blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: March 2018

March 31, 2018

Real Life Meal Planning

The title of this blog post isn't meant to make any other meal planning sound not-so-real, but in our hectic lives, the reality is, when I tried the typical meal planning, I failed horribly within a few days or spent my entire weekend (one I'd rather spend with hubby and the girls) getting ready for a week of meals. So this post is all about what works for us and a few of our favorite easy meals. 

One of the questions I get asked all the time is what my typical “diet” looks like, and I guess I’ll start by saying I absolutely do not diet. Actually, the only time in my life I actually counted calories was when I was trying to gain weight and make sure I ate over 3000 calories a day while lifting heavy weights in the gym (basically what body builders do). It was torture and difficult to maintain, but I was insecure in my natural tooth-pick frame and wanted more curves! Many days (especially when I see pictures of myself and think I look way too skinny) I consider getting back to it, but most days I’m happy just how I am. Naturally skinny. My dad used to joke and call me Olive Oil or string bean growing up. Anyhow, all that to say – you can’t just look at how someone looks and assume their diet and exercise regimen is a certain thing – that goes for all body shapes and sizes.

So while I don’t really care about how many calories are coming in, one thing I do really care about is trying to make healthy choices with the food we eat, getting enough good stuff in our bodies, and being efficient with my time by planning and preparing. I try to cook at least 4 dinners a week, and with our schedule, it’s a little bit crazy, but that’s where meal planning saves the day. I’d be lying if I said I made my 4 meals a week goal every week though – there are some weeks we just get by on take out or chicken nuggets and that’s totally fine by me. So here's a bit of our routine.

On Saturday mornings before the kids are up I look through the kitchen and see what we have and what essentials we need to stock up on. Then I sit down and just write down 4 or 5 breakfast, snack and dinner options (lunch is included at the girls’ school and usually free at work for us so I tend to skip that). I like being flexible with my meal planning and just list meals instead of assigning a certain meal to a certain day (after all, by the time Tuesday comes along I rarely actually want the turkey pasta I had planned on making)! And making a whole bunch of pre-portioned meals in advance just doesn't work for us either - it may work for an individual or a couple, but it doesn't work well (for us) with three kids (and a husband who could eat all 5 prepared meals in one sitting). So, once I have this list I do all of my grocery shopping using Instacart.

This service has been a LIFESAVER. I don’t actually go to the grocery store anymore and I couldn’t be happier. It saves your previously ordered items so it makes picking up the same staples super easy. If you’re a bargain shopper like me then you can just search for what’s on sale or sort items based on price. Even for fresh produce, which I was worried about, you can actually write in notes – so for my bananas for example (the girls eat so many bananas) I always order a dozen and request that they get 6 that are already yellow and 6 that are green. Through the app you can chat with the person doing your shopping – so when the grocery store didn’t have the exact cake I ordered last minute for Ro’s first birthday, the shopper messaged me, then took a picture of all of the cakes they did have so I could pick the one I wanted. The only thing I sucked at in the beginning was paying attention to item size – I still remember buying some Pillsbury croissants at a huge steal, only to get like a doll-size can of croissants lmao! That was my fault, but definitely something to be aware of! Technically the prices are a tiny bit higher than in-store, but for me it’s totally worth it! By the way this is totally not a sponsored post for instacart (though I’d happily do one lol)! Just sharing a service that I truly do use weekly and that has given me back a lot of my time (shopping with the 3 girls or trying to wait for a time I can go when Nathan has the girls was just not working). If you want to try it out you can use this link (again, not sponsored, just the same "referral link" every user gets)!

So basically my Saturday morning I sit on my balcony sipping coffee, grocery shopping on my phone in like 5 minutes, and then getting the rest of the day started.

As far as the actual meals – I’d say breakfast is our easiest and likely healthiest meal of the day. The mornings are the most hectic time for me so having something that I can grab and go is critical to the mission’s success haha! My go-to is an overnight oat-chia pudding (eh more like a smoothie) that I make in advance on Saturday or Sunday! I combine 8oz organic whole milk (which can easily be swapped with almond milk or your other non-dairy milk of choice) with 2tbsp of chia seeds, ¼ cup of oats, 1tsp cinnamon, and a bit of sugar (eh probably the unhealthy addition but hey, most days I add ½ tbsp). I mix them in mason jars and cover and keep in the fridge to grab and go every morning! Love this power mix of chia seeds (fiber, omega-3 fats, and vitamins and minerals) and oats (fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals).

Other breakfast examples are below:

  •         Egg cups (I make these in advance in a muffin tray - mix about 4-5 eggs w/yolks and then egg whites, pour in muffin trays. Add some shredded cheese, peppers, or spinach (whatever veggies you like) and bake at 350 for 15 min! Super easy, and delicious. They pretty much never last past Sunday because we just eat them all lol. 
  •         Breakfast crackers (I’m addicted to the Belvita ones) and a string cheese
  •         Hot oatmeal with some fruit
  •         Quick toaster waffles and a banana

For dinners I try to keep it simple and make something I know that all of us will eat. An example of some of my dinners are below:

  •         Protein angel hair pasta with turkey spaghetti sauce and broccoli
  •         Rice and beans with chicken breast
  •         Cheese ravioli with creamy tomato sauce (I buy frozen cheese ravioli so all I have to do is boil it, then I heat up tomato sauce with cream cheese and toss in some capers – yum!)
  •         Slow cooker “Mexican” chicken (I just toss in chicken breast with a can of salsa and cook on low while I’m at work, usually about 7:30-5:30/6pm) – we make tacos with this or burrito bowls – super easy!

For the girls at school I still toss snacks in their bag (it’s a habit, I just want to make sure they eat lol) and some easy go-to’s are cheese strings, yogurt, and baked oatmeal bars. When we’re home for the weekends one of their favorite snacks is SMOOTHIES! I can put almost anything in a smoothie and they will devour it (especially if they think it’s mine, they always want what I have). I usually toss in frozen berries, banana, oats, chia seed, and juice.

Back to the work week though - I always plan a takeout day and keep that flexible for the days I get home and can’t find the energy to cook. But I truly find that a tiny bit of planning and prep makes this so much less likely – knowing what I’m going to cook and having all of the ingredients in the kitchen make a HUGE difference in actually doing it. If I have to think of what I’m going to cook for dinner by the time I get home it likely just isn’t happening.

Some other tips for meal planning? I’m a huge fan of frozen veggies. I find that when I try to cook super healthy and only buy fresh produce most of it goes to waste. So in my freezer I always have frozen chopped onions, frozen chopped peppers (one of my favorites to add to scrambled eggs), frozen spinach (I heat this up with garlic, crushed red pepper and cream cheese and make a creamy spinach sauce to add to angel hair pasta), and frozen broccoli and other veggies (for these I prefer the steam bags so I can just microwave them and have them ready in a few minutes)! The slow-cooker is another huge timesaver – I mentioned it before for our chicken, I also make turkey chili and other types of chicken in it)!

That’s pretty much all I can think of for now lol! It’s certainly not perfect, or always the healthiest, or whatever, but it works for us, and at the end of the day that’s what matters for you and your family! Whatever works! Would love to hear any of your tips! 
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