How I Eat

How I Eat: Cooking for One as a Police Officer by Day, Self-Taught Baker by Night

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Kelly: Cooking for One with a Police Officer by Day, Self-Taught Baker by Night

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Kelly of Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats. Kelly describes the kitchen as her happy place, and she loves baking from scratch as well as incorporating new products or ingredients into recipes. She also loves sharing her cooking and baking with family, friends and coworkers. 🙂 Me too, girl! As you probably gleaned from the title, Kelly is a police officer by day–that’s awesome! Thank you for all you do.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I work 10-12 hour days so I have to meal prep for the week before I go back to work. When I get home from work, I need something I can just re-heat because I do not have the energy to cook a full meal. I cook only for myself and live alone. I cook and eat clean and dairy-free.

What meals do you plan?

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

Grilling chicken for dinners for the week, making soup and pre-portioning it out in servings.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

How I Eat, Kelly: Cooking for One with a Police Officer by Day, Self-Taught Baker by Night

Easy and Healthy Seasoned Grilled Chicken Breasts

Marinated and seasoned grilled chicken breasts, so full of flavor, you won’t even notice they are healthy! This marinade recipe I am sharing today is the recipe I use to marinate and season the chicken breasts I grill every week for meal prep. Because after working 10-plus hour work days, who wants to come home and make dinner? I’ve even included several side dish ideas to go with these grilled chicken breasts too, so you are covered for dinner for the whole week!

If you know me then you know that I eat grilled chicken salads for dinner.  Every night.  And I never get tired of it. And I HATE salad dressing (it’s a texture thing for me), so my salad consists of a mix of butter lettuces and romaine lettuce, a few croutons and a grilled chicken breast. With how flavorful this chicken is, you don’t even need salad dressing anyways!

How I Eat, Kelly: Cooking for One with a Police Officer by Day, Self-Taught Baker by Night

Grilled Pork Tenderloin 

Who says you need red meat to have a yummy steak house dinner? Not me!!

How I Eat, Kelly: Cooking for One with a Police Officer by Day, Self-Taught Baker by Night

Healthy Two Ingredient Crockpot Salsa Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, smothered in chunky salsa, seasoned with your desired spices and cooked in the Crockpot. Makes for a versatile, yummy and healthy dinner that is too easy not to try! This is an amazing recipe that I know you will fall in love with. Besides the recipe, I am also including some ideas on meal plans using this Salsa Chicken, so make sure you read this whole post!

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Breakfast for dinner!

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

Freezer or batch cooking.

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

Be organized and make a grocery shopping list. Having plenty of single serving containers are also helpful. After grocery shopping, spend time cleaning and prepping veggies and fruits, so snacks are easy and ready to be eaten.

Anything else you want to add?

Meal prep saves me from hitting a drive thru or making poor nutritional dinner choices on those late nights I get home from work when I am too tired to cook.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your meal planning expertise with us! I love how you make sure a protein is available for your dinners after a long day at work. Having some pre-cooked meat on hand is always useful for adding to a salad or wrap. It sounds like being organized with your grocery list, time, and even containers is a lifesaver for you! That’s great advice for anyone, actually, regardless of whether they cook for one or six.

Connect with Kelly on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest for more inspiration.

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How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates
How I Eat

How I Eat: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

Welcome to the first installment of How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this new series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

Up today on How I Eat is Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. I’ve been a follower of Camilla’s blog for many years now and love her Instagram bio (from which I derived this post’s title): Writer. Photographer. Blogger. Jewelry maker. Book devourer. Passionate cook. Wife. Mom trying to raise conscientious kids with fearless palates.

How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I cook daily for my husband plus our two ravenous teenage boys. Once a month, or so, I have a dinner party with our best friends (2 other couples with 2 kids each) that is usually a themed, multi-course menu with wine pairings. I work full-time and the kids have activities, so sometimes dinner is late…like after 7pm. Lunch is usually just whatever is leftover from dinner the night before.

What meals do you plan?

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks, Dessert, etc.

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 21: I make all my own food and very rarely eat out.

What is your basic meal planning method?

I belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) and a CSF (community supported fishery), so many of our meals are planned from whatever it is I’m getting that week. This year I did purchase two nano shares of a pig and a quarter of a lamb. Also, a friend slaughtered one of his cows so I had about 25 pounds of ground beef in my freezer. Between those and the farmers’ markets – we’re lucky to have them all year round here on California’s central coast – I get most of my meals planned.

How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Chicken Thighs (bone-in, skin-on) are my easiest hands off meals. You can either make them in the oven or on the stovetop.

Skillet pizza is another favorite! When I’m in a rush I use pre-made dough, sauce, and pre-grated cheese. Can’t be easier!

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Pasta. I always have pasta in my cupboard and I usually have some jarred tomato sauce that I put up during tomato season. My favorite is Roasted Tomato Sauce because I don’t even peel the tomatoes! So cooked pasta + sauce + grated cheese = easiest dinner ever!

How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

My calendar/planner that’s not just dedicated to meals but is my life. I’m lost without that.

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

I used to plan distinct meals for each day that didn’t have any carry over of ingredients. That can get pricey. For instance, if I know that I’m getting a glut of beans, I might plan steamed beans one night and ground meat with beans in a stir-fry two nights later. Or if I am roasting a whole chicken on the weekend, then I use the carcass to make stock and plan a soup the following week.

How I Eat, Camilla: Passionate Cook Trying to Raise Conscientious Kids with Fearless Palates

Anything else you want to add?

It’s easy to double recipes, so make enough for dinner AND lunch the following day. And, when I’m putting leftovers away, I already portion them out in containers for easy lunch-packing the next day.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Camilla, for sharing your meal planning expertise with us! You are such a creative cook and I love your last two pieces of advice: about carrying over ingredients and doubling recipes. Such a time saver! It’s also fun to see how you involve your kids in the kitchen. My son can’t do too much yet, but he loves to push a chair over to the counter and stir things for me or sprinkle cheese (while eating huge handfuls, of course!).

Connect with Camilla on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest for more inspiration.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!
How I Eat, Menu Plans

Introducing… How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People

Happy 2018, friends! I’m so excited to be back with you this year. Christmas was fun BUT I’m a little ready to get back into a more normal routine. Whatever normal means. 🙂 I have some yummy recipes on tap to share this winter but first I wanted to pop in to introduce a new series that will debut on Friday!

Introducing…  How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People!

Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy. Meal planning is the best way for me to accomplish this as a full-time working mom and wife. This seems to be the consensus for many of my friends as well, no matter their current life stage (working/staying at home, single/married, kids/no kids, etc.). I think most people–especially foodies (and that includes YOU if you’re reading this!)–have heard all the benefits of meal planning. It saves time. It saves money. It helps prevent food waste. Blah blah blah. But how do you do it? In my unscientific research (e.g., conversations with friends or my own experience), it’s the how that causes trouble.

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Back in the day (aka pre-baby) I could easily, easily, EASILY do a quick meal plan as I was writing a grocery list. I’d have a couple grocery store ads handy, along with a cookbook and my computer to pull up recipes online. I knew our favorite meals and always had a few ideas I wanted to try. It was easy to choose recipes since I didn’t have any time constraints or concerns about who would eat what. To be fair, our little guy is a great eater at 20 months, but there are some things that are hard for him to eat (soup, fresh veggies, etc.) so I have to work around that. I also could do this free of distraction so I didn’t accidentally leave a key ingredient off the grocery list. Just ask me how often that’s happened in recent months. Why does everything take longer/become more difficult when kids are around? Ha!

This year, like many others, I’m looking for a little more organization in life… and a little more inspiration in the kitchen, particularly in the meal planning department. Evenings are always a challenge, no matter your season of life. I feel like getting a real dinner on the table sets the stage for the rest of the week, since we rely on leftovers for hectic nights and work lunches.

So, I devised this fun little weekly series called How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. I’ve interviewed a variety of friends–both bloggers and non-bloggers for a variety of opinions, methods, and strategies for meal planning. Some approach meal planning in a methodical fashion or use a meal planning service, while others are more spontaneous. Some cook for one, while others are cooking for a whole family. Some make 21 meals at home each week while others just focus on getting a homemade dinner on the table each night.

These interviews have inspired me and I hope they do the same for you! I am so grateful to all my friends online and in real life for taking the time to contribute to this project. There are others on my list to interview at a later time as well (if you are interested in joining me in this project, please comment below or contact me via email or social media). So be sure to come back tomorrow for my first How I Eat interview! In the meantime, feel free to browse through my history of meal plans for inspiration and check out this article on The Kitchn about meal planning tips. 🙂

Menu Plans

Top 10 Menu Planning Tips

So, I used to post once a month on a blog called Today’s Housewife. During fall 2012, the group decided together to stop posting due the busyness of life and families and such. Though sad, I enjoyed being part of the group. As of early January, the blog was officially taken down. But I don’t want to lose my recipes, so periodically I will be reposting them on here. Enjoy!

~

from January 20, 2011

In lieu of a recipe, I wanted to share today about why I plan our weekly menus… and provide some tips to help you. My weekly Menu Plan published on my blog is easily the shortest and easiest post to write, however it is one of the most helpful because it gives me direction for our meals for the week. There’s nothing worse than getting home at 5 o’clock [or having your husband arrive home] and having the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” question echoing throughout the house. Sometimes that situation isn’t so bleak–when the pantry, fridge and/or freezer are full and a craving or idea hits full-force. However, other times, it is–and I just want to lay down on the kitchen floor until a solution magically appears (hint: it usually doesn’t). I’ve been menu planning since we got married, and it has saved me so much time, money, and sanity. There is a lot out there on menu planning, but the following are the top 10 things that have helped me with the menu planning process.

Menu Plan | The Pajama Chef

  1. Determine what meals and time frame you are going to plan. I formally only plan dinners for a week. However, I do consider breakfast and lunch and come up with ideas for those meals, but do not follow the rest of the process very thoroughly for those meals.
  2. Inventory your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Use what you have on hand as the starting point for your weekly menu. Websites like Supercook are helpful because you can plug in ingredients you have–or don’t have–to find recipe ideas.
  3. Peruse store sale ads. I receive these in the mail every week, and they are also available online. I do not purchase a lot of packaged foods, but I do watch sales for produce, meats, yogurt, pasta, canned beans and tomatoes, frozen veggies, bread, etc. All these items can be used in my menu plans–if not for this week, for the weeks to come. I try to always have a surplus of meat in our freezer so that I am not “stuck” buying chicken at $3/pound instead of the $1.88/pound sale price.
  4. Consider various categories for each day of your menu plan for variety. I am not the sort of planner who is satisfied having Mexican every Tuesday or chicken on Fridays. However, I do have a list of different types of meals that we enjoy eating and refer to that list as inspiration. For more tips and examples of categories, see The Empty Kitchen’s post on categorical menu planning.
  5. Schedule a leftovers day [or two] depending on your family’s needs/schedule. Growing up, we usually had leftovers on the weekends for lunch and maybe a night or two a week. No one really ate the leftovers for lunch. Now, my husband takes most of our leftovers for lunch but we do save some for dinner one night a week–usually Thursday, since we have our small group that night.
  6. Look at only 2-3 of the following recipe sources: cookbooks, folders of torn out recipes, your recipe box/binder, Google Reader, or food blogs for inspiration. Any more than this and you will be overwhelmed. Trust me. (Instead of falling to the kitchen floor you’ll just fall to the living room floor in panic.)
  7. Consider if there is a day where your husband or children need to be more invested in meal preparation. If this is the case, involve them in the decision making for dinner that night. Since I am a grad student, sometimes I have night class or get home later than Ben–those nights he either makes his own dinner or he makes dinner for us. I always want to consider his preferences and abilities (he is very capable in the kitchen though!) when planning a meal for those nights.
  8. Write out your planned meals on your blog, planner, calendar, or list. Money Saving Mom has some great printable tools. It really doesn’t matter where you write out your menu plan–just write it out and keep it in a place that is easy for you to reference!
  9. Make your grocery list, and try to get to the store early in the week. I try to go to the grocery store just once a week. This cuts down on impulse buys and extra spending. Making a list really helps!
  10. Give yourself grace! Dinners can be switched around when you just need tacos on Tuesday instead of Friday and that is not the end of the world as we know it. Some nights just go haywire. Some weeks are busy. Having a menu planned for the week does not mean everything in the kitchen will be perfect, or that you are a failure as a wife, a mom, or a woman when things aren’t. Life happens. A menu plan tries to help make things go smoothly. Your worth isn’t determined by performance. A menu plan is just that–a plan. If all does not go as planned, then make the meal the following week. No big deal. Just do what works for you in the moment. A menu plan can only help!

Question of the Day: What are your menu planning tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!