Menu, Meal Plan, Whatever You Want to Call It!

Hi friends and Happy New Year! It’s been a very long while. I’ve been very busy being a mom, wife, full-time employee, and everything in between. Cooking has always been my way of feeling creative and in some ways I feel like it is my love language. Even though things are crazy busy and hectic, cooking helps me feel “normal” – if that even exists in motherhood.

Before I can cook, I have to go *dun dun dun* GROCERY SHOPPING! Those dreaded two words can be so daunting to people, but I’ve actually come to enjoy it. It takes some time each week to come up with a meal plan and shopping list, but it is worth it to have my kitchen stocked with healthy food for the week. I typically do my shopping on Sunday afternoons so that we can start the week off right.

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My method is pretty easy – I write down each meal I want to cook for dinner each night, add the ingredients to the list, and it’s done. My list is categorized by grocery store department to help me navigate quicker. We usually have the same thing for breakfast and typically eat leftovers for lunch, so those things are just added at the end. However, I know some of you like to mix it up, so I included this one on the menu template. To get a better picture of how I map this out download my Weekly Menu Template and Weekly Shopping List Template. You can certainly do this on scratch paper, but sometimes it’s nice to have a pretty layout! As you can see above, I write mine down on whatever I can find and it’s not always pretty.

 

 

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Parmesan Crusted Chicken

There are so many ways you can jazz up a boneless, skinless chicken breast. It can be one of the leanest proteins out there, but it has a tendency to get old fast. This recipe is so easy, but makes it look like you spent hours in the kitchen. So, sike your husband out and make this tonight!

As a side note, this chicken calls for bread crumbs. When I pulled out my jar of store bought bread crumbs that I’ve had for quite awhile, I turned it over to read the ingredients. There was a long list of probably 100 ingredients, so I immediately said “NOPE!” to the bread crumb idea. I pulled out some organic, gluten-free crackers and crunched them up and they worked as a great alternative! Target has a new line of organic products called “Simply Balanced.” The products are affordable and tastey!

Parmesan Crusted Chickenchicken collage

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 egg
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon crushed gluten-free crackers (or whatever alternative you choose)
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a baking pan with coconut oil or line with parchment paper.

2) In a shallow bowl, whisk egg.

3) On a flat plat, mix spices, cheese, and crumbs.

4) Dip the chicken in the egg, then roll your chicken until well coated in the spice mixture, then place chicken on baking pan.

5) Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes.

Baked Creamy Chicken Breasts

Growing up, a staple dinner in our home was boneless, skinless chicken breasts topped with cream of chicken soup. It was easy and convenient, plus it tasted pretty darn good! Now that eating real food is a staple in my own home, I have come to realize how bad the “cream of…” soups are for us. You can see from the label that the soup is preserved with monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has been used as a food additive for decades. Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. These reactions include headaches, sweating, facial pressure, numbness and tingling, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, and weakness.  The other ingredients aren’t anything to be happy about either, but MSG is my main concern.

I wanted to recreate an old-time favorite, but with REAL ingredients. I did just that in my Baked Creamy Chicken Breasts. It is easy and so delicious!

Baked Creamy Chicken Breastschicken

4 Chicken Breasts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup Full-Fat canned Coconut Milk
1/3 cup Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & Pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and place in glass baking dish.

Heat olive oil in medium saute pan and add onions. Saute until onions are translucent.

Whisk in chicken broth, coconut milk, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and paprika (add black pepper if you desire). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and reduce slightly.

Pour mixture over chicken and bake for 40 minutes.

Tight Budget? No problem!

If you’re like me, you’re working with a budget every time you step into the supermarket. Cooking at home can be healthier and save money, but sometimes it seems like buying all of those ingredients to make delicious healthy meals isn’t too economical.vegetables

“Putting good food on your family’s table on a $5-or-$6-dollar-a-day budget is tough, but it’s possible,” said co-author Dawn Undurraga, Environmental Working Group (EWG) nutritionist and registered dietitian. EWG researchers assessed nearly 1,200 foods, comparing national average food prices and 19 different nutrients in order to identify the most nutritious foods that are easy on the wallet and the planet. They factored in pesticide residue rankings and environmental impacts to help consumers lower their exposures to toxic chemicals and reduce their carbon footprints.

I combined their findings with some of my own tips:

  • Raw cabbage is a top-ranked vegetable based on nutrition and price. At less than a 10 cents a serving, it’s cheaper (and less calories) than potatoes and can be served as a salad, stuffed, or used in stir-fries, stews and soups.
  • Carrots, bananas, frozen broccoli, pears and watermelon receive high marks for nutrition and ring up at less than 30 cents a serving.
  • Pears have more fiber, potassium and folate – and fewer pesticide residues – than apples.
  • One of the most nutritious and budget friendly animal proteins is whole chicken. Cook a whole chicken at the beginning of the week and use it in various meals during the week.
  • Fresh isn’t always more expensive. And canned isn’t always cheaper. Fresh carrots are cheaper than frozen. Frozen corn can be cheaper than canned. Think about that when making your shopping list.
  • Love Salmon, but think you can’t afford it? Canned Salmon is always wild caught and is much cheaper than fresh. Canned salmon is great on salads and in wraps.
  • Boil, bake or roast three servings of real potatoes for the same cost as a single serving of hash browns.
  • Queso blanco costs less than processed American cheese…like Velveeta, YUCK! I don’t even consider that cheese.
  • Boil half a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and eat them as a snack or in salads for an extra boost of protein.
  • Use meat as a side dish rather than the main course.
  • Buy in bulk. Costco carries organic chicken, grass-fed beef, goat cheese, almond butter, and many other healthy products at wholesale prices.
  • Shaklee180 smoothies for breakfast. $3 per meal!