Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive

I am investing in my family's health.

Let me explain.

When I was teaching, I had the honor of filling in for a friend of mine in her AP Human Geography class. The focal point of my curriculum was food: where it comes from, how we get it, what we are actually eating. I had maybe thought about these things once or twice in the Taco Bell drive-thru or when I saw a sign for a farmer's market, but I never really paid much attention to "food" until teaching this class. Most of the information proved environmental benefits to eating vegetables, and a few videos showed the treatment of the animals who were grown for slaughter. My interest was piqued, but not because of the animals or the wetlands, but because of the whispered mention of, "Oh, and this is good for your health too."

As many of you know, my family has been on a journey to health. Last year, my husband and I each lost 30 lbs. but we were well aware that losing weight or getting skinny wasn't the end game. The end game was to get healthy. We wanted to be eating nutritious meals, feeding our daughter nutritious meals. We wanted to have energy to run after her and free ourselves from the NEED for caffeine to jump start our morning routine.

I won't get into all the gory details here of what we did to lose weight, but I wanted to share with you a typical meal plan. I've had lots of questions on this in the past. Even when we weren't eating healthy, I was still meal planning. I just included a lot more processed foods in the mix.


Side note. See the Transformers lunch box? Every couple days I change out the snacks in there. String cheese. Sliced apples. Grapes. Carrots. This is Mazer's box. When she's feeling snacky between meals, I get out the box and let her choose what she wants to eat, and since it's already prepped and stored in this box, I never have to think on my feet and her snacks are QUICK.

On the weekend, we sit down to do our budget, pay bills, all that happy stuff, and at the same time I make our meal plan. I start by evaluating the food we have left over from the prior week that needs to be eaten. Then, I plan meals including those ingredients so there is little waste. This week, I had a lot of squash left over. It's squash season here in Arizona so I am using squash in lots of meals. "In season" means cheap and fresh, just what I'm looking for! Pinterest has been my best friend on planning days. While I have a large collection of tried-and-true recipes filed away in sheet protectors in tabbed notebooks (yup, I'm THAT girl) it's always nice to try something new.

Here is this week's meal plan along with links to the recipies:

Monday: Spaghetti Squash Boats I made my own sauce without meat and bought a hunk of mozz from the specialty cheese section of the grocery store. This is absolutely delicious.
Tuesday: Zucchini Parmesan Why not? Since I'll have left over sauce and cheese from Monday night's meal? We don't mind a little duplicity in our lives. BTDubs, this is delicious.
Wednesday: Pan Fried Eggplant with Honey and Thyme I had some fresh thyme sitting in the fridge from a friend and a couple eggplants that needed to be made this week.
Thursday: Slow Cooker Leek and Potato Soup I got leeks and potatoes in my Bountiful Basket this week. Never tried this, but it looks good!

Friday we will be going out for dinner, so I didn't plan a meal and on the weekends, we usually munch and grocery shop so we can prepare for the next week. You may have noticed there are no meat dishes. That's because we eat vegetarian at home. It's a long, drawn out story about cancer and heart disease and how we eat exponentially more meat in America than we ever have in the past. If you're really all that interested in hearing my food philosophy, let me know and I will do a post.

My yummy pull from Bountiful Baskets.

Noticed that weird thing called "Bountiful Baskets"? It's a co-op where people pool their money to buy locally grown, fresh food. This week's basket included leeks, potatoes, broccoli, blood oranges, bananas, a pineapple, navel oranges, grapefruit, spinach, apples, and carrots (I even got a purple one!). I paid $15 for the basket. You can't beat that! This is a national program. Go to the website to learn more and see if there is a pick-up site near you.

This week's visit to the supermarket was a little higher than usual. Well, actually, it was twice as high as usual, but here's why: I had to buy basics this time round. You all know what I'm talking about. Peanut butter. Honey. Cans of tomato paste. Broth. The kind of things you buy in bulk and last you a month or more. I bought a bunch of that stuff, but still, my grocery bill was $120.50 sans coupons. Yup, you did the math correctly. That means my normal grocery bill is about $60.


I would like to point out here that this is not just for dinners. I bought supplies to make salads for lunches, celery, apples, peanut butter, and nuts for snacks, various produce (that I didn't already have) for smoothies, and even supplies to make a couple desserts.

If you are interested in those, this week's desserts are drink desserts. We chose Banana Oatmeal Smoothies and Homemade Mocha Coconut Iced Coffee.

This week was also the week I bought our milk and yogurt (which will last us two weeks) and the week I bought Clara's toddler snacks (string cheese, Goldfish, organic fruit snacks, pureed fruit pouches, and a few jars of baby food for those emergency moments). Next week, I won't need as much since I'm already stocked up.

We follow Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University advice and use cash for just about everything we buy. I budget $300 every two weeks for groceries and food. As you can see here, I spent about $135 of the $150 allotted for each week, leaving us some extra cash to eat out or save up for a pizza night. Because we have been doing this for so long, I know we will have an extra $75 or so left over from next week, which lets us eat out each weekend, or save up to buy ingredients for something we've really wanted to try (like ANY dessert on Pinterest!)

If there is interest, I would be happy to continue sharing with you each week as we plan. Also, I have been in the process of cleaning up my Pinterest boards, but there are quite a few great recipes pinned on my boards. I have my food boards separated by category, but all of them begin with "Food". The meat board is my catch all so you will find all the recipes I haven't reassigned there.

We really aren't talking about a lot of money here and we aren't talking about a lot of time to prep and cook these meals. They're just different and use ingredients some of us may not be familiar with. It doesn't make them expensive and it doesn't make them unattainable. It's not Hamburger Helper, but it's comparable in price and a thousand times more nutritious. The time I spend planning is an investment in my family, a completely worthy investment.



  1. Hey Danni we just started reading China Study... So far very interesting... Have you read?

  2. Love your post! I meal plan most of the time too, saves a lot of time, money and we eat much healthier! I would love to see more posts. I have tons of recipes, but I always think picking them for the week ahead is the toughest part. Pinterest definitely helps!

  3. Love this post! Thank you for sharing! We try to do mostly meatless at home and shoot for a budget of about $75 or less for the week as well. I'd love to hear more posts :)

  4. Ohh my I'm sorry, but I just had to smile when I saw your fridge - It just looks so absolutely American. You know filled with the stuff we think our teachers made up and well hollywood is really always exaggerating. But apparently you really do have those huge milk bottles - not to mention that the fridge itself is huge. Sorry I'm just amazed ... you see I buy my milk in liter bottles and they fit in the fridge door. (Yes of course I do probably have a completely unrealistic picture of the US - blame it on the movies and the books they use to teach English).
    I was drilled in the basics of food making: always make it "red, white and green", always have a sald and always the three basics, proteins, carbonhydrates and rest (whtever you call that part that you eat but that doesn't actually have much value in ways of caloreis like salad)
    Aye and I thought white bread was something really special, like cake until I was old enough to be send to the barkey.
    It's a bit scary that you actually have to teach people to buy locally and seasonally, and fresh and not processed. And think about it, but then I guess you have to blme those that didn't teach them in the first place...

    1. sorry - that comment became a little longer than planned ...

  5. You are at it again with your strange names for things, but it all makes total sense, thank you x

  6. Thank you soooo much! After I leave here I'm going to find you on Pinterest :) My family is a little larger, but I'd love to be able to save some money on truly good food. I can't wait for your next post. :)

  7. so funny, since we are eating Paleo now, we are total meat eaters. But we are buying pastured and or organic, so hopefully we are not eating antibiotics and all that bad stuff. Add that to the healthy fruits and vegetables and good oils and we are eating well. Good for you for sticking to your budget and Dave Ramsey's budgeting techniques. So smart!

  8. Good for you for investing in your family's health and importantly C-M's!

  9. I have always been fascinated by how famlies provide for their meals. I just went to the site and the coop pick-up is not too far my home so I'm going to give it a shot. Thanks for the suggestion.
    I just finished reading Mix and Match Mama's blog entry on her grocery shopping list. I think she got some grief over it and the amount of money she spends per week but I don't think she sets herself out to be a frugal cook, she is just providing recipes.
    So thank you for providing another view.
    We did the Saddleback Church's financial study but I keep hearing about Dave Ramsey's. Good luck!

  10. Oh I've meal planned since I was a very broke student! I've had people tell me I'm totally anally retentive planning my meals for a month at a time, but my total food/drink/household items (loo roll, shampoo, washing stuff) bill for the month comes to about £180, and I don't stint myself on more exotic ingredients in there. As a student my friends used to joke I was the best fed student ever because I'd be eating parma ham and other 'posh stuff', but the reality was, I wasn't buying jars and packets of process crap, which really aren't cheap! Plus, I buy very little meat, not for any ethical reasons other than that I'm not really fond of the taste of most of it...

    I'm really enjoying eating my way through Pinterest right now, although I wish I had fabulous veggie boxes available to me. It's not that they don't have veggie boxes, it's just that through the winter we grow very little other than root vegetables which makes the boxes rather boring, and most of them are not really south beach diet friendly as they tend to be loaded with potatoes!

  11. I finally started meal planning, mostly to save myself a ton of trips to the grocery store, since I cannot get everything I need/want at a single store! But, I try to shop the perimeter of the store and skip all those boxed and bagged items. And, like you, I try to eat mostly whole foods for health reasons. Do you read


Comments make my day! Seriously. I love them.

Related Posts Plugin