Running Gift Exchange

One of my favorite websites, Redditgifts, does cool gift exchanges every three months and a big, amazing Secret Santa every winter. It’s so big that famous people, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Gates get involved.


They just announced the next gift exchanges today and there’s a Running and Fitness Exchange! It’s completely free to join and the amount of spending money is about $20 (not including shipping) and you can opt for a domestic exchange or ask to be matched to someone outside of your country (I did that for a snack exchange and got matched with a person in Malta). The person you receive is not (typically) the person who receives you, so it’s even more fun.


Sign-ups are open until August 15th when matching happens. I’ll be signing up for sure, and maybe I’ll get you as a giftee?

How to Spend Less Time Cooking + Bonus Recipe

Since I got back, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most is making my own food. As much as I enjoyed not cooking for an entire year (and not doing the dishes!) it’s really nice to be able to eat what I want instead of what is on the schedule for the week and after a year, it got really predictable (Monday-grill day, Tuesday- some sort of protein and mixed veggies, Wednesday-Tacos, Thursday-Mongolian barbecue or German, Friday-Pizza/wings, Saturday – soul food, Sunday-more grilling).

It is kind of a pain to menu plan every weekend though. I like to shop early in the morning when all the shelves are stocked and before the store becomes a zoo later in the day so I pretty much have to menu plan Friday nights or early Saturday mornings and lately things have been so draining at work that I come home feeling like a zombie.

Before I left last year I had started getting into freezer meals. Not the TV dinners you find in the freezer section, but meals already prepped and ready to slide into the oven or just heat up and eat. I made a bunch before my husband moved in thinking it would give us more time to get settled and then I made a bunch more before I left so he even if I couldn’t be there this year, he could have some dinners made by me and ready for him.

This past week he mentioned how much he’d liked those meals and I thought I’d give it another go. A massive amount of cooking over a long day with a day to prep beforehand surely is worth two weeks’ of meals, right?


These are what’s in the main freezer, I put most of them in our deep freezer

I used Once a Month Meals because I used their free trial of Mini Meals and loved them. Their subscriptions are very affordable and I liked that I could customize the menu and swap recipes out. We don’t sit down for breakfast so I swapped those recipes for dinners and lunch recipes ins instead. I also like that they have different menu types – paleo, traditional, vegetarian, vegan, and an allergen-reducing menu.

It gave me a consolidated shopping list organized by section (I don’t do that for myself so this was a huge bonus alone).

I slacked on the prep work and jumped in. It took me about a day and a half of prep/cooking but the end result is we have dinners and lunches for the next two weeks and the total cost was under $200. Not bad at all. There’s still a couple of produce things I have to buy to serve with the meals, but overall it’s a really good value for the money. I also picked the paleo menu and meat-heavy dishes tend to be more expensive as well.


Chicken Cilantro Soup

A couple of things I’d do differently maybe, or would recommend

-writing what ingredient goes in each dish. I thought P hadn’t found Thai chiles so I used jalapeños instead and then later found the Thai chiles hiding in the fridge where he’d put them…so some of our food is going to have more of a kick than intended!

-Seriously, clean your kitchen before you start.

-If you can get someone to help you by cleaning dishes as you go, that would help a lot too. My kitchen is really small and since P was busy resurfacing stairs, I went it alone.

-Do the prep day. I wish I had. About 3/4 of the way through I almost had a breakdown because I felt overwhelmed.

-Make sure you eat during the day. I bought half a dozen cinnamon rolls from the new bakery across the street. Yesterday I ate: four cinnamon rolls, a package of TimTams, too many cups of coffee, movie theater popcorn, movie theater soda, and half a package of movie theater Sweet Tart ropes, and a beer. I felt awful. Don’t do that.

Also, as promised, a bonus recipe from Once a Month Meals, “Aunt Sissy’s Poppyseed Chicken“. This recipe is my husband’s favorite freezer meal and it’s great for two hungry adults. For more people I’d double the whole thing and buy a larger casserole container. I used the cheap disposable ones you can get in the baking section.
chicken recipe