Meal Planner Series: Cooking for The Whole Family

Coach Kim is here to help you manage your family's nutrition needs. In this episode, she shares her best planning, shopping, and prepping meal hacks to help you save time and feed your family healthy meals.

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Crystal O'Keefe: Welcome to the MetPro Method Podcast. I am your host, Crystal O'Keefe. Today I am joined by MetPro coach Kim Ancira, and we are going to talk about how to plan, design, and create meals for your entire family. Now, Kim, when we talked about this subject, you were the coach that we landed on because you have five kids, so you are very familiar with the tough job of cooking for a big family.

Kim Ancira: Thank you Crystal for having me on today. And yes, I have five children, four pregnancies. I do have twins, so it's, yeah, we have a busy household.

Crystal O'Keefe: I bet. I bet. Planning for that many people. It's very different in my home because we have teenagers. We have a 16-year-old and 18-year-old, and my husband and I both do MetPro. The kids are a little bit picky and on their own a lot, we get them the food they need, and they make it. But in your situation, I feel like there's probably some planning that needs to be involved. When do you start that process?

Kim Ancira: Definitely. Planning will help so that you're not as chaotic through the week, you reduce stress. So, I will always try my hardest to plan the week prior and that will make my week run so much smoother too.

Crystal O'Keefe: What are you looking at a week out? What are you taking into consideration?

Kim Ancira: Right? So, with five or any amount of kids, you have a schedule and they have sports. If they're of the age, there might be events. Then you have your own work schedule, your husband's schedule, any other family member's schedule that you need to put on your calendar.

So, having a calendar is the best tip I can give. So, like even a small one, I don't like the big ones. I just want a really small one that I can keep in my bag with me all day so I know what my plan is. And then from there you need to see how much time you actually have, what's feasible for the week.

How many will that be? So, are you going to be at a sports event late in the evening and not have a lot of time to prep and get dinner on the table before? Or is it going to be after? Like how much time do you actually have because then you can create the meals that will fit for your timeframe.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay, so if I'm hearing you correctly, a night where maybe nobody has any events, that meal could look very different than a meal where you're on a sports field till eight pm.

Kim Ancira: Yes, you might want a quick dinner for the night that you're very busy, and then maybe a 30 minute or so prep for a night that you're not really having too much to do and you can enjoy with your family.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay. And whenever you do your planning, walk us through what those steps look like.

Kim Ancira: Well, if you're new to this, I would suggest keeping it very simple. You don't want to go into this with high expectations cause it's your first time going and planning and a lot of things can go wrong.

Don't worry about it if the week doesn't go as planned. So keep it very simple. Look at your family’s favorite meals that you're currently doing. See if you want to include some of those, only stick to about two new recipes per week, I would suggest, so that it's not overwhelming and you are trying to figure it out, and then you're eventually not having enough time and it'll take you a lot longer, so you want to save some time.

Also getting started, you don't want to increase your stress, so finding simple, easy meals that everyone will enjoy is a great way to go about your very first week doing this. Now if you're seasoned and you've had a little bit of meal planning, you're not very consistent, but you understand what you're doing and you have a lot of recipes that you've already done, then you can maybe up it a little bit. So, you can maybe find a lot more new recipes or to have some time to be creative in that sense.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay, let's say we found a couple recipes we're going to do this week, or we know a couple things we want to do. What happens then?

Kim Ancira: Well, then I would take inventory. What do I have in my fridge right now? Is there anything that will work that I can use up. So, decrease food waste.

Look at your fridge, look at your pantry, and make a list. Inventory it. And then look at what you need for your shopping list for your recipes that you're going to create. Then, mark off what you have and then make your new list of what you need, right? So you're not buying extra things you already have.

So that can actually be a really good tip. Going back to planning your week is when you're first getting started, try to use up what you have in your fridge, in your pantry, and then, start your new meals.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay. So now you've got a list of the ingredients you need and I guess the next part is just like going to the grocery store, right?

Is that accurate?

Kim Ancira: Well, you can determine if you want to include lunch, snacks breakfast. So maybe expand another list. So, once you've got your dinners dialed down for that week, then you can decide, okay, do I want to include more on my list?

What am I doing for myself for snacks and breakfast? Because those are the ones that you're going to be doing on your own, right? Kids out of the house, or maybe you're making them lunches. You obviously want to have a few things ready to go for them. But also think about yourself like what are you going to have for breakfast?

So, making sure you have a stockpile of things that are ready for you to have on hand too, so you're not skipping meals and snacks.

Crystal O'Keefe: Okay, I know that MetPro has a really handy like pantry list of things that you can keep available. Are there any things that you suggest using from that or using that as like a guideline?

Kim Ancira: Oh, definitely. That is definitely something to always use. Everything on our pantry list is, those are staples that you should have. So, once you run out of that list, keep that list also separate. So, you need to have a binder, I guess, all things going forward and put that list in there too on the top, because when you get low on those ingredients you're going to want to replenish.

So, making sure that those are also on your list. Pantry staples is a great category to always have and look there to make sure you are using those types in your new recipes, you can cross use those types of things. So ,for the, oils and all of that, you're going to want to make sure those are included.

Crystal O'Keefe: Do you have any favorites that are kind of your go-tos?

Kim Ancira: Avocado oil is very used. That's what I use a lot of . Keeping rice, quinoa, a lot of shelf stable items. Beans, olives, canned goods for sure.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah. This is a little bit off subject, but I'm curious with five little ones, how do you get them to eat vegetables?

Like how are you getting them to eat one meal?

Kim Ancira: It's always a challenge. Let me just say I am not, just because I know what I'm doing doesn't mean they are going to want to do it as well. But you find what your family likes, find your family favorites. I actually love every couple weeks including the kids to help me meal plan because it educates them.

They learn. I teach them why things are important. They see, oh, what's mom doing? I'm like, “Hey, what do you wanna eat? What's your favorite dinner?” And so I try to include their favorites and then I also try to include a vegetable that they are willing to try and have at their age. It's a lot of experimentation of what tastes good and how they like it, and types of seasonings they would do with it.

So, we use a lot of butter, which is great and healthy for them. So, we're adding that in as a little bit of fat for them, and it helps the taste of vegetables so much. And then there's other ways you can find recipes that you chop them up and hide them so they're not as big and scary looking

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah. I remember when I was a kid, that big pile of broccoli. What?

Kim Ancira: Yeah. It looks different. And then if you chop it up in little pieces and then sprinkle it in something, they're like, “Hmm, I actually don't mind it.” Right?

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good mom tip…

Kim Ancira: But including your family as much as possible with all ages, when you start younger, they will learn these healthy ways to eat and why it's important.

So, then when they're teenagers, you don't have to worry about 'em as much. And they can maybe make a few healthy choices or at least know what mom said.

Crystal O'Keefe: Now, do they have any favorites that you might recommend to people?

Kim Ancira: We're definitely very basic in that regard. They love broccoli and carrots, like those are their two favorites. Vegetables, I would say, my older ones are starting to have more variety. My daughter loves artichokes and asparagus. So, I always try to include that. And then cauliflower is a very easy one too that, that they like.

Crystal O'Keefe: Cauliflower is nice because it doesn't have much taste. So you can get that in a lot of things.

Kim Ancira: Okay. I was like, if you like broccoli, you're going to like cauliflower, I promise.

Crystal O'Keefe: Right, right.

Okay. So, at this point, we've taken into consideration a few different lists. We're ready to go to the grocery store.

Kim Ancira: Mm-hmm.

Crystal O'Keefe: I'm a little concerned about having three lists to go to the grocery store with, but I feel like we would've consolidated those.

Kim Ancira: Exactly.

Crystal O'Keefe: And then once we get to the store, do you have any tips, any tricks? Because that can be overwhelming too.

Kim Ancira: Right. Well, there's a couple ways to go about it. With the digital age, you don't even have to go to the store.

Crystal O'Keefe: Right, that's my favorite.

Kim Ancira: I actually love ordering online because I can see it take my time and I get everything I need and I'm not like, flustered at all, especially if you're going with kids to the store and they start throwing everything in the cart.

Crystal O'Keefe: Yes.

Kim Ancira: So you're like, so every once in a while, I don't do it every time, but I will actually order my groceries online and then you can actually see what stores have better deals too. If you go traditionally, I also like to do that because when you are in person, you get better selection of fruits and vegetables.

So, it's a tradeoff, right?

Crystal O'Keefe: Yeah, definitely.

Kim Ancira: So sometimes for time I will order online and then sometimes for quality of ingredients and I want to select things and I don't really know what I'm wanting exactly for my vegetable. I want to see what they have and what it looks like. Then I'm going to go to the store.

Crystal O'Keefe: What a great point. I also think that, another reason that I shop online is because I have less options available. I want less options available because I am one of those people. I get sucked into the middle of the store. You know what I mean? Like you walk by, “Oh, look at that bright, shiny thing.”

Kim Ancira: Exactly. Yeah. Stay on the perimeter. Right. That's the rule. Except for the canned goods. Exactly.

Crystal O'Keefe: Right, right, right. You do have to do that. And the baking, but still. Okay, so we've got our groceries. We're back home. And then now we're trying to make whatever meal we were going to make. Do you have any thoughts on how to organize setting up for your first time if you've never done any kind of food prep?

Kim Ancira: Yeah. Well, with MetPro we obviously suggest prepping ahead, doing everything you can, as much as you can prior to the week. So chopping your vegetables up, you can make it as far as putting it all in the thing to bake. Or put on the stoves. You can prep it however fits for you, but as early as possible, like pick your Sunday.

If you're grocery shopping Sunday, do as much planning on Sunday for the week as you can. If you are the type that likes limited protein options, you're not going to cook those every single day and you're planning bulk meals so you can go ahead and start cooking your protein. Maybe if you're using the Crock Pot just let it simmer.

If you're doing chicken, however you're doing your protein, I would look at that first and see how much ahead you can do. Or rice, even rice, quinoa. You can do your starches, you can do your carbs, prep those as best as you can, and then they can store in the fridge.

Crystal O'Keefe: Wonderful. All right. Another question I have is, sometimes our families have things they love, like, “No, I really love this meal and I don't want to not have this meal.” But you as the person who's going to the store, making the decisions for what the meal is going to look like, you have the ability to change that into kind of MetPro, like make some swaps to it.

Do you have any thoughts on maybe an example that people could hear how you walk through that process and do that at home?

Kim Ancira: Yes. One that comes to mind is our chili. So I have a bunch of recipes of chili that I've adapted into our family chili, and I use ground turkey, which is leaner than ground beef and it tastes better in our opinion, for it's a lighter option for chili.

So, we use ground Turkey, and then we remove all cream. Any type of cream inside the chili, you're not going to use that. You want to stick to bone broth or tomato sauce as the base because the cream is going to add extra calories, extra fat. We just don't want that.

Crystal O'Keefe: I was just going to say, the bone broth would add extra protein as well.

Kim Ancira: And the bone broth adds extra protein perfectly hidden in there. Bone broth can go into so many things. So, I always like to add that now instead of just stock

Crystal O'Keefe: Excellent

Kim Ancira: And because of the extra protein and then using the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes as the base, I make a version that has a lot of beans.

So that is a way to get in a compound carb. So, a little bit of protein, carbohydrates. This is where I sneak in a lot of vegetables, chopping them up, throwing 'em in, and they simmer and they're nice and soft and the kids don't really notice them as much because there's a lot going on with flavor.

And then, so, this is where it can get creative for the toppings. So, if you are following your MetPro plan, and depending on what phase you're on, you may or may not have certain toppings, but avocado is one that we chop up and put on top. Shredded cheese. And then instead of sour cream, the favorite, which is just plain Greek yogurt. Right?

Crystal O'Keefe: Yes.

Kim Ancira: So, making those toppings, add a little bit more for the members of your family who like a little bit more. And then if someone likes it very plain, my youngest, nothing's on top. Right? It's like, I'll eat just a little bit, but then you know, at least they see that it's there too.

You have all the fresh ingredients and there's a nice spread so they can see it, but my little one will have the avocado just on the side. Nothing's on it like avocado, chopped on the side, fine. So that's how you can go about it for yourself. And then, I always look at the ratios that I have in my app for myself.

So, it's like, okay, how much am I going to put, how many beans? You know, what ratio of veggies and beans and all of that am I going to add in because that can help me stay on my plan better too.

Crystal O'Keefe: Excellent. Okay, that is all excellent advice. What else should people keep in mind when they're planning a family meal?

Kim Ancira: One idea would be to always have a backup like meal ready to go. So, something very easy that you can whip together. Doesn't take a lot of effort. Just keep in mind what that could be for you, whether it's like tacos where you keep some meat in the freezer and you don't touch it until you just know, okay, that's my backup meal, right?

You're not going to use it. Keep it there. Because taco shells can stay. If you use corn taco shells, you can keep those for the kids. And you could always make a bowl really quick if you wanted to do a rice bowl instead, or, taco bowl night, things like that. So have things ready to go for those nights where maybe you, forgot something and you need to have a meal really quick or on the weekend you were planning to go out to dinner, but you're not, and now you're home.

So that would be great for that backup idea. The other one would be to make leftovers. So, double your recipe, triple your recipe, however big it needs to be. You could even make two of whatever you're doing, so if it's a casserole or some type of dish that you can easily make two and freeze the second one for later, then do that because then next week you can pull it back out.

Pop it in the oven and then you're ready to go. So that's like another favorite of mine that I like to use because I always try to include one meal that I can do that with, so that I at least have another one for the next week. So, you're cutting your time in half basically for that next week too.

Crystal O'Keefe: What great ideas I wouldn't have thought to do two casseroles. That's such a great idea. I bet that comes in handy, especially at your house with this many kids, because you need to have something kind in reserve all the time. Do you have any thoughts about how people should go about things like making breakfast in bulk?

Is there a good way to do that?

Kim Ancira: You can whip up eggs instead of cracking them that morning. You can just make a batch of eggs ready to go for scrambles, throw it in the fridge, and then through the week for seven days, have it just ready to go. I mean, that's just one step. If you can take away at least one or two steps in the morning, it's just that much easier.

There's overnight oats you can do. That's the easiest one. You prep it the day before. You can maybe keep it for a couple more days. Um, maybe two to three days would probably be the max before it gets really soggy. But overnight oats would be another one so that you're ready to go at least for a few days.

Or you can make egg bites so you can pop those in the oven, and you have a whole batch of egg bites, right?
Crystal O'Keefe: Those are the little ones you put in the muffin tin.

Kim Ancira: Yes. And you can throw your vegetables in there, some cheese. Anything that you know would be on your plan to have and then you have a whole batch ready to go for the week.

So those things will stay good for about seven days, so you have to do that weekly. But I would say plan for that week and try to do as much as you can. Even if it's reducing one or two steps, you are saving some time.

Crystal O'Keefe: Uh, excellent, excellent advice.

Well, Kim, thank you so much for your time today. Listeners, that's all for this week. You can find all the MetPro Method episodes anywhere you get podcasts, or you can go to Please be sure to follow the show and rate and review that lets other people know what they can expect from the show.

You can also learn more about MetPro, at I am your host, Crystal O'Keefe, and I'll be back next week Until then, remember, consistency is key.

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