When You Have to Eat at Home

When You Have to Eat at Home

All of a sudden we find ourselves in a strange place as a country.  Life looks differently today than it did just last week.  Social distancing has required many of us to make changes to how we do life.

Suddenly almost everyone is homeschooling, working from home, and just generally stuck at home.  Add to this the underlying need to significantly reduce contact with other people and even grocery shopping becomes a challenge.  About the only option you have is to eat at home.

So what do you do when eating out is no longer an option?

Don’t panic. 

We’re in this together.  This is something new for most of us.  Social media is full of posts and pictures of how people are pulling together, helping each other, and figuring out how to make it work.

Inventory what you have on hand.

What do you have in the refrigerator?  What do you have in the freezer?  What is in your pantry?  Make a list of each of these so you can use things you have and shop smart for things you may need. This will also help you better plan meals for you to eat at home.

Use up fresher ingredients first.

In other words, if you have the choice between frozen green beans or fresh peppers in the fridge, use up the fresh peppers first – maybe as a salad topping or sautéed as a standalone side dish – and save the frozen green beans for later.

Make things ahead of time.

If you’re used to going out for lunch or having your kids buy lunch at school but you now have to eat at home, you can replicate that into your routine. Tonight as you clean-up dinner, pack lunches for tomorrow.  You can even enlist your kids to help with this.  It can be sandwiches or leftovers – whatever you have available.  Prep it tonight by making the sandwich, assembling the salad, or putting the leftovers into meal sized portions, and thenput it in the fridge. Then at lunchtime tomorrow instead of figuring out what to make (and making a mess), you can just grab it out of the fridge, heat it up or put it on a plate, and lunch is ready in less time than if you had actually gone out to pick something up.

Freeze things to save them for later.

Instead of letting the things in your fridge spoil and be tossed out, put them in Ziploc bags and freeze them.  Freezing things will extend their life and you will have more ingredients available when you make a meal to eat at home.Think creatively.  Slice lemons and use them as ice cubes in a glass of water.  Package up leftovers into single meal servings to microwave later.  Distribute shredded cheese into smaller bags.  Fresh mushrooms in the fridge?  Freeze these to use late in a stir-fry or stew.  TIP: Don’t forget to date and label them with the contents.

Order groceries online.

With social distancing, this is an even more attractive option!  With Instacart you can order for pick-up or delivery for a variety of stores (including Aldi and Target).  Shipt lets you place an order and have a personal shopper purchase and deliver your groceries to your door. Walmart pick-up and delivery lets you shop online and choose a convenient time to pick-up your groceries – you don’t need to get out of your car or anything!

Make friends with Plan to Eat.

Literally make friends!  Plan to Eat is a program that lets you see and share recipes with friends you make.  Once you sign-up, find friends (I’m MrsJLUren – you can friend me) and you can see their recipes to get new ideas for what you can make for dinner.  As you search online for new recipes, saving them is as easy as clicking on a browser extension icon.

A bonus…

Learn to make meal prep work for you.

I have one more tool for you. Last Fall I created a course called “Easier Than Takeout” to help people who don’t love cooking make it a simple and natural part of their week.  And right now, when eating out and ordering in is less of an option, it seems rather timely.

Why did I create it?  Well, I have a confession to make. Making dinner not something I enjoy doing.  Regardless, cooking for my family was healthier and cheaper than eating out or ordering in.  It was what was best for my family.  So, making dinner was something I still had to do – like it or not.

Over time I developed a system that not only made meal prep simple, but it saved me time and money, and it even made this dreaded task of making dinner something that might even be considered slightly enjoyable.

I want to help you get meal prep and planning under control, especially now that you have to eat at home.  And as you eat at home more, the bonus is that you will save money, save yourself time, become healthier, free up time for hobbies, spend more time with your kids – the list is endless.

Between now and April 30, 2020 I am offering you this course at a deep discount.  Use discount code “Stuck@Home” and your price will be only $27.  PLUS a portion of the purchase price will be donated to Luke 3:11 Share Center – a food pantry near me that is bravely committed to remaining open and providing food to families who really need it right now.

Click here to get instant access to “Easier Than Takeout”.

Creating a Healthy Food Kitchen

Creating a Healthy Food Kitchen

Do you want a healthy food kitchen?  At the beginning of last year, my husband and I weighed 210 pounds more than we do now.  He is down over 160 lbs. and I am down over 50 lbs.  That excess weight I carried weighed me down in more ways than I knew.  I thought I was fine, however, because of the weight I had very little energy, faced several health issues, and had little emotional capacity to focus on my kids.  One day my husband asked me if we could try something together to lose weight and improve our health.  He had discovered something called Bright Line Eating. After he explained it to me we decided to do it.  It has transformed our family, our health, and our relationship with food.

Because I wanted to support my husband’s desire to lose weight and regain his health, I knew we had to transition to a healthy food kitchen.  So we got to work and made some changes.  While I expected the changes to help my husband succeed, I did not, however, expect these changes to make life in the kitchen so simple and easy.

With a few simple steps, you can create a healthy food kitchen, too.

Purging the Pantry for a Healthy Food Kitchen

It’s Thursday night and you open your pantry or cupboard only to be accosted by food packages falling out because of how full it is, and yet you still find nothing to eat?  Chances are you have an abundance of snacks and ingredients, but nothing outside of the blue and yellow box of pasta that counts as dinner.

Start by taking time to purge all the food from your pantry. Take everything out, give things to neighbors, donate to the food pantry, and toss things.  Then put back anything that makes the cut.  Things like canned veggies, beans, spices, rice, and unopened condiments.

Like us, you may be surprised at how much extra room you now have at your disposal.  You will now be able to see what you have available and use it without feeling like you’re playing Jenga!

Purging Containers 

Or maybe you feel like all you do is act as matchmaker for your containers and lids.  Some are a close fit, some are an obvious mismatch, but occasionally you find the perfect match. Ah!  That’s amore! So the next thing you will do is to pull out all your lids and containers.  Make sure that what you have is in good shape, has a lid, and can neatly nest. After purging, we decided to separate ours into tops and bottoms and put them inside larger

containers so that they would be better contained. (I love  good pun!)  I can tell you this system works very well at keeping the containers from becoming out of control.

Get rid of all the misfits, mismatches, and stray containers you have accumulated.  It’s very freeing.  This purge may result in even more space in your cabinets being free.

A Healthy Food Refrigerator

Just like you did with the pantry, pull everything out of your fridge so you can see what you have.  Remove items that no longer fit your food plan and put back things that do.  If, like us, you need more space just for produce, simply adding some containers for lettuce and other produce will help keep the shelves neat.

You might also label the shelves so that people will know where to find things, and where to return things.  The refrigerator is now a place to keep food until it is used, and no longer serves as cold storage for leftovers turned science experiment.

Purging Appliances and Gadgets for a Healthy Food Kitchen

Now that you have gained all this space on pantry shelves and in cabinets, pull out all your small appliances and gadgets.  Line them up and decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.  As you clear out items for foods you no longer eat, even more space will be freed up.  Our gadget drawer now has distinct categories (like serving utensils and food prep tools) AND it opens and closes with ease.  The drawer no longer jams.

Maximizing Counter Space

Think long and hard about what you want to take up this prime real estate.  For us, it boiled down to things we use everyday. Specifically, our coffee maker, Instant Pot, food scales, and fruit baskets.  We drink more water now so need to corral our water glasses to keep the counters from being cluttered.  Simply adding a basket for these to reside in

solved that problem. By knowing what stays and what doesn’t, your counters are now clear and available for food prep.

Keeping Your Healthy Food Kitchen Clean

Another big change for us is that we now have 3 distinct meal times and no snacks.  With this approach, there is a clear start and end to a meal so we implement cleaning checklists to ensure our kitchen is neat, clean, and ready for the next time we prep food.  With this method, garbage is changed regularly, the dishwasher is run daily, and basic chores like unloading the dishwasher, reloading the dishwasher, and wiping down the surfaces are bite size jobs that we rotate among the family.  When you implement clear times for your kitchen to be open and closed it will help you keep it cleaner, also.

What did I discover?

These simple steps of purging, assessing, and rearranging are really all you need to do to create a healthy food kitchen and work toward your health goals.  When you purge all the places, you see and, therefore, use the things you have.  As cabinets empty, your small kitchen feels bigger.  And with regular clean-up, it stops feeling cluttered and chaotic and starts feeling calm and inviting.

In our home, all of these changes trickle down into simpler meal planning, easier grocery list making, and grocery shopping that feels more like an errand and less like an outing.  Food is fun again.  And the daily routine of checking the menu is easier to do than ever.  Our family reclaimed our kitchen and our health as our healthy food kitchen supported our significant weight loss.  (If you’re interested in knowing more about that, check out my husbands blog at nolongerchunky.com – be sure to check out his unique interview between his “fat self” and his “skinny self”.)

Are you ready to reclaim your kitchen and your health?  Which simple change will you start with?  Let me know in the comments below.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat
5 Things Every Mom Needs

5 Things Every Mom Needs

The laundry is piling up.  You forgot to change the loads and are re-washing it.  Again.  Dinner didn’t get pulled out of the freezer so it isn’t thawing but it doesn’t matter because the dishwasher isn’t running so there aren’t clean dishes anyway!  The finger-painting keeping the kids occupied so nicely while you were talking on the phone was holding their interest because they were creating a mural on your living room wall.  It’s a swirl of chaos.

Suddenly you feel a hug on your legs and hear these words.

“I’m going to be just like you when I grow up, mommy.”

Melt my heart!  You can be in the middle of the worst day ever, and when sweet, innocent eyes look up at you and that little voice says those words time stops and everything melts away.  It makes it all worth it.

In that moment, being a mom is The. Best!

Unfortunately, those moments can be more like cameos than they are leading roles.  But what if I told you that we can lay a foundation that would make the joy of those moments become something that becomes a more regular part of being a mom?

Then, read on…

Thinking about my kids wanting to be just like me when they grew up, made me panic.  What if they did grow up to be just like me?  It struck me that I was creating a childhood for them full of the importance of cleaning and cooking but I wasn’t really building into them relationally.  I want my kids memories of their childhoods filled with doing things together and enjoying each other.  I want my kids rememberng these “mommy moments” and I knew I needed to be creating more of them than I was currently giving.

If you know my story, you know that I was deep in the depths of overwhelm.  Enjoying each other was not something that was happening.  My kiddos had a stressed out, burned out, checked out mama.

As I tried to climbing my way out of overwhelm I was assuming that I was the problem.  ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I asked myself. Often.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that nothing was wrong with me.  The problem wasn’t me or my desire to do all the things of being a mom.  The problem was that I didn’t have the right structure in place tomake doing the things moms need to do run smoothly.  The things that would let me simply be mom.  Wanting to be a mom who rocks at being a mom, I knew I was needing to make some changes.

What do moms need? Here are 5 things:

1. Relationship

Relationship is what being a mom is all about.  This includes relationships like those with our spouse, our friends, and our own moms, but when it comes to our kids, intentionally nurturing a relationship isn’t always on our radar.

When it came to parenting my kids, intentional relationship wasn’t something that I had ever consciously thought about until we adopted our youngest kids.  As we were learning about the steps that we needed to be taking to intentionally develop and nurture attachment, frankly it added to my overwhelm.  But the more I was learning, the more I began realizing that this was actually the heart of being a mom.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

It was all about the relationship.  A lot of effort during the toddler years is what would be providing the framework to better navigate the teen years.  Why? Because of a deep-rooted relationship.

I began applying this to my older kids, and the changes, though slow (have you ever tried to redirect an ocean liner?) are noticeable.  Things like focusing on what they did right rather than what they were doing wrong, learning to say yes more and saying no less, listening to understand and not just for responding, and stopping to look them in the eye when they were talking to me.

When relationship is the goal, it puts everything else into perspective.

2. Operations

When we were moving into our house almost six years ago, our move was “squeezed in” between a lot of life that couldn’t be slowed down or postponed.  The day after our move I had a fundraising gala that I was organizing.  The kids still had six more weeks of school in 2 different buildings with 3 different schedules, so my days were spent driving and in the car rather than unpacking.  

And then we left on a 2-week trip just days after school ended.  It was literally months before I was able to start to settle our family into our home.

Settling in is more than unpacking and hanging pictures.  It’s just as much about learning patterns and rhythms that work in your space and with your people.  Noticing where coats are dumped, where the mail is naturally being set down, and how convenient it is put clean dishes away in a cupboard are all part of settling in.  Settling is is about operations.

When the operations of the home are running smoothly, the things that build relationship (and memories!) begin happening without becoming major productions themselves.  Last minute invite to the beach?  No problem.  The gear is where it needs to be, and the tasks of the day can be quickly assessed.

3. Cleaning

Everyone loves a clean space.  But cleaning that space is not always very fun.

Why?  High expectations and low appreciation.

When I was in High School, I was hired to clean someone’s home. While I was learning a lot, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.  The list of things needing to be done was lengthy (who dusts their baseboards every week?) and after I was done cleaning, I was told everything I did wrong or missed.  Even though I was rewarded with cash, it was still discouraging.

Whether you hire someone to do this, delegate to your kids, or do it yourself, cleaning is simply part of life.  So why is it overwhelming?

Most likely for the same reasons I dreaded my job – high expectations and low appreciation.  (High expectations are not the same as high standards; Expectations are about quantity and standards are about quality.)  Most often it is literally expecting too much.  There are too many steps.  One job could be broken down into 3 jobs.  Then once it’s done, no one notices when it’s done right, just what was missed. And if no one is going to appreciate your effort, why try?  That’s when standards slip and the whole thing falls apart.

After battling with our kids about dinner clean-up, we finally took that one large task that was taking them 90-minutes or more to do, and broke it into 3 smaller tasks, none of which typically should take more than 15 minutes.  It cut the time in half!

And by using a simple checklist [link to checklist] to outline the expectations, when it’s done, we can focus on what is done well and work on improving specific steps.  Our kids begin to take pride in their work.  And the cleaning becomes a natural part of life.

4. Kitchen

Have you ever seen the meme that says something like “If you could choose to never do one of these things again for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” Following it is a list of things like cooking, cleaning, yard work, and other tedious chores.

I always choose cooking.

Similar to cleaning, cooking just has to happen.  Eating is something people like doing.  And while we have choices about ordering in, eating out, or cooking from scratch, whatever we choose has an impact on our time, money, and long-term health.  No pressure, right?

But similar to cleaning, there are too many things wrapped up in cooking.  It should really be called “Kitchen” because it involves planning meals, shopping for meals, managing food inventory, prepping for meals, and then the actual cooking.

It’s a lot to process at 4:00 in the afternoon.  And that’s why I always chose cooking.  It was too overwhelming to wing it.

Breaking this down into the smaller parts and learning to make those part of your family’s rhythms can flip this on its head and make the kitchen run effortlessly.  (I’ll even let you in on my secret weapon: Plan to Eat.)

5. Simplicity

This feels like a no-brainer, right?  But it’s not as simple as it seems (see what I did there?).  When something is simple, it works.  Most of the time something doesn’t work because it’s too complicated.  And, funny enough, most of the time it just requires a simple tweak to make it less complicated.

Simplicity is the key to success. And success is the desired outcome pretty much across the board. So, don’t overcomplicate things.

Want to be a mom who ROCKS?  Join me on this journey.  Start by downloading your 9 Things You Can Do To Raise a Confident Kid.



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