January 2021: A Month in Review (Meals and Workouts)

At the beginning of January I shared my intentions for the year and how my goal was to be more deliberate and intentional in a few key areas of my life.  The main areas being meal planning (and following through with it) and waking up early to work out.  Today I wanted to share the meals I planned and cooked this past month (and how they went over with the family), and to talk about the incredible impact that waking up early has had on my life.  First up, meals!

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Meal Plan for the Month of January 2021 

My goal was to plan the meals for the week on Sundays and then do the shopping for the week that day.  I wanted us to have more family meals (instead of us eating after the kids were in bed), and intentionally planning everything was key in making that happen.  This also cut down on our grocery expenses (I don’t have an exact number for your but less trips to the store definitely means less money spent on groceries) and time spent at the store.  I also made sure to plan meals with ingredients that could be used in more than one meal, and I really tried to stick with what was on the plan without buying random things that caught my eye.  I intentionally gave us a little wiggle room so that we could throw in a quick Trader Joe’s meal when we needed to, and was ok with shifting meals around as needed.  This is the extra large roasting pan we love and swear by.  It’s sold on Amazon and the XL size is huge and fantastic for roasting a bunch of veggies.  It’s currently on sale for $25.99!  We also have the jelly roll size which is great for smaller things, and it’s on sale for $15.95.  We use the Always Pan daily to sauté vegetables, cook eggs, brown meat, make pancakes, etc.  It’s definitely worth the hype and it’s beautiful too.  We have the Blue Salt color.  The one downside is that it’s not oven-safe, so for things like filet mignon (where I like to sear on the stove to get a nice crust and then finish in the oven) I make sure to use our trusty old cast iron skillet for that.

Let me tell you, in January we ate more home cooked meals (we live within walking distance of so many good restaurants, which is dangerous), the kids ate less chicken nuggets, we ate more veggies, and I actually enjoyed it all because I had a plan!  There really is something to be said for meal planning and it’s something I plan to continue to do as part of our weekly routine.  I also tried to prep food during the day (during nap time or if the kids were entertained with something) so that I didn’t have to do any real chopping right before dinner, since things tend to get a little hectic at the end of the day.  One thing that may be even more helpful would be prepping any vegetables on Sunday or Monday so that each day I could just grab the veggies that were needed and get to cooking.  This will be a goal moving forward!

little spoon toddler mealsorganic kids meals

I tried to plan meals that the whole family would enjoy, but on the occasion where I didn’t (if it was something like baked salmon or spicy foods or if I simply didn’t get my act together in time) I’d give the kids a meal from Little Spoon.  This is a great organic meal service for kids and they ingeniously hide veggies in all of the well rounded meals.  Little Spoon kindly sent me these meals in exchange for sharing them with y’all, and I think they are a fantastic resource on nights when you feel like you can’t do it all and if you forgot to plan ahead.  Our favorite meals included Cauli Croquettes (both kids devoured the veggie millet poppers that came with it), the gluten free cauliflower gnocchi, chicken super nuggets, and even though my kids were skeptical I was really impressed with the chicken potstickers with quinoa veggie stir fry and edamame, and the cheesy black bean pupusas with veggie Spanish rice.  Use code WHIMSY for $15 off of your first order!  I will note that my kids are not adventurous eaters at all so many of the meals intimidated them (Caroline outright refused a few of them without taking a bite), but I was really proud of Jack for trying new textures and flavors that I wouldn’t think to offer him on my own.  I had someone mention that they were going to order a box to send to the grandparents’ house so that when they watched the grandkids they’d have an easy, well-balanced meal to serve their kiddos.  I thought that was such a smart idea!  The meals come refrigerated but you can also place them in the freezer if you aren’t going to consume them within 14 days.  Little Spoon is a really great resource for those busy nights and also if you’re looking for ways to expand your children’s palates a little.

Breakfasts

For breakfasts I tend to rotate between eggs over medium (firm whites but runny yolks) with sautéed veggies (such as spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms) plus avocado, or oatmeal, avocado toast with an egg or two, or sometimes just a bowl of cereal.  Since I did a lot of morning workouts in January I really enjoyed having a heartier breakfast to help me recover and also keep me full until lunch time.  Some of my other favorite and easy breakfasts are in this old blog post.

Lunches

trader joes hardwood smoked ahi tuna

I often eat leftovers for lunch, which is why you don’t really see leftovers in my dinner plans.  If it’s a protein, I’ll typically make a salad with baby spinach or kale and then add the protein to the top with lots of other toppings (chickpeas, beets, walnuts, feta of blue cheese, tomatoes, etc).  Olive oil and vinegar (balsamic or red wine, most of the time) are what I top my salads with.  I also made my Spicy Ahi Poke Bowl using Trader Joe’s sesame crusted smoked ahi tuna.  It’s so delicious, easy, quite healthy and makes me feel like I’m back in Hawaii!  I just bought this affordable (and beautiful!) blue and white chopsticks set so that I can reuse them now that I’ve run out of my disposable stash leftover from takeout meals.

Dinners

I think I’m missing a few meals but here is a summary of what we cooked and how the meals turned out!

Week 1

Korean Beef Bowls from the Glowbody PT 10 Minute Plan– this was perhaps our favorite meal and I cooked it twice this past month!  It will now be in regular rotation.

Trader Joe’s Ravioli with homemade Pesto (I shared how I make pesto in this old blog post)

Mexican Power Bowl from the Glowbody PT 10 Minute Plan

Spaghetti (with ground turkey in the spaghetti sauce), and then for the adults I added sautéed veggies like onion, spinach and zucchini.

Week 2

Baked Wild Salmon (topped it with leftover homemade pesto which made it nice and moist), garlic mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli.  I tend to like cooking salmon on low and slow.  It ensures it’s cooked well (I like my fish well done) yet still moist.

Balsamic Flank Steak, sautéed spinach, tomatoes/sweet onion/blue cheese balsamic salad.  (An old go-to recipe from Bon Appetit magazine from ~2010.

Quinoa Pizza Bowls from the Glowbody PT 10 Minute Plan– I added too much cheese and not enough liquid so this turned out to be much denser than I’d expected it to be.  These were pretty good but I’m not sure I’ll make it again.  Jack ate a good bit and Caroline had a few bites before throwing up onto her placemat.

Pasta with shrimp and veggies (spaghetti with tomato and ground turkey sauce for the kids)

Homemade turkey burgers, roasted diced sweet potatoes

Pizza (from grocery store that we cook at home)

Week 3

Lentil Taquitos by Claire of For the Love of Gourmet- Jack ate these no-questions (a rare occurrence for him) asked and I thought the lentils were a great meat-free option.  I used the steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s and then added the seasonings from the recipe.

Korean Beef Bowls- We loved these so much I made them again!  Roasted broccoli to add to it.

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole by Claire of For the Love of Gourmet- Caroline wouldn’t try this but Jack, Tate, Tom and I loved it.  Will definitely make this again!

Roasted Cauliflower Flatbreads- this is one of my very favorite meals.  Roast cauliflower with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, dill, umami seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil on 400 degrees until it’s slightly crispy and brown, approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then toast naan bread and add some hummus to it then top with the cauliflower, greek yogurt (or tzatziki sauce if you make it), cucumber, feta, tomatoes, red onion.  Eat like a pizza.  It’ll likely end up being messy since I love to overload it with toppings but it’s so good!  I eat the leftover roasted cauliflower on salads (a bed of spinach) with the same toppings as above.  We had planned on cooking The Forest Feast’s Corn and Cauliflower Tacos (a favorite recipe of ours) but ended up going Mediterranean-inspired instead.

January Workouts and a Change in Priorities

In 2020 I really struggled to find a good time to exercise.  With 3 kids 5 and under, a pandemic, the lack of a gym and childcare at the gym…it was hard.  The Glowbody PT 12 week post pregnancy plan was my go-to pre-pandemic and in the early days of the world shutting down, but I did all of that either at a gym before the pandemic started or at Fripp Island after we left Hawaii and while Tom was on leave while retiring from the Army and my parents were also there to help out with the kids.  I finished that plan really easily and did a great job of mostly sticking to the schedule.  It was amazing and I blogged all about it here and code WHIMSY15 saves you $15!  Fast forward to us living in the DC area with Tom working, far from family, 2 of the 3 kids in school for only 3 hours in the morning…figuring it all out got tough, and I made excuses.  I started the Glowbody PT 10 minute plan back in September or so, and even though it’s only 12 weeks long and I should have finished in mid-December I’m still chipping away at it and I’m currently on week 11.  It was really tough to figure out how to make it a priority, especially once the weather got colder and I couldn’t put the kids in the backyard and workout while they played out there.  The plan is incredible though, and code WHIMSY10MINUTE will save you 10% on the 10 minute plan.  I plan on doing the advanced 5k plan next, which is included in the 10 minute plan.

In December I realized that a change in priorities really needed to happen, if I wanted to make my fitness a priority.  First off, we bought a treadmill and I LOVE it!  We got the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 treadmill and I’m so happy with our choice (I shared a Live IGTV tour of it here).  It feels just as solid as a gym treadmill and it comes with a year of i-Fit, which means it comes with hundreds of on demand workouts.  You can choose to run with trainers outside all over the world and the treadmill adjusts the incline and speed for you.  It’s incredible and makes the time fly by, and there are workouts for all ability levels!  There are also treadmill class workouts, with a trainer and then a few others in the audience on treadmills too.  The classes are really fun and I’m assuming it’s similar to the Peleton experience.  Can’t recommend this treadmill enough!  Another perk of the treadmill is that the running platform does fold up, to save space.  We keep it down but if space is an issue in your home I think this is a really great selling point of this treadmill.

In order to actually be able to use the treadmill (and finally finish the Glowbody PT 10 minute plan) Tom and I both committed to working out early in the morning.  We’d set the alarm for 5 and BOTH OF US would get up (sometimes pressing snooze a couple times, if I’m being honest) and then normally he’d go run outside in the freezing cold and I’d run a mile or two on the treadmill (in manual mode) and then do my 30 minute Glowbody PT workout.  On the days I don’t have a Glowbody PT workout (it’s 4 days a week) I’ll choose one of the I-Fit classes to get 3-5 miles in.  It’s a fun way to change things up and pretend I’m traveling the world rather than running in a 100 year old messy basement when it’s 25 degrees outside.  On average, I’d say we woke up early to work out 3-4 times a week (M-F).  Doing this has made ALL the difference.  It’s hard to get out of bed but if you just force yourself to keep moving it makes it less painful.  I don’t even drink coffee first or anything to slow my progress, I just get out of bed, throw on my clothes that I set out the night before, drink a little water and go move my body.  I’ve been in such a better mood and am able to truly focus on my kids once they’re up because I’ve already made myself a priority.  Workout, daily devotional, coffee, and sometimes even a shower too…all before my early risers wake up.  Waking up early is the key to success if you want to work out while having young children at home.  I’m so much happier and am so glad I’m taking care of myself!

On Saturdays I run with a local women’s running group and we tend to 10 miles at a ~9:15 pace.  The first week was awkward because I didn’t really know anybody and it was a real step out of my comfort zone (I’m a true introvert even though it may not seem like that on Instagram sometimes), but now that I’ve gone 7 weeks in a row it’s become a wonderful start to my weekend and I love the chats we have while running.  I know I wouldn’t make myself run 10 miles each weekend all on my own in 30 degree weather, so this group has been so incredible because it holds me accountable and the miles fly by.  Most of the women are moms so it’s kind of a therapy session for all of us since we all need a little break from our kids on occasion!  Oh and I bought new running shoes in January and omg these feel like clouds.  I’m an 8 in regular shoes but always size up to a 8.5 in New Balance.

So that’s a wrap up of how January went for us!  February is off to a similar start, though I did skip meal planning one week and I felt very discombobulated and now I realize how essential that is for us.  Hope this was helpful and if you have questions feel free to leave them below!

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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4 Comments

  1. Laura
    February 21, 2021 / 6:16 pm

    We loved the Korean beef bowl from the 10 minute plan too! You’ve got to the the rainbow chicken and sweet potato curry if you haven’t already – they’re amazing!

    • February 22, 2021 / 5:22 am

      We tried the sweet potato curry a couple weeks ago and it was delicious! I wanted to drink the broth all on its own lol. Just added the rainbow chicken to our menu for this week thanks to your recommendation. Can’t wait to try it!

  2. Anne Colson
    February 27, 2021 / 8:56 am

    I’d love some more details on the treadmill please! Does the iFit membership offer running programs (ie, train up to a half marathon, etc.) or are they random workouts and you just pick what you want? Does the display tell you your pace per mile? And do you have to set it up yourself or can you pay someone from the company to? I’m seriously considering buying one and happy to use your link if I do. Thank you! -Anne

    • February 28, 2021 / 1:50 am

      Hi Anne! This past week I actually filmed an IGTV tour of it! I went live and answered some questions and showed all of it’s functions. It’s saved on my Instagram if you follow me there! I know that there are different challenges (where a training will lead a series of workouts to build up endurance or speed) but I’m not sure if there are true race training programs. I just googled it and it looks like Runner’s World and iFit have partnered and created that training programs that work on the iFit treadmills. Not entirely sure how that works but it sounds like it’s worth looking into! You can set it up yourself (what we did) or you can choose to have someone assemble it for you. And yes! Just like a gym treadmill you can toggle through the display and it’ll show you your time elapsed or pace per mile. I can’t say enough good things about it! Hope that was helpful!

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