Tag Archives: food prep

Fridge Clean-Out Food Prep 12/17/17 + Maintaining during the holidays + Fruit Bake

This week’s fridge list. 

Well, it has been a couple of months since my last update, so I thought I’d catch up tonight.

First, the past month has been a slog as far as my eating is concerned. I had a five days at a conference in San Diego with a foodie companion just before Thanksgiving and ever since then I’ve been a little loosy-goosy with my eating. As a result, my weight loss has slowed to around a half pound to a pound a week. Still progress, but yeah.

This is also due to the fact that when the weather is colder, I get hungrier. I also want more sweets and more wine. Which have to be accounted for in my intake! So those are the losses in the past month. A little hungrier, more of a sweet tooth, less motivation to be as disciplined as I have been.

The wins: I’ve still logged everything I’ve eaten in MyFitnessPal every single day. No lying. No skipping a meal. No skipping a day. I’ve been able to see why I’ve slowed to a crawl and be at peace with that. As a result, I upped my daily calorie intake by 150 calories (about a glass of wine) for the holiday season. This will keep me on maintenance mode until January.  I feel better having made that decision and it being a conscious one instead of an accidental one.

But today I felt the need to get back to a Sunday food prep. I’ve skipped strategic food prep for the past month or so because of schedule and general motivation. So, I figured the week before Christmas would be a good time to get back to it.

I didn’t do my huge food prep, though. This week I did the “refrigerator clean out” food prep. Which is basically evaluating what is already in my fridge and can be re-purposed or used as leftovers.


TJ’s frozen brown rice. I always have this on hand. One pouch is about a cup and a half of rice – good for two lunches. 3 min in microwave


This is what I had:

Already had 4 hardboiled eggs, a low-sugar fruit bake I made as a dessert last week, Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice, leftovers from a taco soup and a cheeseburger pie I made a few days ago, and three chicken breasts in the freezer. I also still had some celery sticks left over and more celery for a stew. We have lots of oranges on teh counter. And a small batch of fudge. There are, of course, various other staples that we always have (rolled oats, milk, yogurt, etc.)

So this is what I did. First, I made a quick chicken stew in the crock pot with two chicken breasts for our Sunday night dinner. It’s about 325 calories a serving and low in sugars, but high in dairy. It is a really filling and comforting stew that will give us mid-week leftovers for dinner, too.


Once that was in the crock pot and cooking, I …

  1. Parboiled the remaining single chicken breast to use for a couple of lunches this week. It was a 4 oz breast, so there’s two 2 oz chicken pieces with a 2/3 cup of brown rice for lunch.
  2. Sliced up an apple pear for use in a few farmer’s sandwich lunches this week.
  3. Spooned out two servings of the taco soup (I leave out the chicken in this recipe, btw) into a smaller container for a couple of lunches this week. I tossed the remaining half a serving.
  4. Cut up the remaining celery stalk (left from the stew) into 5″ pieces for snacks with peanut butter.
  5. Re-purposed the fruit bake I made (recipe below). I made this fruit bake last week when I was craving something sweet. I made it with half the amount of brown sugar called for in the recipe. It was still delicious over a bit of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it became even sweeter sitting in its pineapply juices for a day or two. But I had a bunch left I wasn’t likely to use as dessert again. So I dropped about 2/3 of what was left into my chopping/blending device and give it a quick turn. It is now a very chunky fruit sauce that’s just perfect over quick oats or in plain yogurt for breakfast. It is so sweet, I won’t have to add any honey to the oats or yogurt with this stuff. And at 1/2 cup I’ll get a serving of fruits in.
  6. I measured and prepped three oatmeal bowls for overnight oats. 1/2 cup rolled oats and sliced almonds mix in the little bowl with some cinnamon and nutmeg. The night before I’ll put 2/3 cup of milk in the bowl. The next morning, the oats have absorbed most of the milk and I can heat it in the microwave with the chunky fruit bake on top. I’ve already tried it. It tastes like a deconstructed fruit pie for breakfast. Win!!

The food prep part only took about 40 minutes. After that I wrote out my fridge list and cleaned out the rest of the fridge and pantry. Total of 1 hour food prep and I now know what I need to shop for, what I’ve got on hand for meals for the next five days, and how to keep things at a manageable level of eating satisfaction without totally derailing my (slow) progress right before Christmas.

By the way, my meal plan DOES include a small piece each day of the Easy Fudge I made Friday. I’ll eat the fudge alongside an orange. The combo is delicious! Like I said, I’ve got a sweet tooth going on right now. But keeping the sugars under surveillance is super important, too. I can have it, but knowing how much added sugar I’m taking in during this time of year is going to be key to not losing it in January.

Low Sugar Fruit Bake

from cottercrunch.com

I modified this recipe to use about 1/2 as much brown sugar as called for and added in more pineapples and more of the pineapple juice to compensate. I find pineapples to be incredibly sweet these days, so using it to offset the added sugar made sense to me. The recipe says the bake serves 5, but for me it made 8 servings at about 1/2 c per serving.

My workup of the recipe with the lowered sugar content:

130 calories per 1/2 cup serving
Fat: 8.2 g (4.9 saturated)
Carbs: 15.5 (most from fruit)
Protein: 0.5
Sugars: 11.4 g (2.5 g added sugars – the rest are in the fruit)

Great for over oatmeal or alongside brunch in the morning or as a sweet treat with ice cream or served with marscapone or whipped cream as a dessert.


Food Prep 9/10/17 and How to Make Balsamic Chicken Thighs

September 10, 2017: Current weight 247.  Reached my first goal, losing 10% of my weight. Total: 27 lbs down. As of last week, my calorie goals are 1440 per day during the week and 1600 on the weekends. 

The last two weeks’ food plan looks like this:

And yes, I do write this stuff out. It helps me to plan the grocery shopping and to check what I already have in the fridge and pantry so I can use it. Money is an issue in our lives and I’m not all that fond of wasting food, if I can help it. I put this note on the refrigerator so I can remind myself what the options are every day.

I also tend to set up my day’s eating in My Fitness Pal the night before or the morning of. If I decide in advance what I’m making for dinner, I can adjust my breakfast and lunch accordingly. This makes spontaneous dinner outings with friends hard, though. But if I have a day’s notice, I’m often able to make adjustments!

You can see that last week’s meal plan includes some not-so-healthy items like Brinner (Breakfast for dinner) and Steak and Ale pies.  I built these into the plan because I knew I was feeling stressed and a little down from grief. So I allowed myself a little grace in my eating and adjusted my breakfasts and lunches on those days.

Food Prep:

  • Brown Rice 2-3 cups
  • Chicken Breasts – steamed on the stovetop. (This method keeps them moist as they sit in the refrigerator for 3-5 days). Seasoned with TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute. 1 12 oz breast cut into 3 oz portions for lunches. 1-2 12 oz breast cut in half for dinner portions.
  • Apple slices and chunks of peaches (good for farmer’s sandwiches, snacks, to put in oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast)
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • Marinade for Balsamic Chicken Thighs (see below for recipe).

Trader Joe’s Cheat:  Pre-made Salads.  I split them in two portions for when I don’t feel like making a side or need a snack on the weekends.



I cannot take any credit for this one. Found it on Pinterest and it is legit a favorite for both me and Jaguar. Super easy and pretty cheap if you use thighs, but you can use breasts, too. Thighs have a heartier taste to them, but breasts have a bit less fat. Do what you will.  And I’ve left it in the fridge to marinade for up to a day and a half it and it was fine.

The Full Recipe is found HERE AT BUDGET BYTES.

My final version with chicken breast. The balsamic marinade is good with the vegetables, too.:


My workup on this recipe is:

  • 3 tbs of the balsamic-soy-brown sugar- olive oil marinade (approx what is spooned over the meat when serving): 90 calories. 1 g of sugar.
  • 1 – 8 oz chicken breast – baked: 215 calories.  3 g of fat (1 g of saturated fat).
  • 1 – 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken thigh, baked – 135 calories. 9 g of fat (3 g of saturated fat). Thighs are smaller than breasts, so most people eat two.



Food Prep and Week’s Journal 7/30/17: Rehearsal foods, TJ’s in the freezer, & How to make a Farmer’s Sandwich

7/30/17 Current weight: 252 lbs. 5 lbs away from first goal. 22 lbs lost.

When mom died on the 18th, I was 3 lbs away from my first goal (10% of my weight lost, or 27 lbs).  But in the two weeks after mom’s death, I gained back two pounds.  Not so bad considering I thought I had gained 8! But putting on two pounds after just losing my mom AND while directing a play . . . I’m putting that in the win column.

The large-ish food prep that I did for rehearsals, right before my mom died. Got me through another week without having to think too much about “staying on track”.

In all honesty, I had done a huge food prep the weekend before mom died, and that really helped during the week. To not have to think too much about food and just grab something already prepared was a godsend when I was in the fog right after her death.

Right now, I am exhausted. The grief from mom’s death has caught up with me and I’ve still put off doing her obit. Not good. I have other, show-related items I need to get done as well. But I physically hurt from the low-grade depression and anxiety of grief. I was exhausted all last week. I got through rehearsals but just barely. The cast has asked for longer rehearsals this week.  I’m not looking forward to it.

I’m going to try to get up early and walk in the mornings this week. Give me more time during the day to organize my thoughts, perhaps get a few things done. Maybe take Friday off for rest and recovery.

But the food plan is full of whole grains balanced with protein in order to keep my energy up for the whole day. Once I get to six p.m., I still have at least five more hours of work to do!



Food Prep Upcoming week: 7/31

Final week of regular rehearsal before tech. Needing to prep food for easy lunches and dinners to keep me on track and Jaguar fed.


Breakfast: TJ’s Steel-cut oats or hard-boiled egg (with apple slices, usually).

Lunch: Farmer’s Sandwich (a favorite of mine – see below for how to make), leftover chicken breast with whole wheat spaghetti on the side.

Dinner: Spaghetti marinara (whole wheat) and chicken breast, chicken breast/rice/steamed veg, chili-seasoned beans with quinoa.

Everything I’ll need for food prep, except the chicken breasts.  I use the 21 Seasoning Salute on the chicken breasts, the Lime Chili Seasoning, Garlic Powder, and Cumin on the beans (which is beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, bit of whatever broth I have mixed together), and the marinara and pasta is self-explanatory.

Almost all from Trader Joe’s.


Today’s food prep:

  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 parboiled chicken breasts
  • 8 cups whole wheat spaghetti marinara
  • 6 cups chili beans/corn
  • 2 apples, quartered and sliced


Each takes only 3 minutes in the microwave.

In the freezer:  

TJ’s frozen steel cut oats (more sugar than when I make the oats myself, but I went this direction to get the oats back in my diet. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling them the last two weeks).

TJ’s frozen brown rice

Mixed California Vegetables for steaming

The food prep has helped me stay as on track as possible in the last two weeks. Not having to think about what to eat is good. But by the end of last week, I was tired and emotionally exhausted and just wanted mashed potatoes (I’ve had next to NO potatoes for 2 and a half months). I planned for a meal at Jack’s Urban Eats – the chicken plate with mashed potatoes and corn – which pushed up against my calorie limit, but wasn’t terrible overall.  My weekly averages were still okay, all things considered, and I still lost a pound. Hoping for similar results this week.

Adding in the frozen items from Trader Joe’s are helpful when I’m already tired and stressed from rehearsals on top of work. They cut down on my Sunday food prep time and make pulling  a meal together very, very easy.



A “Farmer’s Lunch” is traditionally a crust of hearty bread, an apple, and a hunk of cheese.  I put these elements into a sandwich.

  • Two slices of whole wheat or multi-grain bread
  • Brown Mustard and Mayo to taste (I use less than a tbsp of each)
  • Sliced apples (usually half an apple is plenty)\
  • Sliced cheddar cheese

I stack the sandwich with the apples on the mayo side of the sandwich and the cheese on the brown mustard side.  The sweetness of the apples pairs well with the sharpness of the brown mustard and the cheddar, and the mayo gives it all a slight creaminess. It can be difficult to keep together, though, so assemble at work if you are brown bagging it.

Today's simple pleasure. One of my fave springsummer lunches a farmer's lunch sandwich. Apples, sharp cheddar, light Mayo and brown mustard on wheat bread. With milk. It gets the job don
Farmer’s Sandwich Lunch – except I now omit the milk. Too many carbs and sugars.
  • It is around 500 calories, but super filling for a no-meat sandwich and gives good, long-lasting energy.
    22 g protein
    44.5 g carbs
    12.2 g fiber
    15.5 g sugars (but only 4 of those are added sugars, the rest are in the apples)
    25.1 g fat (that’s with two slices of cheese, cut it in half if you want less)
    10.1 saturated fat
    60 mg cholesterol

HP’s Lose the Buddha Belly: Diet Approach after 3 months.

After I announced my first 20 lbs lost in 11 weeks, I had several people ask me what I was doing to see that result.  The next five sections are what I sent in reply. But I also emphasize GREATLY the importance of judging the calorie and macronutrient intakes on a 7-10 day average instead of obsessing daily, not freaking out if every single food doesn’t meet every single one of the goals, and being incredibly forgiving with myself in terms of where I’m at emotionally because that is going to get in the way at times. There are just some times it is going to be harder or go slower. And that’s okay.



The first thing I did (on advice from a friend who also dealt with pre-diabetes) was cut out potatoes and drinking milk (I still cook with it occasionally).  The starch in potatoes spikes blood sugar and you’d be surprised how many carbs and sugars are in a glass of milk. I drink milk now like I drink a fancy cocktail – only on occasion and often as dessert! I also tend to switch out sandwich bread for whole wheat pitas half the time. And I started with steel-cut oats in the mornings. This was a big help with keeping my energy up in the mornings.


I did a ton of online research about diabetic diets and did an online pre-diabetes course through Kaiser Permanente and consulted briefly with a KP nutritionist who basically confirmed that my research was on the right track. (Thank you, ObamaCare!).



southwest-tenderloin-w_rainbow-salsa-Well-Everyday-1024x682To keep the blood sugar down and lower my cholesterol, my diet consists of monitoring what I call my Big Four: carbs (under 180g per day), saturated fat (16g p/d – I don’t worry about general fat, just the saturated kind), cholesterol (280 g p/d – cholesterol is often related to diabetic issues) and added sugar (20g added sugar p/d – I don’t count natural sugars in fruits and vegetables).  If a food hits the targets on 3 out of 4, I’m good to go.


The result of eating like this is I’m automatically eating a lot of foods low in the glycemic index like whole grains, high in complex nutrients like beans and lean meats, I eat less bread and dairy than I used to, and go vegetarian more often. I also have a new love affair with hummus. Seriously.


BTW – this is very similar to a ketogenic diet, but this is far less extreme and way more forgiving. I’m all about the forgiveness!



The OTHER thing I found when focusing on the BIG FOUR is that for the first several weeks, I was having trouble getting in ENOUGH calories. I still have to be pretty strategic about it, but it is less of an issue now. By eating a lot of brown rice, beans, and lean proteins, I was eating foods that satisfy me longer, leveled out my blood sugars and my energy, and I was less prone to stress eating. (I still stress eat, just not as often and not as much.)  But these foods are usually very low in calorie.

During the first month, I actually had trouble clearing that 1200 minimum calories per day. When I needed to clear that hurdle, Trader Joe’s “Handful of Almonds” became a go-to. It is now part of my regular snack regimen – as are multigrain pita chips and hummus. 

But it also becomes pretty obvious after a several days of low-calorie eating, that something must be done. My body basically turns into Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and screams “FEED ME!”  So, I do.  And I don’t worry too much about what I’m feeding me on that day, but I DO record everything I’m feeding me. No matter what. 




I pay the $50 per year for the full My Fitness Pal (MFP) app so I can track calories and each of my Big Four on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I don’t kill myself if I’m a little over on one day or another. As long as my weekly averages are below the limits, I consider it a solid week. (Again, forgiveness!)


I had used the free version of My Fitness Pal in earlier endeavors to just track my eating. But I find that paying the $50 a year (not month, YEAR) is worth it. It gives you so much more data that is both encouraging and eye-opening.  Each day, week, or month, I can click on SUGAR or SATURATED FAT and see the foods I’ve eaten that contributed these to my diet, and how much they contributed. Same with over a dozen other macro and micro nutrients.  


Let me tell you, this last week, when I only lost 1 lb after several weeks of losing 2 lbs, I was like, WTF? Then I went to MFP and looked at the Big Four.  Lo and behold, I had had a week filled with Mexican food (and forgiveness).  I had been in rehearsal for two weeks, so feeding Audrey II queso and margaritas or getting Robertitos bean burritos two or three times was a coping mechanism.  It didn’t completely kill my week, but it definitely slowed things down. And there it was, in the antiseptic blue and white of the app, staring me in the face.


So yeah, it really helps me get a handle on what foods are problem foods for me and where I need to find some solutions. (Like finding better options on a Mexican menu!).


But it ALSO tells me what I can have that’s a surprise. When I found out how friggin healthy hummus was, I was looking to put it in everything!  I also discovered that I can still have small amounts of sour cream in my chili beans or a tsp of brown sugar in my oatmeal and it won’t kill my day.



IMG_9879The old-fashioned tradition of a Sunday Dinner has been replaced in my life with Sunday Food Prep. Especially with rehearsals involved, having a refrigerator full of already prepped foods really helps. So often the decisions are already made for me.


What I prep:

  • Brown Rice –  6 cups (after cooking) total.
  • Steel Cut Oatmeal – 2-3 cups.
  • Chicken Breasts – 2-3 large. One or two get split in half for dinner portions. One will get shredded or cubed for chicken salad or pita/hummus bowl filling.
  • Steamed vegetables – 4-6 cups.  
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs – these are just in case of emergency, when I need a snack or a super fast breakfast (with fruit). Jaguar can make egg salad sandwiches or I’ll slice and add to a spinach mix for salad.
  • Fresh Fruit – 4 cups of sliced/cubed melon, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon. Apples. Always apples. Now adding peaches and nectarines in the latter part of the summer. And grapes for snacks.
  • Beans with chili seasoning – 6 cups.


This amount of food can last Jaguar and I well over a week, really. It is perfect for when we’re both busy and we’re not sitting down to a prepared meal every night. If we’re disciplined, grocery store trips are cut down to the basics, saving us some money, too.


IMG_9882All of this then gets divided into various 3-6 cup food containers – a few of which are complete meals so I can take them to work for lunch or grab for a fast dinner before rehearsal.  I also tag what everything is with post-it notes AND put a list of what’s in the fridge on the fridge itself. So I scan, make a decision, and don’t think too much about it.


Meals I prep in a 3 cup food containers:

  • Chicken breast, brown rice/quinoa, and steamed veg. (The classic prepped meal for weight loss).
  • Beans w/ steamed corn or Beans and Brown Rice.
  • Chicken salad pita with fruit on the side.
  • Leftovers: ususally stir fry or whole wheat spaghetti marinara
  • Four morning portions of steel-cut oats
  • Hummus bowls – I read about this on a MFP blog and gave it a shot. It almost instantly became my replacement for Mac and Cheese for lunch. A hummus bowl is bascally a 1/2 c – 1 cup of brown rice and 2 – 3 tbsp of hummus as its base. Then you can add in anything else that suits you. I add shredded chicken or steamed vegetables as I have them. Leftover steak or taco filling has also gone into hummus bowls. Beans? Yep. Anyway, add what you want to the base, zap it in the science oven for a minute or so, stir and eat. I add a little garlic and cumin or Lebanese spices as often as not. But it is filling, low in calorie, low in the Big Four, and I find it a decent comfort food.