12/30/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

It’s the last meal plan for 2019! I’ve got lots of good stuff planned recipe-wise this week. I’m doing my best to use up a lot of the stuff we’ve got in the freezer and pantry.

I’ve got a bunch of bananas that are REEEEALLLY ripe, they will be turned into banana bread today.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday:  Pork Chili, and cornbread
  • Tuesday:  NYE and I’m not sure what we’re doing, but I’ll have fresh veggies, fruit, hummus, and other snackies.
  • Wednesday:  Chef Salad (greens, hardboiled eggs, cheese, peppers, carrots, celery, snap peas)
  • Thursday: Quinoa Veggie Bowls
  • Friday:    Date Night (I think we’re going out)
  • Saturday:  Pizza & Fruit Salad
  • Sunday:  Breakfast for dinner (savory waffles with poached eggs)

snacks.jpgOne of the kid’s recent favorite lunches is “Plate of Snacks”. I use the sectioned plastic plates (like old school cafeteria trays), and fill each section with a snack from the corresponding food group. This tray has goldfish crackers in the protein section (the 4-year-old insisted because there was fish on the section).

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

My Favorite Pantry Staples!

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I’ve used the term “Pantry Staples” a lot recently, and some of you may not know what that means.

Pantry staples are food items that most people have in their cupboards all the time. They are commonly known as “ingredients”.

Here are the 25 pantry staples that we always have on hand, and below them, you will find links to recipes containing these staples.

I’ve linked to these items on Amazon, which is where I buy a lot of our pantry staples, especially if there is no local deal. I do surveys and research studies to earn Amazon Gift Cards that I use to purchase items.

My Amazon List of Hewes Family Pantry Staples

  1. All-Purpose Flour
  2. Rolled Oats
  3. Baking Powder
  4. Baking Soda
  5. Kosher Salt
  6. Baking Cocoa Powder
  7. Crisco Shortening
  8. Coconut Oil
  9. Grapeseed Oil
  10. Chocolate Chips
  11. White Sugar
  12. Brown Sugar
  13. Powdered Buttermilk
  14. Jasmine Rice and/or Brown Rice
  15. Canned Tomatoes
  16. Tomato Sauce
  17. Tomato Paste
  18. Canned Black Beans
  19. Canned Chickpeas
  20. Canned Kidney Beans
  21. Broth (a mix of Veggie and Chicken)
  22. Noodles/Pasta/Macaroni (Usually one package of each)
  23. Tuna Pouches
  24. Peanut Butter (Or other seed/nut butter)
  25. Vinegar (Usually a couple different types)

 

Recipes using Pantry Staples:

Recipe: Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Made with Olive Oil)

Tasty Chewy Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies!

Family Recipe: Cocoa Brownies

Recipe: Not Your Average Taco Salad

Family Recipe: Chicken Tetrazzini

New Recipe: Shakshuka

Recipe: Colonial Chowder

Tips to Reign In An Out Of Control Family Budget: Let’s Start in the Kitchen!

707538835876fc5c438018d57701bc2f.jpgUntil the end of the year, I’ll be posting some articles with realistic tips and methods to save money and reign in spending. None of these are going to the same old “Clip coupons, grow your own garden, etc.” that’s all over the internet- and honestly, here in Southern California, the old, standby advice isn’t going to help you. Grow a garden to save money? Water is so expensive here!

Clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales/circulars will save you a fraction of the amount that it used to. In years past, I was saving 60-80% with coupons and store sales. Now, I’m lucky to save 50%.  With all of the restrictions on coupons (example: limit one like coupon per day- LAME), stockpiling to save money isn’t always possible without a lot of work/trips to different stores (and that’s not saving time). We’re moving past that, and delving into other ways to save money and take advantage of opportunities that are out there.

Today we are going to start with my pet project: Saving in the kitchen! If you feel like you’re spending too much money on food and groceries, here are my recommendations for getting the grocery spending under control:

  1. Go through your refrigerator/freezer and pantry. Make a note of the food that you have on hand. I like using the kitchen inventories here. This will also give you an opportunity to clean out food from the kitchen that has expired or that you won’t eat. Unexpired food that you won’t eat, can be donated to a local charity.
  2. Now that you have a handle on what you have in your kitchen, take a look at the list and come up with some recipes or meals that can be created with what you have on hand. You’d be surprised by how many meals you have in your kitchen! Make a list of the meals that you can make with what you have. And plan on having one or two of those per week. This will help keep grocery spending down. Make a list of meals that you can make but require one or two ingredients (like fresh vegetables), and add those ingredients to your next few shopping lists. By relying on what you already have in your home, you will be keeping your out of pocket down.
  3. Before you head to the store, take a look at the sale flyer which is available online, and see what is on sale. Plan meals around food that is in season and on sale. Continue to use coupons, but don’t go out of your way to subscribe to multiple newspapers per week to get a hold of lots of the same coupons.  Don’t forget rebate apps! Use of these apps gets us $10-$20/month cashback, sometimes double that, depending on what bonus offers are available- Fetch Rewards and Ibotta often have Bonus offers.
  4. Track your spending over a few weeks to see how much you are spending, and what you are buying. If you still find that you’re spending a lot of money on food, I would try shopping at a different store. I find that even with club card sales, and rebate apps like Fetch Rewards, some grocery stores (like Vons) are just too expensive to do my weekly shopping. I love starting my shopping at $.99 only. I am able to get a lot of snacks, name-brand treats, and fresh fruits and veggies there, and I am still able to stay on budget. Another fun place where I save money is Grocery Outlet. They have great prices on cheese, fruit juice, coffee, and frozen meat. They also have an interesting selection that changes weekly: snack food, protein bars/cookies, and cereal. If you are in the military, a military family, or a veteran, consider shopping at the commissary. Here is my article about saving money at the commissary. 
  5. Consider cooking more from scratch. It is healthier, and pantry stables are generally pretty cheap (the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies runs about $3.00 and yields 4-5 dozen cookies, while a package of chocolate chip cookies from the grocery store is about $4.00+ and is usually 3 dozen or so).  I buy fruits and veggies whole and break them down and pack them into serving size bags. You can learn more about that and Batch Cooking here.

If you are still having a hard time keeping your grocery budget in check, or if you are finding that the ends don’t meet, consider the San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program. No documentation is needed to receive food assistance from a
Neighborhood Distribution site where people can receive fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, based on availability. Families are encouraged to bring reusable bags or
a cart with them to carry the food items.

There are programs out there to help those struggling to feed their families here in San Diego County. Here is my list of San Diego County Food Resources.

I work very hard to keep my family on a budget, I work very hard to make sure that we are saving money and taking advantage of as many deals and opportunities that present themself. I know that this is not something that everyone wants to do or something that everyone can do. There are so many programs and discounts out there available for various groups of individuals.

Tomorrow, we’re tackling saving money on the entertainment budget.

12/16/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

I spent Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday feeling sick, so the last few days of our meal plan went out the window. Saturday I dragged myself into the kitchen and made chicken vegetable soup in the hopes it would make me feel better.

This week we’ll be eating a lot of soup- We’ve got 3 different kinds in the freezer, and it’s been getting cold here at night. I’m also going to try a few new recipes, if they work, i’ll post them on the blog later this week.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the freezer, as I’ve been portioning out 2-3 adult-sized entree portions from several meals a week and freezing them for later meals.

  • Monday: Leftover Chicken and veggie soup with hot croissants
  • Tuesday: Baked Potatoes with assorted toppings (we’ve got leftover BBQ pork, broccoli with cheese, bacon bits, cheese, caramelized onions).
  • Wednesday:  Soup & Grilled cheese sandwiches- and a big green salad!
  • Thursday:   Smoothies and bagels (or toast)- This is pretty popular at our house.
  • Friday:  Pecan crusted salmon, roasted veggies (carrots, potatoes, onions, celery), brown rice (we didn’t make it last week)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:  Leftover fiesta!

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

11/4/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

The littlest kiddo and I went grocery shopping on Friday, and man did we stock up! I went over budget by about $10 again this week, but we picked up some pantry staples that we had run out of. They will last at least a month, so I’m not too concerned.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian (well, the big kid is, but the rest of us aren’t), but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. I did a little meal prep over the weekend, chopped and bagged veggies soups and chili, and made cookies for the kids.

  • Monday: Breakfast for dinner: Egg scramble with bacon, cheese, and veggies, hot cocoa
  • Tuesday: Leftover chicken tetrazzini, I made a huge batch last week.
  • Wednesday: Vegetable ravioli soup (recipe this week)
  • Thursday:  Taco-dillas (Quesadillas made with taco fixings), beans & rice
  • Friday: Vegetarian chili (I made a double batch last week and frozen part of it).
  • Saturday: I’ve got two events on Saturday, so I’m going to grab pizzas on the way home.
  • Sunday:   Leftover-palooza.

 

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

10/14/19 Weekly Meal Plan

stemarie_1650skitchen

I won a $25 Grocery Outlet Gift card on Friday, so I used it to pick up some snacks and goodies for school lunches this week. Thanks to my frugal buddy Brooke from Crying Out Loud, we’ll be eating a lot of eggs this week (3 dozen eggs- woo hoo!). We hit up the Harvest Festival over the weekend, and we picked up some seasoning kits from Whatcha’ Got Cookin’ that we’ll be using this week.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done, so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked. I did a lot of prep for the coming week over the weekend. I cut up the produce, bagged it for meals, made up some smoothie kits, and cut up cantaloupe to have this week. Thanks to some frugal shopping over the weekend, I’ve only spent half the grocery budget for the week. I will probably use it all.

  • Monday: Happy Meals on the way home from weekly group autism therapy for the kids. Grilled Cheese and Chicken and Rice Soup for the grown-ups. Soup is in the freezer from a previous batch.
  • Tuesday:  Fritatta with so many eggs (and veggies too)
  • Wednesday: Welcome Home Chicken in the crock pot (with seasoning kit from Whatcha got Cookin)
  • Thursday:  We’ve got respite, so it’ll be something early and light, probably what I like to call a “meal of snacks”- it’s all kind of different things on a cafeteria tray.  Previous Meal of Snacks include: Chicken Nuggets, goldfish crackers, cut up fruit, hardboiled eggs, glasses of milk, and cookies.
  • Friday:   Date Night!
  • Saturday:  Pizza Night
  • Sunday:   Leftover night

 

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?

9/23/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

I’m trying to use up a lot of what we have on-hand before I do any shopping for the week. We are running low on milk and veggies, so I’ll hit up Grocery Outlet (I have a $5/$20+ coupon), and Sprouts today after the gym.

I’ve got two melons (watermelon and cantaloupe), so we’ll be having melon a lot this week.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done, so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

You may notice a lot of plant-based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Coffee with heavy cream for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or soups for me and Bitty. The big kid takes his lunch to school, but once in a while, I can convince him to buy his lunch.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot (I am picking up my new crockpot this week) in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

  • Monday: Chicken and rice soup (from scratch), grilled cheese sandwiches, melon slices
  • Tuesday: homemade breakfast sandwiches ( Bagels with sunny side up eggs, cheese, and sausage patties), Melon slices
  • Wednesday: Vegetarian Chili, melon slices
  • Thursday: Pizza Night
  • Friday: Homemade Pasta sauce, zucchini “noodles” (We didn’t end up having it last week
  • Saturday: Leftover night
  • Sunday:  Pasta Free Lasagna, and you guessed it- Melon (if there is any left)

 

Talk Back: What are you planning to cook this week?