Heartland Revival

meal planning

Plan Smart To Eat Smart

Food for ThoughtAmber BransonComment

Just a few years ago my meal planning mainly meant stocking up on frozen "meals" as breakfasts and lunches. After a LOT of practice, I can now say that I am at meal planner level: expert. If the thought of meal planning seems overwhelming, no worries. Keep reading for some tips to becoming a successful meal planner yourself.

Most busy clients I work with are actually very intelligent and knowledgeable when it comes to what a healthy diet and lifestyle looks like. The challenge is to make it happen in their hectic and over-committed lives. If you are like most busy people who are also very driven, you can turn this into your asset to help you implement healthy dietary changes.

For busy folks, planning smart is key to eating smart. If you make healthy choices available to you when you need them, chances are you will make better decisions. Here are a few tips to help you plan better so you can eat better and feel better:

  • Plan for the week ahead – plan out your meals for the upcoming week on the weekend, and do all your grocery shopping in one trip (which will save you time too!) If possible, set aside a couple of hours during the weekend to prep your meals – e.g. you can chop some veggies, or even cook the entire dish and put it in the fridge or freezer. You can even get your kids to help out, and make it a family ritual. Kids will have fun and they are more likely to eat the meals that they take part in preparing.

  • “Cook once eat twice (or more!)” – when it comes to healthy eating, nothing beats home-cooked meals made from scratch (a whole foods based diet). Having to scramble for dinner every evening can be challenging, and “Cook Once Eat Twice” can help you save time and headache. You can prepare more than one meal worth of food so you have leftovers for one more meal. You can also cook a big batch of grains and use them in different combination. For a meat option, grill a bunch of chicken breasts to keep on hand to shred for tacos or for quick casseroles.

Stock your fridge, pantry and desk drawer at work with healthy snacks – make sure you have some healthy snack alternatives handy so you don’t go for the vending machine which is usually stocked with less desirable options. If a fridge is available at work, try some hummus with celery sticks, carrots or broccoli. If you are always on the go, a handful of nuts with dried fruit or an apple with nut butter (available in single-use packets) can be great pick-me-ups. Keep in mind that fresh whole food is always better than processed foods – there are many “bars” on the market with “health claims” – however, most of them contain sugar, additives or processed food products that are less than desirable. If you have to turn to packaged foods, always read the labels to make smart choices.

  • Instead of getting caught with nothing for dinner, stock a few healthy frozen options so you don’t dial the greasy pizza place. Make a point to pair frozen meals and fresh veggies (even if it's just celery or carrot sticks with dips). My favorite thing to do is make a big batch of soup over the weekend and divide into individual containers and freeze.

  • Team up with a few other families or friends - each prepare one dish in a big batch, and then trade dishes - you will walk away with a week's worth of dinner!

 I hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks for planning smart to eat smart! Stay tuned for the next post of the "Healthy Eating for Busy People" series. I'll be talking about how your beverage choices affect your health.

Interested in learning how to establish a solid, smart eating plan? Let's talk! Contact me for a pantry makeover or a grocery store tour.

Final CSA

In My Kitchen, At HomeAmber BransonComment

Here are the past three CSA shares, concluding my little project! Over all, I loved the produce I received and it taught me a lot about eating seasonally as well as challenged me to use things I wouldn't typically buy at the store. For next year, I've decided not to participate in a CSA but instead visit a weekly Farmer's Market to do most of my shopping. I feel like I will be able to control any food waste better if I can buy week to week and purchase according to our eating habits. If you are interested in a CSA, I would highly recommend it! Unfortunately, the farm I used is taking a break in 2015 but the Local Harvest site is a great resource to find a CSA near you! Also, see the little animation below I made to show you the arch of seasonal produce. Enjoy.

CSA:5

At Home, In My KitchenAmber BransonComment
CSA:5

My CSA pickup was on July 3rd right before the holiday weekend so I wasn't able to plan and start enjoying until the Sunday after the 4th of July. Boy, was I glad to come home to some fresh vegetables after the (to many) fried fair foods and sweets. So far, this is the share that I am most familiar with except for the fennel... to be honest, the fennel makes me very nervous. I am not a fan of licorice and when I put the fennel away, I caught a whiff of just that. After some googling "fennel recipes", I decided on Roasted Fennel with Parmesan from Food Network. The reviews claim that the licorice taste goes away when roasted, and I love anything with parmesan on it so this seemed the best choice. As I am writing this, I have made most of the below except for the fennel so I will come back and update my experience. Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend!

Carrots: pickled and roasted
Potatoes: roasted and mashed
Celery: chopped and then froze for soup bases this winter
Bunched Purple Baby Onions: in salads and hash
Fennel: roasted with parmesan
Cabbage: roasted with carrots and potatoes
Cucumbers: cucumber salad
Summer Squash: squash au gratin for one
Zucchini: breakfast hash with easy-over eggs
Parsley: garnish, in cucumber salad

 

FENNEL UPDATE /// In attempt to use up the rest of my CSA, I combined the cabbage, carrots and fennel, roasted with thyme and rosemary, and then topped with fresh parmesan cheese. As a whole, it wasn't too bad! I am still getting used to the fennel flavor but am open to using it other ways to see what I like best. After all, it it very good for you!

CSA: 3

At Home, In My KitchenAmber BransonComment
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Here is the latest and greatest from my CSA. This week's share had several items that I had never eaten or cooked with but I am up for the challenge. Using more ingredients sourced locally and in season has started to change my thinking when shopping at the grocery store. I can tell tremendously the difference in quality of foods out of season compared to in season. It feels good to be more in tune with nature!

Swiss Chard: Lemon Garlic Swiss Chard
Lettuce: Salads, of course
Bag of Lettuce Mix (not pictured): Same as above
Scallions: in stir-frys, salads, everything
Kohlrabi: Shaved with Apple and Hazelnuts
Bok Choy: Salad from CSA:1
Turnips: Caramelized, served with an egg on top. (made this for last Sunday's breakfast, SO GOOD)
Strawberries: In salads and in breakfast overnight oats
Peas: As a snack or in a stir-fry
Garlic Scapes: In salad dressings, stir-frys, wherever I would normally use garlic

What new vegetables have you tried lately? It's so easy to Google recipes and find how to prepare foods; there are no excuses with today's technology. Next time you are at the store or farmers market, purchase a vegetable that you've always wondered about but never had the courage to try it!

CSA: 2

In My KitchenAmber BransonComment
CSA2

These are the contents of my CSA from last Thursday. So many greens! Here's what I have planned:

2 heads of bok choy: crunchy slaw

2 heads of lettuce: lettuce wraps and salads

1 bunch of kale: cheesy kale chips

Bag of spinach: salads and for juicing

Bag of baby kale: juicing

Bag of mixed greens: used for a Greek salad for Memorial weekend camping

Small container of strawberries (not pictured): in overnight oats and strawberry chia jam

I am most worried about using it all before it goes bad. I did some research on storing greens and so far, so good! Do you have any tips for storing greens? Let me know in the comments!