My Many Calendars and My New-Age Meal Plan
September 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
A long time ago, when I worked as a newspaper reporter, when I would get overwhelmed I would dash to the office supply store for some new paper clips and fancy pens.
This served two purposes (I realize now) … it took me out of the crazy for a minute or two, and it gave me the illusion of organization.
Perhaps I wasn’t really that much more organized, but a deep breath and an actual working pen helped tremendously.
I still love the idea of being organized.
Organization is NOT something that comes easily, however. And so, I work at it — bit by bit and piece by piece.
One tool I find really helpful is calendars. I have a lot of them: a school calendar; a cleaning calendar; a blog calendar and a meal plan calendar.
Recently, I have embraced the smart phone revolution and I have synced my Google calendar to my phone.
This is almost too much technology for me to handle, but it is giving me a new lease on planning, especially when it comes to meals.
Meal planning has always been a chore for me. As much as I love feeding my family wholesome and nutritious food, it is hard for me to come up with a lot of variety that is also pleasing to four palates.
Add in some food intolerances and general dislikes, and meal planning stops being much fun (as if it were ever fun in the first place).
But my Google Calendar is making meal planning a little simpler. And when it comes to food, I am all for simple.
I have recently plugged in general ideas for meals each night of the week:
- Sunday is chicken or fish
- Monday is salads
- Tuesday is Soup or Pasta
- Wednesday is breakfast (Wednesdays are a busy day for us, so a quick egg-based dinner is fast and easy)
- Thursday is tacos
- Friday is pizza
- Saturday is rice or potatoes
This general framework makes plugging in ideas easier, but still opens us up to a little variety. There’s lots of stuff you can put on pizzas, for instance; and Saturdays could be risotto, or could be a baked potato bar. Mondays and Thursdays I program in reminders to cook beans in my slow cooker so they are always ready.
This plan also works for us because of our split cooking situation here. I still eat primarily vegetarian. My husband needs more meat. The kids like most foods, but also like some choices when it comes to dinner, like what to put on their salads or pizzas.
With the school year starting, I am hoping this new meal plan will get us eating a variety of seasonal foods, but still give me a framework that keeps the overwhelming feelings away.
Otherwise, I just might buy even more paperclips.
Do you meal plan?
Calling All Homeschoolers
September 2, 2011 at 6:00 am
As a homeschooler, if there is one thing I know, it’s that we love to talk about our curriculum choices and ideas for the school year ahead.
Whole conversations can be had about school supplies, field trip plans and read-alound book selections.
So today, I thought I would share some of the things I am excited about this school year. I would love to hear what you have on your agenda.
In our house, the most excitement is about: New colored pencils, beeswax crayons and modeling beeswax, Latin, the stars, block puzzles, tanagrams, nature journals and games.
What are you most excited about in your family??
Back to School Week: Lunchbag Ideas
August 19, 2011 at 6:00 am
***There are still a few more days to sign up for the I’m Organic lunch bag give-away, so sign up to win!***
But in the meantime, I wanted to tell you about some of our favorite things we put in our I’m Organic lunch bags. My goal for a healthy lunch is to include a fruit or vegetable (and both if I can!), a serving of whole grains, a serving of protein and sometimes, a little something special. We eat primarily vegetarian here, so here’s what you might see in our lunch bags:
- A container of strawberries, a container of sliced cucumbers, a serving of quinoa and yogurt.
- A serving of bean or lentil soup with rice or barley, a serving of sugar snap peas, and a pear.
- Hummus, whole grain crackers, carrots cubed cheeses and a healthy cookie
- Dried apricots, a salad with beans and seeds and a healthy muffin
- An apple, nut butter, celery, a hard-boiled egg and a side of noodles
- Baked potato or sweet potato (I add a pat of butter and a little sprinkle of cinnamon on the sweet potato and then wrap them in foil), soup, and a Lara or Odwalla bar
- Smoothie, healthy muffin, nuts and popcorn or a rice cake
What are your favorite school-time lunches?
Back to School Week: After-School Snacking
August 18, 2011 at 6:00 am
I remember getting out of school and being RAVENOUS. I would race home to my grandma’s house, and devour the first thing I came across.
Our whole family seems to need a little snack around “after-school time,” and lots of days we bake something up or make something fresh. But when we are on the road (always be mindful of choking when traveling in a car, of course), we need some go-to nutritious snacks that will keep everyone feeling good until dinner.
Some of our favorite after school snacks are:
- organic string cheese
- organic yogurt
- healthy, low-sugar granola bars
- homemade trail mix
- pita chips or carrots and hummus
- popcorn with lots of toppings
- bagel with nut butter
- fruit leather
- crackers and a Justin’s nut butter packet
- homemade cereal or pretzel mix
- chips or vegetables and guacamole
What is the favorite after-school snack in your family?
And don’t forget, there is still lots of time to sign up to win the Back to School Week give-away and get a free I’m Organic reusable lunch (or after-school treat) bag delivered to your door!
Back to School Week: Do-It-Yourself Dinners
August 17, 2011 at 6:00 am
If you’ve been reading this week, you may have noticed that the theme so far has been: how to eat well even when you are in the midst of a busy (and possibly slightly stressful) back-to-school transition.
Today is definitely in keeping with that theme. Today, I’d like to talk about dinners (or if you’d like, lunches) that will fill everyone up, and keep the grumbling away.
There are a few dinners here that always go over well here, basically because I put everyone to work. From littlest to biggest, we get busy chopping and putting ingredients into little bowls, so we all can build our own version of the perfect dinner.
One family favorite (for me too!) is tostadas. I try to keep a can of organic refried beans in the pantry at all times. Bearitos makes a good version, so does Amy’s.
Along with that, I set out lettuce or cabbage, chopped tomatoes or salsa, shredded cheese (a good trick is to keep some cheese in the freezer just for this kind of recipe), sliced black olives, cubed avocado or guacamole — basically anything we have that can encourage the kids to build their own little meal.
Other similar recipes are “Confetti Rice” (also works with quinoa or noodles). I make a big pot of brown rice and set out lots of little bowls of things like: defrosted frozen corn, defrosted frozen peas (just put these in a strainer and run them under cold water for a minute), steamed carrots, tofu cubes, canned beans (or defrosted limas), steamed broccoli or cauliflower, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, dulse flakes, etc.
This plan of attack works great with baked potatoes (think cheese, leftover cooked veg, leftover chili, etc.); and can even work for make-your own omelets. Just saute the raw vegetables for a few minutes before adding two to three raw, beaten eggs for one omelet.
We like to do one of these do-it-yourself diners at least once a week. It gets us all in the kitchen together, and usually ensures a pretty good dose of vegetables!
Speaking of vegetables, another favorite trick we use is on salad “order forms.” We try to have a big salad for dinner at least once a week, and my kids like using little “order forms” that we printed up that list all the options.
You can put anything on your list, of course, by we really like:
- cooked beans
- sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- hard-boiled eggs
We also like to add one fun new ingredients sometimes like shredded butternut squash, or even seasonal fruit!
Do you have any do-it-yourself meals in your family?
Don’t forget, you still have time to sign up for this week’s fun Back to School give-away and win a free reusable lunch bag from I’m Organic!
Back to School Week: Oatmeal Two Ways
August 16, 2011 at 6:00 am
When I think of really filling breakfasts that help the kiddos and me make it through the morning until lunchtime, I think of oatmeal.
We tend to eat oatmeal starting in the fall all the way through springtime, and it is kind of becoming a tradition here to eat oatmeal for breakfast again when school starts.
To make it easier and faster, we make oatmeal two ways.
The first, I wrote about this time last year: it is do-it-yourself oatmeal packs. By combining quick-cooking oats and healthy ingredients, you can make lots of tasty flavor combinations that are ready in just a few minutes. My kids love this idea, because they can personalize their oatmeal. Note: Since I wrote about this last year, we have started making each “pack” in a glass container with a top. In the morning we can just add boiling water and stir.
Another technique we use it to start oatmeal the night before. Lots of “recipes” exist for this, but many require yogurt and kefir, which doesn’t work well for all members of our family.
Instead, we boil 1 1/2 cups of whole oats in 6 cups of water for 1 minute. We then turn off the heat and cover and let the mix sit overnight. In the morning, we warm it up (sometimes we need to add just a little extra water).
To each serving we add a sweetener like maple syrup, agave or honey, and extras like:
- cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices
- a pinch of vanilla sugar
- dried fruit like blueberries, cherries, apricots or pineapple
- sliced or chopped nuts or seeds
- fresh fruit like chopped apples or blueberries or a little mashed banana
- milk or milk substitutes like almond milk
Oatmeal is such a warm and healthy way to start the day. If you or your kids have access to hot water at work or school, you can take an oatmeal pack to go too in your reusable lunch bag.
Don’t forget to sign up for this week’s give-away for a free lunch bag here!
Back to School Week: Smoothies!
August 15, 2011 at 6:00 am
Hey everyone! Welcome to Back to School Week here at The Very Next Thing!
Now in our home, back to school looks a little different than in many places, but it is definitely still a time of change and getting settled into a brand new rhythm.
So this week, I’d like to bring you some ideas to make heading back to school a little easier. And, to make it fun, I’m Organic is sponsoring a couple of really cool upcoming give-aways.
If you’d like to win one of these awesome reusable lunch bags for your kiddo, please sign up in the comments below and tell us your favorite design!
But I would also like to talk today about an idea for what to put in your child’s lunch bag.
We make a lot of smoothies in our house. A lot. They are such a good, healthy way to start the day.
But we also sometimes freeze small portions in BPA-free containers like these from Ball to pack for lunches. (They thaw in 2 or 3 hours, so you can gauge if this would work with your child’s schedule. I also like to make smoothies over the weekend and pull them out early in the morning for quick on-the-go breakfasts.)
We like to start with a basic smoothie — usually either banana-berry (strawberries, raspberries, bluesberries, blackberries or a mix) or tropical (banana-mango-pineapple).
Our most basic smoothies are just fruit and a milk substitute, but we also like to add in nutrtional and flavor boosters like:
- coconut milk
- aloe juice
- ground seeds like flax, pumpkin or chia
- greens (like spinach, kale or chard)
- nut butter
- cooked squash, sweet potato, carrot or pumpkin
- and hemp or protein powder
Paired with a muffin at breakfast or a nutritious sandwich at lunch, smoothies are a kid favorite! Just don’t forget to pack a straw or spoon!
And come on back tomorrow when Ill be talking about another favorite breakfast.