Sunday, January 11, 2009

Life Craziness and how I prepare for the week

So for those of you who haven't figured it out my life is usually pretty busy. I work a full time job (Monday-Friday 8:30 until 5:30 pm), I have a 3-year old daughter, and I also have a professional designation class that I am required to complete during this year that takes about 8 to 10 hours of work a week.

(and for the record - this is a slow down compared to my schedule before I graduated from my program.)

Anyways the biggest problem I encountered when I went back to school after having my daughter (I had her half way through my program) was ensuring that she had healthy and nutritious meals. My eating habits boggled my mind for the first time after I had my daughter. I tried to think about eating, and how to eat healthy and about a few of my friends who are not health nuts but live extremely healthy lifestyles.

In particular I thought about J. She is very healthy, does not drink pop, eat chips (or meat...) and runs every day. We talked about this once and she never missed it or ever really craved or desired it. I asked her why and the reply was simple "because my parents never really had it." I had the same reply when I asked how she stayed committed to running "my parents did it every day so we just did it." No great logic, sense or anything else that had just been her life.

So here I am with my diet and weight problems and where did I get it? Well I got it first and foremost from my parents. Not all of the bad habits came from my parents but my fundamental education about nutrition came from my parents. That really hit something for me with my daughter. Thinking that I am solely responsible for ensuring that this person has a healthy and active life. But I don't want to force things upon her as that can easily lead to severe eating problems like anorexia.

Then one day my husband and I were at Costco having a hot dog and drink and my daughter (still very young maybe a few months old) and I saw this woman giving her baby (may a year) a drink of Coke. I was shocked, then took a sip of my diet coke. I was being a hypocrite. Why is it ok for meat to eat these foods when I would never feed them to my child at this age?

So I came up with a new eating system - If I wouldn't feed it to my daughter I wouldn't eat it. That worked for a long long time, and it worked in reverse as well. I tried the canned baby food and they tasted awful so I opted to make my own.

But as she got ready to go to daycare I encountered a terrible problem - what to feed her for lunch and HOW to manage making a lunch every day for her on top of everything else. I tried many things like the gerber meals, sandwhichs etc. nothing seemed to suit my desire to send her with a healthy and well rounded meal and snacks for the day. Plus it ate up so much time in the evening having to prepare it. After much trial and error we devised a system of making ALL of our lunches on Sunday night!

We cut, prepare and package everything for the week on Sunday night for the entire family. Then in the morning it is a matter of simply grabbing the bag for that day and putting it into your lunch bag. (note; for salads i will toss the lettuce in that morning to keep it fresher)

I know a few new moms who will heading back to work shortly and figure d I would take pictures, and share some of my ideas.

SO my tips to start off with:
  1. Come up with a general plan for lunches that you can stand or stomach for the entire week and something easy enough that you can change it up easily! For example, during the summers I love making cob salads (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, ham, peppers, seeds and nuts) and then you can modify the dressing or the veggies on it.
  2. Find easy things to add to the lunch that are healthy - like a No Sugar Added yogurt, or a sugar free jell-o. I love the jell-o because it is an easy dessert and low in calories. However, to cost save, I make two batches of Jello and put them into individual containers myself instead of buying them prepackaged from the store.
  3. I buy fresh fruit in season and compare prices (e.g., the oranges today at the store were cheaper by the pound than in the bag, but the Apples were $0.40/lb cheaper in the big bag) I store all my fruit in the fridge so they last longer (except for Banana's).
  4. Cost save - do not buy any pre-cut, pre-shredded cheeses from the store do it yourself during your weekly meal prep (I have one exception - I sometimes use fancy cheese for lasagna and they are more economical in the pre-shredded bags because I don't end up having a bunch of excess cheese).
  5. Time save - once the meal plan is done and I have the recipes I generally know if I need anything cut, diced etc for the rest of the week (like carrots, onions, celery etc.)
  6. Cost save - buy dehydrated beans or legumes instead of canned version. A bag of kidney beans costs about $3.00 - the equivalent amount of beans in a can cost roughly $10.00. They aren't hard to use but you may have a miss or two before you get it right. Simply soak the beans in the water the night before and then cook for the time indicated on the bag and they are ready to go!
  7. Time save - made easy week long side dishes like a mixed bean salad, or a cabbage salad on the weekend and keep it in the fridge and serve it with the meals!

The basic system we have set up is that individual foods go into a snack size ziplock bag (I use the President Choice No Name ones). then each person has a Large Ziplock bag with their initial and the day of the week on it (e.g., C-Monday) once I am done cutting or preparing a food item I distribute them into each of the daily bags. Thus at the end the food is all ready for the week. In the morning we simply grab the bag, add a yogurt, Jell-O or No sugar added apple sauce for my daughter and we are ready to go!

Here are the two types of Jell-O I am making this week Strawberry Banana and Peach (note that they are both sugar free). Now I use Jell-O because they offer a better variety of flavors than President's Choice No Name does in the sugar free kind. However, I also pick these up in mass quantities on trips to the states (roughly $0.30/box)

While I boiled the water - I got the rest of the fruits and veggies out and on the counter.
In order to be more efficient I also use a plastic bag from the store as a garbage collector on the counter (no matter how hard I try I end up with a large stock pile of these). Now for the more environmentally conscious you can use a garbage bowl. It simply cuts down on the trips to the garbage can!

As you can see lots on the menu this week! After this I went and got the Jell-O all ready and mixed and poured.

These are apples for my daughters lunch. I usually use one or two apples depending on the size for the week. I slice and core them. Now to prevent them from turning brown we put them in a medium size ziplock bag and give them a good dose of lemon juice. I always start with apples and let them sit until the very end in the lemon juice before packaging them. They are tasty a little bit of lemon but not over powering.

I do the same with pears and set them aside. Next I cut up peppers for my daughters lunch, my lunches and for our bean salad. Makes it very effective to only have to chop the same veggie once during the week!

I then move on to carrots and celery. I need them for our lunches, the bean salad and the chicken dumpling stoup. SO i peel into my garbage bag then slice for lunches. I then do a fine dice on the carrots for the salad and soup. I place the ones for the salad right into the bowl and the ones for the soup go into their own ziplock bag. (I dice because I want to practice my knife skills - however you can just grate them too).

I do the same with the celery - cut and dice, bag and put aside. I also grate cheese for my pita's (my lunch this week and last very tastie!) and some for later in the week and then put that aside.

I cut my pita's in half and then put them back into the original bag and then just grab what need the night before and put it into my 'pita ziplock'

Here are my onions, and veggies chopped for the meals for the rest of the week!

Here are the beans that we soaked overnight and cooked earlier in the day. We then just added the veggies (peppers and carrots) and the dressing and we have a wonderful 4-bean salad

The result - my lunch:
Tuna salad (1 tbsp light mayo, 1 can tuna, 1 tbsp Italian stuff)
1 pita
1 oz grated cheese
1 apple
1 pear
Cucumber - for the pita
lettuce (missing) for the pita
peppers - for the pita

In the morning I add: a container of the bean salad, yogurt, Jell-O, and a Banana!

My daughters lunch:
- 1 mini muffin (yup store help there!)
- orange sections
- 1 mini cucumber
- 8 blackberries
- Grapes sliced up
- Carrots and Celery
- Apple slices
- Pear Slices
- Some meat
- 1 oz cheese

in the morning we add the NSA apple sauce and yogurt!

And Viola lunches for the week, cut veggies for the week and a healthy bean salad to be used at lunch and for supper as a side1

Total time (start to finish including pictures and cleaning): 1 1/2 hours

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