August 18, 2014

Meal Planning

A few weeks ago, I posted our new bucket list featured on our page: Our Top Ten.
We did our first list when we moved from Illinois to Newtok, so it was only fitting to write a new one based around our lives now in Seward.
On that list, I wrote how I wanted to start meal planning.
And this week, I did it!

Before I get into specifics, let me tell you how this came about.
I found this site explaining meal planning. "It's whatever way you organize yourself to cook a meal." Everyone knows that, right? But why meal plan to begin with? In the same article, it says, "The goal is to find a process that is both enjoyable and effective."

Ways meal planning can be enjoyable to Emily:

- Making lists is fun.
- I love being organized: why not enjoy organizing meals, too?
- I won't be stressed out finding something to cook for Joshua each night.
- I will have all my ingredients already.
- Meaning, I won't have to make as many trips to the grocery store as I have done recently.

Ways meal planning can be effective to Emily:

- It will be cost effective: which is a huge factor!
- It will be effective towards my mood, a.k.a laziness, in the kitchen. Since I will have some meals already prepped, I can't have the excuse, "I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's have cereal."
Which actually, cereal for supper is a great idea - thanks for that Jason and Rachel! (but you get what I'm saying)
- It'll have a healthier effect on what we eat since the goal will be to choose more organic products.

By reading this article, I was already inspired to meal plan. One of my favorite quotes from this article pretty much sums up my feelings on this subject.

"Meals aren't just solutions to the problem of needing to eat; making a meal is also an expression of creativity. Find ways to inspire yourself and to look forward to cooking. That's the spirit that animates this whole endeavor."

Newly added on how meal planning can be effective for me:

- It'll be effective by inspiring me to look forward to cooking.
Especially if it's already prepped. Am I right or am I right?

So my only issue was that I didn't know what meals would be easiest to prep together and how much to buy of each ingredient to include in all meals. So basically the whole process, right? So how does a newbie at meal planning meal plan?

Have you guys seen those 20 meals from Costco for $150 websites?
And who has pinned those images on Pinterest that tell you how to make 40 meals in about 4 hours for $5 each?
I've seen that Costco page posted on my Facebook feed at least 5 times this past week. And those pinned images? I have about 4 of them pinned to my Nom, Nom, Nom board.
To make my first time meal planning a little easier, I decided to go with an already made plan!
Let's be honest. Why wouldn't a new timer on meal planning not want to follow someone else's recipes and ingredients when it's all laid out for them already? Now you see me point.
When researching meal plans, because there are a lot out there, I had my wonderful husband come give me his opinion. We went with the Costco Plan #1 because it had more meals that we liked than any other meal plan.

In this plan, it will make 20 meals.

- Grilled Chicken with Mango and Avocado Salsa 
- Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan
- 2 Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- 2 Beef and Bean Soft Tacos -meat, freezer pack
- 2 Ranchero Chicken -freezer pack
- 2 Potato & Egg Breakfast Tacos
- 2 Slow Cooker Beef Stew -freezer pack
- 2 Slow Cooker Italian Chicken & Potatoes -freezer pack
- 2 batches Herbed Meatballs -freezer pack
- 2 Beef Stir fry with Broccoli
- 2 Quinoa with Corn & Black Beans

Lately, Seward has had a ton of rain! And I mean a ton. The past week and a half, only one afternoon wasn't raining. That's a lot of rain! So Joshua and I made a plan Friday night to go to Anchorage Saturday afternoon for a Costco trip, since we knew the weather would be bad and we would be stuck inside anyways.
The plan made it so easy for me too because all I had to do was jot down the ingredients for my own list - and ta da! I had my meal plan!

btw - am I the only one who had never heard of a Costco before? I was only use to Sam's - same thing!

Also, as I was making my list, I jotted down the prices of what her ingredients were. I then added a few more dollars to each item - Alaska is just a little more expensive than anywhere else. I knew it would be more than $150 for us.
But actually, I was wonderfully surprised when we started shopping to find that on most items, it was only a dollar or so more than her prices.
The Quinoa was the most expensive - it being $8 more than her price.
Frozen Broccoli was the cheapest - it being 90 cents cheaper than her price. 

With the prices not varying too much, you can imagine how ecstatic I was because I felt like I was shopping down in the lower 48 somewhere, like Evansville, Indiana. It was glorious feeling like they were normal prices again!
Normal prices being that a watermelon in Anchorage does not cost $12 like it does in Seward. It only costs $6.

Also, I did not get everything on the list so I knew that had to even it out - if only a little.

Here's what we didn't get:

- Mangoes: The mango selection was not par. We decided just to bite the bullet and buy them in Seward.
- Costco bakery dinner rolls: I have a recipe from Kim that I've been wanting to try with my bread machine. This gives me a reason now!
- Eggs: We can get fresh eggs in Seward.
- Spaghetti Noodles: We were already stocked up.
- Pasta Sauce: Again, already had plenty.
- Salsa: We recently just bought a huge bottle of it, so no need for more.
- Parmesan Cheese: Just bought some of this as well.

With all the ingredients she listed on her website, it totaled $150. With all the ingredients I got, I totaled $147.03. Not too bad!
Side note: If you follow this plan, be sure to read each recipe. She does not list every ingredient, such as bread crumbs, marinara sauce, etc. on her original ingredient list so you will have to add that to your final total.
But, with her total of the listed ingredients being only $3 or so more, even though I didn't get all of them, I was a happy gal!

Meal Planning is not just about grocery shopping. If you read this article again, it has 15 tips for better planning.
One tip from that article says to start a calendar. 
So when we got home with all our ingredients, I started making a calendar in my planner on what I would cook each night. I excluded weekends. I got four week's worth of meals. YES!

Another tip is to prep food before hand. I decided to spend all Sunday afternoon preparing any meals that I could. She did an awesome job stating what meals could be frozen in advance.

The meals I prepped in advance:

- Beef and Bean Tacos
I prepped the meat. I browned the meat with onion, spices, and tomato sauce. Once it was finished, we put it in a freezer-friendly bag so when we want beef and bean tacos, all we have to do is warm up the meat!

- Ranchero Chicken
This recipe did not say to freeze it like it did for the others. Since I was on the ball though, I thought I would help my future self out and just combine the chicken and the diced tomatoes already so I had it when I wanted it. My future self thanks me.

- Beef Stew
I combined all the ingredients, minus the rolls, to a gallon bag. Ba-da-bing, Ba-da-boom.

- Italian Chicken and Potatoes
I combined all the ingredients, minus the Italian seasoning. I did not have the seasoning at this point. Joshua had to go back to the store to get it.
Again, look at all the recipes before you leave the store!
And we were dumb-founded that we did not have Italian Seasoning. Don't judge us.

- Herbed Meatballs
Because of this recipe, I learned how to flash freeze and how much more complicated it sounds than it really is. For these meatballs, you need to flash freeze them before you put them in a gallon sized bag.

An important tip I learned while meal prepping: when scheduling what day you are going to cook what meal, I would wait until after you meal prep if you are doing it in front of your husband. I thought I had a good schedule, but after watching me prep certain meals, Joshua rearranged my entire schedule because he wanted to try a certain meal first.
Also, don't write meals in pen. Learned that lesson the hard way. Who doesn't love white-out?
I'm not OCD at all...

So within four hours on a Sunday afternoon, I had 10 meals already prepped, made, and put away for later. What a wonderful feeling! 
I know I am going to appreciate those slow cooker meals in this plan as well. I may have to do the 20 freezer pack meal plan soon!

And even after this one time of meal planning, I feel like I have a better hold of what it takes to prepare twenty meals. That was my goal in all this - to get more comfortable shopping and putting different meals together, so the next time, I don't have to follow someone else's plan.

Be prepared to see some of these meals on my Recipe Wednesday feature!

How do you meal plan?

No comments:

Post a Comment