Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Preparation Pays Off!

In the last couple weeks I learned how true this is.  I made it through a week of teacher inservice and the first week of school.  And by made it I mean that despite the crazy hectic schedule, I didn't toss out my nutrition for fast food or chocolate!  I was able to make great choices with my nutrition because I took the time to prepare.

My preparation consists of cooking chicken so it is ready use in salads, washing and cutting veggies, and making sure I've been to the grocery store so I have the items I need.  I pack it all up each morning but when the time consuming part is done it makes it so easy.  Each morning I try to think through my day and make choices that will help me.  For example, if I have an appointment or meeting that would keep me from doing a regular meal or snack I make sure and take something I can eat on the go.

Whatever you do, make sure that you don't neglect the preparation part!  Share your ideas for preparation in the comments.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mason Jar Salads

Tomorrow I start back to school (teachers only this week) so I knew that Prep Day would be a little more than what I had been doing during the summer.  I am excited to share with you today one of my all time favorite Pinterest finds - The Mason Jar Salad!

Why do I love this so much?  Well, its easy to prepare in assembly line format, its easy to transport and most importantly it keeps my salads crisp and fresh for a week!  Not to mention it's fun to eat too!

This week I decided to make ahead 4 salads that I could take up to school for what will prove to be a very busy week.  I started by getting all of my supplies and ingredients ready.

Oops - I forgot to pull out the lettuce blend for the picture!

My ingredients for the week include lettuce blend that I prepped last week and still had some left (green leaf lettuce and baby spinach), chopped bell peppers in lots of pretty colors, carrots, strawberries, avocado, feta cheese, grilled chicken and my dressing.  Oh yeah - and I need my jars.  I love this pint and a half size wide-mouth jar.  It holds enough to make a nice meal size salad and the wide mouth makes it easy to assemble and get everything out.

OK - so assembling the salad is really easy as long as you remember the order of ingredients.

Step 1 - Add your dressing.  The dressing on the bottom keeps your lettuce from getting soggy!  Put it in first or don't add any at all and keep it on the side in a separate container.  I figured out how much dressing to use by measuring what I put on a regular salad that I made at home.

Step 2 - Add your veggies - but NOT your lettuce.  I like to start with my sturdiest/ densest veggie right next to the dressing.  Today I am doing 2 different salads so my bottom layer was carrots in 2 jars and bell peppers in 2 jars.  Then layer in all the veggies that you want in your salad.  Here's mine:

Step 3 - Add any fruit that you would like in your salad.  Two of my salads will have strawberries and avocado so I added that next.

Step 4 - Time to add your protein.  I included a sprinkle of feta cheese and then added my grilled chicken breast.  You can add any protein that you would normally eat on a salad.

Step 5 - Fill to the rim with lettuce!  I put in a handful and push it down a little then add some more!

Step 6 - Screw on the lid.  I generally push the lettuce down a little as I start putting the lid on just to make sure no lettuce is stick and that the lid get s a good seal.  I think this is the important part because it really locks in the humidity that keeps the lettuce crisp and fresh.  I was skeptical at first, thinking there's no way lettuce would last a week - but they really do!

That's it - you're done!  Keep in the refrigerator and grab and go.  This makes a quick and easy lunch on a busy day.  I actually took all of mine and some snacks I prepped up to school and stocked my little refrigerator for the week.

Here's what I have prepped for my week of lunches and snacks.

4 Mason Jar Salads, Bag of veggies (peppers, snap peas and carrots) ready for
munching on, hummus (already in the refrigerator at school), my hubby's
fabulous homemade beef jerky, and some fruit.
I am starting the week confident that Back to School won't derail my good food choices.  When it is there and ready, it makes it so easy!

So what would you put in your mason jar?  Share your ideas and let's inspire each other to make easy, healthy meals.  When you make yours, hop over the Facebook page and post a picture of you and your Mason Jar Salad!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to School Shopping and Help Please!

So when I started this weight loss journey I told myself that I wasn't going to buy new clothes along the way - that is until the start of the new school year.  By the time school ended I was very tired of pulling my pants all day long.  I actually resorted to using safety pins to pin them in the back so they would fit a little better.  A good problem to have - but annoying none the less.  When school got out I cleaned out my closet.  I donated or took to consignment stores anything that was too big.  I found some clothes in the deep dark crevices of my closet that hadn't been work in years that were in a size I could wear and if nothing else - yoga pants would be just fine for summer vacation.  Let's just say I wore a lot of yoga pants this summer!

So fast forward to August and I realize school starts in just a couple weeks.  I guess it is time to go clothes shopping.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous.  You see, when I look in the mirror I still the weight I need to lose - not the progress I've made.  And since I look at myself everyday I have a hard time seeing the changes.  So there was definitely the thought that I'd go to try things on and I'd still be in a size 22 or 24.  When I started this journey I was wearing a 24 - a tight 24 but I refused to buy anything bigger.

I wasn't really sure where to even start.  Friday night I went to the outlet mall with my family to get my son some new tennis shoes for school.  As we drove through the mall I drove past this store called Torrid (I had never heard of it) and noticed the sign that said sizes 12 - 28.  Well hey - that would be me.  I knew I wasn't lower than a size 12 - yet.  So we parked the car and I went in to check it out.  Although most of the things in the store are not really my style, I did find a few things that I liked.

First stop, denim capri pants - an absolute must have in my wardrobe.  If you know me then you know how much I love my blue jeans!  I went into the dressing room with 4 different sizes because I really had no idea where to start.  When I put on the size 18 and they fit I had a moment.  Quite an emotional moment.  Me, teary eyed in the dressing room - let's just stop with that.  I truly couldn't believe it.  I was hoping for a 20 - so an 18 was just amazing!  And the 18's fit great - maybe even a little big in the waist.  I didn't opt to try on a 16 because I need to look presentable for school and not like a stuffed sausage.  But now I know Torrid is just 15 minutes away and I can go get a smaller size when I need it!  But I did end up with a shirt and dress that were both a 14/16.  I left that store feeling so great, but still not believing it was real.  Here's an outfit I got from Torrid.

Quick stop at the Lane Bryant outlet store because it was time for smaller under garments too.  The bonus of that stop was that they had the sports bra that I LOVE and I was in need of a smaller one of those too!

Saturday I was ready for more shopping.  I really wanted to go by a local boutique store that I have been admiring for a long time.  I LOVE those cute clothes in the boutiques but never go in them because they never had clothes that would fit me.  Well, it was time to see if I had changed enough to fit into boutique clothes.   I did, I did!  More emotional moments in the dressing room as I tried on shirts and dresses that looked amazing!  The ladies in the store were so nice (and honest too) and helped me narrow down my assortment of clothes.  Let me just say I bought things that were size XL and L (not plus size - just regular) for the first time in I don't know how long!  If you are local and looking for cute clothes - check out A Shop Around the Corner.  So cute and the ladies in there are fabulous!

I think I am just a big baby.  I have had more emotional moments during this journey.  I think it comes down to this - I want this more than anything, I am persistent, but somewhere in the back of my head I'm afraid its not real or won't stick.  So when I see big changes I just get a little emotional.  I'm working on that self-talk and with God's help will kick that voice in my head.  Until then I just keep taking it one day at a time, one choice at a time.

So now for the fun part.  I need your help deciding what I should wear on the first day of school?  I guess after looking at the pictures I should say which of these chevron prints should I wear!  I never even noticed that until just now.  I do love me some chevron!  Leave your vote in the comments and pick my First Day of School Outfit!  I'll reveal the winner on the first day of school!

Choice 1

Choice 2

Choice 3
For the first time in a long time, shopping was fun - REALLY FUN!  I left encouraged and very motivated to keep going!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Prep Day

It's Sunday and that means it was prep day for me.  I've found that preparation is a key to my success.  Although I don't start back to school this week, I wanted to really get back in the mode and do some serious prepping since I haven't done as much over the summer.  Here's what prep day looks like for me:

1.  Grocery store - stocking up on fresh produce; filling the freezer with healthy proteins for dinners (extra lean white turkey and bison were today's choices); grabbing a few clean energy bars to keep in my classroom for those times I forget to pack a snack.  These are a couple of my favorite Go-To snacks.

I love the peanut buttery taste of this bar!  It definitely fills my need for PB!
These KIND bars are so great.  Lots of protein to keep you going.
We took these with us when we went to Disney World and they
were just perfect!  One of my favorites is
Dark Chocolate and Chili - yum with a little after kick!

2.  Cleaning out the refrigerator and putting away groceries.  With all this fresh food and food with no preservatives I clean out more often than before.  But I love that I always know what is in my refrigerator.  No more science projects "cooking" in the back corners of the refrigerator.  PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one with science projects!

3.  Prepping veggies and fruit is an important step for me on prep day because it saves me time during the week.  I start by washing all fruit and veggies so they are ready to grab and go.  I go through the produce drawer and grab any veggies on their last leg and get them chopped up.  I put these veggies in the freezer for cooking with at a later time.  Here's what I chopped up today.

A rainbow of bell peppers.  I wonder what I should make with these?
After I'm done with the "last leg" veggies then I work on the salad greens.  I like to have it already cut and mixed up so I can just grab some.  My lettuce mix of choice is green leaf lettuce and baby spinach.  Once I get it cut up and mixed then I store it in the plastic containers from the store.  For some reason these containers keep the lettuce fresh longer.  I also cut up any veggies that I want for snacking on so they are ready to grab and go too!  Here's today's prep.

Two containers of salad greens and red and orange peppers
ready to go.  I also have already prepped
baby carrots and snap peas too.
4.  Although I didn't do it today - next on the list would be making Mason Jar Salads.  I don't have plans to be working up at school in the next few days so I'm not making any yet.  But when I do I will show you the step by step!  These are my go to lunch during the school year.

5.  Cooking chicken breast is the last task for prep day.  Sometimes I do it on Sunday and sometimes on Monday, depending on time and the type of chicken.  If I am cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts then I usually cook them on Sunday.  I love using my George Foreman grill for this.  If I am cooking chicken breast with skin and bones then I opt to do it rotisserie style in my crock pot.  It's super easy, and I can put the chicken in frozen!

So that is prep day in a nutshell for me.  It really helps during the school year for me to take a couple hours on Sunday to get this all done.  I've found that having it ready to go makes it super easy to make healthy food choices!

Do you have a prep routine? I'd love to know what you do too.  Please share your ideas in the comments!