Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tetris isn't as much fun with frozen blocks.

I don't like to cook. I'm not bad at it, I just don't enjoy the prep, the cooking, or the clean up afterwards. So I don't do it very often. What I do is bulk cooking.

I'll spend a couple of days or so once every few months and cook a ton of our favorite recipes and freeze them to reheat later on. I've been doing it long enough I have my own little binder of freezer tested recipes (and a few that I haven't personally tested but found online). So I go through every time, pick out a few (or way more than a few) and hit the store. It's several long days where we typically eat out because I'm so exhausted I don't want to do anything, but at the end, we have a freezer full of food. If you've got the stamina and the means to do so, I definitely recommend bulk cooking.

This past week, my laptop got broken to the point I couldn't really use it. I was already planning on doing some bulk cooking for the fall and hopefully into the winter after the baby is born, this just took away any reason not to. I like to watch Hulu on my laptop while I'm cooking or cleaning, but luckily my kindle will stream Hulu, so I was all set.

I started off by picking my recipes. I picked:

Pesto Sauce
Alfredo Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce (has meat)
Marinara Sauce
Tomato Basil Sauce
Daddy's Favorite Meatloaf
Parmesan Meatloaf
Meatballs (PM recipe, just balled)
Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce
Baked Chicken Bacon Alfredo
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff
Beef Chili
Cinnamon Rolls
Baked Lemon Garlic Pepper Chicken
Garlic Rosemary Chicken
Kick'n Chicken
Roasted Garlic and Herb Chicken

Yes. That's a lot of recipes. WAY more than I typically would do, I said, I want it to last us a while. We have a few premade frozen entrees (lasagna, ziti with meatballs, etc). We eat lots of pasta around here, so homemade sauce is great. Plus, I personally think it tastes better than jarred stuff. Since I've been cooking for myself, I've not actually found a good jarred sauce that I like the taste of.

I use spreadsheets for tons of stuff because I'm weird, and bulk cooking is no exception. I created a matrix to calculate how much of each ingredient I needed to buy and to see what I had on hand that I didn't need to buy. Then I created my grocery list by checking prices what I could online at Sam's and did some pre-prep work. That involves pulling everything out of the pantry that I'll be using and putting it somewhere in some kind of organized manner. I also go ahead and put what I've got together. So, for all the seasoned chicken dishes, I put the oil and herbs into bags and put them aside or in the fridge. I did most of this on Wednesday evening, since we had the house cleaned Wednesday morning.

Most of the time, buying in bulk is the best way to go. Sam's has the best prices on meat and produce that I have found, especially when you're buying 20 pounds of meat and 10 pounds of onions. So Wednesday, I headed to HEB. I haven't been to HEB alone with the boys since getting pregnant, so this was an experience. It was crowded but not horrible. We managed to be in and out with just about everything we needed from HEB in about an hour and a half. Considering we spent nearly $200, that's pretty good. That's amazing with two "helpful" little boys. We got compliments on their behavior, and it was good, so I was pleased. Tired when we got home, but pleased. That night, I made pesto and while I intended to make a double batch, I overbought on the fresh basil and ended up with a sextuple batch. Which is fine because it's good and we like it. I should have realized this was an omen for how the rest of my week was going to be.

Thursday morning, I loaded the boys up and we hit Sam's. Since we have a business membership, we can shop early, which is great. Not many other shoppers to contend with, just workers cleaning and setting up. I wasn't feeling great when we left the house, so by the time I had a cart full of 25 pounds of ground beef, 6 pounds of stew meat, 4 rotisserie chickens, and 20 pounds of chicken, plus sundry other items, I was exhausted. I was a little unsure of whether or not I could even get it in the car, let alone home and into the house. I did luck out in that most of the beef was short sale, so I got it at an even greater reduced rate than if I'd bought it at HEB. In and out in about an hour and a half and spent just over $300, though at least half of it wasn't bulk cooking related, but replacement of items we used up and/or needed. Buying in bulk CAN be expensive. Ish. It evens out in the end.

I managed to drag in all the fresh stuff that needed refrigeration and shoved it in the fridge. It was so full I knew I had to start cooking immediately, but I also needed to rest. I accidentally locked Asher on the front porch while taking a little rest and Elijah was trying valiantly to let him in. Neither seemed upset, just more "well, ok. This is our life now. Mom locks us out." In my defense, I didn't realize he'd run outside.

After a rest, I started on the spaghetti sauce and marinara. The marinara cooks in the crock pot, so that was easy. The hard task of the day was chopping the onion. We have an "EZ Onion Chopper" that is not easy. I literally sat on it to get it to chop. Frustrating. But, I got it done and had two large stock pots of spaghetti bubbling away on the stove, filling the house with delicious aromas. While that was going on, I assembled the beef stroganoffs using the pre-prepped bags. Same with some of the Sour Cream Meatballs. I had some meatballs left over from the last time so I threw them into a bag of sour cream sauce and got it ready to go into the freezer.

That night, Mom and Caleb came over for dinner and Mom and Austin ended up prepping all the chicken for me. I hate touching raw chicken so that was nice. Plus it made Friday a lot easier.

Friday through Tuesday I did something every day, not so much that I completely wiped myself out, but enough that I was extremely tired every day. Another trip to HEB was needed when I realized a couple things I thought I had enough of I actually didn't. The dishwasher was running almost constantly and the stove was on for hours every day. Not many big messes were made and my boys were super helpful when they could be: by staying out of the kitchen and only coming in for drinks and when I called them to lunch. Slowly my fridge emptied and my freezer filled. And then my freezer was full and I still had about 3 more recipes to go. So I had to do some freezer tetris.

I also had to do some tweaking in my chili recipe. Got rid of the beer, added some tomato paste, etc. And apparently I put enough chili powder in it that it's spicy enough for Austin, which means it'll blow the top off anyone else in our family. I'll figure that out later. I haven't done the cinnamon rolls in the freezer before, so that's an experiment, too. One pan I par-baked and one I froze before the final rise. Labor Day morning, we'll get them out and finish both off and see if either method worked out to result in delicious home made cinnamon rolls or if it's a bust.

At the end of everything, I've got a massive amount of food. Like, holy cow, it's unfortunate I'm not in the mood for any of it because I've been dealing with it for so long. My cost is a little skewed per entree because I didn't put in costs for items I had on hand (staples for us include olive oil, flour, seasonings, sugars, cheddar cheese, etc). I buy reusable pans and containers to help cut down on the cost a little and while I did have to buy several this time around, they cost about a dollar a piece but those were not included in the cost, either.

My final totals came out to:

6 cups of Pesto Sauce - $2.97/cup
13 pints of Alfredo Sauce - $2.65/pint (4 went into the Chicken Bacon Alfredo Casseroles)
6 quarts of Spaghetti Sauce - $5.43/quart (2 went into the lasagna)
4 quarts of Marinara Sauce - $1.22/quart
5 quarts of Tomato Basil Sauce - $5.76/quart
7 mini tins of Daddy's Favorite Meatloaf - $1.71 each tin
5 mini tins of Parmesan Meatloaf - $3.19 each tin
3 bags of Meatballs - $5.31/bag (1 went into the meatballs in sour cream sauce)
4 bags of Meatballs in Sour Cream Sauce - $1.19/bag (1 bag of meatballs went into 3 bags of sauce)
5 pans of Baked Chicken Bacon Alfredo - $9.57/pan
2 pans of Lasagna - $8.61/pan
5 pans of Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas - $3.20/pan
6 bags of Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff - $5.35/bag
4 quarts of Beef Chili - $2.93/quart
2 pans of Cinnamon Rolls - $.76/pan (I had everything but eggs and cream cheese for the frosting)
2 bags of Baked Lemon Garlic Pepper Chicken - $3.76/bag
2 bags of Garlic Rosemary Chicken - $3.76/bag
2 bags of Kick'n Chicken - $3.76/bag
2 bags of Roasted Garlic and Herb Chicken - $3.76/bag

Some of this is going to my sister, who will reimburse me plus a little for the time and energy I put into everything. But, my total cost was just under $300 for the ingredients I bought specifcially for cooking and I ended up with something like 73 entrees/sauces. Not bad for a weeks' work and exhaustion like none other.  I feel much better about the coming fall and winter and for after the baby's born. I'll have to replace some of the stuff, I know, before he/she is born in January, but I won't be dumb enough to try another week long cooking spree like this. Unless someone wants to come work with me.

Dry goods I already had plus stuff I got at HEB. 

Different angle

Fresh stuff purchased at HEB plus on hand. 

Meat and miscellaneous purchased at Sam's plus some I already had. 

The only "in process" picture. This is what 12 pounds of tomatoes looks like chopped up. That bowl is massive. It was 8 quarts of tomatoes. 

Frozen dinners and sauces! The white blocks on the right center pile are cream cheese for the beef stroganoff. In my experience, cream cheese freezes and thaws just fine when you're planning on melting it in the crock pot. I've seen on websites not to do it, but since we don't notice a taste or texture difference, I buy the giant block at Sam's, portion it out, and freeze chunks like this for throwing in the crock pot. 

Another angle. Please ignore my dirty kitchen. 

Jammed into the freezer. The top shelf and bottom drawer are older stuff and staples like cheese (also freezes fine. If shredded, thaws just perfectly), butter, frozen fruits and veggies (make sure to lay fruits flat and to par boil veggies that need it. I researched how to freeze certain veggies and have had good experiences so far), etc. 

The door of sauces. It took long enough to get everything in and out and photographed they got frosty. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughts at 17 weeks

Again the disclaimer that not every pregnancy is the same, this is just reflections on my own. 

The second trimester is where it's at. No more morning sickness (yay!), not too huge yet (yay!), my appetite has returned so I'm beginning to gain weight again (....yay). I'm still beyond tired most days and if I don't drink enough water, I'll stand up and before I get two feet need to sit down or risk falling over, but those are trivial matters. I solve them by dozing in the same room as the boys (or napping when they're locked in their room and thus less likely to kill themselves) and drinking so much water I feel like I live in the bathroom. 

I was very fortunate with the boys not to have heartburn ever, something a lot of my friends had to deal with. On the flip side, they all seem to have babies who look like they're wearing wigs while mine were cue balls. In my opinion, bald beats heartburn any day. Especially when it starts super early in the pregnancy and just gets worse as time goes on. Other things are going to get worse (like shortness of breath and no comfortable position ever), I'd rather not have reflux on top of them. 

I'm 17 weeks now and not so big that I look pregnant with clothes on, just kind of chubby. Like "is she pregnant or just fat? Is that new baby fat or old baby fat?" Which is ok. Because judging from my previous pregnancies, I'll get there. I'll be the "oh, are you SURE you're not having twins?" pregnant lady...or at least I'll feel like I am. I can already lay on my back and see a mound but I haven't lost sight of my feet quite yet. 

One thing that I have lost is restful sleep. I have to roll over in slow motion at night or it feels like someone is pulling my stomach off, a very unpleasant sensation. So a roll that takes normal people a split second takes me a couple. Its a whole process. But at the end of it I can go back to sleep instead of lay there and wonder in my half awake stupor if I just killed my baby by rolling from my left side to my right side because holy cow does that not feel good. 

The second trimester is good. The aches and pains from ligaments stretching and getting used in ways they haven't in a while, the exhaustion and sleeplessness, the dehydration, it's all easy to handle. I can work through it. I can function as a human being and a mom with them. But I know that the road ahead of me is going to get harder, so I'm bracing myself. It's all good, because at the end, I get a screaming, writhing, messy, vaguely disgusting, beautiful miracle to hold and snuggle and kiss and sometimes dislike. And really, that's the best part of pregnancy: when it ends. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I don't have a thigh gap and that's (mostly) ok

Here's some shocking information most women won't share: I'm 5'6" and before I got pregnant I weighed about 145 pounds. And I wasn't fat.

Shocking, right?

Today's world is so obsessed with weight loss and gain. Everywhere we look, we're being told we aren't thin enough but yet we need to eat massive portions of food and binge watch tv shows and sit in front of our computers. That's messed up.

I've never been overweight, so this is coming from a perspective of someone who used to be PAINFULLY skinny. Like...people thought I was anorexic, then saw me eat and thought I must be bulimic. In my family, we stay skinny until about puberty, then we put on a bit of weight, then we get married and all hell breaks loose. As a kid, I saw my parents' wedding picture and had no idea who the couple was because 1 Dad didn't have a beard at 23 and was a beanpole (his mother described him as so thin you could see his spine through his stomach once) and 2 my mom was super thin and had long hair. She was more recognizable, so I figured her out after studying it for a bit but they had to tell me it was Dad.

My parents dieted and exercised for years. Mom actually got back down to a slim size after Caleb was born by walking at the Family Life Center and doing Medi-Fast, a supplement meal diet plan she recommended to her patients. Dad would jog every morning and occasionally do Medi-Fast to keep his weight in check. But when his knees gave out and she had a couple issues pop up, the weight piled on. This is probably my future. And I'm ok with that.

I never liked the way my body looked. I think most women are in that boat. Something was either too big or not big enough or just weird looking, so in high school I hid it with clothes that were a couple sizes too large. It worked for me. I wasn't heavy by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn't see that. I saw the small (minuscule in retrospect) pooch of my stomach and thought everyone else was focused on that, too.

In college I put on about 30 pounds in the first semester. Apparently I can be an overachiever about some things. I was so horrified to go to a doctor's appointment in January and hear that I weighed 140 that I immediately decided to control my eating habits. I was hiking all over campus with a heavy backpack, so I knew I was getting exercise and that wasn't the issue. It was the 4 or 5 sodas a day I drank and the two or three helpings of fatty dorm foods or fatty fast foods I was eating. So I cut those things out, started cooking for myself more (and that meant eating a lot less) and by the next year I was back to 120. A reasonable weight for a 20 year old who's 5'6" with my build.

I graduated college like that and started working in a job where I ran up and down the stairs in a 5 and 4 story building in heels every day, ate whenever I could whatever I could and slept crazy hours. At my thinnest, I got down to 105. My friends were a little concerned because I was so skinny. I loved it because I weighed less. I still had that damn stomach pooch, so I still felt like part of me was wrong.

On my wedding day, I weighed 117 and, if I do say so myself, looked pretty good. I wore Mom's wedding dress and it was a tad snug so I had to wear what was basically a girdle to flatten things and squish things. Even then, it wasn't terribly comfortable so I bought another dress for the reception.

I was on birth control, cooking for my husband every night, pretty sedentary since I'd quit my my weight ballooned. To 135. Horrors. I hated the way I looked again. Pooch was bigger, thighs and hips and butt were bigger, I felt awful. I figured "well, once I start having babies, I'll breastfeed and that'll help with weight loss, as will chasing the kids around. I'll be fine once I'm off the pill."

Silly me. I am one of the few "fortunate" people who gains weight while breastfeeding. I weighed around 165 at the end of both pregnancies and immediately after was about 20 pounds lighter. Once breastfeeding was abandoned, I tried dieting by tracking my caloric intake and eating less in a day. I took the baby(ies) on walks and tried to be more active. And my weight went nowhere. I think my bottom line post babies is going to be about 140ish. MAYBE 135 if I really get into the whole weight loss thing.

These days, I don't diet, I just do portion control, usually at home (you better believe if I'm buying it at a restaurant I'm eating as much as I can.) It helps me and I think it would help others if they'd be consistent, but it's hard to do. If there's still food and your stomach is still saying "feed me" and it tastes good...yeah, you want to eat it.

I consistently felt bad about how I looked until one day, I hit me. I was wearing the wrong clothes. When you weigh 140, you can't and shouldn't wear a shirt and pants you wore when you weighed 120. It's just not a smart choice. OF COURSE it doesn't look good on you. It wasn't made for your body. Not your current one anyway. So I went out and bought clothes that fit me now (or before I got pregnant. work with me) and I felt tons better. I buy clothes that fit the body I have not the body I want and I'm much more comfortable in my own skin.

It's probably a maturity thing, or maybe it's a laziness thing, but I've come to accept that this is my body. I've created life with this body, carried it to term and delivered it naturally. It's got dimples in weird places and fat and cellulite and a few light pale stretchmarks and of course I wouldn't mind some things being smaller, but overall, it's a good body. It's done what I've asked it to do (except lose weight) and sometimes things I didn't think it capable of doing (anyone who's had a vaginal birth knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about. ow). It has comforted my children, fed them (somewhat), loved them, sheltered them, and been their jungle gym. It may not look the best to outsiders, but to my little family, it's pretty good.

So yes, after this baby, I'll wish I was back into the 130's weight wise. I'll occasionally hate the way my thighs touch. I'll get frustrated with my big butt. But overall, I'll let it be because it has been through a lot in the past 30 years, especially the last 4.

That's my advice: dress for the body you have, not the body you want. You'll be more confident and comfortable in your own skin if your clothes fit and look good on you. Trust me.

If you were 5 and these were your parents, would you recognize them? lol

I'm also 6 inches taller than that made things interesting. 

Palm Sunday this year with my two body wreckers.