Over the last few years I have gained new perspective on my eating habits and meal prep. I used to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I always had a smaller frame, but with hormonal and emotional strain from four artificial insemination’s and then bringing home a newborn baby, my body put a lot of weight on. However, I was no longer blaming the weight gain on hormones, I was blaming it on not having enough time to cook because I had a newborn baby.
Reality hit me HARD in the face when I had a student commented on how he thought I was pregnant. At the time that we brought home our then foster daughter I was a middle school teacher, and let’s just say middle school students have NO FILTER. I didn’t explain my personal life to them with much detail, so they didn’t know we were waiting to be called as foster parents. It was already so complicated and I didn’t want to share too much because I didn’t even know what to expect myself. When I came back from my 6-week family leave, Bobby was the first to shout out…. “I thought you were pregnant. I just didn’t want to ask.” With that statement, I realized I needed to change my eating life style NOW. Somehow, I had put on baby weight, but was never pregnant. OH NO! I was extremely embarrassed. I needed to start cooking again, but cooking healthy food regularly was not an easy task.
Thus, was born my meal prepping journey
Out of desperation to feel strong, confident, and healthy was born the meal prep calendar. I love feeling organized and writing things down, and the weekly calendar helped me conscientiously think about what was going into my families bodies.
Being intentional helped me not just accomplish that healthy, confident, strong lifestyle. It also helped my wallet. I used to go to the store every Saturday and throw stuff into the cart what I thought I might want that week. This wasn’t working. We were wasting food regularly. With the calendar, I have literally cut my grocery bill in HALF…. WHAT???? Crazy cool, huh? I hardly throw away rotten food as well.
Modeling Healthy eating
The best thing we can do for our kids, whether they are biological, foster care, or adopted is to model for them the types of behavior we want to see. I wanted any kid that came through our house to learn the value of eating healthy. At one point I realized, if these children don’t get a lifetime with me, the best I can do is model good behaviors while they are with me, including eating behavior. One thing I could control in the foster care world was filling these children with good eating choices as young as possible, and hope they stick down the line. As a family, food prep became essential. We are all more likely to eat healthy if the meal is grab and go from the fridge. Of course, there are times where we are a little bad, and that’s okay, but we count those as special treats, and they aren’t daily.
I also realized this was a great way to connect with my family and my kiddo. Eating dinner together as often as possible is one of our core values as a family. When my daughter was younger, she couldn’t help with planning, but as she’s getting older she can vocalize what she likes and wants to eat. So, I try to plan using some of her suggestions. As she gets older and starts understanding the different food groups, and daily diets, it will be a great way for us to sit down, plan our week, and discuss balancing our food groups.
My meal planning Process
Step 1: Thursday planning
Thursday is the day I choose to do our calendar for each week. Every week, I sit down, look at what is left in the fridge and try to plan accordingly with what is still in there so that NOTHING goes to waste. I shop Friday’s so this makes sense for us. Start by choosing whatever planning day works best for you. Better yet, plan with your family. I find that when I give my kiddo some say in the choices of food for the week, she doesn’t throw as much food down to the dog at the dinner table.
I use this FREE PRINTABLE from the resource library every week to intentionally write down everything we plan on eating as a family. (You can access this FREE PRINTABLE by signing up for membership here.) When I say everything, I mean everything, even to the little snacks. If we are going to have a date night out, I jot that down too. It helps me stay intentional and not drop random items in my grocery basket, which will rack up the grocery bill.
I also think really heavily on meals that I can make for lunches or dinners on the weekend that I can make in a mass quantity so that I will have leftovers for lunches and dinners during the week.
Step 2: Write out your Grocery List
From the Menu, I make my grocery list. I try not to add extra things, and just add what I need for everything on the calendar. Since I have an iPhone I use an app called Anylist. It’s free and I can share the list with my husband, so if I can’t go shopping, he has access to the list as well. So convenient!
As a side note, I do occasionally pick up extra things or things not on the list. I just work hard not to. For example, right now we have been going to Tuesday morning movies for 2 dollars a ticket. Instead of buying the popcorn, I’ve been grabbing a small bag of M&M Trail mix or Gold Fish. Also, there are times where I think I’m going to buy a certain fruit for the hubby’s lunch, but when I get to the store a different fruit is in season and cheaper. Sometimes those changes are necessary, just try to keep track of what you can cross off when you are replacing those items.
Step 3: Decide on what needs to be prepped ahead of time.
I normally have one day where I prep our lunches, breakfasts, and snacks. I try to choose things that don’t take a long time. I do not want to spend hours in the kitchen. With that in mind, choosing meals and snacks that take an hour or less of prep time is really important.
Step 4: MEAL PREP DAY!
We normally eat similar foods from week to week. So I have our meal prep down.
- Prep breakfasts
- Prep lunches (can be leftovers from one of your weekend dinners, or crock-pot something, this doesn’t have to be something that takes a long time) Once done portion them out, so it’s grab and go.
- Prep snacks. If you are having carrots and hummus as a snack, clean and cut the carrots. Same with fruit. If you are having grapes, wash them and pick them off of the stems and store them in decent portion sizes. For foster kids this is especially nice because they always know that there are snacks available to them. Some of our kiddos come to us out of neglect and having these pre-packed snacks that are ready for them to grab is a great way to show them that food is readily available to them.
- If there is something that will need to be taken out of the freezer the day before, I take note of that so I don’t forget.
Step 5: Organize the fridge so you can Grab-and-Go
It’s so easy to forget about food if it’s pushed to the back. Try to keep everything organized so it’s easy to find.
Want to see some related posts. Check out Meal Prep Tip 1: Make a List of Your Go-To Foods. (also includes a FREE PRINTABLE to help you get started by clicking here)
Stay tuned for a future post on my weekend meal prep for a step-by-step break down of what I do most weekends.