2018 Intention Check-in: PANTRY COOKING

I’m checking in on the progress of my 2018 intentions. Read all about my fruitful year here.

When I first started planning meals for my little family, Pinterest was making its debut. I was in college, I had a lot of free time (sigh. Remember that?), and I would watch endless hours of television while pinning recipes and cute sweaters and inspirational quotes. Grant and I both lived in small apartments, and neither of us really made the most of our limited pantry space. So, on the weekends, I would shop for basically all of the ingredients to make several recipes that sounded good from my Pinterest boards.

I was still learning, obviously, but it is so cringeworthy to think about how much money I wasted (and the FOOD WASTE! 😢). And, until recently, I was still planning meals in much the same way. Sure, I had more pantry space, and I keep a lot more staple ingredients on-hand. But my grocery cart was always overflowing with new things to try and full ingredient lists for new recipes.

When I saw this video and blog post about “shelf cooking,” a.k.a. cooking from the food you’ve already got on hand, I seriously felt like I’d been smacked. What was I doing? Why was I wasting so much money? 

Some of it was totally learning to deal with our new semi-vegan diet. I made a bunch of new purchases to try new recipes and techniques. But some of it is just overpurchasing. I love grocery shopping, and things that I don’t need often make it into my cart. Which just leads to an maxed-out pantry and a busted budget.

We don’t have a real pantry in our kitchen, just a very skinny closet w/ shallow shelves. I use a few kitchen cabinets for food storage, and they are overflowing with dry goods. It’s my mission to use up my stores, relying on tried-and-true recipes and a little inventiveness.

HOW TO CREATE A STOCK OF INGREDIENTS

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got plenty of random odds and ends to work with for this pantry challenge. But you may not! I follow two guidelines to ensure that a quick and cheap meal is never too far away.

    1. Buy double sometimes. This may seem counterintuitive to my goal of saving money while grocery shopping, but it’s really not. A couple of times a month, I’ll buy double amounts of the canned and frozen goods on my shopping list. Four cans of diced tomatoes, six cans of chickpeas, two bags of frozen peas. You can add those items to your cart for just a few dollars, and they will be there waiting for you when you’re building a pantry-based meal plan the next week.

      I do not double-up on grains purchases because I am currently working through a pasta and rice stash like you wouldn’t believe. Why did I keep buying grain blends? But once that stash is depleted, buying two boxes of macaroni or two bags of rice is hardly more expensive than buying one.
    2. Double freezable recipes. This has SAVED MY LIFE! You may think I’m exaggerating, but having some frozen chili to defrost when you’ve got to feed unexpected guests on a Friday evening?! LIFE SAVING!!!!

      Often, when I make a soup, chili, stew, curry, etc., I double it and freeze half. We have a deep freeze, so this is super-easy for me, but you could totally make it work with a regular freezer, too. I let the meal cool to room temperature, ladle it into freezer-safe gallon bags, and then lay the bag flat in the freezer. Once the bag is frozen, it can be stacked horizontally (like books on a shelf) or vertically, and that takes up barely any space at all. When it comes time to eat these frozen meals, I let them defrost in the fridge for ~12 hours (always wrapped in an absorbent dish towel in case the bag is invisibly ripped) and then reheat on the stove, OR, if I’m really in a hurry, the frozen contents of the bag can go in an enormous pot on the stove with a splash of water.

      Having these frozen meals (which I keep a list of on my phone) means that I can incorporate one of them into my meal plan each week. I usually defrost a soup or chili that becomes my lunches, but they are also perfect for nights when I need to write after work.

MAKING A PANTRY-BASED MEAL PLAN

This is where creativity comes in. The goal is to buy as few new groceries as possible, so planning meals starts with assessment. Towards the end of the week, usually Friday or Saturday morning, I check out the contents of my fridge. I start there because refrigerated stuff has a shorter shelf life than pantry and freezer items, so it needs to be used up first. I usually have veggies, hummus, various non-dairy milks, and leftovers.

For example, if I have bell peppers, I come up with a plan to use them. That can be sliced for hummus dipping, or added to soup, or making fajita peppers.

Let’s say I decide to go with fajitas. Next I move to the pantry, where I’m hoping I’ll find black or pinto beans. I don’t see either, but I do have brown lentils. Check! I also have a ton of brown rice and an unopened jar of salsa. I add lettuce and cilantro to my grocery list, and now I have the makings of burrito bowls with bell peppers, lentils, and brown rice!

While I’m looking for the black beans, I find a ton of red lentils, and I know I’ve got a box of spaghetti. If I buy marinara sauce and some mushrooms, I’ll have all the makings for my vegan Million Dollar spaghetti (recipe coming soon!).

This process flips the order of how I used to make a meal plan. I used to choose recipes first and check my pantry second. NOPE. Now I check for ingredients and choose meals around that. Last week, I noticed that I had two bags of frozen edamame, and that inspired the rice bowls I made the other night. I used this recipe, but I customized it to fit the veggies I had on hand. I bought a package of tofu to substitute for the eggs, but everything else was in my pantry, fridge, or freezer.

The more comfortable you are winging it in the kitchen, the easier pantry cooking is. It’s easy to make the most of your pantry if you can cook without a recipe. This is a skill that comes with time and practice, BUT anyone can do it. The easiest way to make a cheap AF meal with what you’ve got on hand: soup, pasta, or stir fry. All three will use up any veggie or protein, all have really flexible recipes that have easy ingredient swaps, and they’re pretty foolproof! Chop and saute veggies, add sauce or broth, simmer until tender, add cooked protein, and serve over a grain. You did it!

If you want an example of an easy, make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of “recipe,” see this Instagram post:

I love answering your recipe questions on Insta or in the comments here, so don’t hesitate to reach out ♥️

RESULTS

I’ve gone grocery shopping twice this year. I spent $30 the first week (making the most of leftover Christmas and New Year’s food) and $60 the second. That feeds Grant and I for 21 meals/week EACH, plus snacks. (We rarely eat out — just a few times each month, usually with friends.) That’s less than $1.50/person/meal.

It could be lower, but I buy a lot of fresh produce, like salad stuff. That adds up quickly. I think it’s worth it.

I know that this way of meal planning isn’t revolutionary. But it is a real way that I can be more intentional about spending, cut down on food waste, and flex my culinary muscles (which are bigger than my actual muscles).

What budgeting tricks do you use in the kitchen? I could always use the help!

Pep Talks to Myself: Killing time is a waste of time

This is advice that I’m still learning to take. Advice that Instagram, specifically, makes it really hard for me to follow. Advice that would make my life more productive and HAPPIER if I followed it the majority of the time? I should be doing my damnedest to take that advice and apply it. Liberally.

Caitlin, killing time is a waste of time. Killing time is a WASTE of time.

I do pretty well. I don’t have games on my phone, I don’t go window shopping to fill a gap in my day, and I’ve always got a book in the car.

But INSTAGRAM, man. Instagram gets me. I follow so many women that I respect and admire, and I just want to see what they’re up to! And, to a certain extent, I need to be active on Instagram. I’ve gotten new readers to this Little Blog That Could from Instagram, I’ve made new friendships, and I’ve learned new tips. Instagram is an awesome space for knowledge growth and community. But it’s also an unholy time suck.

Because here is the hard truth: every minute that I waste on Instagram is a moment that I could be spending on myself or my work or my marriage.

We tell ourselves that we don’t have time, but we do. We’re just allocating that time the wrong way.

It’s called killing time for a reason. I’ve only got so many hours in each day, and I should be using those hours to their fullest, not killing a single one of them.

Do not get me wrong: leisure time is invaluable and indispensable. World domination is only possible if you take time to rest on the way. But this is where I really screw up: I waste the time I could use for purposeful leisure on mindless scrolling. I may be really, really up-to-date on messy Real Housewives drama, but I don’t have any time to read my book today.

I feel the most fulfilled, relaxed, and productive when I plan intentional time to decompress. Not killing ten minutes of time before the laundry is ready to be switched, not killing an hour before I meet my friends for drinks. There’s a big difference in my mood when I am spending the time in a way of my choosing, not in a way that happens to me.

If I know I have an hour between work and meeting friends, I’ll often bring my laptop so I can get writing done during that time. Or I’ll bring my book. Because I would rather spend that time doing an activity of my choosing, not scrolling on my phone.

Just like I plan out the rest of my day, I build in time for relaxing, watching T.V., reading my book, whatever. Maybe that means I’m no fun, but I know you all know me better than to think I care about that. I may be too structured or too busy or too un-fun, but so what? Who am I trying to impress?

MYSELF, that’s who. I’m trying to be the best version of me, and the best version of me doesn’t kill time. She uses her free time in a way that actually feels restorative and enjoyable. This can include Instagram (but with a timer set so I can’t get sucked too far into the hole), reality T.V., and Pinterest, but it should include more reading. My Goodreads goal for the year is to read 50 books, which is totally doable, but only if I make the time to read!

Scheduling time to relax is also very motivating to me. Knowing that I have an hour or two of solitude in the evening waiting for me (but that I can only have it if I cross off those deadline items) makes me work harder and more efficiently. Chipping away at that relaxation time with ten minutes here and there on Instagram ultimately means that I enjoy my day less.

When I kill time, I’m wasting my day. Life isn’t made up of what I do occasionally, it’s made of what I do consistently. And if I’m consistently wasting my day? Ugh. UGH! There are too many things I want to do. Too many experiences I want to have. Too many words I want to write.

Using time wisely is the greatest asset. People who are more successful than me, fitter than me, with stronger marriages than me — they’re not better than me. They’ve just spent more time perfecting their craft. Time is the secret. And I’m wasting those opportunities to be better when I kill time.

So, no, nope, I don’t believe in killing time. It makes me cringe when I hear the expression. Sure, maybe the movie doesn’t start for an hour. Is there an errand you could check off the list? You’re twenty minutes early to an appointment? Read the article you bookmarked on your phone last week. Ten minutes between meetings? Ok, that’s the perfect chunk of time to watch some Instagram stories. Or you could go over your plan for the week and assess your to-do list. Ten minutes are as valuable as you make them.

The difference between killing time and using it well can be so small. As with everything on this site, it’s about intention. It’s about doing the things you have to do so you can do the things you want to do.

Because, ultimately, the life I want isn’t going to just happen. I have to build it. For myself. And there’s no time to waste.

Leftover Veggie Baked Omelet the perfect high-protein breakfast for the New Year

Welcome to the first real day of 2018! Yesterday, we snuggled in blanket piles, took down our Christmas decorations, and ate a lot of cozy food.

I’ve heard from so many of you about your 2018 excitement, and I am right there with you. I spent a good part of Monday working on my editorial calendar for the year, organizing my Notes app, and scheduling out the next few weeks (especially workouts, so I can hit that 100-day #exercisecountdown goal!).

One of my 2018 intentions is to prioritize vegetables, so I spent a few minutes yesterday prepping a veggie-packed breakfast: Leftover Veggie Baked Omelet.

This is a break from my usual vegan content, I know, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quit eggs. They’re so cheap, so easy, and taste good with basically everything.

I used to make this baked omelet all the time in our Whole-30 days, but I stopped when G stopped eating eggs. I try to consolidate meal prep as much as possible, so I normally wouldn’t make something that only I can eat, BUT this egg bake takes so little time that it honestly wasn’t a huge deal.

It’s basically a huge omelet that you can add whatever mix-ins to. I usually go with whatever’s in the fridge — a great way to use up the odds and ends at the end of the week.  This one had a handful of mushrooms, half a bell pepper, some red onion, pickled jalapenos, and cubed cheese (because pockets of cheese are better than shreds, ok?!).

This breakfast is a positive 2018 choice for sure: it fuels my body with good protein and vegetables; it’s spicy and cheesy, so I actually want to eat it; and one pan makes five breakfasts, perfect for a busy week.

I can’t wait to hear what your mix-in choices are!

LEFTOVER VEGGIE BAKED OMELET

Serve with hot sauce (maybe ketchup too?) and a piece of fruit. Think of each serving as a three-egg omelet, but more portable. 

15 eggs

1.5 – 2 c of mix ins (I added 4 mushrooms, ½ bell pepper, ½ onion , ½ carton of cherry tomatoes, two diced pickled jalapeños, and ½ c cubed cheddar and mozzarella)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil.
  3. Dice the onion and saute. While the onion is cooking, slice and dice the rest of the vegetables. I sliced the mushrooms, diced the bell pepper, and halved the tomatoes.
  4. Once the onion is turning translucent, add the bell pepper and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Break all 15 eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the vegetables are beginning to brown, transfer them to a plate to cool slightly. (Remember that they’ll continue to cook in the oven, so don’t cook them to death.)
  7. Dice the cheese (I prefer cubes because they melt into cheese pockets, but shreds would work, too), and mince the jalapeños.
  8. Stir all the toppings (except the tomatoes) into the eggs. Mix well to incorporate.
  9. Pour into the greased 9×13. Place the halved tomatoes, seed side up, all over the eggs.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the center is set. Cool slightly before slicing and serving, or allow to cool completely before packing up for future breakfasts.

Inspired by this recipe.

What mix-ins do you choose? What’s your go-to breakfast?

CURRENTLY // December 2017 Plus an #exercisecountdown recap

I’m currently writing by the light of the Christmas tree and dreading taking it down tomorrow.

Christmas was so fun, and the break was so needed. We hosted my mom and dad for the holiday, and it was great. We ate, drank, puzzled, and watched movies (The Preacher’s Wife, Muppet Christmas Carol, Krampus). The puzzle is a project that will follow me into the new year, but I am determined to finish it soon. Maybe New Year’s Day?

INSPIRED BY //

I have gotten such sweet messages from people who read my Intentions post, and it is making my heart so full. I write all of this stuff for you people, and to hear from readers and friends that my content is helping them in some way is the VERYBESTEVER.

My intentions for 2018 are inspiring me, as well. It feels so so so exciting to go into the new year with an action plan. I have my daily, weekly, and monthly intentions mapped out (both in my Intentions post and on my Powersheets). In addition to that, I made a phone background with my basic goals for each day as a reminder. Read each and every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Write each and every day, working on one project or another. Sweat every single day, full stop. Connect with my husband each day, even when life is super busy (which it always is). Breathe: take a minute to relax, sit, and just be for a few minutes each day.

ALSO, if you’re having a hard time getting into the spirit of the new year, or just like getting kicked in the butt a little, watch this video from my girl, Rachel Hollis. It’s quick, inspiring, and features two cameos by yours truly. ♥️

EXERCISING //

Starting NOW, I’m swapping the “watching” category for EXERCISING. I never watch T.V. anymore, so I was struggling to find things to share. This switch is coming at a perfect time because I have a LOT to say.

Today is the last day of #exercisecountdown, and, as long as I don’t miss my afternoon at the gym (which I WON’T), I’ll have made it. 35 workouts, right through the busiest part of the year. I got up hella early; I worked out in weird hotel gyms; I washed pile after pile of sweaty exercise clothes. I tried some new stuff ⬆️, but mainly stuck to my tried and trues: running, spin, pilates, and baby weights. 

My initial goal was 90 workouts, as part of the last 90 days challenge. And I did alright. But I did not exercise each of those 90 days. And, honestly, I think it was because it was someone else’s challenge, not my own. Once I committed to my own 35-day #exercisecountdown, I did it. Every. Single. Day.

So, right here and now, I’m committing to a 100-day streak. I will exercise each and every day from Jan. 1 through April 10. This means I’ll need to exercise through staycations, vacations, and on days where I just don’t feel like it. And workouts 95-99 will be in L.A. during Rise, so you ladies will need to keep me accountable❣️

(My friend Kristen at @dineanddishfreestyle is documenting her own 100-day #exercisecountdown journey, if you want to follow along!)

My friend @caitlinmwallace is so close to completing her #exercisecountdown challenge where she has committed to doing some form of exercise for 90 days straight, no matter what. I love this as a motivating project so I’m going to do it too but for 100 days. So starting 2 days ago (friends there is no reason to wait until January 1st) I’m doing my own workout challenge where I have to do some sort of deliberate movement for at least 30 minutes everyday for 100 days. It will be challenging but I know making this public will keep me on track! I can’t wait to accomplish this goal! Thanks @caitlinmwallace for the inspiration. #100dayworkoutchallenge #bujo #bujospread #bulletjournal #fitnessmotivation #fitnessgoals #wwsisterhood

A post shared by Kristen Doyle (@dineanddishfreestyle) on

When I committed to my own #ExerciseCountdown in November, my mindset shifted. Working out became part of the day, just as important as brushing my teeth or eating lunch. The roadblocks to making time to exercise became less important, because they just couldn’t get in my way. I was going to exercise every day, circumstances be damned. 90% of the time, this means exercising first thing. All of my toiletries stay in a go-bag now because I get ready at the gym five days a week. I leave a pile of clean socks, leggings, and sports bras on the guest room bed because putting them away seems pointless. My hair is always sweaty.

What I’m saying is: making exercise a priority is hard. It is. It’s making decisions that aren’t fun, and waking up early, and showering at the gym, and keeping spare deodorant at your desk just in case you somehow leave the house without deodorant. But I can do it, and so can you.

EATING AND DRINKING //

The past couple of years, I’ve started January with a Whole 30. Since we’re eating vegan at home now, I can’t do that. Not really. I basically only eat legumes, so no Whole 30 for me. 

A gem of a salad my mom made for Christmas dinner.

I thought about doing a couple different cleanse-oriented diets for January, but I ultimately decided not to. I think I’m even going to scale back on my #dailygrain mentality (where I only ate grains once each day). Honestly, I miss oatmeal, and I found myself reaching for potato chips because they aren’t a grain, and I could eat them without “cheating.” 🙈  That is not healthy or smart or a good way to treat my body. Yes, I should eat fewer grains as a rule. They make me feel sluggish, which is the opposite of how food should make you feel. But making rules about how I eat them didn’t work. I was thinking of grains as “bad,” which is just a shitty way to think about food, and not a lesson I want to pass on to a daughter some day. Food isn’t bad or good or evil or whatever, and it’s so damaging to put food into those categories.

Instead of making strict food rules for myself, I need to find something that feels more sustainable. #dailygrain was never intended to be a full-time plan, and I treated it like a temporary fix. Not a good idea, ever. Diets don’t work long-term because they’re designed for the short term. So, in 2018, I’m going to focus on vegetables, snacking on plants before I reach for peanut butter-stuffed pretzels. And I’m going to lean on my “worth it” principle. A Dunkin donut is probably not worth it, but a LaMar’s donut?! Totally worth it.

Those guidelines feel sustainable, actionable, and good. There will definitely be days where I don’t eat a single green thing, but there won’t be weeks where that’s true. And the weeks matter way more than the days.


🥂 Happy, happy new year to all of you readers! I am so thankful to those of you that follow along faithfully. Interacting on here and Instagram brings me a lot of joy, and I do my very best to reply to every comment and message. If you want to chat about anything — living fruitfully in 2018, Kardashian Konsipiracies, best mac and cheese recipes, book recommendations — I’ve got you! Comment here or message me on Insta. See ya next year!! 🥂

What was the best part of your December? Are you cleansing your way through January? Are you going to join me on exercise countdown part 2? 

My intentions for a FRUITFUL 2018

I wrote last year about why I set intentions for the new year, not resolutions. Long story short, I think resolutions are a trap. A trap that tricks you into thinking you’re going to have a great year, full of change. But resolutions without matching intentional action plans are literally useless. If I’m speaking your language (or maybe more so if I’m not making any sense), click over to Ink’s blog, where I wrote all about HOW to set intentions that work. I outlined the methods I use to make big changes in my life, like starting a blog, growing my freelance business, and losing 30 pounds. Read it, please! Then come right back here.

Before I get started, a big shoutout to my life coaches from afar: Gretchen Rubin, Rachel Hollis, Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins, and the almighty Oprah. I love you all. (Please take three minutes and watch that linked Oprah video. It is hysterical and also kind of makes me cry?)

Ok, without further ado, MY INTENTIONS FOR A FRUITFUL 2018:

Resolution: Grow The Fruitful Blog
I love this space and interacting with all of you, so I want to keep the momentum going! To do so, I will post at least once each week, improve my photography skills (would you believe I have a food photography book that I’ve never ever looked at, let alone studied?), take an Instagram training that I’ve been putting off, and create and maintain a Fruitful Facebook page.
Daily intention: engage with all of you on Instagram and via the comments section here
Weekly intentions: publish one blog post; listen to two personal development podcasts
Monthly intentions: take one class, training, or similar, and make an actual plan to implement the knowledge

Resolution: Invest in our marriage
I want to work with Grant to make more intentional time together. I’m often so busy with work, blogging, freelance deadlines, and seeing friends during the week, that time with G is scheduled last. That needs to change! Daily intention: find intentional moments to talk and connect, even on days where we barely see each other (Ideas for this: sitting at the table for dinner, even if it’s just leftovers; have coffee together in the morning, even if it’s just for 10 minutes; give up my reading time in the evening for conversation instead (this one will be really hard!))
Weekly intention: have one planned, purposeful date
Monthly intention: read and discuss one chapter from a book about marriage, relationships, or communication (yes, this is terribly dorky 😍)

Resolution: Cozy our home (cozy can be a verb, ok!)
Right now, our house is full of renovation projects, college furniture, and clutter. A big, huge 2018 priority for the Wallaces is to create more liveable space in the house so we can actually enjoy it. We need to declutter, decorate, invest in furniture, and organize.
Daily intention: put things back where I found them (I am terrible at this); keep up with the dishwasher (clear kitchen counters make me SO happy, but they’re almost always covered with dishes 🙈)
Weekly intentions: declutter one room, closet, or area; actually take donations to Goodwill (drop-off on the way to get groceries!)
Monthly intentions: check off one bigger project: cleaning out my “closet” (a whole guest bedroom); move my office to the lightest, brightest guest bedroom; declutter and organize the basement; buy living room furniture; remodel the master bath; etc; etc; etc (This one will be hard, as some of these projects cost big money. I’ll revise as we go, with the solid intention of completing a major project each month.)

Resolution: Get even stronger
2018 is just another year on my eternal quest to build my best, strongest body that will enable me to lift heavy things, carry snuggly babies, and outrun a possible murderer. I’ll keep spinningzumba-ing, and lifting heavy things.
Daily intentions: exercise! Every day. No matter what.; avoid food splurges that aren’t “worth it” (homemade chocolate cake is worth it, and so are occasional Cheez-Its, but gas station donuts are a no from me, dawg)
Weekly intentions: do something that seems “too hard.” The only way I’ll see a real change in strength is to PUSH MYSELF.

Resolution: Save money
We’ve got big things to pay for this year — renovations, furniture, a trip or two — and I don’t need to be spending money on random stuff.
My role model here is Jordan Paige from Fun Cheap or Free. She has SO MANY good ideas for saving money and still living life.
Daily intentions: No makeup except for essentials (yes to replacing foundation and concealer, but no new glittery eyeshadows 😩); no clothes except for absolute essentials
Weekly intentions: Maintain my weekly grocery and “other” spending budget (watch this great video if you want to know more); meal plan based on the contents of my pantry, not the contents of my Pinterest
Monthly intentions: Transfer the budget surplus every month into savings account

I’ll be updating you all throughout the year on my progress, don’t worry! And, in case you’re curious, I’ll be using PowerSheets to track my progress, and, as always, a combination of the Simplified Planner and my Google Calendar to schedule it all.

For way more advice about setting your own intentions, read my article over on Ink’s blog today.

What are your intentions for a more fruitful 2018?