Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meal Planning

(New blog post before this one)

In an effort to:
*make my life as a SAHM a little less stressful,
*save money on groceries,
*buy more fresh food and less processed/packaged stuff,
*eat out less,
*have and stick to a food budget,
*and a few other reasons,
I started planning out meals for two weeks at a time when Pipsqueak started eating the same stuff we eat (so it's been awhile that I've been doing this now).

I have a bunch of recipes I like, and every two weeks I sit down with my recipes and the grocery ads that come in the mail and I plan out meals according to what's on sale, what we have stockpiled in the pantry/fridge/freezer, and what we haven't had in awhile/sounds good! I then make a grocery list from my meal plans and make a shopping plan. I usually try to go to one grocery store that has the most and best sales that isn't Walmart for the bulk of my shopping, and then stop off at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on the way home to do any price-matching from other grocery stores and pick up anything else that was to expensive at the other grocery store. I sometimes end up going to more than just two stores but I try not to because a) of the impact on the environment and b) I really, really hate how much of an ordeal shopping is anyway. So I make a list of everything I need, write out the sale price and store of each item (from the ads), and decide where to do most of my shopping and what I will buy there. Ideally this happens before payday so that I can actually do my shopping on payday and not put it off while we eat out all weekend because there's nothing left in the house from the previous two weeks... Our budget allows for $120 every two weeks for all food-stuff and all non-food essentials like toiletries, cleaning supplies, detergents, pet foods, etc. I've noticed that making a meal plan helps me stick to my grocery list, and sticking to my grocery list helps me stay within my budget. I've also noticed that I am able to buy a lot more fresh foods (fruits and veggies), more organics, more healthy stuff, because of my meal- and grocery- planning. We eat so much better than we did before!

So today I spent the morning doing some of my meal planning/grocery list prepping. The thing that takes me the longest in all this is actually *deciding* what we want to eat. Like I said, I have a bunch of old stand-bys, but I love trying out new recipes and I like to have a good variety of foods on the menu, so I always have a hard time coming up with meals. I'm going to share what I came up with for the next two weeks and hopefully someone who reads this can give some suggestions on yummy and easy (and inexpensive) recipes I can include in the future.

I am also stuck in a total breakfast, lunch and snack rut, so if anyone has any suggestions for quick and easy and healthy breakfast, lunch and snack fare, let me know! I've made a list of possible breakfast and lunch foods we could eat every day so hopefully this will help me mix it up a little. Any ideas to add to these lists?

toast with cream cheese, fruit
toast with butter, yogurt
waffles with sunbutter (for Pipsqueak, who is not eating nuts yet) and honey, or just peanut butter for me
waffles with syrup, fruit
cereal and milk, fresh fruit
oatmeal and dried fruit or yogurt
eggs and toast
(I hate making pancakes so that's out for breakfast. I buy frozen waffles, which I really want to stop doing because they're not all that great for us, but right now a "waffle sandwich" is Pip's favorite breakfast, and also one of the only things that appeals to pregnant me in the mornings.)
(Also, I sleep in until as late as Pip will let me, and then we are both ravished when we get out of bed. I need quick breakfast ideas, nothing that takes any forethought or planning!)
dinner leftovers
veggie burgers
hummus and veggies or crackers/chips
saltines and cream cheese
saltines and cottage cheese
vegetables (usually steamed frozen veggies or steamed fresh baby carrots)
homemade "lunchables": crackers, deli meat, cheese

I've also tried to designate "days" for my meal planning, to make things easier for me. Miscellaneous Mondays, Tex-Mex Tuesdays (we tend to eat a lot of "Mexican" foods), Ethnic Wednesdays, Slow-Cooker Thursdays, Fun Fridays, Soup/Salad/Sandwich Saturdays, Dada-Cooks Sundays. Of course I don't think I will stick to this each time, but I think it will help me to have some kind of an outline when planning meals so I don't end up with 5 Mexican meals or 6 pasta dishes...

So here's my meal plan for the next two weeks:

Miscellaneous Mondays:
1) Ground Turkey Shepherd's Pie, salad/fresh veggies
2) Breakfast Bake, tomatoes, fruit
Tex-Mex Tuesdays:
1) Taco Macaroni, tomatoes & avocados
2) Chicken Taco Quiche, sauteed green beans and peppers
Ethnic Wednesdays (for some reason I was stuck on Italian today):
1) Cauliflower Pasta with grilled chicken
2) Italian Chicken Bake, scalloped russett and sweet potato casserole, zucchini
Slow-Cooker Thursdays:
1) Curried Chicken and Rice, salad
2) Lasagna, steamed fresh green beans
Fun Fridays:
1) Out to Eat
2) Leftovers/Fend for Yourself
SSS Saturdays:
1) Lentil Soup
2) Tuna Crescent Bake
Dada-Cooks Sundays:
1) Chili & Rice
2) Eggs/Omelets

Any suggestions of tried-and-true easy/cheap recipes? Or great websites that have tried-and-true easy/cheap recipes?

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