4 Rules for Home Cooking Done Quick

A lot has happened in the past couple of months.  We decided to move out of state to live near family and enjoy a lower cost of living and better weather.  Since we’ve moved down here I have taken it upon myself to be the best wife and parent that I can be while I look for a new job.  One of the most important things that I’m maintaining with this big life transition is how we prepare meals, eat dinner as a family and do so in a healthy and time efficient way.  I prepare all of our meals from scratch but I like to imagine sometimes that I run a prepared food test kitchen.  Here are a few of my rules for doing dinner in a  healthy and efficient way.

Rule #1:  Use your freezer as a money saving tool and not just a place to keep frozen novelties.  I hear it a lot “why would I buy in bulk if we can’t eat it all before it goes bad?”  Your freezer stops the clock on food spoilage and allows you to take advantage of lower prices.  My two favorite times to use my freeze is when I’m buying in bulk to get a lower price per pound and when meat is on ‘manager special’ and at 20% of the normal price.  I once found chicken quarters for $0.29 per lb!  That’s insane and you know I filled my cart.

When you buy a lot of food that can be frozen make a plan to freeze it.  Do not wait until the expiration date to save the old meat from the trashcan.  You need to portion and bag the food within a day of buying it.

If you freezer is already full go through and evaluate each item that is in there. How old is it?  Can you eat it within the next month?  Is it junk food that we shouldn’t be eating anyway?  Your freezer space is valuable real estate that is there to save you time and money, make sure you are using it that way!

Rule #2:  Dinner will only take 30 minutes from prep to table.  I did this while we were both working full time and wanted to eat dinner as a family before our baby needed to go to bed.

To accomplish this 30 minute rule you need to have a game plan for dinner before you open the fridge.  This is where meal planning comes in handy.

Some of my favorite meats to cook start to finish are:

  • Porkchops – use dry seasoning or a marinade on the meat when you pull it out of the freezer.  Let it thaw in your fridge for at least 24 hours.  I always let it thaw in the dish that I plan to back it in.  1/2 inch chops will bake for 20-25 min at 350ºF.
  • Tacos – use ground turkey or beef and you can brown the meat in about 10 minutes.  Add black beans to bulk up the meal and stretch your dollar even further.  Use it twice in the week for tacos the first night and nachos a few nights later.  Very popular in our house.
  • Salmon (or any fish) – Baking or grilling can be done in under 20 minutes.  We love this marinade for salmon on the grill:  1 part soy sauce, 2 parts oil, 3 minced garlic cloves all mixed together add 1 lb raw salmon and marinade for 20 minutes.  Grill over high heat for 8 minutes turning halfway through.
  • Steak on the grill – We eat steak usually once a week.  Use your favorite dry rub, and grill for 8-10 minutes over high heat flipping once halfway through.

My favorite prepare-ahead-of-time-and-freeze meals are:

  • Meatballs with pasta – the prep kills me but I love having meatballs and pasta.  If you are not a plan-ahead type of person you can always make meat sauce instead.  Meatballs freeze really well and I’ll usually cook a large batch and we will eat it once a week for about 3 months.
  • Chicken – I rarely cook chicken during the week since it is one of those meats that cannot be rushed (or served rare).  I will usually buy whole chicks and roast them in the oven for about 2 hours, sometimes 6 birds at once.  Once the meat is cooled my husband and I will spend a little time pulling the meat off of the bones, portioning meat into freezer bags and freezing.  If I’m low on chicken stock I will take the bones from one of the birds and throw it in the crock pot and make some overnight stock (which also gets frozen).
  • Chicken Taquitos – another labor intensive meal that is completely worth making a giant batch of.  I can take these puppies from frozen and bake them for about 20 minutes and we have a tasty dinner.  We have also used these as quick appetizers when entertaining or if we have unexpected dinner guests.  Serve with sourcream and hotsauce!
  • Pulled pork – Pork shoulder is a cheap cut of meat that becomes a tasty easy meal. Use either a dry rub or a bottle of your favorite bbq sauce and cook the pork shoulder in a crock pot for 8+ hours.  Once it is done, remove the meat and shred with a fork, using a strainer add the juices from the crockpot and mix together with the meat.  Refrigerate overnight and then portion into bags to freeze.

These are just a few ideas but what is most important is to cook what you like and make sure it freezes well.  So if you find a recipe you like and want to try to make a big batch next time – take a little bit from dinner and freeze it.  After a week let it thaw out and check the quality.  Make sure you do this before you cook 10 lbs of meatballs because you wont know how it freezes until you try it.

Rule #3: Use your day off to make a big batch of side dishes, prep fresh veggies and make lunches for the week.

This can be done whether you work or stay at home.  Make something that you love eating so that you are more likely to stick with the plan instead of ditching it for fast food.  If you are not big on leftovers – do not pack them for your lunch at work.  Every Sunday I will make 4 sandwiches for my husbands lunch.  He will take a sandwich and a yogurt to work 4 of 5 days.  He will eat out with co-workers at a restaurant once a week.  Taking your lunch to work compared to eating out every day saves one person about $2000.

Lunch meals that can be prepped at the beginning of the week:

Sandwiches – Deli meat and cheese will hold up nicely for about 5 or 6 days.  Make sure to skip the tomato, pickles and other veggies as it tends to not keep as well.  If you love lettuce on your sandwich, throw it on the morning that you plan to eat the sandwich.

Leftovers – I’m a leftover lover.  If dinner was great (and it usually is!) I have no problem packing a container with the extras and eating it for lunch.

Salads – Every once in a while, usually a couple months before our summer vacation, my husband and I will start eating a little bit less bread and a little bit more veggies.  We will make salads for each of us for the whole week with fresh veggies, hard boiled eggs, and cooked chicken (from the freezer).  Make sure to either add salad dressing the morning that you are going to eat it or put it in a separate container.

For more ideas check out reddit’s meal prep sunday section.

Rule #4:  Make this plan your own.  Everyone has a plan that works but usually it works because they created that plan for their own situation.  My recipes and meal plan will not work for everyone because of taste preferences or food allergies.  What is important is you take things once step, one recipe, one batch of food at a time.  See what works and doesn’t work for your family.  No one goes from spending an hour in the kitchen every day to half of that without some planning, experimenting, and practice.

  • First find one meal that makes it to your table on a weekly basis.
  • Next think of ways to simplify the preparation of that meal.  What can be prepped and then frozen, what can be cooked ahead of time, etc.
  • Then make a batch and see how much time you save with the ahead of time prep.

Start by having 2 meals a week that are quick to prepare, then make it 3 and then 4.  At the moment we plan for 6 nights of at home meals and allow one to be either a night out or a cooking experiment (sometimes I need to switch things up with something fancy).  Figure out with works for you and keep at it!  Soon you will be saving money and finding more time on your hands.

Getting Closer to Grocery Shopping Once a Month

Grocery Shop Once a Month

 

 

If you had to explain grocery shopping to someone who never has done it, how would you describe it?  Would you talk about how you work hard all week only to spend a fortune on prepared food that is only slightly less expensive than the take out place down the road?  Would you say that it is a big time commitment that leaves you with sacks full of food and no real plan to use it?  If I were to describe grocery shopping I would say that its an opportunity to be creative, save money, and a challenge to see how well you can organize your food storage space.

I’ll admit that I used to stress about getting to the grocery store every week.  It would take me about an hour to get everything that I need and I would still occasionally forget something and need to make a last minute trip on my way home from work which would inevitably leave me with 10 extra things that I didn’t need.  I would cut weekend trips short if I knew our fridge was bare.  And grocery shopping on a Monday night was just such a pain and it that meant that we didn’t make lunch for Monday and both my husband and I would end up eating out that day.  When I buy my lunch at work I want it to be my choice and not a default answer to poor planning.  It took me a while to realize that instead of trying to shop for the week I could buy enough for the month.

Every day I’m amazed at both how much money we are saving on groceries and how much time I’m saving by not going grocery shopping as often.  The start of a new month gets me excited.  I’ve started doing one big shopping trip during the first week of the month.  I pick up all of my staples and replenish my pantry and fridge.  I buy all of the potatoes, onions, beans, olives, eggs, cheese and tubs of sour cream for the month.  One of my favorite parts about shopping this way is that I don’t need to remember what is getting low in the fridge or pantry since I’m not making a big grocery list every week.  If we run out of sour cream before the end of the month, we will do without.  Same thing goes for potatoes, onions and eggs.  The world isn’t going to end if you have to eat rice with your steak instead of the usual mashed potatoes.

There are a lot of ways that you can achieve a shrinking grocery bill.  You can copy someone else’s grocery list item by item and cook exactly what they cook.  But what if your family doesn’t like some of the meals on that list?  What do you do then?  That is why I think a better long term solution is to create your own list.  Of course could just copy my grocery list but unless you cook exactly what I cook – it just won’t work.  

Here are the steps that I take to maximize my grocery shopping efficiency.

  1.       Make a list of all of the groceries that you buy during the month
  2.       List how much of each item you will need to last you the entire month
  3.       Remove the items that expire quickly that cannot be frozen – like milk, salad fixings, fresh berries.  You can still buy these but only buy enough that can be used prior to expiration.
  4.       Save this list in a place that can be easily accessed.  I keep my grocery list in good docs and print it out when I do my big monthly shopping trip.
  5.       Print out this list (or keep it digital and edit the document) and take a quick inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer
  6.       Grocery shop with the intention of only buying those items on your list during your once a month trip.
  7.       Keep track of when in the month that you run out of the items on your list.  For example:  I thought that we could get through the month with 6 cans of olives since we use them in our   salads for lunch, I forgot that we also use olives on tacos and nachos (and those are on the meal plan almost weekly).  After one month of running out 3 weeks into the month I upped our monthly amount to 8 jars.
  8.       Repeat next month.

 

Of course this method isn’t a one size fits all, but it is designed to be tailored to your own eating habits.  When you consolidate your shopping into one trip instead of spending extra time at the grocery store, you can spend your time doing the things that you want to do.  Always think of your list as a work in progress.  You should be forever tweaking the amount of what you buy or even the types of food that you eat but always make a decision for that month and stick with it.  Also, make it your mission to eat through all of your pantry and freezer fossils so that nothing goes to waste and it makes room for all of the tasty new foods that you want to try.  If you truly don’t like a food that you tried, there is no sense in allowing it to take up space – just get rid of it.  Either give it to someone who will use it or just throw it away.  Of course you should keep a good variety of fresh vegetables in your diet and use frozen when fresh is not available or too expensive.

More and more savings on groceries (July)

In July we spent a whopping $153.53 on groceries for 2 adults and our 8 month old. Our grocery budget is $400 per month which I’m sticking with for the rest of the year since this level of savings is new to me. We were spending on average $500 per month for 2 adults. Its crazy how much we are saving and we don’t feel deprived at all, we even eat steak once a week.  What made the biggest impact on our grocery bill was we stopped buying drinks (like soda, bottled juice or milk), we started cooking everything from scratch and that means that we don’t even have a frozen pizza in our freezer, we started aggressively tracking the price of meat and make our choice of grocery store for the week based on the sales.  I dabbled in couponing this month and I’m still tweaking my method to maximize my dollar saved and minimizing my time spent messing with coupons.  One thing I definitely need to address this month is a better filing system for the coupons.  They are kind of all over the place right now since I don’t like keeping extra stuff in my purse.

monthly grocery totals

It’s the start of a new month and I’m excited to do my monthly stock up shop. My freezer is getting a little bit low, so I’ll be buying a few things that I can cook in bulk and freeze for later. The goal is to have enough pre-made food in the freezer so that we only need to cook 3 nights each week and those nights will be quick food on the grill or tacos so a max of 30 minutes from prep to table.

I assume that for each adult in our household I need ¼ lb of meat for dinner so that’s 15 lbs of meat for the month. For lunch we do chicken salads so I need ¼ of chicken breast for each salad which is 2.5 lbs of chicken breast per week for the both of us, which is about 12 lbs of chicken breast or 10 chicken breasts. This meat could come from packages of boneless skinless breasts or from 5 chickens.

I have the following in the freezer:
– 9 dinners of chicken taquitos
– 10 dinners of meatballs

I plan to add this month to the freezer:
– 15 dinners of pulled pork

Monday 8/1 shopping list

Geissler’s
5lbs potatoes – $2.00
48 oz Turkey Hill Icecream – $1.00 (with coupon)
3lbs green beans – $2.07
2lbs zucchini – $1.98
2lbs yellow squash – $1.98
2 pts grape tomatoes – $3.00
2 loaves day-old bread – $3.50

Total: $20.40

Pricerite
8 cans of olives – $7.92
1 celery stalk – $1.49
6 dozen eggs – $5.94
1 lb bacon – $3.00
1 lb sweet potato – $0.99
4 sour cream 8oz – $6.00
1 tortillas 10 ct – $2.99
5 bags frozen veggies – $4.95
2 yogurt chobani 4 packs – $5.98
2x 6 oz pepperoni – $5.98
8 chicken breast – $15.25
12 lbs pork loin – $22.00
3 lbs sweet italian sausage – $6.00
5 lbs shredded cheddar – $10.99
2 cucumbers – $1.18
1 lbs tomatoes – $0.99
hershey syrup – $1.99 (gotta have it to go with the icecream)
4 bell peppers – $4.39

Total: $108.03

Super Stock up total: $128.43

This leaves me $271.57 to use on our weekly trips for salad fixings, fresh produce and super deals on meat.  We only have 2 ribeyes left in the freezer (oh the horror) so I’m hoping to find another great deal on those.  I got about 8 ribeye steaks at $5.99 per lb where normal price for ribeyes can be between $12-$16 per lb.  If I see them that cheap again I’ll be buying a lot more than 8 steaks!  So this is a pricey week for me, what are you buying at the grocery store?

August Meal Plan

Aug Meal Plan

My method of meal planning is a simple one.  We stock up on meat when it’s on sale and freeze the bulk of it.  Once a month I pull everything out of the freezer and take inventory and create a meal plan for the month based on what we have on hand.  I prefer this method to creating a plan and then buying the ingredients since it allows me to take advantage of deep discounts and save even more money than shopping around a recipe.  We know what kind of meats that we like and what tends to be inexpensive, so our meals are a rotation of favorite recipes with a couple experiments sprinkled in a few times a month.  I use a small magnetic white board to keep track of what is in the freezer and pantry.   I haven’t had chicken stock for the past month and it has really limited my sauce recipes.  I made some chicken stock this morning and froze 2 more bags of chicken bones for later use.  It stinks running out of ingredients but it also teaches us to plan a little bit better.Freezer and pantry inventory
Our freezer is getting a little bit low, so I filled some of the gaps with sausage that I bought yesterday.  I’ll be working a lot harder to stock up this month so we can utilize our freezer space.  Empty space in the freezer is an opportunity to cook something delicious so that we can have more time during the week to do the things that we want to do instead of spending time cooking dinner.  I was planning to buy a pork shoulder to make pulled pork but the selection at the supermarket wasn’t too appealing.  I’ll check next week or when I go to BJs, the price the beat for pork shoulder is $1.29 per lb which is what the discount grocery store near my house sells it for.

Aug Meal Plan

We mostly stick to our meal plan but there are times when I cook something in a big batch to freeze and its easier to also eat that for dinner.  I made a giant batch of meatballs last month and we ended it up eating them that night.  We also will flip around nights that we grill if the weather is looking bad on our normal Saturday steak night.  You don’t have to stick to a meal plan perfectly for it to save you time and money.  Being a little bit flexible helps us to stick to our meal planning long term.  All I ask is when changing the plan to allow at least one day so that the meat can thaw in the fridge instead of trying to microwave a brick of solid, raw meat into a workable product…the microwave is for heating food and not so much for defrosting raw meat.  I’m not a fan of the edges being cooked and the center being frozen.

I don’t plan out what we are having for our side dishes ahead of time.  Sides normally consist of a vegetable and a starch.

Vegetables:  Fresh veggies from that week at the grocery store or farmers market, frozen veggies if we need something quick

Starch: Rice, barley, potatoes or pasta

Here is what our meal plan looked like at the end of July.  We had about a week of vacation that helped us keep the food bill lower than normal.  We got take out once and ate dinner out one night during the month.  By sticking with the routine we are able to save a ton of money without compromising what we eat.  Not only does it save us money by meal planning but it saves us a ton of time during the week.  We both work full time, so we try to make as much time for family after we get home and before bed time.  Making it easy for yourself will help you stick with meal planning long term.

July Meal Plan 2

Scatter-brained and need more hours in the day

I’ve been all over the place lately.  I have so many projects and goals that it’s hard to keep up with myself.

What I really want to do is put on a cape and organize and clean my whole house, own my own bookkeeping/consulting business, earn my CMA, cook dinner every night all while spending time with my family for a couple hours every day.  I’m trying really hard to establish some good habits but the list is pretty overwhelming and I feel like it shouldn’t feel overwhelming.  I wish I could just take a couple weeks off from work and focus on all the things that I want to be doing.  While financially that’s an option, it is pretty hard to walk away from a job that I like with no other income stream to replace the paycheck.

Organizing – I’m on a mission to reorganize the areas of my house that are not functioning very well.  I’m starting with my kitchen which is likely the biggest project.  I find myself walking around in circles, collecting everything I need to chop veggies so this stuff needs to be located together.

Cleaning – I’m in maintenance mode right now.  Dishes and laundry are being done but I haven’t done a deep cleaning project in a couple weeks and I feel the pressure to fit one into the schedule.  I have a long list of things that I want to do in this area.

Becoming a business owner – I’ve been reading every self help book under the sun in this category.  I understand business and accounting, which is the field I want to work in for myself.  But I need to find clients!  This is proving to be the hardest part.  How do you find people willing to give you a shot?  I’ve tried mailing out flyers and advertising on craigslist.  I’m trying to do this around my 9-5 day job and I’m feeling a bit discouraged.

CMA certification – I’m a procrastinator.  I always have been and probably always will be.  I have 12 weeks before I sit for part 1 of the exam and while I don’t want to waste the $410 it costs to sit for the exam I’m having a hard time squeezing study time into my schedule.  I have 1 hour scheduled 3 times a week on my google calendar and I just need to stick to it.

Renovation – I set a deadline for my little renovation project of the end of August and it is fast approaching.  I feel like we haven’t made any progress in this area besides selling a few things from craigslist and Facebook from the yard sale pile.

And for the positives:  I’m loving how organized I’ve been keeping our food stuff.  Meal planning has given me so much time during the week.  I subscribed to our Sunday paper to get the coupons.  I’m reading a couple books about couponing and while it is very informative, I think I’ll just figure out my own method for shopping and not worry so much about trying to get my groceries for free.  I would love to spend more time on this, but if I can save $10-$50 by spending an hour messing with shopping lists and coupons then I’ll be happy.  I don’t want to have crazy stock piles of deodorant and toilet paper, I am a minimalist after all!  Next month I’m going to try to cut down my grocery trips even more.  There are a lot of things that I can buy a month’s worth at once and then just go to the store for the sales, fresh produce, and milk.  If you want to see my grocery list from last week you can find it here.  Being a minimalist isn’t just about having less stuff, but also about maximizing your efficiency.  Every time I go to the store it takes time away from something else.  Reclaiming some of that time is the goal, even if it means that I’ll have 6 cans of olives in my pantry to last us the month.  I’m a bit obsessed with my groceries, can you tell?

Lets take a minute to focus on what we have been doing well in our lives.  What are some accomplishments that you have made in the past few weeks?

6/12 – 6/18 Grocery List

We are going into the third week of the month.  There are some great deals on produce this week.  My daughter is seven months old today and is a lover of zucchini.  I blended up 2 whole zucchini for her and that gave me 10 servings.  I’ll try some yellow squash for her this week as well.  I’ll freeze the extra in ice cubes for later.  There is a great deal on lamb chops at Stop & Shop for $5.99 per lb which is a great price.  I’m not going to get any since our freezer is too full for any more meat and even though it’s a great price, we don’t really need to be eating expensive meat.  If you live in the Connecticut area feel free to copy my shopping list 🙂

We are visiting the in laws today and my MIL graciously offered me her coupons from the Sunday paper after I told her how excited I was that for the first time, I got a red plum ad in my local paper.  The baby decided to sleep in this beautiful Sunday morning so that gave me some much appreciated leisure time.  I flipped through the ads and clipped the coupons that I thought we might use.  This got me thinking about those extreme coupons get shows that I have watched on occasion and swore that those people are crazy.  Is couponing a slippery slope to over spending?  I’ve been out of dish soap for about a week, so I bought a bottle yesterday and also have it on my shopping list for this Saturday since I saw it in the grocery store ad.  BUT now I see a coupon for the same brand that is on sale but only if you buy two.  So do I stock up a little and have 3 bottles of dish soap under my kitchen sink in order to take advantage of the savings?  I would spend $3 instead of $2 but get twice as much.  It’s a no brainier right?  

Now I’m seriously considering getting a subscription to the Sunday paper just for the coupons but I feel like it would be such a waste.  My free local paper supplies us with enough paper to light the grill as often as we do already so the extra paper would just add to waste/recycling.  I’m trying to reduce the garbage that we’re creating so this action would run contrary to that.  On the other side, I found 2 coupons on items that I was already going to buy.  $3 off optifree contact solution and $1 off the dish soap.  That pays for the paper right?  On the other other side, couponing is a time commitment and I’m not sure that I’ll have an extra hour to flip through, clip, and match to sales each week like I did this morning.  It’s a lot to consider.  Here is my grocery list for the week:

6/12 Sunday – Geissler’s, driving distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip

Cherrios – $1.67
1 lbs Green Pepper – $.99
1 gallon milk – $2.49
1 lbs nectarines – $0.99
1 lbs tomatoes – $0.99
2 lbs yellow squash – $1.98
2 lbs zucchini – $1.98

Total = $11.09

6/12 Sunday – Shoprite, driving distance: stopping on the way home from in laws

40 oz optifree contact solution – $11.39 (with coupon)
24oz Palmolive dish soap – $3 (with coupon)
30 eggs – $1.77
Luigi’s Italian Ice – $0.88 (with coupon)
3 lbs onions – $0.99
10 oz A1 steak sauce – $2.88 

Total = 22.90

It’s amazing how small our grocery bill is when I’m not buying meat every week.  I’m used to spending at least $100 a week (we are in a pretty high cost of living area).  I can’t wait to get 6 months of grocery data to compare to how I used to grocery shop a year ago.  And yes, I do realize how nerdy I sound.  Happy Shopping!

Homemade Coffee Creamer

We all want to know what we are putting in our bodies.  I’ve been buying flavored coffee creamer for ages and recently ran out.  My grocery trip isn’t until later this week so I started researching how to make a homemade version of my coffee creamer.  Found that all of the recipes that were out there were some variation of milk, half and half, heavy cream and/or sweetened condensed milk.

I happened to have a can of sweetened condensed milk in my pantry from when I planned to make a pie last year for Thanksgiving.  I had my baby a bit earlier than planned so my cooking plans were detoured.  When I saw that I could use this in a recipe that wasn’t a pie I was pretty thrilled.  Any chance to use up a pantry fossil makes me happy.  I made this with what I had on hand.

Homemade Coffee Creamer

Ingredients:

1 part sweetened condensed milk
1 part heavy cream
1 part whole milk

Instructions:

Combine and mix well, I used my blender but you could put it in a container and shake it or stir.  Store in the fridge.

Coffee and homemade creamer

My morning is better with coffee!  I hope you all have a great day!

6/5 – 6/11 Grocery List

Grocery ads are here!  That means I get to plan out my weeks shopping trip.  I’m not much of a shopaholic but I do love a good bargain.  If live in Connecticut and you can follow along with my grocery shopping.  As a general rule I set the following price ceilings for meat:

Whole Chicken – $1.00 per lb
Ground Beef – $2.00 per lb
Ground Turkey/meat loaf mix – $2.00 per lb
Pork – $1.60 per lb
Steak – $7.00 per lb
Salmon – $5.00 per lb

I general these are the meats that I cook with.  I’ll occasional buy scallops for special occasions, and those tend to be pretty pricey at around $15 per lb.

My freezer is super stocked right now with meat both prepared and raw.  I’ll be mostly buying produce this week.

6/6 Monday – PriceRite, driving distance: 2.5 miles round trip

2 bags mixed greens for salads – $3.00
1 gallon milk – $2.79
8oz feta cheese – $1.79
Lipton tea bags – $2.99

Total: $11.57

6/10 Friday – Geissler’s, driving distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip

1 lbs peaches – $0.99
1 lbs plum tomatoes – $0.99
1 head iceberg lettuce – $0.99
1 watermellon – $2.99

Total: $5.96

Total for the week: $14.54

It’s going to be a cheap week.  My freezer and pantry are at a place where I feel comfortable waiting for sales.  It’s been 2 months since I started trying out this new meal prep and freezing of cooked foods for easy meal prep in the evening.  I think this is the month where the cost will finally start to average out.  In April and May I was still building my stock so my budgeted amount for groceries, while it was still $100 less than it was a year ago, was still pretty normal.  I’m hoping that I can get that number down a bit more, especially with the impending increase in our elect bill due to cooling costs.  Happy shopping!

Monthly Meal Plan for June 2016

It is the beginning of summer and the time for losing weight!  We are changing our eating habits a bit when it comes to how we are getting our calories.  In general we eat well balanced meals.  All of our dinners have a protein, vegetable and starch.  The ratio of those three foods could use some tweaking but that’s an easy fix.  The plan is to reduce the portion of meat and add some legumes to the plate so that we are getting more plant based protein.

The protein part of our dinners are planned out on the calendar ahead of time and the sides are composed of what ever veggies are on sale that week.  We have been eating a lot of corn thanks to the $0.20 ears from last week’s grocery trip.  I’ve also picked up some summer squash, asparagus, and zucchini this week.

For breakfasts we’ll be eating the following:
– Hummus and veggies
– Eggs and potatoes

Lunch for the both of us:
– Salads with chicken, chickpeas, a hardboiled egg and lots of veggies
– Leftovers from dinner
– Soup from the freezer

Baby food for this month we are going to introduce:
– Avacado
– Lentils
– Chicken
– White Potatoes
– Barley
– Oatmeal

Thanks to another sale on whole roaster chickens at $0.59 per lb, I have a super stock of chicken that I’ll be adding to the freezer. This helps a ton with the switch to salads for lunch since we use about half of a chicken breast per salad.

I learned a few things from May that I’m going to be incorporating into the June plan.  The one pound portions of meat will almost always yield left overs.  For some meals I’ll only be using half of the pound of meat in the recipe.  A couple of my go to meal items can use up left overs!  We have a new favorite pizza recipe and it involves pulled pork and BBQ sauce!  So that means we can have pulled pork for dinner and then a couple nights later we will make pizza with the leftovers.  We do the same with left over taco meat when we make nachos.  Have I told you how much I love nachos?  It’s definitely in my top five.  With these tweaks to the meal plan this should leave us less leftovers and allow me to eat the soup that’s in the freezer and possibly make more soup throughout the month.

I’m really excited to try some new recipes.  It really helped to establish a food schedule with our go to meals in order to get in a good routine.  But now I want to flex those culinary muscles and make a few new and exciting dishes.

Freezer:
70 taquitos
9 corndogs
3 potato and chicken soup
7 Rib eyes
2 ham
5 lbs shredded cheddar
8 kaiser rolls
4 lbs chopped chicken
1 lb ground beef
1 pulled pork
1 lb shredded mozzarella
1 cup peaches
4 cups chicken stock
1 black bean
1 rice
1 cup peppers
6 bags of frozen veggies

Pantry:
2 lbs black beans
2 lbs chickpeas
1 lbs split peas
1 lbs barley
5 lbs brown rice
4 boxes of pasta
3 containers of breadcrumbs
15 lbs potatoes

I didn’t list everything in my pantry, just the items that I want to work on using.  I have some super old pasta and we eat it so rarely.  I’m thinking of making some cold pasta salads with tuna, olives, and capers to use some of it up.  Here is my meal plan for June:

june

I need to think of some creative ways to serve chicken that incorporates the beans that we have.

5/29 – 6/4 Grocery List

It’s that time of the year!  The time I’m not to thrilled about.  My husband is going on a health kick, which means we’ll be changing the things that we eat.  In general it just means less cheese and junk food.  Needless to say, I won’t be buying soda any time soon which saves us about $20 a month.

I also went over my $400 grocery budget for the month.  I should have increased the budget this month since there are 5 weekends in the month and that is when I normally go grocery shopping.  Part of what killed the budget was stocking up on $6 per lb rib-eyes.  I bought 8 of them to the tune of $54 (the plan was to only spend $20 on these).  We love steak on the grill and eat it about once a week.  So these steaks should last us until the end of July.

6/3 Friday Aldi, driving distance: 15.5 miles roundtrip

Aldi

 

10 lbs ground beef – $18.90
2 pt blue berries – $3.38
1 pt mushrooms – $1.49
1 pt grape tomatoes – $0.99
3 lbs frozen salmon – $11.37
1 lb green pepper – $0.99

Total: $37.12

Chicken breast is on sale at 2 of the supermarkets near me for $1.69 and while that’s a great price I still have a healthy stock of chicken in the freezer from when whole roaster chickens were $0.49 per lb.  The meat yielded from a whole chicken is 70% of what would come from boneless chicken breasts.  So the price of chicken breasts would need to be $0.84 per lb to match the deal I got earlier this month.  I can normally find whole chickens for $0.99 per lb so that would mean that the price for boneless chicken breasts would have to drop down to $1.70 before it would be worth buying which it is!

Chicken math: http://posc.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2012/08/l-2290.pdf