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.
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.