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)

 

 

Life in a Time of Unrest

When we last left off, I had every intention of sharing with you my 30-day gym update. I had started the year talking about my intentions; then my meeting with a personal trainer through my work; followed by my first full week at the gym. And then COVID-19 hit America. I started working and going to school from home. I was a month behind on my masters project, due to my mothers illness at the start of the year, and honestly, not having a commute gave me an extra hour each day that made it easier to complete. It was not easier to try to finish without meeting with my advisor, or to not get to graduate (yet!), or to go from working on a bustling college campus to being alone all day with two cats.

I continued a modified workout routine that includes a lot of walking on the trails by my house, wrapped up my last semester of graduate school and was excited to take a rest but then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. If you don’t want to think about politics or the state of the word, I recommend skipping down to the first heading. I hope that my transparency will be a source of comfort, not conflict.

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I have been working in public education for over a decade, not counting my work while in college. And I have been committed to being an educator in public education since high school. My work is intricately tied to eradicating systems of oppression – my focus is on untying the mental knots that keep us thinking through the dominant lens by changing the way we talk. I try really hard to embody compassion, understanding and joy.

Lately, I’ve been outwardly angry. And disappointed in myself for that.

More than anything, I feel blindsided by my white friends, who simply don’t know that their line of thinking is rooted in white supremacy. I don’t feel blindsided by white supremacy, but rather that they don’t know. That’s confusing to me and it is a good reminder that I carry my own ignorances:  I live in education, where every day people see the impact (good and bad) of systems, where we are nationally criticized all the time and respond by saying “we’ll do better,” and where people critically analyze sources before assuming they’re accurate.

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That’s my real world. But it isn’t the majority. Folx don’t know the ways that they fight against or give in to the system, turn their noses up at national criticism, and assume that something with a percentage is a fact. And that’s fine. It’s actually fine. I hope that I can make waves in education so that individuals moving forward will examine and assess things differently, but we’re all allowed to be different, and hold to different ideals. That is actually the beauty of America.

The shame of America is that its system reflects ideals that injure entire populations – ideals that are held and defended by its people. It’s hard to jive with freedom of thought (which is usually totally my jam!) when the ideals include people being murdered or children starving or one group being privileged over another.

And so I’m worn out. I’m worn out from 100 conversations a day in my personal and professional world that require me to think about what will happen if we X instead of Y. What population is impacted by Z and will that impact be negative? I am finding myself spouting off in small moments because my every day is so wrought with a lack of closure. But the truth is: that’s how it’s been since I picked education and my white burnout doesn’t help anything. And, at the end of the day, I picked it and I’m not going to leave it, so I have to take educations lead and say, “I’ll do better.”

I’m unwilling to agree to disagree (why do we love this phrase so much?) because that’s what got us here in the first place and, honestly, it feels really anti-American when you read our founding fathers. Instead, I’ll do better. And part of how I want to do that is by revising my 2020 intentions.

Let’s talk about doing better

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When I first wrote them, I broke my 2020 intentions up into three categories: physical, mental, emotional/spiritual health. Then, from there I did a breakdown of what practical steps I could take towards those things. I’m going to put them here with some notes about the steps I’ve taken or hope to take:

Physical Health
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Eating more plants and lean protein – Yo, I’ve got this really great lunch I’m going to share with you that’s almost 100% plant-based (the dressing isn’t…and no, it’s not a salad). I’m also opting for vegetarian whenever possible. Meat is nauseating to me lately. 
Walking for entire lunch break – Pretty much every day, unless it rains. If it’s raining during lunchtime, then I walk in the evening.
Gym three times a week – In Michigan, gyms have been closed since March (or April?). I think maybe I’ll do like an exercise week in the life kind of thing to share what I’ve been doing to stay sane while working from home.
Track progress here – totally haven’t been doing that, but get ready, folx! It’s coming!

Mental Health
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Keeping school organized – keeping school organized by being DONE!! I have some steps I’d like to take in my professional career that I’m not sure I’ll share here, but I think I could share how I organize and stay on top of them… We’ll see. This is a tricky spot. What would you like to see?
Managing Expectations – At the start of the COVID changes, D and I decided to do things 3-5 days at a time. We just couldn’t plan for things because we didn’t know what was going to happen and we were both up to our eyeballs in stress (when you’re the operations person and all of your operations go remote…). That’s been the best move for us. 
More-than-a-month meal plan – This is probably a post all in its own. We’ve had so many changes to food since I started working at home. I’ll do that. I’ll write a post on that.
Weekly routine – We’re starting this! D and I finally started talking through our week. We haven’t really been because what even is a week anymore? But, not having the structure was stressing us both out more than we realized, so we’re moving past three days at a time.

Emotional/Spiritual Health
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Embrace the weekly plan – ready for it!
Use the free counseling at work – Telehealth for the win!
Go to church more than twice a year – Y’all. I’m super on the fence about church. I’ve been a long time non-believer who loves to go to church and the general attitudes of Jesus (per the gospels), but man. The more I see people in abusive relationships defending their abusers and then yelling at me (or friends in general yelling at me) for not being more Christian the more I’m like, “effing patriarchy” because Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Do others have this problem?
Meditate – On it. I’d like to share a little about this too, if folx are interested.
Write for fun, not just for school – That’s actually why I’m back here. I hope it will help and keep me from being so angry.

I also have a little mental list going of some projects I’d like to take on around the house. I have really been thinking about where our money goes and who benefits from it and how to change that, but I think that’s probably going to be a different post since this one was VERY long.

Thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate feedback, thoughts and intentional criticism if you have some.

It’s going to get better. Or at least, we can figure out how to be better. That’s something within our realm of control.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)

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)