by Amber Lopez
Happy Wednesday mommas!! It's our FOOD blog day of the month. With the new year and healthy vibes everyone is feeling right now, I am centering this month on Meal Planning. Considering there are one million posts on meal planning circulating the web, I am focusing on what we are calling "single lady" meal planning. Basically this means we are talking to the mom (or soon to be mom) who's single, husband travels a lot, husband works late a lot, or the husband who refuses to eat healthy meals (we still love you honey, but girl's gotta eat the greens).
Meal planning sounds intimidating to some and natural to others. All the phrase really means is to sit down at the beginning of your week and plan out what you will be consuming for the remainder of the week. For many, this sounds daunting, and I gotta say I have been there. On occasion I am still there because sure it SOUNDS like more work. But please trust me on this, it is actually LESS work in the end. Once you sit down and plan those meals out, you know exactly what to buy at the store, so your grocery list is made pretty simple. Then as the days pass during the week there is no guessing as to what you may be cooking or if you have all the ingredients because you already know these things. You simply gather the ingredients from your pantry and cook the meal you planned days ago to cook and that's that. Another thing about meal planning is that it can be flexible. Say you planned for chicken tacos on Tuesday, but you are feeling more like salmon, that's okay! You can switch the days around and still be following your meal plan just fine, so it is not about predicting your cravings and eating perfectly from your schedule. It is just about taking the guessing out of what you will be eating daily. This will keep you from getting take out and save money because you will only be buying needed ingredients from the store. Now moving on, I think it's time for me to get off my meal planning rant and move to the fun stuff!
As a military spouse, my husband travels and deploys a fair amount. This puts me eating dinner alone with my kids for weeks or months at a time. What this sometimes looks like is me eating their leftover frozen chicken nuggets with a banana and a glass of wine. I was in the habit of doing this quite a bit over the last couple years through deployments and training schedules. So, on top of caring for my kids by myself I also felt like total crap because I was eating like total crap. This is a recipe for disaster, how you fuel your body determines how you feel, and how you feel determines how your days go. And when you have toddlers, you need to be feeling your best, am I right? So, this past year I made a big effort into making some changes in that area and I gotta tell you, it was a lot easier than I thought. And what do you know, I felt one hundred percent better after implementing them. Enter meal planning for one into my life.
As I mentioned above, this isn't just for military spouses. There are shift workers that hardly get to eat dinner with their families, a lot of other jobs that require a heavy travel schedule, and the insanely strong single mothers that could use this! So, if like me you struggle with eating real,whole foods while it is just you at home, I am going to provide you with a sample meal plan, along with some tips today!
Sunday is typically my meal planning day because it just works well being at the beginning of the week. But, choose a day that works for you! On Sunday I would sit down and think about what I may want to eat this week (bonus when you don't have hubby there is you don' have to ask him his opinion at all ha!). Because it's just me, I only have to come up with about 3 recipes because that is plenty to get me through most dinner and lunches. And then I add about 1-2 lunch-esque recipes to get me through the other meals where leftovers won't be there. Here is a sample meal plan that I would make for myself.
Something to note, there is a lot of repetition here because that's what works for me. I understand this doesn't work for everyone. If your someone that could barf looking at the amount of times I am eating the same thing, you could cook less of the chicken pan meal and add a meal or 2 in to help with that. This could also mean that you end up freezing half of your meatloaf or only making half a pound of taco meat for the "taco salads." Meal planning and eating healthy isn't a one size fits all, we are all different and prefer different things. So make it work for you and your needs, that will make it more successful in the end!
I would include the ingredients above along with anything extra for the kids and have my grocery list done! I then would go to the grocery store sometime Sunday and spend the time I would to make dinner that evening, prepping anything I could ahead of time. This would be simple stuff, I'm personally not into making a bunch full blown meals in one day (although this is another great option for eating alone). Looking back at my meal plan, I have quite a few days of chicken, sweet potatoes and broccoli. This is my favorite healthy meal because of the simplicity and I think it stays good in the fridge for a while. So, I typically bake about 2 pounds of chicken tenders, 2-3 diced sweet potatoes, and a large bag of frozen broccoli on cookie sheets on a Sunday. This would allow for about 5 meals, including one fresh out of the oven. Another thing I would do is boil about 8 eggs at the same time. Some are for snacks and some are for the egg salad. Put everything in tupper-ware and wash the dishes and done! This is the same amount of time regular dinner would take and I did it at the time of day I make dinner so it shouldn't mess with our schedule at home. The rest of the meals are made on the night introduced just as normal dinner would. Because of the repetition and ability for me to spread one meal out for a while because I am only one person, it only really makes me have to be in the kitchen "cooking" 3-4 times a week if you count that original Sunday. The protein balls I mentioned above are a staple in our house, Owen and me both love them. I typically make them on any random afternoon that makes sense for my schedule or when we are running low. They take about 15 minutes to make so I don't consider that a huge time commitment and they make for easy, healthy snacking!
If I do something similar to this every week, it takes the stress out of meal times for me. It allows me the 5-10 minutes I would typically spend thinking about what to eat, to do something for myself or tend to my kids needs. Those minutes when you are by yourself are precious and I like to savor every single one I can. By meal planning like this and cooking real dinners for myself it allows me to only "cook" dinner a couple times each week, which means more ME time! I have always tried to make an effort to meal plan when Aron is home, but when he is gone I had started to just throw everything out the window because now I don't have to worry about feeding my husband, woohoo! But in reality I have realized I need to feel the same responsibility to feed my self well as I do others. I have seen how much of a difference it makes and as I mentioned (maybe one too many times) it actually makes my life easier to do these things! I hope this can be helpful to one of you mommas who are riding solo in your home for the moment and help you find a way to fuel your body well. Happy eating!!