Menu Planning Tips and Benefits

A big thank you to my friend Jill for sharing today about menu planning! We’re enjoying a few unplugged (and kid-free days) in the Finger Lakes region.  You can find Jill’s contact info at the bottom, and check out her blog if you don’t already follow her! She also hosts a fun Fitness Friday link up each week that I often participate in.

Are you a menu planner? Have you considered weekly menu planning and need a little push? Read on and you will realize how beneficial it can be to you and your family. Then, before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine starting your week without a plan.

Benefits of Menu Planning.Consider this, menu planning…

  1. Saves you time. You always have the ingredients you need so no weekday last minute trips to the store.
  2. Saves you money. When you have your menus planned out, you know exactly which ingredients you need to buy at the store. You have a list and you stick to that it while shopping and fewer impulse buys.
  3. Promotes healthy eating. When meals are planned out, you will usually end up with a more balanced, nutritious diet. You don’t have to run through a fast food lane, grab a processed food on the go, or skip meals.
  4. Reduces waste. Often, we buy foods at the grocery store, thinking we’ll use them for something, but they end up getting thrown out. If you’re sticking to the list, you’re not buying anything you won’t NEED for your planned meals.
  5. Saves on gas. No more emergency grocery runs = less driving = less gas money.
  6. Encourages family involvement. Everyone has input and everyone has a chance to request his or her favorites.
  7. Supports regular eating of meals together as a family. If left to the last minute, it can be very tempting to whip something up quickly for the kids and then another meal later for mom and dad.
  8. Takes into account life’s busier than usual times. Plan for the school activities, working late, and the unexpected and you’re less likely to make a trip through the drive thru or grab processed food on the go.
  9. Reduce stress. Enough said

Menu Planning Tips.What has made my menu planning a success?

  1. Make creating a weekly menu part of your routine. I write my weekly menu every Saturday for shopping on Sunday.
  2. Consider what ingredients you already have.
  3. Get family input.
  4. Plan for an on-your-own night.
  5. Make a list and stick to it when you’re shopping.
  6. Look at your calendar for the week before you start planning. Make note of busy evenings.
  7. Make lunches the day before.
  8. Cook on Sunday with leftovers in mind.
  9. Whether you’re using your computer or handwriting the menu use a menu template*. It helps make the planning more efficient and less time consuming.
  10. Use recipes that can be made ahead of time and reheated for a meal during the week.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me:

Blog: [Fitness Health and Happiness]
Twitter: @jillconyers
Facebook: Jill Fickling-Conyers
Facebook Page: [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Thank you Laura for allowing me to share with you today.

Do you plan weekly menus? Do you have menu-planning tips to share? Would you be interested in participating in a menu planning challenge?

* If you’re interested in a menu-planning template I would be happy to share mine. Leave a comment with your contact information and I will send you a template (or 2) to help get you started.

Check out more Summer Staples posts at Peas and Crayons!


Three-part-run and wiaw

It’s another What I ate Wednesday, so I’m linking up with Jenn:

I planned to get my run in early yesterday morning, but slept in instead.  Oops! We all three had breakfast together, eggs and zucchini muffins thawed from the freezer:

I shredded a carrot and apple into a few tablespoons of peanut butter and spread some on a tortilla for L’s lunch.  (Super yummy- and will keep for a few days in the fridge.) We headed to a friend’s house for our Tuesday playdate, and stopped at the grocery store on the way home.

I  had a few bites of L’s tortilla along with a handful of pretzels I had just bought for grandma and grandpa’s visit this weekend.  After getting home and settling her down for a nap, I made a salad with chickpeas, carrots, avocado, peas and goddess dressing and grabbed a golden delicious apple.

Snack time was a homemade kashi granola bar… yum.  I’ll share the recipe on Friday.

After L’s nap, we headed to the playground.  This is where the 3 part run comes in.  I never used to split up a run, but it’s really convenient with a toddler’s schedule, and I’m finding I’m getting more overall miles in. Part one- 2.5 miles to the playground.  An hour or so later, we ran the 2.5 miles home and got brown rice started in the rice cooker.  Daddy walked in the door and took over dinner, while I got a final 3 miles in for a total of 8ish miles at an easy pace.

I planned to run this as slow as I wanted after racing this weekend, but I felt good and kept a decent pace.

Since I’ve been doing most of the cooking in our house, it’s always a nice treat to come home to dinner. The goal was to use up our greens and tofu, and daddy made a really good coconut red curry stir fry.  I always think dinner tastes better when I’m not the one who prepares it, have you found that? Here’s one of my two platefuls:

Soon after we were married, we agreed that whoever cooked didn’t have to do the clean up.  So it was my turn yesterday.  He and L headed outside to play with some neighborhood kids and I mixed up oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies dough to bake when my in-laws are here this weekend.  I snatched a few bites in the process. I also had a post-dinner orange and a handful of raisins.

Do you ever split up a run to get all your mileage in?

Who does the dinner clean up in your house?


Lazy staycation

There is no ‘what I ate Wednesday’ post this week, although I wish I would have remembered to take pictures all day (or weekend)… it’s been one treat after another with meals out, rich foods, and too many desserts.

My sister and husband flew back to North Carolina on Monday, and my parents leave for PA today.

Entertaining family all weekend forced us to get out and do more than we usually do, trying to give them a bit of the Texas experience (as much as is possible in the city).  We got to the beach:

The local BBQ:

Walked around campus where daddy works, had some good Mexican food, walked around some shops and the Chocolate Bar, played games, had lots of L entertainment, and took L to an egg hunt at the local park:

It’s tricky to balance family time with training.  I’m prioritizing family time as it’s a relatively short visit.  I managed to get in a few short runs and a spin class yesterday, but have been pretty lazy.

I haven’t changed any diapers or touched the dirty dishes since my mom arrived, and we had a wonderful date night out last night.  We’re ready to get back to “normal” but I think we’ll all be going through some withdrawal tomorrow.

I’m really behind on blog reading, but I look forward to catching up and hearing what you are all up to.  Please let me know if I’m missing any race recaps, training updates, or new recipes!

Holiday training flexibility

We fly to PA for Christmas in two days! Of course, this means lots to do, lots to pack, and many friends and family to catch up with.  We’ll be gone for over a week, so it also means a change to routine, and a break from spinning and bodypump classes.  I generally spend the holiday week squeezing in a few short runs whenever possible, but can’t keep up my ‘normal’ schedule.  I don’t want to stress over missed training– family time is my priority.  But my type-A personality can’t survive without some sort of plan.  Here are a few things I’m telling myself:

1) View it as a cut-back week:  It’s helpful for me to build in higher mileage weeks before and after Christmas to be sure I get in my training runs before the half marathon in January.

2) Shorter, higher intensity:   Instead of skipping a run for lack of time, shorter runs still count!  I’ve read some great articles about how to get more out of your workout in less time through interval training.  And although I’m not interested in only working out for 6 minutes, this was an interesting read!

3) Prepare for the weather: I’m packing lots of cold-weather running gear, but also some dvd’s in case the weather keeps me indoors.  As long as are flights are not delayed, I would love a white Christmas.

(Here’s some evidence of my lack of fashion from last winter…)

4) Embrace rest! One laid-back week will not make or break my fitness level.  In fact, I probably don’t get enough rest, so I may even benefit from it.  🙂  Here’s one article about embracing the opportunity to back off.


There have been so many great posts on holiday survival guides!  Here’s a few others worth checking out…

Squeezing in holiday workouts at Run, Learn, Repeat

Five tips for maintaining balance at Running, Loving, Living

Five tips for achieving balance at the holidays at See Mom Run Far

Fitness Friday tips at Living the Dream

Does your schedule change this time of year? How do you get through the holiday craziness?

One of those days

Yesterday did not go according to plan.  Poor L woke up with a fever, so we had to cancel our morning play date.  We didn’t have any plans for the afternoon, so I was preparing myself for a long day.

I typically take L for a run in the stroller on Tuesdays, but I wasn’t feeling it and the weather was borderline.  I couldn’t take her to the Y with a fever, so I promised myself I would head to the gym after daddy got home.

We did take a short walk to the playground to get out of the house when the clouds rolled away, but most of our day was spent at home.  You can’t tell she’s sick at the playground!

We made sugared pecans for L’s Mothers-day-out teachers,

and decorated thank you cards for them.

We read dozens of books, and put together a few puzzles.  L zoned out in front of Veggie Tales for 30 minutes, and took a decent nap, so I savored the quiet time.  I was pretty low energy all day.  By the time daddy got home, I was feeling like I might be coming down with something myself.

The combination of too much taste-testing, a lazy day, and darkness settling in made it to stay home.  But I kept my date with the treadmill, and ran 6.75 miles (about a 9:00 minute pace).  The food was sitting heavy in my stomach (including too much snacking and a bit of black beans and rice before I left), but I felt so much better after going.  Emotionally and physically.  I love that running can pick up my mood!  Of course, by the time I was feeling refreshed and ready for the day, it was 8pm.  This is why I stick to morning runs!  At least I squeezed it in.

Are you a morning or evening runner?  How do you fuel for evening runs? I’m always either starving or battling a stomach ache with too much food sloshing around.

Pull ups at the playground

Have you ever been tempted to use the playground as a workout space? About a week ago, we arrived at the playground to find only one other family there.  The kids were happily entertaining themselves, and their mom was off to the side doing yoga. I have to admit, I was a little surprised that she was ignoring me to get her workout in (these southern moms are so friendly!) but she soon finished up and came over to chat.   I’ve often wanted to go across the monkey bars or do some triceps dips on the steps, but have never been brave enough to do so with other parents around.

A few days later, I took L for a jog in the stroller and ended at the playground. This particular playground actually has a ‘get fit’ section with parallel bars, uneven bars and other gymnastic-like equipment for adults (I don’t even know how to use most of this stuff).  I haven’t done a pull-up since 8th grade, but no one else was around, so I decided to venture over and test it out.  It looks easy… ha!  I managed to squeak out 2.5, but I don’t think the first one counts, since I jumped up into it and used that momentum to lift myself up.  I finished with a swing across the monkey bars to boost my confidence (also not easy).

It was kind of fun!  I wasn’t surprised when a quick search brought up several articles, like this “playground workout.”  I don’t know that I would do a full workout on a playground… but maybe?  It’s certainly a creative way to multi-task!

Have you tried playground exercises before?  When is the last time you did a pull-up?

Running and Solitude: how do you fit it all in?

Saturday mornings are hands down my favorite time to run.  It is my one guaranteed baby-free run, and comes guilt-free as L loves spending this time with daddy.  I ran 8.8 miles this morning, kept it slow, and felt good. It was already 60 degrees at 7am– I’m still not used to this southern weather… can it really be December?! But I’m not complaining.  Daddy and L were heading to the park just as I got home, which was a glorious extra bonus.  A quiet shower, quiet breakfast, and a few extra minutes alone are much needed after a busy week.

Almost everyone struggles to find time to workout, and moms especially can have the added guilt of missing out on family time or leaving the kids with others.  I’ve struggled to find this balance, but have also found that I am a much better mom when I make the time for myself.  My energy level is higher, my patience is greater, and my day feels more complete.  Here are some of the things that have helped me fit everything in:

1) A supportive partner:  This is probably the single greatest thing that keeps me running! I can get out the door for early morning or evening runs when daddy is around, and there is no stress regarding L’s safety or comfort.

2) Jogging stroller:  We use our stroller for everyday walks as well as runs, and lately I’ve been running with it 2-3 times a week. The downside, of course, is the unpredictability of your running buddy and the extra weight to push, but I find it works great for short, easy runs.

3)  Gym with childcare:  We love our YMCA!  The childcare has all-day hours and divides the kids by age so there are appropriate activities for babies through school-age kids.  I relied heavily on the Y this summer when I wasn’t running, and continue to take spinning classes there.  There’s always the slight worry of being called out by childcare workers, but thankfully that hasn’t happened to me yet.

4)  Treadmill at home:  We don’t have one yet, but it’s something I would consider in the future, especially if we had more than one child.  The luxury of running without leaving the house (early am, nap time, or after bedtime) can be a lifesaver if your partner works long hours!

5) Sitting swaps:  I know some moms have taken turns watching each other’s kids in order to get out and run, or have hired babysitters for long runs.  I haven’t done either, but it’s a nice option to keep in mind.

I prefer working out during Lily’s awake time or early mornings, and using her nap as my personal time. Of course, you don’t have to be a mom to find it challenging to make time for yourself! Working full time, with or without kids, has challenges, too.  How do you find time to workout? Do you prioritize down time for yourself?