Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Food Prep Weekend

Okay let me start by warning you this will be a long post :) I will simply be sharing my personal process and preferences for our food prep weekend. There are so many resources out there for learning and when I began my journey I did tons of research and ended up discovering some amazing blogs along the way that I will link to when possible. I had a million questions about what kinds of recipes were considered clean/healthy, what food can be frozen and best uses for it when thawed, how long certain foods last, where the best place to buy items was, best storage methods and so on. My goal in blogging my journey is to help someone find some of those answers easier and in one place!

Here we go!!!!

First I'll post some of the information I gathered to help begin the planning process.

What can be frozen and how to freeze:
Design Mom - Living Well: 11 Secrets To Properly Freezing Produce
Can You Freeze This?
How To Blanch
Storage life of fruits and vegetables:
Storage Guide
Meat handling and storage:
Food Safety - Storage Times
Clean/Healthy recipes:
Little B's Healthy Habits - My personal favorite to reference
The Gracious Pantry

Now that I was armed with some of this basic food knowledge I was able to plan my menu filled with healthy foods! I created a spreadsheet with a basic layout for a 2 week period with columns for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinners. Dinners is the hardest and most important to our menu so I generally plan those out first and fill the others in after. Some things to keep in mind when planning your menu are:
     *have meals with ingredients that go bad first
     *choose easier meals/snacks for when you will be busier or out of the house
 
Here is an example of my Menu Plan


Now don't judge on my meals yet.....this was the very first one I made when we were easing into healthier eating. I am learning a lot as I go and tons of new recipes and snacks to make it healthier and more interesting while sticking to a budget :)

After you have planned out all your meals create your grocery list using your menu.

*TIP*
I have my lists and info saved in various word documents so that I can copy and paste, cutting down on time spent making grocery lists etc. For example I have created a master grocery list with the items our household uses grouped by the store we purchase them at and with the price. This way I can plan my shopping day efficiently and know what to expect as far as cost. It also makes it super easy to quickly print and go! You'll also notice I make little notes next to items sometimes as to how long they tend to last and so on.

Here is an example of my Grocery Master List



I have a shopping/prep weekend every other week and usually begin the menu planning mid week anywhere from Wednesday to Friday depending on my schedule.We get paid on Fridays therefore, I plan my shopping trip for Saturdays not only since it was payday but also so that the best Nana in the whole world can babysit the little ones leaving me to focus on my job. That leaves Sunday for our prep day. In general this in an entire day thing for us. Marty and I spend the day in the kitchen prepping meals for the next 2 weeks but we absolutely love the time together chatting and prepping! Even better after our one day of hard work we get 2 wonderful weeks of ease!

Saturday
Saturday is pretty simple as it is shopping day. I get up early and head out for the day generally shopping at the Ranch Market, Costco, and Wal-Mart. Occasionally I grab things from the Dollar Store or Frys as well. I keep receipts from the day for when I get home so I can add the exact price of anything new purchased to my master grocery list.

Sunday
Sunday we begin by double checking the meals and organizing how we want them prepared. This is something I have added to one of my word documents as well. Under my menu I write each dinner and how I would like to prep it, which spices or ingredients to add, and sides we generally have with the meal (SEE ABOVE PICTURE). For example our taco meals are cubed chicken with lime juice and fiesta lime seasoning in the bag while our white enchiladas are tenders/chunks with poultry and montreal chicken seasoning in the bag. We store our prepped chicken in Ziploc Freezer bags (1qt) marked and dated. I shake the bag up and really mix around all the seasonings then lay it out flat and squish out as much air as possible while sealing it then lay it flat in the freezer. This is usually the biggest part as dinner is the most time consuming meal in general and also the one that we must do every 2 weeks without fail. A lot of the other things we prep are not as constant and change depending on the menu. I will go over the items we prepped last prep weekend. Not only do we prep frozen chicken for the next 2 weeks but sometimes we pre-cook some for easy lunches in salads etc. Many of our meals are chicken and we do a lot of baking in the oven over other cooking methods.

*TIP*
For food safety reasons as well as ease we work with our chicken while it is still frozen. We do let it sit out a bit before starting otherwise we can't cut it but it is mostly frozen and we trim fat and cut with a knife. We take out more pieces as we need them and put the finished bags in the freezer as we are done with them. We take the bags out one by one the night before that meal and place them in the fridge to thaw for the day and marinate.

Chicken Prep
www.barefootmommatess.blogspot.com


While Marty was beginning chicken I was beginning my own little preps. I am not huge on water and never have been but we all know it is super important so in order to help me drink more I like to make flavored water by simply adding lemon slices, orange slices, mint leaves and any other fruit or natural juice you prefer. I tried orange water this time and while it was good my favorite is still lemon water.

I didn't need all the orange for my water so I cut up the rest of the orange in slices and removed the rind. I then broke it into triangles and used it in a fruit salad for our lunch for the day. We like to make simple foods on prep day since we barely have time between prep to make our meals. The dressing for this fruit salad is greek yogurt and we like to top it off with sliced almonds. The great thing about fruit salad is you can use whatever combo of fruit you desire or have on hand! This one in particular was:

Oranges
Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Nectarine
Grapes

Prep Day Lunch and Citrus Water
www.barefootmommatess.blogspot.com


After we are done with the chicken for our dinners we move on to our summer oatmeal. I discovered THIS recipe on Pintrest and we have fallen in LOVE! At first we weren't sure we would love it as I can be very picky about trying new things and Marty is picky about dairy and well we were both worried it might just be a jar of mush! We were pleasantly surprised that it was not a jar of mush at all and when you use the sturdier steel cut oats there is quite a nice texture to it. This is a recipe that is open to personal preference big time.....we are constantly changing the ingredients until we find how we love it. Also Marty needs tons of calories while I need less so when making his we use whole milk and in mine we use unsweetened almond milk. We line up all our jars and fill them with the base ingredients which are the same no matter the flavor and then we go through and add the flavors we want. I thought I had a great idea for labeling them with these little tags on a string I had but to be honest it didn't end up being the best as the fell off to easily so I am still searching for a better method to label where it can be changed often but not as wasteful as the dissolving labels. We leave about 3 per person in the fridge at a time and freeze the rest until we need them.

*TIP*
Make sure to take the freezer jars out a minimum of the night before you plan to eat so they have time to thaw and soften. Also when freezing in the mason jars make sure to leave room so they don't explode! Lastly you may want to mark the jars filled less for the freezer in some way so you freeze the right ones.

Summer Oatmeal
www.barefootmommatess.blogspot.com


Once I was done with our breakfasts I moved on to the vegetables. Again I referenced my little list under the menu telling me what meals had what in them and how they needed to be prepped. For example carrots were to be used in stir fry and as snacks so I cut them in tiny cubes for stir fry and then also bite size chunks for snacking. Now I'm not too big on carrots so I knew we were not going to get through these before they went bad and didn't want to waste like the previous week so I got over my fear of freezing/blanching and realized it was super duper easy! I blanched 2-3 meals worth of small cubes to be frozen and taken out for stir fry over the next month. I also blanched and froze the broccoli, not because I don't love them but because it was planned for one of the last meals and I knew it wouldn't last the entire 2 weeks and since it is for stir fry frozen broccoli works great! I like to cut up the other veggies I know can withstand being sliced and still last the 2 weeks. Then all throughout the next 2 weeks when we use them in our meals all we do is grab the container and toss 'em in! We use tons of bell pepper and onion for instance so I pre cut quite a bit for all the meals......I can't believe how much time this has saved throughout the week!

*TIP*
I found that before we got our amazing new glass tupperware, FOUND HERE, and had to use Ziploc bags that the bell pepper, onion, and cilantro did not do nearly as well as it has since we have been using our glass. In the Ziplocs it turned mushy and liquidy before the 2 weeks was up whereas in the glass is lasts the entire time and stays pretty darn good and crunchy! They aren't exactly inexpensive but we have found them to be well worth the investment and plan to just buy another set here and there.

Our fridge was super filled with everything more so than usual this time because I was able to get a bunch of squash and other veggies from Schnepf Farms gleaning day so with this in mind I simply looked in the fridge to see what we had and what I could prep to save room now and time later. I plucked all the grapes and rinsed them and put them in a container for quick grab and go snacks. I also prepped some cilantro and green onion bulbs for roasting later. I have found squash doesn't do the best when peeled or cut ahead of time or cabbage so I leave those as they are.

Vegetables and Fruit Prep
www.barefootmommatess.blogspot.com


Lastly I wasn't too sure if our fruit was going to last real long as it was from the market and looked iffy. I decided to prep most of the fruit for fruit salad with the hopes of lasting longer in a sugar syrup. I used the strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, raspberries and Marty added the blackberries and mango to his. We then mixed it with the dressing and put in jars or containers for lunches and snacks. Here is the recipe for the dressing we used:

1 Tablespoon of agave nectar
1 Tablespoon of honey
2 Tablespoons of lime juice

You can use 2 Tablespoons of either just honey or agave nectar as well but I liked half and half. It's that simple and goes a long way!

*TIP*
I did later find it is probably best to use the freshest fruit possible and it can last up to a week or so.

Fruit Salad
www.barefootmommatess.blogspot.com


Well there you have it! A day in the life of the Barefoot Momma Tess food prepping! I'll aim for a shorter post next time and feel free to ask any questions you may have ;)


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm Back!

So it's been 2 years since I blogged....where does the time go!?!? Basically life has been crazy! As some of you know from the posts on my blog previously about 2.5 years ago I had a beautiful baby girl, Savanna! Whew, let me tell you I may have thought I was preparednbut I wasn't! Savanna changed our lives in so many ways. The first of which was how crazy life was for the first year of her life due to her unexplained illness. I'll never be able to truly explain what life was like in those times. I can tell you that it was harsh and it greatly affected our whole family and even though Savanna eventually got better after her first year it took quite a bit of time for our family to recover a harmonious balance. Not only did we need to recover from the way her illness had affected our family but there was also the adjusting that came with 3 little ones instead of 2 and also the fact they were close in age. Our home had also been affected with junk piles and what not building up more than they ever had and my business pretty much became extinct. I just didn't have it in me to try to juggle work and all that came with it and my new young family.

This all came together to greatly affect me as a person as well. Perhaps this was actually the root of it all and not vice versa....who knows? It hit me one day that I had lost myself.....the person I once was and wanted to be was nowhere to be seen! It happened slowly over the 2.5 years but before I knew it I realized I was no longer working/photographing, crafting, sewing, shopping, or doing much of anything that I had once enjoyed doing. I had tried a few times over the years to do a mass house cleaning or start business again and lose weight and so on but every time my dedication just wasn't there and my real self was still lost....I never succeeded. Until a few months ago when I realized I had hit my own personal bottom and needed to do something to change and was finally ready! It came about over a few months but was prompted when I realized I had hit bottom with so many things and weighed more than I ever had and was only creeping higher and higher slowly.

Some how my weight just snuck up on me over the years. After having both Brooklynn and Austin I pretty much went back down to my pre-pregnancy weight maybe minus 5 pounds each with no problems. I was happy with this as it kept me from going up, up, up but even then I was higher than I wanted to be due to various factors which had put about 25lbs on me before/around the time my relationship with Marty began. Well at the time I gave birth to Savanna I was about 5lbs heavier than I had been with Austin but still it was only 5lbs right? Wrong!!! If you add the 25 (pre-Marty) + 5 (post-Brooklynn) + 5 (post-Austin) + 5 (post-Savanna) = 40lbs heavier than when Marty and I started dating. If that isn't bad enough it again snuck up on me that I wasn't losing weight after Savanna. I weighed myself every now and then and when my Post-Savanna number showed up I would think "Yay! Same weight" not really realizing that as the months flew by I shouldn't still be weighing the same as right after giving birth so now you have to add another 25lbs (pregnancy weight) for a GRAND TOTAL of 65-70lbs gained since dating Marty! This was unacceptable but I just couldn't bring myself to get motivated.

Then my epiphany happened and I realized I really needed to change life and the key to getting there was getting healthier and feeling better about myself again. I had no energy, I hated myself/body, I didn't want to get up and be active with my children, I really didn't want to do much of anything and it was finally time to change. I wont lie I began the journey with the help of Phentremine. I had used it for 30 days once before and it worked amazingly motivating me and helping me lose around 20lbs in a month but then I found out I was pregnant with Savanna and had to stop. So when I needed that push again I decided to try it again. In some ways it helped and others not at all. I do believe it gave me the shove I needed to begin and I felt INCREDIBLY motivated for the first few days as one does on this kind of medication but then just like that it wore off! By day 4 or so the incredible motivation was greatly diminished and I experienced a lot of grumpiness and so on. I also wasn't losing as fast as I'd like after the 1st week which was creating tons of frustration. I would read all these stories of people losing up to 30lbs on it in the first month and I am impatient and feel like I have so long to go and that I needed to lose fast like this or I'd lose hope. The next 2 weeks continued to be absolutely frustrating with me feeling worse and trying to keep plugging through and trying new things everyday when I thought I figured out what was wrong....I changed so many things and just wasn't getting anywhere. Then I had another epiphany....I just needed to go ahead and give up the gimmicks and do it the good ol' fashion slow healthy way. Budget has been a big issue as well. I figured if I could scrounge to afford pills or shakes etc. then I could go ahead and put that towards groceries and eat healthy. I then spent the next week waiting for payday and trying to figure out all the healthy stuff.....I felt I needed to plan menus down to every detail so I could make sure we would have enough food to actually get through the pay period on our budget. I literally spent hours upon hours non stop day after day researching recipes and how long foods last and how to freeze etc. It was so overwhelming! Finally it was almost shopping day and I had to get a list together so I decided we just had to jump in there and try it and if it didn't work we could go from there.

Well it has been a week on this new no gimmick clean/healthy living style and I have to say I LOVE IT!!! My whole house has become more organized and meal times are planned and easy and we prep on the weekend and it makes the week amazing! I also notice little things that I didn't realize would get better....for instance my carpets and other parts of our home are way cleaner since the kids no longer go foraging in the pantry on their own pulling out whatever they want for snacks like crackers and such leaving crumbs and wrappers everywhere. We have set meals times with set snacks and they sit at the counter to eat then clean up their space when their done. LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER! Obviously this whole new household isn't all due to food but also the fact I decided it was time for a change in the way we do almost everything and have the motivation to stick with it but still....a lot stems from eating better and planning more which leads to feeling better all around!

If you made it through this novel......THANK YOU! I'll try to keep it shorter after this :) I started blogging again because I want to help anyone who stumbles across this blog who perhaps is going through the same thing and needs some inspiration or like me is searching for some help with menus, planning, prep, etc. I plan to post recipes, spreadsheets, prep info and more throughout my journey! I'll also be throwing in there some info on gaining weight and bodybuilding as my husband happens to have the opposite problem as me......makes things interesting but definitely harder....but that's another post :)

TTFN!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Been Awhile....

I have been so busy with life these days that I haven't got around to any personal blogs lately. I started my crafting blog and when I have a little free time I have been crafting and trying to update 3 City Creations but I would still very much like to keep up with my personal blog so here we go!

Savanna Update:
After Austin's birthday party on the 12th of June we ended up taking Savanna to Phoenix Childrens Hospital because her eating refusal had hit an all time high and we were getting worried. She was down to 17 ounces a day when we took her in. Surprisingly she was not dehydrated and the ER wanted to send us on our way as usual. Well I fnally decided to listen to my pediatrician and stand up and be firm. Well it got me somewhere! After telling the condensed version of Savannas history and that even though she seemed fine on the outside I believed there was a problem and her symptoms were NOT normal. They came back after about 30 minutes and told us they has decided to admit her to the main hospital! YIPPEE!!! So condensed version is we ended up staying 9 days and they ran tons of tests.....all of them came back NEGATIVE!!! What?!?!?!? I was blown away, now please dont misunderstand me I dont want there to be something wrong with my baby but the fact stands that her body is telling us there IS something wrong and I just want to know what it is. So we left the care of the hospital with Savanna on an NG feeding tube to give her continuous feeds throughout the night to supplement her daily intake and being told that there is something wrong with her but they dont know what and only time will tell when she developes other symptoms or with any luck one day she wakes up fine and has grown out of whatever it is. Since being back nothing has really changed, she has still had her good days and bad days and has been a bit crankier the last week. I was finally able to get a dirty diaper in to her pediatrician and they tested it for blood and that came back positive which I already knew since I had been trying to tell people this for awhile now. They ordered more stool cultures to see if she has an paracites, bacterial infections or if there was fat in her stools and so far they have come back negative. On Friday she will be going to the hospital for a sweat test for Cystic Fibrosis. She is not a classic fit but we are at the end of our rope and she does fit the major symptom of mass mucus production as she has had it in her diapers for the last 4 months and vomits it. At this point I am afraid I will finally have an answer but I dont want it to be that one and even more so I am afraid if it isn't that could it be something worse? This is just the crappiest situation and I hope for my baby to be healthy soon!

Other than the stress of Savannas issues life has been good. We had a wonderful 4th of July get together at Sonyas this last weekend and then relaxed all day and watched movies on the 4th. Brooklynn is doing great in dance class and made the Allstar dance team at her studio! That means that she will dance in recitals, events and compete as well. I am so proud of my baby girl! Only down side is that I now spend 6 hours a week at the studio not to mention tons of money :) Austin is still refusing to speak but is amazingly good at communicating without words. He also loves to dance and copy his big sister, it is quite cute to watch. As for Marty he has had a job offer that is basically his dreams come true and we are just waiting on a call to see if he got it or not. I will be so darn happy if he does and I know he will be ecstatic as it will open many doors for him. He will be working from 2:00pm - 12:00am though but hey we will get used to it and may even like it. Whew! I think that is all for now, thanks if you made it this far :)




Savanna with the horse Andrea gave her

Savanna looking so sad after getting her tube

Savanna saying Bye Bye to Andrea

Austin on his birthday

Brooklynn modeling an outift I made

Saturday, June 25, 2011

3 City Creations

I just wanted to jot down a quick blog letting everyone know I finally started a blog for my crafting! I am so excited to be sharing my crafty-ness with everyone! Why have another blog when I have this one you might be thinking? Simply because this is a more private blog to share whatever I may need to get out about life where as my craft blog will be available to the entire public in hopes of inspiring others the way I have been inspired! Please visit and follow my blog at:


Photobucket

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This is so hard....

As I sit here crying for what seems like the millionth time this month I thought it might help to write. I think I almost cried 6-10 times today alone.... I felt foolish so many things just made me want to cry. Sitting at the hospital just looking at my beautiful baby girl as we waited for her test, holding her as she screamed at the top of her lungs from hunger awaiting her test, seeing the other sad parents who had real reasons to be sad at the PICU as we exited the hospital, holding Savanna as she cried for 2.5-3 hours straight and refused to eat tonight, researching reflux online and the list goes on and on! I swear just thinking about Savanna these days makes me cry. I can't even make it through a whole sentence right now because there are just so many tears and something about crying my heart out feels so good. I cry for Savanna, I cry for me, I cry for Brooklynn and Austin, I cry for Marty and I cry for Nana. I dont even feel human most of the time these days, I dont sleep well, I dont eat well, I'm always tired and grumpy and it's not fair to my other children or husband. My house is a wreck and that only makes me feel even worse....I just feel like everything is crumbling around me....it's horrible. I hate that I can't fix Savanna, I hate my weakness and need for help from Nana all the time, I hate that I dont get answers, I hate that I dont have anytime with my other kids anymore and that they resent their own sister because of the attention she needs, I hate that my house is dirty, I hate that my relationship suffers and I either dont go to bed when everyone else does or when I do I pass out from sheer exhaustion. Most of all I hate who and what I have become from my inability to cope with it all. I want to be a good mom and wife again and I want my baby healthy. I want answers so I can stop feeling like it must be me and something I am doing wrong with her. Every test that comes back negative is so great and so awful at the same time! I feel guilty when I am disappointed with a negative test because one more thing it isn't has been ruled out and there isn't much more to rule out.....WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER AND WHAT AM I DOING SO WRONG???


I felt like we were finally getting answers and she was going to see a new GI and then all of a sudden right before her appointment she starts to do better, not great just better. The new GI and most other people besides my pediatrician dont seem to take me seriously because she is always so happy at appointments. The GI said we would test for some things and of course the tests were normal so we just had a check up to see how she was gaining and keeping with the previous week she was fine at her appointment and even though the timing was a bit bad for finally getting better I finally gave into thinking she was going to get better even though I knew better and sure enough tonight she launches into a good ole fit! I think to myself there is no way a baby should have to live like this there must be something wrong with her. Well to top off my night I start to really research reflux and more specifically GERD which Savanna has only to find out that yes, it could be nothing but reflux and yes, she very well may have to live like this! I suppose it feels good to know I am not alone and the things I am going through and feeling are normal but it makes for a bleak future....

Here is a link to a very imformative site for Reflux that covers all aspects of the disease
http://reflux.org/

Monday, May 16, 2011

What Makes Me Happy....

Last month I took a second shot at doing a photo session of all 3 of my kids. The first one was kinda a nightmare during which Austin threw my 50mm lens down the stairs and Brooklynn threw a huge fit. I swore not to ever attempt a session with them again :)

As usual that didn't last long before I was planning another attempt. I thought I had it all figured out this time:

1. Plan pose ahead of time
2. Make it QUICK
3. Pose on table so Austin can't runaway
4. If steps 1-3 fail just take single shots

Well so much for all that because in the end I didn't use a table as there was not one readily available for carrying upstairs, I was NOT QUICK and posing went nowhere. Austin absolutely refuses to sit and look at a camera....I mean ABSOLUTELY REFUSES! I didn't want to use food as a bribe as he normally gets dirty and only wants more, more, more but I also gave into that and used some Kixs placed behind Savanna so he would sit still.....no worky! In the end I got ONE shot of all 3 kids that was digitally manufactured but I will take what I can get :)

This is what makes it all worth while...

Pictures are so important to me and even though it is a pain to get them sometimes I feel like it is so important to preserve these memories of certain times. Already I look back at pictures of Brooklynn when she was a baby and I think sometimes "WOW I dont remember her looking like that!" or "Ohhhhh, I remember when that happened" and it is so great to relive the memories of those times!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Late Night Thoughts

Well I am up late, or early depending on how you look at it, as usual working away and thought I would write up a new post. I am working on redoing my photography website and updating my portfolio to attract my new target clients but really it is too late for such mental work. I did good at first picking out new images but then when it came time to re-edit some I ended up farting around and doing useless things in my effort to put off doing the hard work of editing when my brain is just not into it....and that is how I got here :) I am uselessly surfing the net and listening to infomercials playing in Marty's and my room that get really annoying! Really I am amazed at how much of my tv I take in while I am sitting here on the computer doing other things. Late night tv really stinks..... at least the channel Marty falls asleep too does. I believe I ramble and bounce around with my thoughts when I am this tired but I dont feel like going to sleep because I want to savor the quiet time I have to myself even though I really just need to go to bed.

I just remembered that I have to set my alarm and get up tomorrow to buy tickets to Brooklynns recital so I better be off to bed now so I can get good tickets!