Living the Life- Gluten free

James Madison senior Liz Wall was told that freshman year of college would be the beginning of a 4-year rollercoaster, a trial and error period of adjusting to life on her own.  But no one told her how to adjust to living the college life with celiac’s disease.

“When I first found out I had celiac’s, it was literally the worst two months of my life,” said Liz Wall.

With being a division one lacrosse player at Davidson College, her athletic stature was maintained by eating bread and carbs to refuel after a long practice.  After months of unexplained stomach pains she had thought were stress induced, her doctor diagnosed her as gluten-intolerant, causing her to essentially give up all her favorite foods.

“All I ate was cereal, chicken nuggets, and pasta.  Even the tiny bit of breading on chicken can be upsetting so now I stick to mainly salads and rice chex,” said Wall.

Beyond having to forfeit her favorite foods, Wall had to adjust to the costs of living a gluten-free life.  Having to buy products with a gluten free label were harder to find, and fresher foods were more expensive then what Wall was used to buying.

Upon transferring to James Madison in the fall of her sophomore year, her gluten-free obstacles were made that much easier due to the availability of eating gluten free on campus.

“I was definitely pleased.  The main dining hall’s D-hall and E-hall have their own gluten free stations with something new everyday,” said Wall.

Even when rushed between classes, Wall finds it easy to grab a gluten-free wrap from Market One, or order a gluten free pizza from Dukes to share with her roommates.

“It’s our obligation to incorporate options in the meal plan that fits into the diet these students have to follow due to their medical need,” said Michele Cavoto, James Madison’s licensed campus nutritionist.

On a daily basis she meets with a number of students, who like Wall, cannot physically process the wheat gluten.  Her goal is to educate those students on menu’s, recipes, and product labels so they can find alternatives for the foods they love.  For Cavoto, its about showing the students that they don’t have to restrict themselves to just one line on campus as long as they know what options there are.

And that’s where Dwight Campbell, director of D-Hall, comes in.  Campbell has instituted the gluten free sections at both E-hall and D-hall as of last year.

After students are referred to him by Cavoto, he sits down with each student on the special gluten free diet to get a feel for what foods they like to see if he can order a gluten free alternative.  Campbell works closely with and trains each chef at the station in order to follow strict preparation guideline

“We’ve built a program based on trust.  Many of the students have never eaten on the diet outside of their home and their parents rely on us to make this learning experience that much easier,” said Campbell.

Matt Clancey, head chef at D-hall, makes it his main goal to ease students into the life-style adjustment and give the students a sense of comfort.  Clancey said that for students who are so used to eating something their whole life and then having it taken away can cause more stress in an already stressful environment,

So Matt designs the programs menu according to the requests.  Clancey in particular can remember one student who was in love with pancakes.  Clancey personally went out and bought a bag of gluten-free pancake mix, and each day made the student pancakes for breakfast at D-hall.

“It may have been extra work but it’s such a big change we want to make them happy,” said Clancey.

Mari Kent, a junior at James Madison University, developed a gluten-sensitivity this past summer.  What she thought meant only avoiding bread was actually a way more complicated diet.

“Eating on campus has made it a lot better then I expected,” said Kent, who goes to the on campus grocery store Mr. Chips for her breakfast cereals and snacks, and then visits the dining hall for variety she needed to make her change to gluten-free as easy as possible.

Having a meal plan allows Kent to try new things, with no added costs.  Her advice to those beginning their gluten-free diet on campus is to look at it as an opportunity to adapt and find what you like and don’t like.

Wall stated that she too has taken steps to trying new things, but it is still hard to give up everything.

“Last night I had pasta. It’s hard to give up all foods I love, but it’s a learning experience,” said Wall.



The Healthy Hangover

So this past weekend was my roommate 21st birthday. To put it lightly she’s had better Sunday mornings.

In an effort to make her feel like a human once again, I asked her if I could get her anything.  Her answer? A large order of McDonalds French fries.

Now of course I wanted my friend to feel better, but I was buying.  And she said fries and then my other roommates wanted some. And so did our friends visiting, and admittedly then I did to. The bill started racking up, and being a bit of a health freak myself, so did the calories.

When most people think fast food, they would call me crazy for saying it could get expensive.  But when a crowd of hung-over people walks into a McDonalds, there’s always potential to leave with lighter wallets.

Here’s my solution: a bag of potatoes.

I got this whole bag from a local produce store when I went home last weekend for a mere $2.00. I’ve checked out the local scene at Food Lion and Wal-Mart and the both have similar options for no more then $2.99.


But how this plain old bag of potatoes really be transformed into mouth watering fries aka the cure for my roommates pounding headache?

  • As mentioned before, her extra pocket cash kind of ran away last night at the bar, so this is a very cost effective option. For $2.00 I can make some hangover food for all of us at the same price of a just 1 order of a large McDonalds Fry.
  • It’s healthy! My roommate is a bit of a workout-aholic and believe me she’s not moving from the couch anytime soon. Its better to ditch the fast food fat and snack on this treat which is full of dietary fiber (you can even leave the skin on!), makes you feel fuller longer, and saves on the calories.

So here’s my simple recipe that will be sure to win over your hearts, you just have to trust me.

  • Cut up all the potatoes into the size of your choice.

  • Gently wet them and stick ‘em in the microwave for about two minutes.  This may sound weird but this saves you from having to coat them in oil to get the crispy golden fry effect!
  • Lay down some tin foil on a baking pan, and throw the fries on top!
  • This is the fun part: season the fries to your liking. I personally love throwing on some oregano and basil leaves, maybe even some Cajun seasoning if I’m feeling daring. This is your chance to experiment!

  • Place them in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. The time will vary depending on how crunchy you prefer your fries!

**  With about 5 minutes left, I melt a piece of Kraft’s Fat free American cheese because, well because I love cheese.

The whole recipe for one piece of cheese, one medium red potato, plus seasonings is only 170 calories and get this- NO FAT!  A large McDonalds fry comes in around 500 calories and 25% of your daily fat intake.  And out of just one potato I got this many to munch on!  Chop up a couple more potatoes if you have some extra guests to feed like I do, you have a whole bag!

With all these potatoes you can even pre-cut them and freeze them to have your hangover cure readily available.  So get creative (sweet potatoes anyone?), enjoy the great taste, and feel wonderful knowing you saved money and saved on calories!

Making peace with pizza!

My name is Melissa, and I am a pizza addict.

My mom used to tell me when I was a kid that if I kept up my habit, I would turn into pizza. Thankfully I didn’t, but I think I could still eat it everyday if I tried. Unfortunately my broke self just can’t afford that.

So I had to find other ways to feed my addiction. What was my solution? Every Sunday night, my roomates and I have homemade vegetable pizza night. Not only is it cost effective and healthy, but its super easy to make.  Check it out!

First, you need to buy all the ingredients (don’t freak out just yet). I headed on over to my local Walmart and was more then pleased with the final price:

  •             PizzaBuddy whole wheat pizza dough:                 $0.88
  •             1 Green pepper:                                                  $.050
  •             1 Red pepper-                                                     $0.75
  •             1 Red onion                                                       $ 0.98
  •             1 large tomato                                                     $1.78
  •             Fat free shredded mozzarella cheese:                   $2.50

                                                                             Total:  $6.51

Don’t worry, I was shocked at first too. You will be even more shocked by how good such a simple recipe can taste.  Follow these easy steps: (See photos below for reference)

  • 1.)  Roll out the pizza dough onto a pizza pan or any shaped large baking pan of your choice

         Tip: throwing down some flour first helps it not stick!

  • 2.)  Roll over the edges for a crust, and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until you see the dough bubble a bit.

         Trick: my roommates and I prefer a crispy pizza, so I lightly cover it in Extra Virgin         Olive Oil, but this is optional

  • 3.)  While the dough cooks, cut up all the veggies into small cubes, and the tomato into slices
  • 4.)  Take out the dough, and begin to smother it! Throw on the vegetables to your liking, and place the tomato’s around the dough generously.  Then cover it all with cheese! (I used the whole bag…I couldn’t help it)
  • 5.)  Then place the pizza back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese turns slightly golden

And there you have it!  But the fun doesn’t stop there. I took all the ingredients and added them up in a Calorie Counter, and it gave me the nutritional information for 1 slice of pizza (the whole recipe makes 8 slices). Here it is:

Calories: 229   |  Fat: 8.3 grams |  Sodium: 436 mg | Protein: 12.8 grams

I was more then pleased, seeing as it is almost half the fat and sodium content, half the price, and 89 calories less then the veggie pizza I have been ordering from dominos!  Not to mention I split it with my two roomates, so the overall meal only cost me a little over 2 dollars!

So for all you pizza lovers and addicts out there, there is hope. It’s homemade, its healthy, and it won’t cost you and arm and a leg.

P.S.– If vegetables don’t make your mouth water, swap out the toppings.  And don’t forget, take a tip from a previous post about Sharp Shopper if your looking to lessen the cost even more!


Frugal Dating 101

Trying to impress a gal on a date but worried about paying a hefty bill for two?  Have no fear fellas! It’s time to start counting your pennies– literally!

 Spring is here, love is in the air, and Pennybacker’s casual dining in    Harrisonburg is here to solve our dating woes.

The tiny historic building nestled downtown on East Water Street has been serving our community since the 1850’s!  Needless to say, I trusted they knew what they were doing.

Pennybackers is truly a unique, yet frugal find to take your special someone on a casual, laid back style date.  It will save you from having to get too dressed up, and with all meals under $8, it will save your wallet as well.

Their menu is filled with carefully crafted sandwiches, soups, and salads, and how could I forget- dessert.  If you’re in need of a suggestion before you head on over, my personal favorite is the Water Street mix & match combo meal.  For just $6.99 you can choose two items from the following:

  • 1/2 Salad: Caesar, Spinach, or Mary Hallet
  • Soup: Tomato Basil, French Onion, or the Soup of the Day
  • 1/2 Sandwich: BLT, Grilled Cheese, Ham & American, Turkey & Muenster, Roast Beef & Swiss, or Pastrami & Swiss

Being the indecisive person that I am, I never have to decide between a salad or a sandwich- I can get both!

Melanie C, a JMU senior and frequent diner at Pennybacker’s had nothing but good things to say.

“My boyfriend and I were drawn to the homey, cool feel.  The best part is they give you a generous portion so I’m always full yet have enough leftover to take home,” said Melanie, who recommended getting one of their ‘amazing’ soups and having it out on their rooftop deck.

And don’t worry ladies, if the date is dull, Pennybackers has a built-in back up plan to cure your boredom.  All the tabletops are uniquely made from the tail side of pennies, and its your job to find the 10 on each table that are heads side up.

Ladies and gentleman, start counting your pennies!

Staying sharp while you shop

It’s time to fix our love/hate relationship with grocery shopping.

You walk into any chain supermarket, and immediately you are hit with all the smells, colors, and advertisements. Pick me, buy me, it can be quite the overwhelming experience.  So what do we do? Grab the first thing we see, regardless of the price, and move on. Unfortunately, this can take its toll on our wallets.

Harrisonburg’s bargain food supplier, Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet, takes a different, more affordable approach.  It’s a simple concept.  We all know that a day at the clothing outlets gets you more for your buck then a day at the local mall. The same applies for Sharp Shopper.

When you walk in, be sure to remember one of the golden rules- never judge a book by its cover.  The aisles consist of plain brown boxes and crates, but they’re filled with well-known brands all the way from Pepsi to an assortment of cereal must-haves.

I know, I know, you’re all thinking “What’s the catch?”

What Sharp Shopper does is offer products at retail that may have a wrong packaging label, have been overproduced, or have warehouse damage.  But hey, nothings perfect right? And they still offer quality at an affordable price, you just have to do the digging!

So why choose Sharp Shopper?  Not only is it conveniently located up the road on South Main Street (right behind Kline’s Dairy Bar, need I say more), but it really could make a difference in how much you spend grocery shopping.

Let’s take a look at a product any serial snacker is sure to have heard of: Wheat Thins.  You can use them for a mid-afternoon snack between classes or along side some healthy homemade dip at your next party.  But they too can get a bit pricey for such a simple snack.

If you travel over to Harrisonburg’s local Food Lion, you can run in and pick up a 10 oz bag of Wheat Thins for the okay price of $3.19. Not bad, not bad.  It sure beats the hefty $5.29 it would cost you for the exact same box at Mr. Chips located right on James Madison’s Campus. That goes to show that convenience is not always worth the cost.

And then there’s Sharp Shopper. One might not even expect to find Wheat Thins at a grocery ‘outlet’, but there they were steadily stocked when I went to the snack aisle.  On top of that, for the mere price of $2.99 you could get not one, but TWO boxes of Wheat Thins, with the expiration date still far away.

Sharp Shopper has it all. Drinks, paper products, produce, and the list goes on and on. One word to the wise though, be sure to check out the product dating (pdf) for each item. While many items are fresh and ready to go, you always want to double check, and Sharp Shopper encourages it as well.

So for your next grocery stock up, give a new place a try. Wheat Thins is among the many items you will be sure to save a few dollars on by switching to Sharp Shopper, and with this economy, we can use every cent!