Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, physical health

Follow-up to the dinner post

Last week, I answered a reader question about dinner. Planning. Dealing with busy evenings. Dealing with low energy.

When I posted it to social media, I asked what others do for quick, easy meals. Here’s what people shared:

  • breakfast for dinner
  • We just had make your own taco night. Fry’s has great vegetarian already-seasoned meat crumbles you literally just put in a skillet and heat up for about 5-8 minutes. I cut up the black olives while it is heating and put out all the toppings and tacos/tortillas. The girls love this and it is so easy and quick! We also heat up black beans for those who may want them as well.
  • pizza on flour tortillas baked in the oven

Great ideas!

Posted in follow-up, food, tips

Answering follow-up—3

Question from a reader:

What are some of your go to meals when you don’t feel like or have time to make dinner? I assume you plan out your menu for the week in advance?

First, yes, we plan meals for the week, make a shopping list off of that plan, and shop from the list.

There are a few meals that the recipe makes way more than we’ll eat in a few days, so we’ll freeze half for later.

Others, we can double for the same purpose.

We have a few ready-made things from Trader Joe’s in the freezer for nights when it’s just not gonna happen for whatever reason, including “we tried a new recipe and it’s really not good at all.”

(New recipes are judged on the following four-point scale: Tasty! Make it again!; Don’t need to make it again, but will eat the meal and the leftovers; Don’t need to make it again, and will eat the meal but not the leftovers; What’s Plan B, ’cause we’re not eating the meal or the leftovers.)

When we plan meals, we also look at the calendar so we don’t plan something that needs to cook for an hour on a night when we have things going on until 7 and won’t get started until 7:15 or later.

Crock pot meals are good for those nights.

Meals with a lot of leftovers are better earlier in the week because: leftovers.

I’ve seen a lot of “prep 8 zillion meals in two hours!” types of pins on Pinterest, where a large grocery run, an afternoon of prep, and a box of Ziplock bags makes a couple of weeks’ worth of crock pot meals in the freezer. Most of them are meat-based which doesn’t work for me, so I haven’t tried them, but those might be worth looking at.

I started a spreadsheet of recipes we like a lot, divided by ingredients (produce, beans/nuts/grains, dairy, spices, etc.), so I can easily see what we need (instead of looking up each recipe). As time goes on, I’m adding other things to it. Streamlines the process a little. Also helps to find recipes that use up ingredients I have.

Readers, what are your go-to prep-at-home suggestions for nights that are busy, or the end of a day that’s exhausting?

Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, know better do better, tips

Answering follow-up—2

Question from a reader:

When I am angry or stressed, I usually give in to fast food, or chocolate. It is like a self-loathing thing. I don’t know how to explain it. I know you said to make a plan for each emotion, but what does that look like? When I feel happy, I will take the time to make a big salad. When I feel sad, I will write in my journal, rather than jump in my car and go through a drive-thru lane?

First, you don’t need to explain emotional eating. I get it. I’m not sure I can explain it, either, but I get it.

The goal, really, is to disconnect feeling from eating.

So when I’m happy, I’ll share it with friends, or do a happy dance, or write in my journal, or just go about my day feeling good.

Sad, for me, is much harder, because sad doesn’t feel good and we don’t like not feeling good, and we’re using food to try to fix it. (There are chemical reactions involved that make junk food a legitimate brain-chemical short-term fix, much the same as illicit drugs, which just complicates matters further.)

So writing in a journal is a good plan.

My go-to, if I can, is to move. Walk. Run. Lift. Climb. Whatever. Get out of the house or the office, get muscles engaged, get heart rate up, and burn it off. This also has physiological brain chemical effects that help you help yourself.

Some of my best climbing days have been when I’m angry. There have been days when I’ve run up and down bleachers in tears and just kept running until I burned it all off.

If I can’t do that, then writing works pretty well for me.

But I also know some people who do crafty things when they’re needing to work through emotions: play instruments, knit/sew/crochet, make pottery, draw.

Coloring is good sometimes. (I find a kid coloring book and crayons to be more effective in these cases than adults books and pencils. The adult books are so intricate that they require, for me, a little too much thinking for when I’m down. Good for relaxing, oddly, but not for emotional regulation.)

Meditation is good, from what I understand. I’m at the very beginning stages of learning how to do this, so I can’t speak from personal experience.

Maybe listening to music? Or reading? I don’t like to read in those times, because I can’t focus, but maybe you can. Watch TV? Or a TED talk? Or cat videos?

Laughing is good in those times, but it’s hard to come by.

Hopefully something in there resonates for you to try! Good luck!

Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, parenting, tips

Answering follow-up—1

I had an e-conversation in response to a few ideas I’ve put out here and, with permission, am sharing bits with you. (Also, as I’m revisiting our conversation, I’m thinking of other things, so there will be a little more here than there was privately.)

Hey Heather, I’ve been enjoying your blog…Pregnancy is kind of like my time to go overboard on sweets. Now that baby is home, the donuts everyday has chilled out. I’m working on getting back on track. However, cutting sugar from my family’s life is one of my priorities this next year. I feel I have really started/developed some bad habits for my oldest daughter. I’m going to try to do one little change a month. January – no more Starbucks (this often includes chocolate milk for my kid or a cake pop). February – no more soda when we eat out (we don’t keep soda in the house), etc… However, what I am struggling with is my daughter’s breakfast and snacks. Right now she has an eggo waffle in the morning with chocolate syrup on it. She won’t eat it unless it has the chocolate syrup. Plain yogurt, she sees my husband put honey on it, and she wants honey, too. How do I “gently” change the breakfast routine so 1) we do something healthier than a processed waffle, and 2) cut the syrup off? I know you had mentioned in a previous post that The Kid does some type of frozen fruit popsicle? How do you make that, freeze a smoothie in a popsicle tray?

First, the one change a month plan is awesome! It’s long enough for each thing to be able to become part of the routine. It’s specific—there’s no ambiguity. I also think that the “no Starbucks” plan is better than “no sweets at Starbucks” which could include plain tea or coffee for Mama but is going to eliminate everything for the child. That would get a lot more pushback than just skipping that stop altogether.

Something you could do is save money in a jar (if you typically pay in cash) or keep track of it (if you pay by card) and at the end of the month, do a fun little family thing with it. Depending on how often you go and how much you usually get, this may be a little thing or a big thing. But as the year continues on and they all compound, it would be more and more (until at some point, there is no more “we avoided Starbucks today” because it’s not on your radar any more).

Or use it to buy new healthy foods that you might not otherwise try. There are all sorts of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables available.

As far as breakfast … I hate breakfast. For me. For The Kid. It’s just a pain. This might be because we’re night people living in a morning person world.

For a while, his preferred breakfast was plain yogurt with added frozen fruit, usually blueberries. As the weather got cooler, he’d ask for the blueberries to be defrosted first. And then he just didn’t want yogurt any more at all.

He’s been eating toaster waffles for the last few months. For a few weeks, it was with maple syrup, but we switched that to blueberries. I defrost them, mash them a little (we learned quickly that unmashed blueberries roll off of waffles), and spread them on his waffles, and he’s happy.

With us on break, I took the time to make steel-cut oats. The texture of steel cut is superior to rolled. (There is no nutritional difference, assuming plain in both cases.) I added frozen fruit, and he’s happy. I will see if I can remember to start the water when I wake up (instead of when I’m actually ready to go in the kitchen), and then this will be breakfast once school starts again.

Yes, you can make steel cut in the slow cooker overnight but not just one serving. And reheated oatmeal is not delicious.

I really like frozen fruit in fresh oatmeal. The hot oatmeal thaws the fruit; the cold fruit cools the hot oatmeal. It’s ready to eat right away.

As for the honey…

Monkey see, monkey do. They could try plain yogurt with fruit together…

Popsicles: I have popsicle molds. We usually use banana and one other fruit (sometimes two), make a smoothie, and freeze it in the molds. No juice. No sweeteners. Just fruit, and a little water if needed to get it to blend. When it’s warmer out, he’s amenable to smoothies for breakfast as well, but it’s really more work than I want to do in the morning. (The oatmeal is going to push my limits.) But he loves breakfast popsicles.

Snacks: he has cherry tomatoes, apples, bananas, dried mango, plantain chips, almonds, cashews, peanuts all available and within reach. He can have any of them pretty much whenever he wants. There are other things that will be his Favorite Thing for a short time and they’ll rotate in and out. Occasionally he likes Babybel cheeses, or string cheese. Every now and then, we’ll mash an avocado, add salsa to it, and eat that with chips.

If you have questions, you can always contact me. I don’t post anyone else’s story or question or whatnot here without permission.