Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Experiment Gone Bad?

About 3 weeks ago, my wife and I set out on a quest to try to stay under a grocery/food budget of $200 for our family of 6. It's the middle of the final week now, as November comes to a close, and it's been pretty friggin' hard.

As of today, we've spent $196 on our groceries/food. Not bad for 3 weeks. We've managed to use up almost all of the food in our freezer. We're more conscious of not letting things go bad in the fridge and making sure that we don't let anything go to waste.

But it's been a trying experience and to ask us to just spend $4 for the rest of the week on food for our growing family is, to put bluntly, NEGLECTFUL.

We've clipped coupons, shopped at local farmer's markets, used up all of the organic meat in our freezer and 90% of the canned beans in our pantry.

We've been invited, more often than usual, to my in-laws for dinner on Friday and/or Saturday nights. My father-in-law has bought dinner for the entire family AT LEAST 1 night per week after he picks-up the kids for us (bless his kind soul).

Rozanne and I have also followed a strict Eat-STOP-Eat Lifestyle, fasting every 5 days and we've both lost some weight. In fact, in keeping up with my workouts (using a Bod Pod measurement) I've manage to drop my body fat percentage to 10% while maintaining the same amount of lean mass that I started with.



The answer, for THIS family at least, is a big fat


Like I mentioned in my first blog post this month, our family theme for November, is GRATITUDE (that's what the symbol above means).

So believe me, we're thankful...

Thankful that we can afford more than $200/month for healthy (and in most cases organic) food.

Thankful that we have a supportive extended family that have our backs.

Thankful that we know where our next meal is coming from and that it's never a choice for us to either feed the kids or pay for an electricity bill.

I wouldn't call this past experiment "fun".

A better word would be enlightening.

It's made us realize (again) how lucky we are with what we have - not just us as a family, but as a society with electricity, indoor plumbing, running water and heated (or air conditioned) homes.

Would I try this all again? Probably not. I think I would try to cut out other excessive things in our life (not that there's a lot of them). But good quality food, as I have said before, I won't compromise.

That said, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my friends south of the border. I hope that you experience immense gratitude the same way my family and I have over this past month.

Now please excuse me while I hit the grocery store :-)

The FitAndBusyDad

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Zen of Fatherhood and Fitness: An Interview with Leo Babuata of

With November being the month of GRATITUDE for the Lopez household, I thought it would only be fitting to interview one of the individuals responsible for our family's theme for giving thanks.

My wife and I have been following Leo Babauta for about a year now on his blog. Almost everyday Leo has a post about how to transform your life from a life of excess to a life of SIMPLICITY. Through Leo's posts and example, we've managed to strip away a lot of what we feel isn't necessary - donating and purging clothes, toys and other belongings that seem to be just taking up a lot of space and cluttering our home and our lives.

I should also mention that this guy has more kids that I do!

Look out for more from Leo as he'll be one of the experts on the FitAndBusyDad Transformation Team!

F&BD: Leo, please give us a little bit of background on you, your family and your first thoughts on being a father.

LEO: I'm a full-time blogger these days at Zen Habits (, with a second blog for writers and bloggers called Write To Done ( I've been a writer for 18 years now. I write a lot about simplifying your life, finding happiness, creating positive new habits, getting fit and healthy, family and finance issues, productivity, organization and more.

I'm happily married with six kids (the oldest is 15 and the youngest is 2), and I live on Guam. I'm a runner, training for my third marathon, and I'm just getting into triathlons. I love reading, writing and fitness, and especially spending time with my family.

Being a father is amazing. Of course there are troubles that come with being a parent, but they are nothing in comparison with the amazing joys of fatherhood. My kids are my reason for being, the greatest joy in my life (along with my wife), the best thing I've done and the most
fun way for me to spend my time. We play soccer, go hiking, shoot each other with Nerf dart guns, play board games, watch movies, go running, and much more.

F&BD: Your outlook on life is very unique, especially for today's over-stimulated and over-indulgent world. First, what is this unique lifestyle that you espouse and how do you manage to maintain this life/teach it to your kids?

LEO: I advocate and live a lifestyle that's much simpler than most people live. It's about focusing on what's important in your life and trying to get rid of the non-essential. It's about clearing out the clutter in your home and office to make room for the things you love. It's about clearing space in your mind to make room for your thoughts. It's about doing one thing at a time so you can concentrate, be effective, and live in the moment. It's about being happy.

I try to teach these values -- of living a life full of what's really important -- to my kids simply by living the life myself. They see what I do for a living. They see how I make time for what I really enjoy doing. They see how I make time for them as much as possible. They know how much I enjoy myself doing these things. And they will learn from the example that I live, I hope.

F&BD: Since I do run a health & fitness blog, what do you do to stay in shape?

LEO: I try to get in a pretty good mix of exercise, and try to eat "clean" as much as possible -- eating real foods instead of processed foods.

My exercise includes a mixture of:

* Marathon training -- I do several tough runs a week, including a 16-miler today!
* Triathlon training -- I don't do much of that these days but hope to get back into it after my marathon in December.
* Weight training -- I do about 3 days of full-body strength workouts, mostly heavy barbell stuff including squats, bench, deadlifts, rows, presses, etc.
* Bodyweight exercises -- Sometimes I mix in a circuit of exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, planks, hanging leg raises, and the like.
* Yardwork workouts -- I do some swinging of heavy tools like axes, picks, machetes, and lift heavy objects like rocks, logs, etc.
* Interval and hill training -- lately I've been mixing intervals into my running, along with tough hill repeats. Great workouts!
* Other activities -- I like to stay active with the kids, playing soccer or going hiking or doing other things like that.

I should point out that I don't do all of these things each week. I try to mix it up. Lately I've been doing the marathon training mixed with intervals and hills, along with regular weight training and some yardwork and other activities once in a while.

F&BD: What's your advice on how a busy dad can stay focused, not only on his fitness goals, but on his goals in life as well?

LEO: I recommend focusing on one goal at a time if you really want to be effective. Focus on that goal completely and turn it into a habit. This usually takes about a month or so. Make that habit a part of your daily routine, or you'll forget about it. So if you want to exercise, focus on setting a particular time of day and a particular part of your daily routine just for exercise -- then stick with this for a month, and it will become a habit. Find motivators like positive public pressure and having a partner (like a workout partner) or a coach or being part of a group. Once you've created that habit, focus on your next goal.

F&BD: Please tell us about and why you decided to create this website/blog. (ie. What inspired/inspires you to continue writing)?

LEO: I started Zen Habits after more than a year of self-transformation. I quit smoking and took up running and ran my first marathon. I created a bunch of new habits (one at a time) including eating healthy, waking early (I usually get up at 4:30 a.m. to run), being organized and productive (see my ebook, Zen To Done), and so forth. And I wanted to share what I was learning with others in hopes that they might benefit.

It turned out that a lot of other people wanted to learn to do these things, and to live a simpler life. So I gained a lot of enthusiastic readers who have been incredibly encouraging, and this motivates me to keep writing each day. It's a lot of fun!

F&BD: Thanks for sharing, Leo.

The FitAndBusyDad

Friday, November 7, 2008

$49 down, $151 to go...Days 1 to 4

My wife was kind enough to compile our grocery/food spending for the past 4 days. Here is the breakdown thus far:

Week 1

Monday: $8
-Rozanne went to Collingwood (actually 45 min north of Cwood) with some family. Aunt paid for lunch in exchange for the gas Rozanne used. She only spent $2 on a Tim Horton's coffee and a tea for her aunt.
-Chris spent $6 on a California Sandwich for AJ en route to her soccer practice...which she still can't participate in but just loves to watch and hang around her teammates.

Tuesday: $28
-Farmers' Market Day: Kids have a ritual of munching on fresh market cinnamon buns while Rozanne shops for veggies at the market. Spent $4 on the buns and $12 on locally-grown organic peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli.
-Rozanne's dad is off work this week and offered to take the kids out for lunch (and also ended up buying dinner...even though we protested).
-Chris spent $0 but received a free espresso from a friend (fasting day).
-Rozanne spent $12 on 2 dozen free-run eggs and brownie ingredients (dairy-free desserts/recipes are hard to find).

Wednesday: $13
-Grocery Visit: Rozanne spent $13 on organic bananas and a bulk box of chicken fingers (emergency lunch).
-Surprise visit from Rozanne's aunt and cousin (needed to hang out somewhere while waiting for Rozanne's uncle in surgery at the hospital close to our house). They bought lunch.
-Chris spent $0 (leftovers for lunch, dinner was lemon-sage chicken & steamed broccoli - all ingredients were on-hand including the sage which came FRESH AND FREE from a client's herb garden).

Thursday: $0
-Enjoyed the beautiful weather with the kids and packed snacks.
-Ate leftovers for lunch.
-Dinner bought by Roger (my father-in-law)

4 Day TOTAL - $49

Are we going to be able to do this? This weekend will be the TRUE test. I'll be doing my second fast of the week with Rozanne tomorrow (Saturday from Lunch to Lunch) because we've got a friend's birthday party to attend.

I'll have more to tell you about on Monday.

the FitAndBusyDad

p.s. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I got another FREE espresso from the barista at Lit Espresso Bar after I told him about our family's little experiment - I think he just felt sorry for me.

Spotlight on The FitAndBusyDad

A couple of weeks ago, I did an interview for Jeremy Biser over at I've done a few interviews in the past, but he asked me one of the best questions I've ever been asked...

In general, how do you think dads are perceived? Why?

I think you’ll get 2 types of dads…Guys with kids, and “Dads.”

I’m a DAD before anything else.

We get a bad rap sometimes and are really still considered secondary caregivers. I think there are still a lot of “traditional” thinkers out there who think that dads should be leaving at 6am and not coming home until 7pm while they “bring home the bacon,” that we have no business child rearing or keeping house.

I’m lucky in that I’ve managed to structure my business around how I want my life to be. I still leave quite early in the morning because that is my most productive time, but I come home at 3pm every day in time to pick-up my kids, make dinner, give them a bath and read them a bedtime story.

I got a lot of flack for that from my clients who were more of the “guys with kids” types. I even had one client suggest that I hire a driver to pick my kids up from school so that I could work an extra 2-3 hours in the afternoon to be his trainer!!!

Overall though, I think times are changing. You’ll see a lot more of us at PTA meetings, cheering on the sidelines of our kids’ soccer games and just being more involved. It’s refreshing to see and somewhat comforting to know that there are others like me out there.

You can read the rest of the interview HERE.


I'll be contributing to on a regular basis so stay tuned for my column.

I've also been asked to be a regular contributor to Muscle Mondays on and to the new fitness series on so I'll be sure to let you know when those pieces come out as well.

I've turned to these 3 sites for advice and information on fatherhood and entertaining stories on what it means to be a MODERN DAY MAN and I highly reccomend adding them to your weekly readings.

the FitAndBusyDad

Monday, November 3, 2008

Can a Healthy Eating Family of 6 Live on a MONTHLY Grocery/Food Budget of $200!?!

Last weekend while at a kid's birthday party, Rozanne and I had a discussion with another couple (her cousin and his wife) about our monthly grocery bills. As expected, we spend almost twice as much on our groceries as their family of 3 does.

Being a family of 6, I'm sure it's no surprise that we spend a good portion of our combined income on food. Keeping our kids and ourselves properly nourished is, of course, my top priority being both a health nut and a parent.

But should it cost that much? I mean really, with proper planning, smart shopping and a little creativity could we just use a fraction of our usual monthly grocery/food budget? Could we cut our food bill by as much as 75% and still eat healthy (buying local, hormone & pesticide free and organic when available)?

Well, that's the challenge that my wife and I have come up with this month. We chose "GRATITUDE" as our family theme for November.

Thanks to my friend Leo and his inspirational/motivational posts over at, we've been trying to really simplify life by paring down to what we deem essential - purging the contents of a room every week, getting rid of clothes that we haven't worn in a year and being grateful of the what we DO have (a roof over our heads, a supportive family and each other).

So here's our strategy (and some fine print)...

-We will buy only from our local farmer's markets because buying local cuts the transportation and shipping costs of the food down to next to nothing.
-We will buy in bulk if possible (nuts, dried fruit, spices and some meats that will be frozen immediately)
-Rozanne and I will follow my friend Brad Pilon's EatStopEat Lifestyle
-We will NOT buy any of the grocery shelf snacks (healthy or not) for the kids. The kids will only snack on fresh or dried fruit and whatever else we have in the house (including the occasional Halloween candy if necessary)
-We will use all the stuff in our freezer (I still have quite a bit of organic meat left from last month's shipment, so we'll use all of that starting with tonight's pepper steak dinner).
-Rozanne and I will our weekly allowance of $20 that we can use on whatever we like (that will be my "espresso" money)
-If you're reading this and you're a family member, don't be surprised if you get a phone call from one of us sometime this month inviting ourselves over for dinner :-)

-We will save $$$ (and with the holiday season coming up, we'll need it).
-We'll really see how "excessively" we live (I don't think we do by any means, but you'd be surprised).
-We won't eat out so I'll have to methodically plan our meals even more than I already do.
-Our young kids will realize how lucky they really are.
-Rozanne may lose that "last 10lbs" that she's been dying to lose


-We'll have to minimize the treats
-We can't be very "spur of the moment" for the next month.
-I will ABSOLUTELY NOT compromise my values and purchase "cheap food products" for the sake of saving money - no Mac'n'cheese, no luncheon meat, no weiners made of hoof. That said, if after 3 weeks we only have $3.75 left in our budget, all bets are off and I will go grocery shopping for some REAL food.
-I may lose 10lbs that I desperately cannot afford to.

So there's the challenge. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it goes with frequent updates.

It's on.

the FitAndBusyDad

P.S. One thing that will help me maintain my weight and hopefully help me put some muscle on and burn some fat are my daily workouts. I'll let you know how those go as well.