Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monthly Meal Planning

My best friend Janell inspired me to start cooking more. Not only because of her fabulous blog What’s for Dinner but because she is really good at meal planning and budgeting. She may not always like it but she does it and is really quite good at it. During her visit I told her how I was frustrated not knowing what to make for dinner. Also how every month I would go way over my grocery budget.

Two common sense things she reminded me to do. First, PLAN MEALS!! Second, do not get things that are not on your grocery list!!! Super practical tips but I still found myself making excuses. For example, it is too hard to stick to a list. It is time consuming to plan meals especially for what I thought were picky eaters. I am not like those other moms who have it all together etc., etc, etc. The Lord really convicted me if I wanted to start eating healthier and I wanted my kids to actually eat the things I was making then I needed to take the time and plan my meals. A big batch of spicy pad thai on occasion was not going to do the job. I couldn’t expect my kids to eat that. I had to start small and build up. I wanted to sit down and eat together as a family every night. I can’t expect my kids to eat what we are having if we are not all eating the same things at least for dinner. Novel idea I know!

So I started the first week in January. My meal plan started Monday January 3rd, 2011. On Saturday, January 1st I spent a couple of hours after the kids went to bed and planned out a whole month’s worth of meals. I wanted to incorporate Mexican, Italian, American and Asian dishes. I searched the web and found some good recipes. I printed out a calendar for each month of the year and wrote the recipes in pencil (for January) on the days of the week that I had planned to make them. Then I printed out each recipe and put it in a plastic sleeve and put it all in a three ring binder. For our small family it is not feasible to make more than 4-5 meals per week as we wouldn't eat it all.

I remember we bundled the family up on Sunday and went for a big shopping trip to King Soopers and SAMS. We went to SAMS first. I stocked up on only the things I needed. Some of those things are, lean ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, pork chops, cheese, diced tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, grapefruit and lettuce. Those are pretty much the staples at our house. Then we went to King Soopers. I stuck to my list and to my amazement I didn’t go over budget! For the first time in years!! I felt so proud and productive. As I was putting my groceries away I portioned out all the meat into freezer bags to pull out when I needed it.

As the month went on, I felt so much less stress when it came to meal time because I had a plan. For once I had a plan!! Dan was very impressed. I was impressed with myself. Not only were the meals really good but they incorporated veggies and we were trying new things. My kids were trying them and most of the time eating what was put in front of them. I think we only ended up going out to eat as a family maybe three times in January! We also hardly threw away any produce and used up everything I bought! Huge success!

I was about $12.00 over my grocery budget but I will take it. You would be horrified to see how much I normally go over. I almost killed Dan for buying a huge bag of cheese sticks at SAMS that we didn’t need making us go over budget!! It became a game for me to see if I could really accomplish my goal and it turned out to be kind of fun! You may be thinking come on Jess – good job in January but let’s see how you do the rest of the year? Well this is my plan and I am sticking to it. I plan to share with you my list of meals every month. See list below for January's recipes.

1. Anita Slow Cooker Chili I use ground turkey instead of beef. I make homemade rolls to go with this instead of putting chili in bread bowls. I also add canned or frozen corn and rotel tomatoes
2. Baked Ziti I added fresh garlic and chopped spinach. I also used whole wheat penne and added lean ground beef. I also used half ricotta and half cottage cheese.
3. Tomato Mozzarella Quesidilla’s I didn't love this recipe because I used fresh mozzarella I think shredded would have worked better
4. Chicken Curry with Zucchini So good!
5. Homemade Pepperoni Pizza
6. Healthy Mac and Cheese we love this recipe!
7. Janell’s Chicken Enchilada Recipe email me if you want the recipe (jessica_frank@comcast.net it is delicious).
8. Grilled Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Faux Mashed Potatoes
9. Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Added one package of steam fresh Asian veggies after the chicken was cooked. Used Annie's toasted sesame dressing and only half of what recipe called for. It was so easy and fantastic.
10. Greek Beef Pasta in a Pot Great left over!
11. Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup Family favorite
12. Garlicky Hoisin Beef So good!
13. Pork Chops with Mango Salsa
14. EasyBaked Tilapia Dan hates fish and loved this recipe
15. Steak Burritos with bell pepper and onions
16. Hamburger Cheesy Rice Casserole This was very good and I don't love casseroles
17. Dan’s Ground Turkey Thai Lettuce Wraps
18. Beef Stir Fry (Wasn't fantastic as it was the end of the month and I had to use what I had around the house!

Please enjoy and let me know if you try any of the recipes or if you have any good recipes to share!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reflections on 2010 – Moving into 2011

Wow- I feel like I accomplished a lot this past year! First, I had my second baby boy. As most of you know we welcomed Ryan James Frank into the world 3 weeks early on December 19, 2009. Before I had Ryan a year ago, I thought I would just hole up at home for a year. The reason I thought this was because I wasn’t sure what life with two kids would be like. I didn’t know how I would transport them, if I would have energy to do anything, frankly if I could even handle being a mother of two. Well let me tell you, although tiring at first I really adjusted quite well. I had a ton of support from my friends and family. I also had people that encouraged me to get out and do things. We are now regulars at MOPS, Windsor Open Gym and Story Time. One friend challenged me to join her in walking the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer last summer. After much debate, I signed up, trained, helped raise thousands of dollars for the cause, and walked 40 miles over the course of two days. It was definitely a huge time commitment to train and raise money especially after having just had a baby. Picture me pumping in my car at dairy queen in the midst of a 20 mile training walk. Okay maybe you don’t want to picture that but it is true – whatever it took to get the job done.

My friend Lyndsey challenged me to do a program called the Couch-to-5K ® Running Plan. It is a simple program that you do over the course of nine weeks to prepare to run a 5k. So we would get together every other night after the kids went to bed and ran or jogged whatever you want to call it. We did it and completed the training. We ran our first 5k to benefit Spirit Crossing and then a few weeks later participated in the Fort Collins Spooktacular 5k which I ran in approximately 32 minutes! I was so proud of a 10 minute mile. I am also pleased to say that I have kept up with some hobbies and picked up a few new ones. Ryan’s scrapbook and baby book are almost complete. I also completed my first baby blanket and actually now know how to use my sewing machine. With having my two kids I have relied on the huge support of my best friend and husband. Without him none of what I accomplished this past year would have been remotely possible. God has also given me the ability and provision to do these things. I am a stay at home mom, who loves(not all the time) her 24-7 job and I feel privileged to be able to have all of these wonderful opportunities. I do my best to cherish every day and heavily rely on God’s grace.

As for 2011 some of my goals are to become more fit, eat less, cook more, stick to my grocery budget and be more faithful and mindful of God in my everyday life. Not necessarily in the order listed. Stay tuned for my post on monthly meal planning and for a list of all the recipes I tried in January. Also, update on my morning spin classes and yoga at Become Fit. I am so excited about the year to come and hope you will find this site to be not only a resource but one of encouragement. My desire is to share an open honest journey through life and faith in Christ.