How to plan a week of meals

It’s back-to-school time which means a busy season is about to start for many of us. Even though Nora isn’t in school yet, we live near a university so it seems like the whole city runs off of the school schedule. Everything is laid back in the summer then gets crazy come fall. Don’t let the busyness keep you from making healthy meals for your family. Whether you’re a newbie to meal planning or just need some fresh ideas, here are a few tips on how to plan a week of meals.

Use what you already have
No sense in spending more money if you’ve got plenty to work with in your home. I keep a list on my fridge upstairs that shows what we have in my beloved deep freezer in the basement. It’s nothing fancy and looks something like this:

3 packages- 1# ground beef
2 whole chickens
5 salmon burgers
2 mahi mahi filets
1# shrimp

When I take something out of the freezer, I update my list. This keeps me from buying more meat when I don’t need it and it also helps me come up with dinner ideas. I don’t keep a list of what’s in my fridge or pantry but I take a mental inventory when I’m reviewing my grocery list.

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Keep a running grocery list
I use the “notepad” app on my iPhone and add an item to it once we run out. This has become a helpful tip for me after learning the hard way. I wanted to make our favorite salmon dish and didn’t realize I was out of black bean garlic sauce until it was 5pm and I was about to make dinner! I add things to my list like yogurt, peanut butter, etc. when we’re close to running out as well. Can you imagine how awful it would be to run out of peanut butter?? Don’t let it happen to you.

Make a list of your favorite go-to meals
Sometimes we forget about those gems in our recipe box or Pinterest board. Again, the notepad app is great for keeping a list of favorite meals. I usually put them into categories of quick meals versus meals that take a little more prepwork. It can keep you from getting into a rut and making the same things week after week.

Write it down
I use an old calendar marker board from college that’s now hanging on our fridge. The only thing I actually write is the protein source for dinner and then I decide what veggies I want to serve with it the night I make the dish.This helps me plan ahead by knowing what I need to pull out of the freezer to thaw by the day I’m going to use it. This is what last week looked like for us:

Monday- Homemade meatloaf & sweet potato hash
Tuesday- My birthday! We went to one of our favorite local restaurants with my family. I ordered blackened swordfish topped with an avocado mango salsa. Instead of broccoli and couscous I asked for Brussels sprouts and a baked sweet potato.
Wednesday- Rotisserie chicken (leftovers in lunches) with sauteed zucchini & squash
Thursday- leftover chicken, a hard boiled egg, and oatmeal with blueberries, cinnamon, and nuts (odd combination but it worked!)
Friday- Wild salmon burgers (from Costco) and a big salad
Saturday- Veggie and egg scramble & sweet potato hash
Sunday- PFC salad with hardboiled eggs, chicken, kalamata olives, beets, walnuts, and my homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

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Get out your planner
Use your schedule for the week as a reference so you know when it would be best to make your easy go-to dishes versus dishes that take more prepwork. Mondays are like my catch up day when I get produce prepped for the week, boil a dozen eggs & peel them, and make anything else we need. Therefore, Monday dinners are usually an easy one because I’m prepped-out by dinner time. Last time I made a bunch of freezer meals with my neighbor I made a big batch of meatloaf to freeze. All I had to do was put it in a pan and leave it in the oven for an hour. No hard work on my part. Breakfast for dinner happens on a weekly basis because eggs are so cheap and easy to make. I also love having a crock pot recipe for days when I’ve got commitments and won’t be home because you don’t need to be home to “cook” dinner!

Make extra
Lastly, but very importantly, make extra when you cook dinner! Instead of making one rotisserie chicken, throw two in there (if you have room). You can use one for dinner and some leftover meals and then freeze the meat from the second chicken for a future meal. I’m always cooking for 6-8 even though it’s just Dave and I eating the meal because then it gives me enough for two dinners, leftovers for our lunches, and I can freeze the rest for another day. I always do this with taco meat, soup, or grilled chicken.

Start small
Meal planning doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Start with meals you already know how to make and gradually add in some new ones. I know how long it takes me to make one of our reoccurring meals from start to finish so that helps me plan better for the week. Adding a new recipe in might take longer than you think so maybe just add one new one a week to your rotation. A little planning ahead can pay off greatly as this busy season starts!

If you meal plan, what tips do you have to be efficient and budget-friendly?

Meal Baby Registry

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I’ve been wanting to share a wonderful resource with you but I guess this article kept getting put on the back-burner because Nora is 7 months old now! Oh well, people are always having babies so this article is obviously still relevant.

Let me tell you about Meal Baby! I’m not getting paid for saying any of this; my church sets up a registry for new moms so I reaped the benefits back in January when we had Nora. It was so nice not having to cook for an entire month. We received over 30 meals from friends and family, 20 of them were Wildtree meals from my friend Leslie.

Even though the meal registry is called Meal Baby you can create a registry for any occasion! A new face in the neighborhood, a family member recovering from surgery, a friend who had a loved one pass away, or just a friendly gesture for someone you want to bless with free meals.

It’s a breeze to set up- simply share any food likes or dislikes, pick a range of dates people can sign up to bring a meal, and email the registry to anyone you wish.

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The calendar makes it easy to navigate what days are open or taken.
Red= taken
Green= available
Blue= the date you signed up to bring a meal

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If you hover over a day highlighted in red you can see what other people are bringing so your friend doesn’t get lasagna 3 times in a week. I made my coconut chicken curry stew for a couple friends at church who recently had babies. Other meals I received besides the Wildtree meals were tacos from a yummy local Mexican restaurant, fajitas, chicken pot pie, goulash, and chicken stir fry.

I am so grateful for this resource and it made our transition as new parents a little easier and allowed us to spend more time with our new addition rather than grocery shopping and preparing meals (or ordering takeout!). I highly recommend sharing Meal Baby with friends or family who would benefit from a blessing like this.

Have you ever utilized a meal registry as a giver or recipient?

I completed the Whole30 challenge

whole30 challenge completeWe made it! Whole30 challenge is complete!
I’ve included a summary of the week along with what I made for meals and snacks. Be sure to check out the updates from previous weeks as well as the prepwork I did to make this a successful challenge.
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
If you want to see daily posts and more on Whole30 stuff you can check in on my Facebook page or take a gander at my Whole30 Pinterest board.

Week 5 wasn’t a full week since it only included days 27-30. However, you don’t just jump right back into eating whatever once Whole30 is over. You’re encouraged to introduce non-Whole30 foods back into your diet one at a time to see if you discover you’re actually intolerant to anything. We start with dairy for 2-3 days, then add in gluten-containing grains, then non-gluten-containing grains, then legumes like beans & peanuts.

Here’s a recap of the week:

What I ate: Week 5

Snacks
Hardboiled eggs, sweet potato muffins, veggies with sweet potato hummus, dates & pecans, or an odd combination like chicken, olives, and an orange.

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Breakfast
My beloved 3 eggs cooked in coconut oil with sauteed veggies. On multiple occasions I had double yolks! Crazy! I had a few mornings this week where I felt extra hungry so I ate a banana or plum with a handful of nuts about an hour later.

Lunch
Garbage stir fry and big ol’ PFC salads with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I roasted my own beets this time to add to salads. It’s really easy; just wash your beets, make a foil packet to keep the juices from staining your oven, and roast at 375 for an hour. The skins peel off easily by scraping the beet with a butter knife so you don’t have to worry about staining your hands. Fun lesson I learned from this- beets can make your pee a pinkish hue… don’t be alarmed.

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Dinner

Day 27
Grilled chicken with sweet potato hash and cherries. We drizzled leftover gravy from the rotisserie chicken I made during week 1 over the chicken and hash. It made a lot of extra gravy so I froze it for later use.

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Day 28
I ended up staying the night at my parents so I had to pass on my mom’s spicy cabbage and noodle dish and had fried eggs & spinach instead.

Day 29
Moroccan chicken with yellow squash, cabbage, and tomato slices

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Day 30
Taco night with our bible study. I also had some grapes and blueberries.

Grocery Budget
In short, we went over budget. I was hoping to spend $350 since that’s been our usual grocery budget but we ended up spending around $400. Here’s how it broke down:
Protein (meat, fish, eggs…) $185
Produce- $137
Dry goods (nuts, oil, spices, etc.) $74

That’s with buying grass fed/pastuered protein sources and getting veggies ridiculously cheap at the wholesale market I love. I don’t even want to know what our budget would have been if we had to buy produce at regular price. I don’t know if it’s because Dave’s back at his gym lifting and training for a half marathon in October and I’ve been doing PiYo and still am nursing Nora full time but we seriously eat SO MUCH. I was amazed to add up our groceries and see the actual amount that we bought this month.

41 pounds of meat/fish/chicken (comes out to 1/2 pound per person per day)
23 dozen eggs (!!! Comes out to 5 eggs per person per day)

Veggies:
6# carrots
3# fresh mixed greens
3# onions
1.5# acorn squash
11 cucumbers
7.5# broccoli
2 large cabbages
2 pints grape tomatoes
25# sweet potatoes
10 avocados
3# green beans
1# okra
6 bell peppers
5# frozen stir fry veggies
3# frozen spinach

Fruit:
4.5# peaches
15# bananas
1# apples
2 mangoes
5# cherries
4.5# plums
1 cantaloupe

How I feel
My skin has been the clearest it’s been in awhile and I didn’t have one breakout this past month. Dave mentioned he doesn’t have any crashes at work since he was having something more substantial than a PBJ for a mid-morning snack. My nails have been really soft lately and I attribute that to the lack of Calcium in the diet as I explained in week one. Even though I took a multivitamin every day to bridge the gap I think it still might not have been enough.

Measurements
I lost a half inch from my stomach. The rest of my measurements stayed the same (bicep, legs, waist, and chest). Mindfulness, not weight loss, was my goal with Whole30 but I’m sure the combination of eliminating added sugar from my diet, nursing Nora exclusively, and doing Piyo contributed to that half inch I lost.

Overall
Like I mentioned in the Whole30 prepwork post, I don’t encourage eliminating food groups unless you actually find you have an intolerance to something. This month was a great experience in terms of being mindful of how often I would take extra food without thinking, especially desserts. After eating out 4+ times and attending 5+ potlucks I’m actually glad we chose July to try Whole30 out. If you have questions about the challenge that I didn’t cover ask away in the comment section or on any of my social media pages.

 What good eats did you have this week?

Whole30 Week 4 Update

Whole 30 week 4 is complete! I’ve included a summary of the week along with what I made for meals and snacks. Be sure to check out the updates from previous weeks as well as the prepwork I did to make this a successful challenge.
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
If you want to see daily posts and more on Whole30 stuff you can check in on my Facebook pageI haven’t had one Whole30 recipe pinned on my Whole30 Pinterest board that I didn’t love so head over there for some ideas.

What I ate: Week 4

veggies

Snacks
Often snacks include hardboiled eggs, fruit, and nuts or veggies with sweet potato hummus. I think we’ve relied too much on nuts as a fat source (not that nuts are bad but they are more expensive compared to other fat sources) but I don’t go to the store frequently enough to keep up with avocados.

Breakfast
I saved the stems from our broccoli and shredded them in the food processor to fry up in our usual breakfast with eggs & other veggies. I hate wasting food when the stems are perfectly edible!

shredded broccoli

Lunch
Day 22
We went to a coney island to meet up with friends visiting from out of town and Dave and I ordered the Gyro scrambler that came with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and feta. Sadly, we skipped the feta since dairy isn’t allowed buuut it was cooked in butter, whoops.

Day 23
I was visiting my parents for the day so from their fridge I managed to throw together 2 fried eggs in avocado oil with a slice of ham (the ham contained dextrose…I want to say this was another oops but I decided not to care about a slice of ham), some big fat green olives and a few cherries.

Day 24
Grilled chicken in coconut oil, sauteed veggies, a hardboiled egg, blueberries, some mango, and cucumbers dipped in sweet potato hummus

Day 25
Egg salad made with 3 eggs, homemade mayo, dijon, cayenne pepper and homemade curry seasoning. I also had a plum and more veggies with sweet potato hummus.

egg salad

Day 26
Our church had a cookout and I ate THREE burgers without a bun, picked out some cucumbers and tomatoes from a pasta salad, and lots of fruit. Days like this make me both happy and sad that I’m doing the Whole30 challenge because I would have eaten one of each dessert. There were so many good desserts there- homemade chocolate cake, fudge-y brownies with walnuts, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Dinner

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Day 22
Damn fine chicken” was the name of the recipe. It was really good and I’d definitely keep it in my go-to recipe list. We enjoyed it with a baked sweet potato topped with sunbutter and sauteed spinach in ghee.

Day 23
Leftovers are a wonderful thing. We had green beans instead of spinach this time.

Day 24
Pan-fried salmon with sauteed green beans and cherries on the side. I drizzled olive oil on the salmon along with garlic powder and some capers.

Day 25
Leftover salmon with sauteed curried cabbage and cantaloupe.

Day 26
Taco meat over sauteed cabbage and green beans. Odd mix but it was delicious. I’m really enjoying our homemade taco seasoning.

Overall
This week went well but with only 4 days left I’m getting excited to start introducing foods we enjoy back into our diet like yogurt, cheese, and peanut butter. We plan to introduce dairy, grains, and peanut butter back into our diet on separate days to see if we learn that something doesn’t sit well with us.

I took my body measurements at the beginning of the month for my PiYo accountability group and will take them again at the end to see if there’s much difference. We’ve also talked about whether or not we feel any different since doing Whole30. After I recap our last few days I’ll share my measurement results, thoughts about the challenge, and a breakdown of our spending.

What do you think would be the hardest food to give up in the Whole30 challenge?
Dairy? Grains? PEANUT BUTTER? <– my answer.

What’s in my pantry

pantryI’d like to say I enjoy getting ideas from other people by seeing what’s in their pantry or fridge. I could also say I’m just nosy. Either way, it’s fun to see what people have stocked in their home. Let me preface the photos by saying they are from AFTER my first big grocery trip of the month when I stock up on all the meat and canned stuff we’ll use for the month. Produce varies week to week and yes… we usually have an unbelievable amount of eggs in our fridge. As the week goes by the fridge becomes empty and we rely on frozen veggies until I restock the fridge.

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Fridge
I cut up lots and lots of veggies to make packing lunches easier during the week. Besides the condiments on the door shelves you’ll usually find (when we’re not eating by Whole30 rules) full fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, some type of block cheese, more eggs than you’d ever imagine in a fridge for two people (both hardboiled and raw), leftovers, a big container of organic spring mix, meat from our deep freezer that I’m thawing for dinner, hummus, and lots of veggies from the wholesale market we love. That jar on the bottom shelf with the red lid- that’s black bean garlic sauce. If you’ve never tried it you need to go buy it and make our #1 favorite meal. The takeout container on the top shelf contains canned veggies like beets and artichokes; it makes throwing a salad together a quicker process.

Photo: Time seems to be our biggest obstacle when it comes to healthy eating...</p>
<p>Here's my secret to getting more veggies into my diet:</p>
<p> Cut up a bunch of them at once for easy access. It will make packing lunches easier and you can toss a few in with your eggs in the morning. I always keep frozen veggies on hand for when my fridge stash gets low.

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Pantry
Our pantry is stocked with homemade strawberry jelly, our favorite food- PEANUT BUTTER, trail mix, baking staples, broth, various types of canned tomatoes, unsweetened shredded coconut, garlic, olives, tea, sweet potatoes, onions, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, other canned veggies, and nuts. We don’t do snacks you might think of like chips, crackers, etc. Our snacks usually consist of fruit, cheese, nuts, yogurt, or veggies & hummus.

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Freezer
I’ve already covered this when I shared about our handy deep freezer so you can head over to that article if you want to see what’s in there.

What foods do you always keep your home?

 

Grocery cost infographic and a $200 giveaway

HEY! Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
There’s a $200 and a $50 prize!
If you already follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or subscribe to get my articles emailed to you for free, you’ve already got entry points!

How much would these 12 items cost in your grocery store?

1 pound of bananas
1 dozen eggs
1 pound spaghetti
1 gallon of milk
24 oz cheddar cheese
1 pound of ground beef
1 tube of Colgate toothpaste
1 four-pack of Charmin toilet paper
1 pound of butter
1 loaf of bread

Anne from Money Propeller pulled together the prices of these groceries from 12 different areas around North America to see who’s paying the most and least. I came in 2nd cheapest (urban Michigan) for the total bill of all 12 items! How do you compare?

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Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! There’s a $200 and a $50 prize!

Whole30 Week 3 Update

Whole30 week 3Whole 30 week 3 is complete! Here’s a recap of the week and I’ve included what I ate. Be sure to check out my Week 1 & Week 2 updates as well as the prepwork I did to make this a successful challenge. If you want to see daily posts and more on Whole30 stuff you can check in on my Facebook page.

I forgot to take pictures quite a few times this week because the meals were just so good! I haven’t had one Whole30 recipe I found on my Whole30 Pinterest board that I didn’t love so head over there if you want to drool over photos of the stuff I ate.

What we ate: Week 3

Snacks
Since added sugar is out I got creative with my snacks. Aside from veggies and Sweet potato hummus I have been loving frozen blueberries microwaved with half of a peach diced up then I top it off with cinnamon and walnuts. It’s a winner in my book. I made another batch of sweet potato bites and kept my big bowl of veggies stocked with carrots, cucumbers, jicama, bell peppers, and broccoli to go with homemade sweet potato hummus.

Breakfast
Breakfast is my favorite meal and as usual, eggs make their appearance on a daily basis with plenty of veggies. I’ve mainly been cooking with coconut oil since butter is out for Whoel30. Peaches are in season right now so occasionally I enjoyed a juicy peach.

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Lunch
Lunches usually involve leftovers but when there weren’t enough for both of us I’d make something like…
- Tuna salad made with homemade mayo
- Leftover taco meat from dinner with sauteed veggies.
- More big fat PFC salads with homemade balsamic vinaigrette
- Baked sweet potato with almond butter & hard boiled eggs with other veggies.

We ran out of almond butter halfway through the week so instead of driving to Costco just for almond butter I thought I could find it at our local grocery store. Wrong. I went to two grocery stores close to my home and all the almond butter they carried had processed oils added sugar. Read your labels, folks. I ended up getting sunbutter since the two ingredients were sunflower seeds and salt.

almond butter ingredient list

Dinners

Day 15
We attended a surprise birthday part for our friend Sush and since we didn’t know what spread would be there I brought some leftover Moroccan chicken from Monday night. I also brought deviled eggs made with our homemade mayo. There was a huge watermelon and a veggie tray to supplement our dinner but we had to pass on the birthday cake.

Day 16
Shrimp seasoned with a chipotle lime rub from Wildtree and some stir fry veggies. This was our dinner before another potluck and I’m glad we ate beforehand because all we could have at this one was asparagus and another batch of deviled eggs I made. We missed out on some good lookin’ pulled pork sandwiches.

Day 17
Mahi mahi seasoned with leftover olive oil dip from the Moroccan chicken. I also made some baked acorn squash and sauteed zucchini.

Day 18
A hodge podge consisting of ground beef seasoned with homemade taco seasoning, scrambled eggs, guacamole, and sauteed zucchini, broccoli, green beans, and bell peppers. I added some sunshine sauce to my veggies and ohhh my it’s my new favorite thing to do. It’s got a good zip and offers a nice change from salt & pepper although I’m perfectly happy with those two on my veggies. Again, veggies are sauteed in coconut oil.

veggies in sunshine sauce

Day 19|
Repeat of day 18. It’s easier to make extra of whatever recipe I choose so that I don’t have to cook a full meal two days in a row.

Day 20
I made 3 pounds of slow cooker kalua pig to share with Dave’s parents while they were in town for the day. OH MY WORD this was so good. **Important note: I only had to leave it in my slow cooker on low for 8 hours, not 16 like the recipe says. I stuck a meat thermometer in it before we left for church just to check on it and the meat simply fell apart. No fork shredding needed. I pulled the shoulder blade out with my fingers and not a lick of meat stayed on it. This was so good. Unfortunately I didn’t make it with bacon because it was impossible to find any bacon that didn’t have any added sugar. I sauteed a couple pounds of green beans to go with our baked sweet potatoes.

Day 21
Hodge podge scramble (we love these) of eggs, organic all beef hot dogs, a can of diced tomatoes, and frozen spinach.

Overall
This week was an “easy” week in my opinion. Dave and I are still looking forward to having peanut butter, yogurt, and ICE CREAM again but we haven’t snapped and feel like we need them lately. Instead of counting what day we are on we jokingly go by how many days left until we have ice cream. I like how Dave explained Whole30 when a friend asked what it involved. “Whole foods, you know, like whole donuts- not donut holes.”

On to week 4! We are almost through!

Random question: If you could only eat one food forever, what would it be?