Ugh! Weekly Meal Planning: 10 Tips

You would think planning a weekly menu would be much easier for someone  working from home. Not so! It’s way too easy to get distracted with work, phone calls, laundry, cleaning, child care and errands. At the end of the day, you find yourself aksing, “What’s for dinner?”

If working to maintain weight loss, this is NEVER a good question. It’s an indicator that grazing mode has kicked in and we start looking for something (usually, unhealthy) to quiet hunger pangs.

Here are 10 helpful tips I use for weekly meal planning:

  •  Never shop hungry! (Engrave this in your stomach, heart, forehead, wherever! Heck, if you must, go get a tatoo.)
  • Make a list of ingredients needed for each meal. Highlight the items that need to be purchased. Items not highlighted indicates you already have it. I’m not sure if I’m a right or left brain person, but listing all the ingredients on my shopping list helps me to have a quick visual of the planned meal.
  • If you have access to a computer for meal planning, use it. I use a generic Excel spreadsheet that lists each day’s meal and the ingredients needed to prepare it.
  • Sunday night is my prep night. I chop, dice, cut and pre-cook ingredients that can easily be stored for the upcoming week. Things like peppers, onions, garlic, pre-cooked chicken/beef, chopped veggies or pre-cooked pasta helps speed up meal prep time.
  •  I only pre-plan dinner menus. Lunch and breakfast are easy to prepare and require much less planning and prep time.
  •  Plan meals around in-season veggies or fruits.
  • Consider ways to use any left-overs for lunch dishes. Leftover chicken is easily cut and chopped to make chicken salad sandwiches.
  • Plan dinner meals based on your schedule. Some nights you might work late, so plan a 20 minutes or less meal. On nights where you have more time, plan a meal with greater prep time. Remember, you are the menu gestapo and have full charge of what, when and time you want to serve dinner.
  • Don’t underestimate a slow cooker, it’s ideal for those late nights involving after school sporting events with the kids. There’s nothing better arriving home to the aroma of a ready-to-eat crock pot dinner.
  •  Take inventory of what you have on hand. Some of the best meals and recipes are created with nearly expired veggies, cheeses, bread and various left-overs hidden behind the milk carton.  

 

Grilled Cheese Secret Revealed

Making Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

My granddaughter, Olivia, helped Blimpy Girl NeeNee prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Because she loves all things pink, she requested her pink knife to butter the bread slices. You will note the knife in the butter container (far left).

My grown daughter swears I make the best grilled cheese sandwich EVER. To her, it ranks right up there with “no one cuts a PBJ sandwich like you do mom”. As a little girl she said the way I cut the sandwich made it taste extra good. I think it was because I made a nice clean cut with a chef’s knife instead of a butter knife. It’s funny the things your kids remember about their childhood.

Buttering bread for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches My grilled cheese secret is so simple. First, use whipped butter spread instead of stick butter. Low-fat whipped butter is even better and about half the calories. Now, the secret is revealed….

BUTTER BOTH SIDES OF THE BREAD SLICES and add butter to the skillet when cooking.

Oh no, the secret is out. My daughter always thought I did something magical to make the grilled cheese so yummy. All this time it was the butter fairy. For the record, grilled cheese is not part of my Blimpy Girl eating plan. My granddaughter’s feeling would be hurt if I didn’t partake of her buttered slices. My guess on calories… in the neighborhood of 400 per sandwich (we didn’t use low-fat butter spread). Fat from the butter…. well, let’s not go there!

Side note: Use low-fat cheddar cheese slices. A mere 25 calories and zero fat calories. That will help offset the butter and bread calories.  

 

Stuffed Portabella Mushroom

Stuffed Portabella Mushroom with Spinach Salad

One of these stuffed mushrooms pack an awesome 95 calories. Yes, you read it right! Just 95 calories. I added a spinach salad and side of grilled (or pan seared) summer squash. Even then, the entire meal is in the neighborhood of 150 calories.

The mushroom caps are stuffed and then baked in a foil wrap. Foil wraps have become one of Blimpy Girl’s favorite cooking methods. Little fuss as you just pop the dish in the oven and remove when done. Toss the foil in trash and you have a cooking pan that only needs a quick rinse before storing.

Stuffed Portabella Mushroom

Be prepared! This dish has some garlic kick. Keep a couple of breath mints handy. The prep time is minimal and the baking time about 30 minutes. You can prepare your side dishes while the mushrooms are baking which means you still have a 30 minute meal. Grab the Recipe
How to Make a Foil Wrap

Baby Bok Choy: The Chinese Cabbage… what is it?

Bok Choy: The Chinese CabbageIf you haven’t heard of this Chinese cabbage, don’t feel like you’re alone. But I will say this, you need to know about Bok Choy because it’s good for you and full of plenty of nutrients. Oh, did I fail to mention, low in calories

Think of it as a Chinese chard. It has dark green rounded leaves on a white stalk. Make sure you pick fresh leaves that have no wilting or brown spots.

It can be used raw (as pictured), or cooked and added to stir fry or soup dishes. Today I will be adding to a Blimpy Girl pork fried rice dish. It will be lightly steamed and added as a topping to the fried rice.

Calorie intake is almost non-existent. Heck, one and 1/2 cup is 10 calories. The pork fried rice dish I will be posting about later is shown below. Just enough spice to say, “OH YAH!”. I’ll post the recipe in the next couple of days. Sorry, but it’s been crazy around here this weekend and I’m trying to catch up.

Baby Bok Choy with Spicy Pork Fried Rice

What is a Jicama?

What is a Jicama?

This was a question I posed to my husband last week? I needed a Jicama for a salad recipe I wanted to make for an upcoming dinner party. My husband is in a line of work that affords him opportunity to experience all food types; so, was able to answer. I placed Jicama on my grocery list and decided to learn more about this bulbous looking food. Here is what I discovered:

  • It is actually just that… a bulb and is part of the legume (bean) family.
  • It is primarily grown in Mexico and South America, though different varieties are grown throughout the world.
  • It has a crunchiness somewhat like a water chestnut.
  • Peeling it can be a pain. I learned that first hand as you will see in above picture. I tried to use a vegetable peeler. Not a good idea. The skin in tough and you will need a very sharp knife to peel away the outer skin.
  • It taste something like a cross between an apple and potato.
  • It is most commonly eaten raw though it can be cooked and eaten and prepared like you would potatoes.
  • It pairs well with salads and can be used as an appetizer for dipping. Just cut into strips and dip in a mango salsa. I noted that some suggest cutting and sprinkling with lime juice and chili powder. I even saw a picture where cookie cutters were used to cut out dipping shapes. Now that’s a fun idea.

So how did I end up using this peculiar looking bulb? Below is the tropical black bean salad that I served this weekend for a dinner party. It was a hit and I loved the crunchy texture that the jicama added to the salad. By the way, the “J” is pronounced as “H”… hicama. Grab the Recipe

Tropical Black Bean Salad with Jicama

Citrus & Vinegar Fight Fat….Say what?

Can citrus and vinegar really help fight fat?My good friend, Wendy, from RealFoodTips.com sent along this information. She noted  I use quite a bit of vingear and citrus in my recipes and thought this short article would be interesting for my readers.

This is the article posted at Clean Living Magazine (August 2011). Hope you enjoy.

Make one of your five daily servings of fruits and vegetables an orange or grapefruit to help you manage your weight. Murray Huff, director at Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, found that naringenin, a flavonoid in citrus fruit, causes the liver to burn excess fat instead of hanging on to it. The molecule also helped improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of insulin resistance and stabilize glucose metabolism (risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

Tip: Look for oranges that are firm and heavy for their size with no mold or unusual soft spots. Keep in mind that ripe oranges may retain green streaks or spots depending on climate conditions during the growing season.

Vinegar:

The vinegar in your pantry isn’t merely handy when it comes to shaking up your favorite dressings for salads or quick-pickling produce for sandwiches – it may help you break down fat and reduce its accumulation in the body, thanks to acetic acid, an organic chemical compound that gives vinegar its potent taste and scent. In a Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study, animals given the acid along with a high-fat diet developed up to 10 percent less body fat than those that consumed the fatty fare alone. Of course, upping our intake of vinegar just so you can eat more fatty foods is not our recommended course of action!

Cinnamon Applesauce with Vanilla Wafers & Pudding

Warm Applesauce & Vanilla Wafers
A perfect after school treat & healthy, too!

I work from home and have staff that often need a quick snack fix. Blimpy Girl is there for them. Today’s snack was warm applesauce with low-fat vanilla wafers.

You can toast the wafers in a hot skillet with some non-stick oil if you like. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top and you’ve got an afternoon treat that is under 100 calories.
 
Perfect snack for the kids when they get off the bus. Ahhh… how about a dollop of warm vanilla pudding (you know the kind in a pudding cup). The low-fat pudding will only add another 27 to 30 calories if using about 1 1/2 tablespoon per serving.
 
I dished up 3/4 cups of applesauce as pictured with 3 vanilla wafers (halved) and the warm pudding, of course! Find out how I made the applesauce here.