Sweaty Mommy Survival Guide Tip #6 - How to Meal Plan Like a Champ
This article was originally posted on jessicabagley.com in September of 2015.
Start: 7:30 AM
Finish: 10:24 AM
I just finished prepping our food for the next five days, and it only took me about three hours altogether! I admit I have been doing this for a while and I've learned some short cuts that I hope to share with you in this post.
Before I begin, here's the background on why I take so much time to prepare healthy meals for my family. Andrew and I have been on a journey of health/fitness together for the last six months or so now. We've seen some positive results- for him weight gain (muscle!) and increased energy. He's been able to lift heavier weight and have more intense work outs. Andrew's been working out forever, so this is more of a refining than an overhaul for him. But then... there's me. :) I just started working on my fitness in late March. I was active throughout high school and most of college, always playing sports and keeping busy. Fast forward SIX years with literally no exercise other than chasing my kids. Despite what I claimed for years, chasing kids is not actual exercise. It is, however, infinitely more exhausting than actual exercise. Anyway my first run was AWFUL. After a half-mile around the neighborhood, I nearly passed out, hovered over the toilet, thought for sure I was going to throw up. Six months later- because I didn't give up when it hurt- I am running seven miles at a time. Crossfit has been a great intro into gymnastics and weightlifting, and I am now lifting more weight than I ever imagined I could. My view of my body and myself, in general, is so much more positive, and I can't believe how far I've come in the last six months. The physical changes I've seen are things that I figured wouldn't ever change after having three kids. I used to think things like "what's the point, I will never be muscular or strong because my body isn't really able to bounce back after the kids." Through what feels like minimal, but consistent work, I have proven myself wrong. I have so much more respect for myself because I've committed to taking care of my mind and body, and I've actually kept with it and seen results. No, it's not about getting a great body but it is about working towards being a stronger you- physically and emotionally. Fitness is a great way to achieve both of those goals. Three days a week I get up at 4:30 AM (because I really don't have any other time to do it and this is important to me) and the two other days I go for a four-mile run when I can fit it in.
While working out is necessary, it's not what I'm writing about today. You always hear people say that 'abs are made in the kitchen' and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. We follow the 80/20 principal- eat really clean 80% of the time and allow yourself to have what you feel like 20% of the time. We do high protein and very few 'bad carbs' from bread and starchy food. This has been sustainable to us over the last six months and I can see it working in the future. I never feel deprived of food and I am never hungry. The only way I am able to eat clean that 80% of the time is through meal prep. I need to have my best friend Raquel write a blog post on her recipes (Raquel, are you reading this?) because she's the creative cook. I'll share with you the inside of my fridge and how I set my family up for success when it comes to our diet.
Okay. Lets talk about this insane chart. Yes I am well aware I'm a crazy person- but things look way prettier than normal because I was taking a picture to post on the internet. What's inside is the same whether or not I'll be snapping any pics. If I'm not fully stocked, I'm probably making a bad food choice. So I like to keep things ready to go as far as breakfast and lunch are concerned.
Side note: I think we are all aware I do not work outside of my home right now (other than for Happy Goats), so I'm great with taking the time to have the fridge stocked for my family. Once I start outside the house work full-time again in a few years, we'll have to modify. Or do a family cooking day on the weekend. I'll keep you posted on how we work that out. :)
For now, I'll start explaining things from the top to bottom of the fridge.
The box of wine, an obvious staple. I have no explanation, we won't go there.
Unsweetened tea. I brew this at home and sweeten with a little sugar and lemons. I either drink that or seltzer water throughout the day.
Meal 1: Turkey Meatballs with Brown Rice and Peas: I used frozen turkey meatballs (didn't bother microwaving them) and cooked brown rice in chicken broth in my rice cooker. I used a bag of frozen peas and heated them up in boiling water, seasoning them to taste. I even made a few extra to pop in the freezer for next week.
Meal 2: Honey Ginger Chicken with Quinoa and Vegetables: I used chicken tenderloins because they are the easiest for me and there's very little waste. I use some kitchen shears to chop them up into small pieces and saute with a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. While they're cooking I season them with salt, pepper, garlic, ginger powder, chili powder, and drizzle honey on at the end. For the quinoa I cook one part rice to two parts chicken broth in my rice cooker. I used bagged Asian-style vegetables to make this really easy.
Butternut Squash Soup: I usually like to make a big batch of soup at the beginning of the week. I typically have soup and salad for lunch when I'm home. This week I just cooked a butternut squash cut in half face down on a tray for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. I scooped out the inside once it was cool and heated it in a pot with 4 cups of chicken broth and about a cup of milk. I seasoned it to taste with salt and pepper and added two tablespoons of butter. Then I pureed the soup with an immersion blender, but you can also use a food processor to do this. I store the soup in quart mason jars, and this weeks batch made enough to freeze one of the mason jars for another time.
Meal 3: Egg Muffins with Sausage and Peppers: There's actually more than just sausage and peppers in these. This recipe makes 24 muffins. Brown 8 ounces of sausage along with a whole pepper, chopped fine and a handful or two of chopped mushrooms. Once they're cooked, throw in a huge handful of spinach for extra nutrients :) The spinach will reduce quickly. Let this all cool and add in a splash of milk and a dozen eggs to the pan. Mix well. Ladle the mixture into muffin tins sprayed with non stick spray and bake for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees until cooked through.
Extra Food: Extra food from the meals I've made is typically used for the kid's lunches. I can easily make tortillas with cheese and chicken for a quick lunch!
Chopped Fruit: This is easy smart to prepare in advance and I like to put it at face level so I don't forget about it in the crisper drawer. Mid-afternoon snack for the girls and I might be strawberries and pineapples. Or I can throw them in smoothies with a little yogurt and spinach!
Dairy. Okay so we've got a dairy addiction. I feel slightly shameful whenever I get to the register at Aldi (where I do 90% of my shopping) and buy three cartons of yogurt and three cartons of cottage cheese and cheese sticks and cheddar cheese slices and shredded ched- okay.... You get the point.
With three kids dairy is big. And we don't have any allergies to it so why not!
Prepped Vegetables: Ahh. The vegetable drawer. Basically I choose about three types of raw vegetables to have available for the week. This week it's peppers, baby carrots, and cucumbers. I slice them and put half in a huge salad that will last the week and half in baggies for Andrew and Isaiah to take to school. Most of the battle with eating fruit and vegetables- in my opinion- is preparing them. If they're cut and available and you have a healthy dip to eat them with, you'll be far more likely to make the right choice! I speak from experience.
So that's how we do it! I have more high protein and low-carb meal plan ideas here.
Jessica Bagley is a marathon running wife and a mom to four kids, six and under. After deciding to get back in shape two years ago, she's changed her lifestyle and has exercised through pregnancy and beyond. Other passions include weightlifting, meal prepping and boxed wine. Follow her on Instagram @jessicabagleysmiles for my fitness tips, life lessons, and real talk.