1/13/2020 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgThis week is going to be another week with time spent doing fruit and veggie prep, in addition to our weekly meal planning sesh, which I did yesterday.

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.

Friday I picked up some fresh fruit and veg, which should get us through until next week.

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.

Meal Plan
This is our family “Command Center”- Family Calendar and Weekly meal Plan/Shopping list

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: Butter Chicken, steamed rice, and veggies
  • Tuesday: Frozen Entrees
  • Wednesday: Tuscan Soup
  • Thursday: Breakfast (probably pancakes or waffles served with poached eggs on top, fresh fruit and glasses of milk)
  • Friday:   Chef Salad  (It’s Date night, but we’ll probably have dinner at home before heading out to shenanigans)
  • Saturday: Home made pizza
  • Sunday:  Leftover fiesta!

 

Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?

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.

11/18/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

I didn’t make the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes I had hoped to make last week, but I am eyeing them for this week’s baking, in addition to chocolate chip cookies (always the kiddos favorite).

This week is starting off with a trip to the YMCA for yoga and some time at child watch. There is a lot going on over the next few weeks around here, so I’m trying to get us into a new routine with meal planning and getting more exercise for all of us.

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. Last week I did a lot of veggie prep and I’ve got a bunch of bags of veggies in the freezer for meals this week.

  • Monday: breakfast for dinner: Everything bagels with various toppings (options will include scrambled eggs with cheese, avocado slices, bacon crumbles, sliced sharp cheddar, cream cheese), and smoothies.
  • Tuesday: Leftover Kale and Butternut Squash Risotto from Dinnerly (It made a HUGE amount). This time I’ll be adding bacon crumbles and serving it with fresh rolls.
  • Wednesday:  Chicken fajitas with onions and peppers, rice, and refried beans (quesadillas as the main dish for my vegetarian kiddo)
  • Thursday:  Veggie Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Friday:  Date Night (Dinner out- Woo)
  • Saturday:  Pizza time (also salad will be served)
  • Sunday:   Leftovers, as per usual

I had someone ask me how we always have enough of anything for leftovers. I always cook enough of the main dish for 6-8 servings, that way we have leftovers for lunches later in the week or leftover night. And really when you make stuff like soup, it’s hard to make a batch of soup that only feeds 4 people.

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

10/21/19 Weekly Meal Plan!

stemarie_1650skitchen

This week is going to be busy with appointments and running around, so I’ll be leaning on stuff in our freezer. This week batch cooking will be saving our bacon!

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: Spaghetti or zoodles with Veggie Loaded Pasta Sauce 
  • Tuesday: Omelets with cheese, bacon, veggies. And Dave’s Killer Bread 
  • Wednesday: Chinese Chicken Salad, garlic bread
  • Thursday:  Taco Salad (Taco meat from the freezer)
  • Friday:   Date Night!
  • Saturday:  Breakfast for dinner: Smoothies and Bagels with cream cheese
  • Sunday:   Leftover night

 

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

10/17/19 National Pasta Day!

d885edea4dac6850a5f9bdde459b5c86.jpgDid you know that 10/17/19 is National Pasta Day?

I didn’t. There aren’t tons of freebies. Like… None.

Olive Garden has some sort of shenanigans going on via Twitter, but ain’t nobody got time for that. IF you sign up for their email club, you can get a free app or dessert.

For those of us who don’t have time to chase deals, and want to eat a bowl of plain ‘skettis at home, here are some yummy pasta recipes to try:

The kids have requested Mac and Cheese for dinner- so we’re celebrating!

Recipe: Not Your Average Taco Salad

IMG_7688_woventexture4.jpg

My Taco Salad is a little different than most, there is no big, greasy, deep-fried shell. Instead, I use tortilla chips as a garnish. This was one of the first recipes I concocted after we committed healthy eating about 10 years ago. It’s very filling and has tons of veggies.

There are all kinds of changes and modifications that can be made to accommodate any dietary concerns.

Not Your Average Taco Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground meat of your choice (Beef, chicken, turkey, or pork, or a mixture)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed (or you can use 1.5 cups of frozen corn)
  • 1/4 cup water (or however much the packet tells you to use)
  • 2 cups Tortilla chips (I like these flax seed Tortilla chips)
  • 2 cups (per person) Salad greens of your choice

With the following ingredients, use as much as you’d like, I prep 1/2 cup-1 cup per person:

  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped bell peppers (I usually use one red, one yellow, and one orange pepper for color/variety)
  • Shredded carrots
  • Cucumber slices
  • Avocado slices or guacamole, whichever you prefer
  • Shredded or crumbled cheese
  • Black Olive Slices
  • Jalapeno peppers Slices
  • Sour Cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • Salsa of your choice

Directions:

  1. Brown meat, set aside.
  2. Using any residual fat in the pan, and adding olive oil, cook onions until clear and soft.
  3. Add meat back to pan, mix in taco seasoning and water. Cook as directed on the taco seasoning packet.
  4. Add in both cans of beans and corn, cook until heated throughout.
  5. To plate, on a dinner plate or a big bowl- arrange 2 cups greens, top with 1/4-1/2 cup meat/bean mixture, top with other veggies and 1/2 cup chips and cheese and a dollop of sour cream/sour cream.
  6. If you NEED dressing, mix a little sour cream or plain Greek Yogurt with salsa or hot sauce and top your salad.

For a vegetarian taco salad- use soy/veggie crumbles instead of meat.

Stockpile Cooking: Yummy Strudel Pumpkin Muffins

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 7.35.48 PM.pngAs part of my “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” mantra, I’m trying to bake more out of the cupboard. It helps us use up what we’ve got on-hand, and it’s also a lot healthier than buying store-bought muffins.

While I was digging in the very back of the cupboard, I found

These muffins were amazing. The recipes makes 1 mini muffin pan (24 mini muffins), or regular sized muffins.

 

Low Fat Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use whole wheat flour, or a 1 for 1 gluten-free flour blend if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (You could also use almond meal if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 can canned pumpkin puree (approx. 30-ish ounces)
  • 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 oz. container of fat-free Greek vanilla yogurt (or use 3oz. of fat-free plain Greek yogurt and 1 T. vanilla extract)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk (whatever kind you like)

DSC00551.jpgStrudel topping

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup Flour (you can also use whole wheat flour, or a 1 for 1 gluten-free flour blend if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger

Directions:

Muffins-

  1. Mix dry ingredients together, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the wet ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth and combined.
  3. Add dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredient mixture and mix until smooth and combined.
  4. Pour batter into greased muffin tins (or use cupcake liners).

Strudel-

  1. Mix all strudel ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Option one: Spoon about a tablespoon of the strudel onto the uncooked muffins right before putting to the oven.
  3. Option two: Fill the muffin tins halfway with muffin batter, drop in the strudel mix, and top with more muffin batter to make strudel surprise muffins.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

 

 

 

Quick, Tasty Recipe: Berries Romanoff

Berries 2.jpgI was thinking of a way to use the berries we have on hand, and this recipe came to mind!

My friend Ana brought Berries Romanoff over for dessert the last time we had a potluck, and it’s now become a staple in our house. This is a variation on the original recipe, which calls for orange zest and Grand Marnier liqueur. This version is much more kid-friendly.

This is a quick, easy dessert that even kids love.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Cups berries- Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, mulberries, and pitted halved cherries are all good choices.
  • 1 cup  thawed Cool Whip (or make whipped cream from scratch if you feel motivated)
  • 1/2 cup  Sour Cream
  • 1 T. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. orange zest

Directions:

  1. Divide the berries into 6 dessert bowls, set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
  3. Spoon mixture over the top of the berries and serve.

The mixture keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days, but once you taste it, you won’t be able to stop eating it.  It’s really good.

 

Family Recipe: Alaskan Meatloaf

9493c68faa7d508ef5310a5eeecb33ad.jpg

This is my great-grandmother’s recipe. I’m not sure why it’s called Alaska meatloaf. My mom made it a lot when we were kids. It’s quick, easy, and everyone likes it!

Alaska Meatloaf
Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground beef (you can use ground turkey is you prefer)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 cups cooked rice (I like basmati)
  • 1 jar chili sauce (the stuff that’s like cocktail sauce)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ground meat, egg, tomato sauce, seasoning and bread crumbs.
  3. Pat into a greased 9″ pie plate, making a meat pie “crust”.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, mix cooked rice, chili sauce, and half the cheese.
  6. Heap onto the meatloaf crust and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  7. Continue to bake until the meatloaf is done and the cheese is melted about 15-20  minutes.

Serve with a green salad or steamed veggies.

 

One Dish Option: You can add 1-2 cups of chopped veggies to the rice mixture. We like carrots, celery, bell peppers, etc.

Family Recipe: Easy Chicken Parm Meatloaf!

046I found a cache of yummy, frugal family recipes, so I’ll be posting them over the next few weeks.

Most of these were formulated by my relatives to feed a hungry, hard-working family with kids. Everyone in my family is frugal, so these recipes won’t contain any expensive or strange ingredients in small quantities- There is nothing worse than trying a new recipe only to find you only need 2 Tablespoons of an ingredient that you’ve never used before, or worse yet, only comes in a HUGE container/package.

I will try to include the sides that we’ve traditionally served with the main dish to round out the meal.

Chicken Parm Meatloaf (serves 6)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned)
  • 1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh white mushrooms, stems removed, cleaned and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 t. Salt and pepper (each)
  • 1/2 c. Your favorite red pasta sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a loaf pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, except for pasta sauce.  Mix well until all ingredients are well combined and mixture resembles a meaty paste (about 3-5 minutes of mixing)
  4. Pour into a greased loaf pan, shape into a tidy loaf.
  5. Pour pasta sauce over the top of the loaf.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until meat is cooked through. If you are using a meat thermometer, it should read 165 Degrees. I use this one.

I serve this dish with a green salad and Riced Caulifower with Italian Cheese.