The Complete Meal Planning Guide

meal-planning

i am a HUGE planner and my meals are no exception. i love sitting down and writing out my shopping list and my menu for the week and coming back to fill up my fridge with fresh food. something about a well-stocked fridge makes me happy. maybe i'm a weirdo, but i love it! i know that meal planning isn't for everyone, and many dread that time on sunday night when they start thinking about meals for the week ahead. but it does not have to be a struggle! it can be fun and exciting and empowering to plan out your meals for the week! it is also a great way to make sure you're planning for healthy, sustainable meals instead of frantically ordering pizza on a thursday night because you ran out of food. hey, it happens! but it doesn't have to.

1. find some recipes. 
this is one of my favorite parts of meal planning and meal prep. i used to dread it. i didn't know where to start or what to make and would end up with something like 'meat, potatoes, maybe a veggie'. but that, my friends is boring and if i've learned anything as a former veggie-hater, it's way too easy to cut out that veggie if it's not incorporated in the meal. enter: PINTEREST. pinterest is not a social media outlet. it is a search engine. and it is full of healthy, delicious, easy, colorful recipes for anything you could ever imagine. just type in what you're looking for and VOILA! hundreds or thousands of recipes right there ready to go! 

another favorite resource of mine is barre3. you've heard me talk about how much i love their workouts, both online and in studio, but they also have amazingly yummy recipes! and the best part, you don't have to be an online subscriber to get access to them! just download the app and BOOM. you have tons of recipes that are so easy and colorful right at your fingertips!

2. keep a running list
this is a really important part to long-term meal planning. you need a recipe repertoire at your fingertips so you can go back to recipes that you love or swap out new ones. every month, i sit down and make a list of recipes we've tried in the past month, what we loved, what we didn't, where they came from (so i can find them again), etc. i usually end up with a couple week's worth of recipes and stick with that.

having just half a month of different recipes is a little secret of mine that works wonders. you do NOT need 31 different dinner recipes in a month. that just leads to buying a bunch of things you'll only use once and you'll end up tossing way too many leftover ingredients. for example: one of my favorite soups calls for lemongrass stalk. but just 3 stalks. so what do i do with the rest of the bunch if i only make the soup once/month?? go back and reuse your favorite recipes a few times in a month. it'll cut down on your grocery trips and your grocery bill AND you'll quickly ditch the recipe book or app or whatever because you'll know how to make it from memory in no time!

3. don't forget about lunches & snacks
for the longest time, i would only plan my dinners. which was all well and good until lunch rolls around on thursday and i'm like 'i cannot eat another turkey and swiss sandwich'. you don't have to make it fancy, you don't even have to make solid plans for each meal. but having a handful of ideas for lunches and snacks (smoothies! roasted chickpeas!) will help keep you out of that mid-week slump.

4. take stock of what you have
before you head out the door for the grocery, make sure to check your fridge and pantry against your shopping list. you may find a lonely bunch of baby spinach in the back of your fridge that would go great with the casserole you were planning for next week. bump it up to this week and you've got one less thing to buy and one less thing to toss when that spinach starts to wilt. knowing what you already have in your kitchen BEFORE you shop and before you finalize your list will save you so much time and money!

5. stock the fridge
when you've finished your shopping you'll need a place to store all of your new foods. every week when i get home from the grocery, the first thing i do is empty out the fridge of old leftovers that didn't last, empty or near-empty containers, old unused veggies. once it's cleaned up, i stock it up. i have actually gotten rid of the drawers in my fridge. it's a personal preference, but i prefer to have my veggies staring me in the face when i open the doors instead of hiding them away in a crisper where they'll be easily forgotten. this also allows easy access for the kids when they're hungry ;) 

6. prep your meals
i don't go crazy chopping & prepping at the beginning of the week but i do make sure every meal's ingredients are bundled together in a similar place. that way, it's easy to find when i get to wednesday's beet, spinach and quinoa bowl. i also spend some extra time on grocery day chopping up veggies for snacks and putting them on kid-friendly containers for easy access. bell peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are favorites around here so i just chop 'em up, put them in a big bowl, and leave them on a lower shelf so when the kids say 'mama i'm hungry' i can say 'okay go get something from the fridge!'. when they open it up and the first thing they see is a colorful bowl of delicious veggies, they'll grab it first ;) sneaky sneaky. it works on grown-ups too. (keep a container of hummus or homemade spinach and artichoke dip on hand as well)

7. be flexible
this is probably the most important part of meal planning: the ability to make changes and/or ditch your list. we're only human. sometimes things come up, we have to adjust our schedule, or we just don't want to make dinner one night. IT'S OKAY. your meal plan is your guide, it's not a rule you have to follow. the key is to be flexible and allow yourself to go off the plan. but having the plan in the first place allows you to make that decision and adjust where necessary. i'll let you in on a secret: no one sticks to their meal plan perfectly. no one. so don't beat yourself up if one night you decide to toss it out the window and head to your favorite restaurant instead. (hint: maybe plan that in to your schedule occasionally?)

Gendered

Pink + Blue

Unicorns + Dump Trucks

Tutus + Capes

gendered-hellonourish

Children's lives are gendered from before they are born. A walk through any baby supply store will show you how segregated little boys things are from little girls. And when we cross that arbitrary societal line? Our choices as parents are called in to question. Our children are made fun of. We are told again that 'pink is a girl's color'. 

I refuse to buy in to this narrative. Refuse to be a part of the problem that forces little girls and boys to give up their creativity and their genuine pure interests in exchange for fitting some societal norm that we've created. From toys to clothing to tiny pint-sized kitchen utensils - we are forced to choose in which camp to place our children. Blue or pink? The choice will last a lifetime.

But what if we didn't choose? What if we refused to segregate our children based on gender? I think we can all agree there's enough that divides us in this country - in this world - and we could all use with a little more togetherness. Last week I shared on my Facebook page THIS ARTICLE about gendered clothing and where to find neutral pieces from Reading My Tea Leaves and this week a friend shared a story on Instagram about her boys being teased because of their nail polish and it makes my heart hurt. 

If you think the separation of 'girls' and 'boys' sections is harmless or preparing kids for the real world then we need to have a separate conversation about privilege and a male dominated world. But this is not that conversation. You can start that with THIS ARTICLE from The Atlantic. 

I realized I have bought in to this notion of gendered clothing. Just by simply shopping at big box stores *ahem Target* where the clothing sections are segregated shows my children that there's a difference between 'girl clothes' and 'boy clothes'. I realized that I have been a piece of the problem.

The answer, then, is to stop. Cease shopping at these places that insist on segregating by gender and choosing more thoughtfully the pieces I purchase for my children. I am lucky in this - non gendered clothing tends to be a bit more expensive due to it's being not in the mainstream - but my children are all very close in size. A 4t-5t sweatshirt from ARQ will fit William comfortably and be cozy and baggy on Charlotte and Theodore. One sweatshirt for 3 kids. I already work hard to keep their wardrobes to a minimum and this is a step further in that direction. I feel so much freedom thinking about dressing the new baby. So far we've acquired a handful of basic white onesies, a grey bodysuit from ARQ, and a teal layette from Solly Baby. It's freeing not knowing the gender of this baby and being forced to shop thoughtfully and non-gendered. I'll purchase something pink as well in the coming months but keep everything mostly in the greys, mustards, and burnt orange shades. 

I may not be able to choose their clothing forever. But I can make sure that while I still hold that job, their clothes and toys will not reflect a gendered agenda but rather their own personal style, preferences and creativity. Even if strangers at the grocery comment on how beautiful my little girl's (William) curly hair is or how blonde my little boy's (Charlotte) is. Let them make that mistake and I'll gently correct their misconception and move on with our day. (Teddy goes without clothes as often as he can get away with it)

Switching to Safer

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A lot of things changed within me when I had a daughter. I'd like to say they changed when I became a mother, but something about having a daughter really did me in. I started running, eating more plant based whole foods and I began the arduous task of transitioning our household products to safer, non-toxic options.

I've received a lot of questions lately about how we made the switch and what products we use instead and honestly, it was a long road full of a lot of frustration, disappointment but ultimately - unparalleled peace of mind. And as a mama of almost 4, I need all of that I can get!

First a look at ingredients that are found in a lot of common household products. These can be found in things like cleaning agents, soaps, lipsticks, deodorants, shampoo, candles, and more. Basically think about things you keep in your kitchen cabinet for cleaning, your bathroom cabinet for personal care, and your laundry room - most of those traditional products contain any number of gross ingredients that can be harmful to our health.

Ethanolamines - found in fragrances, sunscreens, mascara, dry cleaning solvents, paint and pharmaceuticals. It's been linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption

Formaldehyde - used as a preservative in cosmetics and I'm sure you've heard about this article about the dangers of it and it's link to leukemia and other ailments so I probably don't need to share much else.

Oxybenzone - used in sunscreens and moisturizers and has been linked to irritation, sensitization, allergies and hormone disruption.

Parabens - found in shampoo, face cleansers, body wash, lotions and foundations. These are endocrine disruptors (hormones again) - not good.

Phthalates - found in anything that's had a fragrance added - air fresheners, dish soap, even some toilet paper. This is another endocrine disruptor. When it's absorbed it goes straight to your organs.

Triclosan - Found in dishwashing detergents and anything that's "antibacterial" - *hint* the more claims something has on the bottle, the worse it probably is for ya* - overuse of anything antibacterial can lead to overuse and how microbes develop resistance. It may also disrupt endocrine function and it's a known probable carcinogen.


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I really don't want to overwhelm so I'll leave it there for now. But do a quick google search for 'household toxins' and you'll find enough to convince you to start thinking about a switch to some safer options.

It may be tempting, after reading all of this, to run to your cabinets, toss everything and replace it right then and there. And while replacing everything is definitely ideal, it's not really the most cost-effective or eco-friendly way to go about it. I started slow in our home. I made a master list of everything we had that I wanted to swap and did a TON of research to find better options to add to my home. But I didn't go out and replace them all right away. I went through and found items from my list that were close to or past expiration - mascara, lipstick, sunscreens were easy targets. Then I replaced those with safer options. The rest of the things I waited until we ran out to replace. Some things, like shampoo, took a long time but things like all-purpose cleaner or laundry detergent went quickly. As each item ran out and was replaced, I added that info to the master list. Sometimes the new product I swapped with didn't quite work out (DIY dishwashing detergent - not a good move), so I'd update the list with something else I tried.

Eventually, we got to the point where nearly everything has been swapped for a safer option (aided by the cross-country move and one cross-town move - easier to move without all those products and movers won't usually pack cleaning stuff!) and I feel so much more at ease when the kids want to help with the dishes or laundry or play 'dress up' with my makeup now that I know there's not a bunch of junky chemicals lurking around. 

switch-to-safer

HOW TO SWITCH

1. Make a master list of all the items you want to swap in your home.

2. Start your research (I've linked a bunch of my favorite products below to help you get started) and find safer alternatives to your current products.

3. Go through your current products and see what's expired or close to an expiration date (I find this helps get the ball rolling so you don't forget about starting the swaps now).

4. Replace the expired products and add the safer swap to the master list to keep track.

5. Wait until products get used up or expire and begin to replace those as they do so. Add safer swaps to master list.

6. Adjust and rework. If a swap isn't working, find another option! Either wait until it's all used up or go out and get a new swap right away (if, say, your DIY dishwasher fluid doesn't wash at all - go find another option and suck up the sunk cost of the DIY stuff, it's not working anyway!)


SAFER SWAPS

CLEANING //
All of the household cleaners in our home are either Thieves products from Young Living or DIY using vinegar, water, olive oil, alcohol and essential oils. You can find 5 DIY household cleaning product recipes HERE

COSMETICS // 
I honestly don't wear much makeup anymore but what I do wear comes from Beautycounter. I like their mission and trust the products and they really work. Young Living also recently launched a makeup line and I've tried their mascara and it's AMAZING. 

SKINCARE //
Skincare has been so tough but, again, I really like Beautycounter if you wanna go all in. I've been really minimal lately and simply use a couple drops of Frankincense oil on my face after cleansing and that's all! For lotions and moisturizer I use coconut oil and an essential oil or shea butter and oil (like on my pregnant belly!)

TOOTH CARE //
I use the Thieves toothpaste from Young Living and a Quip electric toothbrush. I'd love to swap to bamboo but I have overactive salivary glands and need to visit the dentist every 3 months for cleanings. A regular toothbrush just doesn't keep up with the buildup in my mouth - TMI - so I really like the Quip because I'm only ever swapping the head of the brush and I have the metal base not the plastic one.


That's pretty much it! I'm by no means an expert and I'm always learning, replacing, and reworking. This is just a small look at what's worked for us so far and how we got here (it took 3 years!). 

**WHERE TO BUY
I love the Young Living products so much that I ended up signing up and getting the starter kit (definitely what I'd recommend - most of the oils I use for cleaning and facial care are in there!) because of the 24% discount. It also means you can use THIS LINK, shop for your own kit. I used the kit for a looong time and then ended up getting on Essential Rewards to earn credit for my purchases and still get the discount on other products like detergent, toothpaste, cleaners, etc. 

You can sign up to receive your essential oils starter kit here and I will add you to a community page where I've learned so much about how to incorporate them in to not only cleaning but wellness as well - stress, hormones, respiratory support just to name a few! It's so helpful to have a place to drop some questions and get some answers.