Jennifer’s February 2018 Pledge

February 2018 Focus Area: Food/Fuel

ISSUE(S):

Sometimes I feel like I spend 90% of my waking hours planning or preparing food for myself and my family. I believe that food is important for so many reasons – I want myself and my family to have the proper fuel each day so that we feel our best, and longer term I want us to be healthy and stave off unhealthy eating habits and preventable chronic illnesses. That being said, ensuring that each of our nutritional needs and personal tastes are met sometimes (ok, often) feels like a monumental task.

Currently, there is only one member of the family that would eat everything I put in front of him, and that is our family dog Wally. I am not a huge fan of pork or beef (with the exception of the occasional beef pot roast), whereas my husband can’t stand seafood and is wary of tofu. I am currently breastfeeding my youngest, and have discovered that dairy seems to be causing him skin issues, so I am cutting out all of the delicious dairy. And that is just the adults! On top of that, we have a preschooler with a confusing and ever-changing list of food likes and dislikes (she currently likes peppers and peas, but dislikes carrots and corn; she likes cupcakes, dislikes pie – who dislikes pie?!?!), and a baby who has just started eating solid food. With both kids I’m trying to ensure that they are receiving enough iron, as well as other important nutrients and fibre. The baby is still working on his hand eye coordination, and so he needs squishy foods that he can pick up and easily smush in his mouth or, more likely, toss off his tray in order to learn about gravity.

Yes, we are a real joy to invite to dinner parties. 😉

I’ve tried meal planning in the past. In fact, the first time I attempted meal planning was when I returned to work after my first maternity leave. My approach before kids was…get home from work, scan the cupboards and fridge, and either prepare a meal or order take-out if I was famished or didn’t have anything edible on hand. After having kids, and going through a few evenings of tossing granola bars to a child experiencing crashing blood sugar levels and epic meltdowns, I quickly became motivated to change my ways… 🙂

However, I was always having to come up with new ideas each week, and trying new recipes meant I didn’t always have the ingredients on hand or the proper technique mastered. And, because I was planning week to week, I still frequently felt challenged to come up with meal ideas that would be good for us to try. Finally, I was planning our dinners, but lunches and snacks were still a bit haphazard. (Breakfast I find easy – we always seem to have the staples on hand to create a quick grab and go breakfast, or a leisurely weekend breakfast).

My new plan? A 5-week rotating meal plan! I’m hoping 5 weeks gives enough variability to keep our palates happy, without forcing me to come up with a million and one recipes that will be both nutritious and delicious (according to the majority of family members, at least). Here is some of the criteria for the meal plan:

  • As it is currently freaking cold outside (I define freaking cold as when it is so cold, it hurts), the meal plan leans on soups, stews and other comfort foods.
  • Also, given each of our different tastes, I’ve tried to pick meals that are customizable. For example, wraps with different fillings, or soups with different add-ons.
  • My goal is to prepare a few new meals each week, and to eat leftovers for the other meals. This means that we may prepare a dish with enough leftovers to put some in the freezer and to have some the following night. Sometimes leftovers are recreated into new meals (e.g., turkey chili the first night, chili nachos the second night; or, roast meat the first night, roast meat sandwiches for lunch the next day).
  • Finally I wanted to find meals that would be easy to prepare, or that could be prepared in advance, so that when the baby decides that he is hungry or tired RIGHT NOW, we don’t all have to starve.

If this 5 week rotating meal plan works for me, I would then create a spring/summer version for the warmer months. Below are some examples of our meals during this 5 week period.

Week Number Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
1 French toast with fruit
Scrambled eggs and tomatoes
Almond butter on toast
Chicken, hummus and veggie wraps
Quinoa salad
Roast meat and veggies
Pasta and meatballs
Mexican wraps
Veggies, crackers and hummus
Guacamole, veggies and crackers
2 Pancakes and fruit
Carrot cake oatmeal
Salmon cakes and veggies
Mini pizzas, veggies and dip
Pasta with bolognese sauce
Turkey meatloaf and roast veggies
Chicken and vegetable soup
Hard Boiled egg and fruit
Apple and granola bar with almond butter
3 Steelcut oats with apples
Spinach and egg muffins
Chili nachos
Rainbow veggie salad
Turkey chili
Salmon and steamed greens
Mulligatawny soup and pita bread
Peppers, cheese and crackers
Fruit smoothie

PLEDGE:

Create and implement a 5 week meal plan that meets our family’s various nutritional needs and personal preferences.

 

MEASURE OF SUCCESS:

Sticking to the meal plan for the entire period of this challenge without facing revolt from my family, or revolt from my inner rebel who enjoys cooking the random meals she sees on her Facebook feed or in magazines :-). The meal plan has some flexibility built in for the occasional meal out or pizza delivery (hey, we have a baby in the house!), but the majority of meals are covered by ‘The Plan’. Also, I’m planning to cook big batches of some of the soups and stews so that I can have some in the freezer to pull out for the days when I’m strapped for time.

RESOURCES:

  • I love following Angela Liddon of http://ohsheglows.com/ on Instagram. She has a great sense of humour, and she has managed to convince me to try so many different vegan recipes! I have both of her cookbooks, and her OhSheGlows recipe app.
  • Speaking of Instagram people I love to keep up with, Kate of https://cookieandkate.com/ posts the most beautiful pictures of her recipes, and she has some creative and fun ideas. Also, she has an adorable dog who also is featured regularly in her posts, to my delight.
  • Finally, I have signed up for regular emails from https://www.alittlenutrition.com/, and am frequently impressed and inspired by the recipes shared by Susan and her registered dietitian team.
Advertisements

12 Replies to “Jennifer’s February 2018 Pledge”

  1. Hi Jen;

    I just hopped back on to comment on my progress (you have motivated me) and just saw your comment, so sorry for the delay. At present, we mainly get the meal delivery box for just Nick and I – Abby usually eats at her childminders. However, thinking whether Id be happy to prepare for all of us, I think they would depend on your childs flexibility. We do occasionally stretch a meal for 2 (by adding some veg) to serve Abby too on the weekends but we need to ensure that we pick the right meal. Quite a few have esoteric ingredients (black garlic, different veg) or spices that would not work.
    That said, HelloFresh here do offer family boxes (we get the original box to enable us to try new things) which probably lean a little more on things like risottos, pasta and non-spicy meats. Id suggest just checking out what the menus are like in your area. There are other meal delivery services so you could check them out and see if they work.

    In general … I’d say that meal boxes do not save money, and the ones we get still have quite a lot of prep so they don’t save time. But… the prep is mainly prepping veg, sometimes veg we wouldn’t ordinarily eat, and the first time you make a recipe is always slower. We use them to break up a routine and try new dishes, but to balance with economy its about once a month (usually I look through and only order a box when we think that we can pick 3 tasty/ healthy (ie: fun ways of incorporating lentils etc)/ neat dishes). I have taken some great ideas from the meals, and one of my favourites is now incorporated into our menu fairly regularly – a Cassoulet with cabbage and mushrooms (which I normally hate) and beans (which Nick normally hates) but we like it in this. So its been a great way to increase the variety of veg we do get.

    Sarah – the black garlic sauce was great! These boxes are certainly a great way to not only try new recipes, but to try new cooking techniques.

    Jen – as mentioned above I was toying with the idea of coming up with a monthly menu as well… However, I had concerns that a) it takes loads of time to set up, and b) once set its easy to deviate from in cases like one of us is out, we have a craving for something else, or we’ve booked something prep-intensive and had one of THOSE days. At the same time, Ive noticed that when i pick a breakfast or lunch I eat the same thing until I’m sick of it… So what Ive done is made a 4 week rotating menu for my breakfast, lunch, and morning snack (keeping things balanced and working with goals like aiming for a certain amount of fruit and veg, nuts, and eggs/protein). For the evening meals, I broke down the days into meal type – so looking at the time we generally have to prepare meals, and trying to have reheat meals from the sunday and wednesday meals. I then put various meals into each category, and each week we select one from each column with the overall goal of 1 fish/ seafood, chicken, and bean/ lentil dishes each week, limiting to 1 pasta dish each week and not choosing dishes used the previous week. The list will prompt us to all the nice things we do know how to make (or will learn – I stole your Mulligatawny soup idea) and try to get some nice variety.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the update, Diana!
      I hadn’t considered trying the Fresh Boxes before this conversation, but I’m interested now. Perhaps once I sort out my diet I will try some so that we can have some variety from the meal plans and recipes I’ve been using. It has been nice reading The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, as it has given me some new recipes to try that fit within the elimination diet. One that I made on the weekend is already a new favourite: Walnut Crusted Chicken. *yum* 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You should try dukkah- a Middle East spice and hazlenut blend… Yum on chicken… Another find from the hello fresh box, we have it with roast sweet potato, courgette, and feta. Will send the black garlic recipe when I have a chance.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ll be writing a mid-month update post soon that touches on this point exactly! I think the trick with meal planning is finding just the right amount of flexibility so that you can stay within the ‘plan’ but without it being too labour intensive or boring. I’m finding for myself, I need to know the dinners that I am preparing that week, but I like leaving a couple of nights open for cravings or spontaneity. Or, I ‘reinvent’ one of our leftovers into a new meal to extend it another night, without requiring a whole new meal be created. So far, this approach seems to be working well. I’ll provide more details in my update soon!
      (P.S. I ‘m happy that you made Mulligatawny soup! I am loving it right now though, full disclosure, my preschooler eats more naan bread and sliced veggies than soup when I serve it for dinner 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Even though meal planning wasn’t officially part of my pledge, it is definitely a big part of it. Especially now that I am in the reintroduction phase because I have to be careful that the recipes I choose only contain the foods I’ve successfully reintroduced so far. Earlier in the month, I was just able to follow an elimination meal plan that was set out in a book, but now I am sitting down at the start of each week, looking at the calendar (i.e., if we’ll be home for dinner, how much time I’ll have to prep), and then slotting in the recipes as they fit.

        On a flexibility note, one thing I’ve been doing that is a bit counterintuitive, is that I only buy groceries for a couple days at a time. That way, if things don’t go according to plan, I don’t have to worry about food spoiling because we didn’t eat it in time. It’s somewhat ironic, given how much I dislike grocery shopping, but it is working for now. 🙂

        Like

    1. Thanks! I think I have all my recipes on the ready for this fall/winter stretch, but I’ll need some new ones once spring/summer nears! Although it feels very far away from spring here right now. 😭😂☃⛄❄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi jen,
    I hear you! Ive had the same struggle, when I order our groceries for delivery I find it difficult to plan the weeks menu and we end up eating the same few things… I’ve thought of doing a 4 week menu plan but dismissed it as too regimental – I’ll be watching this space to see how it goes for you!
    One thing we did to get out of a rut is for a period of 7 weeks we ordered the hello fresh boxes, which are meal kits with pre measured out ingredients and recipes. It was meant to be a time saver, which didn’t work for us as they take just as long to prepare as our regular stuff, but the major boon has been getting a variety and a bunch of new recipes. And they are delicious and get us all eating things we would never order. We now order a box every month as a treat to try new things… For example I’ve been hearing lots about black garlic but hard to buy and figure out what to do with it… But when I saw the hello fresh fish with black garlic sauce I pounced on it!
    Good luck on the menu planning, I imagine the planning is hard work but once it’s done your weekly shop and dinner prep will be a breeze!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Black garlic? I’m intrigued!

      I’ve got some friends that order the Hello Fresh boxes here too and I’ve heard good things. Once I’m through with y elimination diet I may try it, sounds like a good way to get new recipes. 🙂

      Like

    2. I’ve been contemplating those meal delivery services for awhile… I suspect I may give them a try once my maternity leave ends and I’m back to work. I hadn’t thought of the added bonus of getting exposed to new recipes and ingredients! Have you found the meals to be kid friendly?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s