Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meal planning...

So you might ask what I've been up to the past couple weeks since I haven't been blogging much. Well, I have to let you in on a little secret. One, I'm super Type-A and I'm incapable of sitting still. My type-A personality makes me HAVE to be organized in life. I just can't function unless my life is organized and I have a plan in place of what will get done and when. So, as much as I love Brooke and LOVE having a new baby to love, she's kind of threw our world upside down. Our little life and how it operated has been majorly thrown off course. So we've spent the past couple weeks with me back at work part time and the other time spent getting our lives re-organized and figuring out what works best for us now.

That being said, somewhere I needed and desperatly wanted to get more organized was meals. We are also trying to cut our grocery bills at the same time as food costs seem to be rising even more, but I'll hit that a little harder in a few months. Anyway, I have a lov hate relationship with food. I LOVE the way it tastes, but I hate how it consumes our life. Food is one of our biggest budget items every month AND we spend so much of our life thinking about food, making food, shopping for food and eating food. It kind of makes me sick. But, I refuse to surrender to processed an convience foods as the solution. Quite the opposite, I'm trying to make the best, quickest, healthiest food for my family that I can.

So lately I have really been cutting down on the amount of time and money spent on food. We've also bee eating healtheir than ever before (but we ate SUPER bad before having kids, as in the #1 meal at McD's was a regular weekly meal and Subway was our go to when we wanted to eat "healthy"). One of my biggest struggles has always been what to make and even though I meal planned, about 50% of the time, the produce or fruit would go bad, or I'd forget what meals I had planned and then everything I bought just sat in the pantry. So I've REALLY been working on this one. Here are my tips that seem to be working for us:

1. Since we're also trying to keep cost down, I first look at what we have. This week for example we had some frozen shredded chicken meat, ground sausage, and kielbasa to use up. So I found recipes with not too many ingredients I didn't have on hand. I mainly use http://www.allrecipes.com/, ut sometimes I'll look at kraftfoods.com and search by ingredient or go to a products webite, such as http://www.pillsbury.com/ and see what I can make. We made marinated chicken one night with rice I had in the pantry, chirstmas breakfast casserole from the sausage, and kielbasa pasta as I call it, but basically roasted veggies with kielbasa and pasta with Italian dressing. Sometimes I'll look at the ads to see whats on sale (like wild caught fresh salmon for $2.99/lb at Kroger). Other times I'll try to see what I can make from the leftovers of what I'm already getting (so like if I need 1/2 a carton of cherry tomatoes for a dish, then I'll use the other half for pasta salad another night for dinner and lunch the next day). I also look for coupons either what I have on hand or online I'll google for it.

2. Then I'll come up with what we'll have for each day. For breakfast, lunch and snacks I just put a big list so when I'm hungry or packing lunch, I just look at the list. For dinner I plan out every night, trying to plan meals with produce/fruit that will go bad at the beginning of the week and then stuff like pancakes or breakfast casserole for the end since nothing in the recipe goes bad. We are also trying to shop for groceries only once every two weeks. We normally like to shop as a family but it is just getting too challenging with two kids in tow, so I think I'm going to move my shopping night to Monday after the lil ones are sleeping.
I also try to plan that if I make grilled chicken one night, I can grill extra, slice it, put it in the fridge and use it in say fajitas the next night. I post this entire list on the fridge so if anyone has any questions, they just look at the list.

I do plan two meals a week out, usually Saturday and Sunday because we'll be out and about or go eat with one of our parents. BUT, sometimes if we need to eat out during the week (or grab carry out for us), then I'll shift the meals down and force us to stay in and eat it on the weekend instead of going out. If however, you get to the end of the week and you still didn't eat a meal, roll it into next week's meal plan.

3. Last "tip" (and I'm working on this too), but having a go to list of recipes. Todd jokes that I am incapable of eating the same meal twice. Even if it's spaghetti, I have to cook it a different way each time. BUT, I'm getting better at this knowing I have the things on hand already and I can use up the other half of packages (like this week I made meatloaf with stuffing mix....normally I would have just thrown out what I didn't use, instead I used the whole package and made 4 meatloaves)

4. Oh yeah, and look at the list right before you go to bed and see if there is anything you have to do for the next day (take chicken breast out of freezer and put in fridge) or anything you can do to cut down prep time the next day (like chop tomatoes ahead of time).

So hopefully that helped. I'm still trying to get into the freezer meal thing. We did really well with the 10 packages for frozen taco chicken I made before Brooke was born. We just used the last one last night on nachos. I made Mexican lasagna, Mexican lasagna roll ups, taco pizza, nachos, Mexican calzones, and of course a few tacos/burritos. And I think I'm going to make some large batches of ground beef now already cooked and grilled chicken in slices. That's about as far as I'm going to venture for now. I'm just not a huge fan of actual frozen meals because they always taste like leftovers.

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