In our fast-paced lifestyle, eating a traditional meal of "real food" seems to have been left behind. We're simply too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed, too overextended to get it done. We are shown ads constantly (just watch for it the next time you're watching live TV- you'll be amazed) about how wonderful it is to be eating out instead of cooking at home. There are ads for junk food, diet food, weight loss programs that include the food, and fast food. The themes continue in sitcoms and books. Cooking at home is a dying art.
Our recent Canada Food Guide, unveiled in January, places a high importance on eating with others, enjoying whole foods, limiting processed foods, and so on. But there's not a lot of awareness put into the "how" of home cooking. In fact, it's laughable, and it's exactly the kind of information I found when I was a new mom and trying to sort out meal planning for my life with a squalling infant, no sleep, no energy, and healing a post-partum body. It didn't translate then, and it doesn't translate now.
How do you implement it when you are literally away from home more hours than you sleep? When you've got a household to run and a million things on your "to do" list?
The thing is, it's complicated and different for everyone. No two people share the exact same meal planning complications. But here are a few ideas to start you thinking, and I'm just a phone call away if you want to get serious about cooking at home.
For more information on meal planning that suits your life, let's talk.
All the best, friends! Stay warm!
Having a stocked fridge is more complicated, because it has a lot more to do with knowing what you have and using it before it rots then the pantry or freezer.
Our fridge has a lot of condiments- different types of hot sauce, bottled salad dressings for when I'm running low on ingredients or time to make my own, and flavourful sauces for stir fry's and meals such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup (the real stuff!), and dijon mustard. I think condiments could take over the world if we let them, and they are one of the groupings in a fridge that can definitely get out of control. If you haven't looked at your condiments lately, spend a few minutes getting rid of expired, old, or moldy items. I've seen jarred garlic, ginger, and jam go moldy, so never assume it's ok if it's been a while since you've opened it.
We have grapefruit accessible as my husband eats that every day for breakfast and they are too big to fit in my fruit crisper. I have the baby carrots my son loves ready to go and easy to see in a container on the lower shelf. I've grouped all my dairy together in 3 places- cheese strings in the pull out drawer on the bottom for the kids to grab for their lunches, coffee cream and milk in the middle, and cheeses, yogurt, and sour cream on the lower shelf next to the carrots.
All our leftovers are hanging out together by date- yesterday's leftovers on the top, and previous ones in the middle. Today I'm assembling the leftover moussaka ingredients to make one for the freezer, and that will clear out the middle space to leave room for any other leftovers we make.
My crispers are full of vegetables and fruit. We generally plan our meals around what's living in these drawers, because if something is going to go rotten and get thrown out, it's vegetables and fruit. We have lettuce, beets, carrots, parsley, and celery in the one...apples, oranges, clementines, and kiwi in the other. Before I buy more vegetables and fruit these need to be substantially emptied. I have a butternut squash living up on the top of my fridge with leftovers, and that is going to be roasted tonight for dinner, and we'll eat steamed beets as well.
I'll share a couple of ideas to make the most out of your fridge space. Please don't hesitate to connect with me if you need some more personalized help :)
A stocked fridge is more personal, depending on what you like to eat. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, dairy, and condiments are my main go-to's when planning meals and snacks. The point of shopping for fresh food each week is to eat what you buy, so plan your meals and stick to your list. It's so easy to go overboard with good intentions when shopping, especially when you've got people with you or you're hungry to begin with, but that's how food waste happens.
Your fridge and freezer are the perfect places to put together flavourful, healthy meals that make your tastebuds sing. You can make your food budget go so much further when you cook for yourself, and I encourage you to find a way to incorporate more of this in your own life. Not only will your wallet thank you, but your body will as well. I offer a meal-planning service that can be personalized to you, your time, your tastes, and your fridge/freezer/pantry. I'd love to chat to see how I can help you use what you have!
Enjoy your day friends! If you enjoyed this post, please share it. I'd love to see you hop over to my Facebook page, where I post almost daily tips, tricks, recipes, meal plans, and interesting news from the world of food and nutrition. Come "like" me so you don't miss anything!
Over the years I've observed that I have a well-stocked pantry compared to many people, and I'm often surprised by what's NOT in people's pantry's. Let's chat about a well-stocked kitchen over the next few blog posts and see what all the fuss is about!
Keeping a well-stocked pantry can be the difference between whipping something up for a meal and ordering in (or going out). It's not a big deal if you don't think it is, but if you feel guilt, shame, or regret every time you go out when you would rather not, this is one of those things you can do to take control and find some satisfaction and happiness in your kitchen.
Keeping your pantry stocked enables you to run a more efficient and organized kitchen. It makes your meal planning and grocery shopping easier and quicker, and by keeping everything organized and knowing what you have means less time and money is wasted. It's so important, in fact, that I offer pantry audits as one of my services, because it's one of those places in our homes that seems to encourage chaos. I encourage you to do your own pantry audit before you run out to shop for your staples- you may find things in there you forgot you had!
We'll go over fridge and freezer stocking another time, and at the end of it all we'll put together a list of a few ideas of meals you can throw together with what you have.
Some standard pantry staples:
My stocked pantry includes items most people would probably not consider as basics, but we don't let ourselves run out. These items include all of these above plus:
There are overlaps, of course, between fridge and pantry. If we open the salsa, for example, it lives in the fridge. And we keep our ketchup in the fridge too, though I hear it's shelf-stable and refrigeration isn't required.
Here's a recipe using basic pantry ingredients to create baked beans in the slow cooker- a perfect recipe for the weather we are enjoying today in Fort Saskatchewan!
Have a comment? Want to tell me what I missed (or added) that makes my stocked pantry different than yours? Feel free to leave a note for us here or hop over to my Facebook page and start the conversation there.
Have a great week, friends!
Why use Herbs and Spices?
Strictly from a food lover’s perspective, herbs and spices add life and flavour to food. You can cook a chicken breast using the same oil and the same method, but changing up the herbs and spices used creates a different meal each time. It’s a way to travel the world without even leaving your home! It keeps food exciting and new which helps us to feel satisfied.
Creating your spice blends in your own kitchen allows you to control the ingredients, right down to the last grain of salt. As you adjust the blends you’ll find different combinations that become your signature flavour. In this way you can start your family recipe traditions and/or be the best cook you know.
From an economic perspective it’s cheaper to make your own spice blends than to buy ready-made ones, from chili or burrito seasoning by Old El Paso™ to a shaker of Old Bay® seafood seasoning. And because you made them yourself you’ll never run out or worry that your child’s favourite meat sauce and pasta will taste “funny” one day when the company you buy from decides to adjust its blends.
There are a plethora of health reasons too. Herbs and spices used to be the only medicines we had to keep fever down or recover from illness. Here’s an interesting article about the health benefits.
It can seem overwhelming to start creating your own blends. But start small, taste as you go along, and experiment. Most spices are fairly inexpensive, and the end result will make you proud. You can do it!
If you want a little bit of help starting with fresh recipes and spice blends, each of my coaching clients receive 14 custom-developed recipes as part of our coaching program- you can take those spice blends as a starting base and reconfigure them to make them your own. I look forward to helping YOU find the magic in your kitchen!
Have a great day, friends.
To know them is to love them.
Not convinced? Let me try.
Aside from the rhyme we learn as children, beans and other legumes are not as well loved in North America as they are in other parts of the world. Legumes make up a large part of diets around the world, from Africa to Israel, and are especially useful in regions where religion or poverty play a role in the kinds of food people eat, such as India.
If you do a quick google search you will find out many reasons why you should or should not eat legumes. I leave the final decision up to you.
In my role as a nutrition coach I stand firmly behind “common sense nutrition”. I think any food in excess is detrimental to your health and well being.
Pulses are part of the legume family. Pulses refer to beans and lentils (the seed part of the plant). Common legumes are alfalfa, soy, and peanuts.
I use both pulses and legumes as a whole often in our cooking. As a family we enjoy meals that are made strictly vegetarian but also enjoy meals where legumes complement traditional meat-based meals. For example, chana masala was my latest test-kitchen dinner for a client, and that’s a vegetarian dinner. My oldest son loved it in spite of it being a new recipe for all of us, and even went for seconds. We also eat chili a couple of times a month that incorporates both beans and meat.
Lentils can be pureed and added as filler to meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers. They add bulk with nutrition so the meat goes further, and they also give an extra boost of fibre and iron. Beans can be added to salads and soups. Roasted beans are a fantastic snack to keep with you to enjoy when you’re on the run and you know you’ll be hungry. They’re packable, require no special care, and a small amount is very satisfying. My roasted bean recipe will be posted on my Facebook page this week on #foodiefriday. Come check it out!
It's almost summer. Eating meals based on legumes and pulses makes sense in the summer because they can require no real effort beyond opening a can, rinsing them, and eating them cold. When cooking a hot meal with them they really only need to be cooked long enough to heat all the way through- much less cooking time than meat.
*Important Note: Beans and legumes usually require soaking, draining, and boiling. Always follow the package instructions or they can be toxic.
One of my final reasons to eat and enjoy this variety in our diet is a financial one. You get amazing nutrition from pulses and legumes at a fraction of the cost of meat. As someone who is the grocery shopper and meal planner for the family, I know I can attest to the cost of meat on the rise. It makes sense to branch out to seek our nutrition from a variety of sources if nothing else then to stretch the grocery budget further.
Fortunately for us, it’s not a hardship to enjoy this branch of the meat and alternates food group. Do you eat legumes and pulses on a regular basis? If not, I encourage you to schedule a few meals this summer that incorporate beans or other pulses into your regular meal.
Stuck for ideas? I’m only a message away.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I tried both avocado and kiwi; the former because I didn't know avocado was a food (more on that to follow), the latter because the fuzzy brown skin, bright green fruit, and tiny little seeds were a little too odd for me to move past.
In both cases, my mom was the cause behind both the food avoidance and acceptance.
As parents and caregivers, we model so much more than how to balance a bank account, fold bath towels, or make beds. The way we approach food becomes deeply ingrained in our children as well. The more we model an open acceptance to try new things, including food, the more our children will move into their own adulthood with a spirit of adventure.
When I was a child, my mom had the most amazing green thumb. She had houseplants flourishing in every corner and on every table. She was particularly fond of avocado plants and always had them rooting and growing in glasses of water on the kitchen counter.
I didn't know avocados were food! My mom would buy one, toss the meat, and root a plant. It wasn't until I was 21 years old and out for dinner with a friend that I found out what that green stuff was when I ordered a taco salad and he told me to eat it.
My mom enjoys eating avocados now! But it took a few years for her to develop a taste for them.
When I was not quite as old, around 18, she forced me to eat a kiwi. She described the taste as a cross between a strawberry and something else, which was a good enough description at the time. She told me I was old enough to try it and made me eat some with my eyes closed so the appearance of it wouldn't put me off. Of course she was right. They are delicious. But I wouldn't have tried it if she hadn't made it happen.
We're the great influencers of the people around us. Food is a journey for all of us and we don't all have to like the same things. But I want to encourage you to try new foods and expose your family to new foods, spices, flavours, and presentations. The more variety in our diet, the healthier we will be. No one food group can satisfy our body's nutritional needs any more than a single bar of soap can support a lifetime of personal hygiene.
It might help to have a routine in place to bring new foods into the house. Perhaps a "new month, new food" tradition- the first day of each month a new food comes home to be tasted. To help foster ownership, try having everyone in the household take turns picking the new food to try. Perhaps a recipe search or a call for suggestions on Facebook will help. Whatever you choose to do, it's never too late to adopt a more adventurous palate. Your health, and the health of the people around you, can only benefit.
Enjoy your day, friends.
Wednesday is International Women's Day, and our local Staples store is showcasing some female entrepreneurs- come on out and visit me! I was lucky enough to get a table, and I'll be there between 10 and 2. In the spirit of meal planning and home cooking, I've got a draw set up to win those goodies and that gorgeous pot. If you can't come to my table, I'll be drawing my online guests a gift card for Walmart- so you can update your kitchen too :) Follow me on Twitter to attend virtually, ask questions, and enter the draw. I haven't done a twitter party before, but I'm excited to try! I'll be using #themealsmavenstaplesparty.
Elsewhere in the news this week, food prices are increasing...which isn't surprising to me, and has long been a driving force in why I so strongly encourage meal planning. Registered Dietitian Heidi Bates was on global news this morning, discussing some ways to eat well and save money on groceries. Here's the video.
As #themealsmaven, I'm excited to finally articulate my business as what it has always been, and expand what I love to do to include more of it. Client-centered nutritional coaching services with an emphasis on personalized meal planning and custom recipe development. I love watching people light up and reach their goals regarding food and nutrition, and offering a coaching dimension gives my clients the opportunity to really make long lasting and positive changes to their relationship with food. It's complicated, and different for everyone. That's why I am so excited to work one on one with each of my clients. We all eat, but it's a different path for everyone.
If you're ready to partner with food and change your relationship with nutrition but aren't sure where to start, it's time to ask for help.
Email me today to set up a free confidence call. Let's talk.
Some of you may have heard me recount the story of a time I ran into a friend when I went grocery shopping. She asked me how I was, and having just finished loading groceries into the car I replied, "I think I'm getting priced out of grocery shopping".
Does this feel true for you? Have you ever had this feeling? This is the number one reason I started meal planning, and one of the big reasons I decided to turn my passion into a business. I understand what it's like to deal with this month after month.
Below are a few ways you can save, and in the near future I'm releasing Fabulous and Frugal in the Kitchen, an online course to help give you even more suggestions to make a concrete dent in your grocery budget. To be notified when my course is live, fill out this form. You'll hear about it before everyone else and be given the opportunity to take it at a subscribers rate!
5 Ways to Save:
Have you checked out my Facebook page yet? Come on over to see what interesting conversations and posts we get into each week, and give me your virtual "thumbs up"! I'd love to reach 500 likes this year!
I recently asked this question on The Meals Maven Facebook Page:
"If you could improve just 1 thing about cooking at home and eating in, what would it be?"
There were quite a few different answers, some of them expected, a couple of them not. I picked these ones to talk about today, and the rest will be addressed over the next few blog posts.
"Having all of the ingredients on hand when I decide to make something and not having to run to the store for 1 or 2 things every time I cook." - Laurie H
"Staying organized and planning more." - Robin M
I think these questions go hand in hand with each other. And I have to be honest with you, no matter how much practice I have had meal planning and eating in, sometimes things still fall through the cracks. For example, not too long ago, I was making chili for dinner. I was far enough along in cooking that the spices, onions, garlic, and meat were on the stove, in the pot, and starting to brown. And then I noticed I was out of beans. Yes, it's true. I had to run to the store to buy beans in the middle of making dinner.
Here are a few suggestions to help improve your cooking at home experience! Make your habits work for you!
Are you inspired? I hope this helps ignite a few more ideas on making eating in a lot less stressful and easier to manage.
As always, if you want someone to plan for you, I'm your girl. Shoot me a note and I'll pass you a no-obligations survey. The best parts about my plans? They're based on flavours and foods you like, and you get your grocery list included. Yay!
Have a great weekend, friends!
Well, maybe not exactly how busy- but I have an idea, because I'm busy too. We live in a hectic, fast paced world, all of us running to the next appointment, stacking our errands together or fitting them in when we can.
What would the freedom of knowing what's for dinner feel like?
Let me give that gift to you. Over the next 24 hours, everyone who "likes" and "shares" this post on Facebook will be entered into a draw to win a complete 6 dinner meal plan- grocery list and recipes included. Comment with hashtag #6dinnersonabudget so I can track you down when I draw your name. Let's sweeten the pot- if my Facebook Page likes reach 500, I'll throw in 2 additional dinners- 2x15-minute meals- recipe and grocery list. That's 8 in total!
Are you ready? Here's an easy way to take my service for a test drive!