Friday, April 17, 2015

Menu Planning - Shopping

Before I jump into my shopping strategy,  I want to talk {well write} a bit about our specific meal plan.

We eat a whole foods diet. What that means is we {well, let's get real..I make all the meals} make all our meals from scratch. 

We eat mostly vegetables,  fruits, and meats. Most of the sauces we use I also make from scratch...I mean, have you ever tried homemade salad dressing or ketchup?? Seriously...give 'em a try, and you will not go back. In fact, you can check out the ketchup recipe here.

The last several months B-Real has been seeing a Homeopathic doctor, who has changed up his diet several times. He has suffered with headaches and migraines for the last 5 to 6 years, and after years of getting no where with conventional medicine...we sought out something different.  He has only has 2 headaches since starting these new changes 2 months ago...he was getting 4 to 5 headaches or migraines a week before. So tell me again why healthy whole foods aren't considered medicines??? But I digress...

We have mostly cut dairy out of our diet, and years ago we had cut out "bad carbs" {refined sugars, breads, rice, white potatoes,  etc}. I still eat whole grains such as quinoa, oats, and some low carb bread occasionally. My diet mostly consists of vegetables and fruits. I have had digestive issues my entire life, and have a difficult time digesting meat. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE eating meat...but my body doesn't.  I seem to be able to handle chicken, venison,  turkey, and fish/shellfish. 75% of my day to day food intake is salad.

With these diets, it means that convenience or boxed meals are out.  This doesn't  mean that our meals are not easy. I prep vegetables for salad or fresh eating a couple different days a week. Our other meal vegetables are steamed or baked. I like to make large batches of cooked vegetables, as this saves me valuable time later when prepping meals.


So...on to the Shopping portion!

I am a prolific note taker, and an OBSESSIVE list I survive grocery shopping by making several lists. 

First, I have my monthly meal plan laid out in from of me, and I make a list of all items that I will need to complete those meals.  I then check my inventory sheets {yeah, I am hard core, yo!} so I am not repeatedly purchasing the same things over & over again.  

Next I go through each stores online ad, or check my perks {I use mPerks through Meijer's mainly, and occasionally use Kroger if I need to go there} for additional discounts.  I see nothing wrong with coupons, if you can use them for the things you buy...have at it folks.  I personally don't spend the time to do couponing.  To each their own. 

For each weekly ad, I write down the prices of items advertised that I know I will be shopping for that trip.  

I like to keep our food costs as low as possible, and since the majority of our grocery purchases are fresh vegetables & fruits...I want to get the best produce for the best price.  

When I am going to go grocery shopping, I make sure that I have my lists.  I could probably put them on my phone...but I get so much satisfaction from crossing something off with a pen.  

I start by going to Aldi's, and purchase as much as I can from my list there.  Aldi's has quite a few organic items {almost as much as bigger stores}, lots of produce, and the prices are much cheaper.  Just remember to take your reusable grocery bags...and a quarter to "rent" a cart.  Don't worry {for all you Aldi newbs} get the quarter back when you hook it back up in the corral.  :)   

Keep in mind that with Aldi's, they are getting the lowest prices on items.  With the canned items, that is fine, but you need to be selective when it comes to the produce.  I have found that with our store, it is best to go on early or mid week...always avoid Sundays {the produce has usually maxed out it's freshness}, and the first of the month.  On a good day, I can get 90% of our groceries at Aldi's...but there will always be a couple items that I just can't find there.  One being natural peanut butter...Oh how I wish they would start carrying Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter.  

Next, I stop off either at Kroger or Meijer, and pick up the rest of our goods.  Krogers carries more of the natural food products {Kombucha, brown rice powder, organic canned coconut milk} that we use; while Meijer has lots of great produce, and some of the organic packaged snacks that Squishy likes.  

I understand stores vary by region, but these are the shops we frequent.  

Next week I will post showing the price differences for one meal from various local stores.  I like to keep my eye on prices when I shop, even if I am not purchasing something that trip, it is nice to have an idea of price comparison. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Meal Planning - Our Month at a Glance

Welcome to a glimpse into our Monthly Meal Plan! 

I understand how hectic life can be, especially when you add a child or more into the mix. Hours pass quickly, weekends are too short, and there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.  

I started Meal Planning several years ago {long before we had Squish}, to help stream line our lives. We were moving towards a more whole foods derived diet, and meal planning was my way to reign in the extremely high cost of groceries. In America today, it is much cheaper {and easier} to purchase boxed meals, and whole foods can be quite pricey. You can feed your family home cooked {HEALTHY} meals, and stay on a tight grocery budget...without losing your sanity. 


So...I'm about to stand up on my really tall soap box for a few minutes here...STOP EATING JUNK! Your health {and the health of your family} depends on it. No more excuses, get out of here with those! Healthy meals take time, and effort...but they are worth it. Your family will be healthier, because the nutritious whole foods you are feeding them will boost their immune system {making them less susceptible to the yucky germs spreading around}, their bodies will be functioning at a more optimal level, and they will just generally FEEL better. Think of nutritious WHOLE foods as medicine. The better the food, the less you will need to rely on expensive healthcare, that is manufactured in a lab. 

NO MORE EXCUSES! I have worked full time outside of the home, while taking care of an infant {while Jeff was unable to help because of a bad dirt bike accident...we have the life flight bill to prove it thanks!}, doing all of the housework/grocery shopping/cooking meals, and running my own business on the side. So, I get it...I REALLY do. Life is hectic, messy, and unpredictable.  Eating healthy homemade meals is really a lot easier than you think...if you just plan it out. 

Stepping off my soap box now...


Okay, so Meal Planning is how I accomplish a home cooked meal {almost} every night. I also have an Overview for the Meal Planning, and more posts will be added for each step of the Meal Planning Process. 

You can see the example of one of our monthly meal plans below. I even factor in leftovers. You can find great blank calendars here.

I will be going back to our other blank month pages. While these are pretty...the spaces are TINY! No room for my gigantic handwriting! 

I have a whole binder devoted to Meal Planning. 

I have the monthly Menu, favorite printed out recipes, and lists of recipes to try. 

Once I have the month planned out, I can then figure out what ingredients I will need. I can then check that against our current Inventory sheets. 

I am an organizational freak! :)  

I typically shop for two weeks at a time. To do this, you need to take into consideration how quickly perishable items will spoil...and plan accordingly. The day before I go grocery shopping, I make sure that I have my list written out, and have checked my different stores websites for sale ads, and perks or coupons that can be added to my store loyalty cards. I don't use coupons, unless I have come across one that would work for something that we actually use. I do not go out of my way to collect coupons, and find that in general, I would probably end up paying the same ore more for an item trying to use a coupon. {I obviously haven't figured out the fantastic world of coupons}  

There is NOTHING wrong with going grocery shopping once a week. I just prefer {especially during the winter} to not venture out too much into stores. This increases the risk of exposing Squish to outside yucks, and until recently B-Reals immune system has been a mess. He would always be sick, then Squish would get it...and then I am stuck taking care of two sick babies. Typically I take Squishy to my in-laws {excellent reason to have a fun day with Grandma and Paw Paw}, and I power shop on my own. This gives me a chance to freely move about, take my time to read the labels on any thing that requires it, and not have to take a squirmy toddler into a store where she will be bored. Trying to keep her entertained, and effectively shop do not mix. I end up forgetting things on my list, and have to make unnecessary {and sometimes pricey} trips back to the store. 

I also shop at several different stores, to make sure I am getting everything on my list, as well as getting the best price for things. I will break everything down on my shopping trips on the next post. :)  

Meal Planning - An Overview

Hello Darlin'...nice to see's been a loooonnnggg tiiiimmmeee. Okay, okay, so there is a little Conway Twitty running through my head right now. 

It seems rather fitting though considering it has been ions since I have actually posted anything. This seems to be the pattern, but such is life. 

One of my "New Years Resolutions" is to actually blog, not just randomly show up every 6 months or so. My word of the year is ACCOMPLISH. So if I am going to actually do the blog, I have to give it my all...or it will have to go. that I have dumped all that out, let's get on to the meat & potatoes shall we??!?!


Meal Planning

I will be doing several different posts about Meal Planning, going through the specific steps of the process to really explain it all. I love meal planning. I know several of my family members think I am insane, however, I function better when the majority of my life is organized. I am a prolific list maker, and get a little panicky when things are not organized {you should have seen how crazy I was for the several months that our basement pantry was in upheaval while we gutted it}. I blame this on genetics...mostly my Moms side {my Dad is not a planner/organizer}. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below, and I will do my best to answer them. 

What is Meal Planning?  

Well, plan your meals. ha! I know, I know...thanks for stating the obvious! Meal planning is a great way to not only save money on your grocery bill for the house, but also save some sanity. We all have super busy lives {whether you stay at home with the kids, or work outside of the home, single, married, or with an entire house full of people}, and meal planning is one way to stream line things. 

How does one get started?

Meal planning takes some time up front to make it work, and once you find your is fairly smooth sailing. However, you will need to spend some substantial time planning in the beginning. This is where it can feel a bit overwhelming, but once you get all your ducks in a row it will be much easier to organize. 

How far in advance do I plan? 

Meal planning can be as little as one week in advance, to as far as one month {or more}. If you are new to meal planning, I would recommend trying one week at a time to get started, and then gradually increase by weeks once you find a routine that works for you. I personally do one month at a time for meal planning. I find that I can lay out all our meals on paper, then add in some new recipes, and space out what we are eating {I don't like eating the same thing over and over}. 

How often do I shop? 

Currently I am shopping for 2 weeks at a time, and add in extras for further weeks ahead if I find something non perishable on sale. 

Do I need to coupon? 

Nope. I am not putting down the coupon craze what so ever...I just don't have the patience for all that, plus most of the coupons that I see in the paper are not items that we use. I would be wasting money each week buying a Sunday paper, just to recycle the majority of the coupons. So...if you LIKE to coupon, and it works for away ladies. My meal planning "system" is set up so that I take advantage of the stores around me {Kroger, Meijer, and Aldi are the stores that I frequent}, and I only use store coupons or discounts...or if I stumble upon a coupon I will use it. Please feel free to incorporate your coupon system into the meal planning system. 

Do I need to follow your meal plan? 

Nope. We have a rather specific menu...well, several specific menus that pertain to our diets in the house. B-Real is on a specific diet that is changed up every month or so by his Homeopathic doctor to pinpoint the cause of his migraines {I will be posting more on that journey sometime this spring}. I have a more plant based diet due to my digestive issues, and Squish...well, she's a Toddler. If some of the meals look intriguing to you, please ask and I will point you in the right direction for recipes. 

What are the required materials?

Paper, pen...anything after that is up to how organized you are. I have a menu binder which houses all our favorite printed out recipes, our monthly meal plan, and lists of new recipes that I want to try. I also have laminated inventory lists that I use with dry erase markers to mark off what we have in our pantry, fridge, and freezers. I find that having lists of exactly what we have in the house make it much easier when making the grocery list. When I plan out our meals, then I know exactly what is going in to each recipe, and can make sure I have all of the ingredients to make each item. 


Steps of Meal Planning

  1. Make lists of meals your family eats, and recipes that you would like to try.
  2. Write out your meals for a week {use a blank calendar print out found here}.
  3. Figure out what ingredients you need for each meal.
  4. Take inventory of food items in your home.
  5. Make grocery list.
  6. Grocery shop.
  7. Make meals.