Meal Planning on a Budget but Remaining Healthy Somehow
Meal planning. As much as a moan and complain about having to do it each week, it really does save our family money and time during the week. We started meal planning a while back when we realized we would head to the grocery and spend almost $200 and have "nothing" to eat for dinners.
When we lived in Franklin, we LOVED going to Trader Joe's, and as much as I love them, we would get a lot of stuff that we really didn't need or just wanted instead of having a plan. Since Bryson worked for a budgeting app, we were always aware of where our money was going, and we honestly couldn't understand how we (two people) were spending so much on groceries.
I've refined my process a lot over the past few years, and we try to do it together most weeks if we possibly can. I have found a meal planning notepad to be the most helpful because I can see the whole week at once, and I can add any nights/days we have things going on. It stays on our fridge all week long, so that there's no, "What's for supper?"
Also, just so you know about how much we spend a week on groceries, we spend between $75-$120 depending on the week. Some weeks are more because we need to stock up on certain foods (spices, staples like flour, etc.) and some weeks are less because we are going to friends' houses or family gatherings. We also eat almost 3 meals a day at home. We don't eat out much (and right now for the month of January, we aren't eating out at all), and we take our lunches to work or make them here at home. We try to make meals that will have leftovers or have sandwich supplies on hand. We also eat warm breakfasts almost every day, too. I require a lot of snacks, too (even when I'm not pregnant).
Favorite Blogs to Find Meals:
1. Iowa Girl Eats: I go to her blog a lot because most of her meals are super easy and don't require a ton of ingredients (always a plus). We aren't gluten free, but I like having at least a few meals a week without any, and this is a great starting point for us. She also has a bunch of slow-cooker meals that are all delicious and easy!
2. The Real Food RDs: I found this blog through a friend of mine, and it's been another go-to for meal planning every week. A couple of our favorites have been: creamy ham and potato soup and Italian harvest soup.
3. Dietitian Laura: My friend Laura has had Celiac's Disease for almost all of her life, and she's a great resource for getting meal ideas for the week and for your toddler! Her Instagram is one of my favorites because she shows her weekly haul from the grocery most weeks, and that's just fun for me to see!
4. Cait's Plate: This one is fairly new to me still, but she has had some really great, easy meals for the week days. She is a fun one to follow on Instagram as well because she posts what she's eating daily. I wish I had her ambition and drive to run as much as she does, too!
I love a good cookbook, but I have to be pretty selective of the ones that I'm actually going to use.
1. One Pan, Two Plates: We got this one when we were newly married, and it is one of our favorites to this day. We lived in a house without a dishwasher for 4 years, so this was a blessing only needing one pot/pan.
2. Magnolia Table: As much as I love Joanna, I'm not a super die-hard fan. I love her don't get me wrong, but this cookbook is a fun one to gather ideas from. We don't do a lot of dairy (we are both lactose-intolerant), so some of the recipes don't work for us...but a lot of them do or can be tweaked to work for us.
3. Feeding a Family: I'm gonna be honest, I just got this one. BUT I truly feel like I will use it a lot. It has simple meals that are based on what season you are in. So, this week, we are using 3 meals from it, and the part that I love the most is that it suggests ways to use your leftovers for the next night. It also has tips on what to feed baby/toddler from the meal, so they are eating what you are! Score.
Favorite Meals We Rotate on a Regular Basis:
These are meals that we don't need a recipe for because we make them so often, and we try to rotate them every now and then.
2. Chicken Tortilla Soup
3. Tacos - we can make these vegetarian or meat based
4. Fried Rice: same as tacos, we can do this so many ways
5. Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken - literally put some chicken breasts/thighs in the slow cooker and add a jar of your favorite salsa. Let cook on low for 6 hours and serve like a burrito bowl.
6. Pasta with olive oil and veggies: you can't go wrong with adding some parmesan (the real stuff)
7. Grilled chicken and veggies (especially in the summer)
8. Caesar or Greek Chicken Salads - make a large salad base and add chicken
9. Breakfast for Dinner: we don't do this one enough, but when we do, it's my favorite.
10. Charcuterie: basically adult Lunchables but fancier. It's one of our favorite meals because you can't go wrong with cheese, crackers, meat, and pickles.
I hope that this helps you a little bit when you are meal planning! I try to post what we are having (it's been a little while, but I'll get back on the train real soon) on Instagram, so you can see our actual recipes and weekly plans!