Tag: meal planning

6 Tips for Healthy Meal Planning Made Easy

Meal planning can feel overwhelming, intimidating and even repetitive and boring. It’s one of those things that we know we “should” be doing but rarely prioritize. Planning your meals and cooking from scratch gives you more control over what you’re putting in your body. It puts nourishment in your hands vs. someone else’s. When I consistently plan meals, I feel better, save money and time, waste less food and find that mealtime is less stressful because I know what I’m having ahead of time.

I’m about to finish a two-part series on meal planning at the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore. We had a great time coming together to talk about strategies for why and how to meal plan in a way that feels less intimidating and overwhelming.

I thought I’d pull together some of the top tips from the first session to support you in better meal planning! Here are my top meal planning tips:

1) Stock Your Pantry

If you have convenient, accessible, nourishing foods in your pantry, fridge and freezer, you’ll be more likely to eat those foods! It might sound too simple, but that’s what it takes. Start by cleaning out your pantry by tossing anything that is expired or isn’t supporting your health and wellbeing. Once you’ve done that, replace those items with nourishing ones instead.

I love this video from Whole Foods about how to stock your pantry. It includes all of our pantry staples. Check it out and notice which foods you tend to not have on hand. Canned beans, grains, and nuts and seeds are must-haves for us, in particular!

2) Spice It Up

Herbs and spices are an easy and inexpensive way to add variety and flavor to your food. We tend to shop in the bulk spices section at MOMs Organic Market, so we just get what we need for more obscure spices and continue refilling our glass jars for the ones we use on a regular basis. Here are our spice rack staples:

  1. Cumin
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Oregano
  4. Thyme
  5. Rosemary
  6. Sea Salt
  7. Black Pepper
  8. Chili Powder
  9. Curry Powder
  10. Turmeric
  11. Coriander
  12. Bay Leaves

3) Follow the 50/25/25 Plate Ratio

This is not a hard and fast rule, but it is something that helps me mentally map out a meal. Whether it’s in the form of a salad, soup, or side, half of my plate is made up of vegetables. Fruit is often something I snack on or put in my smoothies. Some of my favorite whole grains or starchy veggies are quinoa, brown rice, bean-based pasta (like Tolerant Foods), squash, spaghetti squash, etc. My protein source is either plant-based or animal-based, depending on my mood and what my body is craving at the time.

Notice how relatively small the protein portion is on the Harvard School of Public Health’s healthy eating plate compared to the typical American plate. Also, protein is in a variety of foods, including whole grains, vegetables, and beans, so keep that in mind, too!

4) Follow a Simple Process

I shared more details about our favorite cookbooks and meal templates in this post from a few weeks ago about What We Eat: A Peek At Our Weekly Meal Plan. I’m also a big fan of Precision Nutrition’s infographic about meal planning and how to combine spices in your meals. It’s super helpful!

  1. Look at your week and determine how many meals you’ll need.
  2. Look at what ingredients you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
  3. Using a cookbook or online tool to find recipes that use those ingredients.
  4. Make a list of ingredients that you need to complete those recipes.
  5. Go grocery shopping.
  6. Wash, chop and cook veggies when you get home. Mark containers with masking tape, so you know what recipes they go with. Make bigger batches of recipe that will hold up well in the fridge for a few days ahead of time (grains, beans, stews, chilis, oatmeal, muffins, frittatas, roasted veggies).

5) Use a Recipe Template

I’m a fan of meal ASSEMBLY vs. meal planning because I like the idea of mixing and matching different ingredients to form a variety of dishes. The Environmental Working Group has a fantastic recipe guide arranged in template-style, and you can download the PDF here for free. Here are a few more of my favorite combinations:

Mason jar meals are one of my favorite meal templates. This is the Carrot & Chickpea Mason Jar Salad we made during the class. You have to try it!

6) Change Up Your Meals & Get Inspired!

As technology continues to expand, there are more meal planning and meal kit delivery service companies than ever before that make the process more fun and exciting.

Try a theme night focused around a certain topic like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, What’s Left Wednesday (leftovers), Fiesta Friday, Souper Saturday, Salad Sunday, etc. If you know every Tuesday is tacos, you’re just changing up the ingredients but can reuse spices and core ingredients like wraps and shells.

I also encourage you to check out these options for meal planning services and meal kit delivery services.

Online Meal Planning Services

Meal Kit Delivery Services

How about you? Do you have any go-to meal planning tips? Feel free to share them below. I’ll be sharing more ideas about batch cooking, food storage and time-saving tips and tools in the next post!

How to Have an Easy Weeknight Dinner Double Date {+ Kitchen Update!}

Are you looking for some ideas to make dinners a little more exciting? If you’re like us, you tend to wait until the weekend to get together with friends around mealtime. But why not change it up and build that into your week?

In today’s post, I’m going to share the steps for planning a no-fuss weeknight dinner date with your friends or family based on a cool experience Bill and I had last week. I hope you’ll be inspired and excited by this idea and feel encouraged to change things up during the week.

Before we dive into that, I have a kitchen update to share! 🙂

We’re about two weeks into our kitchen renovation, and things are coming along nicely. The demo is finished, the floor tiles have been laid, the electric is wired, and the walls are painted. We are going to clean the new flooring properly before our guests come. Friends of ours have recommended Bissell steam cleaners for flooring like ours.

We’re expecting the cabinets to arrive on Tuesday and the whole job to wrap up in about two weeks!

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Versatile Gray is the “Greige” paint color we chose for our kitchen (looks so good!). Aren’t these kitchen towels PERFECT?! And our floor tiles have been laid down and grouted (but not yet cleaned!)

We’ve essentially moved our kitchen to the basement, which happens to be completely finished AND has an extra fridge and sink (serious perk).

Embarking on this basement renovation project has reminded me about the time we found a leak down there! Fortunately, since then we have invested in basement waterproofing techniques to help keep unwanted water out. No one wants a soggy basement after all

While it’s not the most convenient set-up, we have just about everything we need to continue to make meals each week using our blender, induction cooktop, and food processor.

At the beginning of the construction process, Bill and I thought it would be a neat idea to become dinner crashers while our renovation was being completed, so we weren’t making dinner in the basement every night.

Our friends and family offered to take us in for a meal or two, and it has been so much fun! It’s given us an opportunity to be more social during the week, something we had not prioritized before now. Here’s the process we followed for having an awesome weeknight dinner date!

Step 1: Pick Your Peeps

Last week, we got together with our friends Kiersten and Zach for a dinner double date. They are in the midst of their own transition, as they’re in the final weeks of preparation leading up to their April 30th wedding. They’re foodies like us and appreciate a wholesome, nourishing meal, so we thought we’d bring the ingredients to them and make the meal together for a weeknight dinner double date!

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With our lovely hosts (bride and goom-to-be!) after our delicious meal

Step 2: Choose Your Meal & Shop (from Home!)

I’ve had the opportunity to partner with Relay Foods, a healthy online grocery store that carries everything from organic, local produce to pantry staples, snacks, treats, and even personal care products like soaps, shampoo and lotions.

They have a cool Meal Planning feature on their website that lets you search for recipes by category – One Pot Meals, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo, Dairy-Free, 30 Minutes or Less, etc. You can just use it as its own recipe search and use your own ingredients, but if you want to streamline the whole process, click “Add to Meal Plan and Review” when you find a recipe you like. Your cart will automatically update with the ingredients needed for the meal.

We chose to make this Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw. The cost of all ingredients for a full dinner plus leftovers for four people was about $30. Depending on where we go out to eat, a single dinner and tip can cost that much…for one person! Also, cooking once and eating twice makes meal planning more doable and less intimidating because you’re saving money and time.

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Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw recipe here

Step 3: Pick Up Your Grub (or Have Them Delivered!)

My husband, Bill, was on spring break last week, so he picked up our bags at a nearby pick-up site, but you have the option for Relay to deliver to your house an unlimited number of times each month for $19/month.

Want to try out Relay Foods? Click here to save $20 on your first order of $60 or more.).

Step 4: Make the Meal & Enjoy!

The day of our pick-up, I got an email from Relay that contained the full recipe we were making that night, so once we arrived at Kiersten’s house, we gave everyone a task to do to make the meal come together. We chopped, diced, shredded, and sauteed the ingredients for this warm, grounding soup topped with a bright, refreshing, perfect-for-spring slaw.

This meal was rich in GBOMBS, which are some of the most nourishing, protective, and healing foods on the planet; food like kale, red and yellow onions, garlic, cabbage, and black beans. That is a recipe for whole body nourishment!

Here is the link to get the full recipe for the Black Bean Soup with Kale Slaw. Try putting a few slices of avocado on top for some creaminess!

bill tasting soup

Bill tasting the soup and preparing the colorful kale slaw!

Even though I personally LOVE the idea of going to the grocery store, sometimes I’d rather order my groceries from home. If you’re one of those people who gets anxious at the thought of stepping foot in a crowded store, then I’d recommend giving Relay a try.

Also, because you’re auto-populating your grocery list based on ingredients in the meals you select, you will only be buying what you need, which makes you less likely to waste food and more likely to save money!

I also ordered a small gift for the bride-to-be that she was excited to receive – a bag of Hudson Henry Granola and a box of Numi chamomile lemon organic tea.

gifts

If you’re making a dinner for friends or family for a special occasion or just as an excuse to hang out, it’s nice to bring a small gift along, especially when it’s in the form of food.

If you want to host a weeknight dinner date and are curious about trying Relay Foods as an option, follow this link to get $20 off your first order of $60 or more.

"Berry" Quick Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Most mornings, Bill and I have a smoothie for breakfast. We pull recipes from this list and from my “Blend It Up” Pinterest board.

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something besides a smoothie. Variety is one of the keys to a healthy, balanced diet that gives your body all the nutrients it needs. Plus, variety keeps meals fun and exciting 🙂

Today, I’m putting a new spin on a classic favorite – oatmeal!

The best part?

You don’t even have to cook it. It’s one of those set-it-and-forget-it recipes that takes the hassle out of breakfast!

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I used to eat oatmeal every day for breakfast because it’s a pretty quick, easy, and healthy meal. Oats have tons of health benefits, too!

The way I usually make oatmeal is by cooking it slowly in a pot on the stove…but that’s not always the most convenient thing to do, especially in the morning, so I tried something new.

Overnight oats!

My friend Jess and I made a variation of an overnight oats recipe a few months ago when we did a cooking demo for a group of her employees. After browsing through several other recipes online, I came up with one that I REALLY like!

I’ve already made it twice this week, and it has come in handy on mornings when I’ve been pressed for time.

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This overnight oats recipe takes less than 5 minutes to put together and is healthy, tasty, convenient grab-and-go option, perfect for when you’re feeling rushed in the morning.

All of the ingredients magically come together while they’re chillin’ in the fridge and you’re catching up on some sleep.

One thing I love about this recipe is that you can prep several jars at once and have breakfast ready to go for a few days in a row. That way, you literally don’t even have to think about what you’re going to do for breakfast in the morning.

All you have to do is open your fridge, grab a jar, and hit the road!

The possibilities for combinations of spices and add-ins are endless, so experiment with it to find what you like best! Feel free to share below if you find a combo that you really like!

“Berry” Quick Cinnamon Overnight Oats

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Berry Quick Overnight Oats

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 1
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

Oats

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or half of a ripe banana
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • pinch fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats I use gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 cup almond milk unsweetened

Toppings

  • 1 tablespoon chopped nuts or seeds
  • 1/4 cup berries

Instructions

  1. Mash the banana in the bottom of a mason jar or mug with a spoon until it’s the consistency of applesauce. OR pour applesauce into bottom of jar.

  2. Add spices, chia seeds, salt, vanilla, oats and raisins to banana mash and stir to mix everything together.

  3. Add almond milk and stir until all ingredients are combined. It will seem watery. That’s normal! The chia seeds and oats will absorb the liquid, and it will thicken up overnight, so just give it time.

  4. Store jar or mug in the fridge overnight, and everything will gel together.

  5. Remove from fridge in the morning and top with or stir in your choice of nuts, seeds, nut butter and/or berries (I used slivered almonds and blackberries!).

Recipe Notes

Optional/additional add-ins: 2 teaspoons almond butter or peanut butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, or sliced bananas, peaches or any other fruit you like!

 

Mash the banana in the bottom of a mason jar or mug with a spoon until it's the consistency of applesauce.

Mash the banana in the bottom of a mason jar or mug with a spoon until it’s the consistency of applesauce. OR pour applesauce into bottom of jar.

Add spices, chia seeds, salt, vanilla, oats and raisin to banana mash and stir to combine.

Add spices, chia seeds, salt, vanilla, oats and raisins to banana mash and stir to mix everything together.

Add almond milk and stir until everything is combined.

Add almond milk and stir until all ingredients are combined. It will seem watery. That’s normal! The chia seeds and oats will absorb the liquid, and it will thicken up overnight, so just give it time.

Store jar or mug in the fridge overnight. By morning, the oats and chia seeds will have absorbed the liquid and be ready to eat! No cooking necessary :)

Store jar or mug in the fridge overnight, and everything will gel together.

Top with or stir in your choice of nuts, seeds, nut butter and/or berries (I used slivered almonds and blackberries!).

Remove from fridge in the morning and top with or stir in your choice of nuts, seeds, nut butter and/or berries (I used slivered almonds and blackberries!).

You can heat it up if you’d like or just enjoy it cold, which works well when the weather is warmer like it is now. Add more almond milk if you want to thin it out. Enjoy 🙂

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