Meal Planning Takes Time {And Energy}



First off, I owe Emily a much belated THANK YOU!  Over the summer, I won the most amazing blogger prize…Barre 3 videos!  And because I was waist deep in marathon training and enjoying the outdoors, I placed them under my television and proceeded on with my training.  It wasn’t until yesterday morning, when the temperature read 10 degrees and I didn’t have enough time to go to the gym that I finally unwrapped a video.  It is common knowledge that I am a pretty poor home exerciser; however, I have really wanted to try a Barre class but don’t have one near by.  I was recently complaining to my cousin that it’s tough in the midwest where we get the newest exercises classes after the east and west coast (Hello Soul Cycle!  Come visit us here in Illinois!) and even when they do come to Illinois, it’s the city where they congregate and not my lame suburb. It’s with that in mind that I excitedly unwrapped my DVD and blew up my Barre 3 ball yesterday.  The BOY helped me move the coffee table off to the side in our living room (and Cooper watched with wonder from beneath the table) and I tried to discover my inner dancer.




I used 2 water bottles for weights and a stool for a chair.  The BOY sat in the living room occasionally peaking up over his computer to check it out.  My abs were already sore to begin from Saturday morning’s yoga class, and they were definitely back at work throughout the 40 minute video.  The video was broken into 4 10 minute segments focused on different areas of the body.  The exercises moved quickly and I was having a lot of fun…even in my living room.




In the end, it was a great home workout and I’m hoping I can get motivated to exercise in my living room again.  I’m sure as the mornings get even colder and darker, I will be happy to do strength work inside.  And…because I just discovered a Dailey Method near my new job, maybe I will make it to a Barre class one day soon!


After my workout, I drove into the city to meet a friend for lunch.  Despite the snow, the city was packed with people shopping, dining, and I even saw someone riding their bike.  As we sat down for lunch with tea, a group of carolers dressed in authentic attire arrived to sing songs of the season.  It was so fun!  After lunch, I drove a few miles south to  the Lakeview area.  The snow was still pouring, but I easily found a place to park and ditch my car.  I had plans to meet up with another friend and we had an incredible evening over a few glasses of wine.


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Despite the cold, I walked all over the neighborhood.  The snow made the city beautiful and it was such a fantastic (and random) evening.  It definitely scratched my itch of wanting to move into the city!  This morning, the snow was slushy and not nearly as pretty.  Yet, my Mom and I braved the elements to walk to a Mindful Yoga class.




The class was peaceful and energizing…an ideal combination for Monday morning.  There were only 3 us, so the class felt very personal and everyone at the studio was very friendly.  Our next stop was to walk our Zen selves down to Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.  We had to chuckle as we walked past my brother’s condo, wondering what he would think if he walked out his door as we strolled by.  We spent the night at a friends house and went back there to shower before driving down to the loop for a lunch and learn.  This is the real reason we were downtown, and I just tacked on a whole bunch of fun plans to maximize my time in the city.




The Lunch and Learn was focused on women’s healthy, specifically heart disease and the Red Dress Campaign.  It was an intriguing presentation and really opened my eyes to some new health risks while reinforcing my desire to follow a healthy and active lifestyle.  By the time I battled my way out of the city (does rush hour really start at 3pm?), I was not surprisingly exhausted.  The last thing I wanted to do was meal plan and grocery shop.  I wasn’t able to lure the BOY out of the house to join me at the grocery store, so I went straight there before home.  I came up with a tentative plan in my head and tried to remember everything I needed (which I didn’t).


I left the grocery store with an overwhelming feeling of how difficult and time consuming it can be to prepare healthy meals during the work week.  How does one make it all work?  I learned from the luncheon how important LDL’s are in heart disease, and cholesterol is closely related to what we eat.  So I want to have healthy and homemade options for lunch throughout the week and the same goes for dinner.  But when I work a long day, it’s not always feasible to start cooking dinner at 8pm, which means that some preparation is necessary.  I believe that frozen dinners have their place too, but am also well aware how the American diet is too high in sodium which is another risk factor for heart disease.  Hmmm….where does that leave us?  For me, the only answer is to just do the best that I can.  And that is what I reminded myself as I walked in the door tonight at 5pm.


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I knew once I sat down, I wouldn’t get up, so I went straight to the kitchen.  I pulled some cans out of the pantry and combined that with some of groceries to pull together a hearty chili in the crockpot.  Cooper tried to help.  He was not helpful!  I did forget a few ingredients, but just…did the best I could.  Once chili was in the crockpot, it was time to get started on dinner.  When I’m short on time and patience, I stick with something simple.  For tonight, that meant salmon with roasted root vegetables (including the purple sweet potato I discovered at Mariano’s).  I cooked 2 servings of fish and veggies to have enough for tomorrow’s lunch.




What I realized from tonight’s situation is that meal planning is hard and sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and say forget about it.  But ultimately, I know that I feel better when I’m planning meals ahead of time because they are balanced and energizing, I spend less money eating out, and I do enjoy trying new recipes and sharing them with you.  I also discovered that a quick grocery store trip for some basics (I was in and out in 20 minutes), can be enough to prepare me for the week ahead.  It’s good to stock up on pre made options and chopped veggies, and it’s best to have a few GO TO recipes that you know from memory.  When in doubt, 2 Ingredient Crockpot Chicken never disappoints and you can make it with salsa or BBQ sauce




It’s good for me to remember that the outcome is always worth the effort.  Some weeks, I will have more or less time than others to prepare for the week ahead and that is just okay!  But for now, I am already all set with 3 hearty meals for tomorrow and can happily sink into my couch, curled up with Cooper, and a warm cup of tea to watch the Bear’s game.


I’m interested to hear…is it just me? 

Or do you get tired of the extra effort it takes to prepare meals (and workouts) for the week ahead?  What strategies do you use?



Meal Planning 12/09/13

Monday: Salmon with Roasted Root Veggies


Tuesday: Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili

Wednesday: Chicken Sausages (with steamable frozen veggies)


Thursday: Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps


Friday: We’ll just have to wait and see!


Breakfast: Banana Chia Bowl

Lunch: Leftovers

30 thoughts on “Meal Planning Takes Time {And Energy}

  1. Jen-
    I cook almost every night for Marc and myself. I keep most meals super simple and save more elaborate meals for my days off. We have a rice cooker so I just prep rice most mornings and I can set it to be finished when I know we’ll be ready to eat. I’ll either make chicken, fish, tacos or fajitas and roast or steam some broccoli. Dinner normally takes me 20 minutes or so. I keep chicken and fish in the freezer and take somthing out that morning to defrost. I have simple dishes that I rotate evey week.
    It’s taken me a while to get to this point of having everything down and I never feel like cooking but it’s definitely worth the the little bit of planning ahead that it takes. I make sure my meals are quick and simple!

    • I have never used a rice cooker but love the sound of that. I’ve heard you can make quinoa and other grains in it too. I think it’s so smart to have individualized meat portions to make a simple meal. I get caught up in the fun of cooking and can definitely take a simpler approach. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!

  2. I was very lazy with my meals the last few months, and have been snacking way too much causing me to gain some weight!! With that said, it’s more motivation for me to put effort into making REAL complete meals and making the time. Those DVD’s sound awesome!

  3. I so wish I had the discipline to work out at home! In terms of meal planning, I try to cook 3 big meals a week, then we have leftovers or quick meals like grilled sandwiches, fritattas, and quesadillas the rest of the week. It’s not foolproof, but so far, so good 🙂

    • It sounds like an awesome plan! I think I do 2 bigger meals and then easy stuff the other days. The hardest thing for us is that our schedules seem to be changing so much. It will be great to get into a new vibe…until the next semester that is : )

  4. Woo- busy but fun weekend! I love the look of that neighbourhood in the daytime photo- such character!
    I went to one barre class and loved it but the studio has since moved to the other side of the city. I’m an at-home workout gal and just can’t drive that far!
    We, too, get sick of always preparing healthy meals during the week. We don’t plan ahead, but sometimes it would be nice to not be healthy and just eat crap or pick up pizza or something!

    • Glad you feel me because I totally agree! After the marathon, we didn’t get to the store and ate chinese, pizza, etc all week. It was fun for week and then I needed some more veggies. The BOY loved it though!

  5. Ughhhh Barre workouts damn near killed me. I couldn’t even get through them because my legs wouldn’t stop shaking. Maybe doing it from the privacy of my home would persuade me to try again. Meal planning is tough. I work from home and I still have a hard time with it. One of things we’ve done to make it easier is buying salmon, ground turkey and chicken breasts in bulk and freezing them in serving sizes for meals. Every couple days we’ll put a couple things in the fridge to thaw out and just kind of wing it by whatever is defrosted. Not the “plan” I like to follow, but it works in a pinch.

    • Love this plan! Sheri suggested it too and I have started buying chicken in bulk but should totally do salmon. I think we are better about this in the summer when the BOY can grill. I don’t see why we can’t do it now. Working from home is not really being home although it would make crockpot timing easier for me!

  6. I get SO tired from it!!! I try to just knock it all out on Sunday right after I get done grocery shopping though. I prepare chicken, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and beets 🙂

    • I need to get into beets!
      I agree it is easiest to do on the weekends (or in my case Mondays). Perhaps I should be prepping more pieces to pull together later in the week. Thanks for stopping by Whitney!

  7. Some weeks I do really well with meal planning and can sometimes even keep it up for a few weeks at a time. Then, I get burned out, because, well it’s a LOT of work! So then I slack off for a while until it drives me crazy that I don’t know what to make for dinner at 5pm and have to get 3 kids to 3 different activities plus try to fit in a workout myself. Then I return to meal planning! It’s a vicious cycle.

    • So well said and so true! I love that you feel me on this one and it’s GREAT to hear that I am not the only one in this siutation. I’m sure it’s even more difficult with kids!

  8. I always always say I’m going to meal plan, and it never fails; I never do. It’s just one more thing to fit in the schedule. And, come Sunday, bulk cooking is the last thing I want to do. But, we’re pretty lucky… the co-op is six blocks away, so it makes healthy eating + cooking pretty easy. You have a good attitude: Do the best you can! Your neighborhood is beautiful! Enjoying the snow, not so much the sub-zero temps!

    Enjoy the rest of your week!

    • Thanks Erin!
      I am always so jealous when you speak of your co-op. What a great place to pick up fresh produce to make your daily meal plan. I don’t think I could bulk cook without my crockpot. It really is my BFF!

  9. Meal-planning is hard! I cook most nights! I try and have some sort of plan for the week on Sunday and go to the grocery store and get the goods! If I need rice I cook it over the weekend. I make big pots of beans and freeze them….so easy access! (so cheap too) I grill lots of veggies at once. I always make more than I need cause leftovers are the best. Also I try and make big dishes over the weekend to have leftover for lunches during the week! It is a work in progress! You always seem like you are always right on the ball with it!! 🙂

  10. Keep up the good fight on the meal planning. All those healthy meals will pay off in the end for both of you. You will be healthier in the long run. My hubby takes care of all of our meals since he works from home. He tries to come up with healthy options too (although we caved and had chinese last night!). Sounds like you had a great time in the city. Fresh snow is sooo pretty!!

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