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How I pack the lunch box

Packing the Lunch Box

Lunch.  As adults it’s the least thought about meal of the day. We run out and grab fast food or throw a yogurt into our bag and call it a day. Only to break out the change and head to the snack machine later in the afternoon. I’ve tried the whole, if I have a light lunch I’ll loose weight thought process but found myself snacking to the point of a stomach ache as soon as I was home. Obviously this was not working. As a teacher, I need to have a decent lunch to keep up with the kiddos. My husband is on his feet at work all day so he really needs a good lunch to keep him going.

After reading a million articles and through trial and error I’ve come up with a formula for packing the perfect lunch!

Being a teacher, I have a very short lunch- usually combined with copy making and getting the room transitioned to the next activity. When lunch times are cut short we need to find s quick, filling and delicious solution.

So, how do I pack the lunch box?

Packing the Lunch Box First I look for simple recipes that I can make in less than 10 mins and that will travel well. There is no use spending an hour on a lunch that will fall apart or taste gross when you go to eat it the next day. Since it’s summer, I’ve been focusing on cold lunches that can be eaten straight out of the lunchbox. That way I can grab it and continue on with whatever needs to be done.

I always make a main dish and pack a fruit, vegetable, snack, and a treat. I make the main dish on Sunday afternoon and then divvy it out throughout the week. This makes my life easier and easy is good during the week. I have found these three section

Packing the Lunch Box

containers that have built-in silverware, which makes it even simpler! I love making

things simple. You can find them here 3 Compartment Glass Containers

This week’s main dish was so easy and quick, pasta salad. I used a boxed mix and added salami for a little more substance. I used the Betty Crocker original as my base, it’s simple and so good. Throw in any mix in’s you want and you’ve got a great lunch.

 

This week. Watermelon was on sale so I got one of those to provide the fruit all week and then baby carrots with ranch for the vegetable. I then added a granola bar and Hershey Kisses (deluxe) for a treat! And there you have it, a great lunch.

Packing the Lunch Box

Some of the other lunches I’ve packed are Italian rollups with cucumber and ranch, and strawberries. This lunch is super quick and packs a lot of flavor. Also a bento box kind of a

lunch with salami, cheese, pretzel thins (the black pepper ones are the best, find them here Pretzel Crisps Black Pepper)

All these are great and simple lunches that take minimal prep and even less time to pack.

As always, leave your thoughts and comments in the area below!

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Menu Planning

Conquering the Weekly Grocery List

One of the weekly tasks that gave me the most trouble when I first started to meal plan was the weekly grocery list. My goal is always 1 trip a week, but when I first started I was making 3+ a week. Too much time in the store. After working through other systems and having them fail me, I landed on my current system that works well for me.

The first thing I do is create a weekly menu. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks we want that week. (I’ll post more about this later) Once that is created, I write down what I need each day to make those meals. If I’m making avocado toast with an egg for breakfast, Italian roll-ups with strawberries, carrots and banana bread for lunch and goulash for dinner I’m going to need a lot of ingredients.

Conquering the Weekly Grocery List
Meal Plan!

First I’ll write Friday- Thursday on my paper. Leaving plenty of space in-between. Once I’ve labeled my paper I start pulling up my recipes and writing what I need.

Conquering the Weekly Grocery List
Initial list
Conquering the Weekly Grocery List
Finished List
Conquering the Weekly Grocery List
Everything made it on the list

Once this is finished, I compile it all into one list. I put everything in order of my trip through the store. I start in produce (or go to the Farmers Market when it’s in season) then make my way to meats, packaged food, dairy, and finally any household needs beyond food. As I make my list I keep track of quantities so I know if I need the big block of cheese or the smaller one and cross everything off as I write it on the list. In the end, I have a simple, easy to follow grocery list. This makes my 1 trip to the store doable and helps ensure that I get everything I need for the week’s meals in that one trip!

IMG_1663

Comment below with any thoughts or examples of how you make your list!

 

Want to know more? Contact me, I’m happy to help.

Recipes

Weeknight Stir-Fry

Want a cheap meal that tastes delicious and is (somewhat) healthy? The answer to your prayers is stir-fry. Stir-Fry is so diverse, easy to make, and quick. It’s a great option for a weeknight dinner that packs a lot of flavors. The other great thing about stir fry is one basic recipe, like the one I’m about to share, can be changed in so many ways. Don’t like peppers? Use broccoli! Have a little of a bunch of veggies leftover? Throw them all in. Like your stir-fry with extra sauce? No problem. I love to have recipes like this on hand that I can customize based on what’s already in my kitchen or what looks good at the Farmers Market.

This recipe is pretty basic. It only has a few ingredients but it serves as a perfect base for many other stir-fry ideas. I’ve added an egg, used other meats like shrimp or beef, added in teriyaki or hoisin sauces to give it a richer flavor. You can add a little brown sugar if you like yours sweeter. As far as accompaniments… brown rice, white rice, jasmine rice, cauliflower rice, and my favorite- glass noodles for an Asian kind of spaghetti. Get creative and have fun! Life’s too short to cook boring food!

For this recipe, I decided to use peppers since they were on sale. I also choose chicken because we had some left in the freezer. I made brown rice to go along with the stir fry.

IMG_1557Step 1

Assemble your ingredients. 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 Peppers, 1 stalk of broccoli, 2 chicken breasts, 1 tablespoon of garlic (minced), 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger (minced), ¼- 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce.

Step 2

Dice your vegetables and then your chicken into small pieces- enough for one bite, placing them in separate bowls. This way you can use the same cutting board and knife. I like to do this before I begin cooking so I’m not rushing to get things done before something burns. If you’re ambitious you can mince your own garlic and ginger. I’m not that patient so I buy pre-minced garlic and ginger and keep them on hand. Once you have everything chopped it’s time to get to the fun part!

Step 3

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once your pan is heated add the olive oil,

garlic, and chicken. Cook the chicken until its juices run clear (this means it’s fully cooked and safe) stirring often. Once the chicken is cooked add your vegetables, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and ginger. Here is where you get to make your own decisions. If you like your vegetables crunchy you’re only going to leave them on for a few mins (5-7) if you like your vegetables more well done, keep the cooking longer. If you come to the end and think that your stir-fry is too dry, add more of the soy sauce and hoisin sauce. This is your kitchen and you can do what you want!

Chicken Stir Fry annesplans.wordpress.com

Once your vegetables have reached their desired state, serve immediately with any accompaniment you wish (I had brown rice).

Like I said, this is a super simple and adaptable recipe. Your creativity is what makes it fun! You could spice it up with Sriracha sauce or crushed red pepper. Sweeten it with brown sugar or honey. You’ve really got endless possibilities. This recipe takes about a half an hour to make which is great for a weeknight meal.

 

Weeknight Chicken Stir-FryChicken Stir Fry annesplans.wordpress.com

Total Time 30mins

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 chicken breasts (diced)
  • 2 bell peppers (diced)
  • 1 stalk of broccoli (diced)
  • 2 tbs. hoisin sauce
  • ¼-1/3 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • Brown rice to accompany

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil, garlic, and chicken. Cook until the chicken is cooked through (7-10mins).
  2. Once the chicken is finished, add the peppers, broccoli, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and ginger. Sauté until the vegetables are cooked (5-7mins).
  3. When the vegetables are cooked to the desired level, serve immediately with rice.

 

Remember to share how you made this recipe your own!

Recipes

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchilada Recipe

The other night I made my favorite Mexican food, chicken enchiladas. Roast chicken, black beans, and cheesy goodness. So yummy and so easy! There are so many variations you could take on this recipe. I added black beans and cilantro for protein and flavor. If you wanted to spice things up you could add fresh or pickled jalapenos. Not a fan of chicken? Try steak or ground beef. Have some leftover pulled pork? Use it as the meat. Like your enchiladas creamy? Try adding sour cream to the filling. One of my favorite things about cooking is being able to improvise. I can use ground turkey instead of chicken. No cheddar? Try pepper jack or Colby or your favorite non-dairy cheese. One thing is important to keep in mind and that is the quality of the ingredients.

Now I’m all about a bargain. I will defend most store brands to the end. However, there are some alternatives that you really need to stay away from. Our grocery store sells a much cheaper shredded cheese ($0.99 a bag instead of $2.50 a bag) alternative to their store brand. Of course, I was so excited to try it… It was horrible. I don’t throw food out, but this went straight to the dumpster. It tasted like chemicals and cardboard. So now I splurge the extra $1.50 without a second thought.

Anyway, below is the recipe, step by step and then a recipe card. Comment below with anything you love in your enchiladas. If you try the recipe, please share!

This was a two-part dinner; first I made the enchilada sauce. A very basic and easy recipe that will have you forgoing the canned alternative next time you’re in the mood for Mexican!

After I got the sauce going I started on the enchilada filling.

Step 1

Assemble your ingredients for the sauce. You’ll need, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (you can use vegetable oil as well), 2 ¼ tablespoons of white flour, 3 ¼ tablespoons of chili powder, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, ½ teaspoon of onion powder, ½ teaspoon cumin, and 1 can of chicken broth

Step 2

Chicken Enchilada Recipe

First, you need to mix the olive oil and flour in a small saucepan. Begin to heat the pan on medium heat. When the olive oil and flour mixture starts to bubble slightly add the spices in. Once mixed pour in the chicken broth,

 

SLOWLY. Once it’s all mixed together, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 mins or until it reaches your desired thickness.

Step 3

Assemble your ingredients for the enchiladas. You’ll need ½ a small onion, 1 table spoon of olive oil, about 2 cups of meat, I used leftover roast chicken, shredded, 1 can of black beans (rinsed), ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese plus another cup, 6 small corn tortillas, and 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro (optional). Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees.

Step 4

Sauté the onion and olive oil on medium heat until the onion is translucent (about 5 mins) Next add the meat. If your meat is cooked, just warm it up. If it is uncooked, you need to make sure it’s cooked through. Once the meat is finished add the black beans. Cook and stir occasionally for about 7 mins. Once this mix is heated through, turn off the stove and add the cheese. Mix until combined and cheese is melted.

Chicken Enchilada RecipeStep 5

By now your enchilada sauce should be done. Take 3 tablespoons and add it to the chicken/ meat mixture. Now it’s time for assembly. Take ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce and spread it on the bottom of a 9×9 square pan. Next, put ¼ cup of the meat mixture into each corn tortilla and roll them, open sides down in the pan. Repeat this for the rest of the tortillas. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Step 6

Place your enchiladas in the oven for 15 mins at 350 degrees.   Top with fresh cilantro before serving!


Chicken Enchilada Recipe

When I made these little beauties, it was 95 outside. I did not want to turn on my oven and heat the whole house up. On warm days I love to use our toaster oven instead of the traditional oven. It uses less energy and doesn’t’ put out anywhere near the same amount of heat as the regular oven.

Remember to share your thoughts on this recipe!

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchilada Recipe

Ingredients 

  • 1 TBS Olive Oil
  • ½ Small Yellow Onion- diced
  • 2 cups Cooked Shredded Chicken
  • 1 can black beans (16oz)
  • 1 ½ Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 6 Small Corn Tortillas
  • 3 TBS fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups enchilada sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sauté the onion and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken and black beans and heat through, about 7 mins.
  3. Once the chicken and bean mixture is heated, remove the pan from heat and add ½ cup of the cheese and ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce.
  4. Pour an additional ¼ cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×9 square pan.
  5. Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture, about ¼ cup in each. Roll the tortillas and place open side down in the pan. Fill all 6 tortillas.
  6. Once all the tortillas are filled and in the pan, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar.
  7. Place enchiladas in the oven to bake for 15 mins. Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 ¼ Tbs Flour
  • 3 ¼ Tbs Chili Powder
  • ½ Tsp Garlic Powder
  • ½ Tsp Onion Powder
  • ½ Tsp Cumin
  • 1 Can of chicken broth

Directions

  1. Mix the olive oil and flour in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble slightly, add the spices and mix
  2. Once the spices are incorporated into the flour mixture, add the chicken broth, slowly and mix.
  3. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for about 15 mins or until it reaches your desired thickens.

 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Chicken Enchilada Recipe

 

 

Menu Planning

4 Reasons I Meal Plan

I love to cook. It’s relaxing for me. That being said there are some nights I come home and just want to order a pizza for dinner and our lunches the next day. I know this isn’t the healthiest or most budget friendly option so instead, I plan out our meals to be healthier and stick to our budget.

  1. Budget friendly

Before I started to meal plan I would just go to the store and pick up food to make dinner. I had no concept of how much I was spending each week. When I started to meal plan, I was able to create a budget and stick to it each week.

  1. Healthier

Instead of ordering a pizza or just grabbing something that’s full of preservatives, planning our meals has allowed me to make healthier choices. If I know that I’m going to be making grilled cheese Thursday for dinner, I can fire up the old bread machine before I go to work in the morning creating fresh, inexpensive, and preservative free bread for our dinner. I buy more pantry basics like rice and dried beans and know when to prep them for our meals. It also allows me to plan more vegetables and fruit into our meals. Since I have time to sit down and look over our meals for the week, I can see if we are eating too much or too little of something. I adjust and make healthier choices.

  1. Simplicity

I hate running to the store every day. I hate trying to fit it into my day and then dodging carts and cars in the parking lot, dealing with people who walk like snails through the aisles and waiting an extra 5 mins in the checkout line. Planning our meals for the week allows me to go shopping once a week. I get everything I need and can choose a less busy time to shop. It’s also such a routine to come home and know what I’ll be making for dinner. I can plan to make a crockpot meal if I know it’s a packed day or plan a special Sunday dinner. My husband also loves knowing what we’re having each day.

  1. Make good use of my Pinterest boards

I LOVE Pinterest. I have 163 boards and almost 10,000 pins. About 1/3 of these are about food or drink. Planning our meals allows me to actually make the recipes I spend hours of my life pinning.

Anything that can save me time and make my life better is great to me. Meal planning has allowed us to eat healthier, spend less time in the store, and be more creative in the kitchen. It’s a win all around!