sacrifice anything to frugality except your health. There really is no reason to go undernourished for the sake of having a few extra dollars in the bank.

o-a-place-at-the-table-570_custom-91ecc63205db5013bf502f1bc7a653eb09983583-s6-c30I’m lucky that I can afford to change my diet with my budget. I recently watched A Place At The Table, a documentary about how many Americans are underfed and malnourished — often going hungry while being morbidly obese. How is that possible? Simple:

Bad food is cheap.

Calorie-wise you get more bang for your buck when eating like garbage, which isn’t right and certainly isn’t good. While the film highlighted poor Americans that couldn’t actually afford to eat better, I think there is some conversation to be had about what we perceive is reasonable to spend on food. Food accounted for 30% of household spending in 1950, and now is down to only 13%. We don’t want to spend a lot of money on food anymore because we want to spend it elsewhere: houses, cars, leisure, etc. Not ok!

Culturally, we have a disconnected, inconsistent, and often toxic relationship with our food.

And while I’m not as interested in food culture as I am consumer culture, I really did enjoy a few books by Michael Pollan on the topic (though he’s a little too hardcore veg for me).

Ultimately I just want to eat food that will be used as fuel for my body. Whatever makes me stronger and healthier is going into my grocery basket and onto my plate — even if it’s a little bit more expensive.

What do you think is reasonable to spend on groceries?

 

*For those interested in my modifications to the Blogilates diet this is what I’m changing:

  • Keeping my yolks in my eggs! I’m not eating only egg whites, yuck.
  • No protein shakes because synthetic food weirds me out.
  • Sometimes I’ll eat only 1 chicken breast or tilapia filet per day, because let’s be real, 2 per day is just too much of the same thing.
  • Making up for some of the deficiency in skipping 1 chicken/tilapia per day by 1) adding 1-2 tbsp of ground flax seed to my oatmeal and 2) adding 1-2 tbsp of hemp hearts to my salad 3) eating hard-boiled eggs with my salad or by themselves.
  • Making up for caloric deficiency of skipping the protein shake and one meat portion by consuming extra veg (mostly baby carrots, cucumber, and steamed asparagus) or extra fruit (berries, apples, bananas), extra eggs, and snacking on things like the energy bites I listed the recipe for in this $0 weekend post or nuts & seeds.

Should You File An Amended Return?

This tax season came and passed but you managed to get your taxes done just in time. However, before you could kick back and relax you realized that something was not right. Maybe you got a new W2 in the mail or you realized you could have saved money if you changed your filing status. It’s something that happens to the most careful taxpayers and sometimes it is out of your control. That is why the IRS allows you to amend your return in order to fix the mistakes you made the first time around.

If you do realize that you made a mistake or could have saved more money, don’t just chalk it up to bad luck and wait for the following year. If your mistake causes an inaccurate tax return, you could get in trouble with the IRS. If you could have saved money, don’t waste an opportunity to get that money back.

When to Amend

There are several reasons you might want to file for an amended return. Here are a few things that, if forgotten, should definitely alert you that an amendment is in order:

  • You forgot to claim an additional dependent. Maybe you didn’t realize your elderly aunt who lives with you qualifies as a dependent or maybe you got caught up in replicating your return from last year and you forgot about your new born child! Either way, a dependent can be a significant tax deduction. Conversely, if a child moves out or no longer qualifies you should remove them as a dependent. If you don’t, the IRS will have an issue.
  • Reporting the right filing status is very important. For instance, if you are a single mother with dependents, you should probably be filing as a head of household rather than a single. The right filing status may make you eligible for more deductions.
  • If you receive a new or updated W2 that would change the amount of income you claimed you need to file an amendment. Incorrect or inaccurately reported income is a major red flag for the IRS and may trigger an audit.
  • Forgetting to add or make changes to deductions is an appropriate reason to review your taxes and amend them. You might be overpaying by large margins. Also, if the deductions you did claim are inaccurate this also needs to be corrected.

How to Amend

When you amend you tax returns pay close attention to the details. The IRS will go over an amended return more closely and with more scrutiny than a regular return. To amend your return first you must fill out a new long Form 1040 and be careful not to leave out any necessary information or documents.

Next fill out your 1040X. Make sure you have your original and your new 1040 close by as you complete the 1040X; they need to match line by line. After you are finished, explain your changes on the Part III section. Use simple and clear language but don’t leave out any necessary information.

If you need help or if you are confused about this or any other tax process, contact a professional. Levy & Associates is a group of professional tax specialists who may be able to help with your tax issues. Don’t leave money behind and don’t leave errors in your return. If you made a mistake or left something out, fix it before the IRS fixes it for you.

MBA Year 1: dollars, hours, spreadsheets

As I’m wrapping up the end of my first year in the MBA program today (writing my Management Accounting final exam during the exact hours of my cousin’s bridal shower this Saturday afternoon, thank you University of Calgary), I was able to pull together a summary of what it cost to attend. Money first, because I know that’s what you really care about:

Costs

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GMAT – $250 USD (in early 2013 the dollar was about on par so counting this as $250 CAD)
Application – $100 CAD
Tuition & fees  - $19,908.42 CAD
Textbooks & cases – $973.75 CAD
Other (software, exam fees) – $204.83 CAD

Total: $21,437

In leaving my job to go back to school full-time, I’ve missed out on approximately $50,000 in lost income over the past 8 months, as well as gave up all my employer benefits, including employer-matching retirement contributions. To say I’ve made a lifestyle adjustment is only part of the story… I would say I don’t even recognize my life anymore ;) The financial blow to my bank account has been softened by a generous entrance scholarship to the program, plus money earned blogging which has allowed me to survive (on bare, bare minimum!) while attending school.

I had previously expected a big fat income tax refund for only working full-time 3/4 of 2013 and paying so much in tuition, but fortunately/unfortunately freelance writing and blog income was high enough to eat up the bulk of my income tax refund. What I thought would be in excess of $5,000 ended up being only $1,600 =( While the MBA is not more expensive or costly than I expected, it does feel much different to live it than simply see the numbers on paper!

Classes:

  • Human Resources
  • Financial Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Economics
  • Management Information Systems
  • Decision Modelling
  • Operations Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Business Strategy
  • Business Law & Ethics

I’ve enjoyed most but not all of my program courses. My favourites were as expected: Economics and Finance. I unexpectedly enjoyed Operations Management, found both Accounting classes a total bore, and Marketing was fun but challenging. I’ve learned a lot and have had some really great professors in the past 8 months.

Additional Work

I completed the Wall Street Prep Program, volunteered every Monday evening since January, participated in case competitions, and attended a bunch of Saturday seminars on various business topics. It was exactly what it should have been: a very exhausting, very good time.

As we go into the summer, I’m tentatively registered for 2 spring classes. Depending on my work situation and other costs, I may or may not keep them:.

(Sometimes it’s easier to lump a class into the regular Fall/Winter term and just pay the fees when you’re taking 4 or 5 classes, instead of paying them for 1 class then again when you take the rest)

On the whole, I’m totally burnt out and ready for a rest, but proud of what I’ve accomplished. While I can’t wait to be done with the whole thing, I’m looking forward to the summer off so I can rest from the books for a bit!

The $0 Weekend

Here it is, another way to spend your free time without spending your money ;)

The $0 Weekend

PicFrame1. Download the My Fitness Pal app and find out where you’re nutritionally deficient.

Or at least that’s what I’m using it for. After a few months of working out at home I feel I’ve kind of plateaued when it’s come to building muscle, and now after tracking my food, I’m thinking it might be because I’m not eating enough protein! Which isn’t wholly surprising because I eat mostly a vegetarian diet. I’m adding chicken breasts every day to make up for it. While it’s tedious to input your foods to the app, once you have your regulars in you just check them off and it does the tracking for you, not just calorie-wise, but macronutrients plus major vitamins.

healthy-energy-bites-tall2. Make this super delicious, super healthy peanut butter protein balls

I did just tell you I wasn’t eating enough protein, and my second remedy after grilled chicken is this delicious recipe for no bake energy bites. I add some cocoa powder because the only better than peanut butter is peanut butter and chocolate. After finding this recipe, it quickly replaced my chocolate-cake-in-a-mug as my go-to TV snack, and I think my waistline is thanking me for it! I left out the chia seeds because I couldn’t find them at my local grocery store, but I’m going to try again later this week since they seem to be a popular item in the health food blogging community. (Do you guys love how there is just blogs for everything? I can’t believe how narrow some of the niches are, but I dig)

SuperGirlPlank3. Do planks until you cry

If you follow me on instagram you may have witnessed that after weeks of pain and suffering, I now possess abs of steel. Do I want to share my secret? No, I would rather be a mysterious athletic person. Will I? Yes, because if you’re willing to do the BodyRock.tv workout, you deserve it too. Check out this Abs Now! Workout, and then for lolz read the comments about people bragging about doing it in less than 25mins, darn over-achievers. I’m still waiting for the weather to get nice enough for me to run (there is a few inches of snow on the ground here right now, I kid you not) but at least after weeks and weeks and weeks of lunges, I know I’m ready.

4. Plant some garlic.

Why not? It’s super easy and if you’re anything like me, you eat it in a number of meals every week.  I found easy instructions here. Maybe planting something will make it feel like spring even if the snow refuses to go away!

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 4.46.53 PM 5. Get into Game of Thrones already.

It always surprises me that some people still haven’t gotten deeply, desperately, obsessed with GoT, so if you’re one of the few stragglers left now is the time to jump on the bandwagon. Having watched all 3 seasons and now am keeping up with the 4th on Sunday nights, I’ve taken my fan fanaticism to a new level and am almost done the first book. I’m hoping to read ahead of the TV series this summer so I can be semi emotionally prepared for every episode.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Tips For Saving On Car Insurance Rates

Naturally, every driver wants to save money on their car insurance bill. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this. Check out a few helpful tips for someone who is looking to insure a car at the lowest possible rate.

One thing that a person can do to save money is to drive a car with an excellent reputation for safety. Not surprisingly, there are some cars that are less safe than others. Cars go through elaborate tests to see how well they endure in the event of a crash. A person who owns a car with a reputation for being safe will likely pay a lower rate than someone who owns a car without this reputation. Today, a person may be able to purchase a car with a backup camera and other features that contribute to safe driving. Also, people who own older cars often pay higher rates to insure their vehicles. This is because some older cars have fewer safety features such as complete seat belts and airbags. It makes sense in many different ways to invest in a newer vehicle.

Another thing a person can do to insure a car at a low rate of payment is to maintain a clean driving record. A person can drive in a defensive way in order to avoid some accidents. For instance, a driver should come to a complete stop at every four way stop. This may help the driver to avoid someone who rushes through the intersection without regard to other cars. Another effective defensive driving tactic is to pause a few moments before starting forward after a traffic light changes green. Certainly, a person should follow basic safety practices such as always wearing a seat belt and not texting while in the car. Of course, there are some accidents that cannot be avoided. But, a driver does has some level of control over his or her own actions and driving habits.

Finally, families with one or more teenage drivers can save on insuring their car in a unique way. Sometimes if the teenagers maintain really good grades at school, the family can get a discount on insuring a car. This is a great incentive for teenagers to do better at school. If they are paying the expenses for their own car, teenagers have extra motivation to do well in their classes. A family should check with its insurer to inquire about this special discount.