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budgeting, lunch, snacks

Planning ahead: In life and meals

I often say that a person’s best quality usually has a reverse, which is their worst quality. I feel this way about my own ability to plan ahead.

On the one hand, planning ahead has helped me accomplish a lot. I finished college, grad school, more grad school, got a rewarding job, an apartment in a city I love. For an achievement-junkie like myself, these things were very important to me.

However, my inclination towards planning and manifesting can also get me into trouble. I have a hard time going with flow when I have a clear vision of what I want. My therapist calls this “set shifting” or cognitive flexibility. I spend so much time thinking about the future and how to get there, I undervalue the present.

Finding a balance between serenity and ambition has been the great struggle of my 20’s.  Yet both have served me well.

I’m giving this preface because today’s post is all about indulging your inner planner.

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For those of you who work a 9 to 5 (or a 6-3, or a 10-7), you know that preparing a healthy lunch on the regular is easier said the done. Most days it’s all you can manage to grab that $5 sandwich or that $10 salad. But this kind of daily spending adds up to almost $50 a week…before coffee.  Not to mention how hard it is to make healthy choices in a food court.

For all these reasons I like to spend the last few hours of my Sundays on meal preparation for the week ahead. So for today’s post I thought I’d break down that process into a few easy steps…

STEP 1: Cook up some whole grains

Healthy grains are a staple of my monday-friday diet. They keep you satisfied, full and help me stave off that 3pm crash. My favourite is to cook a big pot of short-grain brown rice, then add a little salt, pepper and a hefty scoop of tahini.

STEP 2: Ready the snacks

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to snacking, but some of my favourites right now include:

  • hummus and veggies
  • berries
  • raw cashews or almonds
  • steamed eggs
  • dates stuffed with nut butter

STEP 3: Prepare your protein

When I’m planning for lunches, I always try to add some kind of protein to my meal. Typical suspects include: tofu or tempeh, chickpeas or lentils, grilled chicken or eggs.

STEP 4: Chop, chop chop

Obviously with my vegetable-heavy tendencies, this is an essential component of meal for me. Whether it’s chopping zucchini for salads, carrots for snacks or broccoli for dinner, getting this legwork out of the way will save you time and cleanup all week long. You’ll thank yourself.

STEP 5: Pack it up

This is my favourite part! When you’re all done, the last step is to pack everything into jars or tupperwares so that it’s ready and waiting for you to grab whenever you choose.

And finally…

STEP 6: Leave it in the fridge if you want to

If your coworkers are going out for sushi or you’re really craving a burger, go do that instead and save your perfectly packed lunch until the next day. Because planning ahead doesn’t mean forgoing life, as it happens. 

 

breakfast, budgeting, dinner, lunch

Healthy Meal Planning on a Shoestring Budget

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When I was 5, my family moved to a hippy commune.

It wasn’t creepy newspaper headlines kind of place. More of an organic farm mixed with a yoga retreat and an extended episode of Thirtysomething. A lot of pastel was worn. Moral of the story is: the people who lived at this place (many of whom I consider family to this day) were exceptionally healthy and they managed to be this way on very little money. Wholesome meals were prepared from scratch in a shared kitchen space using simple ingredients. No chia seeds or goji berries in sight, but loads of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and farm-raised meat. My parents laugh a little about the move now, seeing it as their “new agey” phase. Still, living with so many inspiring, creative, thrifty, healthy people had a big influence on my life and my approach to well-being.

Which brings me to the topic of this post…healthy meal planning on a budget.

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When I’m strapped for cash one of the first places I cut back is my food expenses.

  1. I start cooking at home 95% of the time.
  2. cut back on fancy health food items that I like to have, but don’t need to have; and
  3. I menu plan. Menu planning makes it so much easier to reduce food waste at home and saves you from surviving off of crappy takeout.

Since I know meal planning isn’t an easy thing for many folks to do, I’ve tried to break it down for you…using a nifty chart.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
BREAKFAST Toast with peanut butter, sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey Oatmeal with apples, sunflower seeds and cinnamon Toast with poached eggs
LUNCH Kale salad with lentils, carrots and celery Bean and grain bowl Sardine salad and crackers
DINNER Fish with brown rice and salad Chicken, potatoes and kale Roast squash stuffed with tofu scramble
SNACKS Homemade granola barsHard boiled eggs Celery and Carrots with hummus and rice crackers Apple and peanut butter

Why did I choose these meals?

Of course it’s all personal preference and feel free to pick and choose the foods you love, but the meals I’ve chosen for this plan are all healthy, easy to prepare and most importantly…cheap! Eggs, grains, beans, peanut butter and root veggies are staples of a penny-pincher’s diet. When it comes to meat and fish, it’s always good to choose cheaper cuts of meat (bone-in, skin on chicken legs for instance) and fish that’s local to your region. This is just an easy way to put it all together!

Shopping List:

  • Eggs
  • Whole Grain or Gluten Free Bread
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Sardines in tomato sauce
  • Rice crackers
  • Tofu or Tempeh
  • Chicken legs or thighs
  • Local white fish (hake is a great choice)
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Onion
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Extras: Tahini, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper

Hope you enjoy! Good luck & keep saving those pennies for the things that really matter….Like data overcharges and a new pair of air force 1s. 😉

lunch

How to Overcome FOMO with Quinoa

I think my entire generation suffers from a malignant case of FOMO. And I’m no exception.

It’s nearly impossible for me to commit to plans. When my friends text me about their breakup I’m back and forth with them for hours, but when they message me on a Friday night my response is usually 10 minute long “…” followed by 2 hours of silence.

So it’s not a suprise that this past weekend it took everything I had to escape Toronto’s busy social calendar (we pack a lot into these two months of sunshine) and head for the country.

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It was worth it.

Despite all that my city has to offer, a lot can be said for a little sometimes.

So often we are overcome by stress and anxiety  simply because we try to do and feel all the things, to be everywhere all at once. Paring down – on your to-do list, your social calendar, even what’s on your plate – can be just what you need to pull yourself back together.

Simple Quinoa Bowl. 

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Ingredients:
(serves 2)

Mixed organic greens
1 cup chickpeas
1 cup cooked red quinoa
1 large chopped raw beet
1/4 cup hummus
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
balsamic and olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

1. Fill 2 bowls with greens followed by 1/2 cup chickpeas and quinoa
2. Top with chopped and a dollop of hummus (store bought or homemade)
3. Drizzle with dressing and a sprinkle of salt
4. Enjoy.

 

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