Friday, February 21, 2014

Let's Talk Food

So I promised an update on my diet…Short and sweet, I've lost a grand total of 3 lbs. in 7.5 weeks. Really not what I was hoping for! I was hoping to have actually lost another 4 lbs. at this time in the game, but it just didn't happen that way. I'm going to keep at it! I leave for California in a few days, and I had a specific weight in mind (7 lbs. less than my starting weight), and it's obvious I'm not going to lose 3 or 4 lbs. within these next couple of days. But! That's okay! I'm going to keep going!

In other news, some people have been asking for food menus. I tried to sketch out what I ate for breakfast one week during my "build a better breakfast" challenge. Here is a more in-depth meal plan! I also included prices, because I think that is a very realistic thing to consider when making a meal plan.

Since I've been married (exactly 6 months now, thank you very much), I've changed around our meal plans, how often I go to the grocery store, and we've even moved twice (yes…I know…) so I've had to deal with three different kitchens. After spending twice our budgeted allowance on food in the month of October, I knew I needed to look for some cheaper meals! I revisited my meal plans that I've kept over the past 20 months or so that I've been living on my own and cooking for myself (and I was in grad school…aka no money…). I wanted to see how I lived so cheaply just even 8 or 10 months ago. I found a trend that turned out to be really helpful! The trend is this: plan 4 dinners for 7 days worth of dinners. Meaning, if you plan to eat at home 7 nights a week, plan only 4 different dinners and eat leftovers the rest of the nights. I tried that these past two weeks and have been able to keep our budget under control! (For the two of us we budget $500 a month on food + $50 for going out to eat…it may seem like a lot, and it is, but that's why I've been playing around with out meal plans so much!)

Another trend that kept reappearing in my previous meal plans was only having two shopping days a month. I normally did a big shopping trip, and then a "refresher" trip for things like fresh veggies and milk and things that wouldn't keep a month…eww… I tried that again for the month of February. For my first trip of the month I planned to spent $170-190. I actually spent $159, but had $10 worth of coupons (my first time EVER using coupons at a grocery store…woah…) so ended up paying $149 for my first trip that was supposed to supply two weeks of food. Later in the month I wanted to spend $50 for a refresher trip that would last another week, however for the fourth week of the month I was going to be out of town, and wanted to make meals ahead for my poor husband who will be here alone, so that shopping trip turned out to be $113. For the whole month I was able to get enough food in two trips, and spent $262. That practically cut our grocery budget in half from what it has been in previous months!

A few more tricks that helped me save money:

  • plan 4 dinners for 7 nights worth of meals at home, and eat leftovers 
  • "Lunch" meals don't need to be sandwiches, and "dinner" meals don't always need to be hot meals. Mix and match. Eat some of the leftovers from dinner for lunch. 
  • Replace one "meal" a week with a salad. This past week we subbed a lunch of sandwiches for a homemade Italian salad. It was very tasty, and used veggie ingredients we already had on hand. The one down side? We ate at noon and I was hungry at 4pm. I don't normally snack, and didn't that day either, but we did eat dinner at 5pm! 
  • Instead of processed foods like chips, pretzels, or any other type of snack-y foods you would normally throw in your lunch box, replace it with a side salad. I like salads (my husband loves them!), but I have to change it up. Most of the time my salads consist of lettuce, lettuce mix (baby spinach, arugula, swiss chard, etc.), cucumbers, carrots, sometimes tomatoes if I've splurged (…during the winter…), and dressing. I will occasionally change it up like with the Italian salad, or we had a "luau" salad last week with Asian dressing, pineapple chunks, oranges, almonds, raisins, lettuce, cucumbers, and feta cheese on top. Really good! Eating a side salad at lunch (and for some dinners) really helped us cut back our food bill this month! 
  • Use your freezer! Ours is always 1/2 to 3/4 full, and it's because we freeze some of our leftovers. No one likes eating the same casserole five times in eight days, so freeze some for later. Eat it twice one week, once the next week, skip a week or two, and eat it twice on weeks 4 or 5 or 6. It actually works really well. 
I want to show you what I spent my grocery money on these past three weeks, and provide you with a few simple meal combinations. I didn't post any recipes because, let's be honest, Pinterest and Google are alive and well! These meals are great, and you can probably find a recipe for "crockpot chili" just about anywhere. It's more of an idea for you to see how I spent my money, and what I spent it on, and how I arranged it into some good meals!

Week 1: Total spent= $149
·      egg casserole + chocolate muffin
·      choc raspberry smoothie + chocolate muffin
·      choc raspberry smoothie+ chocolate muffin
·      oatmeal + pre-made green smoothie juice
·      oatmeal
·      egg burrito+ pre-made green smoothie juice

·      leftover chicken salad wrap in lettuce leaf + leftover homemade Mexican chicken soup
·      leftover fried rice + top ramen
·      PB&J sandwiches
·      leftover tuna casserole + side salad
·      roast beef sandwiches + coleslaw
·      tuna pita sandwiches + coleslaw
·      (moving day) burgers? pizza?

·      leftover Mediterranean veggie stew (recipe on Pinterest []) over egg noodles w/ Italian sausages
·      tuna, egg noodle, and pea casserole (many recipes available on Pinterest)
·      crockpot chili, white rice, Fritos + toppings
·      leftover chili
·      OUT TO EAT The Cheesecake Factory (Valentine’s Day)
·      leftover tuna, egg noodle, and pea casserole
·      chicken parmesan over spaghetti (Cooking Light recipe, available online)

·      2 brownies (served at Bible study)
·      6 homemade M&M Valentine’s Day cookies
·      1 (giant) slice of cheesecake (from Valentine’s Day date) eaten over three sittings

·      water
·      milk (skim)
·      almond milk (for oatmeal/ cereal)
·      Crystal Light iced tea (unsweetened)
·      coffee  
·      (tea available, as always, but I didn't drink any this week since I had a lot of tea last week during my 7 day coffee fast. I drank coffee four times this week…not too bad.)
·      1.5 liter Bolthouse Farms pre-made green smoothie

Week 2: Refresher grocery week…total spent=$113
·      string cheese + grapefruit + raspberry smoothie
·      ½ bagel + oatmeal cookie + V8 Fusion juice
·      PB&J sandwich + V8 Fusion juice
·      cereal w/ almond milk + V8 Fusion juice
·      cereal w/ almond milk + mango + coffee
·      blueberry Greek yogurt + ½ turkey sandwich on croissant (leftover from Jason’s Deli)
·      strawberry oatmeal smoothie + V8 Fusion juice + coffee

·      OUT TO EAT Jason’s Deli—salad bar + turkey sandwich on croissant (saved for breakfast one day)
·      frozen leftover chili + rice
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…catered sandwiches
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…chicken and rice and salad
·      Italian salad (tomatoes, lunch meat, Swiss cheese, pepperchinis, black olives, lettuce mix, Italian dressing, etc.)
·      lettuce wraps w/ deli chicken and Swiss cheese slices
·      homemade sweet potato chips in mustard + ham pita sandwich

·      leftover chicken parmesan with spaghetti and eggplant (Cooking Light recipe; available online)
·      crockpot beef stroganoff (lots of recipes on Pinterest)  w/ egg noodles + canned peas
·      chicken and sausage gumbo (lots of recipes on Pinterest) w/ wild rice
·      leftover stroganoff + side salad
·      leftover gumbo w/ wild rice
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…
·      stir fry using frozen veggie mix + rice noodles + chicken beasts

·      graham crackers with peanut butter and Nutella
·      fondue (x3) (strawberries, marshmallows, graham crackers, cuties oranges, bananas, etc.)
·      oatmeal cookies for Aaron’s ski trip
·      chocolate chip cookies for Aaron’s ski trip

·      water
·      milk (skim)
·      almond milk (for oatmeal/ cereal)
·      Crystal Light iced tea (unsweetened)
·      coffee 
·      (tea available)
·      1.5 liter V8 Fusion Acai and Blueberry juice drink

I want you to know that the $262 also bought enough food for the following dinners that I plan on making and freezing for my husband while I am away. I will be visiting my parents, so I won't need to spend very much money on food while I am away. February was a good month for us, as far as staying way under budget for our food allowance! 

Dinners to freeze: 
  • beef enchiladas + chips and salsa + black beans 
  • leftover chicken parmesan with spaghetti noodles 
  • leftover gumbo with wild rice 
  • lentil soup with beef and red pepper (made in crockpot) 
  • OUT TO EAT with coupons that come in the mail
  • breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, waffles) 
  • stir fry with frozen veggies + rice 
  • beef enchiladas + chips and salsa + black beans 

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