7 Things I Learned from a Meal Delivery Service {Home Chef}

The doorbell rang as I was putting the baby down for a nap {or rather I should say trying to put the baby down for a nap}. My four year old leapt up off the floor of the nursery {where he was trying and failing to be quiet for the fifth time that day} and ran to the door. Nothing lights up his world like a package being delivered. He waited impatiently as I settled the baby in his crib {finally} and asked endlessly, “Is it for me? Is it for me?”. I fudged the truth a little, as parents are allowed to do, and proclaimed “Yes, it is! Open it!”

Things to know about meal delivery services. Click for $30 off!

Pssst. –> Here’s $30 off in case you don’t make it to the end. 😉

home chefhome chef meal box

It wasn’t a complete lie; it was dinner in a box, which basically meant it was for everyone. Well, almost dinner in a box. It was a package of ingredients, already divided out into separate bundles, each with an attached recipe and step by step directions for turning the loose ingredients into a fantastic meal {or so the pictures lead you to believe – and spoiler alert, did exactly that}. Despite taking KB grocery shopping and having him help with food prep every week, he was ALL about this exciting venture we were about to have with our meal delivery service.



home chef meal deliverymeal box delivery

Though it was only mid-morning he was more than eager to help me make dinner for the first time in a long time. When dinner time finally did roll around, the day had gotten away from me, as it usually does, and suddenly I needed to have dinner on the table in less than thirty minutes if I wanted my preschooler to go to bed anywhere near on time, despite having a cranky baby on my hands – you know how that hour goes.

meal delivery servicehome chef ingredients

Meal box to the rescue. Though I was skeptical when I first heard of this food trend, I was quickly turned into a potential believer as I cooked dinner one-handed while feeding a baby and keeping four-year old fingers away from sharp knives. {Side note: I should get a prize every time I successfully get dinner on the table and everyone still has all their fingers.}

fresh ingredients

If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, here’s a quick rundown of the meal delivery service: We tried three meals from Home Chef this week. An insulated box arrived on our doorstep containing all the ingredients to make these meals, each wrapped up in their own tiny package. I threw the meat/seafood in the freezer and everything else in the fridge exactly as it came out of the box. On the day of, I simply followed the directions on the recipe card. There was a little bit of chopping involved {think slicing the ends off green beans and halving tomatoes} but that was the bulk of the prep. Two of the meals were on the table in 20ish minutes; the other took a little longer but it was mostly in oven time, not actual cooking.

turkey salisbury steak home chef

I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients, the health factor, the ease of preparation, the deliciousness, and the price for what you got. {For the record, we got 2.5 servings out of each meal, 2 adults and 1 tiny tornado eater of a four year old.} So here’s my takeaway in a nutshell besides it was easy and good –>

meal delivery service what i learned




7 things I learned {or re-learned} from the meal delivery experience:

1. Fresh ingredients make a HUGE difference in flavor. Lime juice is a kitchen staple here, but a FRESH lime? SO much better. I don’t even need to mention how much better fresh veggies taste, do I?

2. Following step-by-step written directions helps me stay on course when I’m distracted by a baby {or anything}. I constantly look up recipes, but actually follow them? Almost never. Dinner prep went so much smoother when I knew exactly what I needed to do and in what order, and I knew exactly where to come back to when I was inevitably distracted for the 24,495th time.

jerk chicken plaintains home chef

3. Having a package delivered made my preschooler super excited about making dinner and trying new foods. No dinner battle? Nuff said.

4. “Fancy” looking meals can actually be easy to make at home. Mahi Mahi. Jerk chicken. Salisbury turkey steak. These are not things that usually come out of my kitchen. And the almost looked as good on our plates as they did in the pictures.

mahi mahi mango salsa home chef meal

5. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, both ingredient-wise and in terms of cooking ability. I love fish but for whatever reason am paralyzed by cooking it at home. Turns out it’s easier to cook than chicken. And Salisbury steak? I never would have attempted cooking it because although I’ve heard of it, I didn’t have a clue what it was. I think this would be a great way to introduce someone to cooking. {ahem, cough, cough husband.}

healthy salsibury turkey

6. Having everything ready to go makes the dinnertime “witching hour” easier. You know, that hour where everyone needs you RIGHT NOW and you need to make dinner, feed a baby, give baths, answer 4,483 variations of the question “why?”, and still appear to have it all together when your husband walks in the door from a week out of town without downing the entire bottle of wine before 5? Yeah, that hour.

home chef review

7. Sometimes it’s easier just to have things done for you. Sure, I coooould make a plan and a list, look up recipes, go to the store, prep food, and cook. But that takes brain power and mental energy I just don’t have much of these days. So yeah, I’ll take some help.

preschool food plate <—deconstructed pre-school portion

In short, here are the highlights of our Home Chef delivery in an easily digestible {no pun intended} bullet point format:

  • Shows up on your doorstep.
  • Easy to follow, clear directions.
  • Tells you exactly how many days you have to cook said meal.
  • You get to pick your meals & they highlight allergens <— this was one of the main reasons I’ve never tried a meal delivery service before, but I was able to pick dishes that met our dietary needs or easily leave out an ingredient {like butter}
  • FRESH {and healthy!}
  • Makes everyone happy
  • You can skip deliveries whenever

And to be fair, my cons:

  • No leftovers. Winking smile

A snapshot of our meals:

Jerk chicken with brown sugar plantains, coconut rice, and kale.

jerk chicken coconut rice home chef

Salisbury turkey steak with mushrooms and veggies.

salisbury turkey cauliflower home chef

Smoky paprika Mahi Mahi with mango black bean salsa and green beans.

mahi mahi mango salsa home chef

To sum up the review: my next meal box comes Friday.

______________________________________________________________________

If you want to try Home Chef, now’s a good time to do it – sign up for your first order using this link you can get $30 off your first box. Then you can get your own code and give someone else $30 off, plus get a $30 credit yourself.

To break it down, that means you can get four meals for less than $20, which is cheaper {and WAY healthier} than fast food.

Have you tried a meal delivery service? What was your experience?

3 Tips for a Morning Routine When You Don’t Have Time in the Morning

How to create a productive morning routine when obstacles stand in your way.

You’ve probably seen the articles, books, and podcasts floating around: X things to do in the morning to be more productive, how to create a morning routine, successful people get things done before breakfast, etc. etc. and so on.

That’s all great. I buy it: getting things done first thing in the morning is definitely a way to set up your day for success and productivity. Getting up early to make them happen is worth it. It’s good for your productivity, your mental focus, and your stress levels.

morning-routine-copy

 

Except for when it’s not possible.

I have always been a morning person. Just ask the girls I lived with in college – I was always the one that was awake before everybody else. I’m also the most productive in the morning – it’s when my creative juices and thought processes flow the best. I used to have an awesomely productive morning routine, not by design but just out of natural habit. I’d wake up early, get a cup of coffee, and start pounding away at my keyboard, all before the birds starting chirping and most people starting stirring from their beds.

And then I became a mom.

For some people this may make no difference at all, but for me it totally through my sacred productive morning time for a loop.

And I’m not the only one. This comes up in my coaching groups all.the.time. – how do you have a productive morning routine with kids who are dictating your morning time?

My son {who is three and a half} rarely sleeps through the night. Even if he does, he often gets up when there’s a 5 at the beginning of the clock and more nights than not he ends up in my bed in the middle of the night, meaning if I were to sneak out of bed early, he’d be up too. So getting up before he does is often either not possible, or it means I’d be trading in valuable sleep hours {getting up at 4am is one thing; getting up at 4am after having been up multiple times a night is another}.

These aren’t excuses; it’s just real life. I won’t lie – I love waking up with him snuggled up next to me or sneaking into my room for a morning hug. Sometimes it’s the only time he sits still all day and I’ll cherish those moments as long as they last. No amount of work or productivity is worth the swap.

There are certainly times, when it’s possible, that I will get up before the crack of dawn because that’s just what has to happen. But other times, I chose to reevaluate my morning routine.



Here are my three tips for faking a productive morning routine when morning time feels out of your control:Tips for a morning routine when you don't have any time in the morning. WAHM tips.

1. Make your to-do list ahead of time.

If I try to get my work day started by making a to-do list, I immediately get sucked down the rabbit hole. Whether it’s because I opened my email to check a deadline or get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things on it, I know it’s not a good way to get started.

productive morning routine

Instead, make your to-do list ahead of time. I like to do mine at the end of my “work day” the day before, that way what I need to do is fresh on my mind but not distracting me. Some people do well making a to-do list the night before, as a last pre-bed brain dump. {For me, that just makes my wheels start spinning and I can’t fall asleep.}

Now when you go to start your “morning routine”, you know exactly what it is you have to accomplish.

2. Move your morning.

This might sound rather ridiculous, but it can really be that simple. If I can’t do my “morning routine” in the morning, I push it to when I can, such as when my son goes to preschool. I head directly to a coffee shop {or make the trek back home if I need to be there} and start knocking things out. {For others, this may mean nap time, babysitting hours, or when a spouse is on duty.}

I treat it exactly as I would my time first thing in the morning: get a cup of coffee, start pounding away at the keyboard.

work at home morning routine tips

I already have my to-do list from the day before, so I don’t have to stop and think about what needs to be done; I just dive in. I pick my most important tasks first: this tends to be the closest deadline or the thing that will move my business forward the most.

I have trouble transitioning from other activities into creative ones, like writing, so I try to get all my writing done first before I switch to other tasks like email, invoices, etc. This usually matches up to what I have a deadline for so it works out well. {“Most important” often includes things I couldn’t possibly do when my son is with me.}

working at home with kids

 

3. Be adaptable.

Kids are funny things. As soon as you adjust to whatever phase they’re in, they move on to the next one, usually with a complete 180. Whether it’s kids or something else that interferes with your routine, be adaptable: adjust as  much and as often as needed.

For example, when my son was nursing, my morning routine meant me sitting on the couch at an ungodly early hour in the morning with my phone in one hand answering emails. It was something I could do with one hand and knocked a big chunk of my to-do list out of the way.

For the three weeks of my son’s life where he slept through the night and made it until at least 6am {!!!}, I got up early and reverted to my old more traditional morning routine. When he stopped gracing us with that gloriousness, I readjusted. I’m sure I’ll have to readjust again when baby comes.

office buddy

 

Trying to make things work when they just don’t want to is like trying to jam the wrong puzzle pieces together over and over and over without trying to turn one a different direction. It gets you know where and leaves you stressed and frustrated. Instead, work with what you have and make it work.

Psst. If you’re a nutrition nutrition entrepreneur, check out our kickass business resources over at DietitianHQ.

What are your tips for a productive morning routine when you can’t do it first thing in the morning?

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

This easy healthy chicken salad recipe with pecans and cranberries takes just minutes to whip up and makes the perfect entree, appetizer, or snack. It’s gluten free and dairy free too. Jump to Recipe

One of the things that comes along with moving is restocking the pantry. Of course, I hauled over a cooler of snacks the very first day we had keys to the house, but since we couldn’t actually move in for a few weeks after that, I impatiently waited to do a full re-stock.

We didn’t move that far, but I’m still learning the area and what’s closest to us. First up: grocery stores.

The prices at the first one I checked out were pleasantly surprising, especially the produce section, and though not super extensive, I was impressed with the gluten-free/allergy-friendly sections. I saw one right off the bat when we walked in the door and found another mid-way through our journey. As much as I like seeing gluten-free options on the shelves right along side everything else, it’s nice and convenient to be able to go to one section and grab and go instead of hunting.

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with pecans and cranberries

Food Lion also has a new online recipe portal that was helpful for coming up with ideas for some meals to cook in our first week in our new home. I’m used to having staples in the kitchen, so it was a good reminder of what I needed to toss in the cart for this first big shopping trip. The portal is easy to navigate, user-friendly, and has a good variety of ideas. I jotted down some gluten-free cinnamon rolls, paleo zucchini muffins, and pesto pizza rolls for the husband.

I’ve also contributed to the recipe portal with one of my favorite grocery store deli counter inspired options: cranberry pecan chicken salad.

Healthy Chicken Salad Recipe with Pecans and Cranberries {Gluten Free, Dairy Free}

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

This cranberry pecan chicken salad recipe takes just minutes to whip up and makes the perfect entree, appetizer, or snack. It's gluten free and dairy free too.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken shredded
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 T minced parsley
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
  2. Combine chicken, cranberries, pecans, celery, and parsley.
  3. Mix in mayo mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Healthy chicken salad recipe - gluten free dairy free

I love using rotisserie chickens because they’re already cooked and ready to go, plus they have a ton of flavor, but feel free to use any kind of chicken you have.

Rotisserie chicken salad recipe

This healthy chicken salad recipe is one of my favorite easy recipes for the whole family, especially because it’s on of the few “normal” entrees my three year old eats without complaining. The secret to all things toddler food: Craisins. Shh don’t tell.



Cranberry pecan chicken salad recipe - gluten free dairy free

So next time you’re looking for an easy chicken salad recipe, try this. I like making a big batch at the beginning of the week and snacking on it for a few days. We use it as a sandwich filler, an appetizer served with tortilla chips, and a green salad topper, although most of the time we eat it right out of the bowl with a fork.

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

 

Click here for more Gluten Free Dairy Free Recipes that won’t leave you trapped in the kitchen for hours or hunting down a million bizarre ingredients.

Safer Skincare: Beautycounter Review

Given my interest and affinity for all things “good health”, I guess you could say I was a little late to the game when it comes to one thing health-related: what you put on your skin. You’d think it’d be a no-brainer given how much attention I pay to what I put in my body, but it never occurred to me to consider what I put on my body. Part of that has to do with the fact that I don’t have much of a beauty routine to start with, but mostly it was just do to ignorance. Like they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

beautycounter canvas pouches

It wasn’t until I was pregnant the first time around that even considered what I was putting on my body was necessarily safe. My little tiny skin-care world was rocked when I learned that the sunscreen I thought I was protecting myself with was potentially as damaging as the sunburn I was trying to prevent in the first place.

Thus began the seemingly never ending search for skincare/beauty products that were not only not hazardous, but worked and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Luckily, companies are starting to catch on to the health conscious public’s need and it’s getting easier to find such things. I’ve actually been able to slather sunscreen on myself and my three year old this summer without having us walking around looking like white-slathered snowmen, which keeps both of us happy.

Now that I’m pregnant again, it’s time to start paying even more attention again to what I’m putting in and on my body. A friend of mine, Laura, {a fellow Pure Barre-er that I copied religiously during my first class when I was utterly clueless} let me borrow some of her safe beauty products from Beautycounter to test out. {Editorial note: this is not sponsored and I don’t make money from Beautycounter, just sharing with you!}

beautycounter products

Try it: Beautycounter Clean Cream Cleanser

I’d heard about Beautycounter and thought the company philosophy sounded great, but never paid much more attention to it and hadn’t gone as far as trying it. This was the perfect time to check it out.

For those that aren’t familiar with Beautycounter, here’s the deal in a nutshell: they have list “NO” ingredients that aren’t included in any of their products. {They’ve banned over 1,500 ingredients and just for comparison’s sake, our often better-at-regulating friends in Europe have banned 1,300. The U.S., by the way, has banned 11 and hasn’t updated this since 1938. Lame.} They also print their ingredients on the package labels, which is not a beauty industry standard. That means everything is transparent and you don’t have to go hunting for a list of ingredients and try to remember what’s dangerous and what’s not. {Honestly, I can usually remember parabens are bad and that’s as far as I get.}

It’s frustrating trying to remember what’s safe and what’s not, and especially what’s safe for pregnancy and what’s not. Beautycounter made it super easy by making all of their products pregnancy safe. {Especially rare with anti-aging products!} They even have a line specifically for kids, which is nice because honestly most of the time I care more about what I’m putting on my kid than on myself.

On to what I tried:

beautycounter natural beauty products

 

The Essentials line, including a cream cleanser, exfoliator polishing cream, and day and night moisturizers.

Rose Water Uplifting Spray

Lustro Oil #2 {Jasmine}

Lustro Body Oil {Rosemary + Citrus}

Countertime Eye Cream {from the anti-aging line}

Kids Body Wash & Shampoo

beautycounter kids products

What I thought:

Honestly I pretty much thought I’d be able to tell you a little bit about my experience but obviously not share any results after just a few days of use. But my skin really did look and feel better even after a use or two.

The best part was how hydrating everything was – while I used the whole line, my face felt more moisturized even just after using the cleanser, which is unusual {usually it dries you out and then you have to counteract the soap with lotion}. The moisturizer only added to the hydration and didn’t make my skin feel greasy or suffocated at all, even with adding in the Lustro oil {a blend of essential oils} for extra oomph. The same goes for the eye cream – moisturizing but not heavy. The exfoliator felt effective without being too harsh and abrasive, which is extra nice for my sensitive skin.

beautycounter review

The rose water smelled delicious and was a nice refresher and I feel in love with the body oil. I’ve always been a fan of oil-based moisturizes verses lotions, and this one was no exception. It felt good and soaked in quickly, and was super-soothing on my rapidly-expanding belly.

beautycounter kids line

My token kid-tester gave the kid bath line a shot. He hates bathing but put up with me to be a good sport. I loved that it smelled good without having toxic or artificial fragrances in it. {We skipped the conditioner because his curls are cut short for the summer, but we both liked the shampoo and body wash.}

So I’d say the products get two thumbs up and super extra bonus points for being safe and natural but still effective.

Some notes from Laura: 

Favorite Beautycounter products: 

Routine Clean Face Cleanser, The Vibrant Eye Perfector, The Hydrate body lotion, Nude Lip Sheer and Peony lip gloss.

Why she uses Beautycounter:

I became interested in the company when I was searching for safer products for my sons. My four-year old was having reactions to California baby and some of the other more natural brands that I was buying and he was experiencing eczema. I had always tried to watch what we ate and tried to eat as clean as possible but never really thought too much about all of the ingredients in the body products we were using. I was just trusting the labels. After I learned more about Beautycounter and it’s mission and learned about their extensive “Never List” I became passionate about sharing this information with others. It helped that the products performed well and were beautiful. Then after using them for 6 months or so I decided to become a consultant. I always walk away after meetings and socials feeling better that those people are more aware and can help spread the word and hopefully help makes some changes in the laws in the U.S.

If you’re interested in trying them out do so here: Beautycounter Safer Skincare <– psst Laura will throw in a free canvas beauty bag for any orders $150+.

If you have questions about the company or different products feel free to leave them below and Laura can answer them for you!

 

Try it:

Beautycounter Clean Cream Cleanser

Rejuvenating Night Cream

Radiance Serum