KITCHEN HACKS TO SAVE MONEY & TIME
Kitchen Hack #1
Store tomatoes with the stems facing down to keep them from spoiling as fast. They’re also better at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator – so leave them stem down on the counter-top for a longer life.
Kitchen Hack #2
Instead of flipping your veggies half-way through roasting, leave the baking sheet in the oven while it’s preheating. This preheats the pan as well, so when you add your veggies they will cook on both sides more evenly and quickly.
Kitchen Hack #3
Have you ever stuck your hand in the silverware drawer and gotten an unexpected poke from a knife? Take those old wine corks and place one on the top of each knife while they’re being stored to keep your hands protected. Or get a Bamboo Knife Dock.
Kitchen Hack #4
Keep bananas from spoiling too fast by wrapping the end of the bunch with plastic wrap. Even better, separate the bananas and wrap each stem to make them last even longer.
Kitchen Hack #5
Have you ever wondered how you could tell if an egg has spoiled? Try this – put an uncooked egg in a bowl of cold water – if it sinks, it’s still good, if it floats, toss it.
Kitchen Hack #6
Speed up your herb chopping process with a pizza cutter! Get your herb bunch ready on the cutting board and roll a pizza cutter in different directions. This chops herbs thoroughly.
Kitchen Hack #7
Apple slicers certainly make apple cutting a breeze, but have you ever thought to use it for potatoes, as well? Use your apple slicer to get white or sweet potatoes into long chunks. You can have fresh, homemade sweet potato fries cut perfectly within minutes!
Grocery Store Tips
If you’re heading to the supermarket with a half-baked plan of what you need -- don’t. Doing this is the perfect storm for a grocery cart full of unnecessary items, and a receipt a mile long. Before you go – make up a menu for the week and then create your shopping list from what you need on your menu! Trust me – you’ll spend less time and money at the store.
When creating your weekly menu – think about large meals you can make that you can later eat for a few days (dinner one night, lunch two days later, etc.). It might seem like a chore at first, but it pays off big in saving both time and money. When you prep your meals, you free up a LOT of time you’d spend scurrying around during the week.
No more running late. No more being too tired to cook something delicious and nutritious. Plus, you’re less likely to waste food when you have everything organized and ready to go.
Spending little time up front planning and organizing will give you back more time later to enjoy for yourself. Take a look at your kitchen. Are the cabinets messy? Are the pots and pans here and there? Do you know where everything is? Do you have things you never use? Organize everything so that it’s easy to find. You’ll never waste time in the kitchen again when you do!
More Grocery Store Tips
Have you heard this – Shop the Perimeter? This means, when you’re in the supermarket stay away from the center aisles whenever possible.
All supermarkets follow the same basic layout. Around the perimeter, you’ll see fresh foods like produce, seafood, eggs, meats and dairy. The good stuff! The internal aisles display those colorful shelf-stable pre-packaged food-like-items. Keep to your list when you need to go into the interior, items such as dried beans or rice. This way you won’t cave and wind up with a cart full of cookies and chips!
Here’s another tip. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. They will be fresher, priced lower, more abundant, and taste better! Here is where you can be flexible in your meal planning and swap out one vegetable for another, focusing on what’s in season.
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Whoa, do I have a good post for you today!😊
I’ve got an excellent mini-quiz to give yourself a check-up on how well you’re doing with self-care and your answers may surprise you!
February is all about the HEART. I mean, Valentine’s Day is just a few days away! Plus, in the United States, it also happens to be Heart Awareness month. Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and in many other countries around the world, including Australia and major parts of Europe.
Here’s another super shocking stat. According to the American Heart Association, about 80% of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented. That’s amazing, right? EIGHTY PERCENT!!!!
That’s why this assessment is SO IMPORTANT. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re cruising along in some areas of your self-care, but maybe need a little improvement in others. This quiz isn’t about being perfect; it’s just about taking great care of yourself because you and your heart deserve it!
Ready for the quiz?
Grab a pen and paper and write down your answers to these questions….
How are you doing in the eating department? Are you eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes mostly unprocessed foods? Do you cut back on foods that are high in sugar, and instead eat a mostly plant-based diet with healthy fats and proteins? (example - large green salad with grilled chicken and avocado)Take a second to think about what you have eaten over the past week, all the meals plus any snacks you’ve eaten.
What grade would you give yourself on this, on a scale of 1-5? Are there some things you can easily change to boost your grade?
Here’s how to keep score:
If 20% or less of your meals were healthy, give yourself a 1
If about 20-40% of your meals were healthy, give yourself a 2
If about 40-60% of your meals were healthy, give yourself a 3
If about 60-80% of your meals were healthy, give yourself a 4
If 80% or more of your meals were healthy, give yourself a 5
Remember, this isn’t about being perfect, it’s just about seeing what you’re ACTUALLY doing on a daily basis. Write down your score, or at least remember it, because you’re going to need it later.
Exercise and Daily Movement. Nearly every health organization recommends you get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week for heart health. You can rack up your minutes over a day, or you can get it done all at once. This could be walking, doing a workout, dancing, gardening, or anything else that keeps you moving.
Here’s how to score your activity:
Let’s count 20 minutes or more of INTENTIONAL exercise (a brisk walk counts) as an activity for this quiz!
If you’ve only been active 1 day in the last week, give yourself a 1
If you’ve been active for 2 days in the last week, give yourself a 2
If you’ve been active for 3 days in the last week, give yourself a 3
If you’ve been active for 4 days in the last week, give yourself a 4
If you’ve been active for 5 or more days in the last week, give yourself a 5
Now, give yourself a score on a scale of 1-5
Sleep! Studies show that getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night regularly is linked with all kinds of ailments that are tied to heart disease, like stress, inflammation, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re not, is there anything you can do to make it happen? Do you need to go to bed earlier, or create a nighttime routine, or take some other action? It’s amazing how much better you feel when you get a great night’s sleep!
To give yourself a score, for each day in the last 5 days that you’ve gotten 7 or MORE hours of sleep, give yourself a point! (up to 5 points total)
Meditation / Prayer / Gratitude Practice. Studies show these practices can help your heart health. Do you spend at least a couple minutes a day focused on reducing stress and feeling grateful?
This can take a lot of forms. It can be simply sitting and breathing, praying, taking a walk in nature, or journaling. To give yourself a score, for each day in the last 5 days where you’ve done some form of prayer, meditation, or gratitude practice ... give yourself a point! (up to 5 points total).
Know Your Numbers! When was the last time you had your blood pressure and cholesterol checked? This is good to know for everyone, but it’s especially important if you’re over 40. It’s definitely worth asking your doctor about!
To give yourself a score,
Give yourself a 1 if you have NO idea what your numbers are
Give yourself a 3 if you’ve had your #’s checked within the last 3 months
Give yourself a 5 if you’ve had your #’s checked in the last 30 days
And last but not least, smoking! I’m not going to lecture you, because you already know the deal. If you do smoke, I highly encourage you to ask your doctor about help with quitting! There are so many avenues available nowadays to make it a little less challenging and the payoff is definitely worth it.
Scoring: No gray area on this one- if you’ve smoked anything even a single cigarette in the past 7 days, give yourself a zero. If you haven’t, give yourself a 5.
OK … so the areas we went over are nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress-reduction, as well as knowing your most recent health stats.
Add up all your scores. The highest possible score is 30. What number did you get? How did you do?! If you scored over 25, that’s amazing! Good for you!😊
If you gave yourself a score below 25, chances are you’ve got an area or two you want to work on to bring your overall number up.
Remember, it’s not about passing a quiz, but about feeling healthier, more energized and getting the most out of your days!
Maybe you’re doing wondrous with sleep and exercise, but you want to improve in the areas of nutrition or the stress-relief. Or vice versa.
It’s time to come up with an action plan! As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t about being perfect, but coming up with strategies to make self-care an enjoyable part of your lifestyle … and taking great care of your heart!
If you're anything like me, a late-night snack is something that comes to mind often- especially when I have a hard time sleeping. When most think of snack foods, they think of the "not so healthy" snacks are the only ones enjoyable BUT before you take another bite of a "not so healthy" late-night snack...
Here are a few of my favorite healthy snack options for a mindful late-night snack:
Apple or Banana Slices with Nut or Seed Butter
To set yourself up for a great night's sleep, try having banana or apple slices with your favorite nut butter or seed butter. Bananas are rich in an amino acid called L-tryptophan. Through a process of steps, this amino acid gets converted into melatonin, which is the hormone that is responsible for giving us a good quality sleep at night. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds also contain high levels of this amino acid, so butters from these nuts and seeds would be great choices. Almonds contain high levels of magnesium, which is an essential mineral that can help you relax and fall asleep easier.
Almond-Milk Yogurt with Berries
Pair some unsweetened, plain almond milk yogurt with your favorite berries for a sweet but low-sugar snack. Almond yogurt has protein and will keep you satisfied before falling asleep. A great trick is to use frozen berries and heat them in a saucepan until they begin to burst and release liquid. When you stir these warmed berries into your yogurt, your yogurt will be flavored with the taste of berries without the added sugars that store-bought flavored yogurts contain! Plus, berries are great low-sugar fruits and don't have many calories. If you want to sweeten it up for a bit more of a late-night treat, you can add a teaspoon of raw honey or pure maple syrup.
You might be wondering why anyone would reach for chickpeas to satisfy their late-night cravings, but they really are delicious and crunchy when roasted! You can change the flavors, like adding spicy chili flakes to cinnamon and raw sugar. They're even tasty with a bit of salt. Just rinse a can of organic chickpeas, pat them dry, season them and place them in the oven at 350°F/175°C for around 45 minutes. You can store them in an airtight container for a few days and always have a crunchy, healthy snack to grab. They're packed with protein and have fewer calories than roasted nuts.
No more reaching for that tub of ice cream to satisfy your late-night sugar cravings! Banana "nice" cream is a much healthier alternative as it only has natural sugars from fruit and no artificial flavors or added sugars. It is a low-calorie alternative to ice cream with way less "junk", and you can make the flavor anything you want. If you're a chocolate lover, add a tablespoon of raw cacao powder, blend it with two frozen bananas, and add some dark chocolate chips to top it off. If you see that the consistency is too thick to blend properly, add a splash of your favorite nut milk.
What's your typical go-to snack?
Hey Everyone. Most of you know that I had a roller coaster ride the past couple of years. I had a lot of ups and downs with many lifestyle changes. Through it all, once I changed my mindset, I finally found a peaceful place, especially in my career choices. Before, I have always felt a level of uncertainty and doubt. It happens to the best of us.🤷🏼♀️ Anywho, let's discuss the reason for this blog post since a lot has changed in a short matter of time, everyone is asking, "what have you been up to lately."
Most individuals who follow me on social media know that I owned a brick and mortar insurance agency. I had a wonderful time and even won an award with Suburban Essex Magazine. You can click here to see the article (not the greatest photo), as the Insurance agent of the year in 2017. But, I was starting to feel worn out, and my health was feeling the brunt of it. You can see in the photo that I was not feeling well that day. At the end of 2018, with deep reflection, I decided to close the agency and believed I would never look back, or even consider insurance again. To me, nothing screamed excitement concerning insurance. 🤦♀️ My passion has always been in the health and wellness field. At the very beginning of my journey, I worked as a preschool teacher with different schools in the community, teaching classes in health education and healthy habits curriculum. By far, the most enjoyable experience, and if the opportunity presented itself, I would do it again. IN A HEARTBEAT!
From there, I went on a hiatus while going to school, and also recovering from ongoing health issues. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to keep up with my passion and consider a career as a health coach. After I received my degree in psychology, I thought this was the best option to complement my degree. Of course, if you know me, I then went on to earn more certifications in the health & wellness field (what can I say, I LOVE to RESEARCH, READ, and LEARN). And just when I thought I had everything figured out, I got the bright idea to learn insurance and go for not one but ALL the insurance licensing needed to start a brand new career. Why? 🤷🏼♀️ When the opportunity presents itself, I like to take risks, think outside the box, and give it a try. Funny though, the goal immediately was to focus on something completely different... employee benefits and combine it with workplace wellness options for companies. Instead, I went into a completely different direction, I opened an agency with a carrier, and took off like a bat out of hell. It was a great ride, but going back to the beginning of this story, I took a step back for my financial and emotional well-being. It was the best choice at the time. Now, looking back, it was also not just the best choice but the right choice too! 😊
Now, let's flash forward...
What did I do when I closed the agency? Well, if you have been a part of my tribe, you know, I went back to school to earn a degree when another golden opportunity presented itself. During one semester, my professor contacted me to see if I was interested in helping her set up her courses on a virtual platform, grade, and create lesson plans as a teaching assistant. Why wouldn't I say YES! (GOING TO KEEP THIS PART SHORT) This week marks the 4th semester as an Instructional Leader on her team, with the luxury of working from home. So, I had a lot of time to debate other avenues to embark on with my time. AND then the light bulb went off, Why let all the hard work in obtaining my licensure go to waste? I started in insurance for employee benefits and workplace wellness options. Right? WHY NOT just DO IT with my own company? I have the time, knowledge, and resources. I can't take full credit for the light bulb going off. My husband motivated me to stop letting fear get in the way. So, that is when Alison James & Associates along with JAC Wellness Solutions became something more than just names and domains purchased years ago.
Today, I am working as an insurance broker for my own company, while strategizing on merging the two companies to help other companies with their FINANCIAL WELLNESS along with their EMPLOYEES HEALTH and WELLNESS. Employee Benefits with Workplace Wellness Incentives are in the works for later this year.
Alison James also specializes in personal and commercial insurance solutions. Check out our website here ---> alisonjassoc.com
CLICK HERE---> if you would like more information about workplace wellness options
Check out some photos from my earlier insurance days...
If you know me, you know I joke all the time about the cheesiness (even though I love watching) of Hallmark Christmas movies or my all-time favorite soap opera during the holiday season (Days of our Lives) when someone always gets their Christmas Miracle.
If you follow my story, you know earlier this year, I was diagnosed with an inner ear imbalance called Meniere's Disease. Surprisingly, the doctor discovered that a bone in my inner ear did not grow correctly, which in the past was never detected. Due to this abnormality, fluid builds up in my ear, creating havoc in the vestibular system. Before this discovery, it was a rough few months dealing with balance issues, constant vertigo with sporadic drop attacks (falling to the ground while conscious)hearing loss, and tinnitus with extreme sensitivity to sounds. I was taking medications every day with back-to-back days in bed. In October, I was fortunate to meet with a specialist in Wayne, New Jersey. And, after a series of tests, she FINALLY put all the puzzle pieces together. We discussed different treatment options from injections in the ear, daily medications, surgeries, or various lifestyle changes.
I chose to go with making lifestyle changes before trying any new medications or procedures. I started a low sodium diet by tracking my daily sodium intake. I also upped my water intake drastically, cut down to 1 cup of coffee per day, and decided to eat more fruits and vegetables while eliminating dairy products. I also researched the benefits of green tea(natural diuretic) dandelion tea and different vitamin protocols. 🥑🍏🥦🍄🍎
When you start to keep track of the foods that you eat daily, you will have lots of AH-HA moments. One of the first foods I discovered that was the culprit of making my symptoms worse was my favorite dried seaweed snack. I was in shock, but a little disappointed in myself because I ALWAYS check food labels. I am the one that takes my family and friends to the grocery store to teach them how to read labels.
I mean, HELLO, my degree in Health Education & Promotion, has a strong focus on Dietetic courses. I also TEACH well-being strategies to college students, lesson learned!🤦♀️ When I flipped the back and read the sodium amount- I was eating a whopping 830 mg of sodium in one serving. No wonder I had fluid and inflammation in my ears. 🤷♀️
LONG STORY SHORT.......
Before I went to the last check-up for the year, I was nervous about the hearing exams, along with performing the balance tests and even more scared to receive the results. In October, I learned that I lost 50% of my hearing, which put me in a downward spiral of "feeling sorry for myself." I also failed every single balance test. My health was going down the sinkhole fast.
BUT, my doctor was encouraging and firm, stating that I was at an age where some of the damage could be reversible with drastic changes in my lifestyle. So, I added fitness, increased my faith, and incorporated healthier foods to my protocol, and on December 13th, I received my Christmas miracle ( because I put in the work) with 25% of my hearing back, my balance still a little wobbly, BUT the clearance to get back to the gym, exercise, and even dare I say, try something completely out of my box when it comes to fitness next year. ( We will see, I have some goals)
MORAL OF THE STORY: Never Stop Believing in YOURSELF. The "Miracles" in movies can come true in your life if you have faith & put in the work to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
CHEERS TO A HAPPY & HEALTHY NEW YEAR! 🥂
HAVE YOU CHECKED YOUR GUT LATELY?
If you’ve been feeling bloated, then you have that gut feeling you need to eliminate the toxins that are causing the icky feeling in your body. It’s not always easy picking which path to take to cleanse your body for the results needed. However, I’ve made it super easy with my Epic 24 Gut Check.
I don’t believe in deprivation, so you will not feel deprived in any way. You’ll feel quite the opposite.
The reality is, no matter how "clean" we eat, we live in a very toxic world. Before we even open our mouths to take a bite of food, we are exposed to vehicular and industrial pollution in the air and toxins in our cleaning products, and cosmetics. Not to mention the havoc wreaked on the body by stress. So, the question is not ‘am I toxic?’ but rather ‘how toxic am I?’
Are you ready to eliminate the "junk" that cause weight gain, brain fog, loss of sleep, loss of mental clarity, and fatigue?
Here’s my Epic 24 Gut Check
Upon Waking Drink:
Morning Lemon Elixir
1 cup warm or room temp water
Juice from 1 lemon
Pinch of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon raw honey OR a couple of drops of stevia
Breakfast: Blueberry Smoothie Bliss
1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut/cashew or rice milk
½ cup frozen or fresh, organic wild blueberries
½ cup spinach
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon flax meal or chia seeds
Pinch of cinnamon
Stevia or raw honey to sweeten
Snack: 10 almonds and 1 apple
Lunch: Mixed Salad
2 cups mixed greens or spinach, chopped
½ cup carrot, chopped
½ cup cucumber, chopped
1 cup artichokes (BPA free, canned in water)
1 avocado, cubed
¼ cup seed of your choice
Handful parsley, chopped
Handful basil, chopped
Chop vegetables and mix in a large bowl. Top your salad with avocado and seeds. Drizzle with dressing of choice.
Snack: ½ avocado w/ tomato with dash of seasoning of choice
Dinner:Carrot Ginger Soup
4 cups chopped carrots
6 cups bone broth or water
1 medium onion, minced
2-inch nub ginger root, peeled and grated
Sea salt to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, dill, or cilantro
Put carrots, ginger, and onion in a pot with broth. Bring to boil then cover and reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and put everything in a blender or food processor to purée. Serve hot topped with fresh herbs.
Evening: Immune Boosting Ginger Elixir
1 cup warm or room temp water
Juice from ½ lemon
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or 1 tablespoon if tolerated
1 teaspoon raw honey or stevia
Bring the water and ginger to a boil, and then lower flame. Add the lemon and keep at a low simmer for a few minutes. Then pour into a mug & nourish your body.
If you’ve loved this mini gut check and want more- Book a Consultation Today!
Jennifer Castro is the owner of JAC Wellness Solutions. She is a Health Educator & Patient Advocate who specializes in Women's Health & Vestibular Disorders. When she was diagnosed with an inner ear imbalance called Meniere's Disease, she knew she had no choice but to step up her game and become a detective for her own health. Coach Jenny is working towards becoming a Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach while creating course content for health coaches and educators. She created an educational program for preschool teachers called Jump & Roll Fitness which provides healthy habits and movement curriculum for preschoolers. When she is not working on her health coaching business, she is also an educational instructor helping individuals study for the State exams to become a Life Insurance Producer. She also works as an Insurance Broker providing insurance solutions for small businesses, wellness, and medical practitioners. This blog is ALL about health, well-being, nutrition, lifestyle hacks, kitchen hacks along with stories of her own personal health journey. Coach Jenny loves to garden, spend time with her hubby, and
Want to start tracking your habits? Click the photo below
The only perfect time to commit to making a positive change in the way you take control of your health is NOW!