Cinch on a Budget

Wow!  What a busy week, and this one is not going to be any better.  So I’d better get in my blogs while I can!

We had a very nice, relaxing weekend, as is appropriate on Easter weekend.  And no, I did not have a single piece of candy!  About the only thing I actually accomplished was to plant this year’s veggie and herb garden on Saturday.  Think you don’t have space for a garden?  If you have any outdoor space whatsoever, you do.  For very small spaces, you can try a container garden, and plant veggies that are specifically labeled for containers.  With a little more space, you can carve out a little space in your yard, like me!  We have a small 1/4-acre yard, and also have 2 curious dogs, but I discovered that my fence-row makes an ideal spot for my little garden.  This year, I planted a variety of peppers, tomatoescucumbers, squash, and zucchini.  Then, I also planted a container garden with basil, thyme, cilantro, dill, and mint.  Some were grown from seeds and then re-planted outside, and others I picked up at my local Home Depot, but all in all, the plants themselves did not cost me more than $15.  I could easily spend that much in one trip to the farmer’s market!  In addition to the plants, I bought some black-plastic border to help create a sort of raised-garden, and also 3 bags of garden soil.  Total cost – $51.   I could easily spend that much in a few trips to our farmer’s market or grocery-store produce section!  So not only does growing your own veggies save money, it also gives you a great sense of pride when they are ready to harvest, and you’ll actually be excited to eat them!

As promised, I’d like to talk about following the Cinch plan on a budget.  Below are some meal ideas that I’ve been using recently, along with the breakdown of the Cinch puzzle pieces and approximate cost per serving.  Each meal is quick and easy to make, and all ingredients are readily available and inexpensive.


First up, breakfast: French Toast and a Fruit Smoothie.  For the french toast, I used 2 slices of whole wheat bread dipped in a mixture of 1/4 cup milk, 1 egg, tsp of vanilla, and a cinnamon-Truvia blend.  Cook on a skillet or griddle until lightly brown on each side.  For the smoothie, I blended some frozen berries with low-fat, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt, light orange juice, and ice. 

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: strawberries, orange juice
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat bread
  • Lean Protein:  milk, yogurt
  • Plant-based Fat:  egg
  • Time:  < 10 minutes
  • Cost:  < $2


Next up, lunch: Veggie Pizza with Fruit Salad.  For the pizza, I used a pre-made whole wheat crust lightly brushed with olive oil, a pre-made pizza sauce, a variety of veggies, and light mozzarella.  (For my husband’s half, I subbed the veggies with turkey pepperoni.)  Pineapple and strawberries with a little bit of whipped cream made a very tasty dessert.

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: tomato sauce, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onion
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat crust
  • Lean Protein:  cheese
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  < 20 minutes
  • Cost:  < $4


Now for dinner, plus 3 more to-go for lunches this week:  Grilled Tilapia over Brown Rice with Cooked Carrots and Spinach.  Tilapia is one of my favorite proteins because it’s super cheap (about $1.50 for a fresh 2-pack at Kroger), and has a very mild flavor, which makes it very versatile.  My husband grilled the tilapia, but you can also pan-fry it or bake it.  Then I cooked 2 servings of brown rice (which I’ll divide into 4 servings), steamed the carrots in the microwave, and cooked the spinach in a little olive oil in a skillet on the stove.  This one took a little longer to make than most simply due to the rice (30 minutes), but if you used minute-rice, it would be much faster.  However keep in mind that minute rice will be processed and thus spike your blood sugar.  I bought a huge bag of this brown rice at Kroger, which makes 38 servings (half-size) for about 8 cents each!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: spinach, carrots
  • Whole Grain: brown rice
  • Lean Protein:  tilapia
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  30 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.50


Saving the best for last, snack / dessert:  Light Vanilla Ice Cream with Granola and Berries.  Long ago, my husband and I discovered Kroger-brand no-sugar-added ice cream, but only recently did I discover the vanilla flavor.  Although technically, I guess you should steer clear of ice cream, and Cynthia Sass (Cinch author) is not a fan of artificial sweeteners, sometimes you really need something sweet and this really fits the bill without guilt.  The ice cream is low fat (3g per 1/2 cup) and does not have any added sugars, and yet tastes great!  I added a few berries and 1/4 cup of granola for the perfect snack!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: berries
  • Whole Grain: granola
  • Lean Protein:  dairy
  • Plant-based Fat:  dairy
  • Time:  < 2 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.00

We also made another batch of Fruit & Nut Bars, something that has become a staple in our house (see previous blogs for recipe).   They probably don’t cost much less than the store-bought variety piece for piece, but they’re much tastier, have more healthy-calories (and thus cheaper per calorie), and have a lot of un-processed vitamins and minerals.  I like to use these as pre-workout or afternoon snacks.

That’s it for today.  I’m bracing for a very busy week, but at least I’ve got lots of good meals already prepared.  =)

HUGE strawberries!

Cinch! 30-Day Recap

I just realized that I’m already at Day 30 of Cinch!  I started on New Year’s Eve, and have since done 2 rounds of Detox, roughly 2 weeks of Core, and at least 4-5 days of eating whatever I want.  I figure that’s pretty much a normal month for me, so here’s the outcome:


Starting Weight:   144 pounds  (December 28, 2010)

Current Weight:   138 pounds  (January 30, 2011)

Total Loss:   6 pounds

Next Week’s Goal:   137 pounds (February 3, 2011)



So basically I lost all my weight during Detox and then gained a few back when I started eating normally again, especially since my last few days prior to my final weigh-in were NOT diet-friendly.  That’s OK, I’m still down 6 pounds. 

Going forward, I intend to practice a modified version of the Cinch plan with a 2-3 pound weight loss goal per-month.  I will stick to the 4 small meals spaced out every 4 hours, and will try and use the puzzle pieces to build each meal, however I’ll start adding back some of my healthy favorites to complement the Cinch recipes.  One challenge I had on this plan is that it was not intended for people that workout rigorously almost every day, and thus I was not getting enough calories, and then getting hungry and over-eating after a few days.  I’ve now started adding more carbs with my breakfast and snack to counteract that problem.  Another challenge was that this is very heavy on carbohydrates and I do not usually eat that much carbs!  So I intend to keep the carbs with my first 3 meals, and then stick to produce, protein, and healthy-fats with my dinner. 

My fridge is bursting with food right now after getting lots of yummy freebies at work last week, including pureed butternut squash, mashed potatoes, steaks and burgers (for my husband), diced apples, and lots of citrus.  So I will try and use these ingredients to build my meals this week.  I don’t think I’ll need to go to the grocery again for weeks!!  Sunday is basically leftover day.  We started with French Toast, made with some stale bread and old fruit.  A perfect way to use this perfectly good food that’s no longer fit for fresh consumption:


Snack, lunch, and dinner will be similar meals made from leftover ingredients.  Here’s my plan for the next few days:

Meal Plan Time
Apple pecan breakfast pilaf (103) 7am
Butternut squash macaroni & cheese 11am
Cilantro chicken w/ avocado, blk beans (123) 3pm
Edamame cashew ginger stir fry (133) 7pm
Sugar-free chocolate coconut brownie  

Now off to prep my week’s meals.  Recipes, pics, and more coming soon.