Tag Archives: Meal Planning

Meal Planning 101

meal planning 101b
Last week I shared some tips on meal prep 101, but looking back, I really should have started here, with meal planning 101. You really can’t prep without a plan, right?

This Monday, I am starting the 21 Day Fix Extreme with an amazing group of people. The focus for this week was on making a meal plan, so that we could take time this weekend to meal prep and be ready to tackle week one of the program.

Meal planning can seem like a challenge on its own, add in a bunch of color coded containers like you do with the 21 Day Fix programs and your head might exploded at first glance. I promise you, it’s not as difficult at you may think it is. You just need to keep it simple, especially for the first week and be repetitive with your meals. This doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing for every meal, everyday, however that’s kinda what I do and it works for me.

When making my meal plan, I tend to rotate with 2 different breakfasts and 2 different lunches. This gives a little variety without killing my grocery budget AND it allows you to meal prep so you’ll be all ready to just heat & eat when meal time rolls around. Start by making a list of your favorites:

Breakfast Favorites:
Egg Muffins
Healthy Pancakes
Shakeology
2 Scrambled Eggs with veggies

Lunch Favorites:
Turkey Chili
Asian Meatballs
Fajitas (the recipe in the eating plan is the same)
Shakeology
Leftovers from Dinner

Snacks:
Veggies with Hummus
Veggies with guacamole
Lettuce Roll-Ups
Apples with peanut butter
Banana Roll-Ups

I personally cannot have dairy but these are also great snacks:
Greek Yogurt with fruit or nuts
Cottage Cheese with fruit or nuts
Nitrate-Free deli meat with cheese rolled up

Dinner is where I like to add variety. We always have something different for dinner each night, so I like to start my meal plan by filling in each nights dinner first. I calculate how many of each container I’ll be using, mark it on the sheet and remove those colored containers from my daily allotment.

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Check out my 21 Day Fix Planning Tools to make meal planning easier.

Dinner Tips:
Plan a Balanced Meal
Make sure you have at least 1 green and 1 red included
If you’re doing the Fat Burning plan on 21 Day Fix Extreme, make sure you have dinner BEFORE 6pm if there is a yellow or purple included.

Once you have your dinners filled in across the week, you’re ready to fill in the rest of the sheet. If you’ll be using leftovers for lunch at all, fill those in next, since you already have your containers figured out. If you will not be using leftovers, I like to fill in my Shakeology next. If you only like your Shakeology prepared a certain way, make sure you include whatever you like to add and subtract those containers from daily allotment.

photo 2Example: Shakeology with water, banana and PB = 1 red, 1 purple and 2 tsp

If you are not as picky about what you mix with your Shakeology, leave it open for now so you can use up any stray containers that might be left over.

Once you have those items filled in, I like to fill in what I plan on meal prepping for lunch. I typically have the same meal for 3-4 days, but I’ll change it up a little depending on my containers for the day.

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Example: Monday is Turkey Chili w/ sweet potato and a fruit, Tuesday is Turkey Chili w/sweet potato, shredded lettuce & chopped tomato + fruit and Wednesday is Turkey Chili w/sweet potato, avocado and fruit. They are small variations to use up different containers and make each meal a little different. You could use rice or quinoa instead of sweet potato to change things up if you prefer. It’s up to what you have on hand and what you feel like making.

Fill in the rest of your lunches using a similar container count as you did for your other ones. This will keep your days pretty even and make adding breakfast easy for you.

Next, fill in breakfast and subtract those containers from your allotment.

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Finally, you’ll want to add in your snacks and add any leftover containers to existing meals or Shakeology recipe.

Sometimes you get creative in this process. I added a cup of baby spinach to my Healthy Pancake recipe one morning because I need to fit a green container in and I didn’t want to eat pancakes with a side of spinach. I figured if I could add baby spinach to smoothies and like them, why not try adding some to my pancake batter?! They ended up being delicious and they would have made Dr. Seuss proud!

photo 5

As you see, meal planning can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. The first week you do it, I highly recommend being repetitive with your meals. It will eliminate some of the stress and help you to adjust to everything. It will also make meal prep a lot easier!

You may have noticed that my meal plan is split up differently than the sheets I have shared in my 21 Day Fix Extreme Planning Tools. That’s because I really wanted to follow the Fat Burner plan, but I know how hectic weekend can be around here and eating every 2 hours would be very difficult. Yes, I know this is only for 21 days and I could make it work, but I view this as a lifestyle. I am also being a realist and by looking at my schedule for the next weeks, there is no way I could make the Fat Burner plan work on the weekends right now, and that’s okay.

Being able to foresee obstacles and coming up with a plan for them is how you achieve long term success. I’m not cheating on the program, I’m simply following a different style of meal planning for those 2 days of the week. The Energy Balance plan gives me more room to play and that’s exactly what I need in order to be successful with this.

21-Day-Fix-Weekly-Meal-Planner

For more 21 Day Fix Extreme Meal Planning sheets, CLICK HERE.

I hope this Meal Planning 101 post has helped you with your meal plan concerns. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below and I’ll answer them as best I can.

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21 Day Fix Planning Tools

Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of requests for my 21 Day Fix planning tools. I didn’t share them on here right away because I wanted to test them and see if they needed to be tweaked at all. I’m happy to say the the people in my accountability group all found them to be very helpful and no one had any changes to them!

Below, you will find a weekly meal planner, shopping list and a worksheet that will help you to plan your week and stay on track with the program! As I’ve mentioned in my 21  Day Fix posts, planning is KEY with this program. If you don’t take the time to plan out your meals, grocery shop ahead of time and meal prep, you will find yourself scrambling for meals and most likely going off plan.

21 Day Fix Planning Tools

Click the image to access the printable planning tools.

Doing the 21 Day Fix Extreme? Check out my planning tools for the new program.

I used the above planning tools along with these Printable Tally Sheets, which I found on Pinterest. You can either print out 3 to get you through the 21 days or you can laminate the sheet (or slip it into a clear sheet protector) and use a dry erase marker to mark off your containers and then wipe it clean for the following week.

Another great tool some of used was using the Reminders app on the iPhone to create a tracking system. Here is a great tutorial I found on Pinterest for how to set it up and use it. It really came in handy for the times I was out and about.

UPDATE: Beachbody has released an official 21 Day Fix app for iPhone. To download it CLICK HERE.

(It is not available for Android devices yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.)

This may seem like a lot of tools for a 21 day program, but they all come in really handy and help to keep you on track and organized. My entire test group loved these tools and said that they made the process of planning a lot easier.

If you have any questions on how to use them, please feel free to contact me!

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{Recipe} Southwest-Style Stuffed Peppers

As I mentioned yesterday, I am starting the 21-Day Fix on Monday, so I tried another recipe I had found on Pinterest.

While trying to make my meal plan, I was searching for recipes that were “Fix Approved” and I stumbled on a few for stuffed peppers. Of course I made a few little changes to make it my own and they ended up being a great meal prep item for quick lunches during the week!

Southwest-Style Stuffed Pepper

Served directly in the storage container!

Southwest-Style Stuffed Pepper
(serves 2: with the following container values 1-Red1-Yellow2-Green and 1/2-Blue)

Ingredients:
2 large Bell Peppers (use whatever color is on-sale or that you like)
1/2 cup Brown Rice, or Quinoa, slightly undercooked
1/4 cup Black Beans, (I used low sodium, organic, canned. Make sure you drain and rinse them well)
1/4 cup Frozen Corn
1 jalapeno, diced (optional)
1.5 cups (about 1/2 lb) browned low-fat ground turkey or beef, seasoned with 21-Day Fix Southwestern Seasoning (or homemade taco seasoning)
1 8-oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes (No sugar added. Should only contain tomatoes and ascorbic acid)
1 8-oz Tomato Sauce (No sugar added. Should only contain tomatoes and ascorbic acid)
1/3 cup of your favorite cheese (I’m dairy-free so I didn’t add this. I opted for avocado)

Directions:
1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cook rice or quinoa according to package directions, but cut cooking time a little short since it will continue cooking in the oven.
3. In a large bowl, combine the meat, tomatoes, beans, rice/quinoa, corn and sauce.
4. Cut the tops off of the peppers. Clean out the ribs and seeds and rinse well.
5. Stuff your peppers, making sure to pack them tightly with filling.
6. Sprinkle with cheese (if using)
7. Place in an oven safe tray and bake for 40-45 minutes. (I like to cover mine with a little water in the bottom of the tray so the pepper steam.)

Meal planning and prepping are very important with this program, so recipes like this are perfect. I actually used my containers to measure everything, but I shared the recipe here with the actual measurements. The ground beef or turkey may be slightly over 1/2 lbs. I actually just cooked up the whole 1-lb package and seasoned 2 Red Containers worth after measuring. I put the leftover in a container in my fridge to season however I want when reheating as a quick lunch.

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{Recipe} Asian Meatballs

Monday I’ll be starting a new fitness and nutrition program called 21-Day Fix. I’m really excited to start this, because unlike other programs I’ve done, this one has the focus on nutrition.

Food is one of my happy places. I love searching recipe books and Pinterest for new ideas. Chopping, slicing, sautéing and grilling are stress relieves to me, most of the time. But eating. Eating makes me happy! It always has, which is how I ended up overweight in the first place.

Thankfully, now I eat whole foods that my body needs in order to function. No, its not boring and bland. It’s actually fun to turn those items into things you crave and want to eat.

21-Day Fix skips the calorie counting and food journals by replacing them with a color coded container system. It takes a little planning and organizing, but once you have a menu plan in place (which you can find tons of on Pinterest) it’s pretty straight forward!

This is a really simple recipe that packs a bunch of flavor. These are considered “Fix Approved” despite the use of soy sauce because it can be found in the nutrition guide in one of the dressings. The best part of this recipe is that you can make a double batch and freeze them, so you have a quick lunch or dinner option in a pinch!

Asian Meatballs

These taste just like dumplings!

Asian Meatballs
(Makes 28 meatballs (6 per serving? – 21-Day Fix container info: 1-Red )

Ingredients:
2lbs lean ground meat of your choice (chicken, turkey or pork)
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped (or more depending on your taste)
1/4 cup soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 scallions, chopped fine

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until incorporated well.
3. Using a scoop (I used the medium Pampered Chef one), make 28 meatballs and place on a baking tray.
4. Bake for about 25 minutes.

I was able to fit 6 of them into my red container (I cut one in half to use all space in the container…I’m not losing valuable real estate to air). We enjoyed these tasty little morsels with some homemade fried rice and steamed broccoli.

Did I mention that they taste just like dumplings?! Steamed dumplings are one of my favorite Chinese Food treats, but since realizing I have a gluten-sensitivity, I had to give them up. Now I get to enjoy my favorite Asian food and red container too!

Have you done the 21-Day Fix? Do you have a recipe or go-to meal? I’d love to hear about it below.

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Eating Healthy On A Budget

Eating Healthy on a Budget

If you are like me, you don’t have a ton of extra cash and that money tree you attempted to plant last spring just never bloomed.

One of the most common things I hear from people is “There is no way we can afford to eat healthy on our food budget.” I get it! I really do. I lost my job almost a year ago and while I didn’t make a ton of money, it helped to cover things like groceries, especially once I switched us to organic produce and grass-fed meats. Now I’m forced to really think about where we spend our money and quite honestly, we don’t go out to eat as often (it was just hindering my goals anyway) and we were forced to prioritize where our money went. Groceries are more important than almost anything I can think of (after the mortgage, car payment and utilities, of course) so in my case, that is where my extra money is allotted to.

So how do I feed my family healthy foods without breaking the bank? Well…. here are a few of the techniques I’ve been using, as well as a few I would like to begin implementing soon.

1. Meal Planning: I’ve spoken about meal planning a little bit on here before. I’ll sit down and figure out a weeks worth of dinners (with enough leftovers for Mike to take to work) and make a shopping list based on them. I usually try to choose recipes with similar ingredients but different flavor profiles, so I can buy items in bulk and we don’t get bored eating the same thing over and over. The upside of meal planning is that you are creating a plan. This plan helps you to save money at the grocery store (as long as you stick to the list), plus you’ll save time in the kitchen because you’ll know what you are cooking each day. You will also save money by being prepared because you’ll have dinner on hand and you won’t need to order a pizza or go to the drive-thru. As much as I love pizza and a good greasy burger with fries from time to time, they hold very little nutritional value, but they have a decent sized price tag when feeding a family of four.

2. Meal Prep: Many people meal prep these days. You know it’s becoming popular when Rachel Ray makes a cookbook and show about the topic, right?!  (She has some good options and ideas on the show but she tends to be heavy handed on the cheese and oil, so please adjust those recipes to fit your goals if you watch that show or have the book.) Meal prepping is taking your meal planning a step further. You do a bulk grocery shopping, lay out your recipes and then have a marathon cooking session, usually on a Sunday, so you are all set for the week. There are two different approaches to this that I have seen. Some follow recipes for casseroles or slow cooker meals and prepare everything to be either tossed into the slow cooker the morning they plan to eat that meal or reheat the casserole when they get home from work on a particular day. The other method is to roast, steam or sautee large batches of vegetables, grill, roast or sautee chicken, ground beef or other proteins and cook large batches of rice or pasta. They use a general seasoning (usually just salt and pepper) to the foods to keep them generic, then when packaging them into plastic containers (try to make sure these are BPA-free) they may add different seasoning and combinations or sides to change the taste profile of the meals. Both techniques are excellent, I think it just depends on your lifestyle to see which fits better. I tend to use both, since I like to have options ready for me at lunchtime, but I also need full meals for dinner. Here are two of my favorite meal prep lunches.

3. Buy Food in Bulk: I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have a membership to Sam’s Club, Costco or some other warehouse club. If you don’t have one, you probably have a friend or family member who does, so ask them if they would mind taking you one day. While these stores don’t always have grass-fed meat and organic produce, I’m okay with that. As much as I would love to buy everything organic, grass-fed or free range, it’s just not possible and I take the time to wash non-organic produce well (make sure you use white vinegar mixed with water to remove the pesticides). Buying in bulk gives you a big bang for your buck. It may seem like a lot of money to lay out at once, but if you purchase items you use on a day to day basis, you’re going to save money in the long run. I tend to purchase nuts, oils, spices and produce there. I also like to stock up on meat. I save a ton of money by buying club packs of meat and then breaking them down and freezing them. I buy chicken thighs with the skin and bones and just remove them myself when I get home. I’ll buy thick boneless pork chops and slice them in half to make thinner ones because it saves a ton of money. Yes, it’s a little time consuming, but I save money and still get to feed my family real meals each night, so it’s worth it! If you use a lot of dried fruits, whole grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, coconut or almond flour I would recommend looking for bulk options and purchasing them that way.

4. Shop The Reduced Produce Rack: Every grocery store has a reduced produce rack. These may not be THE freshest produce items in the store, but most of the time there is nothing wrong with them and they just get bumped back there to make room for the newest shipment. I use a lot of bananas so I always shop the reduced rack when I need them. Most of my bananas go into smoothies, so when I get them home, I take the peel off, toss them into a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer. I get ripe bananas for pennies compared to the green bunches that have to sit on the counter for days before they can be used. As a matter of fact, I purchase a lot of vegetables from here. Peppers are perfect because I just take them home, cut them up and toss them into a freezer bag as well. If they have spinach or green beans back there, grab them, par boil them and freeze them!

5. Buy Frozen: When vegetables are out of season, they cost more. What’s worse is that they cost more and they aren’t even really fresh. They’ve traveled halfway around the world to get to your local grocer store. Do yourself a favor and just buy frozen vegetables when they are out of season. Frozen veggies are usually picked and then flash frozen so they most likely have more nutritional value than the “fresh” produce that travel the world to get to you. They also go on sale all the time! Many grocery stores have their own brands and you’ll only pay around $1-$2 per bag. You can also keep an eye out for sales and manufacturer coupons and then stock up. I would be lost without my stock of frozen vegetables in my freezer!

6. Buy Locally: Buying seasonally is a huge money saver as I mentioned above in the reduced produce and buy frozen section, but so is buying locally! Spring is the best time because that is when many local farmers markets open up. In summer, they are in full swing and there is an abundance of fresh produce available. Talk to the local farmers, get to know them and ask questions. Many times their produce is only minimally sprayed (or not sprayed at all) but they can’t afford the organic certification. If you plan on buying in bulk, be sure to speak to them because they may be able to cut you a deal. To find local Farmer’s Markets and when they open near you, visit Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.

7. Join A CSA: I have not yet joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) but it’s something I’ll be looking into. CSA’s have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. When you join a CSA you usually receive a box, bag or basket consisting of local, seasonal vegetables, but other farm products may be included. If you are a big fan of shopping at local farmers markets, joining a CSA might be a logical next step for you. For more info on CSA’s visit Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.

8. Grow Your Own Food: I know not everyone has a yard but there are different options for growing your own food. I have tried my hand at this but I lack a green thumb. I seem to only have luck with herbs and it’s better than nothing. I found a website while lurking around on Pinterest called Square Foot Gardening and it’s something I plan on looking into more this season. I would love to be able to plant my summertime staple vegetables and be able to control the full growth process AND have the fresh from the vine when I need them. If you already grow your own vegetables, I would love to hear some of your tips and trick for keeping the squirrels away!

9. Use Whole Grains and Legumes: Unless you are following a Paleo or Gluten-Free lifestyle, using whole grains and legumes in your recipes will help you to stretch your dollar without sacrificing nutrition. They are filling and can be found in a ton of vegetarian recipes, so incorporating a “meatless monday” into your schedule can help cut back on the money you spend on meat, as well. I’m pretty sure if you are here and reading this far into the post, you know that white, processed pastas, breads and rice are not your best choices and that you should be opting for whole grain versions. Stock up on these in bulk and make them the stars of your dishes, but like everything in life… use them in moderation!

10. Avoid Processed Foods: While these foods seem like they fit into your budget easier, they leave your body nutritionally starved and begging for nutrients.  You end up eating more of these foods because your body is never truly satisfied by them due to the lack of nutrients. These over processed foods are filled with sugar, ingredients you can’t pronounce and unnatural food coloring. They are also designed to make you crave them, so you end up eating more, so what are you really saving by buying them?

When you do your grocery shopping, avoid the center aisles of the store. That is where the majority of the over processed foods are. I know that 10 for $10 seems like a budget saving deal, but in the long run, it is not unless we are talking plain ol’ frozen vegetables. All of those frozen diet entrees should be avoided like the plague. Ever flip one over and look at the ingredients?! It’s disgusting! They are full of gross additives and sodium. Skip them. Another area to skip is the yogurt in the dairy section. If it has a name like red velvet cake, boston cream pie or cherry cobbler, that means it is loaded with sugar. I don’t care if it says it is fat free. You can’t only look at one component of the ingredients. If you like yogurt, stick with plain greek yogurt and add your own fruit to it. Juice is another pitfall. Most commercial juices are full of sugar and additives. Your best bet is to purchase foods with less than 5 ingredients in them. If you can’t pronounce and ingredient, leave it in the store. Potatoes, strawberries, carrots, spinach, chicken and ground beef all have one single ingredient to them. That is the key to eating healthy and it is possible to do on a budget, you just have to plan a little more and be creative.

Here is list of produce you should try to purchase organic versions of because they are known to have the highest levels of pesticides:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes
  10. Imported spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes

Don’t worry if you can’t get the organic versions all the time, it’s not the end of the world. Just take the time to clean them properly with equal parts water and white vinegar or a commercial veggie wash. Pesticides are designed to withstand rain, so just rinsing them with water is not enough to remove them.

If you have any tips for eating healthy on a budget I would love to hear them! Please share them below or over on my Facebook Page.

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