Blog Title: Call Me Betty
About: Amanda is a registered dietitian and she helps busy moms reclaim their evenings and sanity through meal planning and meal prep. She believes in from-scratch cooking, but Amanda also believes that by creating a repeatable system for meal planning, moms are able to break the cycle of overwhelm once and for all and finally start fulfilling their dreams. Amanda especially believes that work-at-home moms (like food bloggers) can unlock the potential of their business by figuring out the mundane question “what’s for dinner” once and for all and finally start using that brain power to accomplish their big ideas.
Notes from Episode #086: Meal Planning and Meal Prep for Work at Home Mom Bloggers
Fun fact: Amanda is obsessed with vintage and retro – her dad says that her soul is older than him! She was inspired by this for her blog too.
Some people are meal planners but others find it restrictive. Amanda is focusing her conversation today to people who already are trying meal prep but there’s something more she can impart to them in the process so that days and evenings can be easier.
The SKILL of meal planning is essential for the peaceful evenings we all desire
What can you consolidate in your meal planning process?
Do you use chicken three times in a week? Marinade and cook it all at once!
Onions keep for a week easily in the fridge so you can prep those for all meals at one time to streamline your process and then you can shave time off putting dinner together.
Proteins tend to be the most time consuming part of dinner. So stock your own (i.e. homemade meatballs) and freeze extra so that you can add them to your meals as needed later in the weeks, months or whatever your preferences are.
Homemade sauces can be frozen easily – marinara can be put in the freezer, teriyaki freezes well. Dairy sauces don’t defrost quite as well but most others do.
Amanda does weekly meal planning vs monthly because life is unpredictable. It gives you time within your week to prepare for the unexpected but still be ahead of the game. Sundays is when she does her food prep. Amanda spends 1-2 hours on Sunday getting her week figured out, her meal planning prepared around that. The food prep itself she does Sunday or Monday so the foods themselves are also prepared. She probably works on prepping food 1-2 hours on average. .
If you are making dinner on Monday night and it’s been a busy weekend and you didn’t get food prepped like you wanted, then you can look at your menu (because you already planned it out), and know that you’re already chopping onions or veggies for this meal so chop extra for the rest of the meals in that week. You still save time.
Knowing that work is done and the brain space you give back to yourself is so important.
Meal planning goes hand in hand with life planning. If your life isn’t planned, you can’t meal plan well. You can’t get ahead if you don’t have a plan!
It’s not a lack of cooking skills, it’s a lack of organization.
You might not want to plan your meals based on what sounds good because then you have more to prepare for and individually make each meal.
Consolidating is huge. Look at recipes that share ingredients so you are overlapping foods that need prepping. Cook a bunch of chicken, shredded or diced in multiple meals or cook ground beef and then build meals around it.
Most of Amanda’s meal prep is done on the stove and in her slow cooker. (She doesn’t have an IP!) She uses a George Foreman grill especially in the winter and she loves chicken on it.
Meal planning is better than outsourcing it.
Even as apps get better and better, every time you select a bunch of recipes on a meal prep app, by the time you rearrange all the foods you don’t like, you have wasted time and could’ve done it yourself with the recipes you know.
Another issue with apps is that by the time you get used to it, you change what you’re interested in eating and you have to start over.
Start with what you know. What are you eating every night right now? Get comfortable with the principles of meal prep and see what you can do with foods you like. Then introduce new recipes into the mix.
Mistakes to avoid:
It’s not an all or nothing mentality. If you have a crazy day, you’re exhausted and you didn’t get a meal put on the table that was on the menu, it’s ok. You still don’t have to throw in the towel and order in takeout!
You can still pull together pancakes, a quick spaghetti meal or whatever and stick to the plan.
Create a dinner time emergency plan and tape it to your refrigerator. You can have a meal plan, but life happens! Keep a list of recipes you can make with your eyes closed so if the original dinner recipe doesn’t work out, you can still make dinner happen. It’s still your plan A, it’s just the contingency plan.
Don’t start from scratch with a full new menu/recipe. Help yourself get ahead one night a week!
If everything you create a meal with isn’t all fresh and cooked in the moment, don’t feel bad. Buy some pre-cooked foods at the grocery store to get by. It’s still better than Taco Bell drive through!
Plan your meal plan around your life and not the opposite. It’s ok to put grilled cheese on the menu. Add some fresh veggies and a glass of milk with it.
Be realistic with where you are in life! It doesn’t need to be perfect. The expectation for yourself needs to allow you to be at peace with where you are in life. Don’t feel guilty.
Amanda found she could put her kids to bed at 7p and then the house was somewhat clean because she didn’t destroy the kitchen and she felt more peaceful.
Amanda also was able to be more consistent with her business work and she felt more productive on her blog too.
Stay at home working moms do have the ability to break up the day differently than someone who doesn’t work at home. Simply shift the time of day that you prep to help you feel organized.
Maybe prepare dinner at 11a so that the kids are happily playing vs cranky hour of 4-5p.
Chop up fresh veggies, put meat in the slow cooker or trimmed and ready to go. Measure spices out so it’s ready and then grab everything when its dinnertime.
Freezer meals is another type of meal prep. Amanda does this often.
Simplify your meals so it’s not so much work too.
Amanda has a rule for herself. She never makes a single batch of anything unless it can’t freeze or stay safe in the fridge.
You can freeze components of meals so later you can add them to the remainder of the meal.
You can use reusable bowls with lids, ziploc bags or mason jars to store items. Anything can work!
This meal prep has ensured she has time for her kids and work and be present in the things she has to do each day.
Amanda wants her kids to be welcome in the kitchen. She starts meal prepping with the kids’ help. They’ll help gather the ingredients and age appropriate tasks are fun for them to learn.
Some people think of meal prep as a diet. You can eat healthier by meal prepping but this isn’t the whole idea around meal prep as Amanda is sharing. This is also helpful in keeping her sanity because she’s getting more of her time back. The diet industry just figured this out first!
Meal prep can help you lose weight because you’re intentional about your eating and not stress eating snickers because you don’t know what to do.
Meal prep can help you spend smarter and spend less on your food budget because you’re not buying all the snacks and random foods that aren’t on the menu.
Amanda laminated her wall calendar and wrote her meals on it because she’s a visual person.
Amanda also finds the Evernote app useful to help her plan. Amanda doesn’t want to preach her way to anyone because there’s so many tools out there and people all have their own ways to do things, so the important thing is just start out trying one thing!
Give yourself grace but don’t forget to work for a better future!
Pick one thing and implement it to get on track!
Favorite quote: “A dream without a plan is just a wish”.
Helpful references from the episode:
Free Meal Planning Mini Course: https://www.callmebetty.com/subscribe/
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Podcast Episode on cooking with kids: https://www.callmebetty.com/9-cooking-with-kids-in-the-kitchen/,
Podcast Episode on planning a meal prep party https://www.callmebetty.com/meal-prep-party/
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for” -Unknown