Category Archives: Kitchen Tips

Meal Planning and Food Prep Resources

I really believe that taking the time in the kitchen each weekend makes a huge difference in my #make1healthydecision’ing.  I do so for the sake of future Heather, who will thank me because the “work” is already done for her, making the healthy choice EASY.  And the fact that I can cook and dish and prep and wash with podcasts in my ears means I enjoy it doubly so.


When it comes to meal planning, I write out a two week calendar in a note book and block off days depending on what type of dinner is needed.  Bar Trivia nights or other planned dinners out are marked down, followed by Nick’s work schedule.  On night’s he works I typically do dinner on my own, often enjoying ingredients I love that he doesn’t care for as much.  The other nights are usually the nights I cook meals to feed both of us, and leftovers can be used for lunches or repurposed for other dinner meals throughout the week.

I look through the freezer and fridge, listing every ingredient I see that needs to be used.  Then I start to fill in meal ideas using the ingredients, minding their “use by” dates, on the calendar.   Sometimes I use this post-it method.  When it comes to meats in the freezer, I use Healthy Aperture, the Recipe Wednesday Link-Ups on HLB, and the interactive Butcher Counter at Beef It’s What’s for Dinner to get ideas for new dishes or techniques to try. If the freezer is empty, I look at the sales flyer at our local market and choose some recipes to try based on the best prices and selection.  I typically make about 50% “old favorite” meals and 50% new-to-us recipes.

Once I have my list, I’ll go through all the ingredients lists of the meals on the menu plan and make a shopping list to include all the items we don’t have in the house. If I haven’t already, I’ll browse the weekly sales ad to see what produce is on-sale that would be good for snacking throughout the week.


I’ve also started making a big batch of smoothies on the weekends and pouring 12 ounces into jars for breakfasts throughout the week.  Having it already made and ready to go is making the getting of freggies into my day A LOT easier come the morning time when I’d rather grab-and-go than spend time dirtying dishes before leaving for the office.

Every once in a while I like to do a big batch of freezer cooking prep.  It takes a trip for some bulk shopping or REALLY great sales, and a good chunk of hours in the kitchen, but I can easily prep an entire month+ worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with a good day of work.  If we had a deep freezer, I would do this more often as I know it is more cost effective, but also not v. small-space friendly.

There is a lot of really great meal planning and food prep content out in the healthy living blog community to inspire your own menu for the weeks to come. Here’s some recommended reading in terms of meal planning techniques, meal plans themselves [they’ve already done the work for you!], food prep organization, healthy to-go meal inspiration and more!

red set food prep

Food Prep and Meal Planning Inspiration:

How to Food Prep on the Weekend – The Lean Green Bean.  Start here. Simple as that. Also, don’t forget to read the comments for other suggestions and ideas!

Top 10 Foods for Sunday Food Prep – The Lean Green Bean.  This list covers specific categories or types of foods to consider prepping, such as whole grains and breakfasts, rather than specific recipes or ingredients.  A great post to get you started!

Food Prep & Menu Planning: The Key to Healthy Meals All Week – Love Life Surf. Love the idea behind this post and the ideas IN this post, too.  Great tips.

How I Prep Food for the Week – Back to Her Roots.  Cassie has found a system that works for her family and she swears by it for making healthy eating easy.  She loves options and using yummy foods to fill their mouths for an entire week.

20 Make-Ahead Breakfasts – Healthy Delicious. Great ideas to make the mornings easier on yourself.  More time to ease into the day plus something delicious to eat? SOLD!

Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss – Focus Fitness. Because you need more than a list of healthy dinner ideas to make healthy choices for weight loss a success, Brian shares 18 meal prep ideas and tips for your weight loss journey.


Healthy Office-Friendly Lunches:

Bento Lunches – Following in My Shoes.  I don’t have a bento lunchbox, but I get SO MANY ideas for creative bring-to-work lunches from Rachel’s blog.  She shares lunches fit for littles’ mouths but lots of adult-sized-appetite friendly lunches, too. I love the way she styles her boxes; pretty-to-look at posts are always nice, too 🙂

20 Creative, Healthy Salad Ideas for Lunch – Run to the Finish. So many great ideas for changing up the salad routine in this post.  I am totally guilty of getting in salad ruts!  This post will be bookmarked for future use, for sure!

50 Packable Lunch Ideas – The Lean Green Bean.  I love getting food ideas from RD blogger friends, I always feel good about my choices when they come from a list like this!   Lindsay is especially good at rounding up recipes and listing creative ideas for making easy, healthy choices a part of your every day life.  This post is no exception.

Salad-in-a-Jar 101 – Back to Her Roots.  Make your every day lunches Pinterest perfect with this post filled with the basics and great tips for building your own jar salads on the regular.

Lunches Lately September 2014 and Lunches Lately February 2015 – Back to Her Roots.  Cassie works from home but packs her lunches each day to keep portions and good choices EASY.  Each of the photos and lunch lists she shares makes my mouth water.  She’s totally inspired my own snack-box type lunches being brought to the office.  Try to resist doing the same after reading these posts!


Fill Your Freezer:

Frozen Spinach Cubes for Smoothies – The Lean Green Bean.  I love this technique for using spinach on it’s last leg and really stretching that grocery budget.  Sometimes buying a giant bag of spinach is so much more cost effective, but we can’t always use it all before it starts to turn. THIS IS THE SOLUTION!

Freezer Cooking 101 – Back to Her Roots. This is the post that got me started with thinking that freezer cooking was for more than just Mom’s with families of five.  I come back to this post ALL THE TIME for recipes and tips. 

Freezer Fill Up 1 and Freezer Fill up 2 – Back to Her Roots. The follow up posts to the 101 post above, I’ve tried and loved recipes from each post.  I really like picking and choosing recipes from all Cassie’s posts to create my own Freezer Fill Up day menu!  Her dishes are so tasty and often very nutritious!

15 Freezer Meals and Snacks – The Lean Green Bean. If you don’t already have your notebook out making a list of the recipes you want to make during your next Freezer Fill Up, this post will push you over the edge into the planning phases.  Lindsay has so many great ideas for making future you happy you did all that work!

10 Foods That Freeze Well – The Lean Green Bean.  This post offers broad suggestions for Freezer Fill Up Day, from “soups” to “beans and lentils.”  But along with keeping things general, she offers specific suggestions and recipes along with offering tips for each of her 10 suggestions.

How to Freeze Enchiladas – Savvy Eats.  Julie has tons of great content on freezing a variety of dishes, plus preserving and canning any number of ingredients and recipes.  Her blog is the place to visit for answers on how to best store ANYTHING from backing ingredients to homemade muffins, and tips on freezing granola, stock and so much more.  Savvy Eats is a great resource for writing out your Freezer Fill Up Plan.

mealplans and menus

Already Created for You Meal Plans:

Healthy Meal Plan: Loving Lentils – Back to Her Roots. A week of vegetarian dinners plus a printable shopping list.  BOOM!

CSA Meal Plan #15 – Relishments. I love the week of meals Emily came up with using her CSA collection for the week.  This menu features Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cauliflower, Arugula, Butternut Squash, Kale, Sweet Potatoes and Onions

A Savvy HLB Week: Caramelized Onions – HLB.  Caramelized onions are a favorite ingredient in my kitchen.  I love this idea of making a big batch of them on the weekend to be used in several dishes throughout the week.  In the Savvy HLB Week series, Julie shared a grocery list and steps for each day of the week, including food prep on Sunday.  

A Week of Quick, Healthy Meals – The Lean Green Bean. This post guides you through a choose your own adventure style meal plan.  I love that this meal plan includes all three meals as well as food prep suggestions for snacks and other dishes to add to the menu.

Is Buying Beef Crazy Expensive?

Remember that time I promised discussion on the cost of beef?

Remember that other time I promised to stop making promises about the timeliness of my posts. Ahem. Do you see where this is going?

It’s finally time! HOORAY! Let’s get BEEFY. [ok. that just sounded…weird.]

Continue reading

Simple Steps, Big Impact

Disclosure: Musselman’s sent me a jar of applesauce. This is my honest opinion, and the company is not paying me to write about their product.


Musselman’s has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation in their mission to raise awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms to those in need.

Throughout the month of January, Musselman’s will donate 10¢ to the foundation for every package of Musselman’s Natural and Healthy Picks Apple Sauce purchased. You can learn more about Musselman’s relationships with the NBCF by visiting their website.

The NBCF is dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need. Early detection is extremely important , and I want to encourage you to take moment right now to make one more resolution for the new year: schedule a mammogram in 2011.


I love that Musselman’s has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation: it shows me that the company is committed to the community and the cause.  I also love the ingredients list on the Musselman’s Natural Unsweetened Apple Sauce.

As someone who is actively trying to lose weight, natural, no-sugar added apple sauce is a great snack or baking ingredient alternative.  I put this to the test when I made a batch of carrot cake cupcakes over the weekend. 


The recipe I used called for 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, which is about 640 calories and 75 grams of fat.  The difference in the apple sauce is HUGE: 1/3 cup of Musselman’s Natural Unsweetened Applesauce has 33 calories and 0 grams of fat.  That is a BIG difference when it comes to numbers!

Using apple sauce in place of oil in baked goods does change the science behind the recipe a bit. 

Here are some tips for making the trade a successful one:

  • In most recipes, your substitution will be an exact 1:1 ratio.  If the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil, you can usually use 1/4 cup of apple sauce. 
  • The exception is cookie recipes. You want to use a little bit less apple sauce than the amount of oil the recipe is calling for; for example – 1/4 cup of apple sauce would be a good substitute for 1/3 cup of oil.
  • If a recipe calls for more than 1/2 cup oil, than only substitute for half of the oil.  Baking with more than 1/2 c of apple sauce can really change the texture of the baked good.
  • You may notice that using applesauce will increase the baking time your recipe calls for.  With these cupcakes, I had to let them bake an extra 3-4 minutes for them to set.
  • You also may want to increase the cooling time by 10-15 minutes before removing cakes, brownies, etc from the pan. 


With this batch of cupcakes, I also used egg whites rather than whole eggs and didn’t go over board with the frosting, making this indulgence a little bit more “weight-loss goal” friendly. 

To further help me stay on track, I only allowed myself to keep two cupcakes for my own immediate enjoyment.  The extra cupcakes I split into two batches, some of which I froze pre-frosting to enjoy later on.  The other batch I dropped off at the neighbors house Sunday morning as a Happy 2011 treat!

These cupcakes came out moist and delicious! Using the applesauce didn’t ruin the cupcakes at all; I only needed to be attentive to the time in the oven, using the old standby tooth-pick trick, to see that they needed more time.  These healthier substitutions made this celebration the new year treat a bit more enjoyable and in line with my goals!