Back to Work Food Prep

Wow! I have been away for a while and I’ve missed you!  It’s been a busy week, and I’ve successfully completed my first day away from Ezekiel.

In short, we all had a good day – I’ll expand on my thoughts/feelings/stresses later on. For now let’s focus on how I prepared last week.

Last week my parents came to visit before their departure to the US for the winter.  It was so so so fantastic to have them here, and Ezekiel was over the moon.  He is smitten with them and that makes my heart so happy.  It goes without saying that they are equally or even more so smitten with him.  So with them being here it was easy for me to keep my promise to myself.  I did very minimal things (but I did learn how to hem pants thanks to my mom!), but the day they left I went into full fledged preparation/stress mode.

Honestly, preparing and organizing three people is like a full time job in itself! I spent the weekend doing laundry, cleaning the house, organizing meals, prepping Ezekiel’s food (in another post I’ll explain this), getting bottles ready, preparing my work bag and Ezekiel’s dayhome bag.  I thought I’d share the food portion of my organizing.

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I’ve been using my Erin Condren Life Planner to plan our suppers (this week looks like a huge mess!) we are just finishing up our last bulk order of meat so it’s been hard to plan original meals! Anyways on the days I’m working I’ve planned to use our freezer meals.

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After planning our suppers I decided I needed to plan mine and Ezekiel’s full days of meals, that way I don’t have to think about food on the days I’m working.  Since I work 12 hour days I have to plan every meal from breakfast to supper.  We’ve had to start pureeing Ezekiel’s food again so I’ve left his blank for this week as I get used to it.  For my dinners I’ll just eat what I’ve already planned for suppers at home.  Snacks at work are essential to save me money and calories, otherwise I’ll be wandering to the coffee shop on my breaks and spending too much money on unnecessary things.

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Although I didn’t plan specifics for Ezekiel’s meals I did spend Saturday morning prepping all this food for him.  I mix and match for his lunches and suppers.  So far he’s enjoyed each of my concoctions. It’s been great to be able to just grab the containers, and throw some stuff into the blender.

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I reorganized our fridge to help with the planning.  The top left shelf is all of Ezekiel’s food.  the top right is beverages and dairy.  The middle left is yogurt and fruit.  Middle right is leftovers and miscellaneous.  The bottom shelf I’ve placed our planned food.

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The left is a bin for my lunches. All previously frozen into individual portions, I just pull them out of the freezer and put them in the bin.  The middle is a bin for snacks I’ve prepared and frozen (granola bars/scones etc.) again I just have to pull them out of the freezer and place them in the bin.  On the right is the meats I’ll be using for the week when I’m not working.  I take them out of the freezer and put them in the bowl to thaw.

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Behind the bowl I put the freezer meals that Carlos can grab and heat for suppers when I’m working.

I’ve only been back to work for a day but so far I’m loving this planning and prepping.  It’s taken a lot of stress off of going back to work.

Erin Condren Life Planner

Erin Condren Life Planner

I don’t often splurge on items, and I also don’t often buy myself a birthday gift but this year I decided to do both.

You’ll notice that I’m definitely fixating on my return to work, it’s what I do when I’m worried or stressed about something – I fixate.

So in light of my returning to work and my sense of losing control of many things – mainly the daily ins and outs of Ezekiel, I decided that a good planner would help me to organize all of our lives and give me a sense of control again.  Of course I know this is in vain – ultimately I’m not really in control, but it makes me feel better so let’s just pretend I am oblivious to that fact.  This year while I’ve been at home I’ve been trying to use my iPhone and MacBook calendars to organize my life, and it’s been fine for the year but I’m still so drawn to paper.  The more I simplify my life the more I realize that technology gives me a bit of a sense of clutter.  I like to have things laid out on paper, I don’t know why.  I do know that I’m never going to be able to completely get away from technology (hello blog!) but the less I use my phone and computer the less cluttered I feel.  Hence my decision to use a paper planner rather than a digital calendar.

I browsed lots of planners in Chapters and Staples but didn’t find one that I absolutely loved.  I researched online and it came down to this planner or Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner.  I chose this one for a couple different reasons: 1) I could add the months from now until 2015 and 2) it has a folder in the back of it to hold letters, documents, etc. etc. and 3) I fell head over heels for this white and gold theme.

Life Planner Package

It came packaged super cute with some fun extras that I plan on using randomly with gifts.

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Another bonus is this perpetual calendar for birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates.

When it arrived I immediately sat down with a Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand and started browsing through the planner and jotting down things here and there, dreaming of how I was going to use it creatively and effectively.  So far I’m loving it, although it’s only been a few days I feel like I’m going to continue loving it.  I’m planning on using it a few different ways:

  • Obviously to plan my own work/life balance.  I’m joining self scheduling at work starting in January, which basically means I can choose the days/shifts I want to work – with guidelines of course, but having a nicely laid out planner with full month spreads in essential in planning and picking well.
  • I’ll be using it as a blog editorial calendar.  I intend to keep up with my blog posts once I go back to work, so I know I’m definitely going to have to have posts planned well in advance.  The planner will be essential in this.
  • I’ll be able to meal plan using this planner and my kitchen book.  There’s space at the bottom of each day to jot down that days supper plans.  I’ll doing that one or two weeks in advance so that I can transfer it to our soon to be menu board.  This gives me a heads up for groceries for the week, and what to pull out of the freezer for the week.  It also will help my husband to know what I’ve laid out for that nights meal when I’m at work.  With another little mouth to feed I’m afraid my husband will be very overwhelmed being on his own and figuring out what to make for supper.
  • I’ll be keeping a running tab of Ezekiel’s days and milestones.  Right now I keep a journal specifically for Ezekiel that I write down little things we’ve done, big milestones he’s made and generally how life is with him around.  I plan on giving it to him when he’s much older, and I really want to keep doing something similar but after 10 months of using the journal I’ve realized that it’s not realistic to maintain.  Along with the journal I’m doing a digital photo book of his first year, and I’ll transfer some of the journal entries into it.  It’s like double work! Before I realized this I was already so committed that I decided to just finish off the year.  So in 2015 I’m trying a different approach using my life planner to jot down general things that happen and then doing a Project Life Binder to keep photos and general journal entries using my life planner as a guide.  As I write that it feels like that will be just as much work… Again I think it’s the tendency to draw away from technology that attracts me.
  • I’ll be keeping track of finances and budgeting.  I already have a good-for-me system in place for my budget so I’m not sure if this one will stick but I’m going to give it a go and see how it turns out.

Generally I want this to be my all-encompassing-life-book.  I’m excited to see how it unfolds and makes me feel in control! HA!

Do you use a planner? Do you like digital over paper or are you like me and need paper? If you’re interested in trying out anything Erin Condren you can click here for a $10 off code on your first purchase.  Full disclosure this will also give me a $10 credit.

Here’s to simplifying life and trying to feel in control!

Back To Work Meal Prep: Planning

Back To Work Meal Prep

With my impending return to work my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.  The main thought being: How will I balance life while working full time?

I know that it’s going to take time.  I realize that it’s going to be difficult, on everyone, but I am determined to make one small (or large to us) part a little more simple.

Food.

Food is a passion for myself and my husband.  We LOVE food.  We are very particular about our food as well, eating mostly fresh produce with grain fed and finished meat that has been ethically butchered (if you believe in such a thing).  My goal when I go back to work is to have a freezer full of food.

Frozen breakfasts that are convenient to grab and go as we run out the door.

Frozen lunches that will be simple for me to pull out of the freezer and pack for all of us the night before.

Frozen meals that will be simple to pull out, defrost, and bake, or cook accordingly so that when my husband picks up Ezekiel from daycare and comes home, it’s a simple and quick way for them to eat before Ezekiel goes to bed.

Frozen baked goods so that I’m not tempted to spend money at the coffee shop at work.

One thing I’m aiming for is making food that both my husband and I enjoy, and that we are ok with feeding to Ezekiel.  For the baked goods that means making them all refined sugar free and also gluten free.

I’ve been brainstorming and list making for a few weeks.  This week I started on the actual making food process and it has been so therapeutic.  If I’m stressed or worried put me in the kitchen to cook, or give me some cleaning supplies and all my problems seem to melt away.  I’ll be documenting my process in parts for the next 6 weeks and then updating on how it’s going and what could be improved once we’ve implemented it.

So here’s the first step: Planning!

In the picture at the top of this post you’ll see my “Kitchen Book.” I’ve recently implemented it to document all things food for us.  I’m famous in my house for making an incredible meal, not writing down the recipe and not remembering how I made it.  It drives my husband crazy so I’m hoping this resolves the problem! I now jot down the recipes that I make and that we like, and add notes each time I make it if I’ve tweaked anything in the recipe.  I am also using this book for all my back to work meal prepping.

Back To Work Meal Prep

To start I’ve made a freezer inventory that I’ll add to as I stockpile the freezer, as well as cross off items once they’ve been used.  You’ll notice that our meat selection is pretty slim, but all that ground meat is going to be great for some freezer meals! We order bulk from an incredible ranch that has won awards for the ethical treatment of animals, and if we want something else before another bulk order we just buy specifics at the Farmers Market.  I’m trying to stretch out our meat until I return to work and can afford to place another bulk order.  Anyways, let’s get on to the next list.

Back To Work Meal Prep

This is my brainstorming list of meals that can be easily frozen.  Most of these we’ve tried and enjoy, but I’m adding more and more to the list that we haven’t tried.  If there’s a recipe we’ve never tried, I’ll be testing it first before making it for the freezer.  The breakfast sandwiches and burritos will be for us to grab on our way out the door in the morning.  My goal is to have at least a months worth of meals frozen (that means a month of my work days-so 14), hopefully more but I’ll aim for a month to start with and see where we go from there.

Back To Work Meal Prep

This is my list of baking that I want to make and freeze.  I’ve already crossed quite a few off of this list!  The problem with that is, I’m already dipping into my stash!

So there you have it.  My back to work meal prep AKA my back to work stress relief.

Any advice for a first time momma going back to work full time?  I listened to a Podcast this week from Elise Blaha called Elise Gets Crafty: Finding A Happy Balance that was all about a full time working momma.  It was really encouraging for me and put my heart at ease, so if you find yourself in the same boat as me I suggest giving it a listen!