Emily Lam

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Monday, February 24, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Last Day

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Well, it's over now: my two weeks on a $60 budget. And I feel really great. I wished you could have seen me earlier. There was definitely a healthy bounce and happiness in me: a very lighthearted and carefree gait. I've joked with people that immediately after the challenge, I was going to buy a bag of chips. But I didn't. I just didn't feel the urge to buy junk food. I guess it's true when they say junk food slows you down. I just never really put too much thought into how true it was. This challenge has definitely reinstilled in me good habits of cooking. I'm glad I did it.

Additionally, I still have food leftover. I have a couple of carrots, some of my pepper, an entire onion, a piece of pork, some tofu, two eggs, half a lime, and a bit of almond milk left. It's really embarrassing that I wasn't able to finish the milk. Sigh. But this challenge is still an overall success. I am healthier. I can also put off grocery shopping for a couple of days. =] Though maybe not, since I think I want fish tomorrow.

I did celebrate the end of the challenge by going out for dinner. I spent ~$17 on a single meal including tax and tip. Eating out is starting to make less and less sense to me when I can spend ~$17 on groceries for about three days. Sure, eating out is time-saving. But I managed to cook on one of my busiest weeks yet. So I really don't have any excuses. However, I do admit it was extremely difficult to make time and cook when I was so busy. That and turning down free food were the difficult parts of these past two weeks.

I wish I had more to say, but all my thoughts are currently tangled up in my tired and incoherent mind. Maybe I'll elaborate a different day; but most likely not.

Just know that it's been good. Two weeks is a good amount of time to build good habits. I'm definitely going to continue these habits. I just won't be strictly on $30/week, plus I will accept free food and buy more fruits. On that note, I think I will be starting a new challenge, which is Facebook mornings. The thing to this challenge is simple: cut down on the time I spend on Facebook. So basically, I will only be Facebook during the AM hours. All my other social media and email will still be active and all access. I guess you could say I have a personal vendetta against Facebook. Haha. It seems like I like to take up challenges that have a more adverse effect on the people around me than me.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 13

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Last full day! Tomorrow, I have a a meal to complete that half day I had. So, yeah. Breakfast/Lunch was an omelet with milk. Can you believe it? I still have not managed to finish my half gallon of milk. Ugh, I'm so bad.

Dinner I went all out. I cooked a whole crown of broccoli and whatever beef I had left. Go big or go home! Something like that, right? Leftovers will most likely be tomorrow's lunch. But yeah, it's been a good run. I feel good. I still have food. Can't wait to binge eat junk food tomorrow though. Hahaha.

This is not all the broccoli I cooked; there is more in a bow somewhere not pictured. Hehe.

Check back tomorrow for the final recap!!! WOO! (Today was another day of attending an event where I couldn't eat the food. Yeah . . . it was Nudpob today! =[)

Friday, February 21, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 12

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Day 12! Super short post for today. No breakfast again; I was barely on time for class. Again. For lunch, I had left over tofu and rice for breakfast. And fried rice for dinner.

Oh, and look at all the food I had already paid for beforehand, but had to turn down due to the challenge, at the Order of the Engineer ceremony . Hmm.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 11

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Senior design is really taking over my life. I know it sounds exaggerated, but it's true. I may not always be working on technical items, but there's just as much documentation, and documentation is way more tedious. Today was one of those days where senior design work interfered with my eating schedule. I didn't have my first meal until 3:45PM! ( started cooking at 3:30: zucchini and eggs because they cook fast. I barely made it to class on time.

And then also because of senior design, I did not get home until 9:30ish. By then, I was tired and hungry. There wasn't much energy left to exert. Dinner was prepared slowly. The thing about this challenge is that I try to cook a variety of foods. Tonight was the first time I made tofu egg drop soup. Mind you, my mother makes fantastic egg drop soup and my soup was no where in the same realm. But the soup was still delicious. Something about tofu in soup makes for a very soothing meal. The chunks of light brown in the soup is pork. I didn't have any stock so I improvise my own.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 10

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Day 10! With each day, there's just a little extra step in my bounce, especially since this is the most lax and least mind-consuming part of my day.

First of, I went to Whole Foods to spend the last of my budget and a tiny bit more. I bought two more  small crowns of broccoli and a zucchini, which cost a total of $2.27. Add that to $58.40 from last week and I'm at $60.67. Not bad. Given that I still have food in the fridge, I am super confident that I will finish this challenge in good shape without having to compromise food quality or consumption quantity due to lack of food.

For breakfast, there was none. I had another tight schedule and I ate a small brunch consisting of an omelet and rice. For dinner, I decided on a broccoli, pork, and pasta dish. It was good; I'm content and full. =] Everything is going swell. (Can you tell? I got a lot of work accomplished today, still more to do, but you know it feels good to accomplish things.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 9

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Yesterday, I was seriously craving junk food. Maybe the hiatus did more worse to me than just me missing a continuous day of the SNAP Challenge. Yesterday, I've also started on my pomegranate. Today,  I'm feeling a lot better in regards to craving junk food. Though today was another time I had to miss out on free food. Today and this Thursdays are senior design critical design reviews, which is where each teams presents their project and its current status and there's food to go along with it. Sigh. Thursday though, I will be missing Thai Culture night. That's a food event I'm seriously bummed about missing. =[ And then there's the Order of the Engineer ceremony, which will have food at the event. And I missed out on a friend's birthday dinner (although I was also busy that day). Missing out on free food and social food activities = Ultra sigh.

Today, for breakfast, I munched on cereal without milk. I am officially out of cereal now. I will need to try new breakfast items. Eggs? For lunch, I had leftover chicken noodle soup. Still tasty. Yum!

And for a late dinner -- senior design took over again, so super late dinner -- I had beef and broccoli, an asian staple. I am out of beef and broccoli now. I might go buy another stalk of broccoli though considering I still have like $2 left on my budget.

Monday, February 17, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 8 + 1/2

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I guess this is where I start to fall apart. Saturday, I took a hiatus from the challenge due to an awesome hackathon, which I think was a justifiable reason. However, I was back on schedule for only a meal (I woke up late Sunday morning and didn't have breakfast) before I took a hiatus again! This time for one meal. One of my senior semester activities was a trip to the Foxwoods casino. I had bought my ticket a while ago and due to my inadequacy of remembering dates, I forgot it was Sunday, yesterday. I was really torn about this one. On one hand, I really wanted to just make food and bring it to the casino, I didn't feel like it was fair to just keep stopping the challenge, but then on the other hand, I just wanted to have a good time and not worry about food. I ended caving and pushing the challenge a meal back.

But that sunday morning, I did have a delicious cucumber and beef soup with rice. Normally, you stuff ground beef into a cored cucumber but I didn't have ground beef and chopped up beef worked just as well.

Today, I am back on my challenge and this time it'll be until the end of the challenge. Again, due to my late night, I woke up late this morning and had a brunch instead of breakfast: an omelet and rice. Dinner was chicken noodle soup.

I also decided to see the Lego movie tonight. And well, that was tough. I usually always try to get popcorn when at the theaters; it's kind of a vice of mine. So it was really difficult for me to turn down popcorn. But I did it! My friend got candy and offered me candy while I made a futile attempt at refusing it. Blah. So as you can see, I'm struggling when it comes to snacks. The rest of the challenge will be difficult considering I have NO snacks left. I've just been munching on cereal but I'm almost out of that as well. I still have a bit of fruit so that may be where I'll be turning. Currently, I am eating pomegranate. But onward I continue. I need to do laundry . . . I'm tired  . . . I have so much to do by wednesday, thursday . . . I'm rambling now . . .

Sunday, February 16, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Hiatus

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Wait, what? Hiatus? Yes, but only a temporary one day hiatus. Today (technically yesterday now) I participated in makemit, which is a 16 hour hardware hackathon and well yeah, no time to make or prepare food. My friend had invited me to this right after I had just bought all my food for the two week SNAP Challenge.The hackathon just looked too good to turn down: there was so much cool hardware to hack with: arduinos, accelerometers, 3D printers, infrared sensors, gyroscopes, raspberry pies, bluetooth modules, wifi shields, etc. However, I couldn't just push back the SNAP challenge because I had the food and I was ready. So what I decided to do was to just push the challenge back a day. I will still do 14 days. Just with a one day break, because honestly, I didn't want to miss out on such a cool event because of a self-inflicted food challenge, especially when the hackathon was free.

Compare to the past week, what I ate today was pretty much junk food. I was literally running on sugar. No wonder I didn't feel tired. Now, I feel completely exhausted; I nearly fell asleep in the shower. But it was a fun time. Our hack was underdeveloped -- we spent too much time on brainstorming and not enough on implementation -- but we got to play with a lot of cool hardware and took home some swag. It was a good time. Now, I can return to my daily challenge.

Friday, February 14, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 7

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Happy Valentine's Day! Ok, I confess, I absentmindely ate a chocolate my professor gave to me. Ugh, I forgot. I've been very careful about not accepting food until then. But it feels good to get that off my chest. It was just one tiny Lindt chocolate . . .

So Day 7, the halfway point. I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast today -- I woke up barely on time for class. But besides that, my meals were pretty routine; things I've had before. Pork with cucumbers. And zucchini and eggs.

But I want to take time to take inventory since I'm at the halfway mark. Actually, there isn't much of an update; I still have a bit or some of almost everything left . . . The only items I'm completely out of are zucchini, cookies, flounder, clementines, and sun chips. I'm in really good shape. I want to say I was conservative with what I made through this week but I wasn't super conservative at all. The only times I felt hungry was when I put off meals until later than I should have. Next week will be interesting when I no longer have an snack foods. Let's see how that energy level of mine is maintained. Maybe more tea? (This week, I only had tea three times this week.) I'll definitely need to break open that pomegranate of mine.  Hmm . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 5 & Day 6

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Alright, so what happened to Day 5? Uh, Senior Design, that's what happen; we had our second deliverable testing and our testing was still not functioning correctly. Three words: GPS, UART, UGH. Anyway, I didn't sleep until 5AM Day 4 into Day 5. And then woke up at 9AM. Actually, it was more like I was jolted awake by my thoughts of our spineless GPS module still not working!

I knew yesterday was going to be long the moment I woke up. Like I said, I was a little anxious that by testing time, 7:30PM, nothing would work and then there were also the facts that I still had a homework assignment to start and finish and a quiz in Chinese I hadn't studied for yet. Yeah! So I forwent the usual cereal for a tasty and nutritious omelet! A single egg with peppers, scallions, and salt and black pepper, a favorite flavor combination of mine.

That morning turned out really productive; I was able to get stuff to work! A triumphal feeling! At around 1pm, I called it quits. My teammates successfully wrapped out the rest. Everything turned out well, such good fortune. =] Thanks to the fact that the morning went so smoothly I was able to cook lunch and study for my Chinese quiz. Again, I went for a protein loaded lunch to keep my energy levels up: steak and rice for lunch! (I set off the fire alarm cooking this. Haha.)

And then for dinner, I had rice and braised tofu, flavored with scallions, soy sauce, and pepper flakes.

After dinner, we finally tested, and everyone was considerably happier afterwards. Even during the delusional later hours when we were completing a homework assignment due at midnight. Throughout this process though, I ate my snack foods, cookies and chips, to keep me going. What that means is that I won't have snack foods next week. Yeah, so that was yesterday. 

As for today, a lot more relaxed. I still had a lot of things to do but not waking up panicked helped. I spent a good portion of today at the print studio where time escaped me. I didn't get back to eat lunch from the print studio until 3pm. But that's ok. Like I said day 1: remembering to eat and to eat on time is something I need to work on. Oh, and, that's right, there was a snowstorm today. My days are just so long that I forget it's a single day. Okay, back to food, I had cereal for breakfast, leftover tofu and rice for lunch, and an omelet and rice for dinner. Pretty boring but today was kind of a recovery day.

I guess my last remarks for these past couple days is that yay, somehow, I managed to continue to cook food throughout the madness that is senior year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 4

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Day 4. Alright. So today is the first time I had to turn down food. I volunteered at the engineering career fair and when I was offered breakfast, I inconspicuously said I had already ate: I had cereal and almond milk again. It's quick and easy. I did know that I would have to turn down food during this challenge. But it has dawn upon me that I will have to do it more often than I expected; all because, I can't keep any dates straight in my head and didn't realize how many events were happening these two weeks. Eating food has become such a social event. (More about turning down food in a future post.)

Today was a very long day for me. And it's still going on with tonight probably being even longer, hopefully not an all-nighter. So it was such a relief to come home and cook. I've come to realize that cooking is such a stress-free break, kind of like cleaning. I don't feel bad at all taking time out of my super busy schedule to cook. It feels great, actually. After you eat, you feel full and content and happy and ready to do more work! Yeah! (Okay, I'm not sure about that last part about work, maybe it's true or maybe I'm just trying to keep myself optimistic for tonight.)

Anyway, for lunch, I had a very protein heavy meal: rice and soy-sauce marinated pork chop. But that protein did me well! I did not feel hungry at all until now: 7:15PM. I did have tea along the way. But I don't think that's significant.

And for dinner, I thought I balance my day out with zucchini scrambled in eggs. This is one of my go to meals. My family, or maybe just me, enjoys scrambling our vegetable melons (cucumber, zucchini, etc.) with eggs. I like it; It was good.

Monday, February 10, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 3

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It would be absolutely wonderful if time could slow down a bit, just a smudge. It's not like I don't want to graduate; it's just that I have so many things to do by May! Today is one of many such hectic days to come. I woke up around 9AM, and proceeded to work on some homework assignments. Then at noon, I had 5 hours of classes straight followed by trying to go work on my prints only for there to be a class in the print studio. I am just sitting down for dinner now, 6:30PM. After that is senior design project crunch time!!!! Ahhh!! Around 10PM, I'll probably head back to the print studio to do a couple of test prints. Busy, busy, busy. So where does cooking fit into all this? I just ruthlessly set aside time this morning to cook; homework had to wait!

Some quickly marinated chicken, broccoli, and pasta for lunch and dinner. I'm content. And Breakfast was cereal and almond milk. I also had a cookie and some Sunchips along the way.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

SNAP Challenge | Day 2

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I'm not big on breakfast, and it's mostly because breakfast foods are not my favorite -- I do like omelets, regular toast, and french toast, but that's about it. It's also no secret that I don't like milk. However, I do realize that's probably where I'm least healthiest. Sometimes I feel like I must have a calcium deficiency, but my doctor hasn't mentioned it yet. I occasionally do try to remedy that by drinking almond milk. These two weeks are one of those occasional times.

So for breakfast I had a small mug of Califia Farms vanilla almond milk (gluten free, no soy, no GMO, and lactose free) with a chocolate chip cookie. This sounds pretty basic and maybe unhealthy except for the fact that almond milk is choke full of nutritious value. Here's a direct comparison with 2% milk and soy milk with healthier choice in color font.

Calories: almond: 50 calories, 2%: 130 calories, soy: 110 calories.
Calories from fat: almond: 35 calories, 2%: 45 calories, soy: 40.
Total fat: almond: 3-5g, 2%: 5g, soy: 4.5g.
Saturated Fat: almond: 0g, 2%: 3g, soy: 0.5g.
Trans Fat: all 0g.
Cholesterol: almond: 0mg, 2%: 20mg, soy: 0mg.
Sodium: almond: 160mg, 2%: 130mg, soy: 105mg.
Total Carbohydrate: almond: 4g, 2%: 12g, soy: 9g.
Dietary Fiber: almond: 1g, 2%: 0g, soy: 2g.
Sugars: almond: 3g, 2%: 12g, , soy: 6g.
Protein: almond: 1g, 2%: 8g, soy: 8g.

Vitamin A: almond: 15%, 2%: 10%, soy: 10%.
Calcium: almond: 45%, 2%: 30%, soy: 45%.
Vitamin D: almond: 35%, 2%: 25%, soy: 30%.
Riboflavin: almond: 35%, 2%: no mention, soy: 30%.
Magnesium: almond: 6%, 2%: no mention, soy: 15%.
Vitamin C: almond: 0%, 2%: 4%, soy: 15%.
Iron: almond: 4%, 2%: 0%, soy: 8%.
Vitamin E: almond: 60%, 2%: no mention, , soy: no mention.
Vitamin B12: almond: 60%, 2%: no mention, soy: 50%.
Zinc: almond: 10%, 2%: no mention, soy: no mention.
Copper: almond: 4%, 2%: no mention, soy: no mention.

Yes, you read that correctly. Almond milk has more Calcium and Vitamin D than 2% milk! It's the perfect substitute for some like me who doesn't like cow milk at all.

Other healthy attributes of almond milk: no saturated or trans fat -- only healthy fats, half the calories of 2% milk, no cholesterol, dietary fiber, small amounts of carbohydrates, antioxidants (specifically Vitamin E), and other minerals. 2% milk won in the sodium, protein, and vitamin C category. However, none of those categories are concerns for me. I generally use little to no salt in my meals; I get enough protein and Vitamin C from other sources. So yay for almond milk.

For lunch, I finished the fried rice from yesterday. I realize I didn't list the ingredients of yesterday's fried rice, so I'll do that now: rice, carrots, chicken, eggs, scallions, soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame seed oil, and thyme.

For dinner, I had a lightly breaded flounder fillet with a sprinkle of black pepper served with rice, carrots, mother-made fish sauce, and raspberry lemonade. Yum!!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Budget Grocery Shopping Challenge!!!

So last month I read about the Snap Challenge. Basically, it's an awareness challenge where a bunch of BU medical students decided to try the $30/week food ration that people on food stamps are on. My immediate thought was that if I was confined to $30/week, I'd probably be healthier -- I'd cook more and buy less random junk food snacks. So I decided I would take up the challenge. There are certain political views on this challenge but that's not my focus. I'm not trying to take a stance on whether $30/week is enough for food or not. I know for a fact that $30/week is adequate for me, but I don't know you or anybody else. My focus is on my personal well-being and on trying to get into a good habit of cooking daily and being budget conscious. And plus, challenges are always fun! :D  (But you are welcome to comment on those kinds of things or anything, I love discussions!)

Some provisions (From BU SNAP Challenge):
1. Only eat food bought on the average SNAP budget: $30/week (any grocery store).
Okay, so I'm modifying the challenge a bit. I'm still sticking to the $30/week budget. But since I don't particularly feel like eating the same meats throughout the week, I've extended the challenge to $60/two-weeks. Since it's more realistic; I'm not going to eat a dozen eggs in one week.
2. Spices and condiments that you already own are allowed to be used.
3. Please refrain from accessing free food. (This makes little sense to me but ok.)
4. Please only buy foods allowed on SNAP - http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items
5. Keep a food journal and/or post thoughts, pictures, videos, etc on blog site.
6. Try to eat a nutritious and healthy diet according to http://www.choosemyplate.gov/dietary-guidelines.html (Uhh, I didn't read through the site . . . yeah.)

So I wanted to start this challenge last month but I had all this food that I had no idea what price I  had paid for them. So I waited until I depleted my food supply, until today. Today, I went shopping and bought more food than I had ever bought at once in my life. I know, kind of crazy. *shrugs* I've only lived on my own and had to buy my own groceries in Boston and in Boston, the markets are so close to where I live; there's no point in stockpiling food when it takes 15-30min to go buy more food.

Without further adieu, what I bought!!

So for veggies, we have:
A bunch of carrots, a cucumber, a zucchini, a red bell pepper, scallions, a red onion, and a crown of broccoli.

For proteins, we have:
8 chicken breast tenderloins, 5 thin-sliced center-cut pork chops, 6 sirloin tip steaks, a flounder fillet, a package of tofu, and a dozen of eggs (all natural, vegetarian-diet hens).

A pomegranate, a lime, two kiwis, and two clementines (not pictured).

Almond milk (vanilla flavored), raspberry lemonade, and tea.

A bag of chocolate chip cookies, Foot by the Foot (removed), and a bag of sun chips (Garden Salsa).

Grains and wheats:
Rice, half a box of cereal, and elbow pasta.

How did I calculate the budget. Well, I bought most items from Shaws (mostly the proteins) and Whole Foods (mostly the produce). Shaws came out to $38.94. And Whole Foods came out to $14.45. I then added $5 for rice, cereal, pasta, and tea. That's because those items are things I buy in bulk and I'm not going to finish a box of any of it. I usually get a 25lbs of Jasmine white rice for about $22. And it lasts my roommate and I a semester; so I figured factoring a dollar or so for it would be fair. And the same idea applies to pasta, cereal, and tea. And then I had two clementines and a pomegranate lying around, so I added $3 for those items. I get to a final total of $61.39. But I'm going to deduct something.

As you probably noticed, I just kind of bought food items I liked. I didn't plan on buying anything. I just went to the markets and shopped. I think I overdid the proteins because there is a lot of it. Oops. The problem is that all the meat packages comes in such large quantities and I wanted a variety. But the good thing is that I like lean meats so all of it is fairly lean. I probably won't finish all the protein items in two weeks. I also wished I bought more veggies. I should have decided to buy more veggies instead of the cookies. Bleh. I don't even know why I bought cookies. Because I don't normally buy cookies. But I guess I was afraid that I might need a sweet snack or something. Oh well. On the other hand, I didn't need to buy the foot by the foot either. I think I will just not eat the Foot by the Foot, which was $2.99. That brings me down to $58.40 and will give me wiggle room to buy one or two more veggies next week if I need to, like more broccoli. Awesome!

Yay! I'm excited about this challenge! I think the hardest part of this challenge is really just to eat every meal; I sometimes have the tendency to skip meals . . . But on a positive note, I will try to blog daily about the challenge, which means I'll be on a daily blogging schedule for at least two weeks. Ahh! If I can stick to that, I'll have 15 posts by the end of February which will be half of the total posts count I had last year! D: Let the fun begin!

So for Day 1: I made chicken fried rice. There's enough of it for three meals so that's that. See you tomorrow when I decide on what to eat next. =]