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Moms: Balance is Possible. No, Really…I’m Serious.

Balanced MommyDear moms, your job is hard (like really, really hard)! From the second those two faint lines flash into view life is changed forever. Days are filled with precious swaddle-induced plans, while nights are spent sleeplessly rehearsing every possible way to reorganize the baby clothes piling up in the corner.  Life becomes a balancing act as you turn into a whirlwind of planning, preparing, and asking (daily), “…is this normal?” Sweet baby arrives and you find yourself wondering how your mother did this. Your heart is engorged with the smell of baby hair and it’s a mystery how life existed before them. The world around you is building upwards and simultaneously crumbling. Life before baby is a distant memory and everything is new. Days are spent in a sleep-deprived fog and nights are spent rehearsing every possible way you can find the mysterious, holy grail of motherhood: Balance.

Shelby, who recently gave birth to her second during the writing of this article, says, “I used the poo out of my Crock-Pot…Most of what we put together was enough for six people so if anyone was over they could eat too or we would eat it during the week.” They made freezer meals in advance so there would be a surplus of healthy meals in the freezer, ready to throw into the Crock-Pot. Because when hubby is starving and you are exhausted, convenience is a key factor in feeling balanced.

 

A Few Words on Balance:

Choose My PlateAs a studying nutritionist, we learn a lot about what the body needs to maintain a healthy equilibrium. The easy answer I discovered from four years of studies is this: Balance. Problems develop when we eat too much or too little. Problems develop when we obsess with a single nutrient or ingredient. Problems develop when we ignore macronutrients and entire food groups.

There are a few ways to find balance in your life when everything else is tottering. Balance is maintaining the correct intake of all the food groups (don’t worry, eating cheerios out of your hair totally counts as a grain). The USDA recently changed the food pyramid into the MyPlate. This plate is meant to give us a condensed visual of what and how much we should be eating at each meal rather than a general days overview.

The main point of the diagram is that each meal should include fruits and vegetables plus a grain, protein, and dairy serving. Balance. Sounds easy, right? I promise that mastering this concept of balance starting with your plate will make you feel healthy, whole, and strong in every area. Our plates are a beautiful place, because it’s the one place we can always balance when other aspects of life feel out of our control. We can gain assurance knowing our family was properly fed and nourished, even if there are teething toys falling out of the freezer. The best way to fit all the needed food groups into your diet is to prepare ahead of time.

 

Crock-Pot meals will be your fairy godmother while balancing all the roles of a busy mommy.

Delicious Easy Crockpot RecipesCrock-Pots are seriously making a comeback. They’re like the Birkenstocks you scorned to the back of your closet only to realize they’re the newest trend among the tweenies. There’s just something lovable about comfort. Crock-Pots are a mommy miracle. You can throw anything inside and 6-8 hours later a masterpiece emerges. Not to mention it is a major cost saver. Who wants to blow their precious income on crappy pizza, am I right?

One of the best ways to prepare before baby is to fill your freezer with prepared Crock-Pot meals conveniently stored in gallon Ziploc bags. The best part is that you can make multiple meals in the same day and then freeze them for later. This is super easy to do and only takes a few steps:

*Safety Note: It’s best to pull out a freezer meal the night before and let it thaw in the fridge until morning, that way everything will come to a safe cooking temperature in a safe amount of time.

 

7 Steps to Easy Crock-Pot Meals

1. Scour Pinterest for Crock-Pot freezer meal ideas. There are so many. Pick whatever looks good for your family. I love adding extra vegetables and herbs for extra health benefits with minimal complications. The more veggies in your pot, the better (and less side dishes to deal with later). I love throwing everything in a bag so it’s ready to put in the Crock-Pot. I usually don’t use exact measurements because it’s a beautiful, simple process and precise measuring really isn’t necessary (choose your battles, am I right?) A few of my favorite freezer meals are:

2. Make a master list. This is the fun part. Take all the ingredients needed for your different freezer meals and combine into a master list of ingredients. This makes grocery shopping a predictable breeze. You can scribble your own or find a free printable master list here.

3. Shop, shop, shop your heart out girlfriend.

4. Prepare needed materials: Gallon Ziploc bags, sharpies, recipes.

5. Prep: I like to keep things relatively simple so I usually do “dump bags” where you take all the raw ingredients and dump them in a gallon Ziploc. Then the only things that need to be prepped are things like chopping onions, opening cans, and portioning herbs.

6. Label bags with recipe name, date, and any special prep instructions.

7. Freeze

 

Eight Favorite Recipes

Here are a few of my favorite easy Crock-Pot freezer meals.  Add all ingredients to a gallon Ziploc freezer bag.

>>> Click here to download a PDF of the recipes! <<<

Teriyaki chicken (Serve with brown rice)

  • 6 boneless breasts,
  • 1 can pineapple
  • 1 chopped (or pureed for the kiddos) bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • ½ c. soy sauce
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • Heavy sprinkling of ginger & garlic powder
Creamy Lemon Garlic Chicken (Serve with mashed or roasted potatoes)

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • 1 container cream of chicken
  • ½ container of tzatziki made with Greek yogurt (usually found in the salad section…also – trust me.)
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Lots of parsley
  • Salt & pepper
Bolognese Meat Sauce (Serve with whole wheat pasta)

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 pureed onion
  • 1 c. pureed carrot
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • A few heaping tbsps. tomato paste
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsps. Italian seasoning
BBQ Ribs (Serve with cornbread and green beans)Can also store in a disposable tin container

  • 3 lbs. baby back ribs
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce
  • 3 tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pureed onion
  • 1 c. water
  • ¼ c. vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper
Quinoa Chili (Serve with cilantro, cheddar, and plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream)

  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can pinto beans + 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1 pureed onion (you can even add pureed butternut squash)
  • 1/2 c. taco seasoning
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
Beer Braised Carnitas *A HUSBAND FAVORITE* (Serve as tacos, burritos, or burrito bowls)

  • 2-3 lbs. pork carnitas
  • 1 beer (Corona recommended)
  • 1 pureed bell pepper
  • 1 pureed onion
  • 1 pureed chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (comes in a small can with about 12 peppers so freeze the rest individually in an ice cube tray and save for later)
  • Juice of two limes
  • Salt to taste
Honey Soy Pork (Serve with fresh salad and steamed edamame or sugar snap peas)

  • 6 pork chops
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • Generous shake of ground ginger and garlic
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch chili pepper flakes
Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup

  • 2 packages refrigerated tortellini pasta
  • 1 can tomato basil soup
  • 1 c. finely diced carrot
  • 1 c. finely diced onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • Lots of shredded basil to finish
  • Salt & pepper

*Safety Note: It’s best to pull out a freezer meal the night before and let it thaw in the fridge until morning, that way everything will come to a safe cooking temperature in a safe amount of time.

>>> Click here to download a PDF of the recipes! <<<

 

Healthy EatingYou may not have all the answers to all the questions, but how comforting to know that you can have full control of what your family is eating. You can feed them, nourish them, and connect with them in the midst of busy. You can find that magical balance of food and family. You can embrace healthy and breathe deeply, knowing you are doing your best to nourish your family – and that is more than enough. There’s only one thing left to do…go rev up that Crock-Pot, ladies!



Julia GriffinJulia Griffin is a senior at California State University of Sacramento pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition. She currently spends her days interning at the California Dept. of Public Health and cooking for her husband and puppy, Sullivan. Follow her food adventures on Instagram @juliaboboolia.

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