Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meal Planning

So many resources exist for meal planning that it can be quite overwhelming! I'll try to keep this simple as I explain what works for my family: ) I hope you can find what works for you: )

Several years ago, Nick and I started meal planning to save time and money. We started by planning one week at a time and went to the grocery store once per week, usually on the weekend. Once Hudson was born, the need to save time and money was even greater, so we started meal planning for two weeks at a time. I still go to the store once each weekend, but the two trips serve different purposes!

On the first trip (a.k.a. "the big trip"), I go to two stores: Aldi and another store that has toiletries and whatever Aldi doesn't have (usually Walmart). I almost always go to both stores on the same day, but if I'm tight on time I'll do one store on Friday after work or Saturday and the other one on another day. On the next weekend I complete the second trip, and I just go to one store to buy produce and whatever we ran out of/didn't think about when we made the original list.

I made a shopping chart to keep us organized. The night before the first trip, Nick and I talk about our schedules for the next two weeks and fill out the top part of the shopping chart. 


When we eat, we don't follow the meal plan exactly (e.g., We don't necessarily have pizza on Saturday just because I wrote it in for Saturday!), but I still fill the days in just to make it easier to keep track. Also, we look at the previous meal plan to see if any of the meals didn't get eaten and can be carried over to the new meal plan.

After we have our dinners planned, I fill in the columns at the bottom based on our dinners. If we prefer something from the other store (e.g., pizza) or if Aldi doesn't carry the item or the brand (e.g., diapers), I write that in the "Other Store" section. The Aldi columns are organized by the order of the aisles at my Aldi: ) 


Example (columns filled in based on week 1 only):

After that, we fill in items we want for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. We also talk about what Hudson will eat and add those items. We also add toiletries to the "Other Store" column, and we add anything from the list of items on our fridge whiteboard  that we used up or that are almost gone (e.g., trash bags, paper towels, spices).

When I get to Aldi, I follow my list! Before I go to the second store, I write anything I wasn't able to get at Aldi to the "Other Store" section so that I don't forget anything!

If you're just starting out, I'd suggest trying to plan one week at a time. Once you get the hang of it, try planning for two weeks! Planning for two weeks is also a great way to repurpose something from week 1 into something else for week 2 (e.g., chicken for taco salad and chicken for quesadillas; buns for hamburgers and buns for BBQ chicken).

Hope this helps!

I'm having troubling getting the Word document to load, so email me at if you'd like a copy!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

21 Day Fix - Workout Trackers

Nerd alert! I made some trackers to help me remember the reps I complete and the weights I use: ) These workout trackers are absolutely NOT required for people who are completing the 21 Day Fix, but they help me track my progress and keep me from doubting myself! 

I have a horrible time remembering how many reps I did or how much weight I lifted from week to week, and I think it holds me back! I'll start with weights that are too light or start my reps too slow because I can't remember and don't have the confidence to push myself harder or heavier!

When I have numbers in front of me, I can say, "I know that I am stronger this week! I can go a little heavier! I can do one more rep!" I don't track everything because it slows me down, but I do track the reps for exercises when I can compete against myself (e.g., skater jumps, burpees!), the weights I use, and the modifications I make (e.g., half of set on knees). 

I hope you find this helpful!
Enjoy: )

(PS: I didn't make these for pilates or yoga because it didn't really seem to apply.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

21 Day Fix - Mason Jar Salads = My Favorite Lunch

I won't even begin to pretend like these mason jar salads were my idea! I'd been eyeing them on Pinterest for MONTHS, and the 21 Day Fix gave me the motivation to finally try them. I'm SO glad I did!

I loosely followed the steps on this blog, and now I don't even need to look at it when I make my salads!

I've been making the jars on Sunday afternoons, and I make four jars at once so that I have salads prepared for most of the work week. I work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays, but I quickly found it was easier to have my jar salad prepared for Wednesday than to take time to pull out all of the ingredients to make a fresh salad! The only reason that I don't make one for Friday is that I usually eat dinner leftovers and/or whatever is left in the fridge: )

My salads are layered like this, but the jars are easy to customize to meet your container needs: 

  • about 1/6 red = cottage cheese (I measure this with an orange because it is easier than dumping from a red!)
  • about 1/6 purple = salsa (I measure this with an orange because it is easier than dumping from a purple! I don't really count this as anything - but you could count it as a little bit of a purple!)
  • 1/2 green = 5ish carrots 
  • 1/2 green = 10ish cherry tomatoes (I've also used zucchini!)
  • 5/6 red = cooked chicken with homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 orange = sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • 1 green = spinach (or other greens)
So, for me, one jar = 2 greens, 1 red, 1 orange, and a little bit of a purple!

These pictures aren't the greatest, but you'll get the idea: )

salsa/cottage cheese/tomatoes/carrots + prepped chicken* 
(*See my chicken tips below!)

All done!

Poured into a bowl at work for eating!

The salad doesn't look big in the photo, but I promise that it is the perfect size, and it has just the right amount of crrrrunch! The mix of ingredients is satisfying, and the flavor is delicious! The jars are convenient and easy to clean, and the salad keeps me full for several hours! 

SUPER Easy Way to Cook Chicken

This is my absolute go-to way to prep chicken for the week! 
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spread frozen chicken breasts over a cookie sheet or glass casserole dish. (You can do this with one breast or several. I change up the amount I bake based on how many meals I will be using it.)
  3. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes.
  4. Take the chicken out of the oven.
  5. Season both sides with the seasoning of your choice! (I usually do the homemade taco seasoning - YUM!)
  6. Put the chicken back in the oven.
  7. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Allow the chicken to rest for at least ten minutes before dicing or shredding!
Enjoy: )

If you decide to make mason jar salads, please share your "recipe" and hints! I need to try some new flavors in mine!

Monday, April 6, 2015

21 Day Fix - New Recipes / Pinterest

I love the 21 Day Fix for so many reasons, but one of my favorite aspects is that, in addition to being able to tweak many of our family favorites, I've tried SO MANY new recipes! I follow the recipes for the most part, but I either change the recipe amounts based on the containers or do my best to figure out how the ingredients count against my containers: )

New Recipes I've Tried

Peanut Butter Oat Bars
Notes: I make half the recipe, and I cut it into 6 bars. 
Each bar equals 1 yellow and 4 teaspoons.

Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot
Notes: I make this weekly, and I LOVE it! I keep it runny.
Hudson likes to help, too: )

Rachel Ray's Homemade Taco Seasoning {Large Batch}
Notes: This is SO much better than packaged taco seasoning - better for you and better tasting! I don't think we'll ever go back: )

Lemon Garlic Dump Chicken
Notes: I only made enough for Nick and me.

Italian Chicken
Notes: I used canned diced tomatoes and jarred minced garlic: ) 
I also only made enough for Nick and me.

Crockpot Fajita Chicken

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Baked Italian Chicken, Green Beans, and Potatoes
Notes: I made my own dressing to have a cleaner version: ) I used some sweet potatoes for me and some white potatoes for Nick!

Slow Cooker Beef Roast
Notes: I didn't make the gravy, but I bought some for my husband to use: )

Pinterest Pages

Pinterest, of course, is my go-to place for new recipes! I'm trying to keep better track of what I make and like, so I have two boards:

These are either recipes that are already "21 Day Fix Approved" (and include container counts!) or are recipes that I think would be easy to modify for the 21 Day Fix.

These are recipes that I've tried and plan to make again!

More soon!
More recipes and container counts coming soon: )

Sunday, April 5, 2015

21 Day Fix - Food & Exercise Tips

I love, love, LOVED my first two rounds of the 21 Day Fix so much that I continued on my own for a third round and signed up to be a Team Beachbody Coach!

Along the way, I've been gathering some tips to share with others. I want everyone to be as successful as I have been and to feel as great as I do: ) I plan to elaborate on some of these some more in the future, but here are the basics!

Food Tips
  • Plan, plan, plan! Do not go anywhere without a food plan, and make sure you always have some healthy food ready in the fridge to throw together in a pinch! You can eat at restaurants - just try to look at the menu before you get there if you can so that you don't feel overwhelmed or rushed to make a decision.
  • Prep as much as you can over the weekend! I buy foods on Saturday and prep food on Sundays. I prep all of my lunches - even for days that I'll work from home - and I prep as many of our dinners as possible. I even put water in a couple of blender containers in the fridge so that they're ready for me to add ice and Shakeology!
  • Be prepared to plan every meal the first week. After that, you'll quickly understand how to work in your containers across each day. I find that I usually eat about the same combo of containers throughout the day, and that allows me to be more flexible with what to eat. For example, my breakfast is almost always 1 red, 1 purple, and one yellow - yogurt/fruit/dry oats or 2 eggs/fruit/toast are interchangeable!
  • Combine foods in one container! This should be simple, but it didn't occur to me at first that this was an acceptable practice: ) You don't have to fill the container with just one type of food - hooray! For example, one green can be half broccoli and half zucchini!  
  • Split containers into multiple servings! For example, two cuties and some grapes will fit in a purple container. If you love fruit, eat your cuties during one part of the day and the grapes during another. You're still only eating one purple container, but you feel like you're getting extra fruit: )
  • Make a big fruit salad! Buy what you like and/or what is one sale, wash it, cut it, combine it - and eat it all week long! We usually eat the fruit salad at dinner time. 
  • If you're not going to go to the store multiple times during the week (I don't!), plan to eat the produce that spoils quickly (e.g., raspberries) earlier in the week and have some frozen fruits/veggies and/or longer-lasting fruits/veggies (e.g., apples, oranges) later in the week.
  • Buy more fruit and vegetables than you think you'll need for the first week! I ran out after four days because I wasn't used to eating so much produce: )
  • Try to tweak recipes and family favorites rather than thinking you have to eat only the individual foods from the booklet. For example, we love bagel pizzas. My husband and son eat a bagel with pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni along with some fruit salad. I eat a sandwich thin with tomato sauce + Italian seasonings and cheese, fruit, and a salad. We also used to eat a lot of taco meat/beans/cheese over chips. Instead of chips, I use spinach and add carrots for some crunch! The only other difference is that I measure my meat/beans/cheese using my containers!

Exercise Tips 
  • Exercise in the morning if you can! It is SO easy to let the day get away: ( I find that if I exercise in the morning I look forward to my workout because I know that I will feel great the rest of the day and that I will make healthier choices so that I don't "undo" what I accomplished. In contrast, if I postpone my workout until the afternoon/evening, I worry all day about fitting it in, and my mindset with food changes to "I'll work it off later!" which is a HUGE difference from my morning workout attitude about food!
  • Prep the night before for a morning workout! Put your workout clothes/shoers together, put your DVD in the DVD player, put your water in fridge - even pull out your weights and mat if you have room! The workouts are about 30 minutes long, so if these steps are already done the time you need in the morning is only about 35 minutes! It is also easier to get up when you know everything is ready and waiting! I even sleep in some of my workout clothes sometimes: )
  • Track the weights you use for your exercises and keep track of your reps so that you can compete against yourself in the following weeks! 
  • Take before/after pictures, weigh yourself, and take your measurements! I almost skipped the measurements part because I'd never done measurements before; however, I lost inches all over, and it was really motivating! I may share my pictures some day, but for now they're just for me to see: ) I find myself looking at them from time to time, and I'm proud of the visible progress I've made! Weight is NOT the only indicator of healthy change, so pictures and measurements provide more motivation and proof of progress.
  • Make the time to exercise! Most people don't suddenly find themselves less busy, so that means that you have to make the time to exercise if you're not already doing so. For me, I quit styling my hair to make time for exercise in the mornings. That sounds kind of silly, but it is true! It takes a ridiculously long time for me to blow dry my hair and to curl/straighten it. Sometimes my wavy hair is a little wild when I look in the mirror, but I just remind myself how good I feel from my morning workout: )

Hope this helps - you CAN do it!