The Weekly Grub

Happy Monday! Another weekend has come and gone, but that just means there are many more weekends to look forward to! We had another wonderful weekend filled with family and friends. I enjoyed my Saturday morning yoga and farmer’s market routine before we celebrated my mom’s birthday at Berryessa Brewing Company. There was a live band, games, beer and delicious barbecue food. Basically everything you need in life. On Sunday we purchased a patio table to get our backyard ready for hopefully many barbecues. We also went on a bike ride and did some meal prep to make our week smoother.

Ok, let’s get to the meal planning part. Today I am here to profess my undeniable love for the freezer to you. I think this obsession started at a young age. You see, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so the closest grocery store was about 45 minutes away. We only went grocery shopping once or twice a month, since piling kids into the car to go to town was probably not the most fun activity for my mom. But when we shopped, oh did we shop. We piled coolers into the truck then spent hours in town filling those coolers, but always made sure to make it home before the ice cream melted. We always had an extra freezer in the laundry room that was full of meat, bread, leftovers, treats…basically anything you could freeze. It was never fun when you realized you had to get something from the bottom.

You may have noticed that a lot of the meals in my first  meal planning post included a few items from the freezer. I no longer live in the middle of nowhere. In fact, there is a grocery store less than ½ mile away that we frequently walk to. However, I still use my childhood lesson in freezer storage today. Is that bread about to go stale? Freeze it. Leftovers? Freeze ‘em. Great meat sale? Buy a ton and freeze it. Mushy avocados? Freeze ‘em. FREEZE EVERYTHING! I actually made wine ice cubes the other day, because I knew, much to Kevin’s dismay, that I wasn’t going to finish the bottle of wine. They were delicious in sparkling water. Bottom line…the freezer is your friend people, use it.

As much as the freezer does reduce food waste and helps you save money, it can be a deep dark hole. It’s very easy to forget what is in their, how long something has been in there and where it is. This is where organization comes in really handy. Here are some tried and true freezer tips and strategies:

  • Use clear storage containers to group certain items together, so you can still see through the container and take it out easily when you need to look for something. I use this method for our grain products, leftovers and meats.
  • Store things you use frequently or want to remember you have on the door. This is where I keep our veggies, fruit, homemade treats, and random bagged items like leftover sweet potato puree.
  • Store leftovers as individual servings in Tupperware containers, for easy and fast meals. I made Kevin his favorite cheeseburger pie a while ago, but he didn’t want to eat all of it as leftovers. He told me he put the last slice in a container and put it in the freezer for later. My heart skipped a beat.
  • When you freeze liquid leftovers like soups it helps if you add the contents to the Ziploc bag then lay it flat on baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer. Take it off the baking sheet once it is frozen and you have flat and skinny bags of soup that are easy to store.  The bags fit well vertically in a container.
  • Ice cube trays are a great way to keep individual servings of sauces. For example, I make big batches of pesto then freeze it in ice cube trays, so we can just grab a cube when we want to add pesto to something. I also love making huge batches of caramelized onions in the slow cooker and freezing onion ice cubes.
  • Keep a list of what you have chillin’ in the freezer. When you do your meal plan, consult the list to see what you can use from the freezer. Also, when someone tells you there’s nothing to eat in the house, tell them to go look at the freezer list. You will likely win that battle. 
  • Frequently clean your freezer. Not only does this make it nice and shiny, but it induces those “oh yeah, I forgot about this” moments.

Want to know what we are eating from the freezer this week? Here’s our plan:

  • Sunday: Spaghetti squash lasagna (sauce from freezer) + arugula salad
  • Monday: Sliders (ground beef from freezer) + avocado (freezer) + sweet potato fries (freezer)
  • Tuesday: Roasted sausages, cauliflower, mushrooms and potatoes
  • Wednesday: Blueberry, walnut and goat cheese salad
  • Thursday: Salsa chicken (from the freezer from a slow cooker meal) & veggie quesadillas (tortillas from freezer)

What do you like to freeze? I would love to hear about your freezer obsessions!

 

Habits

We started a conversation about goals, now let’s get giddy about habits. I see habits as the little things we do over and over that shape our behaviors. Changing our habits will eventually help us accomplish our goals and change our behaviors for the long run. As simple as that sounds, habits are not very easy to change overnight. Here are a few tips that have helped me shape my habits throughout the years:

Make it easy

You need to set yourself up for success. Don’t make yourself climb a higher mountain than you need to. I recently realized how important this was when I tried to change my bedtime routine. I wasn’t trying to do anything drastic, just regularly wash my face and brush my teeth on a nightly basis. You’d think I would’ve figured this out in my late 20’s, but I frequently went to bed with a dirty face and unbrushed teeth (yes, I’m basically a child- I know).

Washcloths and I have this thing. I really just don’t like them. How many times are you even supposed to use a washcloth before you wash it? I just find it gross and hate trying to make them look new every week after I scrub my dirty face on them all week. I broke down and bought face wipes instead. They are definitely not the most environmentally friendly or economical option, but you know what? I wash my face without much grief these days, so I’ll take it. I also gave up on using real floss and am a proud supporter of floss picks. I don’t think I have ever flossed my teeth so regularly in my life. I was only using washcloths and real floss because I felt like I was taking the easy route if I didn’t. Moral of the story- there are plenty of challenges in life, don’t make changing habits another one.

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My face and white pillow case’s savior.

Change your routine

I love change. I seem to flourish in change. Therefore, I figure if I want to change my habits, I should change my routine related to the habit. We get so used to doing the same thing in a certain sequence, but what happens when we throw ourselves a curveball? If you want to exercise after work, but the couch entices you then don’t even go home before you work out. Head straight to the gym or even put on your workout clothes at work, drive home and go on a walk, but don’t enter the house until you complete your walk.

Back to my bedtime routine…It’s not like I fell asleep on the couch or anything. Believe me, I love going to bed. That was the problem though, I wanted to get in bed so badly that I didn’t want to take time to wash my face or brush my teeth. To change my routine, I decided to start doing these things after we got done cleaning up from dinner. I still had energy at that point and it was a great way to unwind for the night. This also meant that if my teeth were brushed it was unlikely I was going to have the same urge for sweet snacks (another habit I am trying to change).

Use technology to your advantage

I’m a strong believer that we rely way too heavily on technology and it can be a hindrance in many situations. On the flip side, it can also be very helpful in changing habits and increasing productivity. Until you have changed a habit, set a reminder on your phone. I am trying to get better at stretching nightly, but stretching and I just don’t get along. I get bored…and usually it hurts (reason I need to stretch more). I usually remember to do it right before I go to bed and as we know from my teeth & face example, I’m just not good at getting stuff done before bed. I started setting reminders to go off on my phone around 6:00pm. As I have shared in previous posts, I love checking things off lists so a reminder on a phone works well for me. I should be honest and tell you that this doesn’t mean I stretch nightly. If I’m tired enough, I am really good at ignoring the reminder. Most of the time though, I follow through and my hips thank me for having a weakness for iPhone reminders.

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There’s no blueprint or foolproof method for changing your habits. Everyone is different, so different strategies will be more effective for certain people than others. You just have to try and see what works for you. You won’t learn, if it don’t try right?

Do you already know what helps you change habits? I’d love to hear about it!

 

The Weekly Grub

Sunday is my favorite day of the week- especially when we don’t have any plans. I love waking up and knowing the whole day is ahead of me to do whatever sounds enjoyable. My ideal Sunday usually involves some moving, relaxing, exploring and preparing for the week ahead. Today was the perfect mixture of all those things. I went on a grocery shopping walking excursion that turned into a downtown adventure exploring the Greenbelt, finding a new Italian ice and custard shop and a brewery. I love just putting on a podcast or audio book and walking around town. My goal is for people to refer to me as the crazy lady that is always out walking. I have many more steps to take before that goal is achieved.

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Taken during our Greenbelt adventure

I’m sure you’ve been dying to get my next meal planning tip. In all honesty, it’s really hard to not put all the tips in one post, but no one wants to read a novel about meal planning (I’d actually probably really enjoy that). When I first started meal planning, my type A personality really flourished but not in a good way. I planned the meals the week before, had everything and I mean everything prepped by Sunday and would laugh in your face if you thought I was going to venture from the plan. Last minute changes of plans were not happening, no matter how delicious the restaurant you invited me to sounded. I had to stick to the plan, gosh darn it. You can rest assured that I am much less psychotic about meal planning now. We all have our moments, don’t judge.

I quickly realized that I simply could not expect the week to always go according to plan. Life happens and I was going to make myself batty if I couldn’t be flexible. Therefore, I started including one flex meal a week that could easily be moved to the following week without having to worry about the food going bad. This way if something comes up or I just decide on Thursday that I really could care less about cooking dinner, I don’t have to feel like we are wasting food we already bought.

Along with having a flex meal, I’ve also realized how important it is to be flexible with the days of your meals. I took an intuitive eating class and was discussing meal planning with my professor. She suggested that I purchase all the ingredients I need for the week’s meals, but not assign a meal to a day. Instead, I should listen to my body and choose my meal based on how I am feeling. Although I told her I would try that, in my head I thought she was loony. What’s the point of having a plan if you aren’t sticking to the plan?! I have realized though that having a looser approach to it, makes meal planning much more enjoyable. Even though I still assign a meal to a day when I write our plans, we usually end up switching them around. If soup does not sound appetizing on Tuesday, then we don’t have to eat soup on Tuesday. The meal plan does not have the power, we do.

This week we will be enjoying the following meals:

  • Sunday: Stuffed peppers (I’m making a big batch, so I can have them for lunch throughout the week)
  • Monday: Grilled pork chops + asparagus, green bean, feta and mint salad
  • Tuesday: Homemade fish nuggets + parmesan roasted zucchini
  • Wednesday: Steak fajitas and refried beans (This was our flex meal from last week that didn’t get made, because we decided to have a picnic instead.)
  • Thursday: Brinner! Waffles, bacon and fruit salad (This is our flex meal for the week. If we make it, great I can restock our waffle supply in the freezer. If we don’t, we can move it to next week and no tears will be shed.)

If you meal plan, I would love to hear how you make it work with last minute plans. Do you have flex meals or is there another method that works for you?

 

Just Move

I hope those that had Monday off had a smoother transition back to the work week than I did. There is something about beginning the week on Tuesday that totally throws me off. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way complaining about having Monday off. It was a glorious day- mostly spent outside with friends and family with a little cleaning, meal prepping and exercising here and there.

Speaking of exercising, how are YOU moving this week? I’ve recently experienced a mind shift in which the term exercise somewhat irritates me. “Healthy” hits a nerve too. I’ve actually gotten irritated with a lot of these words that are so commonly thrown around these days. What does “healthy” really even mean? It probably means something totally different to both of us. Let’s save that rant for another post though and get back to “exercise.”

Since physical activity seems too CDC-ish to me, I started using “move” as a replacement. Considering we are literally moving our bodies, it just makes so much more sense to me. It also removes the chance that anyone can judge you for your choice of movement. “Exercise” just seems a bit uppity and exclusive. Moving, on the other hand, includes it all. Gardening is moving. Playing with your kids is moving. If you ask yourself how am I moving today and dancing in your living room is the first thing that comes to mind, great! Do it! Dance your booty off.

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I also like the concept of moving throughout the day. Rather than devoting 30-60 minutes of our day to exercise and remaining sedentary the rest of the day, let’s try to move all day long. Take a longer route to the restroom, walk to our coworker’s office instead of emailing them, play catch, or re-energize after dinner with some stretching. Basically, just sit less.  

This whole “move” concept has helped me get in tune with my body. I plan my workouts at the beginning of the week, but it’s very rare that I follow the plan to a T. Not because I don’t want to do the given workout, but because my body feels like moving in a different way than I had planned. The other day I planned to do a heavy leg workout, but my hips were not feeling up to it when I woke up. Instead, I asked myself how I could still move that day in a way that honored my body. I decided to go on a lovely coffee walk with Kevin and it was a great way to start my day with movement.

This week I am hoping to move in many ways. Here is my plan, but it’ll likely change:

  • Monday: Total body living room workout while watching Parenthood (my current obsession)
  • Tuesday: Weights (heavy chest & triceps) + bike to work & lunch walk
  • Wednesday: Spin + lunch walk
  • Thursday: Lower body & back barbell workout + lunch walk
  • Friday: Upper body and cardio circuit living room workout + bike to work
  • Saturday: Yoga
  • Sunday: Walking, cleaning & Kevin will probably convince me to do some sports activity

My questions for you:

  1. What’s your favorite way to move?
  2. Do you have any tips that help keep you moving throughout the day?

Grub

Happy Friday! How everyone’s week going so far? I’m happy to report that we are having a very smooth and relaxing week. I also still have all of my limbs, despite starting our project in the woodworking class I’m taking. Honestly, my “just go for it attitude” probably shouldn’t be allowed around dangerously sharp power tools. My instructor looks at me like I’m a bomb that’s about to explode every time I fire up the table saw. There’s a good chance he will revoke my studio pass before the quarter is over…

Today I am here to talk about meal planning, because who doesn’t love meal planning? (If you actually don’t, I’m sorry but we can’t be friends). I started meal planning in college and my method has evolved throughout the years. One thing that hasn’t changed is how convenient and easy it makes eating home cooked, balanced meals throughout the week. There is, by no means, one right way to go about this. Just like everything else in life, do what works for you. My plan is to give you tidbits into my meal planning mentality, week by week. I can’t give you all juicy info at once, because you will become a meal planning master and stop reading my blog.

The first step is to shop your kitchen. This serves two purposes: 1) You don’t buy something you already have (that money could have gone towards chocolate) and 2) It reduces food waste. I don’t know where my hatred for food waste comes from, but it literally kills me to throw food away. I just feel like a jerk when I throw away food that could have been used for something or someone. I find that shopping my kitchen first also forces me to get more creative with my menu. Once I’ve taken inventory, I make a list of foods I have on hand. I included our meal plan for next week below and indicated what foods are items from the pantry, freezer or fridge.

Meals: February 14-20

  • Sunday: Seafood risotto (have seafood mix -freezer and arborio rice – pantry) + asparagus
  • Monday: Sesame crusted ahi tuna + avocado (freezer) + green beans and slivered almonds (pantry)
  • Tuesday: Baked teriyaki drumsticks + roasted carrots (fridge) and broccoli
  • Wednesday: Steak (freezer) fajitas + refried beans (freezer)
  • Thursday: Avocado BLT egg salad on toast
  • Friday: Out and about!

I know, I know, you’re dying to know what tips will be discussed next! Lucky for you, I am probably the worst ever at surprises, so I will just spill the beans now. In the next several weeks we will also talk about the glorious grocery ads, choosing recipes and making the freezer your friend– among many more topics I have in store for you!

In the meantime, I have some questions for you!

  1. Have you tried the “shop your kitchen first” strategy?
  2. What’s on your meal plan for next week?

PS- I promise I’ll start posting pictures soon as long as you promise to be nice about their terrible quality.

Monday Motivation

 

I love goals. I enjoy talking about goals with people, helping people I don’t even know set goals, reading about other people’s goals, and setting goals for myself. I took an entire course while pursuing a graduate degree called “Motivating Healthy Behaviors”. I cringe when I hear someone make a general goal, because the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goal system has been so engrained into my brain. You might say I am obsessed with goals and if I know you then have probably annoyed you by talking about them too much a time or two.

While studying the science behind changing individual’s behaviors, I decided I would start testing the theories on my very own lab rat, Kevin. Unfortunately, he is quite smarter than a lab rat and caught on to my antics all too quickly. I probably kept this going for a good two years though. I was frequently trying to convince him that goals are great, and he should be as excited about them as I was. You know what I learned? You can’t force someone to create a goal or even care about goals for that matter. Yes, I did also learn that concept in school, but I refused to believe it until I had first hand experience. I just couldn’t fathom that people could be perfectly happy not setting goals. However, it is totally possible and completely OK.

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This revelation did not change my obsession with goals though. I still frequently set them, but, like other aspects in my life, I am learning how to balance goals and life. Sometimes I get too excited and take on more goals than I can handle, which I know is a recipe for failure. I’ve learned that I just have to take it slow, be flexible and satisfied with small accomplishments. Because it’s the small, consistent accomplishments over time that really make a difference.

Mondays always seems like a fresh start to me and a great time to check in on my goals. I have always been a morning person, but moving back to Northern California and experiencing winter again has made it harder for me to rise before the sun. I love the mornings though and always seem to have a better morning when I do get up earlier. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to forget about that when it’s freezing and dark outside, but warm and cozy in bed. Last week I set a goal to wake up before 6:20am Monday-Friday. If I meet the goal, then I get to splurge on a fancy cappuccino during the following week (don’t forget that positive reinforcement!). Did I wake-up before 6:20am Monday-Friday last week? Nope, but my body needed and enjoyed that extra rest on Thursday morning. Alas, I will be drinking black coffee this week. However, this week is a new opportunity to work towards this goal. Hopefully this warmer weather will help me out, and I will be sippin’ on a velvety smooth cappuccino next week.

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Do you like setting goals weekly, monthly, whenever? I’d love to hear about any goals you are working towards! Don’t like goals? I’d love to hear about that too!