Hi all and hope you had a wonderful 4th! You all may know that I don’t normally have guest posts, but I asked my sister if she’d be interested in writing a post for the blog! She’s been one of my biggest blog supporters and unofficial taste testers- she regularly Snapchats me photos of my blog recipes she’s making (as in…4 different recipes just last weekend). If you’ve been reading for a while, you may feel like you already know her 🙂 Here’s Rissa!
Hi everyone! As you might know if you’re a regular follower of the blog, I got married a little over five weeks ago! It’s been the best five weeks of my life—better than I could’ve ever imagined.
Now that we’re back from our honeymoon, have moved into a new apartment in Baltimore, and have started working full-time, we’re in the stage of figuring out how to balance spending time together, completing chores around the apartment, getting meals on the table each night after work, etc.
Today, I wanted to share a little bit about what this has looked like for us, particularly when it comes to our perspective on meal planning and cooking. When Alex and I got married, we divvied up household responsibilities, and I happily took the role of meal planning and cooking (although Alex usually is a huge help to me in the kitchen).
First, a little background: My husband (Alex) and I met our first day in grad school, and one of our first conversations was about my love for cooking and healthy eating. Within a week of us meeting, we made homemade cauliflower crust pizza for our first date.
Alex had been cooking for himself before we met, and while he ate some healthy foods, it wasn’t a priority for him like it was for me. Something I quickly appreciated about him was his desire to care about what was important to me. Because I love to cook and eat healthy, he started to make it a priority in his life.
We have pretty different food needs (he’s 6’7” with a huge appetite!) and we’ve worked to figure out a way to meal prep and cook in a way that allows us to both eat things we love without spending way too much. Alex is currently on a “bulk up plan” and aims to eat 4000-5000 calories a day. He loves hearty meals with lots of meat and protein, while I prefer meals heavy on the vegetables.
To balance our different preferences, I’ve been able to convert a lot of my vegetarian/lighter meals into meals he will also like by adding some type of meat to the dish. For example, last weekend, I made Liv’s cheesy caprese quinoa casserole, and I added a couple cups of chicken to make it Alex-approved. He also eats much bigger portions and a lot more snacks.
Below is a typical day of meals for us:
Alex- This is the biggest difference for the two of us. Alex makes a smoothie with 1 cup of organic whole milk, ½ can of coconut milk, 4 scoops of this weight gain powder, a handful of frozen fruit, a couple of scoops of organic vanilla ice cream, collagen peptides, and vitamin c powder. This is roughly 2400 calories for him, which is a great jumpstart to reach his goal of 4000-5000 calories
Marissa- I love having a bowl of whole milk yogurt with a handful of berries or granola.
Alex- He normally eats leftovers from dinner the night before, or will eat either a tuna, chicken salad, or turkey sandwich.
Marissa- I like to eat some kind of soup or veggie chili or salad.
Alex- Again, this is a big difference between the two of us. Yesterday, he ate a couple of these frozen burritos for a snack. Alex also loves these dense meal bars and will normally have 1-2 kinds of bars throughout the day. He’ll snack on dark chocolate throughout the day or dark chocolate peanut butter cups (Liv’s favorite!). His snacks vary by the day, but he gets a lot of his calories from these. He’ll also typically have a protein shake after getting home from the gym.
Marissa- I like having a few veggie-heavy snacks each day, like a tray of roasted sweet potatoes or cauliflower. When I’m on the go, I recently discovered these granola bars and I love them because of the clean ingredients and great taste. I’ll also usually pack up a couple of energy bites and a piece of fruit.
I make the same entree for us, but Alex typically eats 2-3 times more than me.
Alex loves ice cream, so we almost always have a couple of pints in the freezer and share that after dinner.
Getting used to living with a guy who easily eats 3 times as much as I do has for sure been an adjustment but I’ve already learned a lot about how to make it work for us.
Things I’ve Learned
• I don’t have to keep up with how much my husband eats. Sometimes he’ll get seconds, thirds, and even fourths on dinner, and I don’t have to eat that much, too. I’ve learned to eat a little slower, so we’re still eating together when Alex is going back for his seconds and thirds.
When we’d share ice cream straight out of the pint and alternate taking bites, I’d end up feeling not so great after (whereas Alex actually wanted and needed all of those calories for his bulk-up diet). Sharing ice cream was a fun thing to do together, but I was ready to give it up since I never felt good after eating that much ice cream.
I mentioned that to Liv, and she suggested that for every three or four bites of ice cream Alex took, I could take just one. This has been a great compromise for us as we can still eat dessert together, but now I don’t feel sick every night before we go to bed! A lot of guys need more calories than girls, so it’s just taken me some time to get used to eating different amounts.
How We Save Money
• We’re both currently in grad school with full-time residencies, which means we’re on a pretty tight budget and don’t have a ton of time to put together complicated meals. When we sat down to make our budget for this school year, we mutually decided that eating healthy was going to be where we invested our money. We were willing to cut out splurges like going to the movies, buying lots of new clothes, going out, etc. to put that money towards buying good quality food.
• We’ve also prioritized which foods we want to buy organic—for instance, we don’t typically buy organic produce unless it’s on the “dirty dozen” list since those are the ones with the most worrisome hormone disruptors. We almost always buy organic/grass-fed meat when possible, as well as organic/grass-fed dairy. I’m not a huge meat lover, but when I do eat meat, I want it to be from animals that haven’t been pumped with hormones and be in unnatural living environments (documentaries like Food, Inc. do a great job of explaining why eating organic meat is important).
• At the beginning of the week, I’ll map out what we’ll be cooking Monday-Sunday. If there are nights where we’ll get home later, I typically pick a meal that can be made in the slow cooker (like salsa chicken) so we don’t have to worry about throwing together a meal when we get back.
• I go to Costco about once a month to stock up on meat there. It’s way more affordable to get chicken and beef from Costco, and I’ll also get frozen wild Atlantic salmon. While I certainly can’t get everything at Costco, they are increasing their selection of organic/natural products, and I’ve also started getting milk, apples, eggs, frozen fruit, hummus, and oils/butters – to name a few—there. I’m always amazed by how much money I save by stocking up at Costco. I’ll then fill in the rest of my grocery needs at other stores during the following weeks.
How We Save Time
• A couple months ago, I started a document on my computer to track the recipes we have made and would be excited to eat again. When I go to meal plan, I sometimes do research on new recipes, but often times will reference back to this document to quickly find meals we would want to eat for the week.
• I’ll then make a grocery list based on the tried-and-true recipes I pick, plus any additional food we need for breakfast/lunches. While I love to try new recipes, I normally save those for the weekends when Alex and I have more time to experiment with cooking.
• On Saturday or Sunday, Alex and I will go to the grocery store and get all the food we need for the week. This saves a ton of time so we’re not constantly running to the store throughout the week.
• We meal prep on the weekends. This past weekend, I made creamy avocado chicken salad for Alex to have for lunches during the week. I also made sweet potato lentil chili and froze it in mason jars to defrost and have for my lunches this week. I typically make peanut butter energy bites as well to have as quick snacks after a workout or a pick-me-up afternoon snack at work.
By making just a couple recipes over the weekend, our weeks are way less stressful, as we typically don’t have to think as much about throwing together lunches and snacks.
Married life has been incredible, and I love the life we are building together. Meal planning and cooking is something that’s always been important to me, and it’s even more fun to do with an amazing husband by my side. There is so much more I could say but wanted to try to keep this post as concise as possible—if you have any questions though please don’t hesitate to ask!