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Exactly How the Tone It Up Bikini Series Helped Me Lose 9 lbs (So Far!)

I showed you my transformation pictures in my last post (*shields eyes with hand*).

Complete TIU Bikini Series

And I’ve told you before how I will have a really hard time losing weight, despite working out 6 days a week religiously and eating *pretty* healthy.

Seriously, my weight after baby #2 has crept up past my highest weight ever, despite doing everything I know to do. I’m working out way harder than I did when I was at my heaviest (I was sedentary), more than anyone I know, and eating waaaaay more healthy than I did then (all-you-can-eat a lot).

It’s infuriating to say the least!

I’m still higher than my previous highest weight when I was sedentary, but it’s finally budging. Especially with the Bikini Series.

So, how was it that the Tone It Up Bikini Series finally did the trick?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

I really wanted to get to the bottom of it, because I want to be able to help other people. And I want to be able to return to this whenever I need a jump-start again.

weight loss before after tone it up nutrition plan

How was it that the weight came off this time?

  1. I followed the Tone it Up nutrition plan pretty closely. I chose Meals 1-5 from the nutrition plan and even had a nightly handful of dark chocolate chips. I had a few “off-plan” days for sure, but ate 95% on the plan. I really tightened up on the snacking, which was huge.
  2. I built my meals around veggies and lean protein: Start every meal with veggies and protein, because Lord knows we need more of those in our lives. If you’ve ever tracked your food for a few days, you’ve likely noticed that you don’t get enough veggies. That you eat too many carbs and too little protein. You likely just need to adjust that balance. You can do that by starting with protein and veggies at every meal and then building them out from there. Fats and carbs aren’t evil though. So, I had a lot of protein smoothies and egg scrambles for breakfast, salads and quinoa bowls for lunch, and chicken/veggie tray meals. Which leads to my next point…
  3. Don’t eat starches after 3pm. This is one of the recommendations on the plan. Our dinners tended to be chicken and veggies, sprayed with olive oil and peppered with seasoning. I tried to stay away from potatoes and noodles for dinner. Where I come from, that’s blasphemous. LOL. Meat and potatoes are dinner, not chickpeas and broccoli. But really. There’s something about starches at night that make your body hang onto it. I notice that I always weigh heavier in the mornings after I eat starchy dinners.
  4. Don’t think so much about food! Our culture has so many polarizing emotions around food. But food is just a thing that fuels our bodies. It’s important, but we don’t need to think about it so hard. I didn’t let thoughts about food get away from me in between meals. I prepped all my meals and I had extra snacks on hand, so I didn’t need to think about food all day. I knew what was coming and what to eat next, so I didn’t have to think about it. Without food on my mind, I didn’t feel compelled to keep eating when I didn’t need to.
  5. Don’t eat after 6-7pm. There’s something about eating late at night that makes our bodies hang on tight too. Allow your body to digest your last meal for at least two hours before bed. Your body needs to spend its sleeping time repairing and rejuvenating your body, not digesting. Any food left over in your system that you didn’t need for the day will be stored as fat. No thanks!
  6. Don’t “wing it” on the weekends. I have a tendency to prep meals for the workweek and just leaving the weekends to chance. Bad idea. During the challenge, instead of winging it, I had a plan. I prepped every meal for the week, even on weekends, so the weekends didn’t destroy all my progress.
  7. Build in backup snacks for your backup snacks. You know you’re going to be hungrier some days than others. Instead of assuming you just won’t eat when you’re famished (bad idea!), make sure you have some lean, clean, and green backup snacks. Then, a few backups for your backups. It’s way better to have all these extra snacks within reach than to assume you’ll be fine, only to end up desperately reaching for Lucky Charms or whatever other sugary monstrosity you have stashed away. When you’re hungry, eat. Just make sure it’s nutritious. Don’t starve and then cave!
  8. Jump into a fitness community: whether it’s on Tone it Up, Fitbit, Sparkpeople, Kayla Itsines, Lauren Gleisberg, Blogilates, or wherever else, find a tribe of fit-minded women you can join. The #tiuteam (that’s how you find them on Instagram) is super accepting and supportive of one another. Having hundreds of other TIU girls in my newsfeed and getting encouragement from them on my posts always energizes me. When you scroll through a newsfeed of women who’ve already worked out at 5 in the morning, you feel compelled to jump out of bed and get your own workout on. Several other fitness platforms have communities built around them too. Find one and jump in. The motivation works! They say you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Are those people fit-minded for you?
  9. Drink. Like, a lot. Drink until you aren’t thirsty. And then drink a little more. Honestly, if your body doesn’t have enough water, it can’t work correctly. Your metabolism can’t work correctly. So drink first before you eat to make sure your hunger isn’t thirst in disguise.
  10. Work on getting better every day, not just trying to be perfect on the first day. I think we have it backwards. When we start “diets” or any new goal, we tend to want to jump in with perfection on the first day. But that kills us! What if we started with better-than-normal and just got better every day from there? Do your best, do better tomorrow. When I had a bad day, I just jumped back in better the next day, and it paid off! Constant improvement works out a lot better than all-or-nothing.
  11. Move more. Besides your workout, make sure you build more movement into your life. I noticed that my weight went down whenever my Fitbit stayed in the 8-10k range every day. On days when I wasn’t quite that active, nothing happened. On days when I was over 10k, I woke up lighter. Get up from your desk every hour, stretch, walk around, and don’t plop down at night.
  12. Get your family on-board. My hubby is a trucker, so he’s been gone, and I made my family aware that I was following a plan to eat healthier. Otherwise, ice cream and donuts e’eryday, between my mom and father-in-law. And as much as I’m disheartened by my husband being away for long stretches, it has been really good for my weight loss efforts. Before, he was our chief dinner maker, which weren’t healthy. Hey, I can’t complain about a man who cooks dinner for his family, so I ate anything he graciously made. But once I had to start making dinner for myself and the kids, my weight started going down. I have control over what’s on our plates at night again, so I can make it healthy.
  13. I no longer have work temptations. Yay for freelance life! No more office donuts, vendor treat boxes, birthday treats, vending machines, and catered meals. Everything I grocery shop for and have at-hand are the only things I eat, and they are only healthy things. Makes eating healthy a whole lot easier.

Well, there you have it. My full analysis of why the Tone It Up nutrition plan worked when nothing else did.

To keep the momentum going, I’ve jumped into Round 2 of the Bikini Series, along with another group of women (more support!). So, I’ll be following the plan again for another 8 weeks to hopefully keep progressing from here. It’s working. I’m not going to mess with it. Plus, I love the recipes and the way I feel, so I figure it’s best to keep going. That’s what they mean about making a lifestyle change anyway, right?

 

How about you?

What are the tweaks that you’ve made in the past that have worked for weight loss? Anyone else have an extra EXTRA hard time losing weight?

2017 Tone it Up Bikini Series Transformation Results

So, the results are in for the 2017 Tone It Up Bikini Series.

Now, please be gentle with me, because I’ve never a posted a vulnerable picture of myself, like this, in a two-piece, on the internet before.

I hesitate….

But then again, I so BAD want you to know and SEE my results. I want that more than I want to hide.

 

So, here goes…

My results for the 2017 Tone It Up Bikini Series

 

Tone it up bikini series transformation picture

Before (April 2017) and After (June 2017)

 

tone it up bikini series before and after

 

Tone it up bikini series results

My happy “after” picture, after completing the TIU Bikini Series

 

 

Okay, okay I know the transformation in the pictures is hard to pinpoint. They don’t look that much different to me either.

For one, the distance from the camera is different, so that changes the perspective.

We don’t even need to mention the lighting.

But the real transformation?

You’d have to talk to me (or read this post;) to know more about the true transformation.

 

Let’s pull out the numbers first though:

Pounds lost: 9

Inches lost: 3.5″

Satisfaction meter: through the roof!

Non-weight changes: I did a cartwheel in the living room with my son (hehe, picture that!) without “seeing stars” and the lower back pain I was having from running outside went away! Must be all those deadlifts and ab work.

It never cease to amaze me that getting fit can actually make activities easier and that it actually alleviates pain!

 

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I’ve been having a hard time losing any weight whatsoever. To be down 9 lbs might as well be 109. It felt impossible!

I’ve even been to the doctor to talk about it (And a nutritionist. And a wellness coordinator. And, and and…) Everyone said I was already doing what I should be, better than most people.

Yeah, but…

That’s not very helpful!

I’ve religiously worked out 6 days a week for forever and eat healthier than anyone I know (not to mention I’m a fitness professional), yet my weight wouldn’t budge, except to go up.

I’ve felt ashamed about it, often. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

 

But then it happened!

 

The scale started to move. I didn’t put my hopes in it too hard.

But then it started to move some more! What the actual…?

 

Somehow, over the course of 8 weeks, I lost 9lbs. That’s a tad over 1lb per week, that all added up. I even had a few “off” or “cheat” days in there. But that didn’t reverse my progress.

I just can’t even believe it!

I can’t even tell you how pleased this makes me feel. How light. How hopeful. How thankful.

I guess a few little tweaks really can make a heckuva difference. But not just any tiny tweaks. Really effective ones.

 

About that…

I will be back shortly with a follow-up post about what is it about Tone it Up that I think made all the difference in the world. Because I wanted so badly to “figure it out.” Figure out why this worked when nothing else did. Figure out what exactly helped, so I know what to do if I ever need another “refresh.”

But most importantly, so I can help you!

I know what to do now! I KNOW WHAT TO DO NOW!!!

Then, after that, I’ll be back with another post on what I think about the nutrition plan. If you’re on the fence about buying it, you’ll want to read this one!

 

So, what now?

I joined a group of women to do Round 2 of the Tone it Up Bikini Series. Since this plan is working so well, I might as well keep going with it. If it ain’t broke…right?

By fall, when my “baby” turns 3, if everything goes right, I plan to be down to pre-pregnancy weight.

You just watch! 🙂

Just think, if you lose 1lb a week, where you could be in three months. No, I mean, really think about that! That goes for anything. If you have a project you want to complete, weight or otherwise, think about where you could be in three months if you worked on it a little every day.

 

How about you?

What were your results for the Tone it Up Bikini Series this year? What are you going to work on a little every day for the next three months?

Weekly Food and Fitness: Food Prep Video!!!

**Hey there, I thought I’d bring back my rundown of my weekly workouts and menus to perhaps inspire others to prepare in advance for a week of healthy eating and give you menu and training ideas. Now that I have more of an established schedule and all, it’s easier for me to organize.

I have been doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every morning, 6 days a week, alternating strength training and cardio days. And for cardio, I’ve been alternating steady state and interval training.

Workouts:

  • Monday: 30 min Brittne Babe arms, abs and HIIT
  • Tuesday: 30 min run
  • Wednesday: 30 min BB legs and HIIT
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday
    • 30 BB chest, abs and HIIT
    • 30 min walk at lunch
  • Saturday: 35 interval run
  • Sunday: rest

This week I started a new 21-day program from BrittneBabe.com just to switch things up a bit. She sells her programs for just $10, so it was an easy sell. I will do a full review when I’m finished, but so far I’m enjoying it. Brittne is a youngster with a solid business sense and ambition (not to mention a killer bod), which I find really admirable. You can follow along more of my workout journey on Instagram.

On the menu:

  • Breakfast:
  • Lunch: Quinoa burrito bowl (see video description for recipe)
  • Snack: Apple and almonds
  • Dinners: Grilled chicken, burgers, subs, tuna salad, Easter feast!

I filmed a video of my food prep this week, and it only took about 1/2 hour to make. I hope this inspires you to prepare for the week! Food prepping really can be easy, cheap, super healthy and mostly clean!

What are your goals this week?

Weekly Food Prep

I didn’t get this up sooner in the week, but here is what meal planning looked like for this week! Zucchini zucchini and more zucchini. We are so grateful to have such a healthy harvest of greens between our zucchini and my brother-in-law’s cucumbers. So, we’re trying to get creative about using it and also giving lots of them away.

Meals for this week:
Breakfast: Smoothie and egg whites with salsa
Lunch: stuffed zucchini boats
Snack: Lemony chickpea cucumber salad and kale chips

Here’s how I made the boats. I fried up 2lbs of lean ground turkey with 1/2 chopped onion and one jar of spaghetti sauce.

Then, I cut up a giant zucchini into six pieces and scooped out the seeds and stuffed them with the turkey mixture. Cooked on 375 for about 45 minutes in tin foil. Sooo yummy.

If you haven’t tried kale chips yet, you must! They are so good. I’ve seen them floating around the health and fitness websites for awhile now but just could never comprehend how they could actually be good. Then, I finally tried them. Oh my gosh!!! Sooo good. All I did was mix shredded kale in a bowl with about 1 tbsp olive oil, a minced garlic clove and a little salt. Spread them out on a cookie sheet. Cook at 400 for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 10 minutes. My 7yo thought they looked and sounded completely gross! Then, after trying them, kept eating them by the fistful!!!
And just for kicks, here’s a picture of the girl that stole my heart. I love to give her crazy hair after her bath.

Family Recipe Binder

If you’re anything like me, you know how important it is to keep a file of all the recipes you’ve tried and enjoyed or use on a regular basis. I tend to forget some of my family’s favorite meals if they’re not listed in front of me, so having them all in front of me saves time and brainpower when it’s time to meal plan for the week.

Our favorite (mostly healthy) recipes had been printed and thrown into an ugly crinkly folder for YEARS. I’ve had intentions for at least the last 5 years to get our recipes in some kind of better order, but never quite had the interest to do it. Somehow, recently, I finally got hold of some recipe book inspiration and ran with it. Even Hubster is appreciative of the outcome.

Before
And after

What I did was put every recipe inside a plastic page protector. I love the page protector idea because I tend to obsess about not spilling things on recipe pages. Instant splash protection! Then, I organized the recipes by meal and put them in a simple white binder.

I found some stylin’ file dividers and labeled the meal types so everything is super easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I flipped through the pages in that red folder searching for recipes when they were all just thrown in there.

Finally I searched for “retro nature border” on Google (cuz that’s how I roll) and did a little editing and added text to turn it into a cover sheet. I cropped a small part of that same design to create the spine title.

I love that this book is completely customized to our family’s taste. You know how when you buy a cookbook and you only use a handful of recipes from it? Yeah, me too. That’s why the binder idea works best. You only keep what you love! Seriously, besides this recipe book, the only other cookbook we’ve always kept is the timeless Better Homes and Gardens one.

I was going to scan all the recipes and create a digital file of them all. But who am I kidding? I don’t have the patience for or interest in that. I love referring to paper copies and usually end up printing recipes off anyway. I am a very visual person when it comes to food, so I wasn’t very attracted to the idea of little recipe cards either. Must have pictures!

I also started a list on a Google Doc with all our family favorites listed out on one sheet. That way we can choose 5 or so dinners per week at a glance instead of trying to search our brains for ideas.

It feels so good to finally have our recipes organized! How do you organize your recipes?

Weekly Food Prep

I’ve been feeling very inspired by food lately. It’s goes in fits and starts. Right now I’m on a roll. It’s nothing fancy, it’s really just more about the motivation and groove to get everything prepared for the week on the weekend.

This week’s work menu looks like this:


Breakfast: 1 carton Greek yogurt and egg whites with mushroom/onion saute
Lunch: Texas caviar
Snack: Cucumber salad and 2 hardboiled eggs.
When it comes to work food, I need FAST. I have a 7yo and a little baby at home. Sundays are spent at church and grocery shopping, then food prep. In between all that are naps and crabby times. If the food isn’t fast, it won’t get made and I may just lose interest. I also tend to want clean food. I find that if I prep for the week, I eat so much cleaner than if I just wing it. This week, I was also able to incorporate some farmer’s market finds as well as a few ingredients from my own backyard garden, which is always a plus.

Here are two quick informal recipes for my Texas caviar and cucumber salad:

Texas Caviar: Mix 1 can diced tomatoes (or dice your own) with 2 cans rinsed black beans, 1 can rinsed sweet corn and 1/2 small chopped onion. Serve with avocado over the top.  Add whatever spices you think sound good. I didn’t add any, but cilantro, chili powder and Italian dressing are some good options. You might also like to eat this inside a whole wheat tortilla.

Cool Cumber Salad: You’ve seen this recipe before, I’m sure. Here’s what I did: Mix 3 medium sliced cucumber with 1 large chopped tomato and 1/2 small chopped onion. Make a dressing with 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp olive oil and mix well with the salad.

I was able to prep all my food in an hour, including cleanup. My little girl was underfoot most of the time and I did a lot of stirring with her on my hip. I had multiple things going at one time. While I was prepping the salads, my onions and mushrooms were sauteing in a pan and my eggs were boiling. So doable, right?

Dinners are one trip to Noodles and Co (which just opened in my town!!!), a cookout, easy Parmesan chicken, a pork roast with veggies, a simple ground turkey/veggie skillet and leftovers.

What kinds of things do you like to prep for the week? Are you interested in seeing more of my weekly menus?

FREE 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge

I’ve posted this on my Facebook page and at my workplace and have gotten such a huge response. If you want in on this too, leave me a message and I’ll add you to the group. Did I mention it’s FREE!!!

I’m trying something new and leading a FREE 7-day Clean Eating Challenge, starting Feb 8, leading right up to Valentine’s day. Clean eating is a great way to “refresh” the body and get you into the habit of eating whole, natural foods. This is not a “diet,” this is about creating an overall healthy lifestyle that aligns with your health goals. Clean eating goes hand-in-hand with exercise to deliver powerful results.
My hope and goal is that after these 7 days, you’ll feel so much better and want to continue eating this way. I want to help you kick the packaged, fast-food habits in favor of energizing, nutrient-filled eating with daily tips and motivation. I’m going to share my secrets for meal planning and prep and offer shopping lists and recipes to guide you.
If I give you 7 days of my undivided attention, will you put yourself ALL IN for ONE week? Leave a comment or message me if you’re interested in signing up. If you have a friend that might be interested, feel free to share the invite. You don’t want to miss this freebie because I probably won’t do another one for awhile!

Weekly Eats

I like to share what I’m eating on here in hopes that I might inspire you to meal prep for the week, setting you up for a successful week of healthy eating. I like to offer a glimpse of what I’m preparing as sort of a sample menu for cleaner, healthier eating or in case you’re wondering what a health-conscious nut might be eating at any given time. I myself sometimes return to these posts when I can’t think of what to eat for the week, so it’s helpful to pick and choose what you might want to incorporate into your own meal planning.

This is what my week looks like:

  • Breakfast: My signature breakfast of egg whites with salsa and cheese + breakfast sausage + Shakeology smoothie
  • Snack: No-bake energy bites + string cheese
  • Lunch: Black bean runner’s stew + kale salad (I don’t use all the ingredients listed)
  • Snack: Cottage cheese + cucumber
  • Dinners: Chicken wings, beef tips and gravy, teriyaki meatballs, burgers, etc.

Our dinners aren’t completely on the clean side as Hubster is taking over most of the cooking, but this is what a typical Midwesterner’s diet looks like anyhow, no? And I always make sure we fill up on healthy veggies, salads or fruits with our dinners.

This picture is just for attention! She’ll be having milk and baby oatmeal this week. Clean eating at its finest!

What are you eating this week?

How You Can Diet and Actually Eat More!!!

Did you read that right? Yes, you can eat MORE!!! The idea that “dieting” means restriction is quite a misconception. First of all, I’m not a fan of the word “diet.” Or rather, I think of “diet” as simply meaning what you eat. I don’t like thinking about diets as something you do temporarily, a way you restrict calories for a set amount of time. That being said, dieting doesn’t have to mean restriction. I like to think of it more as a playground: it’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s energizing, and there is an abundance! Reframe your mind to think of diet as a means of exploration and quality rather than a restriction.

The thing is, when you eat “clean,” you can pile your plate FULL and still lose weight. Remember my three breakfasts under 500 calories? On the other hand, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. You likely won’t have good results if you’re eating Easy-Mac, pizza, or Hamburger Helper every day. And your portions would be tinier calorie for calorie than fresh food. Further, you don’t want to displace the calories for something nutrient-dense with something refined and non-beneficial. Two slices of white bread have little nutritional value and displace about 120 calories that you could’ve gotten from something much more satiating and vitamin-filled. And you won’t have to ride out the insulin spikes and dips!

Take for example my meal plan for this week. I ate a LOT of food during the day, was very satisfied, and was genuinely surprised by how many calories I had left over for dinnertime.

  1. Shakeology smoothie (1c frozen berries, 1 scoop ShakeO, 1/4c milk): 238 calories
  2. Egg whites with 4Tbsp salsa, turkey sausage and grapefruit: 327 calories
  3. Chickpea salad: 145 calories
  4. Quinoa bowl and sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of brown sugar and pecans: 345 calories
  5. Greek yogurt with honey: 161 calories
    1. Total calories: 1216
Shakeology smoothie

Grapefruit, eggs and salsa, sausage

Quinoa bowl and sweet potatoes

Chickpea salad

Greek yogurt and honey
ALL. THE. FOOD!!

Wow, look at all that food! And that’s not even including supper. I literally felt like I was eating all day! AND losing weight? Just, wow!

Want to learn how to eat MORE too? Here are some tips:

  • Keep ingredients simple: stick to whole, the-way-God-made-them foods and simple, recognizable ingredient lists.
  • Pile on the veggies: the main part of every meal should be veggies; meat should be a side dish. Fruit is great too!
  • Eat lean meats instead of fatty ones: you can eat a ton more grilled chicken (with more satiating protein) than ground beef, and save yourself sooo much fat. For example, one pound of boneless skinless chicken breast has 880 calories/20g fat/184g protein while typical 85/15 ground beef has 1,152 calories/65g fat/128g protein. 
  • Get your flavor from simple spices, vinegars, mustards, and the like. These add sooo much taste for negligible calories.
  • Remove liquid calories: drink mostly water. Liquid calories are a huge waste!

With clean eating, it’s pretty safe to say that green vegetables are unlimited. That doesn’t mean gnawing on raw salad greens all day–unless that’s your jam! It could mean balsamic Brussels sprouts, it could mean grilled asparagus, it could mean a yummy cucumber tomato salad, it could mean a huge bowl of veggie soup. Just be careful with your toppings. Vinegar- and mustard-based dressings are great, but limit olive oils, heavy cheeses and the like. Grilling is a great way to add tons of flavor without adding “weight” to greens. See, you can really eat a LOT, if you do it right!

Healthy Food Prep How-To and Sample Meal Plan

Setting myself up for a week of success starts on Sunday. I am much more likely to stay on track if I have my meals prepped before the week starts. So, my family typically does the grocery shopping after church on Sunday and then I prep my food straight out of the grocery bags when we get home. It has gotten a little bit trickier with an infant to care for too. She slept through a good 1/2 of my food prep this week, but then I had to stir things and nurse at the same time for the other half. A momma’s gotta do what a momma’s gotta do.

Now I’m one of those people that can eat the same thing all week. It has to be tasty though. I’ve made a few duds that I could barely swallow by week’s end (lentil meatloaf, blech!). But I have many old standbys that I make regularly and that I know I’ll look forward to all week.

Tip #1: Start by creating a list of all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks you enjoy that you can reference when you’re all out of ideas.

So, each week, I plot out what I’m going to eat at work for breakfast, snack and lunch every day. Every morning, I also have a Shakeology smoothie after my workout at home, so I have to remember to pick up frozen fruit. So, then, I think about all the ingredients I’ll need for these meals and write out what I need on my grocery list. Then, Hubster and I try to figure out at least 5 dinners for the week. We typically either have leftovers, go out to eat, or have dinner with family/friends the other two nights.  I try to keep our dinners pretty clean too, but Hubster likes to cook too and it’s not always “nature-made” types of meals. He’s a meat and potatoes man, and that’s ok with me.

Tip #2: Using your list of meal ideas, sketch out a plan of what you’re going to eat for each and every meal for the week. It doesn’t have to be exact, but you should have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be eating and when. This is where it’s much easier to eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. (And a lot of the food we get is in cartons, like Greek yogurt, so it doesn’t make sense to eat it as a snack for only one day).

So, here’s what I’m planning to eat for the week (keep in mind I’m nursing so my intake is higher than normal):

Breakfast: Egg whites + Salsa + Turkey links
Snack 1: Plain Greek yogurt with toppings (pecans and honey)
Lunch: Quinoa with mixed veggies and feta (tomatoes, spinach, mushroom, onion)
Snack 2: Chickpea salad like this
Family dinners: 
  • Beef tips and gravy like this
  • Easiest crockpot chicken parmigiana ever (chicken + 1 can spaghetti sauce, top with mozzarella)
  • Teriyaki meatballs (ground turkey + egg + oats + teriyaki sauce, baked in oven)
  • Turkey stroganoff like this
  • Broccoli/chicken crockpot meal like this

You’ll notice that not all of our meals are completely clean, but they’re pretty darn healthy and soooo much better than packaged foods or most restaurant foods. My chickpeas and salsa come out of a can for convenience and they’re still pretty darn healthy.

Tip #3: Transfer all ingredients needed for meals onto your grocery list

Here’s my corresponding grocery list. Some of the ingredients we always have on-hand and some we needed to pick up.

Then, we head to the store, of course. We try to stick pretty closely to the list. We may throw one or two non-listed items in the cart, but ideally our goal is to spend $100 per week on groceries (including diapers and pet stuff). So, not only are we eating healthier, we’re also saving money by preparing meals at home and sticking to our grocery list.

Tip #4: Most of your food should come from the perimeter of the store, i.e. the produce aisles, meat section and dairy section. The closest thing to how God made it.

Once we get home from the store and unpack everything, I get to work making my work food for the week. I find that for me, it’s best if I start right away. I’m already up and about, handling all the food. If I put all the food away and get settled in, it’s harder to get motivated.

Food prep doesn’t actually take that long. Well, it could if you wanted to get fancy, but generally I spend an hour or less. That’s one TV show–and I have healthy food for the entire week!

Tip #5: Always start with the food that takes the longest to cook.

Get those things that cook longer in first, especially the ones that don’t require any attention while they’re cooking. I put my acorn squash in the oven first where it went for 1 hour and then started the quinoa on the stovetop for its 15 minutes of cook time. While those things were cooking by themselves, I was chopping and sauteeing veggies and preparing the chickpea salad.

Yummy nighttime snack for the week. 
Simply place cut-side down in a pan of water and cook 375 for 1 hour

My pile of veggies sauteeing in olive oil while the quinoa was cooking. 
(My lunches consists of just these two mixed together with feta on top)

Quick chickpea salad

Tip #6: Load all your work food for the week in a thermal grocery bag.

Next, I load all the parts of my meals into a big grocery bag and bring it to work for the week. I used to portion out the egg whites and Greek yogurt into individual containers and take one at a time to work every day, but I’ve found that it’s so much easier and so much less time consuming to just bring the whole container to work. I don’t ever forget anything this way and I don’t have to carry a lunch bag every day, just the one bag on Monday that stays in the work fridge all week. I know that the egg white (microwave scrambled eggs) and Greek yogurt containers have just enough for 5 days, so I never have to worry about portion sizes with things like that. The sausages come in 10-packs, so I have two per day–and then I don’t waste plastic baggies on each serving either.

Dinners are just prepared nightly or thrown in the crockpot in the morning, depending on what we’re in the mood for, who feels like cooking, etc. We like fast and easy meals, otherwise we’re more tempted to go out or eat junk instead. I always keep a few extra things on-hand that we can snack on when we get home from school/work like string cheese, baby carrots, popcorn and the above acorn squash. The snacks typically need to be easy and in the front of the fridge so we remember they’re there and don’t grab for something less healthy. 
Really, for one hour on a Sunday, this type of preparation is so worth it! It’s so much easier to stay on track during the week and not have to wonder what our next meal is going to be. It’s not as hard as it seems to prep healthy food for an entire family for a whole week. Give it a try!
How do you prep for the week?