(Photo by Ratul Ghosh on Unsplash)

Charlie’s food journey is now comfortably in its 6th month, with 2 abroad trips, and some seriously tough schedules to negotiate for meal prep and planning time. It meant a lot of planning far ahead, a lot of extra meals stocked in freezers, and more repetition in the meals lately than Jamie likes, but we are winding down into the dog days of summer with more time to dig in, and experiment just around the corner. Check out this last week of our crazed schedule of eats below, and some of the places Jamie has used to inspire and educate her in the journey of becoming our Accidental Nutritionist.

Meal Plan – Week #25  (Written by Jamie)

Cost: $112.43 week for 3 people // $1.78 /serving* (*NOTE: These numbers are calculated off what we actually spend each week, which may include occasional supplements of grain, starch, or beef for Drew and Jamie which Charlie cannot have. Week-to-week fluctuations in cost are more reflective of the times we need to pick up staples like olive oil and vinegar, or weeks where Jamie is prepping three weeks’ worth of cauliflower rice, rather than one week’s meal plan costing extra. Overall, we believe this offers a more accurate reflection of what this diet might look like financially for others.)

Meal Plan Diet Categories: (Gluten-Free, Lactose/Dairy Free, Diabetes Diet, Low Fat/Low Cholesterol, Cardiac Diet, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian)

Meals: (Click on the names to go to the recipe) (1) Chicken Veggie Stir Fry / (2) Chicken Parsnip Hash (same theory of food, with protein and root veggie swapped out) / (3) Kale and Lentil Soup / (4) Herbed Tuna / (5) Garden Salads / (6) Pinto Beans (variation 1) / (7) Quinoa

Snacks:  Chopped Veggies (for dipping) /Herb Dipping Sauce / Egg Whites / Naked Popcorn

Health Stats: 51.4 lbs down

We were standing around in the kitchen of one of the people we are working with on a side gig at the moment, and Jamie noticed the unmistakable Penzeys label shining from the shelf, which started us on a whole sidebar talk about the love of their herbs n’ spices and who has what in their collection. I’ve decided spice accrument and addiction is like the cook-version of comparing trading cards, Funko Pops, Star Wars collectibles, tea, and a well-stocked home bar. In that, if you are into it: you can really never have “enough.” And everyone has their specialty favs. Case in point, our collaborator, had damn near every type of pepper and salt Penzeys has to offer. And we have — well — just about everything else.

Good quality herbs and spices are mainstays of severely restricted dietary requirements, like the kind Charlie has been on. Mostly because they nutritionally cost you NOTHING and infuse the food with different flavor options and super health benefits. Jamie’s drawer of her most used bottles even has backup refills in the pantry.

(All the bags and lineup of jars on the left of the screen are Penzeys with a smallish collection of Spicewalla tins and general “others” to the right)

The investment is not cheap, and we are ever adding to it (case in point – not every bottle is even labeled yet.) And if you should happen to ask why a person would need five or more kinds of pepper, four currys, two types of oregano, granulated AND air-dried shallots, several paprikas, and rosemarys, and three kinds of cinnamon, Jamie could tell you…and also about 11 different things to do with them, and how they nutritionally benefit you.

…Which from a studious foodie perspective, is nerd-out fun to the highest degree.

The fact that you can have almost infinite ways to flavor a few simple food items in an extreme health-required diet is a magnificent way to embrace your food journey. And looking towards investment in good quality ingredients like your herbs and spices is like the investment of that favorite bag of boutique-bought loose leaf tea or a more expensive bottle of scotch on your bar.

…At least that’s what the Accidental Nutritionist team, 6 months in, thinks.

So… go try those 13 billion kinds of olive oils, and peppercorns, and find your favorite label brand of seasoning mixes that bring you joy. Experiment with new ones you’ve never heard of. Need some inspiration to start? Jamie recommends:

…Which helps you dress up nearly any food item in a variety of fantastic ways.

Stay inspired, and embrace the experimentation of flavor!