Meal Planning?!

Posted by  | Monday, September 22, 2008  at 11:00 PM  
Planning meals is sort of an oxymoron at our home! Don't get me wrong, I love to cook and always try to have healthy foods on hand to stir up something for our next meal, but I definately don't do a good job of planning our exact meals in advance. I do have a set of meals in my head that we typically eat, although I'm always on the hunt for new recipes that I can make healthily AND find ingredients for where we live :). Usually, I plan meals 1-2 days in advacnce, but I am always making basics like bread, stock, red sauce, browning extra hamburger meat with onions and freezing it in smaller portions, etc. Then, when it comes time for supper, it's just a matter of putting everything together and letting it cook. And, while I love a bargain just like anyone else, I do NOT skimp on our family's health just because something is a good price. If it's not something that's healthy (ie. box foods, pork, processed cheese, foods containing hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, nitrates, white flour, etc.) I will not serve it in our home. We do this for several reasons: 1) It's true, we really are what we eat, and we believe we can either pay a little extra for food now (and enjoy it immensely at the same time!) or pay the doctors later; 2) We want our bodies to be as healthy as possible to serve the Lord in reckless abandonment without being riddled with sickness and disease; and 3) There is enough junk outside the home that we consume (restaurants, eating in other's homes, etc.) that I decided several years ago that what I cooked in my home would be healthy.

Here's some of the "staples" we typically eat:

Breakfast
This is our biggest meal. I always make sure I serve a protein at breakfast. For example:
  • eggs and grits
  • eggs and toast
  • eggs and fresh milled biscuits
  • oatmeal and eggs (I put ground flax seed, butter, and maple syrup, raw honey, or apricot butter in the oatmeal - this is our usual breakfast)
  • pancakes and eggs (I soak pancakes, waffles, and muffins overnight so they are more easily digested)
  • waffles and eggs
  • french toast (made with homemade, fresh-milled bread)
  • muffins or banana bread with butter (this is not a typical breakfast)
  • smoothies (example - yogurt, banana, natural pb, coconut oil, cocoa powder, ice)

When I make muffins, waffles, or pancakes I always try to make a big batch and freeze left overs. That way I don't cook breakfast everyday - sometimes we just pop them in a toaster and I'll fry an egg on the side. I also try to make fresh juice in the morning which is usually heavy on veggies (like carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, etc.) with an apple or some other fruit. Sometimes, though, I make fresh oj, grapefruit, or melon juice - just depends on our mood.

Lunch

This is the easiest "meal" of the day and something I never plan in advance. A typical lunch looks something like this:

  • An assortment of the following: yogurt, nuts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh fruit or veggies (like cut up cucumber sticks or cherry tomatoes)
  • If we don't do some combination of this we'll eat peanut butter sandwiches or leftovers from the night before

My precious husband does NOT like lunch around our house. He's a "meat and potatoes" man (who also doesn't like leftovers) and says this is bird food :). However, with a toddler, pregnant, in language study, and trying to keep up the home, I'm not superwoman. I figure I'm providing a healthy meal and it's his choice to eat it or get something on his own. We can't change our husbands!! I am insistent with Lydia, though, that while she doesn't have to eat what I've made, I don't make her something else. Later, when she's hungry enough, she'll eat it.

Dinner

Most challenging to me because I love to cook and want to make a variety of foods. But, many nights, time is limited. I try to take that into account as I look at the week ahead - when will we be out, in, do I have the afternoon to cook vs. no time at all, etc. Here's some of our favorites:

  • Crockpot bbq chicken with homemade buns
  • Chili
  • Thai food with brown rice
  • Beef Stroganoff with brown rice
  • Spaghetti and meatballs (I make a big batch and freeze the majority of meatballs; I also make a big batch of sauce and use it with a variety of meals like pizza sauce)
  • Soups like tomato, chicken noodle or stew, potato, lentil, vegetable beef, cous cous, etc.
  • Baked or roasted chicken
  • Sauted chicken with lemon and capers
  • Homemade pizza
  • Homemade calzones
  • Stuffed bell peppers (I use the stuffing in other veggies too like artichokes or zucchini)
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Sloppy joes on homemade buns
  • Brown rice, azuki beans, and cabbage (when Josh is gone :)
  • Hamburgers with homemade fries and buns
  • Breakfast supper
  • Order in the meat and I make the sides (one of the perks of living overseas)
  • Or I just take the meat and veggies on hand and do something with them with seasonings based on my mood

Typical sides:

  • Brown rice (usual)
  • Sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon - yum!
  • Mashed potatoes - especially good with homemade gravy when I make a roasted chicken
  • Fresh veggies are seasonal here. Here's some typical ones (although they're in season at different times): green beans, mushrooms, boiled cabbage, cooked carrots, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, eggplant, artichoke
  • I mostly saute or steam veggies and then put butter and sea salt or another spice. We LOVE Tony's creole seasoning on green beans. In fact, when we got married Josh said there were two things he never wanted me to make him - meat loaf and green beans. When he tried green beans sauted in organic palm oil with Tony's he couldn't get enough and has decided green beans are now one of his favorite vegetables.

Just another word on nutrition (mentioning the palm oil made me think of this). With a little motivation and determination you can revolutionize most of the typical meals in your house and greatly impact your family's health. Here's just an example - I know that butter, extra virgin olive oil, and non-hydrogenated coconut and palm oils are more expensive than other oils but the impact on your health is night and day. (Can I just say that margerine is just one molecule away from plastic?! Yes, it's cheaper. . . but at what cost??) I think twice before wasting anything and make tough decisions about what we eat. There are ways to save on healthy foods - join coops, buy direct from local farmers, frequent your local farmer's market, buy fruits and veggies in season, grow your own herbs, buy in bulk, have a summer garden, etc. Milk is another issue. For us, the harmful effects of pastuerization and homogenization of milk led us to buy CLEAN, raw milk from a local farm when we were in the states. However, with the price of raw milk (and gas) in the states, we would probably not be getting milk at all. Where we currently live the milk choices are just as bad. We do not typically drink milk. We do eat cheese and yogurt, and, in recipes, I substitute coconut milk if it has to have milk. There's also little things you can do for iron, calcium, etc. When I make meatballs, I put some ground liver in with the meat. No one ever notices and it's a great way to get some iron. I use arrowroot powder (instead of corn starch) to thicken sauces. I find ways to make desserts with raw honey and fresh milled wheat - we love fruit pies for example!! Okay, I'll get off my nutrition soap box. But, if you have any questions, please don't feel overwhlemed or like you have to reinvent the wheel. It doesn't have to be hard; start small; and glean everything you can from others (unless you just have tons of time to read. . . in which case I can recommend some books :). Leave comments and questions and I'll be glad to share the little I know and help in any way I can.


12 comments:

Robin Baker said...

I am with you sister! I work out of the home 3/4 time and I just can't do it all. I was flabergasted by the intricate nature of some people's meal planning. I can barely get myself to use a cookbook, let alone do all that planning around food. I mean, what if you don't feel like eating that? Ha ha. We're all so different. Great books that opened our eyes on nutrition: THE MAKER'S DIET and Perfect Weight America by Jordan Rubin. Right up your alley. We have eliminated pork, HFCS, artificial sweeteners, & hydrogenated oils from our diet. I can't give up my milk though - we drink it whole. Glad you posted, I was starting to think I was a serious slacker =)

Tori said...

I LOVE to cook, and although I suffer from time contraints and logistics like the best of them, I try to make time. I truly love watching my family enjoy something I've prepared, and hope to one day share my love and knowledge of cooking with my kids. How do you make your own juice from veggies?

Peggy said...

I work from home and am always juggling work, kid needs, and house needs. Menu planning never seems to be as high on the list as it should be.

Going meatless at least once a week saves money and is good for your health. The Meatless Monday Campaign website (www.meatlessmonday.com) has a ton of information on beans, tofu and other cheaper proteins as well as a huge recipe archive. Every Monday 4 new recipes are posted, breakfast, lunch, dinner and one extra. I work for the campaign and have found the recipes very helpful for putting a quick meal together.

Krista said...

Tori,
You need a juicer. I have (and would recommend) the Omega 8003. It's an investment (I think we found ours online for $190) but it's the best priced juicer for the quality - things like not heating your juice so as to not lose the nutrients in juicing, easy clean up, long warranty, etc. You can also make nut butters and tons of other stuff if you did invest in a juicer. I also use mine to make fruit juice popcicles for Lydia.

The Eckerts said...

I didn't realize you were pregnant. Congrats! If you have the time, I would love to get some of your bread and roll recipes. I've been making bread for a little over a year now and have YET to find a recipe that I absolutely love that contains no white flour.

KC said...

Yes, making loaf bread is one thing, but how do you make hamburger buns?? I have been thinking that a hamburger could actually be a healthy meal with grass-fed ground beef and homemade ketchup, but couldn't imagine making the buns.

Also, I can't afford a mill right now. Do you think getting ground whole wheat is a worthwhile sub or should I just wait until I can afford the mill?

Krista said...

KC and The Eckert's,
I would encourage both of you to visit the Bread Becker's website: www.breadbeckers.com. KC, order the FREE CD of Sue Becker talking about the health benefits of wheat. She will answer your questions about buying whole wheat at the store. The very short of it, yes, it's better than white flour, but not much. A mill is an investment, BUT it has a lifetime warranty and wheat is SO much cheaper than buying bread and flour that, unless you eat no flour products, you gain the money spent on the mill quickly. Eckerts, they have a recipe book on their website and it has great recipes. Most of what I do comes from that, although I've modified it overtime. Also, I love the muffin, pancake, and waffle recipes from Nourishing Traditions. Hope this helps!

Mark'sMeg said...

I couldn't afford a grain mill, but I just bought a nice Cuisinart coffee grinder off Amazon for 50 bucks. It takes a lot longer and the flour is a little more coarse, but it works! Hopefully in a couple of years we will have saved enough for a mill, but this will do for now :)
Meagan DeLong

The Eckerts said...

Thanks Krista.

What do you mean when you say wheat is not 'much better' than white?

Do you mean if it sits on the shelf for forever? Or even seconds after it's been milled?

What kind of flour do you usually use?

I have just found a nearby mill that I can buy grain and flour from. I'm so excited.

Thanks again for you help.

Krista said...

The Eckerts,
That's great you've found a mill close by. If you buy fresh milled wheat from them that is good. What I meant about getting whole wheat from the store is this:

1. Typical "whole wheat" is usually milled wheat that has been stripped of the bran and germ (ie. white flour) and then adding some bran and/or germ back in. It is not in the ratio God made in the wheat kernal. White flour lasts a LONG time (years). Most whole wheat flours at the grocery are just one step away from white.
2. If you were to buy whole wheat from a store (probably like Whole Foods) where you could be sure it was truly whole wheat, the problem would be shelf life. It's lost 90% of it's nutrients 72 hours after milling and becomes rancid.

However, finding a local mill is like having a mill in your home. If you can go there regularly and buy fresh-milled flour that is excellent! Store it in your freezer as it slows down the oxidation process.

ashley c said...

Krista...do you have a recipe for homemade ketchup? I've tried making it in the past and it's never turned out good. Thanks!!

Melissa Pearce said...

I missed this before! i didn't realize you were preggo. Congratulations!

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