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Podcast: Easy Meal Planning: Simplifying the Dinner Table with Linda Lederman



Summary of Meal Planning Podcast

Dr. Orlena introduces Linda Lederman, an expert in meal planning, on her show "Fit and Fabulous." Linda shares her journey of creating memorable meals and fun experiences at the dinner table with her children and their friends.

They discuss the challenges people face with meal planning, such as spending excessive time on Pinterest, feeling overwhelmed, and resorting to takeout. Linda explains her approach to meal planning, which involves taking inventory of pantry, fridge, and freezer items, identifying ideal staples, and learning to repurpose ingredients.

She emphasizes the importance of flexibility and substitution in recipes, allowing for a more relaxed and efficient meal planning process.

Introduction to the Episode

Hello, hello, hello everybody. Welcome to Fit and Fabulous with me, Dr. Orlena. I'm super excited today because we are talking meal planning. I know so many people love, not really meal planning, so I'm super excited to welcome Linda Lederman, who is going to help us with this big, big problem. So, Linda, welcome.

Introducing Linda Lederman and Her Approach to Meal Planning

Welcome. Would you like to introduce yourself and just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do? Absolutely. And you know, even I, when I hear meal planning, the, the shivers go up my spine, so it's not gonna be really torturous, I promise everybody. So my name's Linda Lederman and I'm the owner of balaboostassecret, which is business where I teach moms busy parents had a meal plan, had a prep, had a cook, and then served dinners with fun and games at the dinner table.

Making Mealtime Fun with Games and Activities

I started several years ago when my kids were young and they would have their friends over for sleepovers, and I wouldn't do the takeout pizza for dinner. I would actually cook a meal and would sit down and we'd play games at the dinner table, and their friends would say to me, My mom doesn't cook like this.

We don't have fun at the dinner table. You know, it's like torture to sit there and then we can't wait to leave. Can you teach my mom how to do it? And so that's what I, I do. I teach everybody how to make memorable meals with fun because it's such a precious time in your life. Make the most of it.

It shouldn't be a dreaded obligation that you have to do at the end of the day. Absolutely. Absolutely. I love it. I love it. And so tell us before we dive into meal plan, tell us a bit about the, the games. Cuz the games sound fun. I need games in my mealtime. You know, there's so many ways to do games at the dinner table.

You could do a game that's related to the meal that you're making. You know, you could find some, and this one takes a little effort. So this is not a spur of the moment game, but there could be something really interesting in the news. And so you can make a meal based on that country's cuisine or something related as a, a punt to the meal.

And then talk about that at your mealtime. That's just a real topical thing you can do. Or you can make, like if you want to support Ukraine, you can make a meal with blue and yellow in it and talk about what's important to your country. You know, depending on the age of your kids. But if you wanna do really simple things, you can do, you can do madlibs.

I don't know if you have madlibs where you are, but it's a No, I've never heard of them. What are they? Oh. You have to look for 'em. You can find 'em online everywhere. I've been doing them since I was a little kid. It's basically it's not even a booklet, it's like a a legal pad, but smaller and each page has got, A story with words missing.

And when the words are missing, it'll have a blanket, it'll say noun, or it'll say adjective or verb. And so you read the story and then you say, oh, you don't read the story. You just say, gimme a noun, give me a verb, give me a, you know, whatever parts of speech it is. And then once you have all that, you read the story with those answers filled in, which makes absolutely no sense cuz they don't know what this story's about.

And it's really, really funny and it works for little kids, it works for older kids. And if your kids don't know parts of speech instead of a noun, you can say, gimme a person, Placer thing, you know, or, or give me an action word, you know, for, for a verb or something that's really descriptive for an adjective.

And then you just, you're writing them in on the pad and then you get to read the story afterwards. And as your kids get older, you might wanna see. Set some limits on the kind of words they can use because you may end up having a story about poop non end. But it's really, really fun and it makes dinnertime enjoyable.

And if you have kids who are struggling eaters or picky eaters, If they don't have anything to distract them or engage them, they're gonna focus on how much they hate what you're cooking and how much they dislike the food that's in front of them. But if you give them a reason to have fun at the table, then they're gonna just start to eat cuz they're enjoying themselves.

So any kind of game you can do at the table is a great way to do something. Another game that's really easy to do, it's called headbands. You don't have to buy it, you can make it yourself in two seconds. You cut out a picture of something and put it on a An index card or a piece of paper, you know, tape it on.

There's, there's no crafty involved in this at all. And the person who is it will hold the game up to their, the, the picture up to their forehead without looking at it so they don't know what the picture is. And they have to guess. And it's like 20 questions. Is it bigger than a bread box? Is it something you eat?

And it's a great game because it teaches your kids to think. It teaches them some logic skills and deduction skills. It's really, really funny when they don't put the clues together or ask the right kind of things and you can see where they're going, which is not related to the picture on their head, and it's incredibly satisfying when they guess what the picture is.

So easy peasy game to do. Takes up time. Makes your dinner really a lot of fun. So there's a million of these and when I work with, with my clients, in between the cooking and the meal planning and the prepping, we, we always burst it with what you could do with it for fun at the meal with these kinds of things we're working on.

Linda's Process for Simplifying Meal Planning

Perfect, perfect. Sounds amazing. So meal planning, I think what happens to people when they meal plan is number one, They go on Pinterest and they spend hours and hours and hours looking for some amazing new meal and then find about 50 meals and then get stuck with what they're gonna cook. And then of course, people have to do shopping, and then they have to do preparing and following recipes.

And often it gets to that stage where you come back from work, you're tired and you think, oh my goodness. I have to cook dinner and that's when everything just falls to pieces and you just think, I'm gonna reach for takeout or frozen pizza or whatever is easy. I don't know. Is that, is that what you find people that's a big picture.

Absolutely. That happens all the time. They're overwhelmed, they're exhausted. Some people don't know how to cook. Some people aren't familiar with a lot of ingredients, so they end up cooking the same things all the time and everybody's so bored of it. They just sometimes would rather just not eat it. Cuz how many times can you look at Taco Tuesday on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

So there's a, people come from a lot of different places. The one of the biggest complaints I hear is people don't have time. Yeah. And so what I try to teach people is how to do it in a way that's, Time efficient and will save you time in the process so that you do have the time to do what you wanna be doing with either your me time or your family time instead of worrying about what to make for dinner.

So it's, there's a process that I take my clients on. Perfect. And I'd love to hear what your process is. And I will tell you that my meal planning is, I think so automated that I wouldn't really call it meal planning, but for example, on Wednesday, Wednesday is what I call my squash day. Wednesday we always have.

Bean chili in the slow cooker. So it's like done and dusted by seven 30 in the morning and I don't have to think about it at all. It's amazing. And then also it doubles up and makes tacos or nachos, we call them. On Friday, just so easy. That's two days of my week taken care of and I don't have to put any, any thought or effort into it.

Well, you know, five minutes of effort, very few, very little effort. So how do you teach people how to, how to love meal planning? You know, that's a goal I have for my clients. You know, you think meal planning and you think. There goes my Sunday. I've got gotta write my grocery list. I've gotta come up with my recipes.

I gotta do all the prepping. I have two days to myself. Saturday and Sunday are time for my family. This is not what I wanna be doing. So I teach people ways to get around that and to get to a point where they. Are so comfortable with the variety of recipes we go over and how to find recipes and substitute ingredients for it for what you have and modify it to your own flavor preferences that they can open up their pantry or their fridge or their freezer.

And without having a meal planned, if they shopped well, they'll know what to make at any given moment. So that's the end result that we wanna do. And it's really quite freeing because now all of a sudden it's like, oh yeah, this is what I have. Boom, I know what to make. But you gotta start at the beginning.

The Importance of Pantry and Inventory Management

So what I tell people is, let's figure out what you have first. So we'd like to do a pantry inventory, a refrigerator inventory, a freezer inventory. Cause nobody wants to go out and have to buy everything from scratch. I mean, you have plenty of stuff. Odds are you don't know how to use it or you're tired of using it.

So let's see what you have first. And then let's go through a list of ideal staples that would be ideal for your home, your food preferences, your lifestyle, because what I think is an ideal staple may not be attractive to you. So we'll figure out what are the things you need to fill in. So you have a lot of things on hand, and then you have to figure out how do you use it.

So you have to know what you have, what you need, and how to use it. And what we do is we say, all right, well let's give me some of the recipes, you know, how to make. And we'll start with that file and we'll try to expand on it. I'll give my clients other recipes, and what I try to show them is if you make something in quantity in one of your recipes, you can repurpose it later in the week for another.

Repurposing Ingredients and Prepping in Advance

Just like you said, you take your beans on a Wednesday, and on Friday you may use 'em for nachos. That's a completely different dinner that you barely have to cook. So when we go through our recipes and our learning how to meal plan stage, we look at a recipe not only about how to cook what's there, but what can we do to repurpose some of that later on in the week with very little effort into something new.

We'll also look at the ingredients, and this is part of meal prepping. And we'll say, okay, well if I'm gonna do this on Monday and this on Tuesday and this on Wednesday, is there a common ingredient in all of them? And if all those ingredients require garlic, and we're big garlic fes in our family, so we go through garlic a lot, chop up a bunch of garlic that first time and then parcel it out into baggies or little containers in your refrigerator so that when you're cooking your next meal, You're not starting from scratch and chopping up the garlic again or chopping up the onions.

So again, part of meal planning is not only selecting your recipes, but paying attention to the ingredients that you're using that you can easily prep for another recipe down in the week without having to devote that Sunday time. Now send, plenty of people like to do that. They like to have. Here's my Sunday.

I'm gonna be doing my meal planning, my recipes and my prepping and all the power to you. And I can teach you how to do that too. But a lot of the resistance to meal planning I hear is people saying, I don't know what I want to eat tonight. How do I know what everybody's gonna want to eat on Thursday?

Embracing Flexibility and Substitutions in Cooking

And they really. Feel very constrained by having to write it down and figure it out. So if you can learn a process where it's almost a flexible go with the flow, if you start out with the right things that you have, it'll be much easier for you later on in the week. Yeah, absolutely. And that sounds very similar to what I do.

So I open my fridge and think what vegetables need using up next. Then what can I make with it? And then my next question is, Hmm, are my kids gonna eat that or not? And Yeah, exactly. That's the thought process that goes through my brain. Right. And, and, and it helps, you know, a lot of the, the people that I work with don't have a big book of recipes that they use and they spend a tremendous time.

Looking up the recipes, and then they get either stumped by the ingredients, they get stumped by the instructions, or they end up buying ingredients that they only know how to use for that one recipe. And I guarantee you, three or four weeks down the line, they forgot what that ingredient was supposed to be used in, and it's sitting in their pantry.

Just waiting to go stale. Oh. So we try those things. We try to avoid all those steps when we consciously plan our meals at the beginning so that later down the line, it doesn't have to be so regimented. Yes. Yes. Fabulous. That sounds amazing. And I always, I never buy any of those special ingredients that are only those things that I'm like, I don't have them in my pantry.

I'd never go and buy them. I just either emit them or use something similar. Yeah. And another thing that I, I try to teach my clients is substitutions. Because if you're not a really ferocious cook and you're not so confident in your skills, you may see something in a recipe and say, oh, I don't have it. I gotta go out and I have to go buy it.

But there's probably five other things you could've substituted that you do have that would've just said, okay, just turn it into your pantry. Use this instead. Yes. So that's part of the, the, the learning curve that you have. And when you learn how you can substitute ingredients, It'll also make your cooking process your shopping process that much quicker.

Yeah. Fabulous. And I would say as well, I teach people mostly plant-based, which doesn't mean you have to exclude meat at all, but if you are eating mostly plant-based, most plants are interchangeable. Like I know not all of them are, but really if someone says, put a Colette in and you put a squash in, like no one's gonna notice other than my kids who don't eat either.

But it's still, the end result is still tasty and delicious. So any, any last words of wisdom that you can give us? It doesn't have to be complicated to be delicious. Yay. I love that. My go-to phrase you put more pressure on yourself, you, the generic world out there than is really needed because there really are no bad meals you can make.

Creating a Stress-Free Meal Planning Routine

Yeah. Because they're really just learning experiences and one of the things that I do when I'm making something new for my family, I'm put it on the table and they know I'm making stuff new all the time. I'll say, first thing I ask is, is it a thumbs up or a thumbs down? And if I get a lot of these middle thumbs or these thumbs down, I don't feel bad.

I don't feel like I'm a failure. I don't feel like it's the end of the world. I'm a bad mom. I look at my family and I say, what should I do differently next time? So they see I'm not giving up. They see I'm not deterred. They see you need to learn to grow. And now when I hear their suggestions, they're seeing that I value their opinions.

And now they have to think about what flavors they like, what textures they like, what would be different to make it a better dish. So now they're in their minds, are already learning how to cook, and they're learning how to blend flavors. And then the next time I make it, Hopefully I'll incorporate some of those suggestions so they see that I validate their ideas and then when I say, okay, is this better the next time they've got skin in the game?

So now they have a, a steak and a reason to saying, oh yeah ma, this is so much better. Thanks for taking my suggestion. And it makes a big difference and it makes for a peaceful mealtime. And it's something that everybody can look forward to cuz they're no right or wrong. So go easy on yourself, make it memorable.

Have fun. There's, there's so much you get out of a wonderful family meal. Make it the most of it you can. Happy. So that reminds me of when I first started making black bean and beetroot burgers. And the first time I made them it was like soup. And I'd served this purple soup and all my kids were like, No, we are not eating this.

And so my husband and myself, we ate the purple soup. It was like, oh, it's fine. The next time I made them, they were like sort of sloppy burgers. I'm like, okay, I've really got a consistency problem here. Now. The third time I made them, they actually were like patties. They were like, Hamburger patties and my kids loved them and for a time it was, I've, for some reason I've stopped making them now.

But the kids actually loved them. It was one of their favorite meals and it went from the first time I served it, no one would touch it to actually, this is a meal that we really enjoy. I need to brush off that recipe and, and get out my black bean burger recipe. And that's a, that's a great lesson for everybody to learn.

Enjoying Varied and Delicious Meals Every Day

Don't give up. Yeah. You know, you really can improve. And cooking is not an exact science. It's room for flexibility. Your taste buds, your food preferences, your dietary needs. It can be delicious. Just don't be afraid of it. Yeah. Perfect, perfect. And I love the easy and tasty. It definitely doesn't have to be complicated.

Connect with Linda Lederman

Where can people find more of you? Sure. I have a website, baab BoostA I have a Facebook group, easy weeknight dinners for busy moms, and I have an Instagram Bella boosters dot secret. So, Reach out to me anywhere you can find. I'd be happy to have you join us. And I also, I have a freebie for your people who are listening if they want it.

It's a. Easy weeknight one pinned dinner recipe guide. So you'll get some sheep pan recipes, one pot recipes, so you're not making a mess when you're cooking. And the cleanup is easy and the food is delicious. And I'll give you the link that you can post and reach out and go get it. You'll be on my list.

You'll see everything I'm working on. Fabulous. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. Thank you. Happy eating, everybody. Happy cooking.



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