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Meal planning for two full time employees


The Spider

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Hey guys, what do you suggest for lean and clean crock pot and on-the-go meals?  My wife works 12 hour shifts from time to time, and my schedule fluctuates a small bit, which winds up doing a little something like this three or four nights a week:

 

come home exhausted > eat carbs and sugar to sate cravings > go to bed > sleep terribly > wake up groggy > no energy to eat food or prep dinner for the evening > come home exhausted > rinse > repeat > no profit :(

 

The occasional nights where one or the other of us has the energy to make a good balanced dinner are great.  We sleep fine and wake up and stretch and eat breakfast but sadly neither of us are really that experienced in the kitchen or have that many health conscious recipes to use in the crock pot or to just throw together in an hours time.  Any tips, blogs, cookbooks, etc that you suggest?  We're both working on getting overall stronger bodies.  I hope to do a Spartan Race next summer and she's just trying to get rid of a lot of bad habits she got from growing up especially poor + her weight gain from college.

 

Thanks! :)

"Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration, it's a dare.  Impossible is potential, impossible is temporary, impossible is NOTHING." -Muhammad Ali

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Yeah, we have fairly good habits... little to no sweets and such.  It's just we wind up eating boxed mac n cheese or a bowl of cereal before bed.  Oh and also, 90 hour weeks are fascinating and I don't know how I would survive.  What do you do?

"Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration, it's a dare.  Impossible is potential, impossible is temporary, impossible is NOTHING." -Muhammad Ali

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." -Hellen Keller

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I'm far from perfect at this skill, but I've learned quite a bit the past few years, being in charge of the house. Two important things I learned are (1) make a weekly menu, and (2) have contingency meals.

 

The weekly menu takes out the decision-making in preparing the food. It also keeps grocery shopping simple. Once you have the discipline to follow it, it becomes one less thing to think about. We eat mostly the same thing every day in the house. Once or twice a week I cook up a huge batch of rice, stir fry, bake, or grill a bunch of chicken, beef, and pork (or sometimes I just buy a rotisserie chicken from Walmart and chop it up into portions), and steam a bunch of vegetables. I divide them up into containers that I freeze, so anyone can just take a meal from the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and have a meal in like 5 minutes. I also sometimes pre-mix protein shakes an put them in mason jars, just to take out that extra step. It takes like two hours or so.

 

 

If you'd prefer fresher food, you can opt for crock pot dump meals. It's still a good idea to follow a menu.

 

Of course there are weeks when I miss meal prep, but we still have to eat. I have contingency meals for that that have a longer shelf life. I always have like 5 pounds of protein powder available in the house, so even if I just end up eating Oreos I picked up from 7-11 I make sure I drink a protein shake with it, preferably mixed with Greek yogurt. I also have cans of tuna that I can open and eat at any time, along with some frozen microwavable bags of veggies, which I eat with potato chips (Because why not? Just portion it out so you don't eat the entire bag.). Sometimes I end up with a protein shake, a serving of instant mac & cheese, and some vegetables. I've actually meal-prepped mac & cheese, because I am a child.

 

 

Anyway, I guess the main idea is to first take care of getting enough protein, then base your meals off of that. Add veggies, add carbs, don't be hungry. Build good habits.

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Just came across this thread and I just actually made a detailed post on my challenge about how I meal prep. You can check it out here. Hope it helps! :)

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I'm a big fan of freezer cooking. I take a weekend a month (or a vacation day if necessary) and just go ape in my kitchen. I typically do Friday evening planning, Saturday shopping and prep work (pre cooking dried beans, cutting veggies, setting marinades/sauces), Sunday meal assembly, cooking and portioning.

 

Once everything is portioned out and in the freezer (my wife and I did it for a while with just the small freezer above our fridge, then we bought a chest freezer when we realized we'd stick with it), week nights become very simple. Grab your meal out of the refrigerator and heat it up in the microwave to eat. Grab a meal for tomorrow night from the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw.

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On 14/12/2016 at 3:20 PM, Ryuu1011 said:

Just came across this thread and I just actually made a detailed post on my challenge about how I meal prep. You can check it out here. Hope it helps! :)

 

Wow! That's impressive. 

 

How does your food fare when you make a whole weeks worth? I've always gone by the "eat cooked food within 3 days" rule and I'd be really nervous of eating meat that long after it's cooked.  Obviously you've not died of food poisoning, lol! But what about taste and texture?

 

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On 1/16/2017 at 4:30 PM, Guzzi said:

Wow! That's impressive. 

 

How does your food fare when you make a whole weeks worth? I've always gone by the "eat cooked food within 3 days" rule and I'd be really nervous of eating meat that long after it's cooked.  Obviously you've not died of food poisoning, lol! But what about taste and texture?

 

Eh, after its been sitting in tupperware for a few days it looses some of its "freshness", and its nothing to write home about, but its never been inedible. lol  I'll normally try and make sure to eat everything by the end of the work week (~5 days) but I've eaten things I've made probably about 7 days before and been fine. I think we throw away a lot of eatable food just because we don't want to eat it. That said, if it smells off (funky smells) or looks off (has mold/ other things growing on it) I'll throw it away immediately. From my experience when I meal prep its not that the food tastes bad, worse or different by the end of the week just that I'm ready for something new and my taste buds have gotten bored with what is currently on the menu. Its also really important that the food you're meal prepping with is super fresh to give it the longest "shelf life" once you've prepped it.

 

The only really bad experience I've had meal prepping was when I meal prepped some mason jar salads once and I messed up the order and put some bell peppers, and cucumbers at the bottom with the dressing and then used slightly old spinach (had been already in my fridge before I got the rest of the groceries to prep with) and then the bell peppers and cucumbers actually pickled by the end of the week and I ended up throwing away the entire rest of the salad (but I still ate the chicken because protein is expensive! hahaha) 

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I must admit, when I do a batch cook I usually make things that are good to freeze like soups, stews, casseroles, bolognaise or chilli, and shove them in the freezer once I've portioned them out and labelled them (<-never miss this step!!! I once took out a portion of chicken soup that turned out to be stewed bramley apples)

 

I never cook or prepare the food for a whole week to come, I mostly keep the portions in the freezer for whenever I need them, but I make a chart when we do a shop to work out what we are going to eat each day so that nothing goes off. That's a big help, especially since I only shop (online) once every 4 weeks. There can be a lot of food in the fridge on delivery day. :lol:

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I keep my kitchen full of good stuff. No junk food allowed. When I come home, I just throw something together. Take protein source, add lots vegetables, fill the rest with carbs. For example I might find ground meat in my fridge, but I also have some broccoli, zucchini, onions, and carrots. Or whatever else vegetable might be there. I also have a bit of rice... so then I'd heat the pan, form some meatballs, fry them, in the meantime slice the vegetables, and heat water in a second pot, then add the vegatables to the pan, turn down the heat, cover the pan, and boil some rice.
Takes 30 minutes total and has everything you need...

Or if I come home and find some spinach and feta cheese, I'd just heat the spinach and the feta (add last and just warm it a bit... if you overdo it, it melts... and then you have a milky liquid), and then place that on a bed of spaghetti. 15 minutes, of which 2minutes actual work.

Or I'd just make a salad (remember the protein source? Boil some eggs, open a can of tuna and/or a pack of feta...) and have a bit of bread with that.

All these improvised meals taste good, are nutrituos and are done quickly.


 

The other trick is meal prepping. No, I don't go full @Machete and fill lots and lots of plastic containers. During the colder months, I just take the time on weekends to cook a BIG pot of soup or stew. This last easily 4 to 5 days in the fridge before it starts to smell funny. Then, whenever I come late during the week, I just fill a bowl of soup from the big pot and heat it up.... (Don't reheat the whole pot every time. Takes forever, wastes energy, and kills any nutritional value... Just heat up the amount you want to eat that meal.)
Now we are talking about 30 seconds in the microwave or 5 minutes on the stove. Is that fast enough for you? 

When tired or hungry, we tend to make bad choices. And no amount of self discipline will prevent that. (That is, as far as we are talking about me personally. But I have the impression this is an universal human trait.) So the only way to resist the temptation for something unhealthy is not to have anything unhealthy in reach, and to have a quick healthy alternative. Because if you have neither junk nor healthy stuff available, you'd propably just place an order with a pizza delivery service...

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On 1/22/2017 at 10:32 AM, turboseize said:

When tired or hungry, we tend to make bad choices. And no amount of self discipline will prevent that. (That is, as far as we are talking about me personally. But I have the impression this is an universal human trait.) So the only way to resist the temptation for something unhealthy is not to have anything unhealthy in reach, and to have a quick healthy alternative. Because if you have neither junk nor healthy stuff available, you'd propably just place an order with a pizza delivery service...

This right here.

 

The only reason I haven't been getting my proper nutrition is because I haven't had food in my place at all.  I have gotten by on low amounts of food because for a long time as a teenager I would just veg out in front of video games for hours at a time, thus only eating one to two meals a day.  So now I can eat breakfast and have a tiny snack for lunch at work and be fine the rest of the night sometimes.  If I get hungry I reach for the first thing in sight, or I buy a candy bar on my way out of work.  One night this past week my wife had a box from Pizza Hut in front of her because she knew there was nothing to eat.

 

I think along side all of this great stuff you guys have posted so graciously, I'm going to buy a lunch bag and keep stuff like carrots and hummus and rice chips and guac in it.  The snacking won't always sate me as I said before, but I definitely need to reacquaint myself with healthy snack foods.

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"Impossible is not a fact, it's an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration, it's a dare.  Impossible is potential, impossible is temporary, impossible is NOTHING." -Muhammad Ali

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." -Hellen Keller

Ferocity (2),  2 Becoming Capable, Becoming a Ranger

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The best approach for you will somewhat depend on how much repetition you can take, and how much freshness you demand.  Some people can eat the same lunch 5 days a week no problem.  Some people are fine with eating everything overcooked.  Those people are great candidates for batch/freezer prep.  If you're a big fan of just picked salads or you want a different lunch every day, that will take slightly more work. 

 

I suggest you try a couple new recipes each week until you find 8 or 10 you really like.  Then make those over and over.  When you get bored of them a few months from now, start mixing in new ones.  Learning to cook does involve some technique, but the vast majority of it is learning a few dishes you like and can produce consistently, and then learning some more of them.  Eventually you'll memorize some flavor/ingredient combos that work, and you'll be able to cook without directions and make it up as you go.  It just takes practice, like making improv music.

 

 

 

 

 

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In terms of slow cooker (crock pot) meals have you thought about just cooking a joint of meat or a chicken in it? All you kneed then is a few spuds and veg to go with it and you've got a pretty bloody good meal, no fuss.

 

I also like to buy a joint of ham and chuck it in the slow cooker with onions, carrots and lentils. Leave it on all day and by dinner time you have - A. a joint of ham, and B. a pot of lentil soup. Ta-day!

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I like to prep the crockpot the night before so in the morning when I'm in a hurry I can take the crock out of the fridge, pop it in the base and turn it on.

 

Guzzi's chicken in super easy. Make sure potato/ carrot/ veggies are on the bottom so the chicken isn't touching the crock. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and your good to go. The chicken should fall off the bone when done so serving and saving is super easy. You can also throw the carcass back in the crockpot with the leftover juices, fill it up with water and cook it overnight for a big batch of chicken broth.

 

If you cook an entire chicken you can always reuse the leftovers to make different meals. Day 1 roast chicken, day two chicken stir fry, day three chicken w/ noodles, etc

 

An automatic rice cooker with a timer was a lifesaver when I worked full time.

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5 hours ago, Trixie Falsae said:

I like to prep the crockpot the night before so in the morning when I'm in a hurry I can take the crock out of the fridge, pop it in the base and turn it on.

 

Guzzi's chicken in super easy. Make sure potato/ carrot/ veggies are on the bottom so the chicken isn't touching the crock.

 

Or scrunch up some tinfoil (alooominum foil :P) into balls* and sit the chicken on top of them. *They should be about 2" across and you'll need 3, maybe 4 of them. I like to make chicken and rice soup with the juices and the iddy bits of meat off the bones. Quick and easy!

 

Make Life Rue The Day                             Turning back the clock                                                Recipe book  14

 

Life is far too short to take seriously

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Prepped food in the fridge is ok up to 7-10 days - though I don't usually push it past 6, personally.

 

Easy prep recipes: 6 bean chili (make 6 meals worth, 1 dinner + 2 lunch), chicken curry (on rice for high carb days, make 4 servings), spaghetti squash & meat or bean sauce of your choice (nice pasta alternative, make 4 servings), baked egg & sausage cupcakes (as many as you'd like).

 

A salmon or trout fillet only takes about 15-30min in the oven (425F), add some 1" cubed squash in with the fish and frozen veg make for a fast 'n easy meal.

 

Tinned tuna & salad is an easy last minute one.

 

And my personal stand-by; cottage cheese with a microwaved potato and some reheated frozen green beans or greek yogurt with froze blueberries for a snack.

 

So many choices! ;)

 

 

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