I love to cook. I work full-time and have an almost 2 year old child. I do not have time to cook dinner every night. It is as simple as that.
After Macon was born, I found myself rushing every night to put something together, often not eating dinner until after he went to bed, which became much more difficult as he got older and started to eat real food, because we wanted to eat dinner WITH our son. We turned to eating out, getting take out or just eating cereal. A LOT. And when I did cook, it was definitely not the healthiest.
Last January, I decided that we needed to stop spending so much money and consuming so many calories eating out as often as we did. And the only way that I was going to make any change in that was to cook most, if not all, of our meals in advance. We do not have a very big freezer so cooking a month’s worth of food and freezing in advance was not an option. We love our crockpot but I can have only so many crockpot meals, AND I just do not really like shredded chicken (you know, the kind that you get after having chicken breasts cooking in a crockpot for 10 hours while you are at work). So I started buying a week’s worth of groceries on Saturdays and spending several hours every Sunday cooking for the week. It was going very well, but then I started slacking off and reverting to my old habits.
This January, I started an amazing and exciting challenge to eat clean and change my life. I still cook food every Sunday, but now, I try to make all the meals be as clean as possible.
Don’t have a clue what “clean eating” means? Well- I didn’t really before January. And I am absolutely still learning and making cleaner & healthier choices with each trip to Kroger.
Here is a simple break down (check out Skinny Mom for more information and 12 tips for clean eating):
C: COUNT your meals. You should aim to eat 5-6 times a day (3 meals and 2-3 small snacks). Shoot for every couple of hours. This will keep your metabolism burning all day long!
L: LEAN protein! Each meal should contain about a palm-sized serving of lean protein (white-meat chicken/turkey, fish, black beans, egg whites, etc.) Find your favorites and keep them on hand.
E: EAT your fruits and veggies! They’re delicious, filling and packed with nutrients our bodies need.
A: AVOID processed and refined foods. White flour, sugar, bread and pastas are no-nos. Replace them with complex carbs such as brown rice and whole wheat. Also, read ingredient lists. A long list means ‘not clean’. Read Food Labels Translated: 10 Alarming Ingredients to Avoid!
N: NEVER eat mindlessly. Too often, we tend to grab a food and toss it back without even a thought. The next time you go to eat something, ask yourself, “Will this do anything positive for my body?” and, “Will I regret this choice later?”.”
After having a basic understanding of Clean Eating, you should start building up a go-to list of recipes as you build your weekly menus. Planning really is crucial in eating clean so that you don’t end up hungry and eating the Pop Tarts or Doritos out of the vending machine at work.
Usually I try to put together a list of foods and meals I want to have during the next week on Fridays, do my shopping on Saturday and my cooking on Sundays.
Here are some of my tips to get you started on your clean eating planning and shopping:
- Look on pinterest to find some clean recipes and build a list of main dishes and snack ideas.
- Start in the produce section of your grocery store and stock up on staples to be used throughout the week for main items and snacks: Lemons (for homemade dressings and marinades), tomatoes, zucchini, salad greens, cucumbers, asparagus, bananas, grapes, apples, avocado, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
- Next check out the LEAN meats and seafood: Lean ground turkey, boneless skinless chicken breast, tilapia, salmon, etc.
- Be sure to READ labels on anything else you buy in the store
- For lunch meat- buy organic or no preservatives
- Greek yogurt is a perfect clean snack. Be sure to get plan without any added fruits because they are loaded with added sugar, and you can put in your OWN fresh fruit.
- Raid the frozen fruits and vegetables which are picked at the peak of ripeness
- Buy whole wheat bread (make sure the first ingredient is whole wheat flour and that the second is NOT enriched white flour)
- Avoid the center aisle in the grocery store, they contain the most processed foods
- You will want some staples to help you with many of the meals (likely o the list you create from pinterest): Organic or raw honey, Pure maple syrup, mustard, dijon mustard, olive oil, coconut oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt, old fashioned oats (they will be your best friend).
Typically, I shop at BJs for my meats, olive oil, sea salt, pepper corns, canned tomatoes, frozen fruits (for my shakes), some frozen vegetables, yogurt, and sometimes other fruits and vegetables. Then I get the rest of my produce, eggs, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables and other items from Kroger.
After both of my trips this week, this was my haul…
Hopefully the chicken and ground turkey will last a couple weeks. But pretty much the rest of it will be gone.
So now the question becomes, what will I do with it??
Here is my Meal Planner for this week:
- Sunday- Fish Tacos (left over from tonight’s roasted parmesan crusted flounder and sautéed shrimp)
- Monday- Turkey Burgers (my absolute favorite go-to meal and PERFECT for lunch)
- Tuesday- Chicken Parmesan with zoodles (made with Grandma’s Tomato Sauce from Fixate, by Autumn Calabrese get your copy of this awesome cookbook here)
- Wednesday- Chicken (or maybe turkey) stuffed bell peppers
- Thursday- Tacos/Burrito bowls (grill up some chicken or brown some lean ground turkey. Add cumin, ground red pepper, a little sea salt, pepper, and taco sauce. Toppings can include corn, black beans, cheese, greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), tomatoes, avocado).
- Friday- Tortilla pizzas. (Will be using whole wheat tortillas, olive oil, tomatoes, feta cheese, maybe some grilled chicken, grilled peppers and onions, so delicious!)
- Saturday- Turkey sloppy Joes
So tomorrow, I will cook all of the basics for the meals above. Then I will grill some chicken for salads for lunch. Salads are HUGE for me. I have one every day and have been trying to use homemade dressing whenever I can that are clean and 21 day fix approved.
Jonathan had been asking for some sweet potato chips for a healthy snack. But the problem is that most found in the store are not just sweet potatoes. However, score one for Kroger, I found some today!
Every morning for Breakfast, I have a DELICIOUS shake. It is definitely my favorite meal of the day! Macon is pretty picky at this stage, so right now he typically has a waffle and some eggs or apple sauce. I found something new for him today…
Cookie Monster… He will be so excited!
I usually try to make some whole wheat pancake mini muffins to keep in the freezer to add variety and something homemade for Macon for breakfast. This is a really great recipe
And I am definitely going to be trying out some of these Banana Oat Pancakes this week for myself.
Some of my favorite snacks are Greek yogurt (be sure to get plain) with diced apples and cinnamon, hard boiled eggs on whole wheat toast, hummus with cucumbers, mixed fruit.
I hope this gives you some ideas for how to plan and execute your clean and healthy meals!