It’s finally happened! I finally got my butt in gear and made a meal plan/shopping list for the week and have the conviction to stick with it!
I thought I’d share here because I always here about people planning their meals for the week, easy meals that everyone will eat, but I never really get to see what exactly that entails! So I’m sharing with you as well as documenting the next few weeks for myself. It’s all about accountability!
Okay so we’re on a tight budget but when I’m pregnant I can hardly think about food other than I need it and never want to cook it. It was a lot worse last time with the twins, just standing at the counter to chop and cook was exhausting, although this time I have those same twins (18 months later) to deal with attacking my legs and whining at me. But it was getting ridiculous and after a weekend of eating out friday dinner, saturday lunch, sunday morning and sunday night I knew it was beyond time!
Step 1: Go through recipe books and rediscover things I like to cook and my diabetic husband, lactose intolerant son, and 18 month-old without molars (7 teeth and waiting), AND pregnant self can all eat. Mama doesn’t like having to make multiple meals!
I really enjoy this step of meal planning. I haven’t had time/motivation to do it in a long time but I have about 30 cookbooks plus a plethora of healthy eating magazines (my mother in law has gotten me a subscription for the last few Christmases). So, during naptime on Sunday Christian and I started perusing. He used his Droid to browse online and I went through the books… I’m old school, I like to TOUCH my information still!
We came up with a long list of possible recipes. Things that were easy and healthy and cheap (well that’s what I did, Chris got distracted and kept finding either sugar doused recipes or ones that were full of things I have never had in my pantry–aka not cheap). Once we had our list together we went through and decided what we could make this week. Some of that decision was based on what I knew we had in the downstairs freezer and some was based on what I thought would be good for my still-kinda-sick kids and the rest just on what was easy for mama at this juncture.
Step 1.1: Organize current recipes that have been shoved into a binder and write down some of the things I just make without a recipe to remind me they exist and/or to allow someone else to make them once in a while!
This was a fun step. I cleaned out half the crap that was cluttering my binder and organized the remaining recipes by category. I have in the past and plan to continue photocopying the best recipes that I will want to make again and again and place them in this binder. Kind of a “Mia’s favorites” of recipes. Much simpler than searching in tons of books for “that recipe I made that time that we all liked so much…”.
Step 2: Grocery List
This was a fun step in theory. We created a grocery list for all the things we’d need for the week of recipes. It was pretty long but also (I thought) pretty simple. None of our recipes were crazy and a couple of them overlapped in ingredients. The problem is that I’ve been trying to use up everything because stuff has been getting wasted A LOT over the last few weeks so we were down to the bare bones in our fridge, freezer and pantry! That made the end of Step 3 kinda painful.
Step 3: Grocery Shopping
I grocery shop at three different stores: Sam’s Club (bulk items), Aldi (basic items I can’t get in bulk), Stop ‘n’ Shop (specialty items or produce they dont’ have at the other 2 stores). So, Sunday after naps we decided to hit Sam’s Club with all the kids to shop (hence our eating out Sunday night–not an excuse just an explanation!). My “simple” grocery list cost us 200 bucks and we hadn’t even gotten to the other 2 stores!!!
Let me clarify this a little. I bought things like 3 different kinds of milk (whole for the girls, 1% for Chris, and Silk for Punkin and I), 3 dozen eggs, a giant pack of chicken, a GIANT pork loin (both for under 2$/lb), a giant box of diapers and another of wipes. The eggs and milk will probably last us less than 2 weeks (we’re coloring a lot of the eggs, Easter is this coming weekend) but the meats will last for about 6 meals (and that includes some leftovers for lunches too). The meat plus the diapers really adds up fast!!! (FYI we use cloth all day normally but the girls have had “gross poops” for over a week now that I decided I really didn’t want to handle in cloth. MAN they use a lot of diapers!)
Anyway, with our first shopping trip complete we came home just in time for Punkin to not eat the dinner we bought him and then puke. Fun fun! So I still had to shop at Aldi and Stop ‘n’ Shop to complete the shopping list. Ya, it’s Tuesday afternoon and motherhood has, again, gotten in the way! The girls had their 18 month appointment yesterday which took our entire morning and they got shots which meant that Pinky was cranky last night (and through the night–I didn’t sleep much after 3am) and then they BOTH had fevers today. Throw in another Punkin puke-fest last night and it all adds up to us not going anywhere today. But I couldn’t let that stop me from cooking after we’d spent so much money so I checked the list of meals:
1) Roasted whole chicken (in my downstairs freezer) with roasted carrots, potatoes, squash and onions with a cucumber/tomato salad (Chris doesn’t much like the roasted veggies and I’m trying to be more helpful in his diabetic diet… plus I LOVE cucumber/tomato salad!!!). This was going to give us leftover chicken for chicken salads. Items missing: potatoes, onions, squash and a thawed chicken.
2) Meat and mushroom tourtiere (with carrots and squash mixed in for good measure) and a plain old lettuce based salad. I know no one but us French-Canadians know what a tortiere is but when I say meat pie people get even more confused but that’s what it is (and it’s delicious!). Ground meat in a pie crust, kinda like the Canadian version of an empanadas. I have a recipe for a vegetarian tortiere but Christian is fond of meat so I’m morphing the 2 recipes for a healthier version of the meat pie. Items missing: ground meat, squash (which would have been already cooked from the meal before!) **Veggie recipe HERE for my veggie sisters 🙂
3) BBQ pulled pork with cole slaw. Yum! We got 10lbs of pork loin and I’m currently cooking round 2 in the slow cooker. Last night I could barely sleep because I woke up a couple of times to my tummy grumbling because the smell had permeated our house! I cook this with 1 jar of BBQ sauce, a lot of water (enough to cover the loin) and Soda Stream diet root beer concentrate. It’s made with Splenda so no aspartame or sugar! Pulled pork is super high in sugar, not good for my meat loving diabetic husband so this is how we cut back. I took out the first batch and left the “juices” for the 2nd batch. We may add up to 1 more bottle of BBQ sauce but still–spread over 10lbs of meat that ain’t bad! Items missing: cabbage and onion for cole slaw.
3) Stuffed Peppers–Veggie and Sausage. I’ve never made this one but I plan combo of a regular and vegetarian recipe again and bonus in the crock pot! That’s what really sold me because I’ve made stuffed peppers but I could never get the meat fully cooked (or always worried I hadn’t) and it was just a pain. I love the hands-off cooking the slow cooker gives me. Items missing: sausage
4) Enchilada chicken with pinto beans and a corn and pepper roast. I did actually plan on making this into enchiladas but because I was missing no ingredients (well, the onions were all bad so I had to settle for onion flavoring) but because I ended up making this meal Monday when I had a house full of sick kiddos I just didn’t have time for that step! The pinto beans (cooked on the stove top in water and seasonings) turned out delicious and I can reuse the leftovers in a wrap or even toss into spaghetti sauce or my tortiere. Missing items: only onions for the corn/pepper roast but I managed without them.
5) Stir Fry with tofu and chicken (probably some of the leftover from the roaster and definitely part of the cabbage–a whole cabbage makes too much coleslaw for us!). I only add the chicken in for Christian. Punkin calls tofu “meat” which is awesome! I’ve discovered my problems with tofu in the past (crumbles and flavorless) are from user error. I didn’t realize you had to SERIOUSLY press the tofu and marinating ahead of time (even 20 minutes) inundates the tofu with delicious flavor. This recipe actually was a possibility for next week depending on the leftover situation. I reserve the right to substitute any meal with tuna or pb/j if the day has been too much to handle! Oh, and I forgot to say I use a pre-made frozen veggie mix and sauce for my stir fry. I get them at Sam’s and they make 2-4 meals (though there are only 2 sauce packets, I usually add my own stuff to the sauce anyway!).
6) Spaghetti and mushroom sauce. This is actually what I whipped up on Monday for lunch (cause I’d forgotten we had no leftovers yet and I didn’t want ot deal with the pb/j mess the girls make. Super fast, sautéed the last good onion a handful of mushrooms (I bought a ton for the tortiere) tossed in some frozen spinach and a can of diced tomatoes and some spices and VOILA! Oh, I also tossed in the half-used jar of pre-made sauce I had in the fridge along with the half-a-can of pumpkin puree I had left over from pumpkin pancakes the week before–no sense in wasting AND I made more room in the fridge.
Great plans, right? if only I could get to the 2 remaining stores I may actually salvage this week of plans. At least I have them written down for another time. It also remains to be seen whether the planning helps us stay in buget. I usually have a 150$/week budget (including cleaning supplies, toilet paper, diapers ect) though I honestly couldn’t tell you what I’ve been averaging lately. Probably close until you add in all the take-out/eat-in we’ve been doing and then food that gets wasted and thrown away. Oh, so far the enchilada meal gave Christian 2 full lunches… but he forgot to take one today so he is having to buy his lunch (again).
Small steps… small steps… we’ll get there…
**If you would like any of the recipes I’ve mentioned I’d be happy to share, I just don’t have the time (there are 2 small people “coloring” under the table as I write and I just had to go assist in a puking–the fun really never stops!). I’m working on linking them as the week goes on.