Meal Planning for the Busy Mom

It isn't a secret that I really do not enjoy cooking. It's partly because I am not that great at it - I don't have the imagination or the palate of a cook. You know, someone who can open the fridge and come up with a complete meal with what they are looking at in front of them. And I am not one to taste something and immediately be able to point out that it needs a pinch of this or that to make it better. Furthermore, I hate the mess. I feel like I am constantly cleaning the kitchen. Cooking just adds to the cycle. I am the type of person who has to start with a clean kitchen before messing it up to make a meal only to clean it up once again. And just so much work!

The boys get to write messages
on the bottom portion of the
chalkboard. Ethan wrote today's
...but then Hudson added
his message :)
Lately, however, I have really been getting back into the habit of meal planning. I have found that when I am totally organized - browsing Pinterest for recipes, using weekly planning templates, writing out grocery lists and getting creative on my cutesy menu chalkboard - the whole cooking thing is a little less anxiety-inducing. I actually enjoy it more when I feel like I have it all planned out. And although my husband laughs and shakes his head at my list-making and hour-long planning process, I don't hear him complaining about the end result. I will admit though, sometimes I just don't have it in me by the time he gets home so I'll hand over the recipe and say, it's your turn tonight. Usually he happily obliges - he enjoys cooking after all.

I thought it would be helpful to share what works for me - a busy stay-at-home mom of 4 hungry boys and 1 hungry husband. With a little bit of planning, I have been able to try new recipes and feed my family healthy meals for around $500/month. It may sound like a lot, but if you break it down, that actually includes all the food for breakfast, lunch, snacks and the pre-planned dinners for 6 people for 30 days. That's roughly 540 meals in a month (3 meals a day for 6 people = 18 meals x 30 days = 540) which comes out to just over $1/meal. (Although Nolan doesn't "eat" food yet, what we spend at the grocery includes his formula so I just lumped him in the equation).

I do save money in many different ways - coupons, shopping sale items, buying in bulk when possible, making things homemade instead of buying prepackaged, etc. But that is an entirely different blog post so for now, I'll just stick to sharing my meal planning process.

Here is the method to my madness:
  1. I gather all my materials. I spent a lot of time putting together a meal-planning binder which has been extremely helpful in keeping this process organized. In it I keep several copies of my weekly meal plan template and grocery list template, our favorite go-to recipes, and already completed meal plans for using again in the future.
  2. On a blank sheet of paper I begin to sift through recipes and write down some that make the cut that week. My favorite sources are the 100 Days of Real Food website (ah-mazing site...but you'll need a lot of time to read through all she has to offer), Pinterest, the Hungry Girl cookbook, my crock-pot cookbook and the Tastebook I made for Ricky a few years ago that is personalized with family favorites we each grew up with. I usually only plan out dinners - unless there is a special occasion or I'm in a rut or something - then I will plan out breakfast and lunch as well. I try to choose a variety that includes chicken, pork, beef and meatless options. I typically go to the grocery once every 2 weeks, so most of the time I complete two weeks worth of meal plans. I choose about 10 dinner recipes, leaving a few days open for leftovers, "you choose" nights and the occasional going out to eat or ordering in.

  3. Next, I take a look at my calendar. It sounds weird but if I don't take into consideration what I have going on that week, I usually end up getting off track. For instance, I'll be sure to choose easy to make recipes on nights the boys have soccer practice. Or crock-pot meals on days that I am doing a lot of running around and won't be at home to prepare a meal at dinner time. Then I take my list of chosen recipes and assign them to a day throughout the week.

  4. Finally, I start at the beginning of the meal plan and write out any and all grocery items needed. I love this grocery list template (I found it here) because it is broken down into the sections you shop at the store. It makes it much easier to check off the items as you go when, for instance, you can go down the freezer aisle and see everything you need in once spot on your list. After I have everything written down that I need for the recipes, I add in other staples, household items, snacks, and extras we might need to stock up on.

I keep the written out meal plan in the binder on the counter to refer to as needed, but I write out the menu for the week on our kitchen chalk board. I love the little nook where it hangs and the boys love checking the "menu" each night (and complaining or cheering depending on what we are having).

So there you have it! I have fine-tuned this process over the past year, working out the kinks and doing things that are most convenient for our family. Sometimes I skip a week (or two) if I'm really busy or just don't feel like doing it. I'd love to hear some of your tips and I'm happy to answer any questions if you have them!

*** I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes in the near future.
*** If you want to download my meal-planning template, click here!

Body After Baby 2014: Week 1

Just a quick update because it's been a heck of a week. Looking at my calendar, the next month or so is jam packed with...stuff. Lots of stuff. Mostly fun stuff so I'm not complaining but man oh man this momma is tired!

A few things to sum up this past week in this 'gettin my body back' journey:

- we joined the YMCA! We opted for the community-wide membership so we can go to any of the locations throughout the area and so far I'm loving it. Someone will watch my children while I work out (or pee alone, or read a magazine, or sit in silence...)??? Yes, please! I'm using muscles I haven't used in a while which leaves me feeling all sore the next day and guess what, I love it! Plus, Ricky and I can drop the kids in the play area and work out together - which pretty much constitutes a date night for us these days, but hey, I'll take it.

- I forgot to weigh myself on Monday and again this morning. When I remembered this evening, I decided I didn't want to freak myself out by stepping on the scale at the end of the day so I don't have any weight loss (or gain) to report this week.

- I'm attempting to count calories again using My Fitness Pal but I don't always remember to do that either. Luckily, because I have done it religiously in the past, I have a very good idea of the nutritional content in most of the things I eat so I'm able to have a general idea of where I'm at even if I forget to track it.

- How's the eliminating processed junk from our house going? Well, let's just say that I am too cheap to throw out the crap that we currently have in our pantry, so once we eat it all then I won't buy any more. (I finished the last of my Warm Delights stockpile tonight...boohoo!)

As far as my goal is concerned - here is the thing. I'm really not setting out to lose a certain number of pounds. Sure, I have a "goal weight" but after 4 pregnancies, even if I hit that magic number my body will never be the same. I may never fit back into the size 6 clothes I have tucked away in a bin marked "Taryn's clothes...don't fit...yet" from before I got married. But I'm not willing to get rid of them without a fight. Basically, I want to make a lifestyle change where my eating is concerned (not diet), I want to incorporate a healthy amount of exercise (not stress over working out), and overall just take better care of myself (so I feel good, no matter what the scales says).

Body After Baby: The Final Push

Body After Baby

Haha - get it - the final push??? As in this is my last baby (last time I'll ever have to "push") and also as in this is my time to get my body more "but I don't want to put the effort in because I'm just gonna get pregnant again".

I'm so clever ;)

If you follow More Skees Please on Facebook, you might remember that a few months ago I mentioned that I plan on having a "mommy makeover". For me, that will consist of a few medically necessary procedures combined with a few "because I want to" things. Having babies really did a number on my body. Obviously it was all worth it - but that doesn't mean that I don't want and need to address some of the issues that came from carrying 4 children.

For instance, my stomach muscles? Caput. I experienced something called Diastasis Recti - or a separation of the abdominal muscles as illustrated by the image below.

Image Source:

Lovely, right?

I used to be very athletic. I was a gymnast for 8 years. I was on our local swimming and diving teams. I was a competitive cheerleader for many years and was one of those girls that could do all those flips and tucks across the football field or basketball court at halftime. Now? Not so much. And I'm not saying that I want to have my stomach muscles fixed so that I can do a back-handspring again (that ship has sailed...and I'm okay with that), but when I'm laying in bed and have to roll to my side just to get up because it is almost impossible for me to sit up like a normal person...well that is more than annoying.

Also, I developed an umbilical hernia after I had Aiden. These are very common post-pregnancy and I had it repaired shortly after having him because even though I intended on having more children, mine was so bad that if I didn't have it done, I was at an increased risk for having it become strangulated. I'll let you google "strangulated umbilical hernia" so I don't have to describe the grossness that it is here in this post. Well after another 2 babies, the hernia reoccurred so I'll have to have it fixed once again.

So there's that.

And since I'm already going to be going under the knife to address those two things, then why not go ahead and take care of the less important issues (but still confidence-busting nonetheless). Like the stretch marks. There was no amount of Vitamin E lotions, creams or miracle butter that was going to keep those suckers from making their presence known. Believe me, I tried. And lost.

I was going to have all of this done this summer which meant I'd have to drop the baby weight (and then some) pretty quickly after having Nolan. I began planning my liquid diets and excessive workout regime while I was still counting contractions and dealing with heartburn. It's safe to say I started to stress and in doing so, realized if I wanted to do it the right way, I'd have to set a more realistic time-frame.

I have decided to give myself a year to lose the weight. I will do more research to determine exactly what I want to have done and then I will choose my doctors and discuss my options without being rushed.

With all that said, it is important to me that people know that whatever elective procedures I am having done, I'm doing it for ME. Not for anyone else. Not even for my husband - who lets me know every day that he loves me exactly as I am. But for ME. Plain and simple. 

I get it, plastic surgery isn't for everyone. I know it's not a magic wand that will make me a better person or turn me into a supermodel. And choosing to have a little work done definitely does not mean that I resent having children or am ungrateful for the experience of doing so. Everyone has an opinion, this is mine. Believe me, it's not a decision I've made lightly.

So...with a goal in sight, I begin my Body After Baby journey. I know this will be a huge positive in my life and look forward to sharing my progress as I go! I weighed myself this morning and every Monday I will post an update including weight-loss (or gain) from the previous week. Wish me luck!

[Want to see my previous Body After Baby journey from 2012? Click here.]

Spring Cleaning My Life

I tend not to make New Years Resolutions. I rarely keep them and then I feel disappointed that I couldn't even get halfway through January without giving up on whatever I resolved to do that year. For me, winter is dreary and dull and all I'd much rather stay in my pjs all day than load 4 kids into the car to head to the gym.

Instead, I typically get a burst of energy and motivation as winter melts away and spring begins to bloom. Something about the crisp fresh air makes me want to get all my ducks in a row -- I want a clean house! A fit body! Organized finances! Well-behaved kids! Yes, spring is definitely my favorite time of the year. And after this particularly brutal winter, being pregnant and dealing with the chaos of a cross-country move, I am more anxious than ever to blow away the cobwebs that have settled in all the crevices of my life.

A few months back, a Facebook friend messaged me asking if I could share with her my tips for how I keep my life so organized and together. Once I finished laughing, I thought long and hard about what I share on here and wondered if I am being genuine enough. I tend to write about the fun things we do. I share adorable pictures of my happy, smiling kiddos over on Instagram. And I post about the good moments on my Facebook page.

But, my friends, I rarely feel like I have it all together. In fact, more often than not I feel like a hot mess. I'm hard on myself and a little type-a and I swear if there is a medical condition that links a cluttered, unorganized house with a cluttered, unorganized mind, I so have it. 

Do I have many many good moments on a daily basis? Absolutely. And I love to share those moments with my friends, family and readers through social media. However when it comes to dealing with the everyday annoyances, mini-meltdowns, and personal insecurities, I tend to handle those on my own, privately, rather than complain in everyone's news feed. The really tough stuff on the other hand, well, I do write my way through those things.

Anyhow, what I'm getting at is this: I am not perfect. Not even close. My life is not perfect. My kids are not perfect. I don't have all the answers and I certainly don't have it all together. I fight with my husband over taking the garbage out or unloading the dishwasher. My kids make me want to pull my hair out several times a day. On a daily basis, I find myself doubting my abilities as a mother. I am plagued with insecurities about my body. 

Over the next couple weeks, I am going to try to harness the fresh motivation brought about by the change in weather to tackle some of those things. To change my attitude. Change my actions. A little spring cleaning for my life, if you will.

I'll be bringing back my Body After Baby series. I'll share my attempt at removing processed junk from our home (again), organizing tips, meal planning, parenting successes (and failures). And I'll round up some of my favorite things: blogs, products, recipes. I'm a work in progress and I hope you will continue to read as I get back to blogging on a more regular basis once again.

Happy Spring!