food prep day – sun, april 1

The week before, I didn’t food prep. I thought I had enough food in the fridge to get by, so I decided to try and wing it without a clear cut plan.

Newsflash: The plan of not having a plan? Almost never works.

My day starts early, around 6:30 a.m. and I literally have one hour to get three girls ready for the day, a dog fed and situated, gym clothes packed and my cooler packed with meals for the day. Without simple things to grab from the fridge, not only does it take more time, I end up at work not knowing what I’m going to eat all day.

(And I just wrote a research paper on time management, so I am an expert on it now. Ha.)

This week, I KNEW I had to prep. Because it’s necessary for me and my goals. I never, ever, ever regret being prepared, no matter the situation.

I am slightly obsessed with these pre-marinated porkloins at the moment. They are relatively inexpensive (this one was $5) and so simple to throw in the crockpot. This one was peppered garlic and I CAUTION you to be sure and read the label. The marinade often makes them full of sugar and sodium, so be sure it’s a lean tenderloin AND that it’s reasonable as far as sugar. Toss it in the crockpot on low, let it cook all day…

I got out my food processor, which is my FAVORITE kitchen gadget. I used to spend half an hour, crying my eyes out slicing and dicing onions, which made me not do it even though I love to cook with them. I put an onion in here, twirl it up, 1 minute and I have onions readily available to put in everything!

If there is one thing my lifelong friends know about me it’s that I LOVE my spaghetti. I never get tired of it. When I was a kid, it was the green Tangy Italian box with the seasoning packet, does anyone else remember this one? SO delicious! I had some whole wheat pasta left over from last week, so I sprayed a baking dish, spread the noodles along the bottom, then layered ground turkey, 2 cups of spaghetti sauce mixed with oregano, basil, Italian seasoning and chopped artichokes, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and baked it at 375 for 30 minutes.

Artichokes are quickly becoming my favorite addition to any meal. They are slightly expensive, but it doesn’t take much to flavor a dish up and I just LOVE them!

Swedish meatballs. My Grandma, bless her soul, made these for Sunday lunches and when I started cooking I wanted the recipe. Turns out the “recipe” was a McCormick’s package and yes, she showed me with a sly smile.

I know that some people refuse to use anything packaged, and I completely respect that. But there are some things I just ain’t givin up and Grandma’s swedish meatballs is one of them. So I modify. ONLY use enough to season them, ground turkey in place of beef, almond milk in the sauce instead of regular and only enough to give it flavor. Baked at 375 for 20ish minutes until brown. I like the muffin tins because they seem to cook quicker!

Side note:  Try to think of sauces and seasonings as simply a kick, not the dish. A food does not have to be swimming in the sauce for you to taste it. It’s okay to have a little bit of sauce, but make the meat the dish, NOT the sauce.

Now that the weather is getting nice, you will see lots of this. When I realized I wasn’t getting a husband anytime soon, I taught myself to cook on my grill and dang, it makes me feel powerful! And it’s so easy! I put these in tupperware and eat them through the week on corn tortillas, flour tortillas, with mustard, with saurkraut, shred them up for tacos…get creative and think of the hundred things you can do with these!

Tenderloin is done by now, shred with two forks and again, this can go on and in anything! I eat it plain, on tortillas, sometimes on bread with a little barbecue sauce.

MUFFINS! These are my staple. I have eaten these EVERY day for at least six months and I never get tired of them, in fact, I look forward to 10 a.m. every day to eat these muffins! You can find the recipe here, here, here and here. These were peach, but they are SO simple to modify!

And just so we’re clear that I don’t have endless time to spend in my kitchen, this is what we did in between food prep. The hunt of all egg hunts. My reason for doing everything I do? The two most precious girls on earth, my Adorables.

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food prep day sunday, march 10th

Now I LOVE my daughters. I love them so much it’s almost painful sometimes, but I also enjoy my alone time. With their dad and grandparents in town, I had an entire day to myself so I decided to do two of my favorite things, grocery shopping and food prepping.

And, as I told the cashier on my way out, “GEEZ, women can’t even be trusted not to spend too much money in a GROCERY store!”

I started with pre-seasoned chicken I found with my beloved red sticker. (Homeland, for those of you who are local.)

I have yet to try the new salsa I bought last week, so I put these in the crockpot with salsa and left them to cook on high for four hours.

When it was done, I shredded it with two forks…

And froze 6 ounce portions in snack size ziplocs. (That is my protein portion for the program I am on, typically I would say 3-4 ounces.)

These are easily heated in the microwave and GREAT on corn tortillas, wheat tortillas, or mixed into anything!

Then, I got a call from my friend Mike from high school, who had been trying to shove his deer meat on me. I’ve eaten it in the past, having been married to a redneck, but I’m not fond of it. At all. But since he was willing to meet me and give me two lbs if I would try it, I was game.

No pun intended 😉

I can’t lie, it was REALLY hard to watch it cook. The color is different and I can be finicky about food. But it was SO delicious! I made spaghetti with it (whole wheat angel hair pasta with marinara)…

 Then I made burger patties. Bambie patties.

Paired the delicious burgers with 3/4 cup black beans and I’m SO excited to eat these!

THEN I got a little creative. I had ground chicken, a spaghetti squash and some roma tomatos hanging around, so I tossed them into a pan, seasoned it up all Italian like, added some olive oil and it was, well, I’m not sure. Chicken squash spaghetti?

I baked eggplant “chips” for the first time. Sprinkled with fiesta lime and baked at 400 until they got, burnt. Some were salvagable. See? Trial and error!

I found a recipe for zucchini bake, but it just didn’t have enough kick for me, as I like to use lots of ingredients like I’m a real chef or something, so I tossed some things together, baked it and I have a feeling I’m going to love eating veggies this week!

And THEN ziploc baggie egg white omelettes, an idea I read in Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet and never tried. Pour the egg whites into a ziploc, drop them into a rolling boil pan, wait about 5-10 minutes and then squeeze them out!

Last but not least, my beloved protein muffins. I tweaked the recipe this week and I FINALLY have the perfect blend of basic ingredients that can be modified with any flavors. They came out so soft and delicious!

Peanut butter chocolate…

And strawberry peach which I SOMEHOW did not get a picture of!

I will share all the recipes with you this week! Happy food preppin!

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food prep day, sun march 3

Let me say first, my camera decided to go haywire and somehow all the pictures didn’t get downloaded.

First, I bought three cucumbers and two bags of carrots, and sliced, diced, divided them into snack size ziploc bags. (Have you seen these? They are small and PERFECT for packing portion sizes!)

Then I got an extra lean pre-marinated barbeque pork loin and tossed it in the crockpot on high for four hours. (Be sure to check the label on these, because anything pre-marinated is often very high in sugar. This one had 1 gram per serving. SCORE!) When it was done, I shredded with two forks, put in snack size bags into six ounce portions and froze them.

(Side note: Unless you are on a heavy weight training program like I am, I would stick to 3-4 ounce protein portions)

Then I made chicken chili with some leftover chicken that was frozen. One can black beans (drained), one can kidney beans (drained) one can diced tomatoes (no salt added) and half a packet of low sodium taco seasoning.

 Since the pork loin was done, I made chicken meatballs to put in the crockpot. (Seriously could not live without my crockpot. I love that it just does it’s thing while I work around it.)

I mixed the ground chicken with some bell peppers, a little bit of green chiles and some olive oil.

While those were cooking, I made fake fried rice, portioning the shrimp seperate to make sure the protein portion was enough. (I used a digital food scale to weigh and I HIGHLY recommend buying one! They are inexpensive and fantastic to have!)

You can see the recipe for fake fried rice here. 

I had four cans of tuna that I wasn’t sure what to do with, so I decided to experiment with my theory that greek yogurt can almost always replace mayonaise and take on the flavor of what you are using. And again, it tasted GREAT!

1/2 cup of greek yogurt mixed with one squirt of spicy southwest mustard and some green chile mix…voila! Tuna salad without the mayo!

Remember that red-tagged clearance meat I bought earlier this week? Marinating for dinner tomorrow night! I only mix 1/4 of the package with water only (due to sodium).

Last but not least, protein muffins. My staple and absolute favorite. I wanted strawberry, so I followed my usual recipe for the muffins, which is here, then added three TBSP of sugar-free strawberry preserves.  They are DELICIOUS!

While I was at the store, I found these things which I think are going to be a GREAT addition to my meals. Have you tried the salad spritzers? SO good and virtually calorie-less!

And, as I told the cashier, “we women just love to shop. We’re not even safe at the grocery store!”

And my Adorables, doing what they do best. Being cute 🙂

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food prep day – sun, feb 19

I start Jamie Eason’s LiveFit trainer tomorrow. The nutrition plan isn’t all that different than the way I normally eat, except, as I found tonight weighing on my food scale, the protein portions are significantly more!

Um. SCORE!

The goal in Phase 1, which lasts four weeks, is to build muscle and endurance. The BEST way to build muscles is feeding them protein! I’m a meat eatin’ girl so the more protein I can eat the better.

I kept things pretty simple in the kitchen this week, but tried out some new things so I don’t get bored with my food before week’s end. I think the key to successful healthy eating is PLANNING, PREPPING and VARIETY.

I splurged a little and bought this extra lean pork tenderloin I just knew would be divine shredded on corn tortillas, or even wrapped in a slice of Ezekial bread with some mustard. Sprayed it with Italian no calorie dressing then topped off with my 4 grams of sugar per serving BBQ sauce I found…

Put the crockpot on high and let this bad boy cook away while I prep around it.

Another dish I needed to get going to let simmer for hours was my FIRST attempt at pasta sauce. I love Italian men food, so I wanted a lower sodium version and was determined to make it from scratch. I tossed everything but the kitchen sink into the food processor…

Added some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, italian seasoning and garlic to the puree and let it simmer for five hours.

I decided to try something a little different this week. Instead of packaging proteins/carbs/veggies together, I grouped them in bulk so I would have more options every morning when packing my lunchbag. I’ve found in the past that sometimes I don’t want green beans with fish, but since they are already together, I’m sorta stuck. I made batches of chicken, weighed them into 6 oz portions and put them in baggies…

Next up was chicken muffins. Similiar to Jamie Eason’s meatloaf muffins, but since I’m not a big fan of meatloaf texture, I kept these pretty simple. Red and green peppers, onions (all chopped in my food processor and put in tupperware for easy cooking during the week), plus a little saurkraut (cause I love it) some Lea & Perrins, seasonings and hot chili peppers mixed into ground chicken.

Weighed them out, to be sure I was on track. (Did I mention a food scale is so much fun?)Baked at 350 for 25 minutes…DELICIOUS!

I almost forgot that I started by grinding more oat flour. SUCH an easy process. Toss the quick oats in, grind, done!

Billie Chili was next, although I decided to make it seperately this time to make sure the protein portion was correct. I simmered black and kidney beans with tomatoes and zucchini…

Then browned the extra lean ground turkey with onions, added 4-6 oz ground turkey to 3/4 cup of bean mixture (portion size for beans) for small meals, then put the rest in fridge for carbs to add to other proteins.

Salmon patties, which I have been meaning to make for weeks. I used one can of Alaskan Pink Salmon, added 1 tbsp egg whites and 1/2 cup oat flour, Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning…”fake fried” in a skillet with olive oil no calorie spray.

3/4 cup of the highest protein, lowest sugar greek yogurt I could find, with a dollop of sugar free blackberry preserves.

Large portion of whole wheat angel hair pasta to add to any protein serving to make a meal.

3/4 cup of whole wheat pasta is serving size

A big giant salad with all my favorite veggies to be portioned out each morning.

 And OF COURSE my protein muffins, inspired by Jamie Eason’s protein pumpkin bars.

I prefer to make mine into muffins, since 4 squares of her bars = one serving, easier for me to make them into individual muffins. I also prefer to make them with a little more protein powder and a lil less flour, I will post the exact recipe this week!

Not to be forgotten, my pork tenderloin cooking happily in the crockpot? Shredded wth two forks for quick mexican tacos on corn tortillas or healthy NACHOS!

And my always so patient Adorables, giving our dog, Idabel, a new hairdo and watching Justin Bieber while mommy cooks 🙂

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food prep day, Sunday Jan 29

I was really excited for food prep day this week! As I posted, last weekend was hectic so I had to wing it last week and REALLY missed my full of flavor meals!

Someone asked me yesterday where I get recipes, ideas, etc. and I can’t really say there is one, or even 10 places. Anytime I find a recipe or ingredient I like, I try it, changing up the details if need be to make it healthier or more my taste. I think the kitchen is a GREAT place to use creativity because rarely is something I make just inedible.

Except the first time I tried to make gravy for my ex-husband and even our dog wouldn’t eat it. Oops.

Today I started crockpot chicken that could do it’s thing while I cooked everything else. I found Stubbs BBQ sauce with only FOUR GRAMS of sugar per serving! I love me some barbeque sauce but if you read labels, it’s typically loaded with sugar. I was pretty excited! 

My theory behind weekly grocery shopping is that you don’t buy things you won’t ever eat, AND it encourages me to buy fresh veggies because they only last about a week. But I’ve found I have to immediately slice, dice and put them in baggies, otherwise I will procrastinate on cutting them. This week we have bannanas, grapes, cutie oranges, cucumbers, zucchini and carrot chips.

Egg muffins came back this week. I made them with whole eggs, egg whites, a handful of turkey sausage crumbes, topped with a little 2% cheese.

I was CRAVING shrimp this week and decided to invent my own pasta dish. I broke out the food processor to chop two roma tomatos and some onions…

Drizzled a skillet with these…

Then added the shrimp, tomatoes, cilantro and some Mrs Dash garlic and herb seasoning. Put it on top of 1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta and I’m thinking it’s gonna be a party in my MOUTH!

While the shrimp is cooking, I was dressing up Tilapia, my favorite fish. Sprayed with no calorie olive oil spray, some Mrs Dash Extra Spicy, topped with parsley, because I’m on this herb kick at the moment.

Next up was Billie Chili, and I will repost the recipe this week for anyone who missed it, or click on topics to the right, then recipes. I like adding zucchini cause I gotta get those veggies in!

Last but not least, protein muffins, a regular on my food agenda. This week I decided to make pear/vanilla/coconut…yes it sounds odd but they are SO good! Recipe coming soon!

Everything goes in tupperware and we’re set for the week!

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food prep day – Saturday, Jan 14

I don’t make it a secret that I am a loyal Wal-Mart shopper. I get the “big corporation, shop local” agenda, but the truth is, I don’t think the local grocer would come pay my bills if I were to spend more shopping with them and put my family in financial distress. I am frugal and simple, so I shop where my dollar stretches the most. And the thought of saving time doing it all in the same place is more than appealing.

However, I am also open-minded and love trying new things.

This week, I decided to get the Sunday paper, check out coupons, and shop at the local grocer who doubles coupons for food, then hit the dollar store for household necessities.

Food prep day starts by deciding what the dinner menu for the family will be. I flip through my recipe book, inventory cabinets, then write on my menu board. Then I decide which proteins  and starches I want to make for myself and again, inventory cabinets and freezer against my list.

Once you get this system down, it’s so easy and again, saves SO much time during the week. And I did this on Friday night, while watching a movie with the Adorables…

Long story short, I found that even with the coupons, I spent less by buying off brands and I didn’t end up using any coupons at all.

Homeland had fresh chicken on sale for $1.99/lb, which was less than the bag of frozen I typically buy, so I will definitely be watching for that special again. One interesting note I should add is that I bought minced garlic in a jar at Homeland for $3.50 and later found the same product at the dollar store $2 cheaper! Lesson learned, hit the dollar store first.

We started with crockpot chicken that can cook on high while I am prepping everything else. I sauteed minced garlic with olive oil, mixed it with these and some zesty Italian dressing, then poured it over the chicken and left it to do it’s thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was turkey burgers. Lean ground turkey seasoned with liquid smoke, chopped bell peppers and onions, baked in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes. These were paired with black beans and tomatos, which were simmering on the back burner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is where a shout out to my lovely Aunt Susie comes in, for giving me these portion size spoons which I LOVE! This spoon is the perfect serving size for starch and measuring it against my cups, it’s right! Angels were singing, I swear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this week I had a lovely assistant. My girls love to cook with me, but this type of cooking is pretty intense and she stuck with me the entire time and made things move SO much faster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we did the same garlic mixture as the crockpot for another round of chicken to be used in spinach lasagna rollups, which has been on my agenda to make for a few weeks. I browned the chicken, and Avery did the rest. She was really proud of herself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sauteed sweet potatoes in olive oil, as a side for the rollups, and also to be used later in an egg white breakfast casserole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet potatoe breakfast casserole. YUM-ME

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we tried a Pinterest idea…whole eggs, baked in a muffin tin to make “McDonald’s type” eggs on their breakfast sandwiches. They were so cute and came out perfect. Spray a muffin tin, drop an egg in, bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Put on half a whole wheat grain english muffin for grab and go breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, some Jamie Eason protein muffins. I bought orange extract (flavor without the calories), used apricot baby food and the result was…delicious! What I love about these muffins is they are CHEAP to make and you can change the flavor every week by just adding different flavors!

 

 

 

 

 

I spent about $120 this week counting food and household items (toilet paper, paper towels, etc. etc. etc.) The good news is, next week will be a cheap one since I stocked up on $1.99 chicken and froze it. And our week? Filled with delicious, nutritious meals with very little prep, leaving more time for fun!

I will post recipes this week and thanks for reading 🙂

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the hows and whys of food prep day

My world is busy and chaotic sometimes, just like everyone else’s. During the week I start at 6 a.m. and often don’t stop going until 10 p.m. and even then it’s tough to stop the mind hamsters from running laps in my head.

Food prep day saves time, money and energy whether you are committed to eating healthy or not. Once you get a system organized and in place, a few hours on Saturday or Sunday will free up precious time for family and hobbies during the busy work week.

“But my kids are picky eaters, want something different and I don’t want to cook different things for everyone.”

By lining out a weekly menu for the family, as well as planning for your alternative when it doesn’t fit your goals, there is no guesswork off the cuff. I often eat different than my girls, simply because they aren’t watching their weight. While most of the choices for them are healthy (we don’t keep many unhealthy ingredients or foods in our house period) the caloric count just doesn’t always fit into my plan, so having my own meals prepped ahead makes it easy to heat a meal up while I cook theirs so we eat together.

“Eating healthy is so expensive and we can’t afford it.”

Unless the alternative is $1 cheeseburgers at McDonald’s, shopping for healthier alternatives at the grocery store is actually less than buying packed convenience items…and if this frugal single mother is saying it, you can believe it to be truth. Yes, you will have to cook to save money. Yes, you will have to set some food boundaries with your kids. The policy at our house is that no one eats out of boredom. We don’t use food as a hobby. The kitchen is not a free for all where the girls grab and go constantly. They have a snack basket they can eat from, and obviously ask me if they are hungry, but I definitely could never afford to feed a houseful of people eating just because. For me it’s no different than setting boundaries in any other area…food is expensive!

STEP ONE – Get a menu board and use it

She's standing in for the easel

 
Pinterest inspired project I love. Old photo frame, printed sheet, dry erase marker. I let the girls help pick what their dinners will be. Some nights are simple, some are crockpot meals prepped before work, and some nights are leftovers 😉
 
STEP TWO – Organize recipes to make ingredient listing easy
 

My $3.00 recipe system

I have tried MANY recipe systems and this is what works best for me. I don’t like tons of cookbooks laying around and I am not going to pull up a computer page when I’m cooking. So I find them, save them, print them out and put them in clear sheets so I can lay it open while cooking, then wipe it off the mess! It also makes it SIMPLE to flip to a meal and look for ingredients.
 
STEP THREE – Inventory cabinets against your grocery list
 
I am the absolute WORST about buying more of something I already have. I am breaking myself of this habit by forcing myself to look through everything BEFORE I hit the store. I inventory cabinets, fridge, both bathrooms and under the sink.
 
Case in point…these are ALL in my cabinet.
 
 
STEP FOUR – Shop weekly
 
This is tough for some people, but I really think if you go weekly, you’re less likely to overbuy and fresh foods don’t rot before you can use them. Shopping weekly encourages me to consume more fresh fruits and veggies and I find I spend far less when I don’t buy in bulk in case I get tired of that item before I use it. (P.S. Now that my girls are older I like taking them to the store with me, but I also think shopping kidless makes things easier, quicker, and more fun when you can really compare labels and check out different items and prices.)
 
STEP FIVE – Buy only what you need
 
I buy what I need to make our meals for the week, a few things for the girls to snack on, plus our staples. And that’s it. There is nothing scary about the checkout for me because I know exactly what I am buying and how much. No surprises. Buy off brands whenever possible.
 
STEP SIX – Set aside time for food prep and like Nike says JUST DO IT!
 
 This week, I knew a few things already. I needed a break from egg muffins this week, I needed a break from fake fried rice this week, but I was definitely craving Billie Chili again. So I added some new things…egg whites with a pinch of turkey sausage crumbles, divided into portions.
 
 
I was craving refried bean tostadas, which we know are loaded with fat. So I experimented with my new food processor, put a can of black beans in it, twirled it up…
 

Fake refried beans

I’m serious, I felt like a rocket scientist. It was SO good! I spread some on two corn tortillas, put chicken and fat free cheese on top, baked them at 400 and felt like I was cheating!
 
 
The fake refried goes in tupperware for the week, chicken into the crockpot to cook all day for shredding, and tostada dinners anytime I want them!
 

Next up, Tilapia, my favorite. I found a new seasoning at the store I couldn’t wait to try…

Mrs Dash

Cucumbers, grapes, carrots and celery portioned into snack size ziplog bags for easy grab and go.

Jamie Eason’s Cinnamon Apple protein muffins. These.are.to.die.for. Put in seperate baggies and frozen.

Finally, 2 lbs of ground turkey browned for use on tostadas or anything else!

And I’m sure you are wondering…where on earth are the Adorables while she’s spending hours in the kitchen? Well, with me. Of course.

Stay tuned this week for all the recipes!