Simplifying Meals and Healthy Eating with Meal Planning – Part 1

“Mom! What’s for dinner!?”  This question makes my top 3 list of questions that I passionately dislike, and is especially true if I don’t have an answer for it.   How many times a day do we have to contemplate this question?  And, at least for me, that question takes up a lot of my mental energy. Mental energy that I would much rather spend on other things, like solving sibling squabbles, and helping my kids with long division.  You know, the things that really matter in life 🙂 But the truth is, it doesn’t have to.  Would you believe me if I told you that if you invest 1-2 hours at the most for 1 day at the end of the month, that you can have that daunting question answered for the next 30 days?  Well friend, read along.

Here is the run down to planning for simple, delicious, and nutritious meals for your family. Eating healthy does not happen on accident. You really have to be intentional about it. If  not, you will find yourself in the drive thru again and again. Or serving up that 3rd bowl of cereal for the day. I’m not being judgmental, I’ve been there. I think it is safe to say that we have ALL been there.    It has taken me a while of tweaking different things to fit our lifestyle to finally get this figured out to where I am confident to share what works for me.  Even if everything here does not work for you and your family, maybe this post will set you on the trajectory to finding something that works better for your family and lifestyle.

  1. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN – No brainer right? I mean, this is a post about meal planning. I know. There is really no getting around this. For all of my readers who say, “I just love being spontaneous and having variety,” there is room for spontaneity and variety in having a plan.  For all of my readers who say “I’m just not organized,” could I just preach to you for a moment? This is an excuse. Everyone has strengths and things that require growth. I also totally understand different personality types, but that doesn’t change the fact that the most organized person in the world still has to sit down and put pen to paper and do the work.  Anyone can do this, organized or not. You can do this!
  2. CHOOSE A THEME FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK – I’ve tried several different meal planning methods and this one is by far the quickest and easiest. It also takes the mental energy and overwhelming feelings out of scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks for a recipe to fill up every day of the week. Sit down and think about what you usually eat. You will probably notice that you cook a lot of the same meals over and over each week.  And BTW, that’s ok! Take that information and assign it to a day of the week.  For example, here are our themes for the week:

Sunday = Santiago Tradition (roasted chicken, green beans and basmati rice)

Monday = Burgers

Tuesday = Mexican

Wednesday = Santiago Favorites/New Recipe

Thursday = Asian

Friday = Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)

Saturday = Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Meals

Sunday = Santiago traditional meal. We have this meal every Sunday.  It has become our own “tradition,” hence the name.  Monday = Burgers (we alternate between chicken and beef burgers to switch it up a little…variety right?). Tuesday = Mexican (we alternate between beef and chicken for these meals as well). Wednesday = Santiago favorites/New Recipe days – I leave this day open to be spontaneous (there’s that word again). I will either make one of our  favorite meals that doesn’t necessarily fit under any of our themes or this will be the day to try that new recipe that I’ve been eyeing. Thursday = Asian inspired. Friday = Brinner (Breakfast foods for dinner). Saturday = Instant Pot/Slow Cooker meals.  You can change these themes on a month to month basis if you want or not. I don’t change my themes very often. When the warmer months come around, I’ll be changing my Saturday theme to either BBQ or “from the grill” days.  The sky is the limit with themes.  Some more themes are: pasta days, seafood days, meatless, vegetarian or vegan days, or you can even schedule a certain day of the week for take out.  Get a piece of paper and write down your themes:

 

3.   Now that you have your themes, putting together a meal plan should a breeze. I meal plan for the entire month and at this point, it takes me no longer than an hour to fill in my calendar, write out a grocery list, and shop for the items I need online. The first thing I do is print out a calendar for the month. You can google “printable calendars” and find one there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or if you have a daily/monthly planner, you can use that. Here’s what my meal plan looks like for February.  Fill in your plan.

Feb meal plan.png

 

4.  Make your grocery list.  I also suggest cleaning out the fridge, freezer and pantry before you start this step.  Make this a part of your meal planning rhythm. Here’s where you can do what works for you and your situation and depending on how often you go shopping. You can write out a list for each week all at once if you go grocery shopping weekly and just add to it if something runs out for that particular week (you can title it Week 1, Week 2…etc.).  You can write a grocery list 1 week at a time the day before you shop.  Do what works. Here’s what works for us:  I do most of my grocery shopping online.  I write out all of the places that I shop and as I’m looking at our meals each week, I’m filling in what I need.  I order my meats for the entire month through U.S. Wellness Meats.  I order all of my dry goods/pantry items for the month through Thrivemarket.com.  Lastly, I make sure my subscribe and save items through Amazon are all set and will get here when I need them.  My grocery shopping days are early Saturday morning and I usually write my grocery list the night before or morning of Saturday for the week.  Here’s what that looks like:

grocery list.png

So there you have it!  I hope this post is a help and start for you to jump on the meal planning bandwagon.  There’s a reason so many people are on it!  I really does make a difference 🙂

Do you meal plan too?  I’d love to hear about it!

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Pursuing present in 2018

It’s been well over 2 years since my sweet friend Melissa pitched the idea that we should both start a blog together, AND 2 years since my last blog post.  There is no better time then to start back up since the year is ending and a new year is beginning. It’s cliché, but who cares, I’m running with it. Here’s my attempt to at least 1 blog post per month 🙂

2017 was overall a great year, but it was also challenging and has brought dramatic change in everything I do. It’s been hard homeschooling my 2 older kids with 2 little ones under tow. It’s been hard working 30-35 hours per week at my job.  It’s been hard trying to keep up with my home and everything that entails.  And it’s been hard making time for and cultivating relationships with the most important people in my world.  Yet, God has been so faithful and His grace has covered all of my mess-ups and start all overs.

In 2017, I was introduced to Allie Casazza (www.alliecasazza.com) and her movement to de-clutter, get intentional about how I spend my time,  and embracing simpler. Instead of writing out a New Year’s resolution of all the goals I wanted to accomplish, I just picked one word and applied it to each aspect of my life.  My word for 2017 was simplify. Here’s what that word looked like for me over the past year:  de-cluttering EVERTHING, household items, toxic thoughts and relationships, schedules etc.  Once everything was de-cluttered and lighter (seriously the best thing I could have ever done for myself and my family), I looked at ways to simplify everything I had on my plate that needed my daily attention.  Meal planning and food prepping have played HUGE parts in taking  stress off of my passion to feed my family healthy meals (I’ll save the details of this for another blog post). I’ve been waking up to start work at 5am, which gives me the chance to work in quiet and to complete half of my workday before my kids start tugging at me to meet their needs. I wash, dry, and (kinda) put away 1 load of laundry each day so there are no huge piles of clothes waiting to bury me. I’ve also started delegating age appropriate responsibilities to my kids, because they need to practice serving their family too…to name a few.

My word for 2018 is present.  I’m still working out what that word will mean over every aspect of my life this coming year, but here’s what I have so far:  turning off all alerts on my phone (except for calls and my husband’s texts), so that I can be present to what is going on right in front of me instead of being distracted by alerts.  Finishing my work day first, so that I have the rest of the day to be present in my home without the mental reminder hanging over my head all day. Buying some noise-cancelling headphones so I can be present at work during the times my kids are awake.  Out-sourcing a few homeschool subjects (online) that we just don’t have time to get to.  That way, I can take the pressure off of myself to have to teach everything and be their cheerleader instead. And finally, lots and lots of reading aloud time.  There is no better way, in my opinion, to be present and deepen relationships with your kids, then to enjoy a good story together.  Especially THE ULTIMATE story.

2018, I can’t wait to get this year started.

 

 

Breakfast Hash

Tired of eggs for breakfast?  This breakfast hash is a great way to switch things up a bit and is delicious and filling.  Enjoy!

Serves 6

2 large sweet potatoes

1 large onion

3 green peppers

3 cloves garlic

1 pound sausage

2 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste

fresh ground black pepper, to taste

 

How To Prepare

Peel and chop sweet potato and onion. Finely chop the green pepper and mince the     garlic. Remove the sausage from its casing and chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a skillet, sauté oil and garlic over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add in chopped sweet potato and stir.

After 4-5 minutes, add in peppers and onion.

Let sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in chopped sausage, let cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

Mix in fresh spinach, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until sautéed.

8  Remove skillet from heat and serve hot.

 

Recipe Credit: Real Plans

 

Paleo Pad See Ew Recipe

I’m not even sure how to properly pronounce the name of this recipe, but it sure is good!  My kitchen is the second most favorite place to be in my home and I love trying out new recipes to add a little variety to our somewhat mundane meal plan.  And this one, my friends, has earned a spot on our weekly rotation.  It tastes just like chicken and broccoli from the Chinese restaurant but BETTER! Seriously.  It is a one pot meal, the total prep time is about 15 minutes, AND I love the added carrot “noodles.”  I think it is just genius!  I changed the recipe slightly to fit our taste.  I used 4 eggs instead of 2 because we really love eggs, and I added a pinch of salt and pepper right at the end before serving. Enjoy!

Paleo Pad See Ew

AUTHOR: Danielle Walker – AgainstAllGrain.com

SERVES: 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound chicken breast, boneless and skinless
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I prefer olive oil for the taste with this dish, but coconut will work too)
  • 3 cups broccoli rabe florets and leaves (or chinese broccoli)
  • 10 carrots, peeled
  • ⅓ cup coconut aminos (the verdict is still out on whether this is SCD legal, so use with caution if you’re SCD)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coconut sugar (sub honey for SCD or omit for Whole30)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions:

  1. Lay your peeled carrots flat on a cutting board and use a Y-peeler to create very thin but wide ribbons. A regular vegetable peeler will work too, a Y-peeler is just easier to use when the carrot is flat. You basically just continue peeling the carrot after you’ve removed the outer dirty skin.
  2. Slice the chicken very thinly on a diagonal. Warm the oil in a deep saute pan or wok over medium heat, then add the garlic and chicken and saute for 5 minutes until the chicken is white on the outside.
  3. Add the broccoli, coconut aminos, and coconut sugar, and continue cooking for 5 minutes until the broccoli has softened a bit. Add the carrot ribbons and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Push the stir-fry aside in the pan, then crack the 2 eggs into the pan and stir vigorously to scramble them. Let them cook for a minute or so until they have firmed up, then mix everything back together.
  5. Serve