January 14, 2015

And then they ate like crap...

We used to eat so well. We were conscious of our food choices and where it came from, choosing organic and local as often as we could. As much as I love junk food, we ate fruits and vegetables all the time, especially when I was pregnant. It took us a while to get there what with breaking my habits as a picky eater from childhood and CJ's seeming inability to eat anything but junk food or steak and potatoes. We were that couple that ate out on the weekends and during the week we always ordered pizza or chinese, ran through the drive-thru or heated up a frozen dinner. Even when we started "cooking" it was with boxes and jars, or frozen rather than fresh ingredients. I think back to what we used to eat and actually cringe.I used to live on chicken fingers and french fries and pizza was my lifeblood. Not gonna lie, pizza is still very important to me, I could eat it all day every day but now I'm wise enough to know that once a week, though probably still too often, is much more healthy for us.

When we moved from Syracuse to Albany and were both unemployed for 2 months we had to start getting creative and conservative with our food and limited funds. We quickly learned how to cook and started trying all sorts of new things. We didn't start a new diet or give up much we just branched out. Our typical spaghetti nights (with jarred sauce and frozen meatballs) to new favorites like chicken parm, ravioli and lasagna with our own pasta sauce, whole wheat pasta and homemade meatballs. Taco nights now include homemade whole wheat tortillas for quesadillas or burritos full of veggies rather than packet-seasoned taco beef and cheese on a corn taco shell. We make our own pizza now with real mozzarella and fresh vegetables. I can bake, fry, grill or roast a chicken (but don't ask me to cut up a whole one yet. that shit is hard). CJ has every cooking other meat or protein to perfection covered so we make a great team. We just started experimenting with flavors, herbs and spices and learning what worked well together. I started reading ingredients for things we used to buy and trying to make it on my own. It was more time consuming and sometimes we didn't eat dinner until 10 at night but we were learning and eating really well. I truly believe how healthy I ate while pregnant helped my body and the girls feel good and strong. Put good things in, get good things out. Or whatever.

And then we had the twins. And we ate like crap.

I knew it would be too hard to cook once they arrived and we just did not have the budget at any point to do those frozen make-ahead meals. Instead, the weekend before we delivered we stocked up on some of our old favorites: frozen Bertolli and TV dinner meals, frozen burritos, frozen breakfasts, ready made sides, cereal bars, hot pockets, pasta sauce and frozen meatballs, canned soups and the like. I got WIC in the beginning so along with a select few good staples we also had an abundance of tuna and cereal. Then there was enough lactose-free cow's milk (that I don't drink) to quench the thirst of an army. We had banned almost all of these things from our kitchen for the last few years and it pained us to bring them back but if we didn't have it I was sure we'd starve.

With me pumping I knew I had to keep my calories up and I couldn't have enough caffeine to keep me going. The way I figured it, crap food was better than no food. We go to BK or McDonald's far more than I ever thought we would and the local pizza place now knows us by name. Whatever though, I'm still feeding three people. The only problem that I didn't foresee was how it would make us feel. Here we are, almost 6 months in and although we started cooking again more frequently last month we still eat our fair share of yuck food. And we feel it. We are sluggish and run down and not just because we have two infants. CJ started drinking coffee. He doesn't even like it but for the first time in his life he liked the energy it gave him. I believe the change was so sudden our bodies are going haywire trying to make up for the loss of nutrients. We went from eating whole, healthy foods to processed garbage full of crap. So we feel like crap. It makes me worry for the girls too, this is not how we want them to live. I always believed that taste could be established from in utero but never thought about how it effects a breastfed baby. But of course it does.

After the initial three months of running on autopilot we'd finally had enough. The girls were sleeping enough at night and we both had some energy during the day again. I went "full" grocery shopping and went way overboard. I bought tons of fresh fruits and vegs and I'm sad to say quite a bit of it went to waste. We found that we still didn't have the time or the inclination to cook like we used to. Not to mention I didn't have the time during the day to get any prep work done and this was once the key to our eating well successfully. I used to shop and then spend the afternoon organizing the kitchen, cleaning and preparing ingredients and getting some ideas for meals. I attempted meal planning in the past but found more often than not we would just wing it. That can't happen anymore. If we "wing it" we don't eat well or it takes hours to prepare which is time we don't have anymore. So it's time for a different approach.

My veggie prep station
I went full grocery shopping Monday when CJ had the day off. Before I went I found master lists for the pantry (from pioneer woman), fridge and freezer. I took inventory of what we had and added what we needed to a list of our favorite meal ideas. When I got home he was happy to entertain the babies while I organized everything and started meal planning. I made a list of all the fresh produce, pantry and frozen items (I still bought some easy meals, frozen fruit, vegs and waffles because I'm not tryin' to be super woman here, just trying to survive) and posted it on the cabinet so nothing gets forgotten. The trick, and I'm hoping it works, is that we can't order or buy more food until all the fresh foods are used. Today I took time with the girls and while they were napping to wash, cut up and portion all the fresh stuff I could. I usually do this with the hearty vegs and greens like carrots, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, green beans.  Now we can grab easy healthy snacks, throw together a salad for lunch and have ingredients ready to go for dinner. I even let them play with and lick a carrot, green pepper and avocado.
Juliette is intrigued, Viv is not impressed

Then I finished with a list of meals that I can easily prepare during the day or that CJ can make quickly when he gets home from these ingredients. Like before we don't really like to assign meals to certain days so when I get up in the morning I will choose a meal, take out any frozen items to thaw and get together the rest of the ingredients. If we need something he can stop on his way home to get it. Our meal choices are not the most healthy (read: we are not paleo, vegetarian, vegan, grain or dairy or whatever free) but they have to satisfy three requirements. They must: 1) Be relatively easy and quick to prepare 2) Make enough for leftovers for lunches and meals on a different night 3) Fill my insatiable appetite. (Nursing moms need at least an extra 500 calories per day).
Refrigerator after prepping

Here's what's on our dinner list for the next few weeks based on what we have on hand:

(HM = Homemade)
HM Thai peanut sauce with chicken and mixed veggie stirfry/lo mein
Venison chili and HM cornbread (cooking right now!)
Spaghetti with HM meatballs and sauce, garlic bread, salad
Ravioli with HM meatballs and sauce, garlic bread, salad
Lasagna with HM sauce, asparagus
Gouda stuffed meatloaf, broccoli, mashed potatoes
Teriyaki salmon with siracha cream sauce, quinoa, green beans
Avocado and shrimp pasta with cream sauce, salad
HM Bean and cheese burritos, mexican rice, salad
Eggplant crisps with marinara sauce and asparagus
Chicken and veggie quesadillas or tacos with HM tortillas
Crock pot chicken soup with rice or noodles
Squash soup and crackers
Chicken parmigiana, salad
Vegetable soup and crackers
Parmesan crusted chicken, mixed veggies, baked potatoes
Grilled italian sausage with peppers and onions, salad
Ham steak, hasselback potatoes, green beans
Venison tenderloin, quinoa and broccoli
Grilled cheese and HM tomato soup, salad
English muffin pizzas with HM sauce, turkey pepperoni and veggies, salad
Pepper, onion, asparagus, cheddar and sausage or bacon quiche

Breakfast options include: oatmeal, cereal, bagels, english muffins, scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, HM breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, HM granola, HM granola bars, fruit bars, etc.

Lunch/Snack options include: salad, lunch meat sandwiches, tuna fish sandwiches, dinner leftovers, wraps, cheese and crackers with fruit, carrots and celery with ranch dip, etc. I usually eat lunch between 9am and 6pm. Seriously never know when I'll get a break these days.

I listed all of these options and taped them to the refrigerator. I'm really hoping this will cut down on the amount of time I spend searching the kitchen for something to eat as well as the inevitable "what the hell are we going to eat" convo that we always used to have when it was just the two of us. With two more people to (eventually) cook for we really need to start making the transition to family meals. We always ate together when I was growing up so it's very important to me and I just don't see our one year olds waiting until 10pm for their dinner like we're accustomed to doing.

I'm hoping by publishing this I will feel some sort of accountability to sticking to it. It's important to me to feel better and I know it's best for the girls. Wish us luck!

What did you eat after you brought baby home? How's it going now?


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