Dinner In 15 Minutes with Shelly Longenecker
June 8, 2021
Struggle to have enough time to cook healthy foods AND take care of other responsibilities? Shelly Longenecker shares some tips and tricks to have strategy in your weekly meal plan to save you time AND money while not sacrificing flavor and convenience!
Dinner in 15 Minutes with Shelly Longenecker
The Mom Training Podcast with Diana Ballard
Diana: Hey ladies, welcome to The Mom Training Podcast. Again, we have Ms. Shelly Longenecker on with us. So, excited. Literally, last episode, I literally was like just crawling in my phone. I'm just like, “Oh my god, I love everything she's saying.” Because it's such an amazing way to think; being able to be intentional with your choices, to be able to strategize, to really go inside and see like, “What the heck am I messing up on?” or like how I say, “What do I suck at? ...What do I really suck at?”
Shelly: Right… Yeah.
Diana: And it's such as amazing thing to be able to go in and not shame ourselves, not have a bunch of guilt but say like, “I know I got to change, and the only thing I can change is myself. And so, this is what I'm going to focus on.” And I love that you did that Shelly. It's just absolutely amazing that you were able to, with your story and everything, be able to create such an amazing system. So, welcome today again. We’re so excited to be with you.
Shelly: Thank you.
Diana: So today, ladies, we're going to talk about making Dinner in 15 Minutes, which I'm going to tell you guys, real quick, a little bit about myself. I love to cook international food. I love exotic foods like from India, and from Thailand, and Mexico, and all these different places, Japan. I cook all these different foods.
Well, there's a good amount of those foods that take a lot of time. I remember it hit me like… Because since my business has been growing, my husband's been… We're flipping this house and do not like… It's just been so busy and I'm like, “Man, I just can't spend this much time in the kitchen.” And one day I was making chicken tikka masala, which I love, but you have to put in 10 different spices in yogurt just for the marinade for the chicken. Then it has to marinate overnight. And then you have to like fry each piece of chicken. I mean, good grief…
I figured out like even splitting it up between two days, it took me four hours to make that dish. And I did make a bigger dish because I feed my family at least two to three times from the same meal that I make.
Diana: So, I split that up. But I mean, that took way too much time, and I was like, “Okay, I need some help. I need to figure out... I need to learn how to simplify…” Because like, I want to make vegan lasagna where I make my own tofu cheese and all that kind of stuff… And it's like even splitting it up in days, and I still will make that. I'm going to just… The vegan lasagna is like the most delicious thing in the world. But it's going to be a rare thing. Right?
Diana: But it really does pick up a ton a time, if you're doing stuff like that all the time. So, I am really, really excited to learn from you today Shelly, about how you put whole food, vegetable-heavy, being careful with allergies and stuff, produce, and food on your table for 15 minutes for dinner. So, please share your wisdom with us.
Shelly: Well, I love your story, and we’ll start there because this is something that I say to people all the time. Like, on Tuesday, we just need to eat. Right. On Tuesday, I need to feed my family. Tuesday isn't the day to be making this gorgeous, roasted chicken where I tie up the things, and I just stuff it. That's not what happens on a Tuesday. On a Tuesday, we just need to eat. And like on a Saturday or a Sunday, or a holiday or a special family weekend is when we make the tikka masala or… I've never made that, so I don't know. That's when we do special food.
Shelly: There's a time and a place for the special foods because I also like to cook. And I mentioned last week when we were together, that I like to bless my family with food. But there's food wants, and there's food needs, and knowing the difference is important. It's important for our budget and it's also important for our time and our energy.
So, at this point in my life, special meals are for special occasions, because I don't have the energy, in my point in my life, to be doing that regularly. I heard you saying you don't have time to be doing that regularly.
We have what are like fun two Fridays where we'll break all of our rules and we'll eat things that aren't whole foods, that aren't produce rich, but they're still allergy-free. Like we'll make... I don't know… Like Lucky Charm Rice Krispies treats, which are totally terrible for you but hey, that's fun. Right? We do that, or we'll make a prime rib dinner which takes several hours.
What I'm about to teach you is not about eliminating those fun special food memories. You still keep those. You just put them where they belong, which is for special things. What I'm talking about is how everybody's got to eat on a Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday, like we've got to eat. We've got to feed our families.
That's what this talk is about. It’s about that mid-week rush. The Monday through Friday, we've got to get dinner on the table in the middle of our busy workweeks in the middle of busy school schedules or maybe band practice or dance recitals. All these things that we're doing as busy families. So, that's what this is about.
Diana: Oh, wonderful… So, I want to know two things, how you do that, and why you do that? Why you do the 15 minutes? Why that's so important? And how you do that?
Shelly: Yeah. So, let me hit the why first because as a therapist, you always start with the why. Because I understand that change is actually really hard and unless we have a deep why, we're not going to do it. And so, the reason that I focus on time savings in the kitchen is because if we spend too much time cooking if we spend too much energy cooking if we spend too much mental energy thinking about cooking… What's going to happen?
Diana: You’d get stressed out.
Diana: And you’d be a not-so-nice mom.
Shelly: Right. And we also might rely on takeout, because we're too tired to make it happen. We might rely on convenience foods that aren’t a part of our health goals. I'm not talking about occasional things but if your goal is to eat whole food and produce rich food, let's say, which is my goal - putting a Stouffer's lasagna in the oven or the equivalent of that, three to four days a week is not going to help you hit your health goal.
It might help you hit your budget goal, but our budget isn't the only thing we have to consider. We also have our time. We have our mental and physical energy and we have our physical health. And so, if we take too much time cooking, we might rely on takeout; we might rely on convenience foods that blow up our budget or blow up our health goals. Finding a way to be efficient in the kitchen, increases the amount that we actually cook at home, which helps us hit our financial goals and helps us with our food goals. So, that's why I focus on time savings in the kitchen, because… Yeah…
Diana: And also, that is, if it's something we dread every single day like we really aren't going to do it.
Diana: [overlap talk] Oh my gosh, if I have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner all homemade from whole foods and lots of things, people are going to be like, “Oh no.”
Shelly: Right… Exactly.
Diana: I don’t think so. It’s going to take me hours when I don't… And a lot of the younger newer moms might not have had a lot of experience with cooking too, so it could be really overwhelming and challenging to try to figure out how to put things together too. So…
Shelly: It's true.
Diana: Albeit they learn how to simplify that time, it's going to increase their love of cooking too.
Shelly: Right, for sure. I totally agree. So, how do I do it? How do I put fresh, whole food meals on the table in 15 minutes, Monday through Friday? And just like the way that I put dinner on the table for a dollar per person per meal… The same way I do dinner for a dollar is the way that I do dinner 15 minutes and that is with strategic intentional system.
I have a different system for creating food than I used to. I used to be that person who was making breakfast, lunch, and dinner from scratch every day. That is not sustainable. It was not sustainable for me as our family grew and our needs grew. It’s fine when we have two kids, and I wasn't homeschooling, I could pull that off. But as my responsibilities at home grew, it became impossible.
Here's what I do. In a time when I have one to two hours where I can really focus on cooking, which for me is Sunday afternoon… It might be different for somebody else… I batch prepare staple ingredients that I can then mix and match throughout the week to create distinct meals. So, let me say that again and then I'm totally going to explain it. So, on the weekends, on Sundays when I have a couple of hours, I batch prepare staple ingredients, and then I use those to mix and match and create fresh meals during the week.
What are staple ingredients? Staple ingredients to me are proteins, starches, and produce. So, I will batch cook protein on Sunday, I will batch cook some starches on Sunday and I will batch chop some produce. And then I take those core ingredients, I store them separately, and then I mix and match them, and heat them up in fresh new ways throughout the week. So, it isn't like having leftovers, it's like having distinct meals.
As an example, this is exactly what I do. We don't eat ground beef in our home, we eat ground turkey. So, when I say ground turkey just substitute ground beef if you eat ground beef in your family. So, our ground turkey comes in three-pound packages. I cook nine pounds of ground turkey on a Sunday. And then I take about four pounds of that and portion it separately in my refrigerator. I use one that night… And I'll talk about what meal I use it in. And I use three more in the next few days. Then I take those extra five pounds I put him in my freezer for another week.
And then on Wednesday, when I'm done with my turkey meals, I go to my freezer and I pull out three or four packages of meat that I had done the week before, so maybe like pulled pork. Then I use pork as the base protein in my meals for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, or Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Typically, on the weekends, we'll do different. That's when we do longer cooking, and we don't really follow this method; this is to get us through Monday through Friday. On Sunday, I batch cooked that ground turkey, right?
What do I do when I batch cook proteins, I batch cook starches, I batch chop produce? How do I mix and match that into meals? I follow six themes that I repeat over and over. They don't get boring. I'll tell you why in a little bit. But the bottom line is, I'm constantly changing, the protein, the starches, the veggies, and the flavor profiles of these themes. So, it's not like you're eating the same thing all the time.
These are the themes I follow. If you chose to follow this system, you could use any themes that you want. But in our home, we have taco night. We have soup night. We have salad night. We have skillet night, oven night or grill night. And we have a loaded, baked potato night.
Now, the loaded baked potato night, I'll actually just say, I call it that but it's really like a loaded veggie night. One week, we'll do a loaded baked potato but then on the next, we’ll do like loaded sweet potato, then on the next, we'll do a loaded butternut squash, a loaded acorn squash, loaded spaghetti squash. We do loaded portobellos, loaded zucchini boats. So, the base of it depends on what I'm able to get for sale.
I use these themes – taco, skillet, soup, salad, oven or grill, and loaded baked potato night, I use those themes. I change what I'm cooking, based on what I was able to source on sale at the store. This is that recipe-free cooking that we talked about last week. So, I think in terms of themes. These themes allow me to have almost unlimited variety. They're always frugal; all of those themes can be done frugally. They can all be done in 15 minutes if I have the core components pre-cooked on Sunday. And they're all allergy-friendly or can be made adapted to allergens. And they all can use a lot of produce if you adapt them.
So, if I'm doing ground turkey, what would the six meals that I make with ground turkey look like in our home? Actually, I wrote out if I was doing, pork roast, so my notes say pork roast. So, I'll go through the ground turkey in a minute. But pork roast. Okay.
Six themes with pork roast, what would that look like? So, my skillet night, I'm going to do a sweet potato hash. I’ve got sweet potato, I got pork in there, I might throw beans in there or rice if I want to. But probably not. Usually, my sweet potato, I throw greens in there, and then I throw in probably mushrooms. I might throw in some dried cherries; I might throw in some nuts. And then, that's our hash. If I have my sweet potatoes pre-cooked, if I have my pork precooked, and I have my veggies, pre-chopped, how quickly does that hash come together?
Diana: Oh, my goodness…
Shelly: Right? 15 minutes. Right. And I can flavor that with any seasonings I want to, to change that up. I can also change… I could not use sweet potato I could use butternut squash. I could use a regular potato. I could make it a bean and rice and pork hash so that on my skillet night, I can put anything in there that I want.
My oven night, what would that look like with the pulled pork? I would make an Enchilada Casserole. So, if my pork is already cooked. If I've chosen to precook my own beans or use canned beans, how quickly does an Enchilada Casserole come together if those links are already made? Definitely 15 minutes, because you're just putting it together and you're warming it.
But two nights in a row, I've had sweet potato hash, and I’ve had an Enchilada Casserole. Those are really distinct meals actually. You don't feel like you're eating the same thing at all. Then the next night, we would have soup. I make this really delicious pan posole, that is pork. I use Harmony carrots, and then pork, and I add taco seasoning into it, and then I top it with some radishes, cilantro, and avocado.
Diana: Sound delicious.
Shelly: It's delicious. That's ready in 15 minutes.
Salad night. This night I take the pork, which I leave pretty plain and I season it with barbecue, and we make a barbecue pork salad, which everybody in our family loves. Taco night, self-explanatory, Carnitas. And then on our loaded vegetable night, pork does really well with sweet potatoes. So, I’d then do a loaded sweet potato unless we already have sweet potato hash. But if I do those at the same time, I've already precooked my sweet potatoes, so I just spread those out over several days so it's not at the same time.
So, each of those meals are put together in 15 minutes. Each of those meals are distinct flavors. You don't feel like you're eating the same meat. If you remember though, I don't do the same meat all week. I change my meat in the middle, so I really only do about three of those. And then the other three days, I'd be doing the ground turkey.
If I was doing ground turkey, what would that look like? I could make a shepherd's pie with my ground turkey. If I precooked my potatoes, and I precooked my meat, shepherd's pie is made really fast. Taco night, we might do instead of a taco, we might do a lettuce wrap. Ground turkey does really good with lettuce wraps.
For our soup night, we have this really good veggie tomato turkey soup that we make. Salad… Sorry, on salad with ground turkey, I do the lettuce wrap because ground turkey is not good on a salad; it really doesn't hold up well. So, on the taco nights, we do the actual tacos. Sorry, I went backwards… And then on the skillet night, easy to make a burrito bowl or… On the soup night, I could do a chili. So, there's a lot of variety with it.
Shelly: I'm not sure if I just talked way too much, or if any of that made any sense.
Diana: No… You know what I love about listening to this is, you have the results of what you're talking about so that you can tell that you really know… Like you've created a system that really works. And I love that because there's… I'm going to say, hearing your talk right now, this is stuff I've never heard before and I'm a researcher.
Diana: So, I've listened… I mean I've taken cooking classes. I've talked to tons and tons of people, which has increased my skill set, but I'll say that I've never heard your strategy before. And I can just tell that this isn't something you learned from a book. This isn't something you read off something else and adjusted and made it your own thing.
Diana: You've actually created a system that is sustainable, that is simple, and that I'm definitely going to try. I’m like, “Oh man, let's give this a try because I just feel like, when I’ve talked to people, I've gotten little pieces of things. And I feel like your system is something that, I could actually run the whole thing and actually reap the same results that you are having, by following it.
Diana: So, it is just like from all… I really do talk to lots and lots of moms and housewives, and stuff, and just so awesome. Like this is an awesome system which you've created that I've never heard before, that I can tell would bring results. Like it's just “Ding-ding!” I can tell it’s just going to work. And so, it really… It’s amazing. I love the system.
Shelly: Well, thank you for saying that. It's always good to be encouraged. When I created it, I had never read about it. You're exactly right. And I don't spend a lot of time looking at other whole-food efficiency people, because it distracts me in my business. So, it's good to hear that you still haven't heard it. I've never run into anything like this either. But you're exactly right, it is a very simple, incredibly sustainable way to eat, Monday through Friday, week after week.
What I love is that it isn't about eating the meals that I'm suggesting. It's about you sitting down and thinking through - what proteins does your family enjoy eating? What, six meals, could you make? What themes does your family enjoy? Maybe you hate tacos, which probably means we could never be friends if you hate tacos, but I could try.
But maybe your family loves pasta, so you want pasta night or maybe your family loves phở and you want a phở night every week. It doesn't… This is a system that can be completely tailored to your family. And so, what I encourage your listeners to do is if they feel the same way as you did if they've got bells that just went off in their head, what I encourage you to do is sit down and think through what themes would my family enjoy?
Actually, let me stop there, and talk about the value of themes. People might think that that would get boring. I think I've already shattered that because when you change out the proteins, you change out the starches, you change out your veggies, you change your flavor profile, you don't feel like you're eating the same thing, week after week.
But research has shown that we're drawn to novelty. Our brains are drawn to novelty. But novel things dump cortisol for us. And cortisol, as most of us know, is bad. I'm not a health expert, so I'm not going to talk about why it's bad. If you want to research it, go research it. But in general, it causes… A lot of cortisol dumping can cause a lot of problems in our life.
Routine creates… is anti-inflammatory. So, when we put ourselves on routine it actually lowers the inflammation in our body, and scientists have now proven that almost all chronic illness comes from inflammation. So, reducing inflammation is a huge part of our lives, because I'm fighting cancer, I have an autoimmune disease. My son has an autoimmune disease. So, lowering our inflammation is important in our family. That's a core value that we have… Routine lowers inflammation. Novelty creates inflammation.
And I think we've all heard about decision fatigue. How having too many things to choose from, creates decision fatigue for us, and then we end up actually just kind of quitting. And this happens with food. People talk about how overwhelming food is. And I'm like, “Mentally, it's overwhelming because you have too many options.” And that's why I say, “More recipes is not the answer.” I actually hardly ever share recipes or sell recipes. I'll go through a minute, a resource that I have available that has some recipes but I really try to teach people how to break free from recipes and just follow a system.
These themes… I love themes because, in my mind, I can always create a meal if I run through my 6 themes – soup, salad, potato, skillet, oven... I missed one… Anyway, doesn't matter… Tacos. I can always create a meal if I just run through those and I don't have to wonder what's for dinner. So, don't run from routine in your food life, because it will serve you very, very well. It will cut your mental energy that you spend on food. It'll slash it. It will cut the amount of physical time you spend in your kitchen and the amount of money that you spend.
Save your variety and your really interesting things for Friday night, Saturday night, one or two times a week, not… On Tuesday, you need to eat. This is what I say to myself like just serve your family the food they need. So, don't run from themes, they will really help you. So, if you're sitting at home and you want to try to this, think about some themes that your family would like. Then you're going to think about proteins that your family enjoys that you could batch cook, and serve as the base for three to six meals.
Things like fish and seafood don't work for this, right, but meats that do work would be ham, pulled pork, beef roast, ground beef, ground turkey, whole chickens, chicken breast. I have a salsa chicken offer that I'll talk about in a minute. Those are meats that work well, and then list out six meals that you could make with those if your meat was already cooked. And when you do that, if you just do that with four meats, you will have a one-month meal plan that you just run on autopilot.
We have a one-month meal plan that we just run on autopilot, we have four meats that we do this with. This is our Monday to Friday cooking remember, and I change up what ends up on the plate from week to week, so it's not the same thing. And for people who don't want to do this themselves, who don't want to create their own system, I wrote a Dinner in 15 Minutes mini eBook, it's about 25 pages long and it walks you through exactly how to do this Dinner in 15 Minute System. It shows you how I do the salsa chicken.
This is one place where I have recipes. It walks you through the exact process I use with the base ingredients, cooking those on a Sunday, let's say, and then six meals you can use that salsa chicken with. And then at the very end, this is my favorite part of the book, I take a few pages and teach you how to create your own system after you have learned how I do it in my home. And it's only $7, the book, so it's super affordable way for people to learn this Dinner in 15 Minutes System.
Of course, you guys caught me last week where I talked about Dinner for a Dollar. We served Dinner for a Dollar for several years before I created this Dinner in 15 Minute System, and used it at home. This changed my life forever. Like, we have a busy life, and I’ve been fighting cancer for two years on and off, long stretches of chemo, surgeries. And I had a friend, a very faithful friend who came every week and did my batch staples for me on a Monday.
She came on Monday: She batch cooked my meat. She batch cooked my starches and she batch chopped my veggies. Then our family was able, for that entire week, to just mix and match those things and create meals. And we didn't have to have people bringing us meals. She just came and… It just takes about an hour; it takes about two hours depending on what you do. And you can have the core to all of your meals.
I'll add one more thing and then I'll stop and let you chime in. The beautiful thing is you don't have to do all of it. So, you don't have to batch cook your proteins, batch cook your starches, and batch chop your veggies, all in one day. Right now, because of the meds I'm on, I actually can only work in the kitchen for about an hour, so I don't do it all at once. Instead, what I do is I just batch cook my protein and I batch my starches, on a Sunday. And then throughout the week, I chopped my vegetables. That just works out a lot better for my energy. So, it is not all or nothing. And if all I do is batch cook my protein, and batch cook my starches, that only takes me an hour. That alone changes your week. I mean it just changes your week.
Diana: Oh, my goodness, I love that. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. Those are some wonderful tips. Tell me about where they can get the Dinner in 15 Minute guide.
Shelly: Yes. So, if you go to my website, DinnerForADollar.co you can see all of my offers. You can see my Dinner for a Dollar book. You can see my Dinner in 15 Minutes book, which is the salsa chicken book that I just referenced. Then I offer a course that combines both of them. It combines the Dinner for a Dollar System and the Dinner 15 Minutes System and includes a private Facebook group where we have weekly co-working sessions, and accountability and direct coaching, and availability and access to me.
So, depending on what your listeners are interested in. I have the Dinner for a Dollar book, which is available in eBook for under $10, audiobook for 15, or print for 20. I have the Dinner 15 Minutes book which is $7. And then I have the course which combines all of it plus getting me. So, it just depends on what your listeners are needing to implement in their own lives.
Diana: Well now, I will say, for being a coach myself, and working with tons of coaches, if you want to excel at a faster rate, you work with a professional.
Diana: You don’t just try… I mean, reading books is wonderful, and I highly recommend that and I love reading books, but like, it just, I guess it depends on how serious they are about really taking their skill set to the next level.
Diana: If they're willing to see it as an investment to “I'm going to really jump in and do this. And I'm not going to waste time anymore. I'm sick of feeling exhausted. I’m sick of wasting a bunch of time. I’m sick of being upset all the time because my time is drained everywhere.” Working, one on one… Or not one on one, but being able to have access to ask questions and stuff, is literally going to be their fastest way to get past their excuses, to figure out exactly what their needs are, and how to be on point.
Shelly: Yes, it definitely accelerates and amplifies results. So, the ladies, the average readers through my book, save $250 a month, and an hour a day. The ladies who are going through my course... I actually just launched it for the first time. My course is new. We're on week eight; it's a 12-week program. And we just hit week eight this week, and they haven't done their total, but their lives are totally transformed after eight weeks. I mean, they are telling me the amount of time they're spending in the kitchen is a fraction, the amount of food they're throwing away. We haven't even gotten the food waste yet, and they're already slashing the amount. They're eating out way less.
One lady is completely off the subscription boxes where you get food. She was able to cancel that. People learning to cook for the first time… I mean, it's changing their food lives completely, and their budgets, dramatically. So, yes, it does. But some people may not have the money available for that, or they may not need to save that much. Maybe they just need to save $100 a month. And if that's the case, or maybe they just need to save time, and then they should just get the Dinner in 15 Minutes book and work through that.
Diana: Yeah, and that's so great that you have options.
Diana: For people to be able to really think about what exactly their needs are, and like, how much of a mess they might be dealing with, and how fast they want to take care of that, or if it's one section the other. I love that you have different options for people.
Again, ladies, it's DinnerForADollar.co… And in Shelly, thank you much for sharing that.
Shelly: For sure.
Diana: Ladies, go check out her website and see the resources. If you want to learn more… I know I've been enriched, and I've learned some things today. So, I'm sure there's lots more information and strategies and tips that come with your books, and your course and everything. So, thank you, Shelly, so much for sharing.
Shelly: Yeah. For sure.
Diana: Yeah. Let's go implement these things ladies and learn some more and we'll see you next Tuesday on The Mom Training Podcast.