Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School! Meal Categories and Planning Ahead

This is my 9th year of teaching elementary art and I have to say, I think it's going to be a fabulous year.

I've learned so much about teaching kids, working in the public school system, creating art lessons and running the art room. I use my time well, over-plan lessons so I always have something to fall back on, prep materials ahead of time, and keep the classes running smoothly and all on the same schedule. Like most jobs, there's a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into that final art product that people actually see. (Check out Design*Sponge's new feature on Art Teachers!)

I'm on top of things at school, and it got me thinking about translating that type of hyper organization and time management to my home life (where, let's be honest- I'm not so on top of things all the time). I realized I needed a system at home to help me tackle the big jobs of food planning, shopping and eating so that I could stick with my desire to eat healthy, nutritious, unprocessed foods; and not be at the store or in the kitchen every spare moment. Just like with teaching, most of the work happens on the front end- but it will lead to an enjoyable and positive outcome: more time, great food and a healthy body!

My go-to meal lately of salad with organic strawberries and goat cheese and Against The Grain Baguette sandwich with Applegate Farms ham and salame

Planning Meals Ahead, Our Food System:

1. Eating Habits and Preferences
First, we figured out how we eat during the day and what we want to eat every week, which showed us what we need to plan for. We eat gluten free, mostly low carb and sugar free, and usually organic, all-natural and made from scratch- with exceptions of course. And my typical daily eating habits look like this:
- Eggs for breakfast with tea, maybe a muffin
- Mid-morning snack of fruit or a muffin
- A lunch of left-overs
- Mid-afternoon snack of fruit, nuts and chocolate or a treat I make like Brownie Pie, and tea
- Maybe another little snack if dinner's late- fruit, cheese stick or yogurt
- Home cooked dinner
- Maybe dessert depending on all that I've eaten that day and how late it is. But dessert is still just yogurt, a treat I make, or sometimes I just drink Kombucha.

2. Consolidate and Simplify
Then we thought about making things in bigger batches that will last the whole week.  I'll spend a couple of days baking and cooking a few items- but they'll last for a long time and I won't have to cook everyday.  So Instead of having four different dinner choices, we have two plus a crock pot. Instead of making a green smoothie everyday, we make a big batch once and keep it in a large glass jar. Instead of scrambled eggs every morning, I've been baking a big egg casserole on Sundays; and I narrowed my baked goods to one batch of muffins and one sweet treat a week. Instead of buying plain yogurt and mixing it with fruit and honey every time we want some, I just bought a big container and chose a different flavor every week.  Last week it was peach, this week it's raspberry.

3. Create a Master List
I broke the foods down into categories, chose a menu item, and then created a grocery list from there. I even posted a Master List of our Meal Categories on the fridge so that I when I create a meal plan and grocery list I just have to look up and it's easy to find and already organized. This has worked really well for me so far for a couple of reasons.  It helps me plan healthy snacks that are ready to eat, dinner and lunch items are already decided so I won't have meal plan fatigue, a weekly crock pot makes dinner really easy, and this system helps me to not over-purchase food.

Our Master List of Meal Categories for the Week:
Green Juice
Breakfast Egg Casserole
Breakfast Meat
Batch of Muffins
Sweet Treat
Crock Pot
Other Snacks
Daily Use/Pantry Items
For the Dog

Have you changed any habits recently to help stream line things?  And have a great back to school! 

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