I have started writing down my triumphs and errors in shopping and meal planning. It isn’t always easy. There’s a lot to take into account. One of the biggest things I’ve learned, don’t shop with your husband. 🙂
What are some of the best ways to shop on a budget?
- Don’t shop hungry: This is a common mistake I make. I get moving, get the kids ready and out the door… and while I shop the aisles I realize I forgot to eat breakfast. My cart fills up with useless crap because I let my stomach try to tell me what we need.
- Compare Ads: We get some great ads in the mail. I will sit down and compare the deals. Better coupons here? Better Friday deals there? Pick your plan of attack. Cut out your coupons and create a list to follow at that particular store. Shop more than one store, if you can. I will save part of my shopping trip for later in the week if it means better deals on the horizon.
- Buy in Bulk: Seriously, best idea ever. I love that wonderful place called Costco. We get a majority of our meats and produce there. Eggs come by the two dozen and they are free range organic. Bananas are something we go through quickly. We can buy two large bundles and I like to peel and freeze as many as I can for smoothies. Bulk up on milk, yogurt, coffee, big bags of spinach, meats….
- Make your list and STICK TO IT: I am guilty of becoming sidetracked. Oh the samples, look at that pretty packaging, I wonder what I can make with this, what is THAT? Don’t fall for it. Stick to what you have planned and go for it.
- PRESHOP: This has become my secret weapon. Every month we create a budget for our groceries, among other categories of life. My job is to stick to this budget with little to no error. No, I’m not always fabulous at staying within the lines, but I do a pretty decent job. When I am curious how expensive a trip will run, I plug the groceries into the online shopping cart to get an idea. It’s great to do when I’m cutting it close to the limit. If I go over, I can deduct what items aren’t necessary. Speaking of which…
- What isn’t needed? Cut out the crap. Juice? Not necessary. It is a treat to have juice in our house. Our girls stick with water mostly, with milk sometimes. We don’t binge on chips or candy, all things that can easily run up your tab if you aren’t careful. Energy drinks? Ew. Soda? Nope.
- Pick the cheaper cut: Choose flank over skirt steak. Don’t buy pre-marinaded meats. Thaw your own! I’ve noticed I can buy frozen seafood for less money than the store thawed version. I love fresh, but it isn’t always available. Might as well buy frozen. More for your buck and can last longer.
- Bought a million peppers. Now what? I will go to Costco and get 6-8 belle peppers in a package. Or onions! Pre cut, separate out, and put into bags. I have a large freezer in the garage that I place my stash into. I love dicing and slicing. Pre-made bags for omelettes, stir fry, etc. A variety of cuts help.
- Stretch your ingredients: If I buy fresh herbs, I make sure it is herbs that I can use through the week for different meals. Thyme? Perfect for chicken and fish. Cilantro? Awesome for any mexican food. Blend together herbs for sauces. Freeze them in ice cube trays so you can add them to a hot dish as needed while cooking. If I know I will have some onion in my rice, I’ll use the other half for a stir fry or soup.
- Make your own: While I do love the convenience of store bought broth, I like making my own. Bone broth is easy to make with your bone and veggie scraps. Maybe you will find a post on that soon since it’s about time for me to make some.
How do you plan your meals?
When planning meals for the week I take a few things into account:
Weather: Is it going to be snowing and frigid? Maybe a yummy crock pot soup is in order. Is the weather insanely hot with record highs? Looks like the husband will be grilling with an easy light side dish or two to help you stay cool.
Theme: Is there a trend going on in my planning? Taco Tuesday? Leftover Wednesdays? Is Monday the day one of your kids pick what they would like to have?
What is on sale? I will pick what we are having based on what I can pull from the freezer and have thawed in time. I will also pick our meals based on what is a good deal at the store.
Stretch your ingredients: Can I make a large amount of sauteed chard one night to go into a scramble the next day? Can I use that cauliflower rice in a stir fry tomorrow? How can we finish this loaf of bread? Leftover chicken or steak can turn into a french dip or taco salad. Tortillas leftover? Make breakfast burritos!
How much time do you have? Believe it or not, as a stay at home I have some days that are busier than others. Am I watching children beyond my own? Is there a play date? A game that will creep into cook time? I won’t plan something elaborate if it’s a long day. I will throw things in the crock pot or take advantage of things I have prepped the day before.
Create your menu: I usually go by a list of what is planned for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Often times to cut corners I will have pb&j on standby for lunches when we didn’t cook enough for leftovers. I love having a visual to refer to. I will see if there are ingredients that can be found in common in the menu to help steer where the bulk buying may help.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! I love playing with our food. You never know what you can come up with. I have some extra bacon, why not wrap the chicken with it? Should we throw some of these lemons in the chicken? This avocado ripened quicker than planned, maybe a yummy dressing can be made? You never know what will limit you until you try. And I have a secret to share: food is for fun. It is indeed limitless. 🙂
So tender, juicy, sweet with a hint of heat…
Why I love making pulled pork: 1. It is super simple and can easily be thrown in the crock pot 2. We can have it a million different ways. 3. I especially love this for game days. 4. You can also premake a large batch, separate it into ziplock freezer bags, freeze em and pull them out as you please.
Tonight we will be making a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw. Other nights, this is amazing on top of homemade mac n cheese. It’s amazing in a tortilla with melted cheese and sauteed onions…
- 2ish pounds of pork tenderloin
- 1/4c chicken stock
- 1/4c apple cider vinegar
- 2 c bbq sauce (I love sweet baby rays) A honey or brown sugar kind is best, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Mix together the chicken stock, apple cider vinegar and one cup of bbq sauce.
- Mix together your spices.
- Place the pork into your crock pot and rub the meat with the seasoning mix.
- Make slits across the pork, about halfway through to allow the sauces to penetrate.
- Add the sauce.
- Set to High for about 5 hours.
- Shred the meat and place back into the crockpot.
- Stir in the remaining bbq sauce and let the meat sit on a low or warm setting for 20 minutes so it can take in the flavors.
Take a bite!
I am in love with avocados. They are rich in nutrients, easy to manipulate with flavors, and the perfect healthy fat to add to your meal. About 10 years ago, after having some guac at a local restaurant, I decided I wanted to make my own. Do you ever get the store bought kind and it’s too creamy or has that “sour” taste of sour cream? Ick.
When I took this picture, no lies, my mouth was watering because it was all I could do to wait the 10 seconds to take a bite. I love the fresh flavors and to play a little bit with more or less spice depending on who I am feeding at the time. This is the perfect side dish with your favorite tacos, something to bring to a friends game day, or just to have to take with you throughout the week when you’re at work. I also have a sneaky trick to help keep it fresh!
- 4-6 large avocados
- 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced and seeded
- 1-2 roma tomatoes (depending on how much you like the sweetness)
- 1/4 c cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 c white, red, or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove minced garlic
- juice of half a lime
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus a little more for taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp adobo seasoning
How to Prepare:
- Slice your avocados in half, take out the pit and scoop out the avocado into a bowl. Save one pit!
- Add your lime juice, garlic, and spices and begin to work with a fork, mushing it down. If you like your guacamole more creamy or if you discover you have some “strings” of guac (ie it was too ripe), use an immersion blender to throw it into a food processor.
- Add your onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and tomatoes. Gently stir together.
You’re done! Dip a chip, dip veggies, or add as a topping!
But wait! How do I keep it from getting brown? It looks so gross the next day!
My trick is to add the pit back into the guac. Get it nice and nestled in. Then, cover with saran wrap so it is touching the surface. Finish by adding a lid! You can always mix the guac back up and it will be green once again. If you like the citrus taste, add more lime juice as it will help the color keep.
Spicewise, I really enjoy Penzey’s spices. They are of amazing quality and you can get most spices and herbs in bulk if you are like me and use a ton in your cooking.
Don’t skimp on the cumin!
These cookies… are mouthwatering, healthy, and freaking awesome. I am addicted to these things. NO processed sugar. No gluten. SO basic it hurts. I can tell you, we make these and they are gone pretty darn quick. They have become my go-to when we want something sweet with a little kick of citrus.
While doing Whole30, I found myself thinking about all the yummy baked treats that I never ate, but always made. I found myself craving that lemony taste in a baked good. I started my hunt and wound up at a loss. After combining ideas and a little bit of practice, I was able to come up with a recipe that is a now staple in our home.
This batch can make about 18 cookies. You may want to triple this if you plan to share. 😉
- 1/2c melted coconut oil
- 2/3c maple syrup
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- 1 tbs orange zest
- 2 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tsp orange oil
- 5 tbs coconut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Combine the dry ingredients. Sift if you find that the ingredients lump.
- In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients.
- With a wooden spoon, slowly mix the dry into the wet.
- Once well combined, cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for about an hour. This will help make the dough easy to manage. Set oven to 350 to preheat.
- Using a cookie dough scoop (my life saver that took me several years to realize), scoop out about 18 scoops of dough onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
- Smoosh the dough balls with your hand or a greased glass. They should be around 1/4-1/3 in thick.
- Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes, but be sure to check them around 8 minutes in. They should be browned around the edges as well as a little bit on the tops. Underbaking is cool too… as I am a fanatic about each step of this process to take a bite… it’s too good.
- Let cool and devour immediately before the rest of the family knows you made them!
A few notes:
Still feel like there should be processed sugar? Add a sprinkle on the tops before baking. I haven’t done this because they are PLLLLENNNNTY good.
Maple syrup from Costco is affordable and really the best. It’s Grade A, so it doesn’t taste too… maple-y? Is that a word?
Since I mentioned Costco, they have Kirkland almond flour at a decent price, too!
Do you love applesauce? I don’t in particular, but my family does! My husband loves to take a huge mason jar to work so he can snack on it through the week. I have come to appreciate making my own, as I like to make my own everything. Our local grocery stores sell bags of apples for $1, maybe a little more when the produce starts to bruise. I like to take advantage of the sales and will buy a few bags to make this super easy sauce!
You’ll need a crockpot for this recipe. I love the “set it and forget it” way of cooking while I go about my day. I like to leave the skins on because it can give a really pretty color to the applesauce. Penzeys spices are worth every penny. I am in no way affiliated with them, but I sure do love to use their spices!
- 8-10 apples seeded and cubed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Penzeys apple pie spice
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- zest of one small orange (optional)
- Into the crockpot, set on low, combine all ingredients.
- Let cook for 4 hours or until apple can be easily pierced with fork.
- Using an immersion blender, blend up the ingredients and carefully transfer into mason jars or tupperware containers. Can freeze or be left in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
I am in love with cauliflower! It can take on any flavor you want it to. It’s easy to cook. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It’s healthy. Looking for a nice dose of Vitamin C? Look no further… This recipe is a fun mix of things and I am a fan of mixing together leftovers when needed to create a new meal. The meal that keeps on feeding… I digress…
- 3 cups cauliflower rice
- 1 cup cooked green beans (I diced them up a little) Fresh or frozen are best
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2tbs coconut oil
- 1tbs ghee
- 2-3 tbs coconut aminos
- Cooked peeled shrimp about 1 cup if you’re making this as a side dish
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
- In a large saute pan, melt the coconut oil on med low heat
- Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes
- Add the mushrooms and stir in a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add garlic, ghee, and cauliflower. Stir, turn heat up to medium and cover for 4-5 minutes until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy.
- Add the shrimp, a squeeze of about 1/3 a lemon, coconut aminos, and beans.
I plated this with some tomatoes with salt and pepper for lunch. This also makes a fun side dish paired with steak or chicken! Looking for some crunch? Add some bacon or sesame seeds.
On a side note, for those who don’t know what coconut aminos are, I can give you my interpretation of it. Coconut aminos can be used in place of soy. It’s much healthier, as it contains amino acid, and it has a slight sweetness in it’s taste. I have come to love this for a topping or a soy substitute in sauces.
Are you lactose intolerant? Do you ever just crave something creamy and sweet? On our whole30 diet, we found ourselves wanting something sweet after dinner, but we wanted it to pack some nutrition as well. This led me to the most amazing tasting treat ever.
- 2 Frozen Bananas
- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1/4c-1/2c (depending on desired thickness) of unsweetened almond milk
Blend it up and drink it down! You can freeze this for a short period of time in a freezer friendly container, BUT we did discover it can get pretty frozen, so we sometimes opt to put it in the fridge then re-blend with ice as needed. This made enough for 4 filled small glasses for the fambam!