What we ate: June 2015

what we ate in JuneI started a new tradition at Budget for Health by sharing recipes I made and loved each month. This has been a fun post to write and it’s been a form of accountability because I want to lead by example when it comes to meal planning that is easy, budget friendly, and healthy. Be sure to check out what we ate in prior months.

Meals at home:
hello fresh meals

Hello Fresh
We tried Blue Apron last month and wanted to compare it with Hello Fresh. Using a friend’s referral, we got to try our first box for free! I have to say that the meals from both companies were delicious but I liked the Hello Fresh selections a little better, especially the Tempura Fish Tacos with Avocado Crema & Cabbage-Radish Slaw. Dave and I agreed that they were the best fish tacos we’ve had.

The other two meals were Bloody Mary Chicken with pancetta, pickled onion, & tomato-horseradish vinaigrette and Lebanese beef skewers with herby quinoa tabbouleh.

If you want to sign up to try Hello Fresh, use my referral code (7X7WG5) to get $40 off your first box. That’s 3 meals (6 total since there are two servings per meal) for only $20!
various meals we ate in June

Photo above:
1. Salmon burgers with roasted brussels sprouts and corn
2. A monster salad with hardboiled egg, ham, walnuts, avocado, kalamata olives, organic greens, broccoli slaw, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
3. Grilled sirloin steak from our beef share with mixed veggies cooked in butter and avocado

barbacoaBarbacoa
If you haven’t tried barbacoa, start with this recipe. It was really easy to make in the crockpot and the meat just fell apart when I pressed down with one fork; no shredded needed!

Burrito bowl & Breakfast
These don’t need much explanation since they show up every month in my “What we ate” series. We love eggs, veggies, avocado, sweet potato hash or homemade hash browns. Burrito bowls are just some ground beef with homemade taco seasoning and your usual taco fixins.

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Meals away from home:

BBQ and kayaking
High school friends came to visit and we took them kayaking and then to a favorite BBQ joint downtown. I got a reuben sandwich and sweet potato fries. They have an amazing homemade cookie ice cream sandwich but we showed some self-control and passed.

Local fundraiser
We supported a local food rescue organization and attended an event that was sponsored by many local restaurants. We had all sorts of great food

Homemade pizza
I brought my mom’s homemade pizza crust recipe and we build our own pizza with friends.

Mexican with family
Dave and I tried this restaurant for our anniversary and loved it so we brought my parents and sister so they could check it out. My mom insisted that we come back to this place again because our meal was so good! Nora was just gifted her own Elmo from my family so he joined us for dinner.

Nora and my sister

Indian food
Our friend wanted us to try out an Indian restaurant down the street that he really liked. My meal of braised goat with vegetables and a curry sauce was hearty and flavorful. It reminded me of beef stew but with Indian spices instead of bay leaves and thyme like I usually throw in mine.

Sushi
Our local grocery store has a sushi deal on Wednesdays so I picked up some for dinner and surprised Dave. We enjoyed it at a picnic table while Nora played on the playground area. I miss the raw stuff but I was a compliant pregnant woman and got shrimp instead.

Anniversary trip
I got a wood-fired personal pizza for our lunch. It was a thin crust pizza with fish, roasted corn and red peppers, avocado, and a cilantro aioli sauce drizzled on top. We got a burger from Culver’s for dinner and shared a small fry. The next morning we went to a Southwestern breakfast joint multiple friends told us to check out. My meal was homemade cornbread with a poached egg with chorizo and homemade hollandaise sauce on top and a tiny side of fruit. We packed sandwiches for lunch on the beach and I enjoyed shredded beef tacos for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

We spent a day with Dave’s family before and after our anniversary trip. The first day we grilled burgers. I made my burger like a salad so I could enjoy an extra fruit kabob instead of a bun. Our final day with family was Dave’s 28th birthday. We made our favorite salmon dish and grilled brats. The sides were broccoli salad, fruit, and a heavenly piece of Dave’s birthday dessert: brownies topped with a chocolate gnoche frosting and crushed Oreo’s… with a scoop of ice cream, of course.

What great eats have you enjoyed lately?

Salad ideas that are delicious AND balanced

salad ideasI usually share dinners in my “What We Ate” series since breakfast and lunch are usually the same thing with slight variations. Eggs and veggies cooked in butter or coconut oil for breakfast, and our usual lunch. I didn’t start packing what I call our “monster salads” until last summer when we tried out Whole 30. It was one habit that stuck from that season and I’m thankful for it.

I’m a creature of habit and have been using the same salad dressing most of the time. You really can’t go wrong with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It’s so easy to make and literally takes one minute to put together. The toppings we usually have go really well with it but I did take a week off when we were in a cobb salad kick with homemade bleu cheese dressing. Another topping we love and I got my neighbor hooked on is roasted butternut squash. If you haven’t tried it on a salad yet, get on that.

As for toppings, I make sure the salad’s got protein, fat and carbs (I usually refer to this combination as PFC. The protein, fat, and carbs we use vary week to week but in the photo below this is how it breaks down:

monster saladProtein: Eggs & tuna
Fat: olives, balsamic dressing (on the bottom so it doesn’t make the salad soggy), the homemade mayo mixed with the tuna, and avocado. I put half of an avocado in our salads and leave it in the skin on until it’s time to eat lunch in order to prevent browning.
Carbs: greens, bell peppers, beets, bok choy

Below are a bunch of photos I’ve taken of different salad’s we’ve had. Add them to your go-to list of salad ideas. Can you identify the protein, fat, and carbs in each one?

salad varieties IMG_0364 What is your favorite salad combination?

My typical grocery list

my typical grocery listI’m not ashamed to say I’m a creature of habit when it comes to eating. Most of the time we have the same foods in our home and occasionally change things up. It makes meal planning easier when I have a list of go-to meals I know how to make by memory and I know how long it takes to make them.

I think it would be fun to browse through people’s pantry/freezer/fridge to see what they have. I’d like to say it’s because I want to get more ideas but really I’m just nosy. I shared with you what’s in our fridge, pantry and freezer so this grocery list shouldn’t be a surprise. I use the notepad app in my phone to keep a running list of groceries and I add to it as soon as I notice we’re running low. This has saved me from making an extra trip to the store because I forgot to add something to the list.

It seems like most people prefer to make a grocery list according to where items are in the store but I like to list things I need by protein, fat, and carbs since it’s how I plan our meals. Some items are on the grocery list weekly like salad greens, avocados, and more perishable items. Pantry staples make an appearance once a month or so since I get a better deal by buying bulk. If everything was low in my home that I regularly use, this is what my grocery list would look like:

Protein:
Beef (we split a beef share with friends)
Frozen cooked shrimp
Canned tuna
Canned chicken
Eggs
Full-fat Greek yogurt
Salmon burgers
Protein powder
Whole organic chicken

Fat:
Avocados
Olives
Nuts
Peanut butter (note: ingredients = peanuts & salt)
Feta
String cheese
Butter
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Coconut cream
Full-fat traditional yogurt

Carbs:
Bananas
Sweet potatoes
Canned beets
Carrots, broccoli, celery, & cauliflower for dipping in hummus
Hummus
Salad greens
Brussels sprouts for roasting
Cabbage
fruit in season (this summer: blueberries, peaches, apricots, plums…)
Oatmeal
Raisins
Frozen veggies
Ezekiel bread & wraps

How do you set up your grocery list?

What we ate: May 2015

I started a new tradition at Budget for Health by sharing recipes I made and loved each month. This has been a fun post to write and it’s been a form of accountability because I want to lead by example when it comes to meal planning that is easy, budget friendly, and healthy. Be sure to check out what we ate in prior months.

www.budgetforhealth.com-2

Meals at home:

Veggie Corn Chowder
This is an easy meal to make so I always make 2 or 3 batches so we an enjoy it for dinner and freeze the other batches for a busy night.

Darn good chicken
This meal we discovered from doing Whole30 last year is pretty darn good and pretty darn easy to make.

Split Pea Soup
We had a leftover ham bone in our fridge so this made an appearance during one of our cooler May days.

Breakfast
Without a doubt, breakfast always shows up multiple times on our monthly menu. We change it up between homemade pancakes and homemade hash browns to go with our eggs and veggies.

Mexican Lasagna
Dave loves this stuff. It’s an easy dish so make an extra batch and freeze it for a quick meal on a busy night.

paleo pad thaiPaleo Pad Thai
Another Whole30 recipe. The sunshine sauce in this meal is soo good.

Garbage Stir Fry
Yet another Whole30-approved recipe. Try it if you like curry. I’m so glad I don’t get gas from eating copious amounts of cabbage. Too much?

Blue Apron Meals
I got a promo code from Andrea Dekker to try 3 Blue Apron meals. The promo code was good for the first 50 people to sign up so it might still be available if you are interested in checking it out. I’ve heard of Blue Apron before and pictures of meals posted by a few friends who tried it out but I never cared to spend $10/meal when I could make one for far less. The promo code brought the meals down to $6/meal (per person) which made it worth trying. Dave and I eat a LOT so I was skeptical of the meal size when I pulled everything out of the refrigerated box that was delivered to our door but they ended up being perfect portions. Here’s what we tried:

blue apron meals1. Curry-spiced chicken thighs topped with a cucumber-yogurt sauce and served with a side of snap peas and roasted fingerling potatoes.
2. Seared salmon with sorrel salad & creamed barley
3. Stir-fried rice noodles with peanut sauce, gai lan, and snow peas

I wasn’t sure how I’d like the curried chicken; not because I don’t like curry but because I usually don’t care for cucumber-yogurt toppings. However, I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these meals and would have them all again. It was fun to try something new and use ingredients I never use (or even heard of… gai lan?? It’s the Chinese version of kale, in case you raised an eyebrow like I did when I first read the recipe).

Meals away from home:

Anniversary dinner
We ate this meal so fast it didn’t even cross my mind to get a picture! For our wedding rehearsal dinner we ordered ribs from a local restaurant known for award-winning ribs. To celebrate 5 years of marriage, we picked up take-out ribs from the same restaurant along with roasted red skin potatoes, veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers) marinated in Garlic Expressions, and cantaloupe for dessert.

Mexican x 2
We tried two Mexican restaurants in our area for the first time. Both did not disappoint. I got a torta with a fried egg and chorizo at one place. Dave and I split a huge serving of marinated-steak fajitas at the second location and demolished the crispy, thin tortilla chips that were brought out before the meal.

Surprise birthday party
I knew this spread would be good because our birthday-friend loves red meat. We enjoyed plenty of steak alongside some asparagus, kale salad, fresh fruit, guac and chips.

Family visit
We spent a weekend with Dave’s family this month. We ordered pizza one night and Dave and I made a huge salad to go with it. The next night Dave’s mom made some delicious chicken soup. Our Sunday lunch before heading back home was burgers, homemade sweet potato fries, and salad.

What dishes were your favorite last month?

Easy whole chicken in a crock pot

Crockpot Rotisserie ChickenThis rotisserie chicken has made a regular appearance in our monthly “What We Ate” series. I can’t believe I it took me until a year ago before I started making my own rotisserie chicken in the crockpot. It’s silly how easy and effortless it is to do!

The recipe is from 100 Days of Real Foodl. I don’t like keeping cookbooks around because I only end up using 1 or 2 recipes but I’ve kept this cookbook in my kitchen and refer to it for a handful of our go-to recipes.

Easy whole chicken in a crock pot

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup poultry seasoning
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large chicken

Instructions

  1. Cut onion in slices and arrange them to cover the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over, inside and out.
  3. Place chicken (breast side down) on top of onions.
  4. Cook for 3.5 hours on high (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone.
http://www.budgetforhealth.com/easy-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/

You can make the poultry seasoning from the original crockpot chicken recipe or this recipe is one I frequently use from Peace, Love, and Low Carb. It depends on the flavor you want on your chicken. Also, note that not all crockpots heat equally. Mine runs hot, even on the low setting, so keep an eye on your chicken and take note of how long it takes for YOUR crockpot. It only took 3.5 hours to fully cook a 4-4.5lb chicken in my crockpot but the original recipe says 4-5 hours.

We usually have some of the chicken as part of our dinner and I often shred or chop the rest and freeze it for days when I need a quick meal thrown together. If you want ideas for how to use the chicken, browse your way through my “What we Ate” series or try some of these recipes:

Chicken Curry Stew
Mexican Lasagna
BBQ chicken pizza
Chicken Stir Fry

What are your favorite go-to crockpot meals? 

How I pack lunch for my family

We pack our lunches every day during the week. Even though I’m a stay-at-home mom, packing a lunch helps me avoid snacking and I eat more balanced meals when my lunch is already prepared. Here are the 3 basic steps I use to pack lunch for my family:

meal prep

Step 0: Pre-prep
Yes, pre-prep is technically a step but this work is already done when it comes time to make our lunches. I hardboiled & peel a dozen or more eggs, drain a can of beets, and chop enough fresh veggies for the week.

Step 1: Get EVERYTHING out
This helps me avoid opening the fridge 72 times while I’m packing lunches. Everything I need from the freezer, fridge, and pantry comes out at once. All the tupperware and lids I’ll need comes out at once as well as utensils (like spoons for scooping out hummus & yogurt, a can opener if we’re having tuna). This will take a few tries to get down but for the most part we pack the same thing every night and vary the ingredients from week to week so it’s easy to know what size tupperware I’ll need and how much.

Step 2: Streamline
I line up the tupperware for yogurt and in goes the plain, full fat yogurt with a little frozen fruit (blood oranges in the pic above), cinnamon, and nuts. Nora gets a mix of coconut cream, full fat yogurt, cinnamon, a little almond milk and oats, and usually fruit (canned pumpkin in the photo above). While I’m scooping oats for Nora’s bowl I add some to a bowl with raisins and PB for Dave’s second breakfast (yes, we eat a lot). Hummus and veggies are dished out and that leaves our monster salad. You can read about the variety of toppings we use here.

Protein: Eggs & tuna
Fat: olives, balsamic dressing (on the bottom so it doesn’t make the salad soggy), the mayo mixed with the tuna, and avocado. I put half of an avocado in our salads and leave it in the skin until it’s time to eat lunch in order to prevent browning.
Carbs: greens, bell peppers, beets, bok choy

Step 3: Put things back where you found it
When I put items away, they go back to the same location every time. This saves me time that would be wasted the following night as I browse our fridge shelf for mayo or dig through the freezer for the frozen fruit.

What tips have helped make packing lunches easier?

2015 goals update: half way point

2015 goals check in
June is almost here! I made a few goals in the finance, fitness, and blog area so it’s time to check in and see how I’m doing. How am I supposed to know how well I’m doing if I don’t make sure I’m on track for reaching my goals, right?

Goal #1: Finance
Pay an extra $12,000 toward our mortgage principal
We are over 1/2 way on this goal! Thanks to Dave’s annual raise, a bonus, extra income from my part time position with my church, and a hefty tax return from having a child. We get a “bonus” two months during year that end up being a 3-paycheck month so between that extra income and whatever else I bring in I am confident we will reach this goal. If we continue making a few extra payments on our mortgage each year we will be on track to have our home paid off in less than 10 years.

Goal #2: Fitness
Plan workouts one month ahead of time
This goal has changed a little since as of May I rejoined a gym (learn my reasons why here). I LOVE being back at the gym and Nora seems to really enjoy the childcare service they provide. I don’t plan specific workouts anymore but my current routine usually looks something like this:

Mondays: Teach PiYo
Tuesdays: Weights (legs/core)
Wednesdays: Yoga (group class)
Thursdays: Swimming or weights (upper body)
Fridays: TRX training (group class)
Saturdays: Boot camp (group class)
Sundays: Random, usually more weight training of some sort

Goal #3: Home
Read through the Bible in one year
I’m on track so far! Weekends tend to throw me off but I haven’t been more than 2-3 days behind before I catch up. Dave and I are using this resource that goes through the Bible in chronological order.

Goal #4: Blog
1-2 articles per week
I’ve been sticking around the 1 per week quota. I don’t make money off of my blog so I don’t feel pressure to put out a ton of articles that aren’t that great just to meet a quota. I hope to continue writing articles that are practical and helpful, even if it’s only one a week. Many of you have voiced how helpful it is to get a glimpse into my life when it comes to meal planning, budgeting, and working out (especially with a child running around). Thank you for your feedback, it fuels my excitement and desire to keep writing!

How are you doing on your 2015 goals? It’s not too late to make some if you haven’t already!