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 ( 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!


Janell said...

Jessica!!! I'm so happy! Your post brought a huge smile to my face and heart. GREAT JOB! Only going over budget by $12 is super impressive considering it was your first time planning. Way to go! Thanks for posting your recipes too. I"m going to have to try a couple myself! Love you!!!!

The Frank Family said...

Thanks Janell!! You are my inspiration!! Love and Miss you Janell!