Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Week's Meals

Yesterday I outlined some changes I'm bringing to my blog, including more of a focus on original recipes and meal planning. To start with, here is this week's meal plan. I am still taking part in the PPK Cookbook Challenge, and this week's selection is Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli. I don't own this book, so I will be making some recipes available on her website.

I usually plan to cook at home five nights out of the week, assuming we will eat leftovers one night and eat out one night.

1. Vegan Mac N' Cheese
2. Panang Curry
3. Avocado Pesto Pasta
4. Hawaiian Sloppy Joes
5. Pad Thai

After making my menu, I write out my grocery list based on the recipe ingredients. I usually do this a couple of days before I plan to go grocery shopping. The reason is partly because I'm a nerd and enjoy making grocery lists, so why wait? But it's also because, if I make the list right before I go shopping, I am bound to overlook something I needed, like dog food or paper towel. So I make my list, pin it up on the bulletin board, and over the next couple of days Tony and I will add a few items as they pop into our heads.

Breakfasts and lunches are not listed on my weekly menu. I don't plan those meals per se, but I consider our options, and add items to my shopping list as needed. I don't want to send Jackson off to school without his peanut butter sandwich, string cheese, and banana that he enjoys. For breakfast, we eat cereal, oats, or homemade bars, pancakes or waffles. Last night I made apple-cinnamon steel-cut oats in the slow cooker, which will provide breakfast for a couple of days.

Here is this week's shopping list based on the above meal plan and an investigation of my pantry to see what cooking staples we needed. (Another day, I will discuss staples and stocking a pantry.)

1 bunch cilantro
1 sweet potato
1 bunch kale (organic)*
1 bunch scallions
3 yellow onions
1 green bell pepper
8 oz. white button mushrooms
2 broccoli crowns
2 avocados
1 bag baby carrots
1 bunch basil
3 shallots
1 lime
4 bananas
4 Honeycrisp apples (organic)*

*I follow the EWG Shopper's Guide, buying organic versions of the "dirty dozen" whenever I can.

1 extra-firm tofu
1 jar Thai red curry paste
2 cans chickpeas
1 can tomato sauce
1 jar adobo seasoning
1 whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 whole wheat linguine
brown sugar
1 skim milk
2 unsweetened almond milks

Orbit gum
dog food

My total at H-E-B was $77.04. I bought one extra treat not on the list, Brookside dark chocolate-covered blueberries, for $3.58. That's not a bad total, especially considering I spent $14.28 of it on Monster's dog food!

After stocking up at H-E-B, we stopped by Natural Grocers to pick up two items that caught my eye in the weekly sale circular. I snagged two pounds of raw cashews for $7.38, which I think is a great deal (and they'll keep for months in the freezer.) I also bought Natural Calm magnesium supplements, regularly $19, on sale for $12.29.

By planning meals, seeking out sale items, and not making a lot of impulse buys, I can stock up on certain items when they are on sale, try new products (like the supplements), and still keep my weekly shopping total for my family of four under $100. If you had told me when I was younger that cooking meals at home every night was a means of saving money, I would have laughed. Surely it's cheaper to go to Taco Bell? Or just eat quick, no-fix meals, like cereal or frozen burritos? Let's not even get into the poor nutritional value of those types of meals. The truth is that by learning to follow recipes, plan a weekly menu, and stick to a grocery list, I am saving my family tons of money, compared to what we'd be spending on restaurant meals or prepared foods. As a stay-at-home mom not earning an income, this is my way of insuring we stay on track with our budget, as well as keeping us as healthy as we can be.

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