Meal Plan Monday: 17-21 April

Welcome back for another edition of Meal Plan Monday! Regardless of whether you meal prep or not, having a menu and sticking to it saves tons of time and money – and if you make enough food at dinner to use as lunch the next day, you can save yourself the trouble of last minute rushing around to find food.

As usual, my only slight deviation is lunches for the young one – being in elementary school, he requires a lunch that doesn’t need to be microwaved. So as you can see I’ve added separate school lunches for him, in case you’re in the same boat! (Please note, the lunch includes an afternoon school snack as well).

I’m also only planning for Sunday night through Friday night, because weekends tend to be a free for all in my house.

*Note: I’m feeding two adults and one elementary school age boy, so we try to make enough food for three, plus leftovers.*

This week I’ve added my food prep items for Sunday, as well as a shopping list and approximate cost. I’ve used the current prices for my local Wegmans, but if you shop at Aldi or other discount grocery stores you can definitely get this meal plan for much less!

BEAR FAMILY MEAL PLAN, WEEK THREE

SUNDAY FOOD PREP:

– make your crockpot carnitas

– chop your veggies (onion, potato, pepper, broccoli, zucchini)

– spiralize two zucchini

– cook 2lbs of turkey meatballs

Sunday Dinner: Crockpot Cashew Chicken

Monday:

B: scrambled eggs with crockpot carnitas

L: leftover crockpot chicken

L2: ham and cheese roll-up, grapes, chips, granola bar, milk, apple juice

D: Build Your Own Hamburgers, oven roasted potato wedges

Tuesday:

B: scrambled eggs, bacon

L: carnitas over salad

L2: tuna snack, apple slices, fruit snacks, granola bar, milk, apple juice

D: Greek Chicken Salads (recipe coming soon)

Wednesday:

B: overnight oats

L: leftover crockpot chicken

L2: ham and cheese dino sandwich, grapes, chips, oreos, milk, apple juice

D: Turkey Meatballs with Zoodles

Thursday:

B: scrambled eggs with carnitas

L: leftover meatballs and zoodles

L2: hot pocket, apple slices, chips, granola bar, milk, apple juice

D: One Pan Chicken and Roast Vegetables

Friday:

B: greek chicken “breakfast salad”

L: leftover one pan chicken and vegetables

L2: chicken apple sausage, grapes, chips, granola bar, milk, apple juice

D: Homemade Pizza Night

Shopping List (prices based on my local Wegmans)

Proteins

3lbs pork shoulder          $4.47 ($1.49/lb – family pack)

5lbs chicken breast        $9.40 ($1.88/lb – family pack)

hamburger patties         $5.99 (4 patties)

bacon, uncured               $6.99

2lbs ground turkey         $5.98 (2.99/lb – family pack)

sliced deli ham                $3.00

2 doz eggs                         $2.58 (1.29/doz)

Produce

onions (2lb bag)                $1.99

white potatoes (5lb bag) $1.99

bell pepper (6ct)               $5.49 (family pack)

cherry tomato                  $3.99 (family pack)

cucumber (2ea)                $1.32 (3/2.00)

romaine hearts (3pk)      $2.99

parseley, fresh                  $1.99

blueberries, 1pint            $3.99

zucchini, 2lb                      $3.58

broccoli, 1lb                       $1.79

apples                                  $2.99 (approx)

grapes                                  $2.99 (approx)

Dairy

greek yogurt (lg tub)      $4.99

Siggis yogurt drink        $3.99

mozzarella, shredded   $2.99

sliced cheese                    $3.00

tzatziki sauce, tub         $4.49

Other

pizza dough                    $3.57 (*NOTE: I bought the pizza dough at Trader Joe’s                                                    3 individual bags at $1.19 each)

TOTAL COST:                $96.54

NOTE: This shopping list assumes I have the following items in my pantry (which I usually do)

instant rice

spices

olive oil

gluten free quaker oats

protein powder

spaghetti sauce

pizza sauce

pizza toppings (jarred jalapenos, canned pineapple, canned olives, etc)

What are you eating this week? Do you meal plan in advance? Leave a comment and let me know!

A Day in the Life: Whole30 Cook-Up

I could have (and almost did) called this post “Meal Prep Saturday” – kind of like my Sunday Food Prep posts, but on Saturday. But I was looking for something that sounded a little more interesting, and then when I decided to essentially walk you through what my weekly cook-up looks like, the post sort of named itself.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep final

This particular “edition” of my weekly food prep session is piggybacking off of my favorite paleo/whole30 blogger, Melissa Joulwan. She has a great series of posts on “Meal Planning” – and I only use that term loosely because she does, as well. It’s more a series of “Cook-ups”, where she walks you through the steps of a weekly cooking marathon that will leave you with a weeks worth of delicous, Whole30 approved food. It’s like my Sunday Food Prep sessions on steroids.

Anyway. I decided for this particular week to do something similar and walk you through what a typical weekend afternoon (Saturday or Sunday, it varies) looks like for me. I normally cook up enough protein to last us through a week’s worth of lunches, plus a few dinners; and then the Husband and I also usually meal plan the remaining dinners and write them out on the white board in our kitchen. This way we have plenty of pre-cooked items on hand, but because I do enjoy cooking it also gives us the flexibility to eat something that hasn’t been re-heated. Observe:

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep white board

Because our lunches typically consist of salads with protein, or protein and raw vegetables and maybe half a baked sweet potato, or leftovers from the previous night’s meal if it was large enough, there’s no need to add them to the white board. (Plus, I always run out of space!) This week, however, we’re working through some odd scheduling issues and so I wanted to make sure we had enough pre-cooked food on hand for the entire week.

To make food prep easier, Mel recommends making something in a slow-cooker, and some kind of stew or chili each week, in addition to basic proteins and a variety of vegetables and sauces. You’ll notice I’m not making many vegetables – starches aside, I typically prefer to cook them right before I eat them; or I eat them raw in the form of sliced veggies or salads. So without further ado, here’s what we’re making this week!

Turkey Ratatouille (omit wine)

Crockpot Cashew Chicken

Grilled Chicken Breasts

– Hard Boiled Eggs

– Turkey Meatballs

– Seasoned Ground Beef

– Beef and Veggie Frittata

– Roasted Spaghetti Squash

– Baked Sweet Potatoes

– Homemade Mayonnaise

– Spicy Green Dipping Sauce

The Plan:

The keys to successfully executing a weekly cook-up are time management and planning. One method is doing a continuous afternoon of work and knocking everything out at the same time.  My personal preference, however, is to plan my cook-up around the rest of my day. Let me explain. While none of the things I intend to make are particularly hard, some of them – like brined and grilled chicken breasts – require a few extra steps. So when I found myself with some extra time to kill before my Crossfit class because I woke up earlier than normal to see my Husband off to work, I hard boiled a bunch of eggs and got my chicken breasts brining so I could grill them later in the day. Getting these two items out of the way before my workout took less than thirty minutes and saves me that step later in the afternoon. Also thinking ahead, I set aside an egg and a lemon to make homemade mayonnaise later (it works best when they are at room temperature). Then I ate a banana and almond butter, finished off my last cup of coffee, and headed off to Crossfit!

Later on after a great workout, a post-workout meal, and a shower, I got down to the real work. This is where a little bit of planning comes in handy. The goal is to organize your cook-up into something that makes sense – get your prep work out of the way, then work smarter, not harder. If you’re making a crockpot meal or something that requires slow simmering on the oven, get those meals ready first so that you can leave them to cook on their own while you take care of something else, like grilling chicken breast or baking meatballs. Ready? Grab something to drink, put on some fun music, and let’s get started!

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep vegetables

1. Chop and peel all your vegetables – for me this included onion, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and potatoes; as well as fresh ginger and garlic. I separated the vegetables into bowls based on what recipe it was for and when I needed it. I also prepped my spaghetti squash by cutting it in half and scooping out the insides, as well as wrapping two sweet potatoes in foil. Had my crockpot meal not required the oven (I needed to roast the cashews), I would have thrown the squash and potatoes in the oven to roast at this point.

2. Start on your slow simmer meal – I began to cook the vegetables and brown 1.5 pounds of turkey for the ratatouille, and while that was going I prepped the ingredients for my crockpot meal.

3. Once my ratatouille was simmering, I turned my full attention to the crockpot meal. And just a note: although the cashew chicken ended up tasting pretty good in the end, it was definitely a lot more involved than your standard crockpot meal (see step 1 re: cashews above), so I spent more time on this step than normal.

4. Once the cashews were roasted and added to my cashew chicken, I coated my spaghetti squash with oil and laid both halves face down on a baking sheet alongside my foil wrapped sweet potatoes, tossed them in a 375 degree oven, and set my phone timer for 45 minutes.

5. Next step – into a bowl I tossed the other 1.5 pounds of turkey (it was a 3 pound family pack from Wegmans) with fresh diced parsely and some italian spices and made up a bunch of turkey meatballs. They immediately went into the oven with the squash and potatoes, and I set the oven timer for 15 minutes, flipping the meatballs halfway through.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep oven

6. Vegetable chopping take two – I completely forgot to set aside diced onion for my ground beef, as well as bell pepper and cherry tomatoes for the frittata.

7. Once I removed the meatballs from the oven and set them aside to cool, I heated up my cast iron skillet and set to work browning two pounds of ground beef with diced onion, fresh parsely, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

8. While your beef is browning, go ahead and check your spaghetti squash and potatoes. I took the squash out of the oven at about 45 minutes and left the potatoes in about 20 minutes longer.

9. After the beef was done, I used the same pan to saute some onion, bell pepper, cherry tomato halves, and fresh spinach. Then I tossed that into a glass baking dish, added about a third of my ground beef, and topped it off with ten beaten eggs. Into my already heated 350 degree oven for thirty minutes!

10. This was a good time to check my ratatouille and give it a good stir. In fact, after almost three hours of work it was also a good time for me to stop and eat a small bowl of ratatouille as a snack/small meal.

11. In between bites, I heated up the grill (it was perfect grilling weather!) and rinsed my brined chicken breasts. After coating them with a healthy dose of olive oil and Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute I added them to the grill, as well as the poblano peppers and red fresno chiles I needed for my spicy green aioli.

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep grill

12. After the frittata was done and the grilled chicken breasts were resting, I made mayonnaise and spicy green aioli. This required cleaning my food processor for the second and third time, which meant…

…I had every intention of cooking up a batch of oven roasted cauliflower rice, but I could not bring myself to clean the food processor one more time. Instead I cleaned my kitchen, which took just as long.

Whew! Now, take some time to pull out all the tupperware containers you own, because you’ll need them! I actually don’t have enough large tupperware containers, and so the ratatouille and the cashew chicken just ended up going straight into the refrigerator in their pots. Once we eat enough servings to get them down to a more manageable amount I’ll move them to smaller containers.

Pat yourself on the back for doing all that work! When it was all said and done I clocked in at just under four hours. If you’re really feeling froggy (I wasn’t), feel free to slice up some raw vegetables to have on hand for easy snacks during the week. I’ll do that, just later in the weekend. Also, don’t forget to keep a list of what’s in the fridge! (Mel’s idea, not mine!)

bearfamilystrong.com | food prep fridge

And there you go!

What are you eating this week?

Whole30 Prep – Stock up and Shop!

Now that you’ve cleaned out your pantry and removed all the non-approved foods, you’re ready to hit the grocery store, right?

Wrong.

Although it’s extremely tempting to let your excitement get the best of you and send you running to the store to stock up on proteins, tons of healthy vegetables and fruit, and good fats like avocado, coconut oil, and ghee; STOP. Take a breath. Grab a pen and a notebook, and make a meal plan and a shopping list. Otherwise, this is what will happen.

I can’t stress enough the importance of creating a meal plan and shopping list before you head to the store, especially when you’re doing a Whole30. Two of the keys to success are having a kitchen stocked with good food, and having an idea of what you’re going to do with it because trust me, there will be days where you won’t want to cook. There will be days when you don’t want to eat any of the things in your house, but having food on hand makes it that much easier to resist temptation. Plus, you’ll have much less waste and sacrificial produce if you start with a plan. You know what I mean – how many times do you end up opening your crisper drawer to find a head of lettuce that’s growing fur, or something that may once have been a cucumber but now you’re not so sure? By knowing exactly what you need and what you’ll use it for, you not only save time but money as well.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30shoppingtrip

So what should you focus on?

This shouldn’t be the first time you’ve heard this, but when you step foot inside your grocery store of choice, shopping list in hand, you’ll want to spend approximately 95% of your time shopping the perimeter of the store. And really, you’re only going to focus on about half of the perimeter of the store – namely the produce department and the meat department, with a quick hop over to the eggs.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 staples

Here are some of my favorite Whole30 meal staples (tailored to February on the East Coast):

– eggs                                                  

– Roaster Chicken                                 – canned seafood (crab, salmon, tuna, sardines)      

– ground beef and turkey                        – chicken breast and thighs

–  fresh, wild caught fish                          – pork shoulder roast         

– Avocadoes                                         –  leafy greens, spinach, spring mix, butter lettuce

– sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, parsnips

– fermented foods such as kimchi or sauerkraut

 

What about snacks and “extras”?

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30snacks

Although the Whole30 program focuses on three meals a day (plus pre- and post- workout “meals” when necessary) and limited to no snacking, things come up. Maybe your breakfast wasn’t enough to get you all the way to lunch one day. Maybe you stayed at work a little later than normal one night and are looking at an extra long commute before dinner. Maybe your body just needs some additional calories. It’s okay – just make sure you aren’t making these snacks an everyday occurrence.

Some of my favorite snacks and extras:

– sugar snap peas                         – prosciutto slices   

– raw unsalted nuts (my favorites are macadamias, cashews, and pumpkin seeds)

– no sugar added dried cherries (used sparingly)

– carrot chips                               – fresh green or black olives

– baby bananas                            – granny smith apples

Epic bars                                   – Kit’s organic Cashew bars (only the Cashew bar is Whole30 approved)

Artisana individual nut butter packets (my favorites are pecan and walnut)

 

But eating meal and vegetables every day sounds pretty boring.

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 extras

Eating meat and vegetables every day can be pretty boring – if you’re only eating meat and vegetables. What do I mean by that? Well, there are tons of Whole30 ways to spice up your meals. Some of my favorites:

– 21 seasoning salute                    – south african smoke seasoning

– green tomatillo salsa                   – spicy brown mustard

– Frank’s Red Hot                          – Fish Sauce (look for no sugar added)

– jarred jalapenos/banana peppers  – guacamole (watch your ingredients)

– Various tomato sauces (look for varieties with no sugars!)

– fresh or dried herbs                     – Coconut Aminos

 

What about drinks? How will I survive without my (insert sugary beverage here)!

Fortunately for me I stopped drinking soda years ago, I’ve never been much of a juice person, and I already drink my coffee black. Nevertheless, you can survive for 30 days without the diet cokes and your morning orange juice – here are some great alternatives:

– sparkling water (plain)                      – flavored La Croix sparkling water

– unsweetened brewed tea                  – loose leaf brewed teas

– coconut water (no sugar added)      – plain water with lemon/lime/cucumber slices

What about pantry staples?

bearfamilystrong.com | whole30 pantry staples

In addition to buying the items on your shopping list from the meal plan I know you’ve already sat down to write, here are a couple of items every Whole30 pantry should include:

– ghee (store bought or make your own!)          – coconut oil

– apple cider vinegar                                        – other vinegar varieties (balsamic, champagne, red wine)

– olive, sesame, avocado, macadamia nut oil     – canned or jarred olives, capers, artichoke hearts

– canned tuna/salmon/sardines                         – thai curry paste (green/red/yellow)

– tomato paste/sauce                                       – coconut milk (full fat, watch for no added ingredients)

 

 

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and everything is going to be based on your own personal preferences. What’s important is to have a variety of clean, whole food on hand so that you’ll never find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator with no idea what to make. (Sure, there will be times when you have no idea what to make – but having a well stocked kitchen gives you options!)

Let’s get ready to Whole30!