If I had to give myself a report card grade on the meal planning and cooking progress, I’d probably rate it around a B-. This facet of healthy eating is, by far, the most challenging for me. I’ve done much better and most weeks I have a general idea of what we will be eating every day for dinner. In talking to other moms about family schedules and, just weight loss in general, we all agree that this is a major stumbling block. I am becoming more and more aware of how moms that successfully feed their families healthy dinners operate. They spend a LOT of time at it and are very committed. I really never thought I had it in me and, frankly, never thought it was all that necessary. But, I’m starting to see the light. Planning ahead in order to have groceries on hand, much less prepared and actually delivered to a plate are HUGE challenges. If I don’t have a meal underway by 2pm in the afternoon, it probably isn’t going to happen. Once the kids get home around 3, it is very hard to get into the kitchen and start much of anything because it takes a few minutes to hear about their day, get them going on chores and homework …. or maybe even spend a few minutes with them throwing a ball around or just talking. Just about every day, from 4pm until 8pm, I am driving at least one of them to a practice or rehearsal or class of some sort. My youngest has gymnastics from 4:30-8pm at least twice a week. But a 9 year old doesn’t really want to eat dinner at 4pm – she wants an after school snack, understandably. There aren’t many days when I can count on all 5 of us to be home simultaneously to eat dinner. It is incredibly difficult to cook anything in 15 minute increments. I’m not terribly comfortable leaving anything in the oven if I am not home to watch it. I know I need to get over that but there are enough things to worry about when kids are home alone and getting a hot dish out of the oven isn’t something I’m comfortable adding to their responsibilities.
Anyway, enough bitchin’ … because I am doing something about it. While surfing Pinterest last week at the orthodontist office, I came across a series of Crock Pot freezer meals. I read through the extensive series of recipes and decided that a great majority of them were things that my family would eat – and that I had a chance of being able to have a small portion for my evening meal. I found them on the blog, Baked in the South. The recipes are relatively easy and she even provides shopping lists which I found very handy when I went to the grocery on Monday to get all the ingredients. Yesterday I spent the ENTIRE day in the kitchen getting 11 meals ready. In hindsight, I really should have just attempted 5 or so because it really did take all day … and into the evening. I didn’t finish cleaning up until 10pm. Of course, the hours between 4:15 and 7 were spent driving kids around and then actually cooking them a dinner as well.
I started this project getting things more organized. Our refrigerator has been getting scarier and scarier so I took 30 minutes or so and gave it a good cleaning and tossed a bunch of stuff. I didn’t quite get to the freezer – which was a mistake since all of these meals had to go in there when I was done.
I also pulled out a bunch of containers and kept them handy on the counter so I didn’t have to dig for them 50 times during the process. I labeled 11 Zip-Loc Freezer bags with a Sharpie so I could just dump ingredients in as I went. My iPad was set up on the kitchen island and streamed Netflix TV shows (finally watching the Parenthood series – I’m about 3 seasons behind). All the fixin’s for a nice quiet day in the kitchen!
Here are the finished products. All of them can be thrown from the freezer straight into the Crock Pot on low for about 6 hours. My hope is that whatever parent or kid that is home in the evening can serve themselves (or a small grouping) dinner without waiting for me to get home and start cooking / prepping (which often doesn’t happen and then we are driving through a fast food restaurant somewhere). Most of these meals incorporate both meat and vegetables of some sort and very little “extra” sides are needed – although we can always pull out bread or fruit or something to add to the meal. If the majority of the family likes it, I’ll keep it in my list of ones to make more of (probably in multiple quantities to save time). A few of them are probably too high calorie for me to be eating but most have ingredients that are friendly to my Transition (and, hopefully soon, Maintenance) plans. There is some ground beef in a few of them and stew meat which is not the leanest of cuts but, overall, it is not horrible and WAY better than anything I would probably order in a drive-thru. I will have to watch my portions and extras but I know regular family meal time is not where I gained my weight – it was the snacking and extracurricular eating … and fast food that caused the problems. Exercising as much as I do gives me some leeway to not be too concerned about a healthy meal, especially when I am the one preparing it and can control the ingredients.
One last thing on the food subject, I am starting to add baby spinach to my morning Optifast HP smoothies. I also sometimes add in half of a frozen banana too – it is an extra 30 calories or so but it really helps the taste and consistency of the smoothie. The spinach makes my smoothie look like something I remember changing in my kids diapers but, oh well. I can’t taste it!