Tag Archives: budget

Meal Planning Monday 1.22.2017 – the Pantry Challenge

meal-plan-monday

Hey hey, it’s almost Monday. International meal prep day if you’re a bro. Mine is on Sunday, so here we go. 

I just rhymed the hell out of that. Anyway, my freezer and pantry are overflowing with stuff that I completely believed that I needed when I bought them. But now things are cluttered. Ever do that? Since I’m not stocking up for the apocalypse, I need to use some things up. 

Ever hear of a pantry challenge? Spend less money, use what you already have, and get creative in the kitchen. It not only saves money, you’ll make fewer trips to the supermarket. 

My one caveat is that I’ll allow myself to grab fresh produce when needed, as some things just don’t keep well. My boys drink quite a lot of milk too. But I’m using what I have hanging out for my main meals. Lunches are almost always leftovers. My breakfasts are pretty boring too: eggs and veggies, protein pancakes, or overnight oats will be going on. 

Here are my dinners. You up for a challenge? See what you can make with what you’ve already got. 

Monday: Leftover pork souvlaki with tzatziki – I’ve got leftover pork, a cucumber, onions, and yogurt. I’m in business. On the side, instead of pita, I’ll use whole grain sandwich thins or pile it all on a plate of greens. 

Tuesday: Simple roast chicken. Yes, an entire bird is living in my freezer. I’ll clear out space by roasting it up along with extra carrots, onions, and potatoes. 

Wednesday: chicken chorizo is real, folks. My market sells this stuff and it’s amazingly good – yet lean. I’ll make a hash out of this by adding kale, chunks of potato, and an egg on top. Here’s a recipe that follows this idea. 

Thursday: Leftover chicken works well in soup. I’ll be making my avgolemono soup for a winter meal that uses very few ingredients. 

Friday: I bought chicken burgers from Costco months ago. They’re in the deep freezer and they need to go in our bellies. I’ll serve them on sandwich thins with steamed cauliflower and broccoli on the side. 

Saturday: We have so many bags of mystery soup in the freezer. Pro tip: label your bags. You won’t actually remember what you put inside. So yeah, mystery soup Saturday. 

Sunday: I dream a dream. Of making my own sausage. And I happen to have ground chicken breast in my house. So these spicy mango chicken breakfast sausages will become our brinner, along with bell peppers, potatoes, and eggs. 

Challenge accepted? Leave a comment and tell me what you drum up from your own pantry and freezer. Have a great week! 

 

$0 Fitness: The At Home Strength Workout That Doesn’t Cost a Thing.

$ Workout collage

Hey guys!

I’m celebrating the launch of my new book, Fat Loss on a Budget,this week and I’ve got saving money on the brain. When we start working out, it can be a little discouraging to get ideas only to find that we have to go out and buy 5 expensive pieces of equipment to get going.

Over time, if you decide to work out at home, investing in basic equipment can be money well spent. However, it takes time and bargain hunting to do it on the cheap.  I love scanning local Buy and Sell boards on Facebook as well as Craigslist to get crazy good deals.

But you can do plenty with nothing more than your own bodyweight. If you have gallons of water, heavy toddlers, or anything else to add load once bodyweight exercises become easy, use your imagination and keep challenging yourself.

Today’s strength workout  works well at home or for travel. All you need is your fine self. Ready to do this? Ok let’s go:

0workout

Exercises are paired as alternating sets. This way you can get a little more done in less time. If it feels too hard to complete all of your sets, start small: 1-2 sets of each exercise is cool too. Work up to getting through the entire workout as written.

Watch the Video First. Details Follow.

 

Alternating Set A – 3 Sets
1) Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat – 8-12 reps per leg, or as many as it takes to challenge you.
If this is too hard, lower your back to the floor and perform a reverse lunge or a static lunge for as many reps as you can on each leg.

2) Pushup – 6- 10 reps. Pick the variation that suits you best. Either do them from the floor or at an incline. Pushup superstars can play with more difficult variations too like spider pushups or decline pushups. 

Alternating Set B – 3 Sets 
1) Single Leg Hip Thrust – 6-12 reps per leg. New hip thrusters may find that these are really hard! You need to be able to lock out at the top and really feel your butt squeeze. Do them 2 legs at a time, or try doing one leg at a time from a bridge position on the floor. 

2) Towel rows – 8-15 reps. These are wild but they work! Back exercises are the one thing that seem really tough to do without a chin-up bar at home (though creativity fixes many woes!)
I’ve also done inverted rows under my kitchen table, but try this at your own risk. I didn’t smash my face pulling the table onto myself, but it could happen. Oops.

Alternating Set C – 3 Sets 
1) Slow Step Ups onto a chair or bench – 8-15 reps per side, whatever challenges you most appropriately. Keep these slow and controlled. You’ll be surprised at how much harder they become when we don’t cheat our way up with momentum!

2) Pike Pushups – 6-10 reps. A slightly easier variation, in my opinion, is the Hindu pushup, where you can glide back into starting position instead of having to push yourself back to starting.

Bonus Burn: The 8 x 4
Still have a little spring in your step and are itching to do a bit more? Perform this quick finisher for some breathless, sweaty fun:

Do As Many Rounds As Possible for 8 minutes. 8 too much? Start with 5. Work your way up as you get fit.

8 jump squats (regular squats if your knees aren’t feeling jumpy)
8 straight leg situps
8 lateral lunges per leg
8 mountain climbers per leg

Video with my 7-year-old workout partner. He’s a boss.

Give this one a whirl and let me know how it went!

If you want more workouts, nutrition help, and my favorite ways to save money while getting fit, sign up for my insider list and you’ll get it for free! Check it out below:

 

A Peek Inside a Week of Healthy Meal Planning

yummy snack

Hi guys! As part of the launch of Fat Loss on a Budget I want to walk you through what my own grocery shopping and meal prep looks like for my family.  Preparation is everything when it comes to optimizing your nutrition on a budget. Here’s what my weekend planning looked like last week:

Saturday Morning Prep
I wake up, pour some coffee, and gaze at my yarn. I really want to have a knitting and Hulu marathon instead of planning my shopping list. However, when Monday rolls around, I know that I’ll be way less stressed out if everything is in place. So I grudgingly get going and open up the grocery ads – I usually have print ads as well as access to digital ads on my computer.

hyvee ad

I then peek into my chest freezer to see how much meat and frozen veggies I still have on hand. My prepared freezer meals are down to nothing so this week I have to begin stocking up again here and there and try to make a few double batches of recipes to have on hand for busy days.

Score! I have a ridiculous amount of chicken that I nabbed for only $1.88 per pound. I also have at least 3 pounds of ground beef, wrapped into 1 pound packages. Unless we can find great sales on beef, we buy it in bulk at Costco and then divvy it up at home. When I say “we”, I mean my husband, because I always end up asking him to do it. THANKS BABEH.

Back to the ads. I have some familiar favorite meals that I can make based on what I have on hand. I compare prices of fruit between Aldi and my local grocery store, Hy-Vee. We have 2 other major supermarkets but my time is severely crunched this week, so I’m going to have to make it work going to only these stores. It’ll be fine.

After browsing recipes that I have on hand or online from favorite sites and thinking of the recipes that best match what I already have or can get for a low cost, I finally write my grocery shopping list and plan my menu for the week. You’ll see that in some cases, I’m making extra batches to have more meals. This lets me save time in the long run and also save money so that no ingredients go to waste.

The cost per meal isn’t what I actually have to spend each week. This is important to consider. I’ve estimated the cost of ingredients to give you a ballpark idea of what it costs to make a meal if you shop strategically.  Your total bill at the store will vary depending on what you already have on hand as well as how you and your family eat. Because I buy food when it hits very low prices, my costs are often even lower than those listed here because I nab ingredients when they’re at a deep discount. You can learn to do this too in my book. Ready for some meal ideas? Here we go!

The Meals

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

Breakfasts:

  • Monday: Egg white/whole egg scramble with scraps of garden veggies I have on hand, a sprinkle of reduced fat cheese. Fruit on the side. Sometimes made with pizza sauce because pizza, or salsa.
    Total cost per serving: less than a dollar.
  • Tuesday: Protein pumpkin pancakes for me. Greek yogurt with cereal or oatmeal for the kids.
    Total cost per serving: around 40 cents. 
  • Wednesday : Overnight protein oats: Dashing Dish has a zillion variations. Usually the recipe is too filling to eat at once, so I save some for a snack. Here’s one I’m going to try this week: https://dashingdish.com/recipe/brownie-batter-overnight-protein-oatmeal/
    T
    otal cost per serving: $2.54 
  • Thursday: Old fashioned oats with 2 egg whites stirred in as they just finish cooking – you can’t even taste them and it makes them creamy. I like to sprinkle in blueberries, a half banana, and sometimes just a tablespoon of granola for crunch.
    Total cost per serving: 82 cents. 
  • Friday: Egg fried in pam with turkey sausage on a Thomas High Fiber English muffin and slice of Sargento ultra-thin cheese.
    Total cost per serving:  $1.17
  • Saturday: Steel cut oatmeal for family – made with apples, a bit of brown sugar, and for me, scrambled eggs with just a little oatmeal.
    Total cost for serving the family: $2.38
  • Sunday: Family fun breakfast: I double this recipe because I have hungry boys. This classic pancake recipe is still our go to.   I might add an apple topping if we have extra fruit. Serving with bacon.
    Total cost for a doubled recipe of pancakes and pound of bacon: $6.00 

Lunches

lunchschool

My lunches aren’t all that exciting. I don’t take time during the day to do much cooking. If I don’t have fun leftovers to munch, I’ll have my go-to “cheaper than Chipotle” salsa chicken to use for my own salad bowls. They’re just a combo of spinach or mixed greens, chicken,  and black beans mixed with a sprinkle of cheese and extra salsa. Sometimes I dice some onion on top too.

My kids need lunches too – they are way less adventurous than all the people pinning lunch ideas for kids seem to think. It’s typically homemade “lunchables”, turkey and cheese sandwiches, or PB&J with sides of yogurt, fruit, and whatever other random thing we might have sitting around that they’ll eat. Their drink is always water.

My husband just scavenges for leftovers or eats what I’m eating. Heh!
Total cost per lunches: Hard to say. The kids are probably less than $1 each per week day for lunch. My cost per meal is probably $1-$2 considering I’m using leftovers from other meals. Weekend lunches are usually leftovers or frozen. Costco tilapia/chicken is an emergency backup. I’ll estimate around $30 per week on lunches to feed everyone. 

Dinners

  • Saturday: Cincinnati Chili  – 3 batches so that we can have 2 in the freezer to just add spaghetti to later. My recipe adaptation is from Cooking Light.
    Total cost per single recipe for 6 servings: $7.73
  • Sunday: Crockpot salsa chicken – great recipe from the Eating on a Dime blog. I’ll do a double batch so that I have chicken to make “Chipotle Bowls” out of for several days. Serving over rice for the kids, over spinach for me. Adding in a bit of cheese.
    Total cost for 1 batch using a package of chicken: $5.32
  • Monday: Pork steaks grilled with a spice rub, butternut squash, and sauteed apples. I’m doing these because pork steak is only $1.99 per pound at the grocery store this week. Apples and squash are cheap right now too. Yay, fall!
    Total cost for feeding 2 adults and 3 boys (1.5 lbs meat): $7.00
  • Tuesday: Crockpot White Chicken Chili from New Leaf Wellness. I’ll make enough for  2 meals if possible so i don’t waste the other half bag of corn.
    Total cost for 1 recipe: $4.80
  • Wednesday: Fish Cakes from Bon Appetit. Hopefully my kids won’t hate this one.  A friend said her kid loved it. Eat it up, punks! I’m subbing in tilapia because we have some frozen that we need to use. I’ll serve some frozen veggies on the side.
    Total cost of cakes and veggies: $8.67
  • Thursday: Leftover salsa chicken made into high protein quesadillas with Flatout Protein wraps that I have on hand and reduced fat cheese leftover from chili recipe. Spinach salad will by my side with whatever fruit I have sitting around and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
    Total cost for salad plus 5 quesadillas not including chicken because I already accounted for it: $6.53
  • Friday: Random leftovers night. Occasionally popcorn for dinner night or pizza night. Likely there will be some leftover chili of some sort. Friday night is “I will die if I have to cook dinner” night because we’re all usually burned out by then and need a break.
  • Saturday: Grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks that were spice rubbed.  I chose these because bone-in thighs and drumsticks are on sale at the store for 99 cents per pound. Also, my 8 year old loves them. I’ll serve them with whatever frozen veggies I find on sale if I didn’t already have a bag of frozen asparagus. I’ll also make homemade bread for little money and just a little bit more time because I have a bread machine.
    Total cost of meal for 5: $3.61
  • Sunday: Turkey tacos. I’ll cook 3 batches of lean ground turkey with homemade taco seasoning . I’ll stash 2 extra batches into the freezer for busy days.  For some bizarre reason I have 3 packages of flour tortillas sitting in my pantry. It’s a taco conspiracy, but I’ll go with it because tacos are freaking good. We’ll cut up the last of the garden tomatoes if we still have any, use up bits of extra greens that my 10 year old will claim ruin his tacos, and some cheese to round out Taco Sunday.
    Total price for a pound of meat plus tortillas, salsa and cheese: $5.94

Total dollars estimated on dinners for the week for a family of 5: $49.60

Snacks and treats:

Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius

Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius

Typically I make a homemade dessert once or twice per week. I try to use low cost things that I have on hand, often using up fruit that may go bad (hello, banana bread).  I leave money in my budget for little indulgences like ice cream and really good chocolate. A few bites of something sweet before bed is an almost daily event.

For daytime snacks, I sometimes have nearly nothing and other days I feel snacky and need munchies. I also need small meals or snacks to fuel my workouts if they fall at a time that isn’t near meal time.  I’ll eat Greek yogurt with a bit of fruit or PB2 in it, protein shakes, rice cakes with a bit of peanut butter, or string cheese. The remainder of my grocery budget usually goes to snacks. The kids also like granola bars, homemade popcorn with the Whirley Pop, and fruit. Who am I kidding, they like to eat whatever tasty thing is in the house. They are ALWAYS hungry!

Weekly snacks/treats budget: $10-$15. 

So that’s the food – now I have to actually cook it. For the double or triple batch items, I don’t have to do any extra work – just allocate a freezer bag to stick in the extra recipe for another meal. When I do this consistently, I can count on a few already prepped meals each week. These are lifesavers for the evenings when I work or for when I am too tired and lazy to think about dinner. It beats the drive through for staying on my nutrition plan too.

How I Chose My Meals
I made a point of choosing meals with a relatively high protein count and smaller amounts of carbohydrate and fat. Protein is the macronutrient target that I find the hardest to hit, but as I detail in my book, it’s a powerhouse for helping my body composition as well as helping me feel full.

What I Actually Spent
I meant to take an artful picture of my receipts and make it look glorious. Except then I cleaned out my purse and accidentally tossed the receipts. UGH! I ended up spending about $90 this week, which included not only things I needed for my meals for this week: I also stocked up on a few things for future meals. We made it work on $75-$80 a week when we had to. I know of families who have tighter budgets and make it work on even less.  Your available time to really work deals will play a role too. I managed to get my stuff without any couponing this week and I feel good about how we did.

What’s your meal plan? My challenge to you is to create one and post it here or on the thread I’ve created on my Facebook page. I can’t wait to see it! (Plus new ideas for meals rock. Thanks!)

Want to read more articles that help you create healthy habits?

You can join my Insider Newsletter for free and have my latest articles, workouts, and tips delivered to your inbox weekly. Just fill out the form below and you’ll be all set: you’ll also get my new e-book, Fat Loss on a Budget!

 

Think It’s Too Expensive to Get Fit? 3 Tips for Losing Fat on a Budget

Slick ads with pretty gyms that look like country clubs might lead you to believe that a gym membership is completely out of reach if you don’t have a lot of spare cash. The health food section at the store can seem almost comical.  $9 a pound for free range chicken and $4 for a mysterious bottle of juice promising a vague assortment of health benefits? Ain’t nobody got time (or cash) for that. Obviously someone does, but many of us see all of these things and it makes it feel like better health is for other people – people who have more disposable income.

Eating healthier can be very costly if you don't have some tricks up your sleeve.

Eating healthier can be very costly — if you don’t have some tricks up your sleeve.

The reality is that you need none of those things. What you do need are strategies for making healthy choices, a little education on how to make them, and support for your foray into the wild world of getting fit and losing fat. It really is like the Wild West in Fitness Land, and on every corner someone is trying to sell us an expensive solution. Most of them are bogus. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place if you want to get back into the saddle.

You absolutely can reach your fat loss goals without spending a fortune.

Why I’m Writing About Fat Loss on a Budget
I’ve got 4 dudes living under my roof — one husband and three constantly hungry, growing boys. They eat so much food – holy cow! Like most of you, we have many expenses. I don’t remember a time when I could just throw caution to the wind with my spending. That’s a nice fantasy…

dolla dolla bills

dolla dolla bills, y’all

But That’s Not Reality
I was no finance wizard. In fact, I really sucked at managing my money, but we had never been forced to so closely examine our finances. I had to quickly learn to stop spending cash like it was Monopoly money when we found ourselves in a very difficult place. My husband lost his job, I had 3 young kids at home, and our lives were turned upside down.

How I Used My Skills to Pay the Bills… And Get Fit
The funny thing is, the exact strategies that I had to develop to survive the recession ended up helping me get fit.  In fact, I’ll share my top 3 tips here that helped me get fit on a shoestring budget.

TOP THREE TIPS FOR LOSING FAT ON A BUDGET

Tip 1. Be Prepared.
Preparation is everything. Every dinner that you don’t have ready to eat in your house usually means you either:

a) Head through the drive-through (do this often and it’ll likely derail your fat loss goals, not to mention rob you of some nutrients that feed your mojo).

b) Go to the store for a last minute shopping trip, where you’ll not only have to pay whatever asking price the store offers for the ingredients you need; you’ll also probably pick up 5 extra things you don’t really need. I mean, at 5 pm after work, if I see some Oreos as I’m on my way to the meat counter, those babies are probably going into my cart.  

Then this spirals because I’m not only paying too much for dinner, I’m opening a bag of freaking Oreos in the car on the way home. Because I got hangry. Gah! 

c) Say ‘screw it’ and eat the last bit of Lucky Charms. And that’s just sad. Lucky Charms really are magically delicious, but they aren’t a great dinner option on a regular basis. 

Learning to shop strategically and have pre-planned menus will save you a ton of money and help you get lean: but what you’ll also gain is freedom around dinner time. That’s the time of day when most of us would pay good money to be in our house, take our pants off, and relax.

cats never have to wear pants

cats never have to wear pants

Tip 2. Being Frugal is different from being cheap. 
I’m not telling you to never spend money again. In fact, sometimes I spend more for a premium version of a product that really is worth the money. Knowing where to save and where to spend more is a skill to hone. This is true from everything from gym memberships to tennis shoes.

I used to shy away from purchasing certain healthy foods because initially the price tag seemed higher than I was used to paying. Buying more fresh produce seemed like it would wreck my budget.

But in reality, before I shifted my grocery purchases to healthier items, I wasted a lot of money on crackers, chips, soda, and other items that contributed little to my nutritional needs. Reigning in those purchases made more cash available for some more expensive but nutritionally powerful items.

This isn’t an all or nothing proposition, by the way. You don’t need to panic that you’ll lose all your goodies. You will just find that you naturally eat fewer treats when you’re eating for fat loss. You’ll have more available cash for healthy stuff that nutures your nutrition goals when you eat less of the stuff that you used to buy.

Tip 3. Don’t become a potato because you can’t be a ninja.
I lost a lot of my strength and conditioning after I had hip surgery, simply because I was so damn stubborn. I became a couch potato for way too long because I couldn’t do what I considered to be a “real” workout.

potatocat

I also avoided joining a gym for ages because they looked expensive. Yes, the gyms with juice bars, fancy locker rooms, and hot tubs are pretty. But they’re not any better for getting fit than cheaper options.

Home gyms are also completely doable for little cash, and there are many exercises you can do with no equipment at all. Once we stop chasing the idealized vision of a workout, we can begin to make progress.

Have you ever felt like fitness programs were out of reach? We see people on tv or bragging on Facebook about some routine that looks like a hybrid Navy Seal/Circus Performer/Ninja Acrobat workout. It looks a little amazing. But you know you couldn’t possibly do that.

Or maybe you’ve received so much information on what constitutes a “good” workout that you feel paralyzed. While avoiding the workouts we know we aren’t ready for, we give up on movement all together. Yet, if we’d just done something our bodies would thank us.

If you’re currently inactive, forget worrying about the perfect strength routine or completing a 5k. Those are laudable goals. I share beginner-friendly fitness routines here and on my Facebook page. Chances are, you will be ready to kick things up sooner than you imagine. Just remember that when you’re just beginning, it really doesn’t matter what you do. Only that you move.

Even this counts - who remembers how freaking awesome these were?

Even this counts – who remembers how freaking awesome these were?

Dance in the kitchen while you wash dishes. Go for a walk around the block. Sit down on the floor and then get back up. Move your body. It wants you to move it, and the feeling you get from movement will energize you to try more.

Are you into these ideas? I feel so passionately about better health being available to everyone that I wrote a book about it – and I’m giving it away for FREE! I go way more in depth and you can learn all you need to know about losing fat without busting your bank account. 

amydix_cover

Want a complete guide to making this all work?
I’ve been quietly working on my first book like a sneaky squirrel but now I am thrilled that it’s ready to share with all of you! I’ve compiled all the lessons I’ve learned over the years about getting healthier when my bank account is a lot slimmer than my waist line.

If you have found that every attempt to get fit has made a big dent in your wallet, this book will have help for you. 

If you feel like you can’t afford to eat well or lack what you need to get fit, this book  is for you. 

If you have nailed your budgeting but still struggle with successful fat loss, this book will help you find success. 

If you have unlimited amounts of money and don’t have to worry about saving at all, then this book might not be for you. But send me an email and tell me your secret! 😉 

Grab my book today  – it’s FREE! (That definitely fits your budget!) Inside you’ll find all the information to guide you every step of the way, including:

  • An easy-to-understand nutrition manual that will teach you how fat loss works with strategies that will help you learn to eat for your fat loss goals. No crazy diet plans or banned foods!
  • Chapters devoted to my best secrets for shopping and cooking on a shoestring budget – I used to feed 5 people on $75 a week!
  • A complete strength and conditioning program that includes pictures, videos, and tutorials to teach you the basics for using fitness for fat loss.
  • My favorite tips for where to splurge and where to save when shopping for health and fitness items. 

Ready to lose fat and save cash? Register below and your free book will arrive to your inbox shortly.

Preparation is Everything – How Unemployment Helped Me Reach My Nutrition Goals

photo credit: taxcredits.net

What do frugal families and people who are skilled at managing their weight have in common? It hit me the other day as I saw a powerlifter friend on Facebook exclaim “chicken breasts are $1.97 a pound at Hy-Vee this week! Get it!”

They know that preparation is a cornerstone to success.

It took a challenging period in my life to give me the tools that have helped me nail my nutrition goals, both for weight loss and for performance.

In 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler. I remember standing at our kitchen counter making dinner when my husband came home from work. He looked like someone had died. “What’s wrong,” I joked. “Did you get fired?” In that instant I knew that ridiculous joke was actually a reality. The recession had hit, and he was the low man on the corporate totem pole. For the first time in his life, he lost his job.

We’d made the decision when our children were young that I would stay at home with them and delay my own career. It was a good life. We had enough, though I don’t think I appreciated it until we felt like we had lost it all.

Very quickly I shifted into survival mode. I had a history of depression and anxiety, but strangely I felt more focused than ever before: I had babies to protect. I got a part-time job so my husband could still collect unemployment and look for employment. We juggled new schedules. I had to learn new choreography for the daily dance of our lives.

Obligatory adorable baby pic because they’re all giants now.

A big part of getting by was cutting our food budget. I quickly learned the lesson that I still now lean on: preparation is everything. The big things I learned  still play a big role in how I handle my nutrition, and they allow my family to eat well without breaking the bank. (Although budgeting is getting tougher as my kids get older – they eat like a pack of starved wolves!)

Key Factors:

  • Menu Planning based on what key ingredients I already had in my stockpile

  • Grocery Shopping

  • Cooking Meals Ahead of Time for Busy Days


    Menu Planning
    Planning our weekly menu saves us money because I’m not constantly running to the store. Every trip I pick up extra stuff that I don’t always need. Planning also helps me stay on track with my nutrition goals. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is to be realistic with what I’m going to make for dinner. When I get too ambitious with my plan, it backfires and I sometimes don’t have the energy or desire to cook.

    When I plan my menu, I think about healthy meals that also incorporate food that’s on sale at the supermarket or that I may have on hand. This leads me to another skill I learned:

  • Stockpiling
    Stockpiling is a big practice among frugal people. It seemed a little extreme but it is actually a helpful way to make healthy cooking on a budget more doable. Having a chest freezer makes this a hell of a lot easier too.

    photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

    photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

    I began scanning the weekly grocery ads and when items were at a good price, I’d buy as many as I felt like I could afford. The first few months of this were tough because I didn’t yet have resources in my pantry and freezer. Meat was the main item I targeted for stockpiling. Meat can be really expensive, and I found that the difference between the regular sticker price and the sale price was often pretty large. Stockpiling meshes really well with the  next strategy:

    Freezing Meals for Later Use
    Freezing meals is another trick I picked up from the mommy brigade: I could either fully or partially prepare meals for later use and save both time and money. If I have to make marinade for chicken breasts, it doesn’t take me much longer to prepare a marinade for six batches of chicken than it does for one. Getting multiple meals out of 1 prep session kicks ass.

    I also found that preparing freezer meals saved me money beyond just having available ingredients that I’d stockpiled at a good price. How many times have you bought a bag of celery, only to use 2 stalks and have the rest of it go to waste? If I prepared several batches of a recipe, I made better use of the ingredients I had to buy to create it. Look for an article soon with more details for a  freezer meal how-to and recipes.

    mealprepmonday

     

    Bro Prep
    I later found that my dinner preparation was going well but I had really poor choices available for lunch. Have you ever seen the pics of weight lifters displaying their neat rows of meals in Tupperware for the week? I don’t think I could eat the same thing every day, but they’re on to something. Many fitness geeks do batch cooking of a main ingredient, like chicken, and have it on hand all week for salads, sandwiches, and whatever else sounds good. When they plan their meals, they also plan for breakfast and lunch and make sure that everything they might want is on hand.

    The Big Picture
    Most of the time, when I find myself eating food that doesn’t support my goals it’s because I’m caught without the food I need. I’m not talking about celebration meals or treats – those are important too and we need to incorporate them into our lives. But if we’re perpetually calling for take-out or nibbling on snacks because we have nothing in the house to make for lunch, the likely skill we must build is preparation.

    How to Get Better at Preparation 
    If you struggle with any of these habits, you can nail them. I promise! But habits like meal prep are actually skills that we have to learn. Pick one small habit, like planning a menu for a few days, and observe what went well and what needs work. Go from there, step by step.

    How has the skill of preparation impacted your own fitness journey, either positively or negatively? Have a tip or comment?Please share it in a comment!