Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Holland Gets Organized

Daunting title for a blog post, eh?

It takes us back to mid-December, when I blogged about "reflecting upon how I can better care for my body in the future."  Hmmm?  (If you don't remember, I'm not can read it here--just keep in mind I was taking painkillers at the time.  Thank you.)

So, I reflected.  I had several epiphanies.  I schemed.  I took action.  And I am currently basking in the fruits of my labors.

Let me break down that process.    

I reflected.  Why is it that when I have a child on a high fat diet, I'm the one who gains weight?  Why was it so much easier to lose weight after my first two babies than after my last two?  What do I want from my body?

I had several epiphanies.   Stress.  Stress.  Usually the answer is stress.  But I've been using stress as an answer--or an excuse--for way too long, now.  And even though I don't buy much junk--really, I don't--I haven't been consistent about having lots of lean, fresh, high-quality meal choices for me on hand, either.  What I want from my body is strength, health, energy, and the opportunity to feel like I am striving to be the best person I can be, inside and out.

I schemed.  I read several informative books with new ideas.   I looked around my kitchen and pantry and thought about what worked and what didn't.  I made goals.  

I took action.  I found a group of friends that had similar goals, and we agreed to encourage and help each other along the way.  (We've challenged each other to the Game On! Diet.)  I worked hard to put together a plan to meet the dietary needs of every member of the family in a way that was manageable and realistic.  I spent some time creating tools to help me stay organized and on top of things.  I cleaned out and organized my refrigerators, freezers, and pantries.  That's right, all of those are plural.  The reason for that is another blog post in and of iteself.  

And I'm currently basking in the fruits of my labors.

Want to see?

I realized that if I was going to accomplish my goals, I needed to plan our meals carefully.  Admittedly, at least once a year, I try to follow a menu.  I've known for years that this is the way to do things.....I just have a hard time following through with my own plans.    Having a menu was the way my mom stuck to her grocery budget for HER ENTIRE MARRIAGE.  My mom is super, super organized and lives for routine.  (Hmm....maybe the reason why I am super, super unorganized and live for spontaneity.  Funny how that works.)

So I made a special binder.  Binders help me feel like I'm in control.

I filled it with all kinds of handy tools.

I plan my menus for two weeks at a time.  This is partly because I do two big shopping trips a month.  Above is a sample of the menu for our family meals, below is a sample of how I plan my meals during the Game On! challenge.  I really do eat breakfast....I just hadn't finished the menu plan for this week when I took this picture.

I used my Mac's spreadsheet program to make most of the tools for my menu binder.  It took a little time, but now I have them saved and can print them out any time I need them.  Here are some of my other planning tools.
Clockwise, from top left: 
1. I have a section in my binder where I store recipes that are family favorites.  
2. I also have a place to keep master copies of my menu calendars, shopping lists, etc.  
3. One section of the binder has info on the the special diet guidelines I am currently following.  
4. Another handy tool is my pantry list, which helps me keep track of all the food items I store in my pantry, storage room, refrigerators, and freezers.

When I plan each two week set of meals, I look first at what is on my pantry list that I can use, then I plan my shopping list.  This is a picture of last week's list.  Would you believe I spent less than $70 on two weeks worth of grocery items for my family?  I'll have to spend a little more on fresh items (milk and salad vegetables) next week, but most of what I purchased this week will last into next week.  That's what happens when I have a list of all my stored foods available as I plan out the menu.

So, my diet is going great, because I have everything planned out and don't have to sit and think, "Hmm, what can I eat right now?  Oh, since I can't think of anything, I'll have eight of these cookies, since they are handy."

My family is enjoying their meals, as well.  I'm getting dinner on the table at the same time every night and I'm not copping out and serving canned soup, just because I'm on a diet and don't want to see them eat anything appetizing.  Frankly, planning out my own meals in advance has helped me come up with meals for myself that seem at least as appetizing as theirs.  Since my own diet includes one "off the diet day" and one "off the diet meal" per week, I can plan in advance which meals I can enjoy with the family, too.

Yesterday I did a lot of advance food prep (it was helpful that it was diet day off....that way I could take lots of tastes).  I baked bread.  Yummy!  The Bionic Man feels homemade bread makes him that much more bionic, so I'm not a complete novice.  But, since I'm reducing our sugar intake, I've realized I need to be much, much more consistent about the bread baking (my recipe uses whole wheat flour and is sweetened with honey: both diet friendly).

I wish you could smell this loaf.  The picture obviously doesn't do it justice.  My favorite bread recipe makes 5 loaves; I make 2 batches and freeze most of it.  My family can eat one of these loaves for breakfast.  As far as I'm concerned, that is a cheaper, healthier alternative to cold cereal, so they can have at it!

Then I made cookie dough.  Notice that it is ready for the freezer.  That way, I can bake the cookies as we need them (for packed lunches) and I'm not tempted by them calling my name plaintively from the cookie jar.

I know this picture looks completely unappetizing, but this dough makes the best chocolate chip cookies, ever.  Period.  You know what is most awesome about this recipe?  It's multi-grain!  I use whole wheat and oat flour in it.  (Add enough butter and sugar to something, and you'll never guess how high the fiber content is, I guess.)  Let me know if you want the recipe.

Amidst all the baking, I had time to fix this super-easy batch of soup from a recipe shared with me by my friend Heather, Homemaker Extraordinaire.  One batch served my family of five generously, with enough left over for two individual servings to be put in the Bionic Man's lunchbox, and another meal's worth of soup to go into the freezer.  This is how I freeze soup.

Again, this picture does not look appetizing.  Sorry.  I should have taken some pictures last night when we were actually eating it, not today after it had been frozen overnight.  Live and learn!  Trust me, this is really, really yummy and easy soup.

Heather's Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 cans chicken broth (or 2 cups water w/ 3 chicken boullion cubes)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1-1/2 cups water
1 pkg. taco seasoning
Garlic salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

Put into large soup pot and stir until smooth.  Add:

*1 to 1-1/2 cups salsa
1 can corn
2 Tbsp. dried cilantro or 1 bunch fresh, chopped
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces.

Stir all ingredients together on medium heat.  Heat through.

Serve with:

Tortilla chips, sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese.

So delicious and family-friendly!

*Note:  when I made this last night, I used my favorite fresh Salsa from Sam's Club.  (Pictured below.)  I omitted the cilantro and 1/2 cup water, since this fresh salsa is pretty juicy and has cilantro in it.  This particular salsa is yummy, but too much for my family to use all at once.  I freeze 2/3 of it after purchasing, the frozen portion works perfectly in a recipe like this.

How are you doing with your goals for 2010?  Do you have any great ideas that will help me maintain mine and keep up the momentum?
I'm linking this post to:
And speaking of basking.....5 lbs. lost so far in 2010!


  1. I have no words - well maybe a few. WOW! Good for you! Keep it up! And when do you think the technology will be available to transfer some of your brain's hard-wiring into my head?

    You're truly an inspiration.

  2. I've just been reading through some of your old posts since i found your blog and came across this one. Wow! You've inspired me. I'm always on the lookout for healthy and easy recipes/menus. If you ever get the chance I would love your cookie recipe you mentioned with the whole wheat flour and oat flour. Sounds yum!

  3. I love your blog!!! Thanks again for your e-mail about zones! I also used your binder idea for organizing recipes and meal planning. I have to say it is going SO well! My kids know where my binder is and check it almost daily to see what snacks are listed or what's for dinner. I love it and feel so organized! Thank you for sharing!! Way to go on your weight loss!