5 tips for fighting food waste by Annie Carlson


Did you know that FOOD WASTE is one of the biggest items taking up space in our landfills?

According to the New York Times, the US alone wastes $160 billion dollars in food each year. This figure is one that really upsets me. Considering how many people are under-nourished or living in poverty or need a better education- we shouldn’t be wasting food.


Are you wondering,” but doesn’t food just degrade in the landfill no problem?” Once the food gets to the landfill it is mixed with tons of other junk, which packs down the food and prevents it from getting oxygen which it needs to break down properly into the soil. The food waste then ends up emitting methane gas. Methane gas is a known greenhouse gas which adds to the effects of climate change.  Landfills are the 3rd largest source of methane gas currently in the US. 

Now, I’m no expert or scientist but here are 5 tips that have helped me to personally reduce my food waste!

  1. meal plan

    This might seem like DUH but honestly if you don’t know what you’re making and when, you are guaranteed to waste some food. For the past year, I haven’t gone to the grocery store without a list and a plan for what I’m making that week. I used to think I was too cool for the list and that I could either remember all the stuff we needed, or just wing it and buy whats on sale and in season and whip something up. To a certain degree this is true, but I waste less food when I have a framework of what we are eating. Sam and I work 9-5 schedules away from home so we really need to know what we plan on having for B,L, & D most days of the week. (Also, shopping with a list has been helpful for us in saving moolah!)

    Lots of sources online say to meal plan & shop every 2-3 days so you aren’t buying things you don’t need or won’t use before they go bad. However, this really isn’t possible for us. For time and convenience sake we really don’t run to the grocery store at night after work so most of our shopping is done on the weekends. If shopping every couple days is an option for you or if you have a nearby grocery store then I think this tip could help!

    I’ve started keeping a running list (paper list in the kitchen) of pantry essentials and when something is low or we use it all up, I’ll write it on the list to get next time I’m at the store. This helps keep somewhat of an inventory of pantry items that can help put a meal together in a pinch. Another tip we’ve found helpful is to have a shared note (iPhone notes or Google keep) with you and your partner or roommates, of meals or recipes you love to make so you can quickly reference the ingredients required. (Avoiding the dreaded long food-blog post to get to the recipe at the bottom sometimes takes too long when all those images are loading!) You could even have a food schedule in the note to help you keep organized and know what you’re having and when.

  2. prep + store produce right away (preferably in glass)

    This one might be controversial because it is true that as you expose fruits/veggies to more oxygen, the faster they will go bad. BUT, I find that if I wash, dry, and prep veggies for whatever we are planning to use them for I’m WAY more likely to use them. A few months ago I started following Brown Kids on Instagram and I quickly became obsessed. I purchased their digital course called The Jar Method and it’s awesome. It teaches you how to prep and store all kinds of food in glass jars to make them last SUPER long and save on food waste and money waste!

  3. be flexible

    Harness your inner Samin Nosrat, Gordon Ramsay or Carla Hall or whatever chef you identify with and be able to substitute something or modify a recipe to use what you’ve got. I know, I know, you’re like wait Annie you just told me to meal plan now you’re telling me not to be exact? Hear me out- sometimes Sam and I have already made the meals we planned on making for the beginning part of the week and now we have to wing-it (or got back to the grocery store) and use what we have left in the pantry/fridge. My perfect example of this is just a good ol’ stir fry. We usually always have rice on hand, some sort of bean or maybe some leftover chicken, and whatever veggies are left in the fridge we chop up and use. Or if you’re making a recipe and it calls for spinach but you have a little kale left over, use the kale and don’t buy spinach. Toppings call for chopped cashews but you only have peanuts? Use the peanuts. Use quinoa or frozen cauliflower rice instead of regular rice. The point is, don’t be afraid to be a little creative to use the things you have on hand.

    As I’m currently obsessed with Samin Nostrat and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, I highly recommend you watch the documentary series or get the cookbook and try to learn about these different elements of good cooking. I think this is truly the secret to being able to “wing it” in the kitchen. I’m currently on the “Fat” chapter so I’ll update you when I’m done.

4. store food properly

Here are some quick shortcuts for how some common produce items should be stored:

  • Onions, garlic, hard squash, potatoes: store in a dark and cool location (i.e. pantry or we have a lazy suzan that we store these in a wicker basket) *I learned from Imperfect Produce that Onions emit a gas that cause potatoes to sprout faster, store these separately. P.S. potatoes that have started to sprout are still safe to eat, just cut off the sprouts themselves.

  • Avocados: until they are ripe keep them on the counter, once ripe store them in the fridge.

  • Apples: store in fridge crisper drawer

  • Carrots: I only recently started storing carrots in a jar submerged in water and this really helps them stay fresh and firm!

  • Bananas: store on counter, once these are ripe or overripe peel them and freeze them. We use a gallon Stasher bag to store bananas in the freezer (compost the peels) and use them in smoothies or to make banana bread or banana pancakes.

  • Tomatoes: keep these on the counter! If they are fully ripe and you prefer them cold, then I suppose you should refrigerate them.

  • Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons, Limes: keep these on the counter or to slow ripening, in the fridge.

  • Fresh herbs like cilantro & parsley: cut off ends and store in a glass jar with water. Some people recommend to cover the top of the herbs with a plastic bag. We don’t use plastic bags so we just leave them uncovered and they seem to last at least 7 days.

  • Leafy greens: this is where the Jar Method I mentioned above taught me a lot. If you wash, dry, and cut your greens you can keep them in a glass jar (big mason jar) with a little towel at the bottom to absorb moisture and they will last you almost 4 weeks!

  • Quick product review! I purchased the SWAG produce bags a while back which claim to keep produce fresh longer and I haven’t had much luck with them. I still use them occasionally but I feel like glass containers keep food fresh longer and are better for storage because you can see everything.

5. compost

You know I’m a huge fan of composting! If you’re curious about why this is important, go here to checkout my blog post more about this. This is a HUGE component in my life for reducing food waste. I don’t have quite enough time on my hands to save all my scraps for making veggie or chicken broth (even though I wish I did that!), so composting is very important to me. It’s amazing how once we started composting our amount of overall trash significantly reduced. We are lucky enough to have a community compost program, so we collect all our food scraps (anything that was once living) and they get processed by a nearby facility into compost that is used in local gardens/ farms to grow plants and produce! This allows what would normally be waste, to go towards something useful and beneficial for our community.

I highly recommend you listen the episode from one of my favorite podcasts Live Planted about composting, find the episode here. There are many different modes of composting and Alyssa simplifies it for us. Gotta love that!

Let me know if any of these tips help you or if you have any other food waste fighting tips to share!


Mo' Money, Less Stuff by Annie Carlson

Happy 2019!

For me, 2019 is going to be about mo' money and less stuff. My friend Becca and I recently read the book The Financial Diet and were inspired to create a challenge for ourselves for the new year. It may seem very strict, but for me shopping is sometimes a slippery slope, so I need to restrict it in a way that makes me step back and examine my money habits. Here are my "rules" that I'm going to stick to for ALL OF 2019. (Sam thought there was a typo and that this was supposed to be a 1 month challenge!)

In college I was quite the shopper. I would order tons of cheap clothing online and I worked at a clothing boutique where I likely spent two times the amount that I made there (though I do still wear things I purchased while working there, shoutout to Swank Boutique in Columbia, MO for lasting pieces!). Over time I've learned to do better, but I still feel a sense of urgency to save for the long term things I want to do and for our family goals.

Aside from the financial stability part, there is a HUGE portion of this that is motivated by reducing waste, and being more mindful about the items I'm brining in to my life. Less purchases likely means less waste and of course I'm excited about that!

I like to do challenges like these because I have a competitive spirit and like to try different ways to reach my goals. For me, I don’t look at it as a negative thing but more of a motivation to better myself.

I will share a blog post on how things are going once per quarter to keep you all updated! Thanks for reading :-)

Mo’ Money, Less Stuff

1 . No shopping for ONE YEAR for myself (gifts for others excluded but purchase frugally)

  • Exceptions are necessary items such as groceries, essential cosmetics, dog food/treats. If something fails/breaks I can replace it if it cannot be fixed.

  • If something is purchased as an essential, I must donate or up-cycle the old item as a “one in one out policy”

2. No online ordering miscellaneous items

  • There are a few select brands that I use for personal care products that only sell online. Other than that, online purchases off limits.

    • (Also, so much packaging! )

3. No manicures/pedicures unless in a wedding  (I don’t get facials or any other treatments so not including those here.)

4. Lunch: bring my lunch at least 4 days per week

5. Other meals: Only eat out once per week (unless it’s a special occasion or pre arranged date)

6. No coffee out unless I BYO mug (once per week max)

*Review budget (I use Mint) weekly and confer with Sam re groceries, dog food, etc.

* Go through closet/ house once per season to sort through non-essentials and donate items or recycle accordingly  

Why Compost? by Annie Carlson


I am super enthusiastic about composting and I want to break it down for you all to show you why it’s so awesome! I think it’s because of my biology background and my passion for helping the environment that makes me geek out over this topic.

I enlisted the founder (Jonathan) of the compost company our family uses: Healthy Soil Compost, to help answer some questions surrounding composting.

First, let’s establish WHAT composting is.

COMPOST is defined as : a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil.

The EPA describes compost as: Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

For those who have the space and ability to do home composting or back-yard composting, I’m jealous! That process is a little more involved than what I currently do, but either way you slice it- composting is important. I personally use a compost service. We collect scraps of food, paper, lint, plant matter, etc. and our friends at Healthy Soil Compost come and pick up our bucket and take the scraps to be processed into the finished product, Compost. Healthy Soil Compost works in conjunction with Nature’s Little Recyclers to “eat” the waste and leave behind valuable nutrients that make Compost the “black gold” of gardening, and the sustainable food world.

*For those wondering what happens to the finished compost product, it goes to community farms all around the city. Sometimes I get some black gold too!

1. Why is it bad for our environment when food decomposes in the landfill? 

Landfills are required to produce an environment void of oxygen so that the materials inside are less likely to start a fire, however food waste and organic waste (once living material) actually need bacteria that require oxygen for basic life processes to decompose properly. As a result of this anaerobic environment (low oxygen)  Food waste and other organic wastes are not able to decompose properly and instead add to producing Methane gas.  Methane gas is a known greenhouse gas which adds to the effects of climate change.  Landfills are the 3rd largest source of methane gas currently in the US.  Most of the organisms on Earth require oxygen and only few can survive in anaerobic environments so adding food waste and other organic materials to a landfill really take up unnecessary space and add to the problem of carbon in the atmosphere.

2. Why do some cities in Europe offer composting with their trash/recycling pickup but we don't really have that here in the US? 

Generally if a municipality is offering more advanced waste separation it is due to necessity and economics.  There is no more space for landfills to be created and there is limited space in the current landfills.  We need to find creative ways to divert and recycle materials that do not need to be in our landfills. After-all landfills are a human created technology that only provided a solution to current problems at the time, however are not very sustainable for a growing future.  We have a greater land mass than Europe so we have more space for landfills - many states/cities are already showing that these landfills are closing and becoming more limited so those areas are offering more landfill diversion techniques.  Ex. New York City, California, Seattle, Wa.  As landfill space becomes more scarce we will most likely see more creative ways to divert material that can go elsewhere and/or other technologies to handle waste streams.  

3. What about the garbage disposal? Is this better than food going into the trash? 

 Basically a garbage disposal chops up material and sends it through water pipes to the water reclamation department.  The Chicago MWRD is pretty sophisticated with bio-filtration technologies so that food waste and other water waste is filtered through microorganisms that can "clean" it and recycle it back into drinking water or grey water for washing and flushing toilets.  The solids that are filtered out are then composted aerobically (with oxygen) to create bio-solids.  In Chicago these bio-solids are a wonderful (yet highly stigmatized) organic fertilizer for plants and also available for free from the city.  Most people are uneducated about bio-solids and therefore think they are harmful to humans and food-production but they are highly regulated by the EPA and pose no threat to humans when fully composted.  The main issue with garbage disposals is that they deceive people into thinking you can put anything down a disposal but they may be eventually clogging the water pipes with grease, fat, and other non-water soluble materials.  If everyone was using disposals then we would most likely have city plumbing issues.  Also you should not be placing bones and other hard to chop materials in a disposal.  All organic waste can be composted yet all organic waste cannot be placed in a garbage disposal.  

4. What percentage of food in landfill contributes to climate change? 

The EPA says that about 20% of landfill space is food-waste

About 60% of what most people throw in the trash can is organic material (paper, cardboard, food-waste).  

Here are some other great Chicago area composting companies besides Healthy Soil:

For my STL, MO fam check out:

*ALSO, check out Compost Now for their map of compost pickups services throughout the US

Below is a list of Chicago restaurants that are collecting their organic waste and composting with Healthy Soil Compost! (There are others who use different composting services too!)

Antique Taco 

Heritage Chicago


Red and White Wines

City Mouse and Ace Hotel

Girl and the Goat

Little Goat

Duck Duck Goat



312 Chicago

Purple Pig

4LW Coffee

Longman and Eagle

Lost Lake

Hannahs Bretzel (all locations)

Stumptown Coffee

Chicago Yacht Club

Hoosier Mama Pie

Same Day Cafe


Kitchen 17

Hotel Gray

Hotel Allegro


I hope this sheds more light on why composting and preventing food waste is so important!

Please send me any questions or let me know if you have any local composting services (or restaurants) that I am missing and can share.

My favorite tools for living less wastefully by Annie Carlson

To live less wastefully you do NOT have to go out and buy new things. However, as I started to get into the Zero Waste world I realized that I was missing some items that would help me navigate life without using disposables or single use plastics. I feel there is a good balance between buying new items that inspire you to live better, and using items you already have around your house. Also, some items might seem more expensive up front, but the idea is that they will hopefully last a lifetime, or at least a long time! These are some of the items that have helped me as I start to live with a more Zero Waste mentality. If you click on the images below it will take you to the product site. I do not receive any kickback or commission for any of these products, just love them! There are so many more amazing products to highlight but these are my top 10 go-tos at the moment.

1. Stasher Bags

These bad boys were one of my first loves. Woman owned company too. They replace plastic bags (Ziploc bags) and are available via their website, Amazon, and the Container Store. I use them to store everything from food, to toiletries during travel. They can also be used to marinate, Sous Vide, steam, and even microwave. These ROCK!

2. Reusable Grocery Bags

An essential! Obviously any bag will do and you likely have several laying around the house. I have a few Baggu bags and I think their prints are so fun and they are always the first ones I grab. I keep at least one of these in my work bag or purse when I’m out and about in case I need to grab something. Also, you CAN remember your bags when you go into the grocery store, I believe in you.

3. Beeswax Wraps

There are a few different brands of these but I’m excited to support one of my friends (Sophie) and her small business. She uses recycled textiles to make these awesome food wraps. These can be used to cover cans, wrap onions, avocados, or cheese, and some are even large enough to cover bread or casserole dishes. These replace plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil. Sophie even explains on her website how to refresh the wraps if their grippieness starts to fade. If you’re new to these- you may need to warm them with your hands to mold them to whatever you’re using them to cover.

4. To-go silverware

You could easily bring regular silverware from home to serve this purpose. I got these on sale at a local grocery store and keep them in my work bag and have used them countless times. They are lightweight and easy to clean. It’s always surprising to me how many restaurants in the city have plastic silverware options ONLY- even when you are eating in. This was a great buy for me as I used them all the time.

5. Reusable straw

To be honest, I don’t really use straws all that much but in the summer I definitely find a use for them for smoothies and iced tea or coffee. To me, the reusable straw is one of the easiest things to carry around because it’s so small and light. I like these Simply Straws glass straws because they don’t seem to make things taste metallic as stainless steel straws can do, and they are super chic. Totally optional item but I do love them. Also, if you get the To-go ware silverware some of their sets have a Simply Straw glass straw included! Also, they are a little easier to clean because you can see any gunk caught inside.

6. To-go vessel

A no-brainer! Hot things, cold things, even oatmeal if you want. I love the price of these and the size options, and that they come with a stainless straw. Healthy Human has great options for both water bottles and coffee/tea tumblrs. LOVE. You could also use a mason jar in lou of this, keep in mind mason jars aren’t insulated though.

7. Menstrual Cup by Dot

Let’s start by saying that I’m obsessed with Menstrual cups. I think they are one of the coolest inventions and have been using them for the last 2+ years. Dot is an amazing woman owned company based here in Chicago, the cup is made in Wisconsin, and with every purchase they donate a cup to a woman in need. OH and it comes with this super cute case. Any brand of menstrual cup will save thousands of tampons/pads throughout a lifetime, which normally sit in landfills and take a LONG time to degrade. Check out this article for some interesting info.

8. Safety razor

This was a hard one for me to get on board with at first. I was scared of how to use it and that I would cut myself all the time, but this was actually an easy transition. There are many brands of safety razors (check Amazon), and the razors are very inexpensive. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my lack of razor-burn and ingrown hairs since switching to a safety razor.

9. Pela Case*

This iPhone case is compostable and shipped without ANY plastic packaging. I’m so glad to finally say “no” to cases that are made of plastic and are packaged in plastic. They have a ton of fun colors and I am happy that I can add this to my compost bin if I ever get a different phone and need to get a new Pela case. *This definitely isn’t a Zero Waste necessity but I consider it a BETTER option than other phone cases on the market.

10. Produce bags

Mesh bags, or simple cotton bags. I don’t go grocery shopping or to the farmers market without these. Not only can they be used when shopping produce at the grocery store/market, but they can be used when you’re buying a cookie, muffin, scone, etc. when you’re out and want to save a disposable sleeve. This is another easy one to store inside your reusable grocery bags and have them with you when you’re shopping.

My thoughts on meat by Annie Carlson

Mint Creek Farms, Cabery IL

Mint Creek Farms, Cabery IL

The discussion on eating meat is nothing new, but it is on my mind all the time. I think I’ve asked every member of my family and many friends the point-blank question, “ is it ethical for us to eat animals and why or why not?”. Super fun dinner convo! I’m not as interested in discussing the environmental effects of the meat industry in this particular post, because I can certainly see how detrimental it is and it is a huge motivating factor for me to eat less meat. I just can’t seem to get past the fact that my whole life I’ve called myself an animal lover, yet I’ve also supported the killing of many of them for food. Does that make me a hypocrite?

I was a vegetarian in college for about 1.5 years and have returned to eating meat since then. As you might know, I’m very passionate about supporting local farmers and buying meat from sources that are more “ethical”. I realize saying “ethical meat” could be considered a ridiculous statement but what I mean is: purchasing meat/eggs from farmers locally who raise their animals responsibly and humanely. Pasture raised, grass fed when applicable, no antibiotics/hormones, GMO feed, etc. This also means that I am trying (not 100% perfect yet) to not eat meat at restaurants that will either not disclose the source of their meat or they do and it’s not from a source I want to support. I do believe that animals have the right to live their lives free of suffering, and certainly don’t want a hand in supporting that. If more people start requesting responsibly raised meat at restaurants, more of them will make it a priority! I’ve visited a local farm, emailed countless questions to a man we purchase meat from in Wisconsin, watched many documentaries and read tons of articles, yet there is still something inside of me that feels unsettled with this topic.

I think we can all agree that factory farming [CAFOs] is TERRIBLE and needs to be eliminated. But I wonder, is my “ethical” meat eating not quite as rosy as I imagine? I haven’t actually seen the slaughter of these animals happen and I imagine that if I had to kill my own animals I’d likely never eat them. [The NYT posted a contest back in 2012 prompting people to write an essay on why or why isn’t it ethical to eat meat. I found the responses really interesting! Obviously it’s a controversial topic so some comments were dramatic.]

One of my big questions is what makes our domesticated pets different than those animals that we raise for meat / dairy consumption? Why do some have no problem eating cows and pigs but would never eat rabbit, lamb, etc.? I know there have been many studies on the intelligence of Pigs, and I recommend watching a touching short documentary called 73 cows. Is it simply just a cultural thing? Some cultures don’t find it appalling to eat dogs, cats, or horses, which seems barbaric to us in the US.

Right now in my eating journey I fall on the carnivorous side of the line, however it is truly something I think about everyday. I’m mindful about my choices and what I’m purchasing and choosing to support, but there are still these questions lingering in my head. Perhaps if I become vegetarian or vegan I would be able to put these pieces of guilt or questions aside?

I’m curious about the plant based/ vegan world and I would love to do another round of the “7 Day Vegan” Challenge that I completed last year, but do it for a longer period of time. I have so much respect and admiration for the Vegans out there.

My apologies that this post is a rambling compilation of questions with no real end conclusion, but that is how I truly feel. I know this topic is controversial, but I want the feedback and input! Please comment below or send me an email/ message on Instagram with your thoughts or where you’re at in this journey.

Also, this is a total aside but why do many people not consider fish to be meat?! In my opinion fish are most certainly meat even though they are not raised in the same methods as cows, pigs, and chickens.


Why should you care? by Annie Carlson

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead
Me filling up my Swell bottle at a fountain in Rome, Italy.

Me filling up my Swell bottle at a fountain in Rome, Italy.

In the last few days I’ve read articles about Trump and coal, climate change, and the New York Post article giving us 12 years to get our sh*t together to help the planet. (Not to mention the other things happening in the political world today.) It is easy for me to fall in to the “we’re doomed” mindset.

When I read these things I feel pretty helpless as I know a lot of the big change comes from big companies/ decision makers and a lot of that I can’t control. The point is though, that the SMALL things are easy. We can do small things everyday that WILL have an impact whether you choose to believe it or not.

WHY? I think that’s what people really want to know. WHY should I care about these things?
- Do you have kids or want to have kids? Do you want their future planet to be one where the Great Barrier Reef, and Elephants don't exist?
- Do you care about having beautiful green space to explore and visit?
- Do you care about extreme weather patterns and storms causing death and devastation every year? This then effects farms, forest fires, crop yield... and potentially your vacation spot.

There is plenty of science showing that individual, small changes DO add up. (Read Ashlee Piper's book Give a Shi*t for all the sited facts.) Not only do the small actions add up in terms of saving energy, resources, and waste, but they also INSPIRE others.

If you're inspired like me, here are some small things that are truly NOT hard that can have a positive impact on the planet. If you're overwhelmed, just pick one thing that works for you and your lifestyle, and go from there. After all it just starts with one…

-bring your own water bottle (everywhere)
-bring your own coffee or tea cup/thermos. Also coffee just tastes better out of ceramic.
-research a community compost program in your area to help fight food waste (there are lots of options to drop off at farmers markets!)
-if you have Imperfect Produce in your area consider taking advantage of them
-take public transportation if it's available
-ride your bike (praise the Chicago bikers who ride through the winter)
-research eco-friendly hotels
-unplug your appliances when not in use
-don't pre-heat the oven (unless absolutely required for recipe)
- hang dry your clothes (it's so Euro )
- turn the tap off when brushing your teeth
- buy local (everything!)
- shop vintage instead of new

And so many more! Comment below on your “thing” you’re working on.

Sugar Detox Challenge by Annie Carlson

My summer has been amazing, fun and busy, but a little too full of treating myself. I want to do a sugar detox to help reduce bloat/ inflammation and to reduce my cravings for something sweet after every meal.


 Why the weird timeframe? Sam and I are going to Italy at the end of September and we want to really clean up our eating prior to the trip.  I hope these resources help and that you'll join me for the challenge from August 13th- September 20th.  

Also, let's clarify that this is a no ADDED sugar challenge. Fruit is okay. We are staying away from natural sweeteners as well such as honey, and maple syrup. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified nutritionist/ dietician/ doctor etc. This info is all based on my personal research and experiences!  

Below is a sample grocery list of our "basics" when we go grocery shopping. It always changes from week to week depending on what recipes we are making. 


The name of the game here is READ THE INGREDIENTS. Look out for anything ending in -ose or a syrup. There are many different names for sugars and sugar substitutes so when in doubt Google it or don't eat it! Yes this means you may have to be the annoying person at a restaurant asking whats in the salad dressing. 

  • THE SUPER OBVIOUS: candy, soda, most chocolate, baked goods. 
  • YOGURT (we like Fage plain or Siggi's plain both full fat versions) 
    • aspartame, stevia, etc.
    • easiest would be to make these at home or opt for beer or wine in moderation. (although I recently learned that some wine could have added sugar in the production process, not sure on this one!)
    • I'm going to avoid alcohol during this challenge but let me know what works best for you! Beware of fruit juice as often times it has added sugar.
    • make your own and avoid dried fruit
  • BARS!
    • most bars have added sugar but please let me know if you have another good one besides RX Bars
    • i'm going to allow an occasional RX Bar as they are only sweetened with dates but my policy will be for emergencies only. Traveling, don't have food, need something on the go. 
    • make your own or be sure to read ingredients 
    • this is a super frustrating one. MOST bread has sugar in it so really watch the ingredients here. We like Silver Hills Bakery "Steady Eddie" or Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grain Bread. 
    • almost all dried fruit has added sugar, it does exist without it but eating dried fruit is kind of like "candy" for me so I will try to avoid it. 

Leaving the pill in the past by Annie Carlson

I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to share this experience as it is very personal, but I decided to because when I was going through it I felt alone and unsure. Please reach out to me with any questions!    

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or certified to give medical advice or recommendations, I am simply sharing my experience. I respect and encourage every woman to choose the birth control method that is right for them! It’s great that there are multiple options out there for us to choose from.


About 4 years ago I decided that I wanted to go off of Hormonal Birth Control once and for all.

I first went on the birth control pill when I was a Junior/Senior in high school after my Gynecologist recommended it due to very painful menstrual cramps. (I would have very painful cramps and severe headaches during my period.)


  • I didn’t want to spend the money every month (I wish I would have calculated how much was spent on The Pill over the many years I was taking it.)
  • I don’t want my body to be reliant on a medication of any kind (let alone hormonal, even if the dose is very small)
  • I have suffered for many years with bad headaches on and off and I wanted to see if the pill was causing this, or affecting hormones negatively and in turn that was causing the headaches

  • above all I wanted to be in tune and in control of my body and menstrual cycle

I really wanted to become more in tune with my body and what it needs. One of the coolest (although stereo-typically sucky) things as women that we have is our menstrual cycles. It’s really pretty amazing how our body functions and that it all revolves around the potential to get pregnant. If you’re a science nerd like me, you know what I’m talking about.  It sounds weird but I actually wanted to have my period again.

The Pill had, for years, eliminated my period all together. My doctors all told me this was normal and nothing that I needed to be concerned about and for the first several years I thought - cool! - I don’t have to deal with all the BS that comes along with periods. As I started to transition my lifestyle into more natural and holistic living, I started to wonder about whether being on the pill was necessary. I was bothered by the fact that I hadn’t had a period in so many years, and if this could potentially affect my ability to have children in the future. All the doctors I talked to about if the pill affects future pregnancy told me that there was nothing to worry about on this front. Personally- I wonder if there is enough data available to confidently say that the pill has no effect on infertility issues? Perhaps in 10-20 more years there will be more information on this.

Bottom line- something in my gut just told me that this pill I’m taking everyday, can’t be doing me any GOOD. So I decided to take the plunge and go off of the pill, even though pretty much no one in my life that I discussed this with supported that decision (if I was sexually active). At this point, I had a serious boyfriend (now my husband), who was fully supportive of me making my own decision based on my health and well being. Without going into the pregnancy aspects of going off of the pill too much here, we decided that since I had been on the pill for so many years- he would happily go the Condom route in regards to being sexually active (bonus points for condoms protecting against STDs as well).  

Within the first few months after stopping the pill I experienced:


  • more energy

  • no weight loss or weight gain ( I didn’t experience these side effects when I started the pill as many women do)

  • more regulated appetite

  • my period returned after about 5 months (on a regular schedule)

  • almost fully eliminated my headaches * this was huge for me. Now I typically only get headaches on the first or second day of my period, or if I eat something really out of the norm for my diet.

  • a sense of freedom from a prescription and daily medication!

  • I did not have any major breakouts or acne, however I know this can be a major issue for many people. (Many are put on BC specifically for acne.) I would say 1. Don’t over do it with products, your hormones are regulating and it could do more damage trying to fight the acne with harsh products. 2. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking a ton of water 3. Be consistent with your skincare, after your hormones get into balance (hopefully they will quickly) you should be able to see what products are working but switching from product to product won’t help.

The biggest effect I noticed (aside from the headache improvement) in the first year pill-free, is that I started to feel more in tune with everything. I know this sounds cheesy but another woman described it as a “veil being lifted” and I find that to really be true. Around this same time is when I started to become more passionate and interested in diet, and cooking. See my book recommendations below, there is a lot of info on what foods to cook during the different stages of your cycle.   

My period returned after about 5 months not taking the pill. I was honestly surprised by this! I had read online that sometimes it can take a year or so for your body to regulate itself. I had a lot of fear that when my period returned, my symptoms would be really severe as they had been in high school, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were very tolerable. I believe this has a lot to do with living a healthy lifestyle and generally eating well and exercising.


  • overall more energy and stamina during workouts
  • continued reduction of headaches
  • no food cravings (occasionally I will have some around my period, but nothing crazy)
  • more regular gut health
  • better sleep
  • saving $$$ 


  • A friend of mine gave me the book Taking Charge of your Fertility and this helped me to realize that there was a whole world of women out there who want to become in touch with their bodies. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic, it covers avoiding pregnancy, achieving pregnancy, and ALL about women’s cycles. So much of what’s covered in the book about our cycles I felt that we should know already, but sadly most women don’t!
  • I did take a “natural” birth control course through the Chicago Women’s Health Center to learn about the Fertility Awareness Method (aka FAM). This method involves tracking your cycle, your cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and other symptoms to know when you are most or least fertile. It was an interesting course and a more hands on learning experience in a classroom.
  • Woman Code. I received this book when I participated in the Lee From America Workshop here in Chicago and I’m still reading it. It covers Cycle Syncing, fertility, food, and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

  • My Flo App (helps with cycle syncing and what foods to eat and what types of workouts are best for certain parts of your cycle)

  • Kindara App (more detailed tracking for cycle and can be used with Fertility Awareness Method)

  • Menstrual Cups:  I am obsessed with these! Earth friendly and comfortable. If you haven’t heard or read about menstrual cups, Google it and give them a try! There is definitely a learning curve in the beginning but it is totally worth it.  I have used the Diva Cup, the Lena Cup, and Lunette and my favorite is the Lunette so far. (Available on Amazon)


I did consider getting an IUD for quite a while. I actually made 2 separate appointments to get an IUD placed and then both times decided it wasn’t the right choice for me. I sometimes have issues making decisions- and this was a tough one for me!

I like the idea of the IUD and heard from a lot of women who had great experiences. However I have also heard about a lot of negative experiences with them.  I entertained both the low hormone options and the copper option, but ultimately decided against them both. I just felt something in my gut that was telling me it wasn’t the right choice and I wanted to listen to that feeling.

Again, this birth control method might be perfect for you (I have several friends who love this option!), I’m just sharing my personal decision and experience.

I have truly enjoyed learning about my cycle over the past several years and do not mind having my period every month at all. I find it so fascinating that we as women have to make these choices about handling our fertility, and men don’t have to deal with these challenges. I hope that educators are incorporating all the information regarding birth control options, cycles, and fertility when they are teaching our kids today. I feel like I was shorthanded when it came to women’s health education growing up.

I hope that men are reading this as well as women and I encourage the men in your lives to learn more about women’s cycles and bodies so they can appreciate us and our bodies even more than they already do.

Please share your experiences and ask me any questions you might have about mine!


Buffalo chicken stuffed spaghetti squash by Annie Carlson


 This recipe is inspired by The Real Food Dietitians with a couple of modifications . Super easy and satisfying. Check it out! 


  •  1 lbs chicken breast, cooked and shredded (I cook a large package of Pine Manor chicken breasts on Sunday by putting raw chicken in crock pot and submerging in high quality chicken broth until they are just covered, and cook on high for about 2-3 hours until you can shred the chicken easily with 2 forks) 
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved 
  • 1-2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup Tessemae’s HOT (or Mild) Buffalo Sauce 
  • Optional: 1/4 cup Tessemae’s Creamy Ranch Dressing 
  • 1 tbs avocado oil
  • salt & pepper 


  • preheat oven to 350°F , cut squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out seeds and stringy center. Lightly brush with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. place face down on a baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes or until a fork can easily puncture the outside. 
  • once the squash is cool enough to handle, take a fork and shred the majority of the insides into a large mixing bowl. you want to leave a little to keep the body of the squash shell since you will be using it 
  • place squash shreds, chicken, green onions, peppers and buffalo sauce in a large bowl. Toss well to coat. Spoon squash mixture into the squash shells. Return the stuffed shells back to the baking sheet and place in 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
  • Serve with Tessemae’s Creamy Ranch Dressing (for Whole30)  (or blue cheese if not Whole 30)

Whole 30 roasted chicken thighs + veggies by Annie Carlson


Start by marinating 6 organic/pasture raised chicken thighs (I used Pine Manor Farms) with the following for about 20-30 minutes while you prep the other ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cloves minced garlic (i use a garlic press) 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper   

(whisk together and marinate in a glass dish or bowl) 

Other ingredients:

  • 1 sweet yellow onion (sliced) 
  • 3 strips Pederson's Farms no sugar added bacon (chop into small pieces before cooking)
  • 1 medium sweet potato ( large cubed) 
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts (end cut off and chopped in half) 
  • 1 organic fuji or gala apple (large cubed)
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil 
  • salt & pepper 
  • extra balsamic vinegar for brushing on to chicken thighs while cooking 

Preheat oven to 425. Melt 1 tbsp ghee in a cast iron skillet and cook the onions + bacon pieces for about 4-5 minutes or until softened and bacon is slightly cooked. Put the partially cooked onions + bacon on a baking sheet (with all the juices from the pan) while you continue chopping the many brussel sprouts you bought!  Put the potatoes, brussel sprouts, and apple pieces all into a mixing bowl. Toss with ghee (or oil of choice) and season with salt and pepper. 

Place these veggies on the baking sheet with the onions and bacon and mix together and spread evenly on the pan. Start to bake this mixture in oven while you sear the chicken thighs on the stove. In the same cast iron skillet used to cook the onions + bacon, add a bit more ghee and heat to medium, once hot place the chicken thighs skin side down and sear on each side for about 3-4 minutes (until browned on the skin side).  After all the chicken thighs are seared, place them in the oven on top of all the veggies and continue cooking for about 25 minutes. Total cooking time will be about 30-35 minutes. Keep an eye on everything and chicken should be done when 170 internal temp is reached. Once or twice while the chicken is roasting, pull out the baking sheet and brush the chicken thighs with balsamic vinegar. I like when the brussel sprouts get a little crispy or burned, so you might need to take the chicken off and continue cooking the veggies depending on your oven. ENJOY!


7 Day Vegan by Annie Carlson


7 Day Vegan was a fun experiment for sure. DISCLAIMER: I'm not going to remotely address my feelings toward eating animals in this post. That is a conversation for another day. This is simply my experience with eating 100% plant based food for 1 week, and how I felt/ tips for you. 


  • I think I would be better able to comment on this after eating Vegan for a longer period of time. My energy was not really affected much during this week. 30 days would be the best test for my body adjusting to this lifestyle. 


  • Digestion was horrible. TMI here, but just everything was flipped upside down during this week. I was super bloated, and felt like my lower belly was sticking out all the time. NOT GOOD. This is likely from all the raw veggies and beans I was eating, but if I were to eat this way consistently, this would be a huge challenge for me. 


  • I would recommend avoiding processed meat replacements. I had Seitan once and did NOT care for it at all.  I've tried other meat replacements in the past and I feel they are too processed and opt for whole foods instead. (beans, avocado, hemp seeds, nuts, etc.) I can tolerate Tofu, and I often get it when I order Pad Thai. I try to avoid it for the most part, because it is made from soy which is one of the most genetically modified foods. We had one meal with Tofu during the 7 Day Vegan week and it was good, see: Stir Fry below!
  • Meal prep effort was about the same, with the exception of a little time saved not cooking meat. In my opinion cooking meat isn't hard, I actually find it a bit easier. I often times dread chopping a million veggies, but you gotta prep what you gotta prep! 
  • I highly recommend Lee From America's meal prep guide. I used it during the 7 Day Vegan week and pull recipes from her site all the time. Obsessed! 
  • Also, try fermented veggies or sauerkraut! I was hesitant about this but I love it. Add some of this smoked jalapeno sauerkraut to your next salad and thank me later. I also have heard from many that pickling vegetables if very easy, though I haven't tried it myself. 


  • As you know, I do Crossfit about 3 times per week. I was surprised that my performance wasn't really affected.  Our workouts are so demanding and I typically go from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and have a later dinner, so I'm always starving when I arrive home- that didn't change this week!  Again, it might be best to tell after 30 days eating 100% plant based. 
  • I used and am still using AlOHA protein in smoothies after working out or prior to working out. It is a bit gritty but contains good quality ingredients, 100% plant based, and tastes good. I can't tolerate it with just water, so into a smoothie it goes.  

Regardless of your diet, I feel it is super important to make sure you're eating more vegetables. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan, " Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 

TIPS for adding more VEGGIES to your diet:

1. Add veggies to breakfast. Sauteing spinach takes 2 second and you can throw it in with some eggs (if you're not eating Vegan)  + avocado. OR add frozen veggies to your smoothies. They add great texture and more "filling power" (fills me up more than a fruit heavy smoothie). If you have time, steam fresh veggies and then freeze them. 

2. STIR FRY FOR THE WIN- Sam's favorite meal I made during this week was a Tofu Stir Fry. Basically tons of sauteed veggies + local Chicago made tofu (pressed and pan fried) + brown rice.  You can make so many versions of stir fry with any veggies left in the fridge, that's why I love it!  Use Edamame instead of Tofu to eliminate the soy. 

3. PREP your veggies on Sunday, or whatever day you do meal prep. You likely won't eat those carrots if they aren't chopped up! Chop some cucumbers, carrots, radishes, bell betters, etc. and have them with Hummus= my go to snack during 7 Day Vegan week! 

4. Open up to ZOODLES or other noodled veggies if you haven't already (where have you been?)! Check out  Inspiralized and give it a go.  

5. LOADED salads. Don't think too hard. Just buy your favorite vegetables at the store, chop them up and throw them on top of some romaine or spinach, add a bean or a grain if you like, and dress as necessary! I personally love to roast my veggies as much as possible to give them good flavor. (Roasted Broccoli coated in Garlic Ghee is my absolute favorite.)  

I'm not eating Vegan right now, however, I don't consume much dairy if any at all and when eating meat and eggs, I do my absolute best to source the best quality possible. I research the brands and farms that we buy from and try to vote with our dollars when shopping for any animal products.  

Please send me your questions and experiences with eating plant based! 

Half marathon rundown by Annie Carlson

I'm not a runner. I've never really aspired to be a runner, or to participate in any endurance activities. I would much rather run sprints than run 3 miles, but I'm always in awe of endurance athletes. One of my amazing brothers, Matt, mentioned that he was running another 1/2 marathon in St. Louis and challenged me to join him. Matt ran his first 1/2 marathon several months prior in Arizona and said it was an awesome experience. Knowing him, he hadn't ever really been into running, so it really impressed me that he jumped right in and completed this long distance race with no issues.

I'm the type of person to impulsively say "yes" to things, and then figure out the details later... so the next day I registered for the race. What impressed me most about this, was that my brother (43) was the one motivating me (26). Matt was diagnosed with CML (Chronic myeloid leukemia) in 2006 and has since been in remission, however, it has been a long road.  He has a family, a dog, owns and operates his own super-successful business, and has many other responsibilities (that I don't) that could keep him from training.  If he could train and run a 1/2 marathon, I figured I had no excuse not to! 

My family lives in St. Louis, so we signed up for the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon.  Growing up I have always played sports and have run here and there but haven't ever gotten into it hard-core. I'm currently doing Crossfit and running is of course a part of that but not to this degree.  I had about 9 weeks to train for the race, a little less than I would have liked but I jumped right in to one of Hal Higdon's Training plans. I mixed Crossfit and running into my training schedule, so I was running about 3 times per week, with my long run on the weekend. I was training in February/ early April in Chicago so I had to bundle up and run outside, with a few treadmill runs mixed in. (I HATE running on treadmills, but it was a nice break from the cold.)  Luckily we had a mild winter in Chicago, so the outdoor runs weren't too terrible and provided a good challenge. For me it was more mental than anything; who wants to abandon their warm bed + furry dog + fiance on a Sunday morning to go run 5 miles on a gray 35 degree Chicago morning?!  Certainly not me, but I did. It was also challenging training alone. Since Matt was in St. Louis we never ran together, but talked on the phone a few times about how our training was going. For anyone who is starting to train for a race of any kind, I would recommend having a training buddy for sure! 


I found the whole training experience completely eye opening, humbling, and challenging. People are doing WAY harder things in the world, yet I dreaded my Sunday morning run the whole week. Why?! Every day I would think, " I can't run X miles...I've never run that far before.." and then I would go do it! It felt amazing. Matt said to me during one of our conversations about training," if you can run 10 miles before the race, you will be prepared." I saw the 10 mile run on my training plan and thought that there was no way I could run 10 miles without stopping many times.  On those long-run-Sundays, once I started running and got into my groove, I just worked toward that mental goal of whatever mileage I was trying to hit until I got there. (A good playlist and podcasts don't hurt!)  I definitely had to walk here and there (thank you Chicago crosswalks), but overall kept a steady pace (not a fast one!). I was able to get a 10 mile run in before the race and felt confident with where I was at before race day. 

Matt and I were up bright and early on April 9th, ready to run. The weather was mild, not too sunny, not too hot, and there were thousands of people participating and the energy was high. We were corralled in downtown St. Louis near the Mississippi river, and stood for about 20 minutes waiting to get started. (The anticipation was killing me and I had to pee but couldn't leave my spot in the corral!) Although Matt and I never ran together during our training, we ran the whole 13.1 miles together! Matt stayed by my side, and we only walked quickly through the water stations and then got back to running. I told Matt to not let me hold him back and pick up the pace if needed, but we kept our slow, but steady pace together finishing a bit over 2 hours. We "talked" in between breathing for the first 3 miles or so, and then popped in our headphones and got in the zone. My knees and feet were killing me, and I couldn't have been more excited to cross the finish line!  

Our dog Louie was a great spectator ! 

Our dog Louie was a great spectator ! 

The race was extremely humbling. The flag runners who run the whole race holding an american flag, the fire fighters running in uniform, the older runners running for a charity or just for "fun", the handicapped ; they are the true bad-asses in the world.  Not to mention the amazing athletes running a MARATHON in about the time it took Matt and me to run 1/2 that distance, incredible! It was a serious challenge to run 13.1 miles straight and I wanted to stop so many times, but didn't.  The discipline and the mental toughness that went into the training and the race itself was well worth it. I feel like everyone should challenge themselves to get outside their comfort zone in some way, and this certainly did that for me.  For now, I have no future races in sight, but I'm always up for a challenge! 

During my training I did experience some knee pain, but some help from my coaches at Crossfit CE, stretching, and new shoes + inserts helped me get over that. However, after the race I had a major problem in my right foot. It almost felt like my Metatarsal bone was broken, pain on the outside of the foot all the way back to the heel- I could barely put pressure on it during the 4-5 days following the race. I didn't go to a doctor to have my foot looked at, but iced it and stretched consistently for one month. Using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, and some Arnicare Gel, I worked to keep the pain away. I'm still not sure exactly what was wrong with it... Plantar Fascistic, or a bone bruise... not sure?  Have any of you experienced this pain? The pain/ discomfort didn't go away for about 6 weeks, but after that it was finally back to normal. 

Please send me your experiences with running, racing, or training I would love to hear! 



Non-toxic beauty favorites by Annie Carlson

Over the past several years I've realized how important it is to be conscious about what I'm putting on my body just as much as I am about what I'm putting in it. The skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs everything we put on it, good or bad. 

I'm also a huge animal lover/ advocate and it boggles my mind how many cosmetic companies still use animal testing as part of their methods. I've been trying to only purchases from companies that do not test on animals and that are not owned by a company that tests on animals. I could go on an on about the animal testing topic, but the main point is to make sure you do your research and only support companies that do not test on animals and ideally use natural or organic ingredients! I have found that Cruelty Free Kitty, and PETA both have good lists for cruelty free and non-cruelty free companies. 

It has been about 3-4 years of slowly eliminating more toxic products from my beauty/skincare/ hair routine and i'm finally almost there. I have a couple products that I'm trying to use the rest of, because they were expensive and I don't like to waste (I'm looking at you NARS Orgasm Blush). 

Here is a list of my beauty routine in the a.m. with my lineup of non-toxic beauty products (excluding body/ hair products-will have to have a whole separate post on that later!):

  •  Wash my face with this amazing facial oil from One Love Organics (it is expensive but it lasts forever.) I'm absolutely sold on facial oils as cleansers but this is the best one I've ever tried. It removes makeup really well, and is gentle and doesn't dry my skin out.
  • Put cocokind MyMatcha stick under my eyes. This really could be used anywhere or as a general balm but I like to put it under my eyes to moisturize.
  • Cocokind repair serum , little bit over face and neck
  • Pai Chamomile & Rosehip Calming  day cream,  I bought this as part of a gift set around Christmas time and it is almost out and I'm not sure if I will repurchase. I like to use an SPF moisturizer in the summertime but this moisturizer really does calm my redness and is quickly absorbed which I love! 
  • I start with my eye makeup first to let my moisturizer set in. I use Pixi by Petra eyeliner in Bronze Beam. This isn't 100% natural or organic but it is cruelty free and works well for me. Let me know if you have a go-to non-toxic brown eyeliner! 
  • Next is W3LL People Mascara. I've tried many natural mascara's and I still haven't found the holy grail, BUT I'm loving this one enough to keep purchasing it which is saying something! 
  • I use RMS Beauty uncover-up on any red areas and under eyes. I just use my fingers to apply (later I blend with a sponge) . Again, this is an expensive item but mine has lasted me over 1 year. 
  • Then W3LL people  tinted moisturizer. I use these sponges (wet them first) , to blend the uncover up and the tinted moisturizer
  • RMS beauty un powder . I tap my largest face/powder brush in this and dab it on to "set" the tinted moisturizer 
  • Dap blush on cheeks with a blush brush if i'm using the last of my NARS blush mentioned above (toxic), or this non-toxic option that I recently bought which I would use my fingers to apply. (still haven't mastered cream blushes...) 
  • Lily Lolo bronzer.  (Miami Beach) I put this on a smaller more angled brush and apply on forehead, along cheekbones, and a little on the nose + neck. 
  • RMS Beauty Living Luminizer under my eyebrows and near the tear duct of each eye. 
  • EcoBrow eyebrow defining wax.  (color Sharon) I use an eyebrow brush and fill in my brows a tad and brush them smooth. I love this product and it has lasted a really long time as well! 
  • And my favorite lip balm is Eco Lips Mongo Kiss, Vanilla Honey

I have been using Detox Market a lot for non-toxic products and reviews, as well as Amazon. There aren't a tone of stores in Chicago that carry the products I want to try but they are starting to be sold at Whole Foods, Plum Market, and Target which is so exciting! 

I realize a lot of these products are more expensive than most drugstore options, but it doesn't have to be an overnight switch to non-toxic products. It has taken me a while to finally fine products that I like and that do the job!  I truly feel it is worth the money, and I think you vote with your dollar when you choose to support companies that do not stand for animal testing. 

Hopefully this list helps! Send me any of your favorite products or any questions you have! 

Brown sugar body scrub by Annie Carlson


Now that winter is here to stay, ugh, my skin is in desperate need of help! This recipe is adapted from the amazing people at  Scratch Mommy.  I've always been a fan of scrubs, but they sometimes can be so expensive and when reading the ingredients it seems most things can be found in the kitchen! I love the brand Now Foods for the oils listed below. You can buy this brand at Wholes foods and i'm sure other natural grocers in your area.

Brown sugar body scrub:

1.5-2 cups organic brown sugar

1.5 cup melted organic coconut oil

1 tablespoon sweet almond oil

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1/4 cup fine organic sea salt

contents of 2 organic green tea bags (I love Numi Jasmine Green Tea)

about 20 drops Lavender oil

about 10 drops Rosemary oil ( you can use any combination of scented oils you like!)

Mason jar or glass container of choice

Exploring natural beauty products by Annie Carlson


Over the last few years I’ve been trying to clean my beauty routine up, and have met some challenges. For one, I’m a young professional trying to live on a budget, not wanting to spend a fortune on foundation and the like. But, I care deeply about purchasing products that are cruelty free, and that have natural, non-harmful ingredients… AND I want the products to perform beautifully and last all day (can’t a girl have it all?!). I totally believe its possible to have natural + performance beauty products.  However, I do understand that we live in a modern world where we can’t always find or afford to purchase the most pure AND effective products. I guess I would say my must have is the product being Cruelty Free, but I’m always looking for the best. Below are a few of my recent favorites.

Do you guys have any recommendations? Looking for a go-to natural mascara.

Whole 30 final thoughts by Annie Carlson


We made it! I’m so excited and proud that we finally accomplished the Whole 30. I have talked about it so much in the past, but I was finally were able to follow through and actually do it. We definitely followed the Whole 30 plan to the “T”, and I’m certainly glad we did. In my opinion if you are going to commit to something this strict/ intense, why do it half-ass?

I have to say that I feel great! One thing I have been really pleased with is how full my meals keep me throughout the day. I said this in an earlier post but my non-Whole 30 diet was relatively healthy, but I would get EXTREMELY hungry in between meals which would cause me to have more snacks to tide myself over. During the latter part of the Whole 30 I felt very steady throughout the day and didn’t get so ravenously hungry in between meals. I’m not sure what the major cause of this is… more fats? more protein? Nonetheless i’m really pleased with this!

Another positive is that my headaches have significantly decreased. It is hard to say what it was exactly that helped with this. Grains, sugar, dairy? I guess the post-Whole 30 life will shed some light on this when/ if I reintroduce certain food groups. 

Whole 30 week 2 recap by Annie Carlson


Week 2 was much better than week 1 ! I am feeling lighter, never bloated, and my energy has been higher. I also find that I don't need to snack as often as I did in Week 1. The Whole 30 program doesn't really advocate for snacking between every meal, so i've been trying to keep that in mind. As I approach lunch-time I still get REALLY hungry (which is normal for me), but generally try to only snack mid-afternoon. (Sometimes I get caught up in work and forget to go grab whatever snack it is that I brought for the day.) 

The prep is getting to me a bit. I feel like i'm constantly cooking, and when i'm not cooking i'm planning what groceries to get for something that we need to make. It takes a LOT of preparation to have three meals a day ready to go for two people. This week we tried some awesome recipes (and some made up on the fly) listed below: 

1. Homemade breakfast sausage from the Primal Palate  : these have been a huge addition to our breakfasts considering we cannot find sugar free bacon (so far) anywhere locally. They smell amazing when they are cooking. 

2. Lettuce wrap tacos from Multiply Delicious: this is a super easy go-to. Even when we are not on the Whole 30 I love to make these 

3. Frie-cut sweet potatoes using Mandolin just slice (carefully!), season with coconut oil and salt and pepper and bake. These are a great add on to our breakfasts and a side at dinner. I can't get enough!

4. Local Salmon with avocado mango salsa: similar recipe here. We used frozen mango instead of oranges, and had broccoli as a side instead of bok choy. 

5. Pork Chops with Applesauce from the Whole 30 cookbook: I'm typically not a fan of Pork Chops, but these were so flavorful and amazing. The meal was quick, simple, and delicious. The Pork was from our local farmers market (Green City Market) and from Jake's Country Meats.  

Sam and I have found the weekends to be especially challenging on the Whole 30. In Chicago, our weekends are usually filled with outings with friends, trying the many new/ amazing restaurants, or watching some sort of sporting event.... all of which typically involve alcohol + delicious food. I'm not a huge drinker, but I'm realizing how much I miss having a glass of wine during the week, or my favorite beer. It's hard in social situations to always be the one who "can't" have something. Clearly, we are doing this by choice, but still, it draws attention to you when you are not partaking in something that everyone else is! 

Overall, Week 2 has been significantly better than Week 1. I have been suffering from on and off headaches for most of my adult life, and this week was a headache-free week. I don't want to speak too soon, but this is huge for me! My energy levels have been much higher than Week 1 also. I haven't been working out nearly as much as I typically do, so I can't speak to energy levels there, but hopefully I will have many Tiger Blood fueled workouts in Weeks 3 + 4. 

Ready to tackle Week 3!

Whole 30 week 1 recap by Annie Carlson


We’ve made it through 1 week. I normally would say that Sam and I deserve a celebratory treat/breakfast/pizza/etc. but NOPE! Not allowed. This week was hard for me. I felt hungry pretty much all day long, and really low energy. On Sunday, Sam and I had a family event and a lunch afterwards at an authentic Italian Pizzeria. It was so, so hard! Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and most of the food (and wine) that was served we couldn't eat. Leaving the lunch starving, we went to Chipotle for a quick-fix, Whole 30 approved meal [Lettuce, Carnitas, any salsa except for the corn salsa, and lots of guacamole]. It was extremely satisfying! Later that evening, I badly cut my pinky finger on my brand new mandolin (purchased specifically for the Whole 30), and had to go to Urgent Care to get it patched up. Needless to say, I was beyond “over” the Whole 30 by the end of the day. 

My tips for week 1 :

1. JUST. DO. IT. Don’t contemplate quitting because its too much work, or you don’t think it will be worth it. You’ve already committed, so just do it .

2. prep, prep, and don’t stop prepping 

3. have a partner in crime (even if its someone no in the same state or city as you, you can talk and complain your way through it all !)

Whole 30 prep day by Annie Carlson

The Sunday before our first week was a ton of work, I must say. We just had a birthday party for Sam at our apartment the previous weekend, so I was attempting to purge our house of beer/wine. I contemplated having a “drink our booze” party, but that didn’t end up happening.  I tossed everything that wasn’t whole 30 compliant that was perishable, which wasn’t much because we did a good job of using all of our groceries the previous week. I also threw out anything in our pantry that would be potentially too tempting. I didn’t throw out all of my traditional baking supplies, quinoa, rice, beans, etc. because I didn’t want to waste them all and will potentially use them in the future depending on how life-changing these 30 days are.

After doing some “light” meal planning, I made a grocery list and headed off to the store.  I also stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond and bought this mandolin that a friend had recommended to me and I highly recommend it!! Already used it for week 1’s salads.  I’m typically not one of those people who plans every meal of everyday in the week, so I just picked a few recipes from the Whole 30 Book and from various websites, or my brain, and went for it!

Got loads of groceries (Saturday we purchased our meat at the farmers market) and headed home to prep/ chop/ organize our pantry and refrigerator. It was already overwhelming to me how much preparation this required, but hopefully it will be worth it and I will adjust. When you work Monday- Friday, 9-5 you really have to use Sunday as your prep day because it is so hard to do serious cooking at night after work. It seems as though we will have more than enough food for the week, but we will see.

I think I am most nervous about the no-grains. We don’t eat a ton of them, but we usually always have them with breakfast which really seems to work well energy-wise for me. Nonetheless we are ready for week 1 ! Stay tuned….

Whole 30...we're doin' it by Annie Carlson


Just a quick background on my eating habits... I was a vegetarian for about a 1.5 years in college, and then transitioned into a “weekday” vegetarian, and now I’m a full on omnivore. However, I have strict standards for the meat that I eat and try to source as locally as possible and look for meat/ dairy/ seafood with high animal welfare standards. I wish I could say that I NEVER eat meat when eating at a restaurant if I don’t know where it comes from, but that will have to be something I strive towards. If I could summarize my eating philosophy in a nutshell, it would be Michael Pollan’s Food Rules . I have always been hesitant to try anything where meat is the reigning ingredient in every recipe (i.e. Paleo diet). But i’m open to trying a new eating program if it will make me feel/ look/perform better!

I’m sure the majority of you have heard about the Whole 30 , but if you are not familiar with the program I will break it down briefly for you. The idea is to eliminate foods that are potentially harming your body, for 30 days, and see how (hopefully amazing) you feel. The foods to be eliminated over the 30 days are sugar, grains, dairy and legumes. That leaves us with meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, good fats, nuts, and seeds. Basically, you’re eating only “whole foods” for 30 days. Nothing processed or unnatural. (Oh and no alcohol!) This is really a short term “reset” of your diet.

I have had many friends complete the Whole 30 with raving reviews, and have contemplated doing it for a while! My boyfriend Sam and I have always chickened out with endless excuses, and now we are finally taking the plunge. Being in the working world makes these types of resets hard because of client dinners, outings, and events, and the endless planning that is required, but when isn’t there an excuse?

Stick with me as I breakdown the preparation for the Whole 30, and the progress of the 30 days. I know its going to be hard, but i’m excited to see how my body reacts!