Monday, February 18, 2013

The way I meal plan & budget!

So I had a request to make a blog post regarding how I meal plan and budget. Some of you may know we are following Dave Ramseys plan for getting out of debt. If you are familiar with Dave he always says while following the debt snowball you have to sacrifice things such as going out to dinner a lot, expensive meals etc, and to "eat beans and rice, rice and beans" while paying off debt if you have to. So I have to get creative with finding some less expensive meals than I may NORMALLY make if that makes sense. Having some meals be meatless help with cost, as well. So its not often we grill up some steak! Sometimes I do better than other times, its a process and something you have to learn and practice.

The way I meal plan is every two weeks. I sit down on the days my husband gets paid (bi weekly), and I figure out a menu. Then, I go through my kitchen as I am writing my shopping list and see what ingredients I may already have (for instance, I may already have rice or carrots leftover from the last shopping trip). So essentially I only grocery shop twice a month. It works for us. We shop at Trader Joes almost exclusively and its not around the corner from us, so I would rather only go twice a month than 4 times to save on gas. I also occasionally have to go to Stater Brothers to get the few things Trader Joes does not carry and Costco for some other things, although Costco is only every month-two months give or take.

What we also do is add EVERY SINGLE ITEM into our calculator as we add it to our cart. That allows us to know whether or not we are on budget, under budget or over budget. This is KEY. This last shopping trip we were really under budget, so we splurged on a couple little items, and still were under.

So for instance, I will share my most recent menu, shopping list, and cost for everything.

For the next two weeks I budgeted for $160.00 at Trader Joes and $60 for Costco. Normally I don't go to Costco often, so I wasn't quite sure how much I would need to spend. We needed compactor bags as well as a couple food items. So I over budgeted to be safe.

My Menu-
Cheese Raviolis & side vegetable (something I have frozen in my freezer)
Lemon Chicken & Vegetable bake
Vegetable Burritos
Salsa Chicken in the crockpot (can be tacos or burritos)
Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
Italian Vegetable Soup
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, double batch to have once per week
Breakfast Frittata with Chicken apple sausage
Taco Salad
Chicken Scarpariello (basically chicken, cooked with onions, garlic & stock over brown rice, served with vegetable)
Homemade Apple Muffins
Homemade Blueberry Waffles (husbands weekend Sunday tradition)
Crazy Bites (little snacks, balls made out of different nuts, flax seed, coconut, dried fruit & a little chocolate chips)

Ok so in general thats my menu that I made. My husband usually has breakfast at work, and I will normally have either cereal, frozen waffles, oatmeal or eggs. I dont really meal plan for these things since its staples I always have in my home. But its still ingredients I need to buy (ie cereal). So when making your shopping list you still need to remember these staple items and account for them in the budget. Lunches are generally leftovers, sandwiches (ie lunch meat or tuna) or I will throw something together random that I have.

Shopping list for Trader Joes:
Brownie Mix-splurge item
Mint Chip Ice Cream- Husband splurge item
Turkey lunch meat
Frozen blueberry waffles
Baked Alaska-splurge item, new dessert for TJs to try out!
Shredded Coconut
Sliced cheese
Tortilla Chips
2 packages ground turkey
Salsa Verde
2 cans Tuna
28oz can whole Tomatoes
2 containers of chicken stock
2 packages cream cheese
2 small cans Tomato paste
Frozen Peas
Frozen Blueberries
Cheddar Cheese
2 cans of corn
Pancake Syrup
2 jars of Marinara
1 can white beans
Sour Cream
1 can salsa beans
2 gallons milk
Dried Mango
2 packages tortillas
1 can Tomato sauce
Package of Organic tomatoes on the vine
2 Organic Bell Peppers
8 Bananas
Half & Half
Sour Dough Boule (for homemade croutons)
Fresh Green Beans
5 Lemons
Head of Lettuce
Package organic carrots
3 Limes
3 Potatoes
7 Onions

Total: $137.30

Shopping List for Costco:
Cheese Raviolis
2 packages eggs
Frozen Chicken Breasts (which last us WAY longer than two weeks)

Total: $35.60

Total for two weeks (even though the frozen chicken will last us more than two weeks) $172.90. Average per week $86.

So there you go! You just have to get creative, and figure out what you can make that is not to expensive, or unhealthy. I make ALL my meals. No boxed processed meals. That stuff is EXPENSIVE! And bad for you! Make cooking fun, and easy for yourself.

I hope this helps those of you who are having trouble either menu planning, or sticking to a budget. Its not easy, but with time it gets easier. Just remember to stick to your list and your menu, and to add up what you put in your cart. That way when you get to the register, you won't be surprised with going over your budget.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One Pot Chili Mac!

One Pot Chili Mac

This is similar to something you could maybe make from Hamburger Helper, but its HOMEMADE not processed and SOOOO much tastier! AND its all in one pot, so hardly any dishes to wash!

-1 tablespoon Olive Oil
-1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
-4 garlic cloves minced
-1 onion, diced
-2 tablespoons flour
-1 tablespoon chili powder
-3 to 4 dashes of cayenne depending on how much 'kick' you want
-1/2 teaspoon paprika 
-sprinkle to taste of Oregano (im not a huge herbs person, so this is totally up to your tastes)
-8oz tomato sauce
-2 cups beef broth
-2 cups dry macaroni (or any of your favorite small pasta)
-1 can corn, drained
-cheddar cheese for topping

Add olive oil to large pot over medium high heat, and add your diced onion and ground beef. Mince garlic while that's cooking. Cook until brown and drain fat. 

Add garlic to beef and onion mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add your flour. Stir constantly and cook for a minute or two. Don't let the flour burn. 

Add your spices, tomato sauce, and broth. Combine.

Add the dry pasta and corn. Bring to a simmer, not quite a boil. Place lid on top and turn down to medium-low. Simmer for around 15 minutes. Stir a few times while its cooking so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  

Check pasta, once its done, serve with shredded cheddar cheese on top!!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

-3 cups tomato soup *I used Trader Joes boxed tomato soup*
-1 small onion, diced small
-2 cups half & half or milk
-2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
-1 package cheese tortellini
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-sprinkle of Italian seasoning *however much you like*
-few dashes of cayenne for kick, totally optional
-Salt & Pepper to Taste
-Parmesan cheese for topping

In a large pot over medium/high heat cook the onion until softened. Add in the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, be sure not to let the garlic burn.

Add the tomato soup, half & half, stock, and the spices. Bring to a boil. Add Tortellini.

Reduce to simmering and cook about 12-15 minutes until Tortellini is cooked through.

Serve topped with Parmesan cheese!!

This soup was SO easy and delicious. I was missing a vegetable though, so next time I plan to add about 1/2 cup cooked peas to this to see how that works.