Ann Lokuta is a 20-something nutrition grad student at the University of Michigan, addicted to feeling healthy and all the habits that come along with it. Committed to maintaining a healthy diet (on a budget), while balancing school, exercise, and work is an everyday challenge (if there’s a will, there’s a way). Ann shares her outlook on healthy living with food & fit tips, recipes, and the latest health science findings on various social media outlets: The Downriver Dish, Mind the Science Gap, Food for Thought, and @AnnLokuta on Twitter.
ITF: Where do you shop for food?
ITF: Do you love food shopping or dread it?
AL: Absolutely love it. I don’t let it intimidate me – usually the best plan of action is to get an assortment of produce, some sort of grain, and some sort of protein. I figure out what I’m actually going to do with it later!
ITF: What is the single most important thing on your mind when you are shopping for food?
AL: Price and simplicity – I mostly buy produce, but if I’m going to get any sort of processed food (bread, crackers, etc.), my eyes go straight to the ingredients list to find the option with REAL ingredients (no preservatives, additives, excessive sugar – YUCK).
ITF: How often do you shop?
AL: Small amounts once or twice a week. I make sure I use EVERYTHING before I buy more – it’s great for staying on a budget and eliminating waste. Plus, my roommate and I split the fridge, so I’m on a “space budget”, as well.
ITF: What is your weekly food budget?
AL: Every 3-4 months, I’ll do one big shopping trip where I buy bags of dried beans, rice, nuts, pasta, and other non-perishables. It’s cheaper to buy these things in bulk and then I just have them to mix with fresh produce and make meals with. Those trips tend to be a bit more expensive than my average weekly food budget (around $100-$150). On a normal trip, when I’m getting mainly produce, eggs, or a dairy product, I’ll spend around 30-50 dollars.
ITF: How many times a week do you eat out? (based on 21 meals/week)
AL: Once or twice max. Most weeks I’ll go without eating out at all (I’d rather save money and splurge on a craft brew at happy hour!).
ITF: How do you plan your weekly meals? Create a spreadsheet of fly by the seat of your pants?
AL: Definitely fly by the seat of my pants. I’ll come home with a bag full of random fruits and vegetables, some rice, milk, eggs, and salmon. These foods will get mixed and matched all week to make my different meals – omelets, stir-fried rice, salmon with veggies, rice “pudding” – you have to get creative with what you have.
ITF: Do you believe in leftovers?
AL: YES – with all of my heart! I recently read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and it honestly changed my whole way of cooking. Basically, each meal leads to the next and nothing is ever wasted. If I boil vegetables, I save that water to cook rice. Any leftover veggies will go in an omelet the next morning and the extra rice will go into a stir-fry for lunch the next day.
ITF: What convenience product can you not live without?
AL: Peanut Butter – I’m eating it with apple slices right now! Krema Natural Creamy Peanut butter – with bananas, apples, smoothies, on toast with an egg white – delicious.
ITF: What cooking utensil/piece of equipment/appliance do you live for?
AL: I don’t think you need a ton of fancy equipment in the kitchen, but a good blender is definitely a key player in a lot of my meals.
ITF: How have your cooking/shopping habits changed over the last 10 years?
AL: Drastically. I’ve always been active, but up until about three years ago I could eat anything and everything (from kale to excessive amounts of Oreos) that I wanted without seeing much consequence, and that’s exactly what I did. Around my senior year of college, I began to feel sluggish and generally a little unhealthy. This is when I changed my habits and started seeing food as fuel for my body. I now realize we’re dealing with precious vessels here and it’s important to consider what you give your body to function (you wouldn’t pour sugar in your gas tank would you?).
ITF: What are your go-to food/nutrition/culinary/cooking website/s, book or cookbook?
AL: An Everlasting Meal – Tamar Adler doesn’t necessarily have a huge focus on nutrition, but everything she cooks is from whole, fresh, and REAL foods (which a lot of the time ends up being nutritious without trying). The book has recipes sporadically distributed among her cooking experiences and tips. It’s a really inspiring book for the chef-wannabe on a budget!
ITF: What was the last meal you cooked from scratch?
AL: Spinach and feta turkey burgers with homemade hummus and roasted red peppers – they were AWESOME. The water from boiling the spinach went into a batch of rice yesterday and the leftover hummus made for a good pita sandwich with cucumbers and feta for lunch today.
ITF: If one person could cook for you tonight, who would it be?
AL: Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa. I always watch in awe when she hosts these amazing dinner parties with such simplicity and ingredients that are straight out of her own garden. Sometimes I swear I catch myself drooling…
ITF: What words of wisdom or advice do you have for other folks who are doing their best every day to fill the fridge?
AL: Get creative and work with what you have before you go out and spend more money buying every last ingredient for some complicated recipe. The odds and ends of previous meals and shopping trips can usually come together to make a tasty soup, omelet, stir-fry, or salad. You’ll end up saving money and time, while becoming a pretty good cook in the process!
ITF: What are you working on these days that you’d like to tell us about?
AL: My friend/classmate and I just started a newsletter called “Food for Thought”. Each month we feature themed recipes, tasteful science topics, blogs, events, and workouts that fit into a hectic, healthy lifestyle. Check out www.annieandbetty2.wordpress.com for an extended online version of the printout. Visit the website to see what our Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day issue has in store! All you need is love…and fruits & vegetables.
If you’re interested in contributing to Inside the Fridge, please email Leah at firstname.lastname@example.org.