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How to be a better grocery shopper

Diana Duong | posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Learn how to pick the freshest produce and the most fibre-rich grains  —  not to mention the best deals and the shortest lines.

Pick perfect produce

Choose fruit that feels plump and heavy for its size. The skin should be firm and smooth with no tears, soft spots or bruises. Store fruit away from veggies (some fruit produces a gas that can make vegetables spoil).

Know your grains

Whole-grain products give you the benefits of both bran and germ, which are packed with vitamins and minerals. Whole wheat products, on the other hand, have had some of the bran and germ removed, although you still get more fibre from whole wheat than you do from white bread.

Get smarter about calcium

Keep an eye on milk fat (MF) in the dairy aisle. Angela Dufour, a registered dietitian in Bedford, N.S., recommends milk or yogurt with no more than 2 percent MF and cheese with less than 20 per cent. “You’ll save calories and still get the same amount of calcium.” When baking, buy buttermilk — it contains less fat than 2 per cent milk and provides the same texture.

Buy better beans

Dried beans should be uniform, smooth and shiny (when rinsing, pick out any that are discoloured, shrivelled or broken). Canned and dried are equally nutritious, but canned beans contain extra sodium. Rinsing canned chickpeas, lentils and beans for 30 seconds has been shown to reduce the sodium by 40 percent.

Shop strategically

Check flyers to see when the sale week begins and shop closer to the start date, when stock is plentiful. The best time to shop to avoid long lines is weeknights after 8 p.m., when the after-work rush is over and some meats, baked goods and produce with a short shelf life are marked down.

Be adventurous

Shop by the season and live by the flyer, says Dufour. “Instead of stocking up on bananas, why not try the pomegranates on sale? Try a new fruit or veggie each month to add different staples to your diet.”

How to start running: A step-by-step guide for beginners

James S. Fell | posted Thursday, Apr 16th, 2015

Running is the king of both convenience and calorie-burning, but it takes planning, patience and persistence to become a regular runner. I tried and failed at least four times before I finally got it to stick. I’ve been a regular runner for over six years now, and I think it might hold this time. Here are my tried and tested running tips:

1. Pick a “go” day. Give yourself a couple of weeks to get everything prepared, but have a day that is specifically marked on your calendar as the day you start running. Start getting excited about this new you who is a dedicated runner.

2. Find a friend. Or a family member. This isn’t critical, but having someone who is of similar abilities who is going to join you on becoming a runner can be a powerful motivator. They don’t have to join you for every run.

3. Get tuned up. Researcher James Annesi reported in a 2001 article in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science that for aerobic training in general “music significantly improved positive affect. The elevated emotion was considered important for new exercisers during the initial months of attempting to adapt to the demands of a regular program.” Additionally, runners were surveyed and “a preference for music while training was indicated by 87 percent of the sample. Many participants interviewed retrospectively noted a reduction in perceived exertion while running at any pace with music.”

4. Get professional help, part 1. Don’t go to a regular sporting goods store, but instead choose a store that focuses just on running and get help picking proper shoes, socks, shorts, pants, gloves, hats – all the weather-specific gear you need to start running. It won’t be cheap, but with the exception of the shoes, most of it will last a long time. I’ve put about 5,000km on my Nike running tights and they’re still in good shape.

5. Get professional help, part 2. Many running stores have clinics you can sign up for that have training groups targeted to beginners. These have the benefit of having lots of educational information about the activity, having like-minded people in the group, being regularly scheduled so that you know when you’re supposed to be running.

6. We are Borg. Resistance is futile. OK, you may need to be a Star Trek geek to get that, but there is a lot of cool running technology out there you may want to consider trying. Gadgets and apps that can track your distance, pace, heart rate and probably some other stuff I don’t know about because the only technology I use is an iPod Shuffle.

7. Go day: Start slow. Exactly how far and how fast you go will depend on things like your age, weight, injuries, and previous training. One word of caution: you may have a good cardiovascular system if you spend lots of time on an elliptical trainer, but you still won’t be used to the impact of running. You will likely have the ability to run much further but shouldn’t. Go too far, and the next day you’ll hurt from the eyebrows down.

So, what I’m going to offer is some basic advice that can apply to a broad group of people, but should be altered based on your specific circumstances. It is designed to minimize pain and chance of injury, and ease you into what is admittedly a very difficult behaviour to adopt. Note that you won’t burn many calories in the beginning.

For “go” day, run 1km. That’s it. Walk part of it if you have to. Do this twice in your first week.

Week 2: Run twice this week at 1.5km each time.

Week 3: Run twice this week at 2km each time.

Week 4: Run three times at 2km each time.

Week 5: Run three times at 2.5km each time

Week 6: Run three times at 3km each time

Week 7: Schedule a 5km race for week 10. Run three times at 4km each time.

Week 8: Run three times at 4.5 km each time.

Week 9: Run three times at 5km each time.

Week 10: Keep running, and kick some serious butt in that race.

(For a beginner-to-5km daily training guide, try this program.)

Tips to keep progressing

Nine weeks to get up to 5km three times a week isn’t that fast, but it’s getting you there. You may need to go slower, or you might be able to handle faster. Be mindful of your body in terms of pain as well as personal enjoyment. Don’t burn out, but don’t get bored either. You have an important role to play in designing a program based on your unique needs.

And you want to keep pushing your limits. Running 15km a week is only the beginning. Sure, you’ll burn some calories doing this and it will be good for your fitness, but a better weekly distance is more like 30km. That’s getting into workout warrior territory. That’s when you’re really starting to blast through fat stores and get some serious health benefits. Of course, if you keep adapting yourself slowly you can continue beyond that. I rarely go fewer than 40km in a week, and am usually above 50. I know people who run a lot more than this. If you take the time to slowly push both your distance and your speed in increments, you can reach serious mileage without hurting yourself.

This may sound daunting, but if you follow through, in time you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Runners are a special breed. We’re a special breed of awesome. Join the awesome.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit www.bodyforwife.com or email him at james@bodyforwife.com

Six quick cleaning tips to get your home spotless, fast

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Apr 2nd, 2015

1. Halt dirt at the source
Rule number one: don’t wear shoes in the house and you’ll exponentially reduce the filth. Set up an area near the front door and line up your kicks with plenty of room for guests’ shoes so they get the idea.

2. Mix your own cleaner
Use an all-purpose cleaner — you can whip up an all-natural version yourself using baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar — and assemble a “cleaning kit” for fast fixes. Include lots of spare rags and a toothbrush for tight spots. Tackle shiny surfaces with your cleaner to make them sparkle (scummy faucets are a turnoff) then wipe down mirrors with wet newspaper for streak-free gleam.

3. Bust dust
Re-usable electrostatic cloths attract dust like a magnet — buy them in bulk and attach them to dry mops in lieu of those pricey disposable cleaning sheets. For an even cheaper solution old dryer sheets also do the trick. Don’t forget to run a cloth over lightbulbs; they will burn brighter and last longer. Dust before hitting the floors with a vacuum cleaner or mop to catch the debris you just unsettled.

4. Rest easy
Always make your bed (it makes getting into it so much nicer). A fluffed duvet can hide a multitude of sins like crumpled sheets. Efficiency expert Donna Smallin, author of the One-Minute Cleaner, advises to keep an extra set of sheets on the box spring for quick changes.

5. Water works
Clean the shower while you’re still in it. Let your conditioning hair mask soak in while you wipe tiles down. Hint: Shampoo and liquid soaps prevent water marks from building up. Use your dishwasher for more than dirty pots and pans. The high heat will disinfect cleaning items like dish brushes and old toothbrushes.

6. Soak it
Don’t scrub what you can soak. Soak a paper towel with a mixture of 2 tbsp baking soda and 4 cups of boiling water. Place over spills in the fridge, close the door and in 20 minutes food residue will be easy to clean up. Donna Smallin’s handy hint for cleaning the microwave: Add some lemon slices to a cup of water and nuke for five minutes. Food and grime will effortlessly wipe away.

8 things to get rid of at home (you’ll never know they’re gone!)

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 17th, 2015

1. Old Newspapers
That old pile you’ve been hanging on to for keepsake has lost all significance, and would be much more useful as an added source of flames in the fireplace. Want to read an old article? Look it up online – – it’s probably there.

2. Fridge Pin-ups
Last week’s grocery list, a printed recipe you tried last month, and an interesting article you found last year can all be taken down now. If you haven’t given it second thought in over 6 months, it’s time to clean up that fridge décor.

3. Ancient Electronics
Remote controls, flip-phone chargers, cords, monitors, and more. You’ve since upgraded and might think you’re being organized by leaving them in a box in the basement. You’re really just inviting extra, unwanted clutter. Electronics don’t need to be dumped in the trash…they can be recycled! Take 20 minutes of research to find an organization that works for you. Here’s one to get you started.

4. Outdated office supplies
Since moving over to laptop work, you’ve significantly cut down on traditional office supplies. That hasn’t changed the fact that pens, markers, highlighters and old (used) notebooks are still sprawled all over your house, dusting away. In fact, you could probably find at least 25 dried up pens lying around the house right now if you tried.

5. Old Mugs
Past jobs, gifts, and flash sales have left you with an over abundance of coffee and tea mugs that are now being crammed into every drawer, shelf, and crevice of your kitchen. Which ones are our go-to’s? Keep those. Toss the rest.

6. Bedding and beyond
If your linens are still comprised of old duvets from sleepover camp, college dorms, twin bedding that no longer has a twin bed, or some version of all of these…you know the drill.

7. Tupperware Plastic
Tupperware tends to build up in the kitchen like it’s nobody’s business. Rule of thumb: invest in a fresh supply every couple of years. As for the old ones? No need to be hanging out in a drawer for fun. Image:

8. Expired Food
Need we expand? Get rid of it!

This March on Chatelaine.com we’re launching the Clutter Cure Challenge. Sign up to the Chatelaine newsletter for updates. 

Six tips to help you stay on top of your email

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Mar 12th, 2015

1. Separate business and pleasure
I have three different email accounts: Work, personal Gmail for friends and a third I share with my husband (it’s where we keep our family calendar to manage appointments and travel plans). Without having different inboxes I’d find it hard to keep track of who I’ve responded to and who I haven’t.

2. Try face time
If an email thread becomes too long, includes too many people or is delivering bad news, it’s probably not the right medium. This is the moment to get up from your desk or pick up the phone and actually have a conversation.

3. Weed out the clutter
I get over 100 emails a day so I have to have a system. When my inbox is full of unread messages, the first thing I do is delete or archive the ones I don’t need to read — I can usually tell from the subject line. The second step is to prioritize (star or label) the most important ones, then deal with them.

4. Email etiquette
Emails should be short and punchy, not essays. I often use bullets, or I bold key messages to make it clear what the purpose of the email is. Also, I don’t care how short it is — that’s no excuse for sloppy grammar, spelling, salutations or language.

5. Stop the deluge!
I regularly take a few moments to unsubscribe from unwanted emails. Simple, I know, but it really makes a difference. I’ve also found that the less email I send the less I receive.

6. Schedule screen time
Every Friday I sit down with my assistant to look at the week ahead and prioritize my time. Then we slot in blocks of work time. I use it to catch up on my emails. When I’m with my family I make sure I spend real time with my children instead of being distracted by my phone. The same goes for my team. We’ve developed a culture of not sending work-related emails on weekends unless it’s incredibly urgent.

Spring clean and organize your home in 31 days

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 10th, 2015

Are you ready? We are! We’re excited to kick off our second Clutter Cure challenge this Sunday. We hope you follow along as we clean and organize our way through the month of March. Spring is the perfect time to get your home in order, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to stay motivated — but don’t worry, we’re here to help make the task a lot easier.

Each week, we’ll tackle a room with a couple of easy-to-do tasks and one big assignment. It’s up to you when you tackle each project. For some, it might be easier to do it on the day assigned, but for others, doing it all on the weekend might make more sense. Either way, by the end of the month your home will be clean and inviting and you’ll be ready to take on the new season!

The first assignment starts Tuesday, March 3, but this Sunday is all about planning the month ahead. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1. Before you start any project take some before and after photos so you can see your progress. Feel free to share them with us on Pinterest and Twitter with #cluttercure so we can keep each other motivated!

2. Don’t try to do it all at once! The idea behind the Clutter Cure is to tackle one space at a time. Make sure you complete each task before moving on to the next challenge.

3. Make a list of all the specific areas of your home that drive you crazy. Start at the front door and walk through your home noting any trouble spots; Maybe it’s overflowing shoes at the front door, a burnt-out bulb in the kitchen or a piece of artwork that has never made it onto a wall. Do not attempt to fix these problems. Sunday is just about taking stock. Assessing your home is the first step in getting organized!

4. Next, choose the five projects that will make the biggest difference in your home. Block off some time each Sunday to tackle one of these projects. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. And if we happen to address one of your trouble spots during the week, bonus for you!

5. Remember to do work at your own pace. Take a break when you need to, or if you’re feeling ambitious, move an extra task onto your list.

Week by week we’re here to help you. In just 31 days, your home will be like new — just in time to get your hands dirty with spring gardening!

10 ways to survive a winter weekend trapped indoors

Lora Grady | posted Thursday, Mar 5th, 2015

Two weekends ago, on a particularly frigid Saturday night, I found myself trapped inside my 460-square-foot apartment. I had somehow managed to jam the lock on my door, and the locksmith wasn’t answering his phone, so I had no idea how long my isolation would last. If a fire had broken out, I would have been pretty screwed, but I was also pleased to have such a solid excuse to cancel plans and stay in. (As luck would have it, I had just returned from the grocery store with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.) Here are 10 tips that carried me through my weekend of apartment solitude. (Ed. note: You can also employ these tips when you actually have the ability to go outside, but just don’t want to.)

1. Dance around partially (or fully) naked.
Hands down, the best part of living alone is the opportunity to dance in the nude whenever you feel like it. It’s a surprisingly good workout, and it feels pretty liberating. As for the soundtrack, you can’t go wrong with Songza. My top three favourite playlists (in descending order) are: Mom-Jean JamsGirls’ Night In and What Would Beyoncé Do?

2. Cook an almost-effortless hot meal.
My slow cooker is easily my most-cherished kitchen appliance, and it proves especially useful during the winter when you’re craving warm, hearty dishes. This steel-cut oatmeal is the best breakfast for a cold morning, and it keeps for almost a week. My go-to weekend dinner is Moroccan Vegetable Stew — full of fragrant spices, winter veggies and quick couscous, this dish is the perfect stew for a sit-in.

3. Skype your Mom.
Or your best friend. Anyone who can remind you that you are not, in fact, the last person on Earth. Snapchat is also a fun way to keep in touch with other snowed-in friends. Document your stir-craziness and share it with close pals.

4. Escape to the beach. In your mind.
A spur-of-the-moment, two-day trip to the Caribbean isn’t exactly in most single girls’ budgets. These lageritasare easy to whip up, and conjure up memories of sun-soaked patios.

5. Make an epic (and easy) snack.
Some triple- (now quadruple-) tested crunchy munchies from the Chatelaine archives: five-minute microwave potato chips, sweet-and-salty chocolate-covered chipsBrussels sprout crisps and crispy chickpeas.

6. Get your binge-watch on.
Being a bit of a television connoisseur, my interests run the gamut from prime-time soap operas (Empire) to buddy comedies (Broad City) to historical dramas (Downton Abbey). Dim the lights and settle down for somesolid screen time. Tip: Poll friends and coworkers on what they’re currently watching — it’s always fun to have someone to dissect episodes with.

7. Give yourself a manicure.
Multi-task during your TV marathon by treating your tips to a fresh coat of polish. Get a professional look withthese three steps courtesy of an actual aesthetician.

8. Build a fort.
Lora here with a message from your childhood: forts are awesome. I was inspired by my best friend, who regularly sends me Snapchats from her inside her son’s blanket creations. Flank your couch with pillows, drape a blanket across the top, grab your laptop and snacks and lounge like a kid while you can.

9. Clean out your makeup bag.
Take a half-hour to organize your medicine cabinet and cosmetic bags, toss out old mascaras and powders, and take stock of any repeat products — like the three red lipsticks in your purse. Hang onto any duplicates for a product swap with friends another weekend. Feeling ambitious? Tackle your closet.

10. Do a 10-minute workout.
After all that slow-cooking and snacking, you’ll need to get up and get your blood pumping. I love doing this low-impact yoga routine before bed. If you need a boost (and tip number one isn’t your thing), these cardio movesare a great bet.

The morning blues: 13 ways to help you get through it

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 3rd, 2015

I guess it was Garfield who most famously hated Mondays (and loved lasagna), but the sentiment is pretty familiar. Much as a Friday afternoon brings feelings of elation, a Monday morning can bring on a sense of unhappy resignation: a whole five days of work, early mornings or late nights, and most of it spent indoors. Laura Schwecherl (via Greatist) has taken on the topic of the “Monday blues”, most notably how they affect the body. She references one study that’s shown people experience physical stress when they’re forced to think about the impending workweek. Another showed that the Monday blues could be linked to cardiovascular troubles. And yet another found that suicide rates in Japan are highest on Mondays.

But Schwecherl’s findings aren’t all bad news. She makes some wise suggestions for making Monday mornings more tolerable:

1. Don’t live for the weekends. Find something you love to do and do it on a weeknight. If you can feel joy on the weekend you can feel it during the week. It may just take a little more planning.

2. Relax. Don’t overload your weekends, or you might find yourself even more groggy and miserable during the week.

3. Don’t sleep in. The same sleep schedule all week will help you feel rested come Monday morning. Studies have shown people who sleep in late on weekends could be suffering from social jet lag.

4. Plan ahead Sunday night. Figure out lunch and your outfit the night before and you won’t be scrambling Monday morning. If you’ve got children get them organized as well to start the week off on a good foot.

5. Hit the hay early on Sunday. Being tired will only add to the stress of a hectic Monday.

6. Don’t skip breakfast. This is true everyday but especially on Mondays when you’ve been out of your routine for a few days. It’s a great way to set the pace for the rest of the day for both your mind and body.

7. Get pumped with some tunes. I’m not a morning noise kind of person, but listening to a favourite song can help boost your Monday morning mood.

8. Hit the gym. In the morning. Before work. This is a great strategy that Schwecherl says will boost your endorphins, making you happier throughout the day.

9. Look snazzy. If you need a pick-me-up, wear something you absolutely love. If you already feel groggy, dressing sloppy will only make you feel worse.

10. Smile. Even if it’s forced, it can make you feel better.

11. Treat yourself. Create a little ritualized treat to look forward to on Monday mornings. Maybe you splurge on a fancy latte or buy a new magazine for your morning commute. Having something to look forward to on Monday’s will make it feel less daunting.

12. Take small breaks throughout the day. Getting some fresh air and eating a proper lunch can do wonders for both your attitude and productivity.

13. Figure out why Mondays are blue. Is it time to switch careers?

The last point is a good one. There’s something to be said for having a job that doesn’t fill you with dread at the end of every weekend, and sometimes even taking a pay cut to be happy is worth it. It is possible to like, or even love, your work.

Schwecherl’s tips are a great place to start if you’re looking to quell the anxiety often associated with Mondays.

Do you feel stressed when you think about returning to work on Mondays?

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