why I love meal-planning

Hello, lovely people! It is currently Sunday afternoon and it is raining, for which I am very grateful. {Even though the rain sometimes causes ant invasions in our apartment… stay away, ants!} We can use all the rain we can get. Also, there is something that feels especially cozy to me about rainy weekend days. I just want to listen to Jack Johnson and maybe some old school Maroon 5… Sunday Morning, anyone?

I forgot to mention earlier that last Sunday, I went to a baby shower for my cousin Sharon, who is due with a baby boy in June. So exciting! It was actually the first baby shower I have ever attended, and I thought the hosts were so thoughtful and creative with the way they put the event together. We decorated burp cloths with fun designs, played a game where the goal was not to say the word baby {I totally failed, haha!} and showered Sharon with adorable baby gifts, including some of the cutest onesies I have ever seen. Congrats, Sharon & Matt!

Typically Sundays are when I plan out the week ahead; I like to get a handle on things so I feel like I begin the week with a bang! Allyn and I talk about our schedules for the week and if we have any special events coming up on the calendar. Something else I like to do on Sundays is to jot down a quick dinner menu plan for the week using this handy-dandy whiteboard magnet calendar I picked up in the dollar-bin area at Target.

meal whiteboard

I never used to really do meal-planning, but I am a full-fledged convert now. I have been surprised at 1) how little time it takes and 2) what a big difference it makes in how prepared and productive I feel. Spending fifteen or twenty minutes looking through recipes and planning out dinners for the week saves me a LOT of time and mental space, because then I don’t really need to think about dinner at all for the rest of the week… I just follow what’s on the whiteboard, and we’re good to go!

Here are some things that have been helpful for me when it comes to meal-planning:

  • I look in our cupboards and fridge and see if there is anything that needs to be used up. For example, when Allyn and I make pasta for just the two of us, we usually only use half a jar of sauce. So I usually like to make some sort of pasta dish two weeks in a row to use up the rest of the pasta sauce. Other examples could be veggies, greens, or little leftover bits from our Blue Apron meals like seasonings or half a head of garlic. For some reason, it makes me ridiculously happy to use up leftover ingredients. Embrace the little things!
  • Putting special dinners on our meal plan calendar, like going to a restaurant in the city with friends or celebrating someone’s birthday, lets us look forward to these events all week long and makes them even more special. As Gretchen Rubin writes about, according to her research on happiness, anticipation plays a huge factor in enjoyment. 
  • Meal-planning gets me to actually try out new recipes that I tear out from magazines or dog-ear in my cookbooks. If left to my own devices, figuring out what to have for dinner the day of, I tend to fall back on my same tried-and-true recipes: vegetable soup, pasta with tomato sauce, chili and corn muffins, enchiladas with black beans. I love all of these recipes, and they are great to have in my arsenal as staples, but it is so easy to fall into a “cooking rut.” I get tired of always eating the same thing, yet never know what else to make. But with meal-planning, I look through my recipe folder and specifically decide in advance what I am going to cook on which days. {I think the key for me is in advance!} Every week, I cook one or two new-to-us recipes. It helps that Allyn is pretty much game to eat whatever I put in front of him, so even my less-successful cooking attempts have been sweetly consumed in our house. 🙂
  • Planning our meals also makes grocery shopping much simpler and much less wasteful. Allyn and I use the app Wunderlist to add items to our shared grocery list whenever we run out of something. When deciding on recipes to make, I immediately add to Wunderlist all the ingredients needed to make everything on our meal plan for the week; this ensures that I don’t forget that one crucial ingredient like lime juice or tumeric that I may not have in the pantry already. I’ve learned that trying out new recipes means branching out of your comfort zone, and sometimes venturing into new aisles of the grocery store you don’t usually visit! Plus, nothing derails my cooking juju more than realizing I forgot to get something on the recipe’s list of ingredients, and need to run out to the store. #letsjustorderpizzainstead
  • Meal-planning helps us prevent food waste, which isn’t just good for our wallets — it’s good for the planet. I was staggered to learn that throwing away a pound of chicken wastes 519 gallons of water! Ruth Mathews of the Water Footprint Network explains that when you throw away food, you are not just throwing away that food item, you are also throwing away all of the resources that went into producing that food item. Furthermore, tossing food into the trash means it will end up in a landfill, producing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. If meal-planning helps you eat everything in your fridge before it goes bad, you could be saving thousands of gallons of water every week — not to mention saving extra dollars in your wallet, too!
  • Something else I do that has become a little joke between me and Allyn is that if I am going to be gone for whatever reason and there are leftovers in the fridge I want Allyn to eat up, I write him out a little menu as a reminder. I purposely try to make the leftovers sound as fancy, gourmet and appealing as possible. For the parents out there, this might be an easy way to make leftovers more fun for picky-eating children!

allyn menu

In short, meal-planning makes cooking much simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable for me. Now… I’m off to plan this week’s meals! 🙂 Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Questions for the day:

  • Do you plan out your meals every week?
  • What helps you cut down on food waste?
  • Any fun recipes to share?

goals + recipes for the week of 4/27

Hi friends! Happy Sunday! It feels like it’s been for.ev.er since I’ve done a goals post — I skipped last week because of Easter and my trip to Mendocino! Speaking of Easter, we never really chatted about that — how was your Easter? Mine was one of my favorite Easters ever. I spent most of the day volunteering with Allyn at a church in San Francisco, serving lunch to the homeless. The big dining room was set up like a sit-down restaurant and as volunteers our instructions were to treat clients like they were dining at a 5-star restaurant. It warmed my heart to see the bright smiles and proud postures of the clients leaving the church after the meal. I believe that the world would be a much better place if we simply treated everyone with dignity and respect. I definitely want to volunteer there again next Easter!

For Easter dinner, I missed my parents and brother, but I had a wonderful time visiting with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. As always when we all get together, there was much laughter and storytelling. My aunt Annie hosted us all for a delicious meal of eggplant parmesan and grilled chicken, and this amazing cake whipped up by our family friend Diana. I got the recipe from her and will definitely be sharing it with you soon!

easter me and arianna

easter dessert

I finally feel like I’ve settled into my new weekend routine: waking up early on Saturday to teach four classes as part of my new job working for Communication Academy, crashing into bed exhausted but happy, and waking up on Sunday morning to head to church. {Which I’ll be doing as soon as I hit “publish” on this blog post!} Today after church I’m looking forward to getting together with my friend Michelle, who I haven’t seen for a couple weeks. And then, just like that, the weekend will already be winding down!

Before I head out… it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from two weeks ago:
– write 12 pages
prepare for teaching & tutoring this week
– send out three query letters
– read up to page 250 of The Kitchen God’s Wife
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with three friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 12 pages
– finalize travel plans for the summer
– send out three query letters
– read up to page 350 of The Kitchen God’s Wife
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with three friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
– chocolate banana pb smoothie via Jill @reini days
zin-zen chicken via Sarah @The Pajama Chef {originally from Rachel Ray}
– nutzo date bites via Danica @It’s Progression
– spaghetti squash w/avocado kale pesto via Whitney @sometimes.always.never
cucumber noodles w/peanut sauce via Two Peas & Their Pod

Questions of the day:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

goals + meal plan for the week of 10/20

Happy Sunday, friends! How is your weekend going? It’s another gorgeous day here in the Bay Area. I love autumn! I think I’m going to bake another pumpkin pie today, or maybe some gluten-free pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies … nothing says … Continue reading

goals + meal-plan for the week of 7/28

Happy Sunday, friends! How is your weekend going so far? Fun and relaxing, I hope! Mine has been full of sunshine and battery-recharging after a busy week! We moved my wonderful brother down to Los Angeles on Thursday; he is starting business school at USC. I’m so proud of him, but I miss him so much already. The house is quiet without him — not that he’s a really noisy person, it just feels emptier when it’s just me and my parents at home. I’m definitely planning to visit him a couple times before I leave for the Bay Area in August!

Before he left, we went out for brunch at our favorite local spot, Allison’s Country Cafe, per our tradition. I love my little bro!

me and gb summer 13

Another highlight of the week was going to a local hot air balloon festival with my parents. It was a beautiful warm evening with good food, music, wine, and great company. Here’s a photo my dad snapped of me and my mama in front of one of the balloons:

me and mom balloon festival

Fun times!

Moving on to goals, here’s how I did on mine from last week:
– finish YA manuscript first draft {this got delayed again … I’m SO close, yet I don’t want to rush through the final couple chapters I have left … hopefully this week!}
complete the #yearofkindness challenge
help Greg move into his new apartment
– volunteer at the Food Pantry {got de-railed this week because of helping to move Greg to Los Angeles}
– read & respond to all submissions in my queue for Sycamore Review
get in touch with 3 friends and make plans to get together

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish YA manuscript first draft
– complete the #yearofkindness challenge
– transfer all my jotted-down writing notes to the computer
– volunteer at the Food Pantry
– finish craft project that I’m making for Greg {& post about it on here!}
– work-out/do yoga at least three times

Here are some meals I’m looking forward to making this week:
– blueberry buckle via The Pajama Chef
– zucchini bread oatmeal via Oh She Glows
– honey avocado mango salad via Chew Out Loud
– spinach artichoke lasagna via Two Peas & Their Pod
bbq pulled pork in the crock pot

What are your goals and meal plans for the week? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

MPM-Spring
This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday!

father’s day recap

Hi friends! How was your weekend? Mine was wonderful + busy — so busy that I didn’t have time to post about Father’s Day until now! Thanks for your patience with me.

I had a busy weekend, but it was busy with good things: delicious homemade food; gluten-free baked goods {new recipe coming soon!}; lunch out with the fam on a beautiful sunny day; shopping with my mom for a dress for her to wear to my cousin Amanda’s wedding {she found the perfect one that looks gorgeous on her!}; after-dinner fro-yo with plenty of toppings; cheering at the TV with my fam as we watch the NBA Finals; curling up with a heartwarming book, Emily Giffin’s Where We Belong; a long, laugh-filled, soul-soothing phone date with my bff Holly; snippets of peaceful yoga time on my new yoga mat {birthday present from my parents, thanks guys!}; a powerfully moving sermon at church about helping others; and my Gramps came over for Father’s Day dinner!

gramps fathers day

And here’s a picture I took a couple weeks ago of my dad, brother, and Gramps on the couch before dinner. I love this photo: three generations all together!
3 generations

At my church, the congregation always sings a song as the children leave the chapel and head off to Sunday school. This week, the words struck me as particularly meaningful:

“How could anyone ever tell you/You were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you/You were less than whole? How could anyone fail to notice/That your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul.”

The lyrics made me think of my dad, who has always made me feel beautiful, whole, loved and connected. {My mom makes me feel this way, too, but my dad was especially on my mind because of Father’s Day!} I count my blessings every day that I have been so lucky to grow up in the warmth of my parents’ unconditional love. For as long as I can remember, my dad has always done little things like opening my car door for me and laughing at my jokes, and not-so-little things like genuinely listening to my thoughts and opinions and telling me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. He also always, always tells me he loves me and is proud of me. Throughout my life, my dad has been a shining example of how I deserve to be treated — and not just in the way he treats me, but also in the kind and respectful way he treats my mom. I love you so much, Daddy!

father's day

What did you do to celebrate Father’s Day?

goals & meal-plan for the week of 2/17

Hi everyone! How is your weekend going? Mine has been fantastic — filled with lots of wonderful Mr. Jude time! Yesterday we did lots of puzzles, had a jam session on the piano, and spent an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese. And Jude was my little helper at the grocery store, helping me pick out ingredients for my white-chicken chili, which I made last night for Mike’s family. Here he is having fun in the kitchen:

cutie kitchen helper

And the weekend would not be complete without some quality cuddle time on the couch!

jude dallas cuddles

It breaks my heart to have to say goodbye to this little guy. He is such a sweetheart. I am already looking forward to our next long visit over spring break!

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week. I feel a lot better about the progress I am making on my thesis novel now that I have scaled back my goals and given myself a little more room to breathe:

  • revise up to page 60 of my thesis novel
  • blog about Week 6 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • blog about 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess {post is scheduled to be published this week!}
  • clean out and organize filing cabinet
  • knit 25 rows of the new scarf I’m working on
  • make 3 changes/updates as part of the #28DBC

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:

  • revise up to page 90 of my thesis novel
  • blog about Week 7 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • publish blog post about 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
  • finish grading papers for both classes
  • take old financial/health documents to the bank to be shredded
  • knit 25 rows of the scarf I’m working on
  • prepare for my presentation at The Louisville Conference on Saturday

And here’s some recipes I’m planning to make this week:
baked fish cakes
edamame hummus
cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken
chopped brussel sprouts with cranberries, pecans & feta cheese
chocolate turtle cookies

What are your goals + meal plans for this week?

MPM-Winter

This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday!

goals and meal-plan for the week of 1/27

Hi everyone! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend! A few snapshots from mine so far:

blueberry oatmeal

Oatmeal + blueberries … my favorite cozy wintertime breakfast!

blender

Blender all ready to make homemade hummus!

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week:

  • write 10 more pages of my YA novel
  • blog about Week 3 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • finish reading Best American Short Stories 2012 {I got side-tracked with a Judy Blume adult novel I checked out from the library!}
  • finish grading first assignment for both classes {Professional Email assignment}
  • knit 25 rows of the scarf I’m working on
  • go through stack of old magazines and purge!
  • send thank-you notes to the lovely people I met at the Key West Literary Seminar

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:

  • write 10 more pages of my YA novel
  • revise first 3 chapters of my thesis novel
  • blog about Week 4 Act of Kindness Challenge & complete it myself this week
  • finish grading the next assignment for both classes
  • submit at least 3 pieces to journals or theater companies
  • finish reading Best American Short Stories 2012
  • knit 25 more rows of the scarf I’m working on
  • clean out & organize filing cabinet

Finally, here are some recipes I’m planning to make this week:

hummus-crusted chicken
wheat-berry mock risotto
cilantro-honey-lime salmon
pumpkin pie

What are your weekly goals? What’s on your menu plan? Hope it’s another masterpiece of a week!

-Dallas

goals & menu plan for the week of 1/6

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a lovely Sunday. It’s been a calm, cozy weekend here in West Lafayette, with lots of green tea, unpacking, and reading on my agenda. {It always floors me how long it seems to take to unpack all my stuff after a trip, especially a month-long trip home when I have two big suitcases crammed full!} Mike and I also watched a couple movies this weekend: the clever romantic comedy Ruby Sparks {I definitely recommend this one!} and the campy horror flick Drag Me to Hell {okay, I didn’t really watch this one —  I’m a wimp when it comes to horror movies! I baked in the kitchen while Mike watched it in the living room. He gave it a 1.5 thumbs up.}

I can’t believe school starts tomorrow! Actually, it officially starts on Tuesday for me — I don’t teach on Mondays this semester — but I will probably still go to campus to get some work done and straighten up my office for the new year. If any of you are starting back to school tomorrow, too, I hope the semester is a great one for you! 🙂

Here are my goals for the week:

  • finish planning out entire semester of lessons for both courses I’m teaching
  • submit fellowship application at least one week before the deadline
  • debut first Act of Kindness on blog {tomorrow!} and complete it myself this week
  • write out responses and pack for Key West
  • finish Christmas thank-you notes
  • begin new knitting project
  • finish the new one-act play I’ve been working on
  • finish reading Who’s Irish? by Gish Jen {a wonderful short story collection I began reading last semester and then never finished}

I also made a weekly goal check-off sheet to keep track of my progress on bigger yearly goals that it can be difficult to keep a handle on over the course of an entire year. I find that if I am able to check something off my list every day, it makes me feel more motivated and productive, and soon turns that goal into a habit. Feel free to download my goal list for the week and fill it in with your own goals!

I’ll close off with the list of meals I’m planning to make this week:

Have a wonderful week!

*This post is linked up with Menu-Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie.*