Meal Planning | Dinners

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I have written about trying out the meal planning idea on ourmindfulhome.com, by prepping my meals each week in the refrigerator. That worked ok for awhile, but it didn’t really allow for much variance. I decided to figure something else out by way of monthly meal planning.

As I have written for the last couple of weeks, I pretty much have breakfast, lunch and green smoothies down. They have a level of variance, but there are always options for those meals in my house, I simply replace ingredients as they run out. Plus, the ingredients for those meals tend to hold up well in the pantry or get used frequently in the refrigerator. That meant that I really just had to figure out dinner.

Accordingly, I decided to plan  my meals monthly, thus having a more global view of what I will need each month. For example, on April 1 I planned 15 meals, which will allow for leftovers, eating out once a week, or choosing soup for lunch. This month the list includes:

April
1. Chicken & Shrimp Stir Fry
2. Wings w/veggies
3. Stuffed Peppers
4. Stuffed sweet potato
5. Veggie Quesadilla
6. Shrimp Scampi or Scallops
7. Chicken and broccoli w/pasta
8. Spaghetti w/beef
9. Chicken Masala w/grains
10. Thai chicken w/grains
11.Mahi w/veggies and grains
12. Salmon w/veggies and grains
13. Tacos
14. Cornish Hen
15. Rosemary Chicken w/grains and veggies

Each week, on Sunday, I pick three meals for the week and begin making my grocery list from there. So far this month:

Week 1
Stuffed Peppers (MT)
Spaghetti (WR)
Thai Chicken (FSun)

Week 2
Salmon (MW)
Quesadilla, Tacos (TR)
Mahi (FSun)

This week will be:

Week 3
Mahi MW
Chicken Masala w/grains (TR)
Scallop & Shrimp Stir Fry (FSun)

I will write about my freezer later as it is stocked full, but this is working well for me. This plan allows for a lot of variety and allows me to use any leftover ingredients that may go bad that week. Plus, my weekly grocery bill has gone down quite a bit. At the end of the month, I think I will find that I have cut it in half! This means that this method is a win for me.

Daily Eats | Meal 2 & Dessert

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Ever since I took on the Simple Green Smoothies 30 Day Challenge early last year, I have drunk a green smoothie almost every day! Late last year I decided that if I made it into the new year still drinking a green smoothie daily, that I would buy a good blender. Welp, I met that goal, saved money and bought a refurbished Blendtec:

blendtec

It takes 40 seconds to blend a smoothie which is more than half the time to it took to prep and make a green smoothie in my old blender. I never realized the blender would solve my sweet tooth issues as well, but it has! I have been making fresh sorbet and its so delicious that it satisfies my sweet tooth daily. I make a Sorbet once every eight days and have a half cup after dinner most nights. Its low in calories, natural and delicious.

My favorite Sorbet recipes of late are:

Serving: 8

Citrus Strawberry (by Blendtec)
2 Medium Oranges
1/4 cup Honey
16 oz. Frozen Strawberries

Strawberry Banana
2 Ripe Bananas
1/4 cup Honey
Juice of 1 Orange
16 oz. Frozen Strawberries

Strawberry Mango
16 oz Fresh Strawberries
1/4 c Honey
Juice of 1 Orange
16 oz Frozen Mango

Yield: 1/2 Cup

Its strawberry season, so I am using them as much as possible. Once Mango’s are more in season, I will use them more for variety. It takes about two minutes to make Sorbet in the Blendtec, so its freakin Awesome!!!!!

My Go To Breakfast Choices

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I have finally conquered breakfast. After trying many things last year, I keep certain choices that make my stomach happy:

1. Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

I love to combine Plain Greek Yogurt, fruit and flax granola. I buy a tub of Greek Yogurt from Trader Joe’s, it can last 5 days with leftovers, as I only use 1/2 a cup. Then I buy some berries (strawberries, blueberries and/or blackberries), prep them and store them in a container in the fridge. I freakin’ love Whole Foods Flax Granola varieties. I simply get some from the bulk foods section and put it in one of my Mason Jars in the pantry. I add a 1/3 cup of Granola and a 1/3 cup of berries to my Yogurt. I finish it off by adding a sprinkle of Cinnamon and Tupelo Honey for a flavorful sweet touch.

Nutrition: Protein, serving of fruit, oil, gluten free and more
Calories: 238

2. Cereal in Almond Milk

Lately (meaning like the whole month of March) I have turned back to a favorite of mine. Remember last year I discovered Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Cereal and I fell in love. Well, I have discovered that all of the Ezekiel cereal varieties are pretty darn great. I use Almond Milk because I really just do not like the taste of Cows MIlk, and then I add a banana for sweetness and more flavor. I just follow the serving size recommended by using a 1/2 c of cereal and 1 cup milk. I do not add any sweeteners because the almond milk and fruit are sweet enough together.

Nutrition: So much nutritiousness here! Protein, oils, fruit, grains, gluten free, etc.
Calories: 355

3. Eggs w/toast and bacon

Another quick and easy favorite is two eggs and toast with two strips of bacon. Sometimes I put the eggs on the toast, other times I put peanut butter on the toast and eat the eggs separately. I really do not add anything here. Its a simple and quick breakfast. Nutritious, tasty and filling.

Nutrition: Protein, brains, oils, etc
Calories: 295

4. Cream of Brown Rice Farina w/fruit and seeds

The last, but certainly not least ideal choice for breakfast is Cream of Wheat/Farina. I use almond milk to cook the cream of wheat and once done I add 1/3 cup of fruit and chia seeds. This little bowl only contains 3 tblsp of COW, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 tblsp of seeds.

Nutrition: Wheat, Protein, Fruit
Calories: 236

I occasionally have the full southern breakfast as a treat (grits, eggs, bacon, pancakes/waffles), maybe once a month or more. Regardless, these breakfasts are fillings, low in calories, tasty, customizable and very satisfying. I usually drink a cup of lemon water alongside breakfast. All of these meals also make great post workout meals. I prefer to exercise in the morning on an empty stomach and these meals are a great way to start my day of healthy eating.

Work | Water Intake

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A couple of months ago I realized that I needed to figure out water and work. In general, I drink mostly water or tea, but while at work I was just drinking a bottle of water during lunch. From the research I’ve done, I came to the conclusion awhile ago that I should drink at least half of my body weight in water each day. I prefer to drink most of that water before 2pm due to the obvious reasons. Resultantly, I needed to figure out how I wanted to take more water to work without taking tons of water bottles each day.

First of all, the water bottle approach is not very cost effective. Secondly, the whole water bottle thing is not very eco friendly even if I recycle each and every one. Third, I just decided there was a better way. I found a solution through buying a glass water container from Whole Foods and then I received a free BPA free water bottle from the Turkey Trot 10k I did Thanksgiving Day. Problem solved:

water

 

I purchased the container on the left from Whole Foods Market, it holds 22 ounces of water, is glass and very easy to clean. I fill the water bottles with water from my filtered water pitcher (by Zero Water). The container on the right holds 24 ounces of water, for a total of 46 ounces of water. I usually drink 16 ounces of water before leaving home, meaning that by the time I get home I have already drunk 62 ounces of water. If I have one more cup before going to bed, I have met my daily goal. Surprisingly, just having both of the water bottles on my desk promotes water consumption. Since I started taking these containers to work, I have met my goal every single day, plus a glass of wine or bottle of ale every now and then along the way.

Prepped & Ready | Refrigerator Week 1

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prepped

Last Sunday I put the plan into action. Instead of Mason Jars, I chose to use BPA free plastic snap containers. I had a Target gift card from Christmas, so I used it and purchased the set you see pictured above. I then prepped for the week, as seen in the picture below it.

On The Left: The purple containers hold sliced and chopped red onion for vegetable stir fry and whenever I need onions throughout the week. The purple container under that holds cooked ground beef and cooked brown rice. The container under that contains two par broiled green bell peppers.

In The Middle: The top container holds broccoli florets (there are holes in the top), under that we have sliced red bell pepper, and under that sliced carrots in filtered water.

To The Right: Cubed red cabbage and sliced red cabbage, under that there is cubed sweet potato covered in filtered water. Below that is cubed broccoli (holes in the top), and lastly blackberries and sliced strawberries.

I also made frozen burritos and prepped and froze a chicken breast for baking.

I used this for a week of food. Every morning for breakfast I had a Green Smoothie and a piece of toast with butter:

breakfast

For lunch I had left overs, with exception of two days I took a fruit and yogurt parfait and a frozen burrito:

parfait

Dinner is where things got fun:

Monday
Stuffed Bell Peppers

Tuesday
Vegetable Stir Fry over Pearl Couscous

Wednesday
Chicken Quesadilla

Thurs & Fri

Thursday & Friday
Chicken Curry over Brown Basmati Rice

 

Saturday
Chicken & Sweet Potato

Today I thawed out some Chicken Noodle soup for dinner and I will have the rest for lunch tomorrow. I am prepping tonight for the next week of meals. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have a good bit of prepped vegetables left over, so I really just need to prep odds and ends for meals.

The initial prep last Sunday took 3 long hours, however the week was quite simple because everything was planned and chopped. Tonight it took 40 minutes and I think this week will be even easier, we shall see. Right now, this seems doable.

The Refrigerator | Plans

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I will do a full year in review post, including pics by Monday, but in the mean time I thought I would talk about what I am working on right at this moment. I am trying to determine what I really need in my refrigerator,I mean, meal prep, snacking, dinner, etc on a daily basis. Right now my pantry is all set, I really have solidified what I need in my pantry and cabinets to lead a healthy lifestyle. I completely reworked what lies within my kitchen cabinets this year, and as the new year is approaching, I have decided that the next step in this journey will be revamping my refrigerator. I suspect his endeavor will take up most of next year as did the cabinets, but to give you an idea of what I mean, check this out:

 

I was surfing pinterest and ran into that picture and stopped in my tracks! Talking about a perfect idea! I am trying to determine how I want to take this idea and make it mine. I bought a couple of large Mason Jars for a homemade Indian Curry and Vegetable broth. I am trying to decide if I want to buy more mason jars or if I want air tight glass or plastic tuperware containers for the items on the other shelves. Regardless, this could work. I plan to do a  90 day challenge working with the above refrigerator idea. Like I said, I am still flushing out the details, but regardless, come January 1, I will start a 90 day challenge. Is it weird that I am excited about this idea? What do you think? Practical? Too expensive? a good start?