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Meal Planning 101

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The older our little rascal gets, the more I appreciate the crock pot. I wish I could hug the inventor and thank them for the couple extra minutes it saves me throughout the day. Taking it one step further from the crockpot, I’m trying to get better at planning ahead. This means writing out a weekly menu and preparing meals ahead of time, which in the long run saves me time, money and pulling my hair out.

In my quest to perfect my meal planning regime, I turned to Amy Hinderer Feltus who, in my mind, is a Mom extraordinaire! Not only is she a Mom of three and the owner of FIT4MOM of Phoenix & Scottsdale, but she is also a meal planning pro. In the midst of having her teach me how to conquer the kitchen, I wanted to share the knowledge with my fellow Mommies. So start taking notes and dreaming of all those projects you’re going to conquer with the extra time this meal planning Q/A will provide.

Meal Planning Q & A with Amy Hinderer Feltus
Meal Planning Expert and Owner of FIT4MOM of Phoenix & Scottsdale

amy headshot

Before we get started, tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I am a mom of 3. Jack who is 9, Benjamin who is 6, and Claire who is 3.5.  Prior to having children, I practiced law for 8 years – specializing in the public finance field, and managed an amusement park before that! I grew up in Michigan and I have been chasing better weather ever  since.  First in Tennessee for law school and then in Phoenix. I took my first Stroller Strides class in October 2008 and was instantly hooked. I started teaching Stroller Strides in 2010, and jumped on the chance to own the franchise in 2013.

What does a typical week look like for you?
Workouts: I schedule workouts the same way I do appointments and other calendar items.  I put them on there – I schedule 7, then if 1-2 get missed, it’s okay.  I do my best to workout 5-6 days a week for an hour. I do a mix of cardio and strength (Stroller Strides is great for this!), straight cardio, and flexibility work like yoga and Pilates.

Food: I try to eat 3 meals a day, and snacks as needed. I do my best to eat mindfully, but I am frequently guilty of going too long between meals and getting “hangry.”  That’s where planning and prep really helps me.

With owning FIT4MOM, health and fitness is in your blood. How does meal prepping help you to stay healthy?
It’s a time management thing for me.  A lot of people look at my meal prep stuff on Facebook and comment with, “your kids eat that?”  Well, yes, the dinners my kids do eat.  But the breakfasts and lunches and snacks?  Those are mine!  I get busy with 3 kids and a business to run.  I try to make healthy choices and easy choices.  If lunch is already ready in the fridge, there is no excuse to hit a drive through. If breakfast can be on the table in 2 minutes, there’s no reason to skip it.  As far as the dinners for the whole family, frequently we are so busy from 3-6 pm, that it’s again time management.  When I’ve planned and prepped something, we can have it on the table by 6:30 without having to resort to fast food.  

What is your weekly meal prepping routine?
The most important tool for me is my calendar.
Step One: I check the calendar first, and figure out which days I have time to cook, and which days I don’t.  From there I can build a dinner menu from the week, and a prep schedule.  

Step Two: My next step is figuring out the food we have in the house that needs to be used, so I can build meals around it.  I sometimes Google recipes for certain ingredients, but I also have “go to” websites for ideas as well.  Then I decide what I want for breakfasts and lunches (I tend to eat the same thing all week, because I don’t mind, and it’s easy).  

Here are my top three go-to sites for meal planning:
SkinnyTaste

Cooking Light

America’s Test Kitchen

Step Three: From there I make a grocery list and shop.  This usually happens on Sunday afternoons, but sometimes it goes into Mondays as well. I use the FIT4MOM meal planner for my grocery lists and meal planning organization. Download it here for free.

Step Four: After shopping, I prep as much as I can for the week.   

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I am, unfortunately, and much to my husband’s disdain, not a great bargain shopper. I shop at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Safeway. I focus on whole foods, fresh produces, lean meats, etc.  There aren’t always coupons for that! I try to buy what is seasonal and supplement with frozen produce.  I also try to avoid hormones in our food, so we do all organic dairy and meats.  I find Trader Joe’s has great prices for that, and Whole Foods has great variety.  

Writer’s note: If you find yourself shopping frequently at Safeway, I encourage you to download the Safeway coupon app. They link your club card number to the coupon center and start sending you coupons specific to your purchases. I typically save $50-$60 during my visits. It’s also very easy to use. You virtually “clip” the coupon but then your job is done. The coupon links directly to your club card number so that when you enter it, the discounts automatically generate to your bill.

What are your favorite plan ahead recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Plan Ahead Breakfast:
My favorite breakfast right now is a scramble or hash that I created a few weeks ago.  I make 5 breakfasts with this, so you can cut it down for 1 at a time.

Ingredients:
24 oz of sweet potatoes
8 oz of lean ham, diced
2-3 bell peppers, color of your choice, chopped
6-8 green onions, sliced
10 eggs
salsa or salsa verde (optional)
shredded cheddar (optional)

Instructions:
Bake or microwave sweet potatoes until cooked through.  Allow to cool and dice.  Divide among 5 zip lock bags.
Divide ham, peppers and onions among the bags.
When ready to eat, sauté the contents of one bag in 1 tsp of olive or coconut oil, or use cooking spray, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Crack 2 eggs on top, cover and cook until eggs are set.  Top with salsa and/or cheese if desired.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Plan Ahead Lunch:
I love mason jar salads for lunch!  This is not my recipe, but one I have made a lot and love.  Sometimes I have leftover chicken and top it with that after dumping on a plate. Click here for one of my favorite recipes. 

Plan Ahead Dinner:
For dinner, we love tacos at our house, and I find them so easy to make ahead.  I throw chicken thighs or breasts, taco seasoning and a jar of salsa in the crockpot and cook on low all day.  I shred it right before we eat.  Then I put out shells, tortillas, chips, sour cream, cheese, salsa and all the fixing and everyone can build what they want.  So easy and kid approved!

Here are a couple other recipes I enjoy!

crockpot chicken recipe

 

Easy meatballs

 

What do you like most about each meal?
I love breakfast because it sets a tone for my day – having a great breakfast, that is delicious and healthy really helps me stay on track the rest of the day.  Lunch is usually eaten alone – some rare solitary time, so that’s nice for me as well.  Dinner we do as a family as often as we can, and I love hearing about my kids’ and husband’s day, and just connecting.  Sometimes on a weekend, we might do “snack and watch a movie” dinner, and that’s fun too.  

What is your trick to getting your kids to eat healthy?
I keep offering them things, over and over and over.  It’s amazing how often someone suddenly loves something they used to hate!  I also like to put out a veggie tray every day before dinner.  It always disappears.  I pair it with hummus or dip I make with greek yogurt.  Also, at our house, if you don’t eat your dinner, it stays in the fridge until bedtime.  If you are suddenly hungry – you get it again.  Or a cheese stick, banana or yogurt.  Those are the options.  That said, we aren’t 100% healthy all the time.  I shoot for 80/20.  We eat treats – ice cream at the pool, etc.  I just try not to make it every day.  

What kind of snack do you suggest when the sweet tooth calls?
I think fruit is a great snack when you want sweets.  Frozen grapes or strawberries with plain greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey are amazing. 

What is your healthy eating/meal prepping advice for busy Moms on the go?
To set aside time for it.  It may seem really hard, but if you can find 2-3 hours on the weekend, you can set the tone for a great week.

Thanks to Amy for taking the time to answer my questions for this post! Do you have any time saving tips when it comes to the kitchen? Share with us!

More tips on food tips for busy families here!

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