Meal Preparation

Once we got home from a run to town, I put the fresh vegetables in a bath of water and vinegar to soak. When I threw vegetables straight into the refrigerator, they wouldn’t be seen again until they were beyond use. Putting them directly into the sink is now my first rule to prevent waste of money and food.

Moved them around, soaked, rinsed, drained, etc.

Still gotta eat, even on grocery day. The beef, carrots, and celery had already been prepped last week. All I needed was to dice a potato or two, fry it all in coconut oil, blend in some rice flour and water, and we had a quick stew supper.

Getting things going. Starting a salad while mixing beef with a variety of vegetables and spices into jars for storage.

Beef was already cooked, so I fried up some T-bacon bits to add to the green salad and to the chicken salad. Prepping meat means that I can stretch one or two pounds of beef and a couple of chicken breasts to last all week. This is more important now that we have four households using a beef at once.

Stirring up some potatoes au gratin. Butter, rice flour, half and half, and cheddar cheese will make a sauce to drape over sliced potatoes. Not sure precisely when I’ll serve this, but the seasonings will have a day or two to permeate the whole dish while it refrigerates.

Baking chicken to use in two meals.

Ready to bake when I need potatoes au gratin.

Chili chicken salad and chicken casserole ready and waiting for tortillas, bread, rice, or potatoes. Those decisions are still open to spontaneity.

I seem to have forgotten to get picture of the eggs boiling. (Because a visual of pot of eggs makes any blog post better!) A batch of boiled eggs provides us with to-go breakfasts, snacks, and something extra for salads. Boil in salt water for about 12 minutes (I’m over 4,000 ft elevation), cool, and refrigerate in a separate carton. I can peel a boiled egg fast by cracking one end and then rolling it on the counter under my hand with firm, gentle pressure. The shell slides right off.

A crock pot of rice will be used for breakfasts and adding to prepped meals. Now we need tea for tomorrow.

Sweet tea, chicken salad…

Large green salad, yes my kids go through a lot of milk, beef&rice, pizza toppings, extra potato slices for frying, carrot sticks…

Boiled eggs, veggies for omelettes, T-bacon, eggs…

Chicken casserole starter, hummus, borscht starter, and potatoes au gratin. I’ll have to wait till the avocados are ready to make the guacamole.

“Shine your sink!”

Time to kick back. Goodnight!

The Best Benefits of Meal Prep

  • Save money.
  • Save food; No waste.
  • No running out of an item before I get to use it in particular meals at the end of the week.
  • Overall better management of products I normally only buy once a week. Driving an hour round trip to the store with three littles is not something I do every other day.
  • Flavors have a chance to meld together. You know how some leftovers taste better than the original meal? This method can bring out the best taste the first time.
  • I don’t have strapping, starving, twin boys tugging at me while I’m trying to use a knife before every meal. Most of my cutting is done once a week while they’re asleep.
  • Helps reinforce my meal planning habit.

The Downside

  • I don’t know when to pause to keep from overdoing it. When we go in hung-ho, we tend to burn out. Once in a while I should sit down for two minutes to drink some water and regroup.
  • I am not available to read many bedtime stories. Considering I’ll have more time and less suppertime stress for the rest of the week, it may be a fair trade off.

What is your meal prep rhythm like?

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Rachael, My Health Story

At least 32 oz of CocaCola each day, 64 oz without ice on some weeknights. Five cups of coffee a day, three heaping scoops of sugar in each cup. Mac ‘n cheese. Ramen. Hamburger Helper. This diet was “balanced” by breakfast cereal full of sugar and iron shavings (try holding a strong magnet over your bowl after you’ve finished a serving), eggs smothered in margarine, and an evening cup of green tea with plenty of brown sugar. Then perhaps half a glass of chlorinated water topped it all off. My diet seemed alright to me.

No one around me exercised. Why should I have done that?

I was sick, like clockwork. Thinking back on my “well” days, I was feeling miserable even when I wasn’t fighting allergies, colds, viruses, or another ear infection. I wasn’t out of my teens yet and getting regular cases of heartburn.

In college, there wasn’t as much palatable food, but much more walking. So, on the bright side, I lost 15 freshman pounds. On the dark side, I was losing weight to stress and malnutrition, not health. The last flu shot didn’t protect me from a horrible case of flu, so I didn’t bother getting it again. Then I quit pork and shellfish (looong story). You have to read lots of labels when you stop eating those things, so I was becoming more aware of what I was eating. I came across information about MSG, hormones, metal toxicity, dyes, etc.

One summer my sister took me to get TSH tested like she did. My numbers were kind of in the normal range, but I was presenting symptoms of hormonal dysfunction. So in August of 2012 I was diagnosed with “borderline clinical hypothyroidism.” Levothyroxine was supposed to fix everything.

I felt better within a week. Energy levels improved. I was less irritable. After a few months, though, my hair still fell out a lot, menstrual cycles still debilitated me, PMS swung rather hard, my feet rarely felt warm, the brain fog didn’t lift much, constipation and overall pain continued – I was sentenced to buy a medication for the rest of my life, for symptoms I would have to live with, anyway. In five years, the cost quadrupled. What would I be paying when I was 60?

My first baby succumbed to kidney dysfunction and was stillborn in 2013. My doctor was satisfied with my TSH levels throughout that pregnancy. I wonder, though, if I knew then what I know now…. Would it have made any difference…? One of many questions. One of many things the doctors and “specialists” should have known better. One of many reasons I cannot trust every word from the mouth of conventional medicine.

Growing up, I was constantly nervous. My marriage was teaching me to calm down and change my anxious attitude. I got a good husband who always encourages calm and cheerful habits. But since our son died, the panic attacks became severe enough to cause numbness. Thankfully, they were infrequent, and I was slowly learning to change what I could.

The Maker’s Diet helped me heal some more. It has six weeks of restrictions followed by lifelong habits. The first two weeks have no starches or sugars, the next two weeks incorporate some starchy vegetables, and the last two weeks reintroduce limited sugars. Since trying out a modified version of The Maker’s Diet, (I didn’t give up dairy at any point) I am more sensitive to high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and highly processed products. They don’t seem so appealing, and I don’t feel so good after ingesting much of them. Drinking 32 oz of coke in one week sounds horrible. Most days, one square of dark chocolate is good enough for my sweet tooth.

The next baby was a month premature but healthy in 2014. Three months postpartum, my emotions were not stabilizing at all, so I began supporting my nutrition and gut health with a raw vitamin and probiotic. That helped me get a grip and regain some sanity. Eventually, I got fed up with taking a drug that didn’t work and I stopped taking Levothyroxine for a year. I began using Endoflex daily. Following FlyLady Babysteps and habits enabled me to get control over my mental and household clutter. My husband and daughter challenged me to learn better self-control and overcome my everyday anxieties. Our home became a peaceful, safe haven.

After getting pregnant with twins in 2016, I was put back on Levothyroxine. The dose increased as the high risk pregnancy progressed. My twins were born two months premature, but healthy once they learned to support themselves in the outside world.

One month postpartum, I was doing well on 75mg Levothyroxine. Five months later, I was feeling like a wreck. The doctor tested TSH and increased my dose to 100mg. A month later, he was satisfied with my lab result, but I still felt “off.” I didn’t want to crawl out of bed in the mornings even though I loved my everyday activity. The brain fog and fatigue were not letting up. Worst of all, my cesarean incision site was killing me, even nine months post-op. If I lifted children and groceries on a trip to town, it would take a whole day after for the pain to subside. I couldn’t mother the way I wanted in this condition. The doctor told me there was nothing wrong with me, except perhaps low estrogen. He recommended birth control pills. Well, that would have only made matters worse, so I declined.

The only other option in town was to get a zytocompass scan, so I got it done. Sure enough, my numbers were dismal. The scan indicted that I needed some serious thyroid and liver support. Poking around the internet, I found that a compromised liver would throw off bile and thyroid function. I had Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C on hand…I developed a little plan.

For ten days I took 6,000 to 9,000 mg Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C a day. Some other time I may post my notes from the whole experience, but in short, I got some energy back and my cesarean hasn’t bothered me since. There were side effects from this liver detox, so don’t dive into this idea thinking it will only open up happy surprises.

The quest for optimal thyroid health continues.

Now I have almost eliminated using non-stick pans and use cast iron instead. Plastic refrigerated food storage is replaced with glass. Freezer storage I have yet to figure out. I’ve learned of BPA in the lining of canned goods, so I will need to can more vegetables next summer. I needed to increase our garden produce storage, anyway. Anything to avoid further hormonal disruption.

For four or five months I have been trying to eliminate soy, but I keep finding one more thing I am eating with soy in it. My beloved mayonnaise and blue cheese dressing! Nearly every condiment and seasoning? Every candy bar out there seems to have “soy lecithin.” I fell in love with hummus only to find it was hiding soy from me. 😔 It will be cheaper to make my own, anyway.

All over the Internet there are admonitions to ditch gluten and dairy for thyroid support. I don’t know when, how, or if I can do that; but I am taking note of how much gluten and dairy I am consuming, and how I feel after eating it. Sure enough, a day of pizza, cake, ice cream, and bread leaves me miserable compared to a day of eggs, borscht, and hamburger patties. So for now, I am at least moderating dairy and gluten.

My latest adjustment, Thyrovanz, just arrived in the mail. A bovine dessicated thyroid hormone supplement, Thyrovanz seems to achieve whatever Levothyroxine lacks. This will be another experiment of my own making, and, like the liver detox, I am making it up as I go at my own risk. The only listed side effect is overstimulation or jitters from overdose. It sounds like a Red Bull without the caffeine or sugar. So, I assume I am safe gently playing with dosage for a little while before finding the proper dose for my needs. After a month I will type up my notes and the results of trying this supplement.

On and on, I’ll keep learning and adjusting. There is a dream to completely heal my thyroid, get to a healthy weight, and have an active life up until I die with my boots on. There are no guarantees, no knowing what is achievable, no promise of long and healthy life, or even if this society will hold up much longer before the inevitable collapse. Today, I nurse myself along. Today, I am better off than the sick teenager I was. Today, I do what I can to give my family the healthiest and happiest wife and mother I can. The Almighty has a way of giving us what we need as we need it, “our daily bread.”

I look forward to learning form others fighting to assist and heal thyroid function. It is an honor to be a contributor to Judy’s blog project on Dirt Road Essentials.

There’s my health story,

Rachael

Menu Planning

Keep It Simple

This month, I have been refreshing my FlyLady Babysteps with FlyLady Diane’s videos. It doesn’t feel like much effort, but after a couple of weeks I looked up and found that the house was pretty well running itself. It is astounding to see a little diligence go so far.

Today’s video covered Menu Planning. The purpose is not to have a pretty, well-made, printed plan in styled font. Grab a cup of tea, set a timer for 15 minutes, and think about what you want to fix.

I commonly plan only three suppers a week. The rest is easily filled with leftovers and pantry goods on hand, or with meals at relatives’ homes. The first time I wrote a list of go-to meals, I scribbled ideas on a sticky note and stuck it on one of the pages in a page protector in my Control Journal. I still use this years later. See? It doesn’t have to be perfect.

For breakfast, we usually stick with various egg combinations. As long as there are eggs, T-bacon, and a few fresh veggies in the fridge, breakfast is covered. Husband picks cereals and toast for more variety.

Then for lunch, I keep bread, lunchmeats, cheese, salad, hummus, chopped veggies, guacamole, corn chips, salsa, a batch of boiled eggs, and canned soups stocked. These can be mixed and matched from day to day, like grilled cheese and tomato soup, chips and sandwiches, chef salads, or a large finger food plate. Some of these items are great snacks to have on hand so you can dodge the cookies calling in the afternoon.

This plan developed over time, so don’t rush yourself trying to get everything just so. Meal planning is meant to make life EASIER! Just take 15 minutes, and scribble down what you want to do this week. That’s it. Try it out!

Do the Ragg Mopp!

“Make it fun, and it will get done,” is a common quote from the FlyLady and her fellow housekeeping mentors. Especially if we want to teach children their chores, it helps to make it a game. Play is a child’s work, they say.

So about every week, usually on Friday, (aka Preparation Day for Shabbat) I go through my “Weekly Home Blessing,” which is a short list of things to do each week to keep the place spruced up. Each task only takes ten minutes or less, even with a little one helping.

When we get around to mopping the floor, I give young DD a bucket of water with thieves cleaner, and shorten the adjustable mop handle for her. Then I put on Ragg Mopp for her to sing to while she practices mopping. She gets her time frame to play with a grownup task and I get a couple of minutes with a hot beverage. Once the song is done, it’s Mama’s turn to finish up.

This is fun enough for her to beg to mop every time she spots me sweeping up under the kitchen table!

I Scramble Eggs on a Cast Iron Griddle

After a thyroid disease diagnosis, you make a lot of adjustments to nurse your system along. What you eat, how you store it, and how it is cooked can make a difference. Since teflon is taxing on thyroid function, I switched to cast iron.

(Our popcorn and candy making pans are still non-stick, for now.)

We eat eggs nearly every morning, and I wasn’t sure it was possible to cook them in cast iron without making a disaster or having to wait for the cast iron to season for a couple of decades. Not so. Only a little seasoning, the proper heat, patience, and some good fats can make it simple.

Last year, my husband bought me a brand new Lodge griddle and I seasoned it by oiling it up and baking it until glossy. There was a little trial and error, but by preheating to medium high heat and using lots of coconut oil, I successfully fried and scrambled eggs. After a week, I needed less and les fat. A trick to remember is that food must set on iron for a bit before you try to stir of flip anything. Today, I used the same griddle to scramble two batches eggs in one sparing tablespoon of butter. What residue is left on the griddle wipes off without a fuss.

Cast iron griddle after cooking two batches of scrambled eggs. What residue is left wipes off with a swipe of a paper towel.

It works. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. Try it out!

A few days later

I had a better opportunity for photos!

I forgot to use any butter this time, and the eggs still did not stick.

Now my griddle looks lovely, I need to go clean my stove!

Is Good Posture Healthy Posture?

I thought that if I kept a ladylike posture and only moved in a ladylike manner, it would be healthy for my body. However, much as I tried to follow posture and etiquette guidelines, I was swaybacked. My spine and shoulders hurt. My hip locked up easily. Efforts at physical labor were pitiful, because I felt pained and weak.

Learning a healthy posture took time. In vocal lessons, I learned to raise the rib cage. It was a simple step that my etiquette text had seemed to miss, but lifting and holding up the rib cage makes a difference.

Then I married and we started having babies. I bought several books about pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The Bradley Method had particular guidelines that would assist any woman, pregnant or not. Tailor sitting on the floor, squatting flat-footed, avoiding chairs, and bending over properly may not be “lady like,” the book explained, but they were motherly habits that were healthier than torturing the spine in a chair with one’s legs crossed all day. Best of all, these habits help the body prepare and progress through labor.

A friend offered me a cranial-sacral massage, and was it a godsend. Standing tall and moving smoothly comes naturally when your muscles and attitude are relaxed. It gave my hips some relief, as well.

Five months after one birth, though, I was positively miserable. My hips and knees screamed when I climbed steps or into the pickup. Several times I nearly dropped the baby (<10 lb.) because my left arm and wrist were painful, numb, spasming, and pathetically weak. A coworker told us about her wonderful chiropractor, so we decided to give him a try. Unlike my previous chiropractors, he is a sports oriented specialist using Active Release Technique, who works gradually to help the body align itself. He even gives patients stretches to perform at home to encourage the body to remain in alignment. I was so desperate, I consented to acupuncture in my wrist and between my shoulder blades; the treatment was successful. To this day I am constantly lifting children weighing 20-40 lbs without pain or numbness. Though one hip still gave me trouble, I was able to function again with the help of Active Release Technique and some acupuncture.

As my postpartum body gradually realigned under chiropractic treatment, my ribs started popping themselves into place until one day I stretched my arms upward and *SNAP* my sternum made a noise so loud I thought it was injured. Once I got over the shock, I realized my rib cage felt better than I thought was possible. From that day on I have been able to jog! I now realize that I never liked running as a kid because it was too painful. It’s amazing the pain you don’t realize is holding you back until the pain is relieved.

Some time later, I came across an article about peoples who have no back pain. Points 4 and 5 of this article were intriguing because they flatly contradict the usual rules of “Chin up! Stand straight!” Could these new tips possibly help? I tried. They did. Lengthening the spine and engaging the core accomplishes far more benefit than the usual advice. I believe these practices (along with hydration, vitamins, and walking) helped my cesarean scars heal quickly and properly. Every nurse and doctor examining me was impressed with my recovery. Perhaps there were other factors involved, but I suggest anyone undergoing abdominal surgery take a look at the above article. As for points 1 and 3, those are practices I have yet to achieve, especially since 3 feels silly and particularly unladylike in public. Maybe no one would really notice, so I suppose I can give it another try.

Eight years since I began trying new rules for posture, I found Roland Warzecha. He teaches authentic combat techniques and behavior to medieval reenactors. In his body mechanics video, he describes how people without structured shoes would walk. I have been practicing this “ball walking” for about three months, now. It does feel ridiculous at first, but in these weeks, my calves have shaped up considerably.

Most impressively, my hip, a problem I have had for twelve years, has stopped its regular freezing up. This freezing used to happen multiple times a day. The massage and our good chiropractor cut it down to every other day. In three months of ball walking, though, my hip has frozen only twice. Recovery is much easier, too; I can just walk it off in a few steps of ball walking.

Warzecha also discusses posture while sitting, reaching, and lifting in this earlier video. His description of “sitting straight” makes good sense by encouraging lengthening of the spine. I can sit still crocheting for hours without feeling sore, if I remember this advice.

These are all the methods I have found so far. There may be better ideas out there (please share if you know of any), but for now these practices are relieving my pain and helping me gain some strength. While I try to remember the ladylike manners in public, I have found that the healthiest postures do not necessarily follow etiquette, but the good design our bodies were given in the beginning.

Please share below if you have found other good lessons in posture.