Eating Healthy At Home: How I Meal Plan and a Free Weekly Menu Printable

Weekly Meal Planning Roni Loren

If you follow me at all online, you know I love to cook (and eat!), but I'm not one of those cooks who just comes up with inventive meals on the fly. I've spent hours writing fiction most days, so my creativity is drained by the time I get to dinnertime. I don't want to think about what to cook or how I'm going to make it tasty, which is why for years I've sworn by weekly meal planning. Without my weekly meal planning, I'd end up going out for fast food or ordering pizza every night. Meal planning keeps me (and the fam) on track with healthy eating.

Here's my general routine. On the weekend, I set aside some time to grab a few of my cookbooks off the shelf (or to go to my saved recipes online) and I sit down and choose what I'm cooking for each night of the coming week. This is even easier if you have few main go-to recipes that you use each week. I'm weird in that I like to cook different stuff pretty much non-stop. I have very few go-to meals and those are usually brought out when hubs is out of town and I'm just cooking for me and the kidlet. My theory on why I like novel cooking is that I like to eat in restaurants. But restaurants are expensive and somehow they manage to pack twice as many calories into things--even things that seem healthy. So what keeps me from eating out too much is creating new stuff for me to try to each week, so it feels like I'm going to a new restaurant. (See, told you, I'm weird.)

And luckily, I have a family with an open-minded palate, so they're pretty go with the flow on whatever I decide to cook. (I set up the expectation early with kidlet--you eat what I cook. I may alter his slightly, like not make his serving as spicy or keeping onions out of his or something, but he's expected to eat what we're having for dinner and to try things he may not be sure of. And he does.)

But anyway, I think through my week--which nights are going to be more hectic than others, what nights I'll have more time, etc. Then I lay out the menu on this sheet I designed (see the free printable below if you'd like to download it) and make my grocery list as I go. Then I post the menu on the refrigerator so everyone knows what's coming. Sometimes I'll switch days around during the week--much to the distress of my order-loving kidlet--but otherwise, I stick to the plan. And usually we save eating out for once or twice on the weekend.

The Quick and Dirty Tips on Meal Planning:

1. Gather your supplies: cookbooks/magazines/internet/whatever, a notebook or meal planning worksheet, and a little bit of time.

2. Think through what supplies you have or what you need to use up. (This is where cookbook indexes and internet search comes in handy. Have a cabbage and some chicken to use up, look up the more specific ingredient and work backward from there.)

2. Figure out which days you need to have quick meals and which you can spend more time on so you can plug in meals accordingly.

3. Fill in your go-to meals if you have them. Bonus tip: Pick theme nights like Taco Night, Sandwich Night, Slow Cooker Night, Stir-Fry Night, etc. and then your meal planning will go even quicker.

4. Write down the name of the recipe and where you found it (don't forget page numbers) then plug it into your menu sheet on the appropriate day.

5. Make your grocery list as you go. Bonus tip: There are lots of printables online for grocery lists. If you find one divided by section of the store, you can already have your list done and  sorted by the time you're done meal-planning. 

6. Put the menu on the fridge for you and your family to see, and then stick to it

7. After the week is done, mark down the new recipes that went well to save them for the future. 

It sounds like a lot, but really, it's not. Plus, there are so many benefits.

Benefits of Meal Planning:

1. Eat healthier.

2. Less waste because I know what I need to buy for the week.

3. No thinking involved when I'm brain-drained at dinner time.

4. Saves money.

5. No, "What are we having for dinner?" questions from the family.

5. Yummy, delicious meals every night.

So it's a no brainer for me. I've done it this way for almost a decade, and it becomes like clockwork. Plus, it gives me a good reason to feed my cookbook addiction. :)  Which reminds me, stay tuned for Wednesday when I tell you about my favorite cookbooks, recipe resources, and apps I love for meal planning and cooking. 

In the mealtime, here's your free Weekly Menu printable download if you'd like to give meal planning a shot. Let me know if you do! :)

 Click to download

Click to download

 

So do you do any kind of meal planning? What's your process? Any tips to add?

 

In Which I (& a homemade selfie stick) Demo a BLT Salad from Brenda Novak's Love That! Cookbook

This past weekend I participated in a FB celebration of Brenda Novak's Love That ! Cookbook. This is part of the big charity project for diabetes research. So along with the boxed sets, including the SWEET SEDUCTION boxed set with my story WANDERLUST in it, there is also a fantastic cookbook. ALL proceeed from the boxed set and this cookbook go to charity. :)

And as part of teh celbration, I was asked to demo a recipe of my choosing from the book. It's a beautiful cookbook and I had a hard time choosing because I love to cook, but decided to go with one of my favorte things--salad.

Here are the posts from the facebook event. Just me and my makeshift selfie stick. The recipe was really tasty and easy. Let me know if you try it! 

BACON LETTUCE AND TOMATO SALAD from Brenda Novak's LOVE THAT! Cookbook

 

First, I’d like to preface this by saying that this weekend my husband and kidlet are out of town at the NASCAR race in Talledega. This means mommy got the weekend to herself, which is great—until I realized I was supposed to demo this recipe with pictures and had no one to take pictures, lol. So guess what makes a great selfie stick? A kid’s golf club, a big rubber band, and my phone. : ) You do what you gotta do right? I figure MacGyver would’ve been proud. 

So I chose the Bacon Lettuce Tomato salad because there’s nothing easier to make at home when I’m flying solo than a yummy salad. And I happened to have all these ingredients on hand, which is nice because you can throw it together very easily. Plus, it has two of my favorite things: avocado and bacon!

Ingredients: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Avocado, fresh basil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil

So here we go:

1. First I grabbed some fresh basil from the little garden I started this spring since the dressing called for basil. You could probably put any herb you want in the dressing. Cilantro would be yummy. Or even use dried herbs if you’re in a pinch.

 

 

 

 

2. Then I got all of my stuff ready to go. I think chefs call it mise en place. I love to cook and I’m usually excellent at doing this part—organizing upfront. But then my husband will tell you that afterwards, all goes to hell because then it’s like the Tasmanian devil once the cooking starts. It’s not uncommon for me to cover every surface in the kitchen before I’m done, lol. 

 

 

 

3. I washed and dried my lettuce in the salad spinner. You want to make sure it’s mostly dry so the dressing will stick. And I used baby red lettuce because that’s what came in my produce co-op share this week. But any lettuce you like would work.


 

4. Chop all your good stuff up.
 

5. Put everything but the dressing in a bowl.


6. Mix your dressing ingredients together. My tip for that is if you have a mason jar (or tupperware container), dump everything in there, pop the lid on tight, and just shake it up (bonus points if you sing the Taylor Swift song while doing it). I find it quicker and cleaner than bothering with a bowl and a whisk. And if you have leftovers, it’s easy to store.


7. Pour your dressing on. (And applaud me for managing a selfie WHILE pouring dressing. ;) )


8. EAT! :) It was delish.


If you'd like to buy the cookbook and/or one of the boxed sets, get them now because they'll only be avaialble for a short time! : )

Kindle | B&N | iBooks| Kobo | Google Play 

 

 

New Year's Resolutions and Why I Can't Resist

Photo courtesy Flickr Commons

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that time of year again. The time when all the segments on morning TV switch from Buy this gift, bake this delicious thing, eat all the food! to Lose weight! Declutter! Save your money! Quit <insert bad habit>!  We’re a predictable bunch, aren’t we? 

And generally, I have an against-the-grain nature and resist outside forces telling me what and how I should do something. But I have to confess, I am such a sucker for the New Year’s Resolution thing. I set goals throughout the year and make changes along the way. But there’s something so appealing about a new year and getting things back in line--a fresh start after the chaos of the holidays. So even though I know I’m giving in to the hype, I do it anyway. :-)

Here are my resolutions for this year: 

  1. Back to real food – During the year, I *generally* eat healthy as long as I’m cooking at home. But when deadlines get crunched (as they do) and life gets chaotic (as it does), I often fall back to what’s quick and easy for the family (fast food and convenient processed stuff.) And once that starts, it’s easy to fall into that pattern again. So I want to get back to focusing on real food and have it not be about dieting or weight. (And if I lose inspiration, I need to read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan again, lol.)
  2. Realistic minimalism – So I love reading blogs about minimalism (living with only the things you need and the things that enrich your life.) However, I have no aspirations to go bare bones minimalist. I have a 7 year-old and a husband and I love my office full of books. I want my home to look like people live here. However, I do like the idea of not holding onto anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or that makes me happy in some way (books!). Over the last year, we’ve redecorated our house to be a lot more calm/modern (no knick knacks, simpler furniture, etc.) and I’ve ditched probably half the things/clothes/stuff/junk we used to have. It’s a work in progress though, so I’ve been doing my New Year’s purge of closets over the last few days. And I want to continue paring down/buying less in 2015 as well.
  3. Finding Zen – I have my dream job. I’m a writer and wouldn’t want to be anything else. But even dream jobs have stress. I write a lot, have a lot of deadlines, and I have a 7-yr old with some special needs. And I’m not exactly a Type B personality; so many times in the year I get to the hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing stage. But because of that, this past year, I got sick A LOT—colds, shingles, viruses, strep, etc. All that stress was taking its toll. So I’m vowing to be more Zen this year. Being stressed won’t help me get anything done any faster. This will probably be my hardest one to keep.

 

So that’s what I’m aiming for. How about you? Are you a resolution setter or do you resist the hype? What are some of your resolutions?

And don’t forget, Colby is going to be here in less than a week! NOTHING BETWEEN US is out Jan. 6th in the U.S. (UK Readers, it’s out today!) Go pre-order your copy and I’ll <3 you forever. ;)

 

Pre-order: 

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK (available in ebook and print - print has a bonus short story)

Nook

Kindle | Kindle UK | Kindle Canada

Kobo

Apple/iTunes

Google Play

My New Obsession (and Time Waster)

My favorite chimichurri (Photo by me)

I'm on a plane heading to NYC this morning, so this will be a quick post. (But be sure to check in this week as I have guests on both Wednesday and Friday--and a contest on Friday!) 

But I wanted to share a new website that I'm slightly obsessed with. Everyone hearts Pinterest--and I have an account--but after my photo debacle, I'm wary of pinning anyone else's copyrighted stuff so I only use it for very specific purposes. But now I've found a site that gives me the fantastic food pics and recipes that I liked on Pinterest, but I can simply favorite the ones I like instead of having to "repin" or "reblog" them.

The site? FoodGawker. And OMG, the beautiful food and fantastic recipes on there. I could literally fall in and lose an hour before I even realize it. I LOVE to cook (and consider myself a bit of a foodie). It's one of my favorite hobbies, and I try my best to cook healthfully. So, I was happy to see how many healthy recipes are on the site. Also, I've started baking with the kidlet on Sundays, so this will give us endless sources of new dessert recipes. So yay for new obsessions!

Check it out. But be warned, you may get sucked into the black hole of delicious food photography. : )

Am I the last one to find out about this site? Anyone else on there? What's your favorite site to get lost on?

Made of Win Monday: Local Dive Restaurants

It's time for Made of Win Monday, where I feature simple things that rock. 

 

I love to eat and consider myself a bit of a foodie, so one of my favorite things to do is go out to eat at a restaurant. But much of the time, the most obvious choices are the big name corporate restaurants that are ubiquitous in every decent sized city in America. And sure, the food at many of those places can be good--in that generic, this-taste-the-same-at-all-300-of-our-locations kind of way. But it also is usually kind of...soulless.

 

I grew up in New Orleans, arguably one of the best food cities in the country. And I can tell you that the tastiest eats in town are always at the dives. You walk in and the place looks like it hasn't been updated in three decades. On the tables, rolls of paper towels and two kinds of hot sauce (Crystal and Tabasco) and not much else. The people? They'll call you baby or cher (pronounced "sha" for you non-Cajuns) and treat you like you're long lost family. Then they'll serve you food so good, it'll knock you right off that picnic bench they're using for chairs. It's amazing. 

 

Want the best shrimp po-boy in New Orleans? You can find it at Danny and Clyde's which is...a gas station. Yep. Get your tank and belly filled at the same time. Oh, and the shrimp are fresh from the Gulf and that French bread is fresh baked. Cost? 4.99 I still dream of those sandwiches. Texas, I love you for your Mexican food, but damn you don't know what to do with shrimp.

 

And though New Orleans is always doing its own thing, every city around the world has its own gems. Those little hole in the wall restaurants that serve real food made from recipes handed down through generations. No pretensions. No apologies. Just damn good food.

 

Hubs and I found one this weekend in our neck of the woods. This place looked like even its better days had seen better days, but oh my did they have a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich that made me want to weep. I'm hungry just thinking about it. But it's totally a place you would pass a thousand times and never think to go in. It's in a questionable area (what real estate agents would call a "transitional neighborhood") and is tucked away in the corner where you barely can see a sign. But the people were super nice and the food was awesome.

 

So next time you want to go out and eat, try looking past the bright neon signs of the big restaurants and look for the places that have been around a while. If they've been there long enough to look that dive-y, there's probably a reason.

 

So how about you? Do you have any dives in your town that serve five-star food? What's the best thing you ever ate at at dive?

**Also, just FYI, I'm giving away a copy of CRASH INTO YOU today over at the Bandit Creek blog. I'm also talking about my big secret. ;) Would love if you stopped by.**