Day 10: Congrats, We Did It! Wrapping Up the Eat at Home Challenge #eatathomechallenge

Eat at Home Challenge

Its been 10 days and we’ve survived. Not only survived, but flourished! We’ve learned how eating more meals at home can  help us not only eat better, but spend more time together. We also learned that yes, there are obstacles that get in the way, but we can overcome them. Hopefully you also feel more confident in your cooking ability and on-the-fly kitchen skills.

Day 10 –> Congrats, We Did It! Wrapping Up the Eat at Home Challenge

As we wrap up the Eat at Home Challenge, I hope you will share your experience with us. Whether that means you share your meal plan, an accomplishment, or even your kitchen mishaps, all can be helpful in progressing towards a healthier, happier life.

What have you learned from this challenge? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below or link any of your Eat at Home Challenge blog posts to this one for others to checkout.

Didn’t take the challenge? No worries! Check out each post here: Around the Plate’s 10 Day Eat at Home Challenge

The Girl Behind the Plate,


Day 9: Giving Your Leftovers a Makeover #eatathomechallenge

Eat at Home Challenge

If you’ve made it to Day 9 of the 10 Day Eat at Home Challenge, then you already deserve a pat on the back.  Has it been rough along the way, or have the last 8 days breezed by you?  Whether you’ve been a struggler or a menu planning juggler, today’s tip will definitely make the last two days of the challenge a piece of cake.  I will warn you though, giving your leftovers a makeover does require a bit of planning.  But like Kati said in on Day 1, “healthy eating is probably 80% planning and 20% follow through.”  With a little bit of planning, you can cook only once yet enjoy two different meals because of it.  This is great for people who tend to get sick of the same ol’ leftovers night after night.

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest challenges of eating at home is finding the time to cook.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to make a meal from scratch when life is full of work, errands, and events.  This is why giving your leftovers a makeover is such a beautiful thing.   You aren’t stuck eating the exact same thing you ate the night before.  Yes you heard me right, banish the boredom of leftovers with these 3 simple tips.

Day 9 –> Giving Your Leftovers a Makeover

Tip #1: Start with something simple and delicious. You won’t have to do too much work the following day, if you simply start with a meal that lends itself easily to a makeover.

Meal #1: For example, prepare a simple pot roast with all the fixin’s as your ‘starter’ meal.  The beauty of a pot roast is that you can throw a bunch of random vegetables together, and it always comes out tasting marvelous.  Be sure to season the meat well, but keep in mind that you don’t want to use anything that is too overpowering.

Makeover: The next day, use the leftover meat to make a deli-worthy sandwich for lunch.  This may come as no surprise because surely you’ve all done this before; perhaps with turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving.  The key to really making this work is adding in something unusual.  You don’t want any old plane-jane sandwich, or you won’t be doing your leftovers justice.  Try a flavored spread, or a unique cheese.  Try thinking beyond the lettuce and tomato.  Even swapping out the whole wheat bread for a nice soft onion roll instead, may do the trick.

Tip #2: Don’t underestimate the power of soup.  Whether it’s your starting point or your ending point, soup is an easy entree to craft into a variety of creations.  It’s a bit easier to take leftover meat, veggies, and stock to make into a soup, but the part that really takes imagination is when you start with soup as the original meal.

Meal #2: For example, start with a bean based soup.  This could be a good old fashion chili or perhaps a pork and black bean soup.  You can always dress these up on an individual portion basis, instead of adding a bunch of extras to the entire pot of soup.  Say for example, a little sour cream and cheddar cheese on the top of each bowl.

Makeover: The next day, use the remaining soup for chili-dogs or the extra pork and beans for quesadillas.  You may need to strain a bit of the liquid off from the soup, depending on how you like your quesadillas.  Again, use the add-ons to bring life to your leftovers.  For chili-dogs, why not add onions, cheese, or even pickles to the mix.  For quesadillas, go crazy with different types of salsa.  Fruit salsas add a great twist, or how about a corn-based salsa that will add a few extra veggies to the mix.

Tip #3: Pasta is a versatile canvas. Oh the powers of pasta.  Cooked pasta may almost be as versatile as the egg when it comes to cooking in the kitchen.  There are literally endless ways to use it, and with a little planning, preparing for one recipe easily does double duty without much added effort.

Meal #3: Let’s say you have a hearty spaghetti dinner for one of your meals this week.  A great way to add a few extra nutrients to the mix is by adding in vegetables to your spaghetti sauce.  While preparing veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots for your sauce, be sure to clean and chop an extra serving and set these veggies aside. Make an extra batch of your pasta and put aside as well.  When planning to refrigerate and reuse your noodles, be sure to rinse them in cool water to prevent them from forming into a giant ball-o-noodles after refrigerating.

Makeover: The next day you’ll be ready to enjoy a simple pasta salad.  Throw those chopped veggies into a bowl with those leftover noodles and add a dressing of your choice.  Italian dressing is an easy go-to, but you could also use a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Season it up with dried herbs and spices and consider adding in even more nutrient-dense foods.  Some thawed, shelled edamame, a handful of shredded cheese, or even a few mini turkey pepperonis would be great additions to this post-dinner mix.

Day 9 Homework–> First, watch Make Over Your Leftovers for Two-in-One Meals for a little added inspiration!

Next, decide what you would like to make as your ‘starter’ meal.  Remember, you should keep your starter meal somewhat simple to make it easier to build onto the next evening.  For the planning portion, always start with deciding on the entree first and then build on the sides from there.  This next step is crucial, so be sure to pay extra close attention.  Before you go and get supplies for your ‘starter’ meal, be sure to have a plan  for your secondary meal using your leftovers as well.  This will eliminate making two trips to the grocery store.  Next, plan out your ‘secondary’ meal that you want to make using your leftovers.  Again, start with planning the entree and work on sides afterwards.  Many leftover makeovers are a meal in itself, which eliminates the need for sides all together.  Shoot for a goal of giving your leftovers a makeover at least once a week.  You will find that this will save you time, money, and energy! Once you have your ‘starter’ and ‘secondary’ meals and lists prepared, share a few of your meal ideas with us either in the comments section below or on your own blog.  We can’t wait to hear what kind of makeovers you have planned for your leftovers!

Want to learn how to successfully eat more meals at home? Read all the Eat at Home 10 Day Challenge posts here.

An Intern Behind the Plate,

Day 8: Avoiding Mistakes in the Kitchen #eatathomechallenge

Eat at Home Challenge

by Alicia Orozco 

Welcome to Day 8! I am so happy to have made it this far and I am sure you are feeling the same way! You’re in the home stretch! Not sure if anyone else had to go and get another round of groceries, but I did. I wasn’t sure how many other recipes I could come up with, but luckily, the Internet and my fresh set of groceries helped out with that. In fact, I’m overflowing with ideas and even if mistakes are made in the kitchen, I am prepared for that.

Day 8 –> When Mistakes Happen in the Kitchen! 

Mistakes happen whether you are a seasoned pro or a fumbling beginner. I personally fall into the fumbling beginner category, so there are probably a few more mistakes happening in my kitchen than a pro’s, but everyone makes mistakes at some point or another.

That’s why its important to have a plan no matter your cooking skill level. In the past, I would simply kick up a storm and swear off cooking. Was it helpful to do that. NO. But I did learn a lot – like how pancakes needed to have bubbles in the middle of them before flipping over. Seriously, I didn’t even know that much! Yet through all my fumbles in the kitchen  I have learned a few tricks to make through to the other side.

The Golden Rules of Kitchen Fumble Cover Ups:

  • Have a back up plan that fits the occasion. If you are cooking lunch for yourself and a fumble occurs, find something easy to construct near by. Sandwiches are a great example of this. They aren’t complicated and can include a variety of ingredients you already have on hand. You can even go one step further and toast it on your stove top for added appeal. If your fumble happens during a more formal occasion, a sandwich may not be your best option, but there is still no need to panic. Instead, calmly take stock of your options. If you have a well-stocked pantry, you should be able to creatively replace either your main dish or side item with something readily available in your own kitchen. Veggies, beans, and rice can often work well as replacements.
  • Burnt doesn’t mean you can’t eat it! You forget about the food you have cooking on the stovetop and suddenly are reminded only by the fact that the smoke alarm goes off! But before you throw that slightly-charred piece of food away, check to see if you can scrape the the burnt parts off. If so, you’ve saved your meal – if not, consider Golden Rule #1.
  • The Internet is your friend in the kitchen. Whether you know a lot about cooking or very little, the Internet makes it super easy to identify ingredients you aren’t all that familiar with and lets you know how to incorporate them into a few of your favorite dishes. The Internet also provides you with almost a limitless supply of recipe ideas. If you find one that you like, make sure that you have it available in the kitchen while you are cooking. Don’t try to remember it – especially if it calls for a lot of ingredients or has many steps. Having your computer near by during while cooking can also allow you to search for ingredient substitutes if you need them. This can be a real meal-saver if you forgot to pick up one of the ingredients at the store or accidentally used it in a different meal earlier in the week.
  • Stick with tried and true recipes on special occasions. If you are having a big dinner with loved ones, stick with a recipe you already know and love. Incorporating a new recipe into such an event can be added source of stress. Instead, make something that you are already comfortable with so that your stress levels remain under control and you can simply enjoy the time with your family and friends.

Hopefully, these stress-saving tips will help you all in the final days of the Eat at Home Challenge and beyond. These tips come from my own numerous experiences in the kitchen, and you will most likely find that the mistakes you make will only enhance your cooking abilities in the long run. At least that was the case for me. So good luck out there and don’t panic! You’re only a few mistakes away from being a master chef in your own kitchen.

Day 8 homework –> Come up with a contingency plan. Quickly jot down three possible back up plans in case a mistake is made in your kitchen. Post this list in your kitchen so you’ll be prepared for any kitchen malfunction.

Want to learn how to successfully eat more meals at home? Read all the Eat at Home 10 Day Challenge posts here.

Alicia Orozco is the talented blogger behind NeverEverBeenSkinny. As a healthy eating champion, Alicia shares her journey towards a healthier, happier life. You can join her on her inspirational journey by visiting her blog or by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

Day 7: Avoiding the Unhealthy Pitfalls of Travel #eatathomechallenge

Eat at Home Challenge

Traveling can be one of the quickest ways to get off track with your meal-time habits.  It’s much harder to make sure you’re getting a well-balanced meal when you’re on the road, especially with all of the enticing, quick, and cheap fast food restaurants conveniently located off of every exit on the highway. If you have a long commute or spend a lot of time at work during the week, it can be beneficial to incorporate foods from home into your day whenever possible.

Day 7 –> Avoiding the Unhealthy Pitfalls of Travel

One of the first ways to avoid cravings on the road is to eat a healthy and filling snack before you leave.  Most commutes are right around meal time, when you’re most likely to be hungry and more susceptible to food advertisements.  To help yourself avoid this pitfall, pack yourself a snack and eat it right before you’re about to hit the road.  A handful of almonds is a great idea because the protein and fat will keep you full and satisfied until you’re home and able to eat a healthier meal.  Additionally, almonds are low in saturated fat but full of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorous.  A snack like this is “nutrient dense,” which means that the nutritional content is high for the amount of calories you’re consuming, as opposed to a food with “empty calories” which is high in calories but not so great nutrient-wise. Not a big almond fan? Fresh fruit, sunflower seeds, low-fat cottage cheese, whole grain crackers, and dried fruit are all great snack options too.

If you’re spending long hours away from home every day, consider packing your own lunch. Packing a lunch can be a great way to save money and ensure you’re getting a balanced and varied meal.  When packing a lunch, include a fruit and vegetable, some form of grain (preferably whole grain), and some form of protein.  This combination will not only provide your body with the energy it needs, but keep you feeling fuller longer so that you can stay focused on the tasks ahead.

Day 7 homework –> Let us know what you ate for lunch one day this week and then tell us what you enjoyed about it. Were there any challenges you faced as you prepared your meals from home? Any benefits to it? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Want to learn how to successfully eat more meals at home? Read all the Eat at Home 10 Day Challenge posts here.

An Intern Behind the Plate,


Day 6: Time Saving Meal Tips #eatathomechallenge


by Karen Friend Smith from The Kitchen Skinny

Deciding to make eating at home a bigger priority at our house was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only has it had a direct impact on our waistlines, but it has forced us to develop skills in the kitchen that save both time and money.

I remember thinking I was too tired to cook and it seemed easier to just stop and get something on the way home. Looking back, I can see how it had a lot more to do with a lack of planning and know-how when it came to cooking.

Here are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way:

Day 6 –> Time Saving Meal Tips

Start with a plan. During the weekend…

  • Write down your meals for the week and buy all of the ingredients in one trip to the store. Huge time saver.
  • Review your recipes and match them up with your week. In other words, if dance classes keep you out late on Tuesday nights, make sure that night is matched up with your quickest recipe.
  • Print out your recipes or have them bookmarked in a folder for easy access.
  • Try to plan meals that share ingredients (i.e.: that pesto you used for pasta could be used later in the week on a pizza).
Do your prep. Consider a Sunday afternoon Power Prep Session.
  • Spend an hour or two on Sunday saving yourself time for the week ahead.
  • Clean your produce. Cook ingredients in advance that you’ll need during the week, such as rice, quinoa, or anything that takes more than 10 minutes to cook. If you’re making casseroles, you could even prepare them in advance and have ready to stick in the oven.
Cook once. Eat twice. There are two ways to look at this idea.
  • Double the recipe and freeze half of it. You now have dinner for another night that will only take minutes to prepare.
  • Cook two meals instead of one. Why not cook Monday and Tuesday dinners at the same time? Then you only mess up the kitchen once. Huge time saver. And, it’s so nice on the nights you don’t have to cook.
Find your rhythm. Get a system together that works for you.
  • Turn on some music to set the pace. It’s so much easier to find a rhythm in the kitchen with some music in the background. Before you start, gather up all your ingredients and line them up on the counter.
  • Do your prep work – cut/chop/measure and then put the remainder away.
  • While cooking, wash your dishes and clean up behind yourself. This makes after-dinner clean up so much easier.
  • Having a system and order for approaching a meal will speed things up and save you time.
For me, the best way to save time is to involve my family. By working together, we get to spend a few more minutes together every day.
 Day 6 Homework –> Share your favorite time-saving meal tip in the comments below!

Want to learn how to successfully eat more meals at home? Read all the Eat at Home 10 Day Challenge posts here.

Karen Friend Smith is a recovering ‘eat-out-aholic’ turned eat-at-home crusader after seeing the amazing transformation in her own family after making a commitment to eat at home more often. She loves helping families reclaim dinner and has launched a 30-day challenge to bring families back to the table. You can also find Karen at The Kitchen Skinny where she and her husband provide nutrition & weight loss coaching, meal planning, recipes and meal delivery for busy families.