On Meal Planning

I may have come over to the dark side :lol:

I could never wrap my head around meal planning before.  And maybe I still haven’t…  I have always just winged it at meal time.  Protein, veg, starch, all made easy, plain, and usually boring but effective!  A little while ago I saw a link on my Facebook feed for a meal planning website that was giving a 30 day free trial – it is called Plan to Eat.  Now I’m not sure this is the best meal planning website, but I figured I’d try it out for a month and if it helps, great.  If not, I’ll just quit doing it.  So far I am liking it, a lot!!  It does all of the thinking for me!  All I have to do is pick recipes.

You basically import recipes from websites, add them to your planner, and it generates a shopping list for you.  You can add stores so it will just send the items to the store lists you usually buy from – like I know I will buy cheese and eggs at Costco so it just sends those items to that store list.  Really, I like it the most just for that reason!!  I like to try new recipes, but scouring through them and trying to write out a list just annoys me, so I don’t do it.  This does it for me, and I can easily delete items that I know I have on hand already.  You are also supposed to be able to use the list on your smartphone, but so far I haven’t been able to log in on my phone.  I just printed the list out last week.  You can also plan for however long you want – a few days, a week, a month, whatever!  I am going week by week, and only planning dinners for now.

This week we’ve tried a bunch of new stuff, some really great and some that didn’t quite work out so well due to user error ;)  But so far I am enjoying it.  I planned out another week last night and I tried to focus on using stuff we have on hand already.  Once I had it all done and unchecked items I didn’t need, I hardly had anything on the list that I need to buy!  I will have to add some staples and stuff for other meals, mostly produce, but I’m excited to see just how much we end up getting, and I hope it is less than the $150 we want to spend for the week.  I am going to do my best to only go shopping one day a week, unless we really need something that we run out of or forget to pick up at the store

Here’s what I’m planning for the upcoming week!

Chicken Alfredo

Beef tacos

Butternut squash and coconut soup

Baked sweet potatoes with caramlized onions – we will have some baked salmon with this

Crock pot beans with a ham shank

White bean and chicken chili

Baked farro risotto and green beans with hazelnuts and thyme

I am also going to make some Lunchbox Oatmeal Bars and these molasses cookies, just to use up some almond flour and carob molasses that I have.

 

Food Budget wrap up for the year

I won’t go into the details of what we bought, just want to catch up and finish out the yearly budget.  We did a lot of eating out.  We also bought a lot of stuff for Christmas dinner and to make goodies to give to my family and friends.  I guess it probably all evened out.

  •  Week 1 $84.46
  • Week 2 $157.60
  • Week 3 $163.30
  • Weeks 4 & 5 $25.58
  • Week 6  $166.90
  • Week 7 $146.80
  • Week 8 $202.40
  • Week 9 $208.57
  • Week 10 $280.10
  • Week 11 $195.90
  • Week 12 $150.20
  • Week 13 $188.59
  • Weeks 14-17 $140.25 per week, total of $420.75
  • Weeks 18-21 $127.50 per week, total of $510
  • Weeks 22-24 $90.28 per week, total of $270.84
  • Week 25 $168.40
  • Week 26 $175.60
  • Week 27 $89
  • Week 28 $89
  • Week 29 $272
  • Week 30 $216
  • Week 31 $43
  • Week 32 $80.30
  • Week 33 $172.26
  • Week 34 $269.50
  • Week 35 $101.30
  • Week 36 $366.80
  • Week 37 $150
  • Week 38 $110
  • Week 39 $200.80
  • Week 40 $268.32
  • Week 41 $94.54
  • Week 42 $141.70
  • Week 43 $9.28
  • Week 44 $147.66
  • Week 45 $132.2
  • Week 46 $261.1
  • Week 47 $28.40
  • Week 48 $205.60
  • Week 49 $119.10
  • Week 50 $162.30
  • Week 51 $103.40
  • Week 52 $155.20

So if I was spending $125 per week, that would be $6,500 for the year.

Our 52 week total ended up being $7504.75 (unless I added wrong!), which comes out to be $144.32 per week.  This is actually pretty great!!  That includes food for parties, and food that we put up, and all of my overbuying on sales :lol:

I don’t know that I’ll keep doing these.  It was fun to see where we are at and to be able to keep under the $150 weekly mark.  If I keep doing it, I’ll try to add more of how we are actually using the stuff up. I do want to try and keep less food overall in the house.  We have shelves downstairs that are overflowing with food.  All shelf stable stuff of course.  Just things that were on sale, and a lot of it makes sense but it doesn’t if we don’t use it regularly!  I’m going to try and be better about that this year.  Anyway.

That’s a wrap!

 

Food Budget Week 48

We spent $205.60 this week!  I guess that isn’t horrible considering our turkey alone costed almost $50.  We cooked a lot of food for 2 Thanksgiving dinners too :)  Here’s what we bought:

PRODUCE:

  • Apples $1.70
  • Bell peppers $6.59
  • Raspberries $11.37 – for a school thing
  • Broccoli $2.85
  • Brussels Sprouts $3.69
  • Carrots $3.39
  • Celery $1.27
  • Cranberries $5.00
  • Cucumbers $1.18
  • Garlic $1.77
  • Green onions $.99
  • Herbs $10.15
  • Lemons $1.18
  • Lettuce $2.98
  • Oranges $2.53
  • Potatoes $3.09
  • Salad mix $3.99

OTHER

  • Butter $7.59
  • Heavy cream $4.14
  • Yogurt $4.31
  • Turkey $8.22 for parts to make stock, $12.89 for sliced turkey for the school thing, $48.27 for a fresh 18 pound turkey
  • Kidney beans canned $5.00
  • Coffee $10.59
  • Gelatin $1.99
  • Mixed nuts $14.69
  • Bagels $1.78
  • Bread $9.47 most of this was for stuffing
  • Chips $3.00
  • Cookies $7.49

So that puts us at $6964.75 for the year, averaging out to be $145.09.  Still not bad!  We have loads of leftovers in the fridge, so I don’t see us spending too much on groceries this week.

Food Budget week 47

We didn’t do hardly any shopping this week.  We have been eating out quite a bit, so that’s why.  But at least we weren’t stocking up the fridge, going out to eat, and then wasting food because of it :lol:  We only spent $28.40!  What we bought:

  • Comte cheese $9.99
  • Beef jerky $11.73
  • English muffins $1.99
  • Bread $4.69

I’m sure we will be spending more money this week with Thanksgiving coming up!

So, I have gone through all of my budget posts this year and I have a running total of what we’ve spent.  With this week added in we are at $6759.15.  This averages out to be about $143 per week.  I think this is pretty good!  We’ll see how the last 5 weeks go.

Budget Week 46

We did good this week!  We went over budget, but that is because we bought another meat CSA share which was $164.80.  So on groceries at the store, we only spent $96.30!  Budget is $125.

Here’s what we bought:

PRODUCE

  • Hot peppers $6.99
  • Red onion $.69
  • Zucchini $.99

DAIRY

  • Butter $8.00 – On sale, stocking up!
  • Heavy cream $7.98 – going to make ice cream again :)

MEAT

  • Pork CSA share $164.80
  • Ham $3.40
  • Pastrami $3.99
  • Pork sausage $11.03
  • Wild boar salami $14.29
  • Turkey $5.98

OTHER

  • Salt $4.99 – I got this fancy truffle salt I wanted to try
  • Refried beans $3.00
  • Chocolate bars $12.00 – We were low, only had two bars in the cupboard!
  • Pasta $3.99
  • Wheat bread $1.39
  • Tortilla chips $2.00
  • Tortillas $5.49

We didn’t use up much produce this week, so we didn’t need to buy much.  Apparently we are all about the meat this week :lol:  Going to make a list today and do a little shopping to get us all set for the coming week.  Only 6 more weeks left!!

Budget Week 45

Did pretty well again this week.  It helps to just stay away from the store if we don’t really need much :lol:  We ended up spending $132.2, and here’s what we bought:

  • Avocado $5.99
  • Bell peppers $3.37
  • Broccoli $3.60
  • Carrots $2.92
  • Celery $2.00
  • Kale $3.34
  • Lettuce $1.69
  • Cheddar from Costco $9.99
  • Raw cheddar $3.90
  • Cotija $4.99
  • Heavy cream $3.99
  • Kefir $5.00
  • Mozzarella $3.49
  • Provolone $4.49
  • Raw milk $7.19
  • Yogurt $3.31
  • Chicken breakfast sausages $9.99
  • Pastrami $3.99
  • Turkey $3.99
  • Flour $2.79
  • Orange juice $3.95
  • Mayo $3.49
  • Pasta $3.00
  • Peanut butter $2.79
  • Rice $4.99
  • Bread (buns and Costco bread) $7.98
  • Coconut cashews $6.99
  • Joe-Joe’s $5.98
  • Tater tots $2.99

I guess we really needed cheese?!  We still have lots of produce in the fridge, and plenty of protein in the freezer, so I don’t see us doing much of any shopping this week.  We are going to probably get another CSA meat share soon since we are almost completely out of pork.  That will be another almost $200!

Budget catch-up

Missed another two weeks :lol:  Oh well.  So here are weeks 42 -44.  Week 42 we spent $141.70 and here’s what we bought:

  • Bell peppers $1.19
  • Carrots $2.98
  • Garlic $2.95
  • Thyme $2.99
  • Red onions $3.23
  • Butter $13.69 – I got Costco and Plugra butter from Harmon’s, not cheap but delicious!
  • Heavy cream $6.00 – I made ice cream :)
  • Cream cheese $3.76
  • Ice cream bars $11.49
  • Yogurt $4.31
  • Chicken quarters $19.15
  • Eggs $3.39
  • Chocolate $23.14 – this was baking bars and chips
  • Flour $2.69
  • Powdered sugar $1.79
  • Maple syrup $13.59
  • Bread $5.98
  • Chips $11.58 – I stocked up on the pumpkin seed chips and Costco – so good!
  • Nutella $6.75

That’s actually not bad since we had all of my family over for dinner too!  Week 43 were out of town for a bit and tried to run the groceries down.  We did a lot of eating out too, so we didn’t buy hardly anything, just spent $9.28.  We bought:

  • Brussels sprouts $3.79
  • Bagels $5.49

Week 44 we bought a lot of stuff because the fridge was literally empty!  Not good to be eating out so much.  We spent $147.66 and here’s what we got:

  • Green bell peppers $1.98
  • Broccoli $4.33
  • Carrots $3.37
  • Celery $2.05
  • Green onions $.99
  • Thyme, oregano, and rosemary $6.58
  • Kale $1.99
  • Limes $1.00
  • Romaine and red lettuce $3.38
  • Parsley $.99
  • Snow peas $2.29
  • Zucchini $.95
  • Fontina cheese $5.40
  • TJ’s applewood bacon $3.99
  • Deli ham $3.49
  • Costco bacon $17.29
  • Eggs $3.39
  • Applegate uncured pepperoni $3.59
  • Christiansen’s pork sausage $10.71
  • Deli turkey $5.98
  • Farro $3.99
  • A jar of crushed hot peppers $8.89
  • Chocolate pistachio toffee pieces $12.99
  • Tonic water $.79
  • Orange juice $3.95
  • Green olives $4.30
  • Macaroni $1.39
  • Top ramen $1.00 – I know :lol:
  • A jar of roasted red peppers $4.99
  • Salad dressing $4.59
  • TJ’s chile relleno
  • TJ’s tamales $6.87
  • Wheat bread $1.39
  • TJ’s Jo-Jo’s and a box of waffle cookies $5.78

We still have a bit of produce in the fridge, lots of squash and potatoes downstairs, and plenty of pantry and frozen stuff.  I’m going to try to keep the spending down this week to just essentials, and use up stuff in the fridge.  I’m going to start working on gathering the whole year’s numbers up to get a real average for what we spend, so that next year I can really know where we should try to be for the weekly budget.  Riveting, I know :lol:

Food Budget Week 41 and 1000 posts!

I wish I was doing something more exciting for my 1000th post.  I’m amazed that I have done that many!!  If anyone was actually reading my blog I might have done a contest or something :lol:  Maybe for my next big milestone.

I really, really tried to not buy much of anything this week, and it worked!  We only spent $49.54 this week at the grocery store.  But, I did end up spending more than planned at the pumpkin patch when I went with my friend.  I spent $45 there!  So in total we spent $94.54 this week, which is still good.

Here’s what we bought at the store:

  • Celery $1.67
  • Cucumber $1.58
  • Parsley and cilantro $1.50
  • Lemons $1.78
  • Lettuce $2.98
  • Heavy cream $4.99
  • Raw milk! $7.19
  • Ricotta $5.98
  • Sour cream $3.00 – this was a mistake – didn’t need it!
  • Sugar $11.49
  • Salad dressing $7.38

I got so many pumpkins and squashes too, and a bonus big box of free apples from my friend’s mom’s trees!  Some of the pumpkins were decorative too, maybe $10 worth so that could be taken off the budget.  Anyway, we did really good this week!  The goal is the same for this week, but we’ve already gone shopping twice.  We might be able to make it without getting much else, except I need to go shopping tomorrow for dinner with my family.  I still want to keep the spending down as much as possible.

Good and easy chicken stock

Usually when we buy chicken we get the Coleman organic brand from Costco.  They come in twos, and are normally around $25, so I want to get all I can out of them!  It is super easy to break down your own chicken, if you aren’t already, you should google it and find a good tutorial that makes sense for you.  Buying chicken this way makes it so much cheaper, and once you get the hang of cutting it up, it is so worth it.  On to the chicken stock!

I’ve read a bunch of recipes online and the way I do it is pretty much based off of Ruhlman’s, except I do mine with raw chicken.  I buy the chicken in twos and usually cut them up in twos.  We end up making oven chicken with loads of onion and garlic with all of the legs and thighs.  I package the breasts and wings up and freeze them.  We wait until we have a good amount of wings to cook those, and usually the breasts get marinated and grilled or used for stir-fries and such.  Anyway!  I end up with two carcasses and the wing tips for my stock.  Here’s how I make it.  It might not be the ‘right’ way, but I like how it turns out, and, its’ easy.

Good and Easy Chicken Stock

  • 2 raw chicken carcasses with wing tips
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • About 5 1/5 quarts water

Heat the oil in your stock pot, add the chicken carcasses and wing tips and sear on all sides.  Remove the chicken and add the vegetables.  You should have quite a bit of good brown bits in the pan, the veggies will cook and soak them all up!  When you have gotten all of the brown bits up, add the garlic and cook for a minute.  Then add the chicken parts back in and cover it all up with water.  Add the peppercorns and bay leaves and cook at a low simmer without the bubbles breaking the surface for 4-6 hours.

At this point I fill the sink with ice and water and stick the pan in there so I can get it to cool down faster, stirring occasionally.  I pull out what I can of the carcass, it will be hard to get at it since it will have softened up.  I pick all of the meat off and use that for chicken and noodles or whatever.  It won’t be super flavorful but it is still good, and I don’t want to waste it!  Then I line my colander with a flour sack towel (you can reuse these, just rinse out well and wash with your dish towels) and strain the stock.  You can squeeze a good amount of goodness out of that, so do it!!

I won’t use all that this makes up at once, so I fill up my freezer containers and save it for another day.  This last batch made almost 5 quarts of stock!

SAM_1134

Not pretty chicken

SAM_1136

Veggies picking up the brown bits

SAM_1137

All the goodies in the pot

If you haven’t made your own chicken stock yet, you should do it!  It’s super easy and delicious.  Plus it’s just cool :)

Good chicken stock!

Good chicken stock!

 

Food Budget weeks 37-40

Got a little behind I guess!

Week 37 we spent about $150 including the farmer’s market

Week 38 we spent about $110 including the farmer’s market

Week 39 we spent $200.80 – stocking up on some stuff

Week 40 we spent a whopping $268.32.  Sprouts had a brand sale, and I took advantage of that, stocking up on cereal and frozen stuff.  We also went to check out the Real Foods Market to score some raw milk, but they were out :(  We made up for it by spending $85 there :-o

Here’s what we bought from week 40:

PRODUCE:

  • Apples $2.00
  • Bananas $4.37
  • Broccoli $2.58
  • Cantaloup $1.00
  • Carrots $2.59
  • Celery $.98
  • Cilantro $.99
  • Eggplant $1.00
  • Garlic $4.77
  • Grapefruit $1.92
  • Habaneros $1.00
  • Lettuce $4.47
  • Onions $.68
  • Bell peppers and anaheims $4.00
  • Plums $5.00
  • Pie pumpkins $6.53
  • Yams $3.12

DAIRY:

  • Buttermilk $5.99
  • Cotija cheese $4.99
  • Heavy cream $9.29
  • Ice cream $4.49
  • Kefir $5.00
  • Mozzarella cheese $6.59
  • Sour cream $3.15

OTHER:

  • Pork sausage  – chorizo and italian $22.70
  • Apple cider vinegar $1.29
  • Individual packets of Justin’s nut butter $3.00
  • Tamari $7.98
  • Bread $4.99
  • Allspice $4.99
  • Chocolate square at Caputo’s for M :) $.39
  • Macaroni and cheese $9.60
  • Mustard $4.39
  • Olive oil $12.99
  • Lasagna noodles $4.00
  • Protein powder sample pack $3.69
  • Curry sauce $4.89
  • Oregano and thyme $11.08
  • Sriracha $8.59
  • Applegate chicken burgers $16.77
  • Frozen pizzas $30.75
  • Cereal $29.68
  • Cookies $6.19
  • Hominy $3.38

I hope to be more on top of this for the remaining weeks, I mean there are only 12 left!  Then I’m going to have some fun looking up all of these posts again and finding an average for a TRUE budget for the coming year.

I want to do better this coming week, and we really shouldn’t need to buy much at all except for produce.  So that is my goal, to really and truly buy ONLY what we need!!  I can do it.