Weekly Meal Planning

Fruits And Vegetables

In my opinion, meal planning is ESSENTIAL for healthy eating and staying on track. I sit down every weekend and write out the meals we are going to have for the week. I plan what I’m going to eat each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It may seem a bit neurotic, but having the list helps me manage my anxiety because I have a plan and all I have to do is look at the list to tell me what to eat and it helps me stay on track with healthy choices. Having a meal plan posted is also helpful for nights when mu husband is home before me so that he knows what we’re having and can start prepping for dinner. I also find that meal planning helps us create less food waste. I try to make sure we will eat leftovers for lunch or another night for dinner so they don’t go to waste.

I grocery shop every week because we eat a lot of produce, but my trips are short and sweet these days because I meal plan and strategize. There’s not necessarily any right or wrong way to meal plan, but here are a few of my tips for making it efficient and effective:

  • Start with what you already have in the kitchen. Do you have a ton of canned beans that can be used or some meat in the freezer? Or maybe some leftover produce from last week? I try to plan most of my meals around things I already have in the kitchen, which cuts down on the grocery bill for sure. If I’m not feeling very inspired, I’ll head over to Pinterest and type in whatever ingredient I have a lot of to see if I can find new ways to cook with it.
  • Keep it simple. I am not the type of person who wants to be cooking a new meal every single night. If that’s you, kudos! But if it’s not, read on. I usually have eggs or a protein smoothie for breakfast, a salad or leftovers for lunch, and I plan to make around 3-4 different dinners per week. I plan fewer dinners than days in the week because sometimes we have something from the freezer that’s been meal prepped, sometimes we make last minute plans with friends or family and go out, and sometimes I underestimate how much a recipe makes and we need to eat up what’s left.
  • Make a list. I’m sure you’ll be totally surprised to hear that I’m neurotic about how I make my grocery list too. I divide it up by section of the store, so I’m not wandering all over the place trying to remember what I needed. I also really try to stick to the list and not add unnecessary things to the cart. One exception is if something we use regularly is on sale, like olive oil, grass-fed beef, chicken breast, or frozen fruit. Anytime our grocery has grass-fed ground beef on manager’s special, I buy as much of it as my budget allows (last time I got it on sale for $4.99/lb and I bought 6 to store in the freezer!) Before I was grain free, I bought a ton of Udi’s gluten-free bread for $2 each and froze it all (because that stuff is expensive).
  • Shop bulk bins. I try to buy our beans, nuts, seeds and grains (rice and popcorn) from the bulk bins. It’s way cheaper and its a great way to avoid additional packaging (I bring my reusable produce bags with me for produce and bulk goods). I also try to purchase larger bottles, jars and boxes of items when our budget allows. The cost per ounce is almost always lower (sometimes less than half!) so I’m not only saving money in the long run, but also saving multiple boxes or bottles from going in the trash.
  • Prep what you can ahead of time. Meal prepping has become wildly popular, and for good reason. When I come home from the store, I try to prep as much of our food as I can. I chop veggies to be sautéed or steamed, I brown ground meat for tacos or burrito bowls, I make soups or chili to store in the fridge or freezer, and I cut up fruit for easy mixed fruit bowls. If I don’t prep my food when I get home, I almost always get busy and never get around to it, which equals food waste (I’m looking at your pineapple- has anyone else ever wasted a whole pineapple because you forgot to cut it up? No, just me? Okay great.) Meal prepping means minimal cooking when it’s time for dinner, and that’s something I can get on board with!

Here’s a weekly meal plan I drew up a few weeks ago. I created a template that I use each week and print to put on the fridge (I’m linking below so you can download a copy to use for yourself). I like to keep my meal planner clean and simple. You can find all kinds of fun ideas on Pinterest for something more jazzy if that’s your jam, but I prefer simplicity and functionality. You’ll notice I have a spot on my meal plans to make notes, which I use to note when I’m working and any other activities going on for the week that may effect meals:

Weekly Meal Plan

For the Weekly Meal Plan Template PDF, click here.

I like to list out snack options too because snacks are a tough one for me. If I’m hungry between meals, I tend to wander into the kitchen and take bites of a ton of different things while trying to decide what snack to have. Having a list makes it easier; I just look at the list and make a choice. Easy peasy.

In the future, I’m going to try and share my meal plans with you all, along with links to recipes and downloadable shopping lists. Let me know in the comments if you think you’d find value in that!

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The Importance of Self-Care

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Let’s talk about self-care. What’s self-care you ask? Literally, it means taking care of yourself, making time for yourself, and making your own needs a priority. And let me tell you, it’s hard as hell to practice self-care sometimes. But you guys, self-care is SO important. Because really, if you’re not feeling your best, you can’t really be your best for anyone else, amiright? It’s like when you’re on a plane, and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others. You can’t help people if you pass out from lack of oxygen. Just sayin’.

We live in a world that’s so fast paced, and so much is expected of us. So many work countless hours at a job away from home, then come home and have to maintain a house, cook, clean, care for children, visit with family and friends, run errands, etc. Society makes us feel like we have to be great at everything and we’re pulled in a million directions. Social media tells us we should look better, work harder, have more. It’s maddening. And all the while, we often feel stressed, sick, and overwhelmed.

I spent 10 years working retail management, working nights, weekends and holidays, eating a less than healthy diet, and generally not taking care of myself. When I started seeing a new doctor who focused on functional medicine and holistic health, I realized that if I kept up the same pace and didn’t take some time to work on ME, things were going to get really bad. I have a type-A personality, I like to be busy, I work well under pressure, and I have a hard time sitting down or relaxing. But being diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), adrenal fatigue, gut and immune issues, and borderline diabetes, I’ve realized that I can’t afford to NOT practice self-care. I mean, who was I benefitting really, with all of those health issues in addition to the anxiety I experienced daily? I didn’t even feel like myself most days, but I pushed through because I didn’t quite know what else to do. After a lot of thought, I quit my retail job, took a huge pay cut and leap of faith, and started working on ME. I started a new job I loved, but took on bigger roles in that job very quickly because I was passionate about it. A year later, I realized I was back where I’d started. Last fall, I spoke to my boss about only working one day per week, in an effort to give myself the time to rest more and focus on my health.

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I’m happy to report that I feel like I’m really on track this time. I’ve lost 16lbs since Thanksgiving and all I’ve focused on is diet. I eat as much as I want, but I eat clean foods. I sleep a solid 9-10 hours every night. I say no to events and get togethers if I already have too much going on that week. I know that I need a day of rest after I work a day or after I have a full day of errands. I nourish my body with the right foods and supplements. I take the time to stretch before bed every night and practice deep breathing. I drink a green juice or a cup of bone broth most days. If my body says it’s time to rest, I rest. I get my eyelash extensions done every three weeks because it makes ME happy. I blog, I take naps, I get my hair done. I do things that improve my health, and I do things just because I like them. A lot of people feel selfish if they do things for themselves, or spend money on themselves. I figure, if I’m happier and healthier, I’m able to be a better wife, sister, daughter, and friend. So really, me taking care of myself benefits everyone I come into contact with. See, it’s guilt free.

It hasn’t been easy, and I have set backs. My most recent happened around the holidays. I had started the ambitious task of making a quilt for my Mamaw for Christmas, and even though I kept telling myself to stick to my deadlines, sure enough, I was still sewing the day before Christmas Eve. I also waited until the last minute to get a ton of other things done before my cousin and her fiancé came to stay with us for Christmas, and ended up super run down and got the flu. Not only did I have a hard time enjoying Christmas, but I also battled the flu for the next few weeks. I also recently had a day where I knew I had afternoon plans, but I still spent the morning painting a room in the house, shampooing the rug and couch in the living room and doing laundry and dishes. Come dinner time, I almost had a full-on meltdown because I was so exhausted. Disaster. It happens. But I got a good night’s sleep and had a relaxing day the next day to get back on track.

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So do whatever fills you up. Get the manicure, massage, facial, or whatever. Go do something fun solo, like hiking, biking, do some yoga or just walking around Target (always more fun solo, somehow). Take a bath, have lunch with a friend, buy special chocolate that you won’t let your kids eat. Meal plan and prep to nourish your body. Apply a face mask and dance around your house. Whatever it is, DO IT. Because you’re worth it! In our office, we preach to our clients that self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity! It improves your mental health and boosts your energy.

What are some of the things you do to practice self-care? Let me know in the comments!

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Recipe Round-up

I love trying new recipes, but since I try to keep things simple, I tend to fall back on tried and true favorites I’ve discovered because I know they’re yummy, I know I can make them and I know that we enjoy them. Every once in a while I throw in something totally new, but I have a handful of things that we rotate into the meal plan regularly that I thought I’d share with you! I should note, even though I’m linking to these recipes, I rarely follow them religiously. It never fails that I don’t have one ingredient, or there’s an ingredient that I can’t have or don’t normally use. I’ve included notes on how I modify the recipes in our house!

Butter Chickpeas

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I freaking love this recipe! Dairy, grain and sugar free! I make it ahead of time and freeze extras; its super easy to warm up later and cook some new rice. For this recipe, I leave out the tofu and add another can of chickpeas, sub cashew milk for coconut milk, and leave out the ginger (it hurts my belly). I also make it on the stove top, rather than the slow cooker. Since I’m grain free now, I’d serve this over cauliflower rice, which you can buy premade in many produce and freezer sections of the store, or you can easily rice the cauliflower yourself in a food processor or blender. I rice my cauliflower in advance and freeze extras of that as well. I serve this up with sautéed broccoli or green beans! So hearty and filling!

Bolognese Sauce

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I made this pasta sauce when I first started avoiding added sugar in foods. Holy crap, I’d been missing out on really GOOD pasta sauce, and I’ve never purchased jarred sauce since. The key is the wine. It really does add a depth of flavor I never experienced in store bought sauces. The only sub I make in this recipe is cashew milk for whole milk. I make this about once a month and freeze it to use later. That way, on nights when I didn’t prep anything, I have an easy meal ready to go. I serve this over lentil or chickpea pasta and spaghetti squash. SO FREAKING GOOD. I always serve pasta dishes with a mixed green salad or sautéed garlic lemon broccoli to make sure we’re getting our green veggies in for the day!

Korean Beef

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Again. Freaking easy and freaking good. Gluten and dairy free too (and grain free, if you skip the rice or quinoa). The beef can be made ahead and frozen (there’s a pattern emerging here if you can’t tell)! I sub honey for brown sugar, mainly because I rarely have brown sugar unless I’m baking something. I also leave out the ginger and use olive oil instead of vegetable oil. I used to serve this over rice, but recently made it and served it over a sautéed veggie mix (green bean, broccoli, snow pea, carrot and mushroom) and it was so delish! I almost always chop and prep veggies in advance so I can just dump them in the pan to stir fry. Note: I’ve also made this with ground turkey but it did not taste as good.

Honey Mustard Chicken Salad

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This salad is sooo yummy, and super refreshing on a hot summer day! It’s also gluten and dairy free! I cook the chicken and make the dressing and bacon in advance so when it comes time to eat, we just have to assemble our salads! I usually add some mixed greens or spinach to the romaine for added nutrients.

Cabbage, Sausage and Potato Soup 

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This soup is so filling and comforting on a cold day! This soup lasts us a few dinners and lunches each time I make it. I use homemade beef or chicken bone broth which adds so much additional flavor. Best part about this soup is that it’s cheap! Potatoes and cabbage are fairly inexpensive, and if you get your kielbasa on sale, even better!

One Pot Pasta

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Is there anything better than recipes that require nothing more of you than to throw everything in to a pot and wait? There are so many variations on one pot pasta, but I love the flavors of this one. I’d use lentil or chickpea pasta for this dish, but back when I still included rice in my diet, I’d use rice pasta and it would turn out great too! You could totally customize this dish, adding chicken, meatballs, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms and more!

A few other things on regular rotation around here include chilis (both “original” and white versions), tacos or taco salad (I make the meat in advance and, suprise, freeze it), grilled meat with side of veggies, pulled pork (use to make tacos or serve with veggies), and soups.

What are some of your go-to recipes? Have you tried any of the ones shared here? Let me know in the comments!

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