It’s a rainy day in Central Virginia, but I can feel the sun trying to peek out from the clouds. The cold still makes my joints ache, but the tease of Spring makes me feel more alive. About a week ago, my hope for an […]
Author: Ashley Novalis
Happy November! It’s been a while. I hope you’ve spent fall around people and things that you cherish. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dreams and goals. I have lots of goals in the coming months and years, but I’ve come to realize my goals never really go anywhere without a PLAN. Plans are crucial to reaching goals, and in the busyness of fall, I wanted to share with you one way of planning that has been a lifesaver for us: meal planning and prepping.
That’s right – I said it. I LOVE meal planning and prepping. Sure, it can be a major pain in the ass some weeks, but I’ve never regretted doing it. Have you ever thought about it but you’re not quite sure where to start? Or you’re just not super convinced it would be beneficial for you? Take a minute to read a few reasons why meal planning + prepping is so great, and then some tips to help you start! I’ve even included a FREE meal calendar + grocery list with instructions, for your meal planning ease!
- It saves money
This one was really important for us. We knew going into marriage as recent college grads and young professionals our budget would be tight. We decided to experiment with the most flexible part of our budget – food. I love making food – GOOD food. This blog wouldn’t exist if it weren’t so important to me! Would saving money mean I couldn’t experiment like I love to, or eat healthy food, which is just more expensive? Spoiler alert, the answer is no! We eat the same thing for a week at a time, and then switch it up when we want to experiment. It saves us SO much money weekly. If you’re willing to eat the same thing every day, you can spend a fraction of what you normally do on groceries!
2. It saves time
2-3 hours every Sunday evening of hardcore meal prepping saves us countless hours throughout the week. We never have to spend time deciding on lunches, or rushing in the morning to figure out what to bring to work with us because we’re running late. It probably cuts out a lot of potential fights, too. 😉 (Can I get an amen from the married section?)
3. It helps you minimize
I could go on and on about this one, but I’ll save it for another day. Me and J have worked to minimize in lots of ways, and it’s a goal we’re continuing in the coming new year. There are so many excellent resources on how minimizing and simplifying your schedule, possessions, etc. improves mood, helps alleviate unnecessary anxiety, and cuts out decisions that maybe just aren’t that important to make. Minimizing helps us invest our time and thoughts in things that matter.
4. It helps you eat healthy
When you’ve already taken the time to plan and prepare your meals for the week, you’re much less inclined to swing through a drive-thru on your way to work, or eat something you feel guilty about. Because you have more control over your schedule, you’re able to work in exactly what food you need to reach your health goals.
5. It can be fun!
It’s great bonding time for me and J. Or it can be great “me time” when I just want a few task-oriented hours alone in the kitchen. It allows me the freedom to plan when I want to spend a few extra dollars a week and make a new blog recipe. We may not always be able to meal plan and prep to the extent we do now, but we’re so thankful for the good habits it’s formed and the goals it’s allowed us to accomplish!
Below I’ve put together a few PDFs for you to begin your meal planning journey! I’d love to see what fun plans you all come up with! Keep an eye out next week for some of my favorite fall meal preps. Trust me, these are recipes that you won’t mind eating over and over again. 😉
Until next time,
Here are some examples of meal preps we’ve done in the past, with some easy recipes and helpful tips!
It may seem like the food that doesn’t need cooking can wait to be prepped, but trust me – every bit helps! We wash and divide up all of our produce for our lunches so we can just throw a baggie and a tupperware in our lunchboxes the night before, and we’re all set for the next morning!
Honestly, salads are not my favorite meal prep because I just really like fresh salads – BUT these chicken bacon cobb salads are a good go-to when I know it’ll be a busy week and we have heavier dinners planned!
This bake is SUPER easy and so yummy. Pesto chicken – cook chicken at 350 degrees for around 30 minutes. Toss green beans and tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano and add to baking sheet with chicken. Bake for 15 more minutes.Okay, okay – our frig isn’t always this neat. But we do try to separate our food by breakfast, lunch, and dinner (top, middle, bottom accordingly.) This little change helps us organize our refrigerator and keep it neat and easy to find things quickly!
Chicken Caprese – mmm, I’m not eating dairy right now but my mouth is watering remembering how yummy this was! Chicken breast, tomato slices, fresh basil, and slices mozzarella – bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Today just happens to be the birthday of one of the best ladies around. Oh, momma. She is brave, and a fighter, and generous. She doesn’t back down and always stands up for what she thinks is the right thing – and passed that trait on to all three of her daughters (for better or for worse). 😉 It stinks living so far away from my family on days like today. Since I wasn’t able to celebrate in person, though, today I made one of her all-time favorites. And hopefully, it will soon be one of yours, too! This banana pudding is super simple and super yummy. It’s great for bringing to parties or picnics. J brought this to a baby shower at work and they DEVOURED it. Someone even said it was the best banana pudding they’ve ever had, but hey, why don’t you try it yourself and see! 😉
Happiest birthday to my Momma, and enjoy!
- 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 1/2 cups ice cold water
- 1 (3.4 oz.) box vanilla instant pudding mix
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3-4 sliced bananas
- 1 (12 oz.) box Nilla wafers
- In a large bowl, beat together the water and condensed milk until well combined. Add the pudding mix and beat until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Not letting it set for enough time will make the pudding mixture watery.
- In a large bowl, use hand mixer on high to whip heavy cream until it begins to stiffen/look like whip cream. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture and stir until well combined.
- To assemble dessert in large bowl/container: place 1/3 of the Nilla wafers on the bottom of the container, followed by a layer of 1/3 of the sliced bananas. Next, add half of the pudding mixture. Add another layer of the Nilla wafers and sliced bananas, then the rest of the pudding. Top with Nilla wafers and sliced bananas. Sprinkle some crushed wafers on top for a nice finish.
Happy July! We’re in full summer swing over here, and we enjoyed the holiday weekend by resting a little extra and baking a little more than usual (*insert happy dance for getting off work tomorrow!). Last week at Summer Camp was “Farm to Table Week,” so we ended the week with a trip to an orchard for some peach picking. Is there anything more mouthwatering than a perfectly juicy peach? I think not.
Originally, I was going to share a mini apple pie recipe, because what is more American than apple pie with some vanilla ice cream, really? But with all of these peaches on my hands, how could I resist? I must confess, I do not consider myself much of a baker at all. To me, baking is much more about the science of food than cooking is, and let’s just say I was never that great at science. I find when I’m baking it’s much easier to royally mess things up – J has tasted many failed baking experiments in the playground that is my kitchen. Cooking comes more natural to me. It’s stress-relieving and fun, and there are no rules – experiment as much as you want! So this weekend, I challenged myself to take the time to bake things that have been on my list for a while. A few new, adventurous ones – like making our own bread for the first time – and some old, faithful go-to’s – like these DELISH mini pies. Plus, since it was the weekend, I convinced a pretty handsome guy to be my assistant baker. 😉 These mini peach pies are perfect for your 4th of July cookout, and you don’t even need a plate to eat ’em! #fingerfoodfan
Mini Peach Pies
What you’ll need:
- 3-4 peaches, peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp butter
- your favorite pie crust (store bought pie crust TOTALLY works for this!! I just had the time to make my own this time.)
*If you’d like to make the pie crust yourself, combine 3 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 cup butter, and 2/3 cup water. Mix until dough forms, and roll out thinly.
- In a bowl, soften the butter. Then combine butter with the peaches, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Cut your pie crust into circles slightly larger than your muffin tin. I used a small bowl, around 5″ in diameter that worked well.
- Grease your muffin tin, and line each space with crust. Fill each crust with around 1 1/2 tbsp of peach filling.
- Top the mini pies with the rest of your crust, either with a smaller sized circle or other design. I chose to do a simple lattice, but if you opt for the fully covered circle top, make sure you pierce the top with a knife!
- Brush over the top of each pie with an egg wash.
- Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until crust is deliciously golden brown.
and then dig in! Seriously, the only thing that could make these any better would be a giant spoon of vanilla ice cream. Happy 4th of July! Here’s hoping your holiday is as peachy as ours. 😉