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Dollar Diet: Week 46, road trip to Auckland

As Chip and I spent much of the past week staying with friends in Auckland, it’s been a rather odd week in terms of finances and saving money.

We saved money by staying for free with our friends, and enjoyed several meals and outings thanks to these great hosts.  Chip and I enjoyed an amazing catered birthday party (complete with toys and bouncy castle for the tots), and a trip to the local aquarium.  We ate at home as much as possible (I made myself useful by cooking as much as I was allowed to, and left my heavily pregnant friend with some freezer meals), and I took Chip on a couple of outings to the local playground.  When travelling I took my own food when possible, and stuck to free activities such as playgrounds.

totsintawhero

Chip making friends at the party

Chip making friends at the party

Having fun at the Taupo Domain playground

Having fun at the Taupo Domain playground

So there was plenty of free and frugal stuff in there.  I’m loving having Chip all to myself while his Dad and sister are in the Netherlands, and my baby has learned to walk in the short time they’ve been away.

On the more expensive side, I did spend money on a night’s accommodation on the way up to Auckland, petrol, a few meals on the road, and a trip to Auckland zoo which is not cheap.  My friend’s daughter and Chip had a ball at the zoo though, and Chip got to see so many animals in the flesh for the first time.  Another surprising expense was having to buy snacks.  I don’t normally need snacks during the day, but as I was staying with friends I ate what they ate at most meals.  After two days of eating bread, I was starving!  I ran out and bought jerky and cheese sticks which filled the gap nicely.

Investigating a rock pool at the zoo

Investigating a rock pool at the zoo

Chip with his 'Auntie' and 'cousin'

Chip with his ‘Auntie’ and ‘cousin’

Normally I would go mad at the zoo gift shop getting cool stuff for the kids, but I restrained myself and bought a $3 poster for Chip’s room.

If I were to do our trip over again, I would have taken more picnic food for the trip.  We ate at McDonald’s a couple of times just so we could use their indoor playground (it was raining), but honestly, Chip and I would both prefer a free local playground and some egg sandwiches over Maccas any day.

Chip was an absolute champ.  He travelled well – slept most of the way!  He charmed everyone with his antics, slept like a dream and was generally a world-class traveller who took it all in his stride.  Thanks buddy.

What am I doing Mum?  Oh, just making sure all the attention goes on me...

What am I doing Mum? Oh, just making sure all the attention goes on me…

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Taking Trim Healthy Mama on the road

I mentioned the other week that my husband is taking our eldest child to the Netherlands to visit relatives, while 1 year-old Chip and I stay home.  It’s not strictly true, as Chip and I will be taking a little road trip up to Auckland.

We’re visiting a dear friend who is due to have her second baby at the end of September, so we will be there to celebrate my friend’s birthday and have a little shower for the new baby.  I’m hoping to make myself useful while I’m there, filling her freezer with meals, and babysitting her toddler while she rests or gets in a few date nights with her husband before baby no. 2 arrives.

It’s a 5-and-a-bit hour drive to Auckland, and as I don’t want to inflict a long journey on my active boy, he and I will stop overnight somewhere there and back.

All this means I will have to take Trim Healthy Mama on the road.  Holidays are always a tricky time and can spell the end of many a diet.  Well, it has been for me, at any rate.  In the past I have tended to think ‘all bets are off’ while I’m on holiday, and spend my time enjoying whatever the local cuisine is.  I had to modify this when I became sugar-free, as even a small bit of sugar makes me feel terrible, and who wants to feel awful on holiday?  Still, holidays still seduce me to be more indulgent that usual (Hot chips? Yes please!).

Fortunately THM is reasonably transportable, and I feel confident that I will be okay.  While we are travelling I can self-cater, and will be taking eggs, greek yoghurt, fruit, tuna and a bag of quinoa/rice blend with me.  I imagine I will be eating a lot of chicken salad for lunch and dinner.

While I am staying with friends I will make sure I have plenty of THM food in the house, and will be volunteering to make lunch and dinner while my friend puts her feet up.  My friend is quite interested in THM so I will take the opportunity to introduce her to some dishes, plus it’s a great way to be able to control what I eat.

I will be making a couple of THM dishes for the baby shower to ensure there is something I can eat.  The only challenge I can foresee is eating out while we are out-and-about.  Most places do meat and salad, but I may have to get creative if the only place around is a sandwich bar.  At the same time, I don’t want to be all Militant Mary; that’s not my style.  Basically if I have a meal or two that is off-plan I’m not going to sweat it.

Wish me luck!

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Dollar Diet: Week 45, hey you sweet thing

So many delicious things

So many delicious things

I got together with some lovely friends for a sugar-free baking sharing session.  It was great to have so many people expressing an interest in reducing the amount of sugar in their diets.  We all made a couple of recipes each, and bought them for everyone to try to see if it was something their family might like to eat.  We had several kids in tow so many of the recipes can now be certified kid-friendly.

A sharing session like this is great if you are a ‘sugar-freer’, for several reasons.

1) Many sugar-free recipes are REVOLTING.  Like, oh-my-god-get-this-abomination-outta-my-mouth-now revolting.  This is a great opportunity to try a wide range of recipes and see what ones you actually like, without wasting your time and money.

2) Sugar-free ingredients can be expensive.  Alternative sweeteners can be costly, as can other ingredients beloved by those who create SF recipes.  There’s nothing more annoying than spending lots of money on cacao nibs and chia seeds, only to find the end result is not your cup of tea.  A sharing session is a great way to know whether a certain ingredient is worth your financial investment.

3) It’s a great time to educate others on the benefits of sugar-free living.  I can hold court about not eating sugar for hours if allowed, but I seldom get the chance.  🙂  At the sharing session I was asked all sorts of questions, and gave my opinion on the best alternative sweeteners.  The others were very interested in just how much not eating sugar has transformed my life – for example, I seldom need snacks or spend much mental energy thinking about food anymore – and they were keen to give it a real go.  It’s also a great opportunity to let others know what recipes are really sugar free.  There are many recipes out there claiming to be sugar free, but when you read the list of ingredients it has a cup of agave syrup or 2 cups of honey.  Yeah, not quite the real deal.

I made a batch of Sarah Wilson’s ‘oreo cookies’ (which are quite nice, but in no way taste anything like the original in case you wondered), and some chocolate/nut balls (which do have dates in them, but are a treat that will please everyone).  I came home with a reasonable haul of goodies which disappeared over the next few days, so it was well worth the effort.

Many people would like to give being sugar-free a go, but starting just feels too hard.  A little sharing session like this might just be a delicious tipping point.