Meals Plans, Grocery Shopping, and Other Adulty Things

Let’s talk about meal planning for a minute, shall we? I know, I know, super adulty, blah blah blah. Imma talk about it anyway because figuring out a system that works has been REVOLUTIONARY for my health, my wallet, my evening time management, and my sanity/anxiety about all three of those things.

Meal Planning_feistyharriet_April 2017 (1)

Once a week I make a meal plan and corresponding grocery list and then 100% stick to both. My super fancy format? I have a legal pad that is stuck to the side of the fridge with a couple of heavy duty magnets. I tried keeping notes on my phone/Google drive in various methods, but ultimately a legal pad with an attached pen has worked the best for me.The top page of my legal pad is a fairly detailed list of what is happening for meal time at my house for the next week. The second page of my meal planning notepad is always a running grocery list, so when I run out of sour cream or am getting low on quinoa or toilet paper I write it down and then pick it up on my next trip. When it’s time to go to the grocery store I have a list started and I never run out of toilet paper. Win-win. The third page is probably my best secret, honestly. It’s another meal plan for another week, Monday thru Sunday, which I fill out as I get inspired or as I have leftovers I know I need to use up, adding ingredients to the grocery list as I go.

Easy peasy. Well, kind of. It took me months to figure out my system and then train myself to stick to it. Lucky you, I’ve typed it all out here. I know. You didn’t realize Thursday could be so good, did you.

The first time you do this you’ll want to make a meal plan and grocery list at the same time so you know that you’ll have everything you need for dinner (and/or lunch and breakfast). On each week’s meal plan I make notes about what days we have Blue Eyes’ kids, and any commitments that may alter dinner plans. I also block out date night, and write down any work responsibilities or meetings that will preclude the need for leftover lunches. I also make little notes of day-before tasks like thawing meat or prepping something in advance; for example, if we are having taco salad on Tuesday there is a note on Monday to take the ground turkey out of the freezer to thaw overnight. When I get home from work and it’s time to make dinner I always know what I am making, I know the meat is ready to go, and I know that all the other ingredients are in the fridge/pantry. You’ve written out a meal plan and your grocery list, you take the list to the store and stick the meal plan to the fridge.

Viola! Adulty meal plan complete!

As the week goes on you start working on next week’s grocery list on page two; you are almost out of cumin, the bottle of salsa is running low, and the string cheese has been inhaled or abducted by mysterious fridge elves. You also decide you really want steak and asparagus next week, or you want to use up that ziploc in the freezer full of pesto you made last summer, or you are craving breakfast for dinner because omelets on Friday night is always a good idea. Write down these ideas as you get them throughout the week and page three starts shaping up nicely. The week goes on, your grocery list and next week’s meal plan are fleshed out. At the end of the week take a few minutes to finalize everything; rip off the first page (last week’s now complete plan) of your notepad, finish filling in next week’s meal plan and your grocery list, rip out the grocery list page and head to the store. And now, your new top page is your current meal plan and you can start all over again with grocery lists (page two) and next week’s plan (page three).

Meal Planning_feistyharriet_April 2017 (2)

Taaa-daaah! You did it! Not so hard, right!? The peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what I need to do when I get home from work in order to get dinner on the table is glorious. Knowing I have everything I need to make that has been a game changer. And being able to plan out in advance for healthy meals made at home has really helped keep my grocery spending in check (another post for another day) and stick to my health goals (more veggies, less sugar, plenty of cheese).





P.S. I keep a list on the very last page of my legal pad with a bunch of our favorite meals that I can make without even thinking about it, so if I am struggling to finalize a meal plan I just flip to the back page and pick one or two of those to fill in any remaining gaps so I can finish my grocery list and just go to the store already.

P.P.S. A note on grocery lists: I write mine in the order I go through the grocery store; all the produce is together, all the meat is together, so are all non-food necessities like shampoo and soap and ziploc bags. When I go to the grocery I always follow the same route which conveniently mirrors my grocery list.

ABC Mondays

Activist: For the last few months I’ve been trying to be more active politically, whether that is a rally or a protest, or going to a legislative meeting, or confronting racists/sexists/Cheeto-ists where I find them. Ya’ll, the root word of “activism” is “active” and it’s no joke. It can be emotionally exhausting, yet I simultaneously feel guilty for not doing more, giving more. I’m still working on finding a balance to keep myself in Activist Mode but also to still be able to take care of myself and give my brain and heart some space to unwring themselves in order to move forward.

Brothers and Sisters: I have two older brothers and two sisters (one twin, one just younger), we have always had pretty decent relationships (teenage years not withstanding), but the last year or two I feel like I’ve leveled up with my siblings. It helps that finally we all have phones capable of sending/receiving group texts, so there is a constant flow of jokes and memes and hilarity in my inbox on the regular.

Carbs: I’m not eating any right now and I’m still in the feeling deprived stage. I WANT ALL THE BREAD AND COOKIES! Cardio: After a few weeks I’m back to feeling comfortable in my cardio regimen and ready to add something else to it (wha!? Who is this person asking for MORE exercise stuff and less cookies? IMPOSTER!)

Dirt: In the last few weeks we’ve added several TONS of dirt to our front yard. Literal tons. The dirt-work is finally done and next up is some more plants! (Yay plants!)

Ear Wax (skip if you get queasy): For reasons I absolutely cannot understand my left ear is producing wax like it is the sole supplier for end-of-the-world emergency candles. It hurts, it’s itchy and achey, and the amount of crud that comes out of it…well, I spare you (the rest of) the details, but, ew. Probably need to see an ENT in short order.

Flowers: During my Sabbaticalette I planted a ton of little wildflower seeds in tiny little seedling cups that I could then transfer to a larger bed once it was done. The stupid wind turned over and destroyed HALF of them. Starting over. (Insert metaphor that I am 100% not interested in right now because I’m still pissy about the damn destroying wind.)

G-chat: At my last office g-chat was blocked and there was no WiFi in the building. Neanderthals! At my new office g-chat is encouraged as an inter-office communication tool and I am LOVING it so much. I missed you, g-chat!

Hair: Ya’ll, my hair is RIDIC long right now, when it’s down and straight the ends are past my natural waist. I have a cut scheduled with my Hair Guy later this month and I’m very back-and-forth on “keep it long!” and “chop it all!” Thoughts? (Also, I miss my lavender hair, just might do that again too.)

Imposter Syndrome: I am a fairly successful career person, yet I sometimes get this crippling fear that I have no idea what I’m doing while EVERYONE ELSE has their lives 100% together. Imposter Syndrome is such a monster, it sneaks in to ruin perfectly lovely moments and experiences.

Just Do It: When I’m in a funk it is often (although NOT always) because I’m flailing at a project or an Important Life Thing. I usually feel a million times better if I just do that thing, figure it out and plow through, doesn’t need to be perfect, just needs to get done. (Other times I need medication to get out of the funk, and that’s okay too.)

Khocolate: Khocolate is some version of fake chocolate (usually, quick-set sugar-free jello pudding), it is not great—just like krab is a super poor substitute for fresh crab–but it fits in my “no carbs, no sugar” regimen right now and takes the edge off.

Leggings: I….I kind of don’t get it. I mean, I have two or three pairs, one is a pair of “fancy” leggings from one of those MLM companies, and they are soft and comfortable, but I only wear them for a few hours at night or in the morning IF we have Mr Blue Eyes’ kids staying with us. Otherwise? Um, I don’t really wear pants at home because I feel like I’m suffocating. And in this case, leggings = pants. And I don’t wear leggings to work because they aren’t dressy enough. And for 9 months of the year it’s too hot for pants of any sort anyway (it’s 90 EVERY DAY THIS WEEK!) so why bother? Can we still be friends even if I’m off the leggings boat?

Mountains: There are some sort-of mountains around Phoenix, nothing like my snow-crusted rocky ones back home, but they have their own allure. My office window looks right out on one of the bigger ones and I love watching the light change the colors and shapes throughout the day. (Do I gush about my new office too much? Sorry/Not Sorry. It is SO MUCH BETTER and I won’t shut up about it. Yet.)

Nausea: I mentioned up there somewhere (points for emphasis) that I am not eating very many carbs right now. I’m not perfect in my quest for a (temporary) carbless existence, however, and every so often I’ll have a cupcake or a piece of bread or whatever. And that almost always makes me nauseous, more the sugary cupcake than the wheat bread, which, noooooooo!!!

Office Supplies: There is almost nothing I love more than buying office supplies. My last office was very drab and black and gray, so everything I added to my desk/bookcase was in bright colors. Aqua fan! Hot pink mouse! Navy-striped mousepad! Fun art! My new office is more yellow-beige and red…and the aqua and hot pink and navy clash a bit. Ahem. I think the solution is to go shopping, right!? Can’t have a hot pink mouse with a brick red wall, that’s just TACKY, right!?

Painting: I miss spending some time with my oil paints and a canvas, I need to schedule this into my week on the regular. I know if I don’t purposely block out time for this activity it just won’t happen.

Queens: Did you watch The Crown yet on Netflix? Do you love it!? I’ve been creating a list of all the queens and empresses and lady rulers that I want to read up on; I love seeing that list get longer and longer as I find out more about the women who reigned!

Refinish: There are 18 things in my house that need to be sanded down and either repainted or restained or refinished in some way. Maybe next winter? I dunno, it’s just too dang hot (already) to even consider it. Blergh.

Summer: It’s here in the Valley of the Surface of the Sun and I am not happy about it. I hope we have a few more cool (or even cool-ish!) days before the triple digit temperatures are the “norm” but I highly doubt that will happen.

To Do Lists: One of my resolutions this year was to better manage my time, especially away from work. Whelp, the good news is that after a few months of trial and error I’ve finally found a system that I really like and helps me get all the things done that I want/need to, and in a reasonable time frame. My big secret? A spiral-bound paper planner just like the one I first started using in Junior High (but, no school mascot on the cover this time).

Under-roos: I need new ones. I feel like I always need new ones. WHY do I feel some need to hang on to ratty underpants when I am PERFECTLY CAPABLE of buying proper ones!? Come on, self, be the adult already! JUST GO BUY NEW UNDERWEAR! (TMI? Eh, I’ve expounded on a lot worse.)

Vacation: This spring Mr. Blue Eyes and I will be going on an Exciting! International! Vacation! Beaches and jungle will be involved, and this is the catalyst for getting over those last hurdles of my “in shape” goal. This will be our first proper vacation (vs long weekend) in YEARS and I am so excited!

Weight: Last year I lost a significant amount of weight, I’m buckling down again this spring and finally starting to see some results. Woot!

X-Wives: I’ve written a little about Mr. Blue Eyes’ x-wife, she’s a PIECE OF WORK. Now, the good news is that after many MANY months (and years) of baby steps (and two steps forward, eight steps back progress), the last little while has been…relatively normal? It’s weird. I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, but the moderate peace and quiet has been revolutionary for all parties involved.

Yardwork: Mr. Blue Eyes and I have been spending the last couple of Saturday’s transforming our front yard from its former expanse of gravel into something a little less rocky. The backyard got a nice cleaning (weeds, debris, piles of schtuff), and the front yard has a new kidney-bean shaped raised bed ready for cactus and bushes and desert-loving wildflowers. I’ll show you all the pics soon.

Zzzz’s: My FitBit tells me that most nights I get about 7 hours of sleep; my brain tells me that most days I wish it was closer to 9 hours of sleep. Sigh. Never enough hours in the day.

Harriet: Age 34

Boone Hall Butterfly Pavilion, South Carolina

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy BIRTHday toooooo meeeeeEEeeeeeee!!! (deep breath!) HaaAaappyyyy BiiiirrrrtthhhDaaaaayyy TooooOoooOooOOoooo MeeEeeeeEeeEee!

Today I am thirty-four, and that means I’ve officially entered my “mid thirties”…which I think is supposed to somehow kick-start a biological clock, or at least give me some age-related anxiety? It’s not. It’s just another birthday and I have to spend the next 4 months trying to remember how old I am all over again. (After writing the rest of this post and going through for a quick edit, it occurred to me that I have been pretty “meh” about my birthday for years. I don’t WANT to be “meh” about my birthday. A day-before-Valentine’s-Day birthday somehow seems to be anti-climactic, and there’s been a lot of Stuff that precludes me celebrating the way I want to. And I don’t like that. So. Next year for the BIG Three-Five, I shall throw a fabulous bash. I like celebrating, I love hosting people, and I’ve got a really really great birthday cake recipe.)(Moving on with thirty-four. Ahem.)

How will you spend your birthday?
In a really annoying twist of circumstances, I shall be going to work while Mr. Blue Eyes has the day off. I know. It’s stupid.

Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Sadder; thinner; richer.

What did you do last year that you’ve never done before?
Went camping by myself. I felt kick-ass and super nervous, all at once.

What was your favorite discovery last year?
Overdrive! I’m only, like, 8 years late to the party, but I luuuurve Overdrive and use it to listen to audiobooks!

What do you hope to learn this coming year?
Better time management for my life as a whole, instead of just the few pockets that I have under control right now.

What would you like to have this year that you didn’t have last year?
Peace. This last year was full of turmoil on almost every front . And not just the regular dumpster fire that is meme’d on the Interwebs, but deeply personal and in my most vulnerable places as well.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Had you asked me this six months ago I would have gushed about negotiating a new job here in Arizona. However, uh, that has been one of the worst overall “improvements” of my career and my life. I shall write more about this soon; there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What was your biggest failure?
Letting the sadness win. And sometimes also letting the anger and darkness win. It was a rough year, ya’ll.

Where did you travel this year?
The first half of my 33rd year I was all over the place, which was exhausting and glorious, all at once. (A small sampling: New Mexico (twice), California, Colorado, Washington DC, Montana, Chicago, several trips back to Salt Lake, and visits to Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Parks.) For the last half I have more or less stayed home, and that is glorious and heart-wrenching in its own way.

Do you have a destination in mind for next year?
Yes! We have booked tickets and part of our accommodations for a proper vacation to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary (which was in November, and/or January, depending on who you ask).

What did you get really excited about?
Vegetables in my backyard, if we have had more than two conversations I have probably mentioned my little plants at least 7 times. Also the women who serve as Supreme Court Justices.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Finding joy in the people and activities that I know are a salve for my aching heart.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying. This is two years in a row with this answer, btw.

What was the best book you read?
Oh goodness, I love/hate this question. In the last year I’ve read almost 150 books with MANY 5-star reviews in there. In no particular order (but all non-fiction, because that’s my fave): The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot; The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown; Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik; The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley.

What did you want and get?
A backyard with grass and a new patio and boxes for my little vegetables!

What did you want and not get?
Superficial Item #1: To fit back into my skinny jeans, I’m still working on it.
Superficial Item #2: A wall of bookcases to fill up.
More Honest and Infinitely Harder to Admit Item: happiness or even contentment with my life, my relationships, myself.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Several months of temperatures in the low thirties and high twenties; I am not cut out for the nine months of temps over 90 degrees. It makes my brain melt.

What kept you sane?
Long conversations with dear friends, audiobooks to keep me company, wandering around art museums and exhibits, puttering with my plants.

What political issue stirred you the most?
I really don’t know if I can answer this question because I haven’t got 3,728 hours to write in all the details. Which issue? All of them. I have ranted and raved and cheered and spent emotional energy on more political causes in the last 12 months than in the rest of my life combined.

Did you fall in love?

Who did you miss?
Same answer as last year: My people in Salt Lake, my nieces and nephews, siblings, and my glorious rocky mountains.

Did you learn a valuable life lesson this year?
The grass is not always greener elsewhere. That being said, I also firmly believe that all of our choices will not  and can not result in confetti and fireworks and unicorns and solely positive outcomes; sometimes even the most carefully thought out plans–the ones with flowcharts and back-up contingencies–will fail. At that point I have to wallow for a bit, because I am human, not a freaking robot, then pick myself up and get back to work.






Previous birthday posts here: Age 33Age 32.

2017 Resolutions

2017 New Years Resolutions_feistyharriet_Jan 2017

I really love New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve made them my whole adult life and probably have, on average, a 60% completion rate in any given year. Frankly, I am quite thrilled with this (totally extra super scientific) statistic. However, over the last few weeks as I’ve been trying to come up with resolutions for 2017 I went back through the last several years and realized, with a bit of horror, that my resolutions are almost exactly the same, year after year.

Let me explain.

Once upon a time (cough, 2011) I read 13 books for the year. This may seem like a pretty solid number for some of you, and that is TOTALLY FINE! But for me, it was jaw dropping, because I liked to describe myself as a bookworm, I would drive hundreds of miles for a used book sale for crying out loud, how could I–a self-professed bookaholic–only manage to read 13 books that year? Well, part of it was I was finishing my last semester of college, and I wasn’t counting college texts as “reading” (Das Kapital, I’m looking at you, you big lug!). But I realized that I was not prioritizing reading in practice nearly as much as I was in my head. So, for 2012 I made a resolution to read 50 books, a huge jump. Goodreads tells me I read 59 that year, a number that has continued to increase year after year. At this point, I no longer need to make a resolution to read a suitable-to-me-number of books per year, because bookaholic-level reading is now enough of a habit that I would do it regardless.

But my other annual resolution things? The ones involving healthy eating and regular exercise and more financially savvy spending/saving habits? Yeah…those aren’t habits yet. I will go a few months doing really well, and then make a flying leap off the bandwagon and go wander around in a corn field for a while. Or something. Metaphors aren’t always my thing, okay?

Finalizing my resolutions, I realized that some are so similar year after year because I have yet to commit them to Life Habits That I Don’t Need To Check Off A List, they are still aspirations that need constant reminding and tending and some kind of reward system. And…I think that’s okay? Yes, I think it is. I know I will be happier and healthier if I replace some of those cookies with green beans, and some of the Netflix sessions with a walk around the neighborhood. But my natural state is more sloth-and-cookies, not green beans-and-cardio, so back onto the Resolution list it goes.

Like previous years, I tend to have a few categories with a couple of co-dependent goals in each one, the goals work together to help me accomplish something great within that category. So, here it goes.

2017 Resolutions
  • Create a weekly schedule every Sunday, stick to it (this has worked SO WELL for meal planning and grocery shopping, time to apply that kind of planning to the rest of my life.
  • Write daily, including posts three times per week on
  • Dedicate time to create something/work on a creative project at least twice per month.
  • Select a Master’s program and submit the damn application.
  • Figure out a “Date Your Spouse” project with Mr. Blue Eyes, deliberately creating time and space for our relationship to strengthen and deepen.
  • Back to my “fighting weight” (I have never been in a physical fight), which requires another 25 pounds of weight loss. After losing 25 pounds earlier this year and then keeping it off, I am ready to start Phase II of this project!
    • Sweat or be active four days per week, at least 30 minutes.
    • Three 4-week stretches of no sugars whatsoever (including most carbohydrates). I am in the first week of stretch #1, I’ll choose two other months to do this kind of “reset” thru the year.
    • Continue regular meal planning, cooking dinners at home, and healthy eating.
  • Landscaping in the front yard (we did the backyard this year and I LOVE IT SO MUCH!)
  • Finish painting the kids’ bedrooms
  • Host six dinner parties (something I’ve always WANTED to do on the regular, but am always too worried it won’t be perfect so I don’t even send an invite. Want to conquer this bizarre fear this year.
  • Three “no spend” months (January, August, and another one, TBD)
  • Make an automatic monthly transfer into my savings account that is untouchable, it’s not being saved for a project or trip, it’s just being set aside for later.
  • [Redacted resolution about work/money stuffs…not ready to blog about it yet]
  • Use my passport! Twice!?
  • Visit two new National Parks
  • Go camping, at least overnight, four times this year. We’ve got all the gear, I want to use it!

And there it is! It’s kind of a lot, but also most are things I am at least attempting to make a consistent part of my life already, my hope is that 2017 will be the year I finally level up in adulting: taking care of my body, taking care of my relationships, taking care of my finances, and taking care of my needs for a creative outlet, and adventure.

What are your resolutions this year?


2016’s Resolutions: Recap

I know a lot of people poo-poo on New Year’s Resolutions, however I really enjoy having a guiding list of priorities for the year, even if I don’t end up hitting all those priorities. Last January I came up with seven things that I knew would stretch me, but also that would be manageable if I kept at it. As 2016 winds down, it’s time to recap how I did:

2016 Resolutions: End Results
  • Sweat four times per week: running, yoga, exercise class, whatever
    • I was hit and miss with this one; from March thru October I did this consistently and I ended up losing 30 pounds. I…have not been very good at it since. Need to get back on the wagon.
  • Consistent meal planning and healthy eating
    • Yes! I’ve been keeping a grocery list and meal plan list on the side of the fridge, and I have been really good at making a healthy plan and then sticking to it for the week. Win!
  • Consistent writing: blog, notebook, and/or personal journal
    • Yes!! Not only have I blogged consistently here for the last year (my goal was to publish here three times per week, or 156 times for the year. I am currently sitting at a cool 146, which makes me really happy.
    • Additionally, I have been writing a few sentences about my day in a diary-planner type book, and I’ve loved flipping back through it to see what book I was reading, what I was looking forward to, or what was frustrating me. I will do this again.
  • Set and stick to household budget, bulk up savings and retirement plan
    • Yes!! I paid off all my personal debt this year, and my savings and retirement accounts both are beefier than they have ever been! I will continue to focus on this for 2017 to ensure I’m solidifying these better financial habits.
  • Family camping trip with the kiddos
    • Not exactly. I went camping by myself. Blue Eyes and I went camping. The four of us went to Montana for a week and spent the bulk of it outside in the mountains doing camping-type things, but we stayed in a cabin, not a tent or trailer. So…kind of? I’m counting it.
  • Visit two new National Parks
    • Yes! I actually visited three new-to-me parks! Joshua Tree, Sequoia, and King’s Canyon
  • Learn Spanish
    • Uh, no. I spent a little bit of time with Rosetta Stone, but this was not nearly the kind of priority that I had planned on it being. Oops.

Ok, so of the seven I rocked four of them, one (camping) I’m counting as a “yes”, one (working out) was a solid B+, and one (Spanish) was a big fat fail. Overall, I am not mad about this. I mean, 2016 was a dumpster fire in many ways, I am happy with how I did on this list.

How about you? How did you do on your resolutions?