premeditated meals, part 1

My nerd is showing because Y’ALL — I’m talking about food.

I love food. I think that’s one of the reasons I love every single thing about Shauna Niequest — she is a Christian/mom/wife/superstar who also loves food. She’s written on and on about the balance between body acceptance and the richness and pleasure in eating well, and that is a line I tread regularly.

Food is spiritual. Whether we are filling our children’s bellies or bringing a dish to a family in need, we are doing God’s work. The kind of food doesn’t matter as much as the feeling behind it. Before I start getting a bit too dramatic, please know that there are many times I stand, bleary-eyed, in front of the microwave reheating boxed macaroni and cheese for my children. In that moment, my motivation may simply be “feed the kids quick,” but when I reflect on those times, I know that I am still providing for them in a real and tangible way.

But life.

LIFE, y’all. I know it’s hard to break out of the mealtime madness routine. Our lives are busy and full, and sometimes the thought of standing in a kitchen and making a big mess and chaos is just less than desirable. But if you are like me, you know that a delicious meal can, if only for a moment, soothe and comfort.

I do not claim to be any sort of food or meal prep expert, but I am premeditated, and I’m going to share some goodness with you. This week I’m talking about basic tips and how-to’s, but next week I’ll be talking about my favorite appliances (like the star-of-the-hour, the INSTANT POT!).

Premeditated Meals in 5 Easy Steps!

1. MEAL PLAN

img_5219
A fun meal prep notebook is a total game changer.
Even if you aren’t a big planner, please please plan out some meals. Start with dinners if you are new to meal planning — I plan out dinners for each day (though sometimes they do get shuffled around) and a few breakfasts and lunches for the week. I use a magnetic notebook and leave it on my fridge so I always know what meals we’ll be eating on a given day.

2. GROCERY SHOP

A given, sure, but I’m only including this here because IF you can somewhow make this work, immediately after grocery shopping I love to…

3. PREP THOSE MEALS

Prepped food! (Label maker sold separately.)

img_5476
Snacks, lunches, veggies
Chop your veggies. Cook things that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated. Start putting meal ingredients together in a way that will make the actual cooking of them a breeze. While I’m at it, I also like to bag up whatever snacks I bought (goldfish, pretzels, etc.) and get them ready to throw at hangry kids when necessary throughout the week. If you can manage to do this

Some caveats here: yes, there are a million videos/articles/blogs on the internet that will tell you how to store your veggies. Usually these won’t say “cut them all up!” because this will sometimes cause them to go bad quicker. Know how many veggies you’ll eat in a week and buy/prep that much only. You’ll be much more likely to eat it if it’s ready to go anyway, and couldn’t we all eat more easy veggies? We could.

If the idea of making all of those snack baggies makes your earth-loving heart cringe, look into reusable cloth snack bags. I do like the cloth bags I have, but if I’m being honest, I use ziplocks a lot. We are a people who lose things.

4. COOK THOSE MEALS

img_5095
A happy little chicken pot pie all ready for the oven!
Hopefully, your meal prep will make the cooking EASY. Throwing salads together, reheating taco meat, or throwing a bag of ready-t0-go food into a slow cooker. It’s hard to feed your people everyday. Make this as simple as possible.

5. EAT!

Perhaps this goes without saying, but hey, eat your food. Really eat it. Sit down at the table, pour yourself a glass of wine or La Croix, pray with your family, eat with your family. Take the time to be present, because life comes at you fast. And your food will taste better if you, ya know, sit and chew it.

That’s all for today. Happy meal prep! Check back on Thursday for my favorite kitchen stuff!

la la lunchbox app review

Hello, friends!

The time has come for my LaLa Lunchbox Meal Planning App review. I’m not being paid or otherwise compensated for my opinions, but I wanted to get this info to anyone who packs lunches for their kiddos. It’s a game changer!

Lal
In the words of Angelica Schuyler in the groundbreaking Hamilton: “I’m about to change your life.”

The beginning of this school year was my five year old, John’s, first year of kindergarten. That meant it was our first year of eating breakfast and getting ready in time to catch the school bus, and of course — our first year of packing school lunches. Never fear! I was armed with pinterest pages and instagram sites full of ideas. I bought cute sandwich cutters for PB&J’s, cute cheese cutters for homemade lunchables, and stocked up on cute containers (purchased in doubles, so my forgetful John would be covered if he left anything at school). We were ready!

Except our school is nut free, John “doesn’t like cheese and crackers at school, only at home,” and almost every delightfully shaped object came back home. One day, he said, “I really just want regular ham and cheese sandwiches everyday.” Oh, defeat.

I made ham and cheese sandwiches everyday. I threw in whatever fruits and veggies we had, and they usually came home. Eventually, the sandwich started coming home, with fewer and fewer bites taken out of it.

I knew how to send healthy lunches.

I didn’t know how to get my five year old to eat those healthy lunches.

Enter LaLa Lunchbox!

Download the app to your smartphone and your child has the ability to pick pre-loaded foods from different categories (fruit, vegetable, protein, snack) they would like to see in their lunch. You can control the food options — my first mistake was failing to remove “watermelon” from the list when I first gave the app to John, but then we had a nice talk about seasonal foods in Michigan (watermelon is not around in January).

lala2
Use your finger to drag the foods you want from the list at the bottom to the monster’s mouth. Most fun meal planning ever!

As you can see, John chose six items (SIX ITEMS!? you might say, but fear not! you can change this number!) for this lunch, with an apple and a banana as two of his choices. Here’s where we can get creative. I love the Bentgo Kids Lunchbox (found here) because the compartments are the perfect size for a lower-elementary sized tummy. I take John’s choices and fit them into our lunchbox the best way I can. I don’t add anything extra, because I want him to eat the balanced meal he chose.

Here’s what the above plan looks like in the Bentgo and ready for school:

IMG_0290
Cute little banana monster, eh? John: “I liked looking at that banana… but not eating it. Can I just have normal bananas from now on?” YES. You’re killing me, kid.

All together we had yogurt (protein), cauliflower (vegetable), dried apples (fruit), banana (fruit), pretzels (snack), and a graham cracker (snack). I always send along a water bottle with his lunches. And guess how much of this came back? Nothing! (Even if he just preferred to look at the banana monster… okay, buddy).

(Also: do you love that little card above the banana? It’s a Lunchbox Love card, and you can find them at sayplease.com.)

I have been giving John the app to plan his meals on the weekends. The app organizes all of the selections into one grocery list for you, so you don’t have to sift through each day to figure out what to buy.

My favorite takeaway from this whole app (besides organization, hooray!) is that John really has a say in the lunches he eats, and he begins to understand how to put healthy meals together. 

If you’re on board and want more, there is a Breakfast app as well! Exact same concept. Pro tip: maybe remove bacon every once in a while, unless you want to start out every single day as a fry cook.

That’s it for our review! Will you be grabbing a LaLa Lunchbox app or two? Join me in lunch planning fun.