Six Million Dollar Smoothies: The Big Purple Giant

There are a great many food bloggers out travelling the information superhighway, and personal finance bloggers too! I don’t consider myself to be either of these things. SMDS is about learning how to survive and thrive in graduate school, with a dash of my own research interests for color. It’s hardly surprising, however, that my first-ever food-focused post turned out to be quite popular. After all, grad students love food, especially cheap food. I got a few requests for recipes, so I’m going to space them out over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to keep experimenting… see how many of these bad boys I can think up.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am NOT a food blogger. If you needed any more evidence of that, here's photographic proof. I promise I'll get better.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am NOT a food blogger. If you needed any more evidence of that, here’s photographic proof. I promise I’ll get better.

A quick refresher for anybody who didn’t read my last post: I am in the midst of a diet, so I am using smoothies because—if you’re smart about how you make them—they can be (1) healthy, (2) dirt cheap, and (3) excellent meal replacements. If you want a low calorie smoothie, you can tweak the recipe below, and half the calorie content.

Ask and ye shall receive dear reader. Without further ceiling staring and shuffling of feet, here’s my first recipe in my ridiculous new series: Six Million Dollar Smoothies. 


The Big Purple Giant 

This is a great way to get your greens in without sacrificing taste.

If you want to up the protein—especially if you’re a vegetarian (like me) or not actively trying to lose weight (unlike me) I suggest adding one scoop (100 calories) worth of vanilla whey powder. I don’t think it hurts the taste, but try it and see what you think.

The recipe is HUGE, but I drink the whole thing, because why not? If you’re less ambitious, this recipe is big enough to share with somebody.

NB: Take out the Greek yogurt and you’ve got a vegan smoothie, though I’d suggest adding tofu or something similar to improve the texture.

The other great thing about smoothies that I forgot to mention? You can *actually* get work done while drinking them. When I try to eat at my desk, it's a comedy of errors.

The other great thing about smoothies that I forgot to mention? You can *actually* get work done while drinking them. When I try to eat at my desk, it’s a comedy of errors.

Ice cubes, 4-5

Coconut milk, 1 cup (I use ½ cup unsweetened and ½ cup unsweetened)

Greek yogurt, ½ cup-1 cup (I prefer vanilla, but plain will work too)

Frozen blueberries, ¾ cup

Banana, 1 whole, cut into pieces

Fresh baby spinach, 2-2½ cups (or however much you can stomach!)

Calories: 352 – 307


“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

I’m Shrinking, and So Are My Bills!

Last month I made a promise to myself to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving.

Before I say anything else, I want to be super clear that this isn’t going to be a “thinspirational” blog post. I promise. This is NOT the place to go for fat-shaming rhetoric. Fact is, I was actually *quite* happy with the person I saw in the mirror a month ago.

In the past several months, however, an old medical problem has resurfaced—albeit in a new way—and my mobility has been severely compromised. I’m heading to surgical consult number two this week, so needless to say, the process of getting better is going to take a while. Until then, I just have to make it work, which means limiting my activity, and taking pain medicine. The only other thing that I can do for myself right now… is lose weight.

Makes sense right? When you’re carrying extra weight your joints are carrying it too, and—right now anyway—mine can’t afford any extra strain.

I promised to lose twenty pounds by Thanksgiving as an act of radical self-care, knowing full well that it was going to be a major uphill battle given my inability to exercise like I used to. Good news folks: I’m about seven pounds lighter today than I was this time a month ago! Hooray for me!

Actually, there’s more than one reason to be proud of me. Here’s reason number two: I didn’t anticipate that this would happen, but in adjusting my diet, I’ve also started saving a TON of money. Like, my grocery bill for the week has been halved, and then some.

THAT, my friends, is knowledge I feel a genuine obligation to share.

In the past I’ve been surprisingly successful using SlimFast shakes to lose weight, but there was NO chance of me trying that again, because it turns out I’m a little on the lactose intolerant side. I’ve significantly cut my dairy intake, and never drink milk anymore. I know meal replacement (“drinking your breakfast” of a different sort) works for me, so instead of buying shakes, I’ve started making my own smoothies.

Poor graduate students everywhere: you do NOT need a Vitamix or a fancy pants juicer to make a decent smoothie. A regular blender does the job just fine. That first shopping trip—the one in which you acquire bag upon bag of frozen fruit—is a little painful, but after that, your weekly shopping bill will go through the floor. MY GROCERIES FOR THIS WEEK COST ME UNDER $40. That’s fourteen plus smoothies, ingredients for a giant batch of homemade Santa Fe style Beans n’ Rice, and the staple foods I needed to replenish.

NB: I cook and freeze meals en masse about eight times a year, so I always have a variety of dinner options despite only cooking one big meal a week. If you’re cooking all of your meals the week you eat them, your grocery bills are always going to be big. Sorry.

High protein smoothies are not inherently diet-friendly—in fact, you have to craft your recipes very carefully if you ARE trying to lose weight with them—so replacing one to two meals with this stuff isn’t just a tip for grad students to lose weight. Nope. It’s a tip for folks like me who (1) desperately need to save money, (2) can fill up on a “liquid lunch.” and (3) won’t get too bored with the “smoothie experience.” I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to food (really, I just want to be full), so, provided I get to have different kinds of blended fruit beverages whenever I want, I’m perfectly happy to drink two a day while counting my imaginary money.

I knew "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" was an actual movie, but never realized that  Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

I knew “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” was an actual movie, but never realized that Lily Tomlin starred in it. Onto the to-do list it goes!

So there you go folks. A quick and painless way to save at the supermarket and stay healthy at the same time, brought to you by the Incredible Shrinking Scholar. Hit me up in the comments section if you’d like some recipes, or have some of your own that you’d like to share with the rest of the class!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.



The Six Million Dollar Self-Improvement Report Card

The whole concept behind The Six Million Dollar Scholar is that I’m rebuilding myself, and in so doing becoming a better scholar and person. As a result I’ve written many a post about my adventures in healthy living, good habit formation, etc. It suddenly dawned on me tonight that I’ve never checked back in on any of the subjects I’ve tackled.

Below is my report card. Like the proverbial spaghetti thrown at the wall, some of the changes I blogged about stuck, and some didn’t. But—also like the proverbial spaghetti thrown at the wall—the process has been quite fun.

Maintain a daily journal

PASS. With the exception of one day—the day before I presented at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association’s annual conference—I have not missed a day. Twenty three days of journaling might not be much, but it’s about twenty days better than I’ve ever done before, so my “diary hacks” seem to be working.

Meditate every day.

NO PASS. I didn’t stay “mad centered” for even a week. While I think Headspace is an interesting app, I honestly don’t think meditation (or at least meditation as described in everything I’ve ever read/seen/heard) is for me. The fact of the matter is, I spend a lot of time being quiet and letting my mind go where it wants to go already, so I don’t get a feeling a gratification from formal meditation that’s significant enough to keep me coming back. I still aspire to meditate, but I’m throwing it on the backburner for the time being to focus on maintaining the good habits I have been successful in cultivating.

Force fun on a regular basis.

INCOMPLETE. This one won’t make much sense unless you read my previous post, “Forced Fun is Still Fun.” I’ve sent off all but one measly square of my adoptive niece’s baby quilt to be crocheted, but since returning to California, I’ve not touched my knitting needles. This is not a good thing, but at the same time, I’m only just now beginning to feel truly settled in at home again. A lot’s happened recently: I got a new roommate, gave a presentation at a professional conference, became *completely* absorbed by the murder of Mike Brown, got a nasty cold, and have been dealing with some medical issues that—while not debilitating—are logistically, emotionally, and physically exhausting. So yeah, I haven’t had the energy for my hobbies recently, but that time’s been devoted to sleep, which I’ve needed badly. I’m still a big proponent of forced fun… and as soon as my life settles into a routine, I’m going to reincorporate it.

Open a credit union account.

NO PASS. This is why a report card’s so important. I totally forgot I’d committed to doing this, and it’s something I can do on campus, with very little hassle. There’s no excuse for not getting it done. Shame on me.

Figure out the “budgeting” thing

PROBATION. On the one hand, I did exactly what I said I would do. I downloaded Mint, and have started tracking my spending. I’ve discovered some trends that surprised me in the process, like, who knew I spent so much at Target? Just seeing my spending in pie chart form has encouraged moderation in some areas. I’ve been eating out rarely, if at all; this includes going to places like Peet’s and its pocket-draining siblings. I’m also NOT buying clothing under any circumstances. But of course, in other areas, I feel like my spending is out of control. My laptop needed fixing this week, I dropped over a grand to attend last week’s professional conference, my medical expenses have gone way up, and just yesterday I purchased two expensive pieces of furniture to help ameliorate the chronic pain I’m currently dealing with. So yes, I think I have a much clearer picture of my budget. Is that reflected by my account balances? No comment.

Pay off remaining credit card debt

NO PASS. See above, and then feel free to chuckle a bit.

Take a personal finance class

PASS. Sort of. I’m not enrolled in a class of any kind, but I’ve started listening to the Money Girl podcast recently, and I can now say I understand what a Roth IRA is, which charitable contributions are tax deductible, the importance of renter’s insurance, and how to save money planning a vacation. (Okay, I might have occasionally dozed off while listening—wow money can be boring—but I totally know where to get information when I need it.) I also reviewed my credit, and made decisions about student loans for the coming year. So I’ve been learning quite a bit, but in an open-air classroom, so to speak.

Lose weight.

PASS. I actually never wrote about this particular goal on SMDS, but reviewing my report card is a bit depressing, so I’m ending on a high note. I’ll probably write on this topic later… suffice it to say I’ve lost six pounds in under a month, and I’m really proud of myself.

So there you have it folks, a heaping serving of realness. This was actually a really good exercise for me, so I would encourage you to do the same, and share it with the rest of us! Accountability is a truly beautiful thing.


“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

Next Level Adulting

My friends and I from Bryn Mawr have this phrase we use on a regular basis: “adulting.” Infinitive form (I presume… we’ve never actually agreed on this): “to adult.” We employ this terminology to describe anything we feel woefully unprepared/unable to do by virtue of our not having accepted our age.

“My husband and I are looking for a house. We visited five different properties today and I can’t handle how much everything costs! Adulting sucks.”

“Interviewing for an actual 9 to 5 job today. I’m wearing a suit. This is some hard core adulting.”

“Took my cat to the vet today; just the tests they want to run are going to cost $700. And I’m only working part time! Gonna have to do some serious adulting to figure this shit out.

“I tried to refurbish a cabinet a la this thing I saw on Pinterest and totally screwed it up. Also, I’ve been living in the same apartment for five years now and there’s still nothing on any of my walls. Adulting fail.”

“My day’s going to be spent adulting: I’m filing my taxes, and refinancing my car.”

**NOTE: The friends in question and I went to Bryn Mawr College. Many have advanced degrees, and others are holding down solid jobs. We are privileged. That privilege doesn’t always translate into financial security, but lord knows have a lot to be thankful for. These examples reflect that privilege, but they need not. For example, in my first year of graduate school, I was too overwhelmed/confused by the process of applying for food stamps to bother. So I lived on peanut butter. Which was stupid.**

As a graduate student, I get to avoid a certain amount of adulting. I live on campus in the concrete wonderland that is Palo Verde housing. It’s a nice place, all things considered, but despite the crying babies and company cars in the parking lot, it’s very hard to think of this as a grown-up living arrangement. Those of us operating sans-significant other have to live with a roommate, and pets, well… the policy on pets confuses me. Suffice it to say, I won’t be a puppy parent any time soon. The only thing I parent is my beloved Mr. Tibbs, a 2009 Hyundai Elantra that I bought (with my own hard-earned money, thank you very much) the day after I graduated college.

This is far from uncommon. I’d say most twenty-somethings still regard themselves as children on some level. It’s not even necessarily a problem, until one’s perceived state of suspended animation becomes an impediment to achieving personal greatness.

There are a lot of things I don’t do because I believe I’m not mature or responsible enough to do them. In some cases (i.e. having a child) this is a really good thing. In other cases (i.e. finding more affordable car insurance), it’s just freakin’ stupid. One of my goals for the coming year is to level up, to adult as I have never adulted before, just to prove to myself that I can.

I’ve done this successfully before with cooking. My mother and my brother are both amazingly-ridiculous-out-of-this-world cooks, so I never worried much about what dinner was going to be, what it was made of, etc. When I got to grad school, accordingly, I ate a veritable boatload of crap. I was also exceedingly poor (as in, at one point my total net worth was $0.18), so I couldn’t be healthy if I’d tried. My friend Thomas will never let me live down the night I enthusiastically invited him over for dinner, explaining that I’d be making spaghetti… with Ragu! Over the past couple years—thanks in no small part to student loans—I’ve begun teaching myself how to cook. The results have been damned impressive. My cookies are now History Department famous, and I can host a 10 person dinner party without breaking a sweat. It took time, but I now believe that I can cook like an adult.

So I know I can adult. I have it in me. So what’s next?

I’m treating the start of the academic year as New Year’s Day Part Deux, because—for whatever reason—I tend to be more successful if I ruminate on and mentally prepare myself to tackle resolutions months in advance. I also know you have to start small; trying to adult five times over will only lead to finger-painting in the corner. So I have two different starting lines in my not too distant future:

September 29, 2014: Start of the Academic Year

  • Adulting goal one: open a credit union account
  • Adulting goal two: figure out the whole “budgeting” thing (I’m going to use

January 1, 2015: Actual New Year

  • Adulting goal one: pay off remaining credit card debt
  • Adulting goal two: take a personal finance class

If I can accomplish even half of these goals, I’ll be super proud of myself. Better late than never.

So now that I’ve made myself accountable to you, the (possibly imaginary) reader, it’s your turn: what are your adulting fails, and what small steps can you take to make adulthood your bitch?


“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.