Welcome to Just Add Lauren

If you are new around these parts, you may want to subscribe so that you won't miss anything! We have new posts added almost every day, so you never want to miss out on the new information and links available. You can Subscribe to Just add Lauren by email (once you click on the link, there is a little blue envelope that offers email delivery) or Follow in Google reader!

Please also remember to take our reader survey while you are here! I want to hear your comments and suggestions!


We've Moved!

Thank you all for being loyal readers of Just Add Lauren! I wanted to let you know about the newest project around these parts - Mommy's Getting Strong. Mommy's Getting Strong features great workout tips, health and nutrition advice, and building strength in the midst of the chaos of parenting! Check it out at http://www.mommysgettingstrong.com or on Facebook at Mommy's Getting Strong.


Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 3

This is the third week in Work On It Wednesday where we are talking about loving ourselves. If you missed the earlier posts, click on the Work On It Wednesday topic to the left and they should all come up.

I think that 2010 is a pretty hard era for women to live in, in all honesty. Although in the past women may have been more confined to traditional household roles, at this point in time we are pretty much expected to be a jack of all trades - and a master of all of them too! Instead of being June Cleaver, who was "allowed" (or forced, depending on your view) to stay home, take care of her family, and be the perfect housewife, now we are expected to be June Cleaver but with a full time corporate job that not only are we passionate about, but we are excelling in too. We aren't supposed to be stay at home mothers because we should want that career, but we also aren't supposed to work because we are supposed to be completely dedicated to our children. Basically, we can't win.

I think all of these societal and personal pressures that we place on ourselves make the situation ripe for criticism. We constantly feel like we aren't completely dedicating ourselves to any one thing, so we are not doing our absolute best in any area of our lives. It isn't possible to the dedicated housewife, mother, spouse, and career woman all in the same breath. Something has to give. Maybe that means that you aren't working a job that you are passionate about, or that you are never really going to climb the corporate ladder, because you simply don't want to. Maybe that means your house is a mess, and you don't have dinner on the table every night for your husband at 6pm sharp. Maybe it means it has taken you two years to lose your baby weight, or that you haven't had a date with your spouse alone in months. All of these things are okay, and it seems like as women we feel like we need permission to have faults.

The goal for this Work On It Wednesday is to begin to accept your limitations. Maybe you aren't ever going to have the cleanest house on the block - you know what, who cares? Your true friends that come over aren't going to, and who else really matters. Maybe there are days that you really just need a break, so you plug your kids in for a movie for a few hours. That's okay! It isn't going to hurt them. Accept your limitations, and don't beat yourself up for living your life in that way that you need. If there are things that you are not comfortable with and you feel like need changing, than ask a spouse, friend, or family member for some help. Ask for the support that you need, because people can't always see it or know how to offer their help. And be okay with asking for help, because no one can do it all alone. The biggest goal is to not beat yourself up though. At the end of the day, who are we trying to prove to that we can do it all? Only ourselves - so the sooner you can accept that you actually aren't able to do it all, the sooner that you will be in a happy mental place by asking for support from those who love you.


Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 2

Work On It Wednesday this week is a continuation of last week's theme of loving yourself. This is the second step  (in my opinion) of working toward acceptance and love of yourself - not only for your wonderful qualities, but also for those qualities that you don't love.

I was listening to a podcast the other day while I was working out that was talking about Maria Shriver's Women's Conference, and the idea of women supporting each other. Basically they were talking about how lots of times when there is a women's conference or something of the like, the speakers and concepts presented are about women's issues around the world - sexual slavery, gender inequalities, etc.  However, even though in the United States and most Western countries those things are not everyday issues, we still have "women's issues" that we need to address - and part of those issues is the practice of constantly bringing each other down.

I was talking to my father one day about the differences between men and women. He said that if you put a group of men in the same room, they will basically establish a hierarchy chain, and there will be an alpha male down to the non-alpha males. They have some more dominant males, and some less dominant ones, and don't normally question it or challenge the differences. Instead of jealousy, backstabbing, etc, they cheer each other on (for the most part) or at least recognize that some men are better at things than they are, or have better jobs, or whatever, and they move on.

Women on the other hand tend to be more jealous, and more threatened (or whatever you want to call it) by other women. Instead of being happy for a woman that has a better job or is more athletic or whatever, they tend to try and bring that person down. The biggest problem that I see with this is that by bringing each other down, we are bringing ourselves down too. Often times, the qualities that we are insulting or criticizing in others is the very ones that we are jealous of or want for ourselves. However,  by constantly comparing ourselves to those around us, who may or may not have had completely different life circumstances that got them to where they are (good or bad), we disempower ourselves to be the best YOU you can be, and bring down everyone around you when you project your insecurities onto others.

My goal this week is to do my best to stop comparing myself to those around me. Maybe I won't ever be better than everyone else around me in every single facet of my life (how would that even be possible?) but you can rest assured that there isn't one person who is the best at everything anywhere. I know that I have positive characteristics, just like each individual in the world, and the most successful, happy, and fun to be around people are the ones that highlight (not verbally...that is obnoxious) their good qualities, and cut themselves some slack with their less good qualities. Everyone has drawbacks - that is what makes us human, but to accept yourself for what you are, and try to be the best you that you can possibly be, that is where you are really going to shine and have that sparkle in you that people adore. Coming to terms with your imperfections may be a life long journey, but it is never to early (or late) to start on that journey, and work toward a happier, emotionally healthier you.


Work On It Wednesday - Loving Yourself Part 1

This week, Work On It Wednesday (coming to you on Thursday...sorry about that!) is going in a little bit of a new direction.  As I was working out yesterday, I was inspired by a podcast that I was listening to that was talking about women's issues. It covered a broad variety of topics, but the first one that I was to discuss with you is the problem with women being so critical of themselves.

I don't really have a good explanation of why this is, but I see it every single day in the women that I am around (and even in myself). We are so critical of our bodies, and so aware of every imperfection in them. Jillian Michaels was saying on the podcast that she was at a book signing where a woman came up to her and wanted her to sign her "Making the Cut" book, and the woman was talking to her about losing the "last 10 pounds." Jillian was saying that the woman was in great shape, and really didn't have a single pound to lose or need to do anything with her body, but the woman just obsessed about a tiny bit of skin on her stomach from having two children in two years. 

Basically what Jillian said, and what I agree with, is that the problem at that point is not a physical one, it is a mental and emotional one. Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of her body - like the fact that she had two healthy, beautiful children in the span of two years time, and that she had lost all of her baby weight and was really taken care of her body, she was focusing on the one tiny little aspect of herself that she wasn't happy with. What makes us so critical of ourselves? Ultimately, why do we feel this pressure to look like we are ready to be on the cover of a magazine every single day? I don't have a solid answer for it, but I presume some of it comes from the pressures of women around us, some of it comes from society and the pressures of Hollywood and all that, and some of it comes from within ourselves.

The goal for this Work On It Wednesday is to stop. Stop criticizing your imperfections. Stop only seeing the negatives of yourself - your looks, your personality, or whatever. Each person has good and bad, and your personality is a balance between those. Focus on the positives - maybe you are really athletic, or really smart, or a great mother. Maybe you have wonderful arms, or eyes, or hair, or feet. Maybe you have extra skin because you lost a lot of weight - but you are so much healthier now than you were before, and no longer have the chronic diseases associated with obesity. Appreciate your body for what it can do, and where it has gotten you so far in your life. There are always going to be things about ourselves that we don't like, but so what? Who do you know that is perfect? This week, I am going to make an effort to look in the mirror every single morning and point out something that I love about myself. To begin to appreciate those small things that we see as positives is the first step in beginning to appreciate our beauty and uniqueness as individuals - and the first step to accepting ourselves as whole.


Try It Out Tuesday - Avocados

With the 4th of July holiday coming up, and cook outs and celebrations sure to ensue, I decided that this week we would focus our Try It Out Tuesday on Avocados.  Avocados were long thought of as a food that you should eat only "occasionally" because of the relatively high fat content, but upon closer inspect recently have become listed as a super food because of the heart healthy benefits and antioxidants that they contain (in addition to their fat being the "healthy kind.")

All About Avocados

According to the research that I read in preparation for writing up this Try It Out Tuesday, avocados can sometimes because called the "alligator pear" because of the shape of the fruit and it's thick, leathery skin. I've never personally heard them called that, but some of you may be more familiar with the terminology.

Avocados are grown all over the world, from South America to the islands of the South Pacific. They are grown on trees, and when fully grown they can weigh somewhere between 8 ounces and 3 pounds (!!). Once picked, they take about 6-9 days to ripen, after which time they have a very soft, buttery texture and richness.

Nutritional Benefits

Aside from the olive, avocados have the highest monounsaturated fat content of any fruit at 20%. They also contain smaller amounts of saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. They contain three times the potassium content of a banana, as well as vitamin A, C, some Bs, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.  Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of prostate, oral, and breast cancers. In addition, they also have more lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit, which is key in fighting age related macular degeneration (which is the leading cause of age related blindness). Avocados also contain key ingredients which help with heart health, stroke prevention, and lowering your cholesterol. Finally, some research has shown that nutrients are better absorbed when eaten with avocados (although you could presume this would also apply to other foods that are high in monounsaturated fats). In one study, people that ate avocados in their salads absorbed five times the amount of carotenoids (compounds that protect against chronic diseases) than people who did not pair their salad with avocados.

Ways to Incorporate Avocados

My favorite: guacamole! Other suggestions include:

Or you could do what was common when I was traveling in South America, and just slice it up and eat it by itself! Yum!

I can't wait to try out some new avocado recipes, and maybe even be generous and bring them to a 4th of July celebration to share the healthy deliciousness! I would love for you all to share your favorite avocado recipes or uses, so leave a link or recipe in the comments section and I will be sure to check it out! Have fun adding avocados to your diet this week!

This post is part of 


Money Mondays - My Grocery Budget Part II

At the very end of May, I talked to you all about my grocery budget and my goals for the month of June in terms of tracking (and reducing) my spending. Well, the month has come and gone quickly, so now I'm back to update you on my progress and final tally.

If you remember, my May total for groceries was $530.46 and eating out was about $109, for a total monthly food budget of $639.46. I set some goals for myself for June, which were the following:

1) Reduce my grocery bill to $450 for the month

2) Reducing eating out bill to $30 for the month

3) Explore new ways to get local and healthy foods for cheaper (farmers markets, ethnic stores, etc)

4) Not compromise on quality while trying to save

I have to admit, I'm pretty pleased with the progress that I made in only one month's time, although of course there is always room for improvement, and I did not achieve all of my goals. As far as the month's tally, in total I spent $420.38 for groceries and $67.81 for eating out, which totaled $488.19! I also saved $110.03 through my use of coupons, which was a savings percentage of about 21%. The savings number actually should be a little bit higher though, as I bought a good selection of meat on sale at the commissary for "reduced pricing" (it is the meat that they need to get rid of faster) and that is not calculated into my amount saved on my commissary receipt.

If you are counting, the amount that I spent this month was $151.27 less than last month, which is a 23.6% savings over last month! I am always more inspired by the savings percentages, because it just seems like a larger chunk! It makes me pretty proud that I reduced our grocery spending by almost one fourth in only one month! 

Here were the best tips that I used to achieve this progress:

  • I did continue to use coupons. I scoured the internet for organic and healthy food item coupons, and used them on things that were already marked down (like some organic tomato sauce for about $1, and organic whole wheat pasta for about $1 as well).
  • I mapped out my meal planning for the month, and really tried to use all the meals up. I have found that often times I am really good about sticking to the meal plan at the beginning of the week, but then we branch out a little bit as I get more tired of the foods we have in the house. One way that I combatted that boredom or whatever is that I always have some of my whole wheat homemade pizza dough ready to be whipped up into a homemade pizza, which has become our standby meal for the nights we don't feel like having a big to-do dinner. This has really helped, since we haven't been going out to eat as much, and also haven't been going to the store to just pick up a few things to eat for dinner.
  • Making a grocery list - this has been invaluable to me. I've always made grocery lists, but just this month I have started really sticking to them and not throwing in a bunch of extras. Maybe we don't have as many snack foods around the house, but who is really missing them anyway?
  • I have made less cookies. This was one of my original goals, and I think I only made two batches of cookies this month. It has cut down on our milk consumption, and also cut down on our desserts consumption!
  • Taking stock of my pantry, freezer, and fridge before going to the store. This was part of Keeper of the Home's series, and I think it is something I will do every time before I go to the store for a big grocery trip. I haven't been as good about keeping up the inventory lists that I made last time, as we go through food pretty quickly and I don't really feel like crossing all the little cans of stuff that I've used off, but I definitely think that it helps me to get a handle on what we already have and don't need to buy again, and that helped me to cut down on my grocery spending a lot.

Although like I said, I am pretty happy with my progress, I also recognize that there are still some things that I need to work on in terms of getting my grocery bill to where I would really like it:

  • More vegetarian meals - we are not vegetarians by any stretch of the imagination, but cutting back on meat is one of the easiest (in my opinion, but I'm not a big meat person) and most effective ways to reduce cost on meals. 
  • Less eating out - this is really my fault more than my husbands, as a few of the "eating out" meals this month were times that I went out with friends when he wasn't around. I'd like to start doing other things instead of just getting together for lunch, which is often the easiest thing to do. Some of the ideas of Work on It Wednesday - Get Outside! would be applicable - I am going to ask my neighbor if she wants to walk the dogs together, or maybe go over to a friends for lunch instead of going out to eat. 
  • Farmer's Markets - turns out the best farmers market around here didn't really open until last weekend, so I've only been once. We were sorely unprepared (no cash or a cooler), so we'll be going back again sometime soon. I'm planning on getting more meat, so hopefully we can improve on the quality of the meat that we do eat. That is the one place that I am really unhappy with our grocery situation at the moment - we are still eating the conventional, non organic, nasty commissary meat. This wouldn't be an area that will decrease my spending, but hopefully it can even out with the other things.
  • Stop buying toiletries! Argh! As I said in Why I Quit the Grocery Game and Other Thoughts about Saving Money, I do still to some extent play the "grocery game" with my toiletries. The thing is, I have so much body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste that I really don't need anymore! We're moving soon too, so I need to stop stockpiling! I think some of that gets a little addictive, as I feel like I need to get the good deals out there. Money spent on things I don't need, even if I got them for a good price, is still wasted money. Goal for July: No more toiletries (except whatever I can buy with my leftover $6.50 in register rewards from Walgreens). 

So there is the update, my progress, and a few goals for next month. The budget for the next few months is going to be a little skewed, as we are moving in the middle of August so I'll probably stop buying groceries completely (except for maybe a few fruits and veggies) around the end of July, and force my family to eat whatever we have (anyone want some spaghetti sauce and rice for dinner?!) =) I refuse to let the massive amount of food in my walk in pantry go to waste, so I fear we'll be eating some weird meals in the upcoming weeks. That being said, I'll let you know at the end of July what kind of progress I've made, and maybe July/August will even each other out (since we'll be buying staples all over again in August in our new house).

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my progress. Have you made any changes to your grocery budget lately? I would love to hear other people's end of the month numbers for their family. If you don't mind, let me know the region that you live in, how many people you are feeding, and if you buy organic/"real" foods or not. I am (for whatever reason) really fascinated by this, so please join in and share! Also you'll give me something to aspire to, as I really have no idea how my numbers compare to anyone else!


Suggestions Wanted!

Now that I've been blogging for a few months, and have a fairly good number of subscribing and reoccurring visitors, I want to hear from you all! I am looking for suggestions, feedback, and any kind of comments you would like to submit!

Once you click the link below, a box will pop up with survey in it. Please fill it out and submit, and I will be sure and take into account all the feedback that I receive. After you submit a page will come up with a pie chart on it, which means that your entry has been sent.

As a bonus for you, each person that submits a reader survey (with actual, real comments) will be awarded an extra entry into our upcoming giveaway! You don't want to miss it, so get your surveys filled out today!

Click here to take our Reader Survey

Thank you in advance for your participation!