Tag Archives: planning meals

Weekly eating #2 – 6/26

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating. Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep me on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting. Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – a piece of spinach/zucchini strata I made on Sunday, half an heirloom tomato with salt, and a handful of blueberries from the Farmers Market

Lunch – the last leftovers of the One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Dinner – Burgers (from the freezer) with fresh tomatoes, roasted cabbage quarters and zucchini/sweet potato fries

Snack – cut up honeydew and cantaloupe from Farmers Market

Tuesday:

Breakfast – homemade KIND nut bar

Snack – coconut almond yogurt flip

Lunch – free Margarita pizza at a work event!

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, roasted cabbage, & corn from the Durham Farmers Market

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt  with blueberries, walnuts, & agave

Lunch – leftover white fish over brown rice with homemade salsa on top & sauteed zucchini

Dinner – hamburger stew in the crockpot (freezer meal!)

Snacks – homemade KIND nut bar

Thursday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt with a cut up fresh peach, walnuts, and agave

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa from Farmers Market. It was so tasty last week, I had to make it again! This may be a new favorite.

Dinner -Stir Friday! (What?!) Chicken fried rice stir fry with zucchini, onion, and cabbage. We ended up planning dinner with friends for Friday, so today’s planned mac-n-cheese got the boot, and we moved Stir Friday to Stir Thursday! … Stirsday?

Friday:

Breakfast – smoothie: 2 bananas, 2 peaches, 1 cup of homemade yogurt, OJ, and protein powder. MAN, fresh peaches really make a smoothie sing! This may be my favorite breakfast all week. I slurped it down so fast I didn’t even get a picture  😉

Lunch – baked sweet potato with black beans and salsa, blueberries

Dinner – pasta & meatballs, with garlic bread & salad

Snack – hummus with carrots & cucumbers

The Weekend:

Breakfast – 1 egg + 2 egg white omelet with leftover zucchini & sweet potato from Monday & tomato

Brunch – Dim Sum! After Saturday morning rooftop yoga (yup, I’m totally hooked on this now), we went to Hong Kong Dim Sum in Durham. Cozy, quaint little place with deeeeelicious food!

Dinner – Leftover pasta & roast chicken. Will shred the rest of the meat for next week, and make stock in the crock pot overnight.

I’m also using the whey from making my own yogurt to attempt my first ciabatta bread! We will see how that goes…  Sunday will be something with the leftover chicken most likely, and depending on weather a soup or a big salad.

Total:  $33.62

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

We did stay pretty close to our meal plan this week, which is great! I see meal plans as a simple guideline, but we often switch things up, like on Thursday we had mac n cheese on the plan, but swapped stir fry to make room for a different dinner Friday. I also try to leave at least one night a week for a ‘leftover buffet’ or take-out meal.

I spent very little at the store this week, I was quite proud of myself for sticking to the list and the budget! I have a bad habit of being unable to help myself around sales and produce… but I did it! And at the farmers market, I did spend $5 on fresh heirloom tomatoes, but by golly that is a worthwhile expense. The little yellowgold cherry tomatoes were so sweet and perfect I nommed nearly half the container at my desk before I even got them home.

Although…. confession time. ALDI had a 3L box of summer sangria on sale for $9.99 this week! I couldn’t not buy it, so $20 of that total may have been wine. And I don’t regret it one smidge, it was DELICIOUS! I need like 20 more haha

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Meal Planning: What it is, why you should, and how to do it

 

A very popular topic in food and cooking related blogs and forums is meal planning. What is it, how can you do it, is it worth the time? I’ll start by saying that this article is going to be just full of suggestions, tips and tools. Everyone’s situation is different, so I cannot write an article that will work for every single person who might read it. I don’t know if you’re single, vegetarian, diabetic, have three kids, on food stamps, or a combination of all those things. I will however try my best to give you general tips with more specific scnearios as we go along.

Feel free to email me at BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com if you have a specific question, or any question really.

As featured on Stacking Benjamin’s podcast:
Meal Planning Made Easy

What is Meal Planning?


Meal planning is simply that: planning your meals in advance. The period of planning time may vary, for some you don’t plan dinner until it is 7pm and you’re starving. Some people plan per week, others plan per month. It is up to you how frequently you can and want to think about your upcoming meals.

The most common way to go about planning meals is to use a spreadsheet or pre-made printout. If you are an experienced cook or have adequate food in your home already, you could simply list the day and the meal(s) you intend to make. There are abundant options of formats available for free online, and there are also yearly or monthly services which will plan your meals for you. Most paid services will also create a grocery shopping list to go with the meal plan.

But why pay for a service you can do for yourself in 20 minutes on one weeknight? I am after all, the Budget Epicurean!

Why should I bother?


Well, if it really seems like too much trouble, you don’t need to read any further. Or pay for someone to do it for you. But meal planning can save you the loss of significant money in the form of food waste.

Americans waste billions of pounds of food per year, up to 40% of the food that households purchase!! This is due mostly to bad planning. You make too much and no one likes the leftovers. Or you cook, then go out, then cook again, and it goes bad before you can rotate the leftovers. Or you miss an expiration date and the goods expire. 

By planning your meals in advance, you are creating several opportunities to save money. You are also bettering your health. This is what planning meals and cooking at home does for you:

  • You can feature weekly sale items in your meals, saving you $$
  • You can buy in bulk for similar meals, saving you $$
  • You cut down on food waste, saving $$ and landfill space
  • You control portion sizes, helping your health
  • You control what ingredients go in it, meaning you can ‘have it your way’
  • You determine what meals to make, avoiding boredom
  • No preservatives or extra chemicals are added, boosting your health

How to make a meal plan

A typical week’s meal plan for me.

As stated above, there are plenty of free and paid templates online. But the simplest way to do it is make it on your own. If you are super new to cooking in general, take a gander at Real Simple’s “Cooking Basics” checklist. Then follow these steps:

Step 1: Make a list of meals you/your family likes to eat, and meals you know how to make.

Step 2: Draw out a grid for the week. Seven columns, and 3-5 rows for individual meals and snacks.

Step 3: Start filling in spaces you know. For example, if you have kids, you can fill in the “lunch” squares with “school” if they buy a lunch, or “PB&J + apple + string cheese + juice” if you make their lunches. Feel free to add in things like “Eat out” or “Leftovers buffet” for nights you know will be busy.

Step 4: Check your local grocery ads. Figure out what is on sale that could go into meals you would like to make. For example, if romaine, tomatoes, chicken, and salad dressings are on sale, you should schedule in a grilled chicken salad for dinner and/or lunch a few days this week.

Step 5: Once you have figured out what meals you are making, do a quick check of your cupboards and refrigerator. Write down any items you need to buy at the store. This is your week’s grocery list.

Step 6: Take your list to the store, and buy only what is on the list. Don’t let yourself be lured by that juicy looking steak or the whole rotisserie chicken, unless it was on your list. This will take willpower and practice, but will be a huge money-saver.

Step 7: Post your week’s (or month’s) meal plan where you will see it, maybe on the refrigerator door. Then simply follow it each day. 

Grocery cart

The planning process should take you only 20-30 minutes on a weekend or weeknight, and a 30 minute trip to the store. Once you get the hang of a basic meal plan, you can get much more detailed. For example, you can plan to make large amounts of a basic ingredient, like beans or rice, on the weekend. Then throughout the week take the portion you need for that day’s dinner out. Or have notes to yourself to defrost the pork chops you will cook Wednesday on Tuesday night.

Don’t forget to add in little things like snacks, desserts, and occasional days out so you don’t get ‘frugal fatigue’. 

For more information & ideas:
The CDC has a great article on cutting costs and calories by planning meals at home as well as one the go.
EatThisMuch has an awesome calorie calculator/meal planner that allows you to input a calorie amount, and it automatically gives you three meals (or more depending on what you choose) with that amount. You can change out meals you don’t like, or add more.
Cooking Light also has a weekly meal planner which allows you to choose recipes from their archives and drag & drop to create your week.



Do you plan meals in advance?