Tips for Weekly Meal Planning

If you’ve made yourself a weekly food budget, you know how important it is to stick to it. The question is: Are you making the right decisions when it comes to buying food based on how much you eat per week? Do you under or over buy? As I mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve realized the importance of buying freezer meals-they last longer than fresh food and you don’t have to eat it all at once. Also, buying food in bulk can save money in the long run. When it comes to fresh food, you need to decide what meals you’ll be eating the food with or else it will go to waste (I’ve been guilty of this!). This all comes down to weekly meal planning.

Make meal planning easier by knowing: Exactly what you’re going to eat every meal, how much food you need to buy, the cost of the food and what foods will last the week or longer.

Tip: It’s also helpful to know what you already have at home that can go with your meals, so it’s best to make a list at home. I’m guilty of making a mental list of what I need and spend way too long at the grocery store trying to remember what I already have at home.

Basically, the longer your food lasts, the farther your money will go. Personally, my meal planning is about 50/50 with fresh and frozen/pantry items. Because I know what fresh items I need to buy each week, it will save time on meal planning. I can incorporate the fresh foods into weekly meals without over planning on what to eat. This also saves me from buying extra food-like if I want a small dose of something but don’t plan to incorporate it into another meal then I’ll wait until I plan an entire meal around that specific food.

What are some tips you have for meal planning?

How to Resist Foods-And Why I’m Giving Up Chocolate for the Month of June

Here’s why I decided to take on this challenge-I want personal growth of not relying on chocolate to be the only satisfying food in my life. Immediately after dinner I’ll want chocolate and it doesn’t matter if I’m full from dinner or not, I just want it, so I’ll eat it regardless. However, I’ve realized that the foods you don’t have in your home means you can’t eat them. It’s been YEARS since I’ve walked down the cookie and soda aisle to pick up a box of cookies or bottle of soda. I realize now I can incorporate this same method into buying healthier items instead of something chocolatey for after dinner-like ice cream, chocolate ice cream sandwiches, etc. Last year, I realized that every time I bought a regular size tub of ice cream I’d devour it in a LESS THAN A WEEK. Once I caught on to doing this, I stopped buying it, again, I didn’t walk down the ice cream aisle.
I’m not saying I’m never going to buy or eat chocolate again. I’m doing this experiment to see how much will power I have to go without chocolate for one month and to make myself eat healthier options after dinner and on the weekends as a snack.
Here are my tips when it comes to self-resistance of chocolate or any food you’re trying to avoid while shopping at the grocery store:
1. Have a positive mindset-Tell yourself that you’re taking on this challenge for a good reason. Decide what you want to substitute chocolate (or any food) for. For me, this is fruit-raspberries, grapes, blackberries or blueberries. While I know fresh fruit can be pricey, it’s also substituting for the chocolate I’m not buying, which ultimately costs the same price.

2. Do not walk down the grocery aisle that the food you need to avoid is in-This is simpler than it sounds. If you’re trying to avoid eating cookies, don’t walk down the cookie aisle. IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE FOOD IN YOUR HOME, YOU CAN’T EAT IT. This is why it’s important to make substitutions instead of going cold turkey. Because I’m use to eating chocolate after dinner, my rule is to either make dinner portions big enough so I’m full or subbing chocolate for fruit.
**If for some reason you have to walk down this particular aisle, be mindful by telling yourself not to stare at the items and keep walking.

3. Give yourself a timeline-Make this sustainable-not too long or too short. You want to give yourself enough time to really explore how you feel about the challenge. Do you have cravings or is the fruit you’re eating keeping you satisfied?

4. Think about the benefits of why you’re making this change-Mine is for health and mindfulness reasons. After graduating college, I received my first cavity. I was convinced it was from two things, becoming older and years of eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. During college I drank lemonade (hello, sugar overload!) like it was my job. Once I got that cavity filled, I only drank water. I switched my mindset of allowing myself to ONLY drink water. I also want to be more mindful of what I’m putting in my body and knowing when to stop after being full from dinner. I started a workout routine and since then I’ve noticed my body tells me when it’s time to stop eating. Also, the healthier foods you put in, the more energized your body will be!

5. Don’t give up-If you’re going to commit to a challenge for a certain timeframe, make sure to stick to it! Tell your loved ones too, so they won’t tempt you with the foods you’re trying to avoid.
Any of these tips can be useful for changing your lifestyle in many different ways. Create goals and timeframes to accomplish what you’ve set out to do and they’ll become a positive way of life.
What food would you give up for an entire month? Have you ever used any of these tips to accomplish your goals? Please let me know in the comments below!

What to do When Your Meal Goes Unplanned

You know those nights where you have dinner all planned out then something happens and your “planned meal” goes unplanned? The tomatoes you planned to put in the pasta aren’t good, you planned a fun night out but it got cancelled or you just weren’t in the mood for the meal you planned? Whatever your situation is, try to selvage any food you have in your kitchen to make a meal work.

Here are my tips on what to do when this happens…

Tip 1. If you’ve already begun cooking dinner and one ingredient is bad, mix in something similar. This literally happened to me tonight-hello post inspiration! I was planning on making pasta with chicken and tomatoes and found that most of the tomatoes I had bought three days ago went bad…so instead I replaced them with spinach and mixed it into the pasta. Cooking with fresh ingredients can be challenging because you don’t know how long the food will truly last-I have trouble using avocados all the time because if I don’t check on them regularly to see if they are ready to eat they can go bad pretty fast.

Tip 2. There have been many times where I will take out chicken to unthaw it and think it’s going to be ready to go the next night but turns out it’s not. When this happens my whole dinner game is thrown off. Also, the opposite has happened where I’ll forget to take the chicken out of the freezer to unthaw then I have to wait until it unthaws for dinner the next night. So what then? I’ve learned this year that it’s best to keep the freezer stocked full of food you can cook on the stove in less than twenty minutes such as turkey and chicken burgers. These are perfect substitutes when things go unplanned because you were planning on cooking anyway.
Tip 3. There is ALWAYS something in your kitchen you can cook for dinner. You might need to be creative-try mixing ingredients, looking online for inspiration (search for recipes where you already have most of the ingredients), cook something simple like pasta but make your own dressing. Or try my favorite, have breakfast for dinner-this can be anything from eggs on toast to an omelet with cheese and veggies. Don’t overthink the recipe and don’t get overwhelmed, as long as you’re grocery shopping on a regular basis and stocking up on food like pantry or frozen foods, you’ll always have something you can substitute when dinner goes unplanned.

Tip 4. For the nights when you thought you weren’t going to be home but your plans changed-instead of running out to the grocery store to buy food (since you were planning to spend money anyway on dinner) see what you have in the kitchen that you can cook up quickly. My mindset when this happens is that I’m not in the mood to cook because I was planning on having a fun night out, so if I can quickly cook up something in the microwave, in the oven or even make a sandwich I will. If all else fails, do what my grandmother would do and have a bag of popcorn! She always said that a bag of popcorn counts as dinner!
Tip 5. When you had a meal planned but you aren’t in the mood for it. This happens to me when I’ve made a big batch of something like pasta, and have eaten it for the past three days, it means it’s time to eat something else! Mood and cravings are everything when it comes to food, so ask yourself what are you REALLY in the mood for? If you can’t quiet figure it out, just make something that comes to mind or if it’s something you have in stock make that instead.

Do you have any solutions to unplanned meals? Let me know in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile

My Favorite Homemade Smoothies

Over the past two years I’ve found a LOVE for making homemade smoothies. I make them either on my way out the door before work, during the late afternoons on the weekends or before a road trip so I won’t be hungry on the road.
The main ingredients I use are:

Cacao powder, banana, mixed berries, strawberries, almond milk as a base, avocado for creaminess, ice, chia seeds, flax seeds, basil, spinach and peanut butter.

The key to any smoothie is to have a liquid base (ice or milk), veggie or fruit and something to make it thick like an avocado or banana. Adding the chia/flax seeds to any smoothie can help for digestive health.
My indulgent smoothie-Almond milk, cacao powder, banana, strawberries and peanut butter. Note-I only use a few strawberries as too many can overpower the entire smoothie.
My work smoothie-Almond milk, mixed berries, banana, basil and chia/flax seeds.
Others-Ice, spinach, avocado, berries and basil.

Would you try any of these smoothies? What are your favorite homemade smoothies? Share in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile –Facebook Page & Instagram

My Favorite Weekend Breakfast

Ever since I was young one of my favorite breakfasts to make on the weekends were Eggs (it was also one of the first things I learned to cook-alongside baking chocolate chip cookies!). Today I still love making eggs. I’ll cook two eggs and add an avocado and some fruit-strawberries or mixed berries and drink it with lemon water. When I add all of this to my plate it feels more indulgent rather than just having a bowl of cereal or yogurt like I do during the week.

It’s such an easy breakfast to make and while cooking I can get other things done like picking up around my home. It’s also a quick breakfast to make which takes less than ten minutes to make.

What’s your favorite breakfast? And do you have a go to breakfast on the weekends?

A Delicious 30 Minute Freezer Meal

I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of buying freezer meals. They are easy to cook, inexpensive and a great option for a night in.

The featured meal is from Trader Joe’s-Organic Superfood Pilaf-Quinoa with sweet potato’s, kale and carrots. This is ready in about 15 minutes by stove- you can also cook in the microwave.

To this I’ve added organic chicken that I cut into small pieces (it cooks faster this way). Once cooked I’ll add it to the pilaf with some olive oil, pink salt & pepper.

I love cooking dishes like this because of its versatility. You don’t have to eat it the same way twice especially with great add ons such as: tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, avocado, tofu or another meat or fish, soy sauce, balsamic, lemon dressing or Italian dipping oil with herbs.

What are you’re favorite freezer meals?

How I Stock My Kitchen

When I go grocery shopping each week, I normally have a list of items to buy, but what I’ve come to realize is that I can add value to my shopping trip and stock my kitchen if I buy at least one extra item from the list below. This is helpful in case there were ever a time when I couldn’t run to the grocery store like getting sick or having a busy week.

Below are lists of items I stock up on:
Freezer-Organic chicken and beef and turkey burgers, pizza, vegetables (you can get bags of these for under a dollar at certain stores), fruits-strawberries and mixed berries, vegetable rice/quinoa and Greek yogurt pops.
Fridge-Water, Almond milk, yogurt, eggs
Pantry-Cereal, peanut butter, soup, pasta, tuna, cereal bars, rolled oats.
Other-Apples, oranges, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers

Stocking up on these items means I will always have a full kitchen. It also means I’ll never run out of ideas on what to cook. While I might buy something one week, it means I can eat it when I’m in the mood for it later on. None of these items listed costs more than $10 total, so it won’t break my budget. For more information on budgeting read: How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget When you give and take on your budget it all comes out the same-stock up on one expensive item one week-like organic chicken-then next week stock up on frozen vegetables.

How do you stock your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below or on social media @stylestomakeyousmile