For many years, my fridge freezer was all I had. It was a typical top freezer and it was a struggle for me to know what was in there because I was too short to get into the back of it.
This fridge was a huge improvement for us- I wanted the pull out drawers and I love them still. We bought a small upright deep freezer for the basement just a couple of years ago, and the majority of my uncooked meats, ready-to-eat meals that I've cooked ahead (chili, meat sauce, shepherds pie, etc), extra vegetables, dinner rolls, containers of soup, and bones that I'm keeping for stock live in it. I routinely bring up food from that one as I meal plan each week so that I don't have to run down to the basement to grab the food I need each day.
Right now my freezer isn't as organized as usual because I'm in the middle of using up what we have so we can restock for the fall, but in this small snapshot you can see leftover rice, leftover navy beans, a bag of perogies, bagged vegetables and fruit, whole tomatoes, sliced ham, cooked chicken and meatloaf, a ginger nub, vegetable scraps, a couple of baggies of soup stock, and several freezer packs of various sizes. The kids lunches also live in here- in the top right compartment (where my vegetable scraps are right now) is everything I have made for lunches- meatballs, burgers, cheese strings, and muffins. When I get organized I also like to roll and freeze wraps so they can just grab and go.
I consider my freezers reasonably well stocked. But why? What makes it stocked? Why does it matter?
Here is the best article I've ever read with tips and suggestions on correctly stocking and organizing your freezer. I've done most of these things, myself, and if you want to start getting the most out of your freezer space I recommend you start with this resource.
You can always call for a companion to help you out if you're ready to do a fridge, freezer, or pantry audit. The big jobs are easier with a helping hand, and I'm just a message away.
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Have a great day, friends!
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!
It's almost halfway through December, and that means we're almost done 2017. Although there's nothing overly magical about the turning of the page to a new year, we seem universally to want to "start over" with each new year.
So what's holding you back?
Take a few minutes to think about what you want in the new year, and what you can do to make it happen. As nice as it would be to think that the changes we want will magically appear under the tree on Christmas morning, realistically speaking the changes we need to make are made up of the steps we need to take ourselves.
For example, I would love to wake up on Boxing Day and find out that our house is magically uncluttered and clean. Will that happen? Not overnight. But if we consistently make the effort together as a family to make that a goal for the new year- and take steps to ensure it happens- at some point it will happen. Slow and tedious, yes. Worth it in the end? Oh, yes.
Here are some suggestions to help you get a handle on your kitchens going into the new year. Tedious? Maybe. But if you really want to make the changes, you will make the effort.
1. Issue: Don't know what food you have?
I hope some of these suggestions help fuel your new year thoughts and plans! Any questions please feel free to reach out!
Have a good day, 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.
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:
Leftovers get a bad reputation. I don't know if it's because so many people just put out the same food as the night before and get bored, or because they get left in the fridge and forgotten about until they go bad, but let me encourage you to reclaim your leftovers. Add a little flair to your leftovers to help your food budget flow a little more smoothly.
This morning I made my first ever food video (I promise, I'll get better!) after trying to decide what to do with our leftover pizza ingredients from dinner last night.
As you can (sort of) see, there's not a lot left. A little pizza sauce, a few slices of meat, a few chopped peppers and onions. And no mozzarella. My usual go-to meal when I only have a little bit of this and that left is soup, so that was an option. I could always cut up another pepper, add a can of tomato sauce with loads of garlic and oregano, and have a reasonable facsimile of pizza in soup form. I also considered loaded pizza baked or roasted potatoes, and a casserole of sorts was taking shape in my mind. In the end, though, I decided to send my oldest to school with a pizza grilled cheese sandwich, which is what you see in my video. I made sure to cool it to send it to school with a freezer pack, so maybe not quite as tasty as hot, but still a delicious lunch. I'll probably eat one for lunch too, actually.
When you've got a pile of leftovers, consider how you can change them up to make something else. Dinner tonight is again leftover-based. A month ago or so I cooked a pork loin, sliced the leftovers, and froze them in meal sized portions- these are my meal starters. To a baggie of pork loin slices I am adding leftover brown rice from dinner a couple of nights ago and creating a yellow pepper, spinach, and yellow curry cream sauce. It's going to be delicious! And quick. I like quick. Quicker than sitting in the drive-through window and ordering dinner, then driving home to eat it. Definitely tastier and better for you, too. I will have dinner on the table tonight in about 15 minutes, because the rice and pork are already cooked.
Varying your foods exposes your family to different flavours in a nutritious way. You've probably heard "Variety is the Spice of Life", and it's true even when related specifically to food. We need a variety of foods in our diets to achieve the most nutrition naturally, and many spices have their own specific health-supporting properties. We definitely need as many supporting players as possible this time of year when flu and cold season starts up in full swing.
If you'd like to experiment with building your own spice blend for Garam Masala (what we in the west mostly call curry), I found this delicious-sounding recipe online this morning during my search for internet treasure. I have created in-house blends for many of my favourite spice mixtures, and sometime in the next while this will be something I experiment with. In the meantime, though, I have a brand new package of store-bought to use up, and we all enjoy eating it.
Happy Friday to you, friends! What's for dinner at your house tonight?
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!
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy oatmeal? I was busy all morning, and didn't feel like making any real effort for my lunch. From the banana, this meal gave me protein and fibre, carbohydrates and fat, vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as a bunch of B Vitamins. The oatmeal gave me additional protein, fibre, carbohydrates, and iron. The toasted nuts and nutmeg were an added abundance of nutrition and flavour. It's easy on the budget, and warm and comforting -baby, it's cold outside! So for me, oatmeal for any meal is a win/win!
It's a long weekend for us here, in Canada- Thanksgiving! The kids get an extra, extra long weekend off- they have no school today through Monday, so while I've welcomed the break from stumbling out of bed to get them off to school, I also have a bunch of things to get done- appointments, grocery shopping, cooking and baking, and so on. They're getting fed but other then that are pretty much on their own- I think they know if they complain about nothing to do they'll be put to work!
Our local grocery store had amazing deals on produce today. I was able to pick up 10 lbs of carrots and potatoes for next to nothing, along with a large bag of naturally imperfect sweet peppers. The rest of today will be spent catching up on laundry, housework, cooking, and baking. I've got a large pot of potatoes already on to steam, followed by a pot of carrots. I have plans to make a potato, carrot, and seafood chowder this afternoon for lunches this weekend, and I'd like to bake a hazelnut eggnog loaf tomorrow. We get spoiled with Thanksgiving dinners at both my mother's homes so I'll save my turkey for another time.
It was -7*C this morning when I woke up today, which is 19.4*F for my American friends. There was frost everywhere and they are saying there is a potential for snow this weekend. It seems like the perfect weather to turn on the stove and make the house fragrant and warm.
What are your plans this weekend? I wish you the best!