Tag Archives: meal prep

Meal Planning Monday 1.22.2017 – the Pantry Challenge

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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! 

 

Meal Planning Monday: 1.16.2017

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I always write these on Sunday, but Monday sounds so much catchier. Anyway, if you’re actually reading this on Sunday, high fives to you for being a go getter. 

It doesn’t even matter when you meal prep: just get it done when it works for you. 

Here’s what I’m cooking and eating up this week for dinner. I also have some badass breakfasts to share. Lunches for me are usually leftovers. I live a glamorous life, I know. 

Sunday (today): Slow cooker cider pork roast with apple thyme gravy. Serving with mashed cauliflower. This recipe is cooking right now. It smells great and was stupid easy to throw together. I skipped the apple brandy and picked up a mini bottle of apple whiskey. Boozy dinner ftw. You can freeze extra meat to use in other things if you won’t be using it up for leftover lunches and dinners this week. 

Monday: Upside down BBQ chicken bowls. The bonus of this is that you can put a huge batch of chicken breasts in your slow cooker with a little BBQ sauce. Cook that 4-6 hours and shred with a bit more sauce. You now have meat for more bowls during the week, or just freeze the cooked meat in individual portions for another day. I like that this recipe uses lots of broccoli slaw. Eat that up, it will fill your belly. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker posole(pork and hominy stew). I’m going to riff off of this Skinnytaste recipe, using the leftover pork from Sunday, though her instructions help you use fresh pork too. I don’t own a pressure cooker (wah!) so I’ll use the slow cooker instead. I’ll serve this with a fresh salad of citrus, avocado, and greens. 

Still have soup leftover? This will freeze just fine to live another day. 

Wednesday: Winter citrus butter salmon. Serving with a wild rice blend and steamer bag broccoli. This recipe sounds incredibly good. I’ll likely go light on the butter and need to sub regular oranges for the blood oranges unless they appear in the market soon. 

Thursday: Leftovers if we’ve got them: or soup from the freezer. 

Friday: Taco Friday is not #tacotuesday. But if I make a giant batch of seasoned taco meat, I can eat a taco on Tuesday and feel cool. Freeze some extra meat for tacos any time. I have tons of ground turkey in my freezer, so I’ll use that plus some low sodium taco seasoning. Or make your own. I usually opt for small corn tortillas – they’re low in calories. Lower carb tortillas work well too. And I’m perfectly happy to make a taco salad out of taco meat, tons of veggies, and a little guacamole. 

Saturday: Beef bourgignon (stew with red wine). A lazy kind of winter day meal to fill your kitchen with good smells. If you make a big batch, this freezes really well too. I’ll serve it with just a little crusty bread along with the veggies in the stew. 

Have a recipe that rocks your world? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. Have a great week! 

Meal Planning Monday – January 8, 2017

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It’s a new year, and a new you? Nah. Same old me and you. Except with fewer holiday treats most likely. But it feels good to get back to meals that nourish me. Yet still taste great. Here’s my winter menu for a week of healthy but delicious dinners.

Monday: Leftover lean ground beef and mushroom sloppy joes from our freezer. I still use this old school recipe that my mother cooked. Except I stretch the beef by doubling the other ingredients and adding plenty of mushrooms.  I further lighten it up by using 88% lean ground beef and light buns. Serve this with a salad. 

Tuesday: Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Farro holds promise of being fantastic. And I happen to have a shortcut: pre-cooked turkey meatballs. I’ll sprinkle a bit of parmesan from the recipe onto the soup before serving instead of working it into the meatballs. Extra salad for a side sounds good too. 

Wednesday: Maybe I still have an urge to eat Thanksgiving turkey. So I’ll roast a lean turkey breast along with honey roasted squash with cranberries and feta.

Thursday: Surely we’ll have leftover turkey breast. This autumn turkey and apple salad sounds dope. And fast. 
Friday:  Friday is usually the day when I don’t really feel like cooking. At all. The week is over, and I want something easy to make. Ordering pizza is an option, but so are Protein Up Flatbread pizzas. I have some turkey pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce waiting to go.

Of course, you can get a lot more creative with your pizza. Arugula, fig, and prosciutto is fancypants. Pineapple and canadian bacon is one of my favorites, and even BBQ chicken. Pizza your face off. 
Saturday: I’ve had a craving for Indian food lately that’s been driving me to distraction. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll make the labor intensive yet incredible Biriyani recipe from Food52.

If I am lacking motivation for that, the Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas and Tofu from the blog Delish Knowledge should do the job too – with much less effort. I like to pair spicy Indian food with cool cucumber salads or a traditional raita

Sunday: Have you heard of celeriac? It’s a root veggie with a bright flavor that I love to mix in with mashed potatoes to make them taste amazing. I’m going to use some to make this wintery celeriac and apple soup to pair with a lean pork tenderloin. I’ll keep the pork prep simple, just roasting it with some herbs, salt, and pepper in the oven.  Sundays are my days to kick back with more cooking and food prep. 

Have a recipe you can’t wait to try or that is one of your beloveds? Your bae? C’mon now, share that in a comment below. 

Meal Planning Monday: December 18, 2016

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Oh hey there! Are you set for the holidays? I just realized that Christmas is only a week away and I don’t have my shiz together quite yet. Meals this week need to be simple. And warm. So warm. 

The requirement for meals this week is that they need to be light, budget friendly, and quick to prep. I’m saving up all my money and cooking mojo for Christmas day. 

Here’s what’s cooking: 

Monday: Autumn turkey burger with spicy honey drizzle. I’ve made these several times now and keep going back for more. Nom nom nom. I’ll serve with a beet salad on the side. 

Tuesday: Tuna cakes with sriracha light mayo sauce and mixed green salad. 

Wednesday: Crockpot pizza chicken and veggies. Low calorie, low cost, low time involved. Plus, you know, pizza. 

Thursday: Leftovers or soup from the freezer. One easy, budget friendly soup I make and freeze is chicken enchiladas soup. It’s cheap and easy. Plus you can throw the whole mess in your slow cooker. 

Friday: Fish tostadas with chili lime cream. I have made my own version of this with the tortilla crusted tilapia filets from Costco. Many supermarkets carry something similar. Cheat your face off and make these fast. 

Saturday: Christmas eve dinner with my family. We’re keeping it simple with a Chipotle style DIY burrito bar. 

Sunday: Christmas Dinner! I’ve never cooked a crown roast of pork before. It looks fancy, even without those weird little paper hats on the tips. Here is my menu:

Crown roast of pork with apple stuffing
My mom’s cranberry sauce
Butternut squash and rutabaga puree
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with bacon, meyer lemon, and dried tart cherries
Chocolate peppermint ice cream cake

What’s your favorite part of holiday dinners? The main meat? The sides? The eggnog? Leave a comment and share. Happy holidays!

Meal Planning Monday: December 11, 2016

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It’s cold. Yeah, yeah, it’s December. It’s supposed to be cold in Iowa. But we were spoiled. So now I’m freezing my tuchus off. So this week I want mostly soups and warm stuff to put in my belly. 

Making soup is a perfect way to stockpile some extra meals – most soups freeze really well. So make a giant batch and stash some extra meals away for later. 

Here’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods this week:

Monday: The easiest Thai chicken soup – get some Tom Ka paste from an Asian market. I simmer cooked chicken with a can  of light coconut milk, 2 cups of chicken stock, a bag of stir fry veggies, and a bit of curry paste. Sometimes I add extra bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. Yum. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker pork loin with apples and sage. I might be gross because I use bottled gravy in this recipe, but it’s so good. And so easy. Come at me. I’ll serve with mashed cauliflower. 

Wednesday: Slow cooker mu shu chicken wraps. Just cook boneless skinless chicken breasts with a half bottle of stir-fry sauce for 4-6 hours. Shred, add the rest of the bottle of sauce, along with a bag of broccoli slaw. Serve as is or wrap that up in tortillas or low carb wraps. 

Thursday: Kiddo has a choir concert. So we need a quick meal: deli turkey, Greek yogurt cream cheese, and apples on low-carb flatouts it is. I will also stuff them with mixed greens and the kids will complain about their horrible lots in life. 

Friday: Leftovers!

Saturday: Ottolenghi’s chickpea, tomato, and bread soup. If I could cook one chef’s meals for all my days, it would be his. 

Sunday: Bouillabaise. Because I’ve always wanted to make bouillabaise, and I like saying bouillabaise. So I’m going to try it. This is a simplified version of a French fisherman’s stew. Serve with crusty whole grain bread. 

What’s on your menu this week? Leave a comment and share! 

 

Meal Planning Monday for November 20, 2016

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Need some dinner inspiration? Last week I launched “Meal Planning Monday”. Although truthfully, I do most of my planning on Sunday. According to memes on the Internet, you’re supposed to plan on Monday. It must be due to alliteration. I have no idea. But whatever day you choose to start a new cycle of meals, just get a plan in place.

It’ll make your life way less full of crazy. At least 80% less of the crazy. And for this upcoming week, there will be plenty of that, at least around here. We’ve got Thanksgiving dinner to prep and one of my kiddos is turning 10. 

So this week’s dinner menu needs to be simple. I’ll make lunches out of leftovers, and hang with my favorite easy breakfasts. Happy Thanksgiving! Read on below for meal ideas.

Monday: Greek chicken wraps. Use rotisserie chicken, store-bought Tzaziki sauce, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and whatever else sounds good. A little feta would be perfect. Stuff it all inside a high protein Flatout wrap or a pita. 

Tuesday: Thai peanut chicken slaw. Use leftover chicken from last night. Shred or chop and add to a bag of broccoli slaw. Add a light peanut sauce made with PB2, toss that together, and top with a squirt of sriracha, a handful of cilantro, and perhaps a few chopped peanuts. If you’re fancy. 

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner. Eggs inside sweet potatoes. I saw it on Pinterest approximately 5,000 times and now I need to try it. You win, Pinterest. You could try a recipe like these eggs in sweet potato boats, but you barely need one. I may try to shove 2 eggs into one sweet potato half because I want more protein in there. 

Thursday: Thanksgiving! I’m bringing many pies to dinner, including a salted honey pie that is out of this world. Use a different crust recipe from the one listed here. The filling will blow your mind. No, it’s not even a little bit healthy. It’s pie. But a small slice is satisfying for this one. 

Friday: Turkey leftovers. I think I’ll make a white chili and substitute turkey for the usual chicken. I may riff off of Ellie Krieger’s white chili but sub cannellini beans for the hominy. 

Saturday: Are we tired of turkey yet? Probably. Try black bean sweet potato quesadillas: Saute cubed sweet potato with some smoked paprika and a little cumin. Dump in a can of black beans and heat. Then fill tortillas with that mixture, top with a bit of cheese like cotija, and heat on a griddle or skillet. Serve with salsa. 

Sunday: Oven baked honey sriracha drumsticks and green salad. It’s my boy’s birthday, and this is what he requested. Drumsticks are an odd favorite food, but I roll with it. I substitute gochujang paste for sriracha because it’s not quite so spicy. Find it at an Asian market. 

What’s on the menu at your place? Leave a comment below and share your favorites. 

Meal Planning Monday for November 14, 2016

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Oh hey there!

I’m starting a new series in the spirit of meal prep. Why? Because having a plan for the week makes healthy eating way less bumpy. 

I hesitate to say “meal planning” because people think of that as a rigid set of meals that they have to eat. Eat whatever you like! But once my menu for the week is set, I can chill out and know that dinner will happen without a last minute trip to the grocery store. 

I usually work off of what I have hanging out in my fridge, pantry, and freezer when I design my weekly dinner menus. I can whip up breakfast or lunch from most anything I have in the house. But dinner takes a little more planning. 

If that all feels overwhelming, start by reading a peek inside a week of healthy meal planning. 

Then if you’re needing a bit of inspiration, check out my menu each week and nab whatever sounds yummy. I try to choose dinners that have a fairly high protein count, are reasonably low in calories, and taste great. 

Some meals take a little more prep than others. If I make soup or stew I usually double the batch and freeze one. Then I have some “no cook” nights for when the you-know-what hits the fan. 

Meal Plan for November 14, 2016

Monday: Sauteed skillet of chicken apple sausages, cubed butternut squash, and brussels sprouts. (I just cook these together with a little thyme and smoky paprika.)

Tuesday: Leftover Turkey Chili from the freezer with mixed greens.

Wednesday: Lasagna soup with mixed greens.

Thursday: Apple stuffed pork loin with Moroccan spices. Roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on the side.

Friday: Leftovers!

Saturday: One Pot Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Kielbasa

Sunday: Maple glazed baked salmon with pears, Brussels Sprouts, and whipped cauliflower/potato mash. 

Have a go to recipe that you’d like to share or even your menu for the week? Lay it on us! Just leave a comment below. 

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.

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    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!