Content & recipe courtesy of Pam Higgins, Certified Health Coach
Fall is back-to-school time for most families with kids. Back to school means getting back into the routine of waking up early, being on the go, participating in extracurricular activities and more. It also means less time for meal prep–and even less time to cook and eat your meals. Staging your kitchen is a simple way to set yourself up for success when it comes to healthy eating. Eating well will help fuel your activities and lifestyle, contribute to better moods and result in less burnout and fewer reasons to grab fast food or junk food.
Try these five simple steps to prep and organize your kitchen for success:
1. Plan your week
Write down your schedule for the week. Will you be home some nights for dinner and on the go other nights? Decide what days you’ll need dinner packed and ready for the road, or which nights are going to allow you only 20 minutes to cook. Grab your favorite cookbook or magazine or look for recipes online and decide on meals for the week. If it suits your family, dedicate one night a week to a certain type of meal.
For example: Mondays ““ salads, Tuesdays ““ tacos, Wednesdays ““ slow cooker, Thursdays ““ leftovers, Fridays ““ get the grill out. This will help streamline weekly meal planning. And there are so many types of salads, tacos, slow cooker and grilled meals to choose from!
2. Create a list
Once you’ve decided what meals you want for the week and what snacks to have ready, write it all down. You can use a template meal-and-grocery list to stay organized. There are tons of templates online. I like this one because it includes spaces to write out your meals and your grocery list on the same page. It’s a big time saver to plan out meals then write your list accordingly!
3. Peel, chop and pack
Buy your veggies for the week then wash, peel, chop and put in containers for snacks on the go. This may take an hour on Sunday (or your chosen night of the week), but it will save you loads of time during the week. You can even buy pre-cut or pre-washed veggies (baby carrots, celery, broccoli, washed lettuce) to save even more time. Most fruits can be simply washed and eaten whole. For small children, cut up a few pieces of fruit and store in an airtight container in the fridge. I like frozen fruit, too: cherries, mango or pineapple for a sweet treat.
4. Pre-cook your proteins and grains
Most proteins can last three or four days in the fridge, so cook up a bunch of chicken or make a big pot of turkey chili or pork loin (fish lasts only one day). Beans, quinoa or brown rice can last up to seven days in the refrigerator. Make a big batch of each to use in meals throughout the week. Beans by the can are great, too. I like Eden Organic Beans since Eden uses BPA-free cans (BPA is a substance found in packaging that may be harmful to health).
5. Cook once, eat twice
Prepare meals that will yield ample leftovers, or double your recipes. Using leftover chicken from one meal, you can create another meal for lunch or dinner. I like repeats or having dinner for lunch the next day. Create salads with cooked chicken and fresh veggies, topped with berries or sliced apple. The next day, use leftover chicken for tacos by adding salsa, beans and fresh avocado and rolling into non-GMO corn tortillas. For lunch the next day, make a bowl with leftover beans, quinoa, salsa and avocado. Delish!
Many of my clients are busy and on the go, especially when fall rolls around and school season begins. I help them plan to eat well so they can enjoy their busy lives and have plenty of energy to keep up. In addition to providing energy, eating healthy foods will help maintain weight and keep blood sugar stable (which means improved moods, since, as you know, low blood sugar can spike short tempers).
So stage your kitchen every week for everyday happiness, and get started with my favorite turkey chili. For extra veggies and nutrients, add chopped bell peppers, eggplant or shredded carrots.
Cook Once, Eat Twice Turkey Chili
1 lb. ground turkey (I use Plainville Farms brand, humanely raised)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
1 (BPA-free) can (28 oz.) crushed (or chopped) tomatoes
1 (BPA-free) can (15 oz.) kidney beans or pinto beans (undrained)
1 (BPA-free) can (15 oz.) black beans (drained)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1. Measure out seasonings (chili powder, cayenne, black pepper, sea salt and cumin) set aside. Crush two cloves of fresh garlic and set aside. Open canned tomatoes and beans, set aside. Drain and rinse black beans only.
1. In a soup pot or French Oven, cook ground turkey until cooked through, using spatula to break up large chunks.
2. Drain cooked turkey in colander to remove excess fat; return to pot. (Alternatively, push meat to one side of pot and use paper towels to soak up excess fat drippings. Discard paper towels. Caution: Paper towels will be extremely hot!)
3. Add crushed garlic to turkey and stir until you smell the garlic, about 30 seconds.
4. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, and seasonings. Stir to combine.
5. Bring to a boil; turn down heat and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often.
6. Meanwhile, wash and chop fresh cilantro. (This is your secret ingredient and will be added just before serving.)
When ready to serve, stir cilantro into chili. Serve over fresh spinach and top with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese, if desired. Pack up leftovers for lunches or enjoy for dinner 1-2 nights later. The chili freezes well too!