If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know that I’m on a big lifestyle change journey. It all started last May when I realized I was consuming all the things. Food. Emotions. Stress. Since then, I’ve lost 20 pounds and have completely revamped not only what I eat, but how I view food. And somewhere along the way, my husband got on board, which thrilled me. So as I shop for food, and meal plan not only for dinners, but lunches to take to work, making good food choices is one of my top priorities. But alongside this, keeping the budget in check is important as well.
I feel like being working parents makes it very easy to get caught up in the convenience of bad food for you. I feel like being a working parent makes it very easy to get caught up in not watching your portions. But what these past 9 months taught me is that as a working parent it can be easy to be healthy, efficient, and budget friendly. As well, since the new year I committed myself to getting my family to eat less processed foods. We aren’t 100% processed free, but we are about 70-75% free of processed items. And with this goal it means I need to be even more calculated with time when it comes to meal planning, not only for dinners, but lunches as well as I refuse to eat out of boxes or cans for lunch. Here are some tips that work for me.
1. Organization: Every week, before I go grocery shopping I plan out what we will eat all week, including all the side dishes that go along with it. I’d craft these lists all on my own, which tended to be messy and fragmented. And then of course LWM crew member Katherine, who does the same thing, created a downloadable shopping/meal planning tools that work way better than my chicken scratch ones. Stop by her personal blog to download her free shopping list/meal planning PDF, plus her free downloadable monthly meal tracking sheets! NOTE: When I’m done shopping, I fold up the list/meal planning sheet and put it on my fridge. There’s no more decision making needed for what to have for dinner every night. Plus, I glance at it the night before to see what needs to be defrosted so there’s no more OH SHIT! moments after work as to what we can easily have for dinner. BONUS: Since using Kat’s lists, we’ve gone three weeks sans eating out!
2. My Fitness Pal: I log my meals 98% of the time to help me keep track of my calories. Some people feel it’s a burden, but with every new recipe I make, I create a recipe/meal on MFP, figure out portion sizes, and the next time we have it, it’s there and all I have to do is click a few buttons and add it. Plus, when I’m meal planning, I can search my food diary to see recipes we haven’t had in a while. (I’m wa_tracy on MyFitnessPal if you want to add me!)
3. Smart Meal Planning: I try to pick meals based on two important facts. First of all, I look in my pantry and refrigerator to see what we already have. I’ve spent too many weeks dumping expired foods and money down the drain. Sometimes this means having the same meal once a week for two weeks, which is OK with me. Second, if I’m making a recipe that won’t use the entirety of an ingredient, I’ll pick a second meal to use with that ingredient. For example last weekend, my husband made a black bean salad, fish taco meal that needed fresh cilantro. Instead of throwing the rest of the bunch away, I decided we’d make Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup this week, which also calls for fresh cilantro.
4. Homemade doesn’t have to be time consuming: As we are reducing processed foods, it means that I’m always searching for quick and easy homemade recipes. For example, we used to buy packaged pizza dough for pizza night at home, but my husband found this no knead pizza dough recipe. I make it every other weekend, freeze the dough once it’s done, and all I have to do is defrost it the night before pizza night. BONUS: It’s fewer calories than the store bought dough and costs next to nothing to make! NOTE: I adjusted the recipe by putting in ½ teaspoon of yeast and I split it into two dough balls instead of four and we get two big pizzas out of the recipe. I also found a recipe for Crockpot Marinara Sauce that’s super cheap and quick to throw together. I stock this in my freezer and it’s ready to go when I need it.
…Since this post was getting long and I have a few more ideas to share with you, I thought I’d break this up into two posts. Check out part 2 here!
Do you have any tips to add? Any quick, healthy, and efficient recipes to share with me?