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

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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.)

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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

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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!

lunchbox love

School mornings can be rough. Between rousing a kindergarten-sized sleeping beauty, squeezing clothes on a living, breathing Gumby doll, and repeating “eat your breakfast! please eat your breakfast!” five million times, it can get a little trying. Usually I spend the mornings trying desperately to keep my cool until the sweet sight of the yellow school bus rolls up and I can drink coffee and sigh in peace again (relative peace; I still have a toddler yelling “STOP!” and throwing food on the floor).

My best trick for navigating the busy school morning is my best trick for life in general: plan ahead. Before I go to sleep, I have a filled backpack and shoes (or boots) laid out near the breakfast table (along with snow gear, if applicable, which is often the case). If I am feeling particularly inspired, I make a baked oatmeal or mini quiches that will only need to be reheated in the morning for a quick breakfast. But my favorite bit of school prep is absolutely, without a doubt lunch.

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I’m a very big fan of writing on fruit.

My kindergartener, John, is allowed to choose hot lunch up to once a week, but this was a much bigger deal in the beginning of the year. Now he usually prefers his lunch from home (and I love that!). We use the LaLa Lunchbox app to get inspiration for his lunches (see my post here), and I generally pack his lunches in a Bentgo Kids Children’s Lunch Box, in an insulated bag, along with a bottle of water.

But the best part of the lunches, by far, are these tiny little cards I found in the Dollar Section at Target last summer (what can’t Target do for us?!) and have been in love with ever since.

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John saw this today and seriously said, “Mom, you can put these in my backpack, too. See? You should do that. Do I have a binder?”

These neat little cards come in packs of 12, and each card either has kid-friendly trivia or a joke on the back. Example: Did you know the last animal listed in the dictionary is the zyzzyva?  (I didn’t. I do now. It’s a tiny red beetle. Lunchbox Love cards — educating students of all ages!) The front either has a sweet little note — example: Find something you can like about everyone you meet — or it’s left blank so you can write or draw something original.

So what do I do with these cards?

Well, first of all, I put them in lunches.

really thank a teacher lunch (other is taco)
For the record, he ate those nuggets cold (and he liked ’em!).
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Homemade DIY pizza “lunchable”
thank a teacher lunch
I’ve never tried make-your-own taco lunch before. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. (PS: unrelated those are Cara Cara oranges on the right. If you enjoy fruit at all get yourself some of those, you deserve it.)

If I don’t put them in lunches, I do actually hear about it.

But wait! Lunchbox Love cards also come in seasonal varieties, so we have added some to Christmas gifts or Halloween treats. For Valentine’s Day, John brought in little bags filled with a bracelet, a sucker, a pencil, and a notebook, and we tied a Valentine’s Lunchbox Love card to the the top of each bag. He had a blast reading all of the trivia before deciding which card to give to which classmate. “This one is about butterflies and KACI LOVES BUTTERFLIES!,” for example.

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According to the trivia on the left, my children are at least part howler monkey.

But our most recent use of the cards has proven to be our favorite non-traditional usage — a treasure hunt.

treasure hunt cards
I am not an “artist,” per se. (But that smile would light up YOUR day, right? Of course it would.)

I hid the cards around the house, with clues to lead John to the next hiding spot. The treasure hunt ended, as any great hunt should, with a snack.

treasure hunt end

I kid you not — he has requested a “Lunchbox Love treasure hunt” daily since the first one. And since our recent Spring Break was mostly cold and snowy (yes, you read that correctly), I largely obliged. Maybe next time I’ll talk up the fun experience of being the “card hider.” I’ll sit and drink coffee while he hides the cards… and OK, I’ll probably be finding them in well-hidden spots for years to come, but anything for a coffee break, yes?

Check out www.sayplease.com to see all that Lunchbox Love has to offer. They aren’t just for kids! There are packs for teens, for loved ones, for strength, for hope — these little cards can be such a light in an oft-dark world.

AND NOW A CHANCE TO WIN! If you would like the opportunity to WIN your own set of Lunchbox Love cards, please SHARE this post on facebook and tag “Premeditated Mama.” Alternatively, you can share the post on twitter and tag @premeditatedmom. Share it both places for double the chances to win! A winner will be chosen on Monday, April 18, so get your shares in before then.