Thursday: Copycat Starbuck Protein Bistro Boxes

This lunch is one of my favorite go-tos! The ingredients are cheap and there’s hardly any prep work outside of throwing items in a container. If you’ve ever had a Starbucks Protein Bistro Box, you know how good they are, but also how expensive. It is soooo much cheaper to make these on your own!

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Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box

I packed a cluster of red grapes, hardboiled eggs (one for me, two for Joel,) a slice of multigrain bread cut into triangles, monterey jack cheese squares, an apple, and a side of peanut butter.   I prefer sliced apples to dip in my peanut butter, but I cut them when I set down to eat my meal. Apple slices turn brown too quickly after cut, and I don’t like how the tartness that lemon juice adds when trying to preserve them. Has anyone found a good way to keep apple slices from browning?

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My homemade protein bistro box

I love how easy this meal is to throw together and how tasty everything is combined as a meal! The sweet grapes and apples are balanced well with the salty egg and cheese and peanut butter is one of my absolute favorites so you can’t beat that!

What was your Thursday lunch?

Tuesday: Salad with Grilled Chicken/Turkey Sandwich

For today’s lunch, Joel had exactly what I had yesterday. The only difference is he had a whole sandwich, while I only had a half.

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Joel’s turkey sandwich and sides

I had a salad. I much prefer spinach/arugula salads over lettuce salads. I am okay with lettuce if it is romaine and really green but I can’t stand white watery iceberg lettuce…yuck. My salad base was mixed greens and my toppings were blue cheese, blueberries, sliced almonds, and grilled chicken strips. I used a creamy poppyseed dressing. I know creamy dressings aren’t the healthiest, but I prefer a pretty dry salad so I probably don’t even use a teaspoon of dressing. For the sake of time in meal prep, I use pre-sliced Perdue grilled chicken slices, rather than  grilling and slicing my own.

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For my side, I had a pack of cheese and cracker sticks made by Laughing Cow. These are a throwback to the Kraft Handi-Snacks of elementary school, but healthier and just as tasty!

What was on your lunch menu for Tuesday?

WEDNESDAY: BBQ Ranch Salad Bowl & Yogurt Parfait

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BREAKFAST: Fruit & Granola Yogurt Parfait

I’ve posted about this before, but it won’t hurt to reiterate the recipe. I make it every week because of how easy and cheap it is to put together. For this week’s,  I got some new granola at Aldi–coconut chia seed, and it is delish. Plus, it’s organic and cheap! It’s really outrageous how expensive some granola can be.

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What you need (1 serving):

  • 2 small yogurt packs (I used Dannon Activia mixed berry and black cherry, but you can use any yogurt you prefer.)
  • Small handful of berries (I used blueberries and chopped strawberries)
  • Small scoop granola

What you do:

  1. In a small airtight jar, layer the two yogurts on top of one another.
  2. Top with berries and granola.

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LUNCH: BBQ Ranch Chicken Bowl

This is a brand new recipe that I haven’t tried before. I threw it together based on some leftover ingredients I had from last week, and it turned out amazing! BBQ sauce and ranch are always a great combination, and you really can’t go wrong with it on chicken. I love ranch on a salad, but it is notoriously unhealthy, so by drizzling just a tad and mixing the salad with other ingredients such as rice and corn, you get the taste without all the calories.

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What you need (for one serving):

  • 1/2 cup pulled chicken
  • 1 tsp BBQ sauce
  • 1 tsp ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup canned corn
  • 1 cup greens of your choice (I used romaine spring mix)
  • 2/3 cup brown rice

What you do:

  1. Cook rice according to packaging.
  2. In an airtight container, place chicken, corn, greens, and rice in separate sections.
  3. Drizzle BBQ sauce over chicken. Repeat with ranch.

When you’re ready to eat, just mix everything all together and dig in! The chicken tastes reminiscent of BBQ wings and the vegetables and rice make it quite a bit healthier! I will certainly be adding this into my rotation of meals, as it’s one that both my husband and I loved!

TUESDAY: Apple Cinnamon Oats & Southwest Sweet Potato

Apple Cinnamon Oats

BREAKFAST: Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

This is probably one of my favorite combinations of overnight oats. And I know I say that every time I post about them, but I think I really mean it this time! The apples and cinnamon taste like apple pie–with a lot fewer calories!

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What you need (for one serving)

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 apple, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 packet stevia

What to do:

Combine everything, put in airtight container and refrigerate at least overnight!

This is so delicious when it is hot and gooey for breakfast. I made a second batch for later in the week, but I might not make it that long without eating it!

LUNCH: Southwest Sweet Potato

I am really digging the stuffed sweet potato thing. The buffalo chicken sweet potato from last prep was amazing, and this southwest sweet potato is another one of my go-tos. Directions for the southwest mixture are exactly the same as from my burrito bowls and burritos from last prep. This would be another great option if you have leftover chicken mixture from another recipe.

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What you need (for two servings):

  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 can Rotel tomatoes & chiles
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp water
  • Several leaves of cilantro
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cleaned

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke holes in your sweet potatoes all over using a fork.
  3. Place potatoes directly on center rack of oven and bake for ~50 minutes, turning halfway through.
  4. In a greased medium skillet, combine the first 6 items. Simmer on medium heat ~10 minutes.
  5. When potatoes are cooked through, slice down the center and use a fork to “fluff” the inside of your potato.
  6. Scoop a heaping portion of chicken mixture into your potato.
  7. Top with cilantro. Feel free to add hot sauce, salsas, fat free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, etc.

 

Meal Prepping

The past few weeks I haven’t been so great at healthy eating. For breakfast and lunch, I’ve been alright, but dinner has been an epic fail. This past weekend, my hometown had it’s annual Apple Blossom Festival, which brings out trucks and trucks of carnival food. Friday, for lunch, I had a pulled pork bbq sandwich, and for dinner, a cheeseburger, cheese fries and popcorn. Saturday was followed up by a full spread from Taco Bell. Let’s not talk about the calories from alcohol…

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So I decided to get back on my healthy meal prep kick, partially for the nutritional benefits, and partially to save money. Eating out is quick and easy, but boy do the costs add up. It pains me to get a $50 check for dinner, knowing that could have bought a few days worth of meals. My husband and I try not to be terribly frivolous with our money, but our biggest weakness food. I normally grocery shop about once a week and try to purchase what I need for the week ahead. Yesterday I went through my pantry and fridge and tried to come up with some meals based on ingredients I already had in the house. I made a list of the few things I still needed and headed to the store. I spent around $40 or so, but again, I had most of my supplies already at home. So if you calculate 3 meals a day, times 7 days, times two people, that’s about $0.95 per meal! You really can’t beat that. My husband and I are dedicated to spending NO money this week, except for emergencies or necessities such as gas and bills. So that means NO money on food!

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One of the biggest reasons we buy our lunch or dinner is due to lack of preparation. Maybe we have healthy things in the fridge, but we’re running late in the morning and don’t have time to pack. Or I forget to take meat out of the freezer in the morning and by the time I get home from work I’m too tired and hungry to wait for something to thaw. So yesterday, I decided to prep our breakfasts and lunches for the week ahead. I normally pack our lunches the night before, but sometimes binge watching Shameless takes precedence over packing. I spent about two hours total and prepped 30 meals total–breakfast, and lunch for both my husband and I, for Monday through Friday. On weekends, I don’t normally prep–I typically use Saturday and Sunday as somewhat “cheat days” and grab a bowl of cereal or a sandwich and chips. I’ve planned out what we’ll be eating for dinner, but these are mostly crock pot meals and quick dinners that don’t really require any preparation ahead of time.

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I gathered all of my ingredients and handled the prep several steps at a time. I had the rice boiling and the sweet potatoes in the oven while I was chopping peppers for my eggs. There really wasn’t a method to my madness, and my kitchen was certainly a wreck in the process. I just tried to think logically about what I could multitask. The key is having a lot of portable containers! I like to use generic Ziploc plastic containers, and I reuse them until the fall apart. I use the small rectangle “entree” size, and the small round twist & lock variety for most of my lunches. I also utilize small mason jars for things like yogurts and oatmeal, and large mason jars for salads. It’s also a good idea to have the mini seal-able condiment containers for things like hummus and peanut butter. I know a lot of people use glass containers for everything, since plastic isn’t the safest to microwave, but I just haven’t yet gotten there. Plus, my husband is notorious for mysteriously loosing his containers, and the plastic ones are cheap to replace.

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Here is the result of my hard work! I felt so productive and accomplished after finishing, and it’s a great feeling to know I won’t have to do any other preparation until next Sunday! Throughout this week, I’ll be blogging about each meal, including my recipe and how it turned out, so check back every day for more. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a cheap girl trying to healthy it up 🙂

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

Buffalo chicken is one of my favorite things. Specifically, buffalo chicken dip. It’s my absolute go-to for potlucks and parties. I’ve eating it as its own meal on several occasions, and have been known to make it into a sandwich. There’s something about the spicy, tangy buffalo sauce mixed with ranch that makes it so delicious. If you’re a fan of wings, I’m sure you understand. But the dip I make is made with cream cheese, full fat ranch, and almost an entire pack of shredded cheese. Not so much a part of the healthy eating plan.

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This recipe was a great way to satisfy my buffalo chicken craving while lightening up my lunch. I was a little apprehensive of the “Greek yogurt ranch ” but ended up impressed. It certainly is no buttermilk ranch dressing, but it does the trick. By packing this salad with quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, corn, spinach and avocados, it was not only nutritious, but also very filling! This will definitely be going into my regular rotation.

What you need:

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-Cooked, shredded chicken (about 2-2 1/2cups)
-3/4 cup buffalo sauce (more or less to taste)
-Packet of Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch
-1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
-1/2 can Rotel tomatoes & green chiles
-1/2 can black beans
-1/2 can yellow corn
-1 avocado, chopped
-2 cups spinach
-1 cup uncooked quinoa
-2 cups water
-handful cilantro, chopped

What to do:

  1. Rinse quinoa well with a mesh strainer
  2. Cook rinsed quinoa and water on stove until boiling.
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  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 15 minutes.
  4. In a bowl, toss chicken with buffalo sauce.
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  5. In separate bowl, combine beans, corn and Rotel.
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  6. In a third bowl, combine ranch packet and yogurt. Mix well.
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  7. Toss spinach with cilantro.
  8. When quinoa is cooked, place all ingredients except ranch in large bowl or travel container.
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  9. When ready to eat, top with ranch and stir.

I made these salads in the evening and left them in the fridge overnight to take to work for lunch. I kept all ingredients in separate corners of the containers to keep anything from getting soggy. I kept the ranch separate for the same reason.

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I actually really really loved this recipe. I love cold quinoa salads to begin with, and the buffalo chicken made it that much tastier. Plus, I have enough leftovers to make lunch for both of us tomorrow, as well!