Posted in Food

Surviving Clean Eating & Meal Planning

As I prepare to host my first group related to eating healthier and having a meal plan at-the-ready, I recognize some reasons why it’s so hard to tackle the beast of planning, eating well, and exercising.

So often, we feel like it’s all or nothing. But it’s about progress, not perfection. And it doesn’t have so complex, expensive, or unpleasant.

Here are a few tips to remember, especially if you’re easing into meal planning.

Never underestimate the power of frozen foods

From frozen fish fillets to frozen fruits and veggies, you don’t have to feel guilty or unhealthy if you buy frozen ingredients. Frozen foods can make meal prep way simpler. When you need veggies for a casserole, you can just grab the mixed bag from the freezer. If you’re like me and enjoy a piece of fish like tuna or salmon for lunch, you can buy a bag of frozen, wild caught fish for around $10-$12 (which gets 5-8 pieces of fish). I like to just toss it in a pan with salt and pepper, and then eat a salad or frozen veggies with quinoa.

Some of my favorite quick, healthy options are:

Birds Eye Steamfresh Protein Blends

If you’re like me, the idea of just a salad at lunch every day is boring and not filling enough to last until dinner, or even the midday snack. That’s one reason I really like these blends of frozen veggies with proteins like lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas. They’re great for lunch, but also for dinner. Whether you need a quick and healthy side dish, or want to whip up a quick stir fry, you could add a few ingredients like tofu, chicken, soy sauce, and more veggies to make the main dish.

My favorite flavors so far are California Style and Italian Style because of the broccoli and lentils. ūüôā


Frozen foods retain a majority¬†of their nutritional value, too (much more than canned). So you’re not cutting yourself short by using frozen foods. Plus, you don’t have to worry about as quick of an expiration date.

Veggie trays save time and money

I’m a big fan of buying a veggie tray each week. For about $10, I get several of the veggies I’d want for the week, already cut up and easy to access. We rarely waste any of these veggies, but may if we buy everything separate. I buy the varieties that include some or all of these:

  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • carrots
  • celery

They often come with their own dips, but if you want a healthier option that still tastes good, try Hidden Valley’s dressings made with Greek yogurt. We really like the ranch and cucumber dill, but they have other flavors, too. Of course, the ranch isn’t as rich as the regular packets, but it’s only 60 calories per serving (rather than over 100 like most dressings).

Beans are a healthy (and inexpensive) staple

Super healthy, fiber-rich, and often cheap. I tend to stock up on the canned ones at 35 cents (Hy-Vee recent sale), and you can get more bang for your buck buying dried and soaking.

We pop open a can of black beans, or refried black/other beans, every time we make tacos, burrito bowls, or quesadillas. Al and I like Wild Kenyan Hot Sauce on the beans, but you can also add a bit of shredded cheddar or feta.

We also like to¬†make dishes with many bean variations. A family favorite for years is Calico Beans. It’s a mix of any type of beans you want to use (we like black, kidney, lima, navy) enhanced with bacon and ground beef. You can cut the sugar by not using as much brown sugar or using low-sugar/homemade ketchup. Also, most recipes call for a can of pork and beans. Not a fan.

This is a great, hearty meal, and it’s also awesome to make a bunch extra! We freeze at least two extra meals’ worth every time I make it. To keep it a bit healthier, I double the recipe, but use 1 pound of ground beef (90% lean is good) and 1 pound of ground turkey.

It’s fun to eat this in tortillas with a little hot sauce and feta, on its own, with some bread and butter…really anything goes!

Here’s one recipe:

There are many more ways to keep healthy eating and meal prep less stressful, and easier to stick with (without breaking the budget), but for now, this is a good start.

Posted in Food

I Have My Bag! And Some Harper Cuteness

First Biking of 2015After calling US Airways for four straight days and getting a notification that the inclement weather had caused everything to be slower than normal, I finally reached a real person yesterday, Saturday, 5 days after I actually had my trip. I then had to contact American Airlines, and finally found a real person who was not only knowledgeable, but helpful. She discovered that my bag had actually been in Des Moines at the airport since Tuesday…this is actually the day I returned my rental car, so I’d already been there. I just was too early to know my bag was going to get there.

Anyway, I hadn’t built a trip to the DSM airport into Harper and my Saturday plans, but I was more than happy to drive there if the bag was actually going to be there. I was quite skeptical, but thrilled when the same people who couldn’t help me a few days before knew exactly what to do. And I could even see my bag.

This humor and cuteness ensued:

It was a beautiful day in Iowa, and by that I mean that it was 40 degrees and the hearty folks we are no longer needed heavy coats. So we also got to experience this fun and cuteness:

Then today (Sunday), I got another round full of humor and cuteness as Harper rode her bike, played Elsa and Anna with our neighborhood sign (basically, I was Anna and had to say “ok bye”), and then climbed into our new toy box.

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Posted in Food, self acceptance

Cabbage Soup

Unlike chicken soup, which has been said to soothe the soul, cabbage soup tends to have a slightly different effect. Namely on the intestines.

I just finished a tasty bowl of cabbage soup. I know that sounds boring, but I like vegetables. Yes, I used the recipe from the cabbage soup diet, but no, I AM NOT following the cabbage soup diet. I tried that once. I was in college and I was trying to impress a boy with how hot and skinny I was. Of course, I was eating so much cabbage soup (and so little else), that I was practically crapping myself every 5 minutes. Turns out the joke really was on me because he thought I looked better with a little more meat anyway. But I didn’t learn my lesson then.

What the hell does this story have to do with anything?


I spent my teenage years and the early part of my 20s trying to be skinny. The fear of not being thin ate away at me like a parasite (or like too much cabbage soup). I worried about impressing people and being the person everyone wanted to be around. As most young people do, I worried inwardly about things I couldn’t control and things that rarely mattered anyway. I wish I could say “perspective” would be enough to get scared, lonely, pissed off teenagers through those years and into living their own prosperous lives, but you can’t escape being a teenager and perspective only happens when you have enough experience to recognize it.

So as I approach my 30th birthday, I am happy to say I have some perspective. Life’s too short for diets and fads and other people’s way of doing things. People worry about getting older, becoming boring old parents, and not knowing what their legacy will be. Just be yourself: You won’t seem old or boring, and your legacy will pretty much seal itself into awesomeness. OK, I can’t guarantee that you’ll be awesome, but you certainly won’t be if you pretend to be someone else.

On to something much less healthy than cabbage soup…my martini. Cheers!

– Jill