I got in a conversation with my SIL over Thanksgiving, that made me really rethink how I do my menus.
Also I kept getting into conversations with people who refuse to plan their meals and would decide what they are having for dinner 20 minutes before dinner at the grocery store.
I can’t do that.
At some point when I was pregnant with #2 and most food was disgusting to me or gave me heartburn I realized I had to plan meals for every week, or I would have a panic attack every day trying to think of a dinner that sounded good to me. That was a good start. I would plan meals every Monday before I went grocery shopping.
Back to Thanksgiving and my SIL. She mentioned that she started planning her meals for the entire month. That way they would go to Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) once a month and stock up on all the stuff they would need for the month and then every week they would just get the fresh fruit and veggies they needed for that weeks meals.
I had seen this floating around on Pintrest and had immediately thought, “What?!? I don’t think I could even plan that far in advanced!!”
But my SIL pointed out that they were actually spending less money overall. It really helped them stay within their food budget, and there were less random trips to the grocery store to pick up “a few ingredients” that turned into spending $30 + on things they didn’t need or were on sale. They were also eating quite a bit healthier, because she could plan out exactly what they were eating and make sure that they were getting the right amount of different variety of meats, fruits and veggies, etc…
I decided to take her up on that. So I started planning my meals for 4 weeks.
First off, I made a list of all the meals that we like and usually eat. This includes a list of meals that I have been wanting to try (I love to browse Pintrest for new food ideas….), a list of sides, desserts and vegetarian options. Actually I have several files on GoogleDrive that I can update at will and will be visible on my tablet, phone and computer. I LOVE that feature. I also ask Hubby for his input. He has to eat all this food, so I want to make sure that he is getting the food he wants or has been craving.
Meal planning usually includes a leftover night and a few nights like “Nachos” or something that doesn’t require a lot of prep-work that I usually have all the ingredients on hand. That way I can replace that meal with something new I want to try (and I have all the ingredients for) or if we end up having more than one leftover night, or we end up being out and get a pizza or something. (That last thing almost never happens. Usually only if we end up at Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) and get a $10 pizza because we are too far from home for everyone to make it on an empty stomach…Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) is a 30-45 min drive from our house)
As I am planning the meals, I make a shopping list for Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) and each of the four weeks at the local grocery store. I keep those on my fridge so I can update them as necessary.
The other month I realized that we needed Pepper jack for four different meals, so I bought a huge log of it at Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) instead. I shredded and froze what I didn’t use and we are still sprinkling it on nachos and soups. It was WAAAAAAAYYYY cheaper to buy it at Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers).
Here’s how it usually goes:
Tuesday: Chicken or Beef
Wednesday: Vegetarian or Fish
Thursday: Chicken or Beef
Sunday: Crockpot (with meat)
We are trying to do more vegetarian (See this post for more on that), but Hubby is a complete Meat-a-tarian, so I promised that we would do the vegetarian meals in between the meat. That way he doesn’t go more than a day with out meat. I have found that it is MUCH cheaper to eat vegetarian. Except for Quinoa. That stuff is EXPENSIVE. Although Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) has a pretty good deal on it.
For our veggies, I have been buying Bountiful Baskets at least once a month. We’d like to get these twice a month, but it isn’t really in our budget right now. If you don’t know what that is, for about $20 you get a GIANT basket of all kinds of fruit and veggies. It is worth the $20. It usually takes us the better part of two weeks to get through all the yummy food. Fruit around here (except apples) are pretty spendy, so this is a good buy for us.
I also hit up Costco (Huzzah Magic Powers) for their Romaine lettuce, Kale, broccoli, Apples, and Sweet Peas. Our local grocery store has Carrots for pretty cheap, so that is another staple.
In the fall I also take free offers of people garden bounty. That is how I scored a TON of Zucchini last fall. We are still trying to get through all of that. Also my Mom bought me 90lbs of apples last fall from a local u-pick orchard near her house. We are still trying to get through that as well!! (Apples freeze. Did you know that? Core them, slice them and peel them and stuff them in a ziploc bag. BOOM. Frozen apples make awesome apple sauce. And apple pie filling.)
Here is a YUMMY vegetarian Chili that we tried a couple of weeks ago. I made some adjustments to the original that I found here.
Simple Quinoa Chili
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (optional, depending on how spicy you like your food)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tblsp cumin
1 tblsp chili powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed in warm water
2 cups frozen or 1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained
2 cups or 1 can tomato sauce
1 cup broth (We used chicken. No we are not anal about it being a COMPLETELY vegetarian meal)
2 cups black beans, cooked (or 1 can)
2 cups pinto beans, cooked (or 1 can)
1) Heat oil in pot over medium heat. Add onions, and sauté until tender. Add salt, garlic, red pepper, jalapeno and spices; sauté for 5-10 minutes.
2) Add rinsed quinoa and stir until combined. Add corn, tomato sauce, and water or broth to onion/quinoa mixture. Simmer together 20 minutes.
3) Add beans to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes. Serve with shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream or whatever else you like to put on chili. Enjoy!
I upped the spices, because I really like Chili powder. You could also add a jalapeno or some red pepper flakes if you want it more spicy. I did. But I LOVE spicy food. Except when I pregnant. Then I get heartburn which makes me really, really sad.
Also, this is gluten-free!
Our biggest deal with vegetarian is that it HAS to have enough protein in it. I get very sick (and extremely cranky) if I eat too much sugar and not enough protein. I try not to eat a lot of sugar anymore, but I still like cake. And brownies. And cookies. Did I mention I ate an entire pack of Oreo this week? The FAMILY size?? Double-stuffed??? (Yes I had a sugar crash. No more Oreos for me). So if a meal is vegetarian and doesn’t have any added protein, I will add some Quinoa or beans or peanut butter or tofu to it. (those last two ingredients are for Asian inspired dishes). I made an awesome Mulligatawny soup last week with white beans in it instead of chicken.That will be coming up soon!