Meal Planning for Two

I’ve started posting on Instagram what I eat each day. I’m learning a lot about myself through this process and I intend to write a post about it soon, because I think it will help me a lot in my quest for balance and understanding.

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I’ve spent a lot of time leaning about how people meal plan for their families, written by parents who work (usually their work is blogging) and raise their kids who are heavily involved in their schools and sports, etc. Two people who work full-time and don’t raise children and don’t play sports have a meal plan that looks really different and so I thought it might help people to see what that looks like.

Why meal plan?

Yeah, I get this question a lot. Especially because there’s just two of us.

What was happening is that I was making our plan for the week on Saturday morning before I went grocery shopping. This resulted in us eating the same 4 meals every week, getting bored, eating out and throwing away what was in the fridge. It was like we were wasting double money because of the cost of eating out and the cost of what we were throwing out.

How I got started

So, I sat down one day and made a google doc of all our meals and sorted them in a way that made sense to me. I didn’t get crazy detailed, I just tried to write down as many thing as I know we like, not including things like Hamburger Helper or frozen lasagna (two of D’s favorites – I promise I’ll tell you why I’m just a second). Then, I grabbed a paper calendar and added five meals for each week.

The reason I only did five is because our life is probably differently spontaneous than the people I was learning to meal plan from. So if our friends called us to go swimming 15 minutes before work let out, then we didn’t end up throwing away a day of planned food by the end of the week. Having two days of wiggle room worked really well for us, and in the summer months I usually only plan four days, rather than five, because we tend to wander to friends houses more or eat a salad or sometimes just have ice cream for dinner.

What do you save?

It’s almost 100% about emotional labor for me. By the end of the work day, I’m so riddled with decision fatigue that I’m like, let’s just eat popsicles because they’re what’s in front of my face. So in addition to not planning well, I didn’t have a ton of mental ability to switch it up when it came time to cook. This way, I make a ton of decisions once a month and only ever take things away – if dinner at a friends gets scheduled, then I take a meal away. That’s it. Sometimes I even make my grocery list while I make the meal plan. When I’m super on my game, I buy all the meat and dry goods in bulk at the start of the month and just buy produce as we go because, again, less thinking.

There’s definitely money being saved. Partly because of the bulk shopping but mostly because we were throwing away about $20 in produce and spending an extra (assuming we’d eat out once a week, pre-COVID) $60 a week. That’s a monthly savings of $320, which is an annual savings of $3,840.

Y’all. That’s so much money.

I also think we eat more vegetables this way (not so much fruit, but I’ve always been a pretty good fruit eater). I feel like I’m more willing to spend money on organic, delicious veggies because I spend a bunch at the start of the month on stuff that isn’t that.

So emotional energy, money & health.

I think it’s true that we don’t need to overthink it. My mom has talked a lot with me about enjoying this age without children and embracing not needing to be hyper organized. I’m 100% with her in that. I think doing this helps me stay calmer because I know what’s coming. So that tense need to fix something means I can just fix dinner.

Do you meal plan? What works for you?

A. Rose (1)

 

 

Learning to Can, Part 2

This post is part of a series on teaching myself home canning. I decided to do this series in part because the reflection that’s part of learning is really interesting to me, and because I think it’s amazing the things we can teach ourselves when we’re dedicated to it!

Learning to Can, Part 2

So I shared a little while ago that my interest in home canning was connected to both health and a class.

I got this book and started taking notes. But as I tend to do, I got partway through the reading and just started doing it myself.

If you’re interested in home canning, I highly recommend that you don’t go that route because you can screw things up in a dangerous way. I realized that once I’d already kind of started doing things and had to go back to my original plan.

I picked up what’s called a water bath canner at a hardware store. I recommend getting the kit because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s – legit – everything you need.

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It turns out that home canning is super easy. Basically you fill up a bunch of jars with natural foods that you’ve made, boil them and then wait until you hear them seal. That’s it.

The tricky part is cooking large volumes and knowing the correct duration to process them for (“process” here means heat in the water bath canner). This is why a book is helpful.

I learned how to make Bread and Butter Pickles for my first round of canning!

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Y’all – they were not hard at all. You just chop cucumbers and onions, mix them in a bowl with pickling salt and cover them in ice for a few hours. Then, you mix up some vinegar and spices, bring it to a boil, add the cucumber/onion mix and voila! Pickles!

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I’ll keep you posted on what other kinds of things I test out. This summer I’m hoping to make a red spaghetti sauce, a jam and some apple butter.

D’s brother-in-law has a garden growing, so I want to learn how to preserve things like onions, carrots and green beans.

Seriously though, if you have a little garden, this is totally worth learning. I think I spent about $40 on the canning supplies, and jars are about $9 for 12 jars. But think – that’s 12 jars of homemade, organic goodness. Totally worth it, if you ask me.

What kinds of summer projects did you have? Did any of them turn out to be easier than you thought they’d be? How about harder? What were you most surprised to learn about yourself when you took the project on?

A. Rose (1)

Exercise Confession

I feel uncertain about writing about my body, and certainly have a lot of thoughts about why that is.

I’ve never been skinny.

I’m 5’2″ and tend to fall into the “full figure” category (which is the smaller end of “plus size,” apparently. *shrug*).

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I’m sure some of my reluctance is because figuring out all these terms that exist for women’s bodies is basically a full-time job. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because I actually love my body, my shape, how I move.

When I had my gallbladder out, I had to closely examine my relationship with my body and taking care of it. Not talking about it hasn’t helped me.

When I was younger,  I was a cheerleader, played volleyball, ran all the time. I grew up playing outside and riding bikes. I like to be active; I like to move and go. But I’ve always worked at a desk and prefer to read a book when I’m done with the work day.

That’s really what happens: by the end of my day, I think about going to the gym or going outside for a run, but instead I’m so worn out that I don’t stick with it.

But I know that I’m not a healthy weight. And that is of the utmost importance to me. I could care less what the number is: I care completely about how my heart beats and how easy it is to breathe.

So I’m going back to what I know: yoga and walking/running. I’ve been doing this yoga routine for years, off and on. And I downloaded the Couch to 5K app because I’ve liked the pacing of it in the past.

I don’t have a weight goal. I don’t care what size my skirts are. I only care that I feel like me again. I think I’d like to talk about that regularly here.

Is this a scary conversation for anyone else? What do you do to get over the fear of talking about it?

Nine Months Later

I’ve been reading blogs since 2011, and started thinking about writing one in 2012. But what actually pushed me to commit, was reading Amy’s vulnerable, honest and hopeful post about her journey with Lyme Disease.

Even though she wrote it a few years ago, I only read it about nine months ago, when I learned that I was going to have my gallbladder out.

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This isn’t the same as having a chronic illness. This was a simple surgery with few incisions that lead to some changes in my body that I’m still trying to figure out. But the candor and truth that Amy spoke with made me realize how many people are probably facing a surgery like mine, or a new diet like mine.

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There’s a lot I didn’t understand about how my body works when I decided to have the surgery. Do you know what your gallbladder does? I didn’t get it and then I read this and a lot of things started clicking together for me.

I am still working on shifting my diet to less processed and more whole foods. It’s definitely complicated to find the time and brain space to make new things, and stay focused on how what I eat connects to any digestive distress I have. Some of the complications I’m encountering have to do with having both IBS and TMJ, which both limit what I can and can’t eat.

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Nine months later, I’m still learning, still growing, still working on understanding. My belly is usually still bloated by the end of the day, and I’m trying to get a handle on that first, since it’s the most uncomfortable thing.

And then I realize that that’s the most uncomfortable thing. Nine months ago, sitting was the most uncomfortable thing. Sitting and walking and breathing deeply all hurt. And here I am, uncomfortable with this one thing mainly. That’s amazing!

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There’s not a lot out there about what happens to your body after you have your gallbladder out. Maybe people don’t struggle as long as I do. Or maybe we’re all just uncomfortable posting pictures of our bloaty, scarred up post surgery bellies (y’all – it’s seriously making me super uncomfortable but I’m trying to just be honest about my body and what happened). I think I need to talk about it, so I’m going to keep doing it. I think more of us need to talk about our bodies regularly. Maybe it will help us love them more.

What do you think?

A. Rose (1)

Non-Dairy Smoothie!

I wrote a little about some of my tummy struggles a little while ago, around the time I had my gallbladder removed. Since then, I’ve been on the yogurt struggle bus.

Honestly, I’ve probably been on it forever and I’m just paying more attention now.

My standard breakfast, since I was 22, has been yogurt, fruit and granola.

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Lately, I’m less interested in chewing. haha. Sometimes that happens though, yah know? I don’t really have the time to sit down and eat breakfast, not even while I’m working. So, I’ve been rocking the smoothie! It’s been pretty great, actually. but I found that the dairy in the yogurt was still really bugging me. I found a great non-dairy yogurt and thought I’d share my little, non-specific, super simple recipe with you!

Please forgive my 5:45am lighting in my window-less kitchen. 🙂

Non-Dairy Smoothie

You could totally change up the ingredients in this; and ice would make it more … granulated? icey? smoothie-y?

I start by putting the frozen mixed berries in.

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I use about… that many. It’s two shakes of the bag, usually, depending on how hungry I am. Then I add in a broken up banana and about 1/2 a cup of oatmeal.

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This oatmeal is not cooked – it’s just straight up dried oatmeal. Then I add about 1/4 cup of flax seed.

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over which I pour about a cup of the star of today’s show: Good Karma Dairy-Free Probiotic Drinkable Yogurt (the strawberry kind) and about 1/4 cup of Chocolate Almond Milk. You could probably do not chocolate, buuuuut… I’d rather have the chocolate. #letsbereal

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It looks really gross until you start blending it up:

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I love this color! And the taste is super delicious!

I usually make a little too much, so I store the extra in a mason jar for the next day, that way I don’t have to make breakfast every morning:

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That’s it! Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!

This is, by far, my favorite breakfast. I have a 30 minute commute to work, so being able to drink my breakfast is a great time saver. And since I’ve switched to this non-dairy yogurt, I’ve had absolutely no troubles!

I’m really excited to try other combos as simple as this one. What are your favorite smoothies made out of?

A. Rose (1)

What the heck does low FODMAP even mean?

Note: I have absolutely no medical training of any kind. I don’t even remember whether or not I took a Science class in college. This post contains some educational elements, but please refer to the actual cited sources and your doctor for additional information.

I really like food that’s bad for me. I think a lot of people do. It’s the American Way.

I also really love fruits and veggies and lean proteins and things made of whole grains. Most days I eat plain greek yogurt, fruit and granola for breakfast, a salad for lunch and give myself a lot of wiggle room for dinner, which usually is one thing – an egg, tatertots, peanut butter toast – or I eat with a man who eats like the stereotype of an 1800’s farmer. Neither of those are great choices – one doesn’t have sufficient nutrition and the other has too much nutrition for someone who works at a desk.

I love yoga and running and bike rides through the woods. I shop the smallest size at Torrid (so I fall into the “full figure” category) and have spent a lot of time and effort on ensuring that my heart pumps well, my blood pressure is low, my physical comes back in good shape (except the weight part).

So I occupy this strange space, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. My fridge usually looks something like this:

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There’s a lot of fruits and veggies there, and a ton of stuff that’s made with cheese, because cheese is delicious.

About two months ago, I was at a conference in the amazing city of Philadelphia.

While I was there, my tummy started to hurt very badly. I assumed it was just the combination of traveling and being slightly overworked. I held on to that assumption for two and a half weeks. Everyone kept suggesting that it was morning sickness, so I saw my OB, who thought maybe dehydration, but that I should go see my Primary (also – totes not pregnant). I made it to my PCP a few days after ending up in the ER.

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At the ER they told me I had gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach. They gave me some medicines and I started feeling somewhat better. My PCP ran some more detailed tests and that’s how I found out I have gallstones, which evidently 80% of women get! To treat the gastritis, the doctor recommended a low FODMAP diet.

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Homework Snack Time

So, what does that even mean?

Basically, I have to eat food. Not processed things that are made out of chemicals and sold as food; I need to get as close to the farm as possible. I also have to be really careful about which foods I do eat and keep a food log. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to start reintroducing other foods, to figure out which ones are making me feel so icky.

Why did this happen?

Well, the gastritis is largely due to a combination of stress and bad food choices. The gallstones are a result of a lifetime of bad food choices. So, I’m making some changes and tweaking things and trying again and changing them and keeping on. I also will be having my gallbladder taken out. I’m actually really excited for what I’m learning about my body, and for new ways to handle stress. I am so excited to start feeling better! And, this has been tremendously humbling.

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I like to take on everything all at once and make it look completely effortless while I do it. And, I can’t anymore. For now, I need to listen to my body and rest when it’s time to rest. I have to go slow and cut what I would normally do in a week in half because it’s not going to get done. I came to this blog through that: through knowing that I needed to do a better job of accepting what is; my body is literally rebelling against me not doing that. But that belief is a story for another day.