How I Save Money and Waste Less with Monthly Meal Planning

On January 9th, 2019, at 11:05 AM, I sent my soon-to-be-husband the following via text message:

“I am day-dreaming and scheming about month-long meal planning and once-a-month grocery shopping.”

Yes, I realize that normal people don’t daydream about such things, but I’m a-okay with not being normal.

I did a bit of googling and stumbled upon the Hot Mess Housewife blog, which had a plan for almost exactly what I was looking for! The primary differences between Marie’s plans and my own are:

  • I bulk shop for meat/veggies – we’ll buy 10 lbs of ground beef and break it down into 1LB bags and freeze it. This really helps us reduce potential waste.
  • I don’t prep freezer meals (for now, anyways)
  • We don’t have kids (this isn’t a big difference in the actual process, and is also “for now, anyways” ๐Ÿคฃ)
  • We are predominantly keto, so I don’t do “themed” nights other than taco Tuesday

Monthly meal planning has become a super-fun ritual for me.

Here’s the method we settled on:

  • Inventory the food we have (chest freezer, refrigerator and refrigerator freezer). While you could do this by yourself, it’s MUCH easier to do with help – that frozen food huuuurts after the fifth or six package.
    ketodeb monthly meat prep
  • Make a meal list of the meals we can make with the food we have. This includes: breakfasts (very few, as Tyler doesn’t eat breakfast unless it’s a weekend and we have nothing going on in the morning, and I usually have bulletproof coffee), lunches: I pick something I can make a lot of. Or I plan to get lunch meat for the week (I also buy in bulk and freeze it!) and dinners: this is where the variety comes in. I love Pinterest and try to keep our dinners interesting by trying new pins or the occasional fun keto cookbook. I also keep a running note of meal ideas in case I need to get inspired (by myself, haha)
  • Make a grocery list of what else we need for a month of meals, including weekly produce shopping (this is where I use Marie’s super-cool shopping list; you can print it from the blog post I linked above)
  • Print a blank calendar for the month (I just googled printable calendar and always use this simple one).
  • Input anything that we have scheduled that means we’re not making dinner that night (for us, that’s always a date night on our month-a-versary (mhmm, you read that right, we’re adorbs)).
  • Plan meals for the rest of the days! This is definitely affected by our schedules. If I have a board meeting, I’ll pick something like burgers that doesn’t take very long to cook. If I want to put meatloaf on the menu, I do it on a night we don’t have anything else going on because it takes a lot longer to prep/make. Inventory the food we have (chest freezer, refrigerator and refrigerator freezer). While you could do this by yourself, it’s MUCH easier to do with help – that frozen food huuuurts after the fifth or six package.
  • Make a meal list of the meals we can make with the food we have. This includes: breakfasts (very few, as Tyler doesn’t eat breakfast unless it’s a weekend and we have nothing going on in the morning, and I usually have bulletproof coffee), lunches: I pick something I can make a lot of. Or I plan to get lunch meat for the week (I also buy in bulk and freeze it!) and dinners: this is where the variety comes in. I love Pinterest and try to keep our dinners interesting by trying new pins or the occasional fun keto cookbook.
  • Make a grocery list of what else we need for a month of meals, including weekly produce shopping (this is where I use Marie’s super-cool shopping list; you can print it from the blog post I linked above)
  • Print a blank calendar for the month (I just googled printable calendar).
  • Input anything that we have scheduled that means we’re not making dinner that night (for us, that’s always a date night on our month-a-versary (mhmm, you read that right)).
  • Plan meals for the rest of the days! This is definitely affected by our schedules. If I have a board meeting, I’ll pick something like burgers that doesn’t take very long to cook. If I want to put meatloaf on the menu, I do it on a night we don’t have anything else going on because it takes a lot longer to prep/make. Here’s what an example of a month looks like for us:
    ketodeb monthly meal plan

We have significantly cut down on grocery costs since implementing this method. We’ve also thrown away all of one head of romaine since January. It really helps cut down on waste by having a solid plan for exactly what fresh food we need). Luckily we live in an area that has a Costco, Giant, Karn’s, and Weis on the same street (albeit 20 minutes from our house). We also have a local grocer in town and I work across from a market, so produce shopping is super-easy. We also get great prices on the bulk meat, because one of the stores always has a great deal, and if they’re not great, we just hit up Costco.

Do you meal plan at all? Have you considered monthly meal planning? Let me know in the comments below!

Finally, A Sports Bra I Can Run In

I really like to try things on before I buy them. Historically I have bras from three places: Ross, Old Navy, or J.C. Penney.

Ross is hit or miss for good sports bras (like it is with everything, that’s the risk you take loving a place like Ross as much as I do). They do carry a wide variety of brands – Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour are all brands you can snag for a reasonable price at Ross (in more than just sports bras, too), but like I said, hit or miss.

I stopped buying sports bras at Old Navy about two years ago when they changed up their support style. I used to be able to wear their medium impact sports bra for basically everything (mind you I wasn’t an avid runner then) but now even the “high impact” style is only intended to support A-C cups (nope, not me. I’m a solid 36 or 38 D, depending on the bra).

The Xersion line at J.C. Penney is still my go-to sports bra (specifically the keyhole back sports bras). I wear them for non-running cardio (Zumba, elliptical/ARC trainer, etc.) and for lifting (currently free weights). Sidebar: I also love that whole line… great, cute, fashionable clothes for working out (or not). These bras, though, were giving me a TON of boob pain from running. They’re just not supportive enough for my ladies.

I decided to just do as much research as I could about sports bras for running. The best place to do research? Amazon reviews, of course. Remember how I said I really like to try things on before I buy them? Well that didn’t happen before I found this amazing sports bra by Syrokan (Amazon affiliate link, just FYI):

As you can see it’s a full-coverage sports bra with an actual hook-and-eye clip in the back (I leave it clipped to put it on and unclip it to take it off). The straps are thick and support super well, plus they are adjustable with super-tough Velcro on them. For me that is the best part about this bra – the adjustable straps that don’t move while you’re running. I was having a lot of actual breast pain and shoulder pain until I started wearing this sports bra. I read through pages of reviews and most of them said it runs a bit small, so knowing that I’m sometimes a 36 and sometimes a 38 I ordered the 38 and I’m glad I did – I’m currently wearing it the biggest it can be (3rd row of hooks). I was so glad it fit because even though returning things from Amazon is relatively painless, I’m terrible at following through and actually taking the things to the post office. But the best part about this bra?

It’s $24.99 with free shipping for Prime members.

Some of the bras I was looking at were $80+. For me, that’s just not realistic. I love the Xersion bras because they’re almost always on sale for $15ish. I don’t have a lot of spending money so $24.99 for a sports bra like this is fantastic for me. I’ve already bought a second and literally have a third in my Amazon cart as we speak (that and a PopSocket car vent mount… priorities, amirite?).

Ladies – what are your sports bra preferences? Have you found your perfect sports bra? Would you give something like this (having to trust reviews, not being able to try it on, having to actually go run in it to see if it works like you want it to) a try?

Product Review: Revol Snax Coconut Bites

If you haven’t already heard about @RevolSnax, be prepared for instant happiness: these things are AMAZING. Their super-impressive Kickstarter just ended (they reached their initial goal in 5 days) and their production just began (they legit posted to IG TODAY that they are now in production). Based in Washington, DC and having adopted a keto lifestyle years ago, the brains behind Revol Snax were frustrated with the lack of convenient low-carb snack options that never tasted as good as homemade recipes. From that frustration was born these beauties:

Revol Snax Keto Coconut Bites

Revol Snax graciously sent me a box with one pack of each flavors to try and review for you all and let me tell you, I feel SPOILED. These little gems are so delicious, so decadent, and SO satisfying. The flavor options are (I bit into them so you could see the filling and because uh, duh, I wanted to try them all as soon as I opened them LOL):

Dark Chocolate with Almond Butter
These were the first ones I tried out of the package. The notes I took on my phone say: holy crap. Great little almond crunch and amazing chocolate flavor.

Dark Chocolate with Almond Butter Revol Snax KetoDeb review of keto product
You can’t really see the almond butter in this bite, but trust me, it’s in there.

Snickerdoodle with Hazelnut Filling
My notes: oh, the cinnamon. I love cinnamon and wow, so very cinnamony and SMOOTH.

Snickerdoole with Hazelnut Filling Revol Snax KetoDeb review of keto product
Snickerdoodle. Freaking delicious cinnamon nuttiness. YUM.

Matcha Latte with Vanilla Cream Filling
My notes: Perfect sweet and salty combo (not like, salty salty, but not overly sweet). Great filling flavor and absolutely perfect consistency. I want to take two bites and that means cleaning coconut crumbles off my boobs, but who cares.

Matcha Latte with Vanilla Cream Filling Revol Snax KetoDeb review of keto product
Matcha matcha matcha… Mmm.

And my personal favorite… Double Dark Chocolate with Ganache Filling:
My notes: Holy balls (literally). These are actually filled with ganache. Dark chocolate creamy goodness – how is this real life? Mmph.

Double Dark Chocolate with Ganache Filling Revol Snax KetoDeb review of keto product
Decadent. That’s the only word I can come up with that is even CLOSE to describing how amazing these are.

What’s actually crazy about these delightful little gems is the nutrition info:

Nutrition information with calories fat protein and net carbs Revol Snax KetoDeb review of keto product
125 calories and 1 net carb for TWO of these. TWO OF THEM. The nutrition info is basically the same for all four flavors, but visit their Kickstarter or website for the full info.

What’s even better is that because there is so much flavor and fat packed into these, they’re SATISFYING and FILLING. I took two out of the refrigerator the other night (keep in mind, I have a tendency to eat an entire mug cake WITH keto PB frosting at night) and after letting them warm to room temp, nibbled them (again, crumbs on your boobs, totally worth it) and was perfectly content dessert/snack-wise.

I’m SO excited for these to hit stores (they’re already available at DC Whole Foods! Woop woop!) and to see the continued success that Dave and Nadine of Revol Snax are certain to have!

Hot Italian Sausage Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese (LC, HF, GF)

Hi, friends!

This is an exact copy of my Instagram post from last night when I made one of my favorite kitchen creations, Hot Italian Sausage Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese. The recipe is below but feel free to make edits of course – change up the sausage flavor, add garlic, crush some pork rinds and make a “crumb” topping – the mockafoni world is your oyster ๐Ÿ˜‰

Recipe time! This is what I lovingly call my “Cauliflower Mac & Cheese” even though most people then say, “but there’s no mac…”

KetoDeb's Hot Italian Sausage Cauliflower "Mac" & Cheese from ketodeb.com
It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious.

Simple and delicious:

Ingredients:
1 lb sausage (I usedย @hatfieldmeatsย Hot Italian)
1 12 oz. bag steamable frozen cauliflower
4 oz. (half a brick) cream cheese
4 oz. each of two other cheeses (this is mozzarella and Colby jack)
2 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400
2. Cook the sausage, drain the excess fat. At the same time, cook the cauliflower according to the directions (I use the microwave, because IDWIW)
3. Stir the cream cheese into the sausage until it’s thoroughly melted 
4. Drain the water from the cauliflower (the bag is HOT. For the love of your hands, be careful or, better yet, pour it in a bowl and use a lid to drain it)
5. Mix the sausage/cream cheese mix, cauliflower, additional cheeses, and heavy cream together and put them in a 9×9 casserole dish
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until you either a) can’t wait any longer or b) are satisfied with how bangin’ your kitchen smells
7. Eat it!

I used a bit more cheese than my recipe because there wasn’t much left in the bag, so this came in at just over 500 calories for me, but with only 4 servings. YMMV.

Let me know how you like this recipe and what (if any) edits you made!

Recipe Review: Low Carb Chili Dog Bake (LC, HF, GF)

If you’re following along with my weight loss journey on Instagram, you’re already aware that I’m a self-proclaimed casserole junkie. I love how simple they are and how easy it is to prep 10 lunches for the work week from one pan. One of my recent Pinterest finds is from Jamie Sanders (Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom) and it’s a biiiiig hit: Low Carb Chili Dog Bake. My one-liner about it is: you basically make chili, put it over hot dogs, top it with cheese, and bake it.

Okay, it’s a long one-line, but still. SO good. Here’s a snapshot of the ingredients directly from Jamie’s website:

I decided to make this a bit last minute on Tuesday (we needed lunches only for Weds/Thurs/Fri this week) so I made some edits based on what I had on-hand and I ended up liking it more than last time (and it’s lower carb!). The edits I made were:

  • double the recipe, with the exception of the tomato sauce and water
  • skip the bell pepper (bf hates peppers)
  • skip the celery salt (I didn’t have any)
  • skip the sugar substitute (I’m just meh about needing it in the recipe)
  • skip the tomato paste (I didn’t have any)
  • subbed the cheddar cheese for pepper jack cheese (it’s what we had in the fridge already)

Also, the first time I made this we were annoyed with cutting the hot dogs in a bowl (the recipe calls for cutting the hot dogs lengthwise) so this time around I just chopped them into bite-size pieces.

I didn’t bother adding this all to CarbManager until today (merp, hindsight) so six servings is a RIDIC amount of calories/serving, but as ten servings it’s stellar:

DEM MACROS, THO, OMG

This is a great meal from a macro perspective, especially if you’re IF’ing and you have no issues with a 541 calorie mid-day meal. Also, it’s SO freaking good. It’s a freaking CHILI CHEESE DOG in a BOWL! Love love love. I’ll for sure keep this in our keto lunch rotation.

Have any favorite recipes to share? Anything I should try and then review? Drop a line in the comments below!

That’s the Power of (Self) Love

Queue this being stuck in your head:

If you’re following me on Instagram, you’re probably more-than-aware that my journey in 2018 has truly been focused on self-love, whether it was intentional or not.

I’d heard it since I was a teenager: you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You have to be true to you before you can be true to anyone else.

But I never GOT it before now.ย 

In January 2017, I went through a breakup that I refused to accept. I beat my head off the metaphorical wall of life until we were back together, even though that meant I sacrificed majorly important parts of who I was because I thought I HAD to be with this man (and I’m accepting full responsibility for that). Our relationship had so many issues it could’ve been NatGeo, but that didn’t deter me. I was convinced and emotionally train-wrecked and like I said, I refused to accept that our relationship was over. Fast forward to less-than-a-year later, and we’d bought a house together two hours away from where we were living, changed jobs, gotten engaged, and were planning to be married less than 1.5 years since our tumultuous breakup. My desire to be with him overruled everything, and I found myself constantly and consistently miserable. We’d have arguments over absolutely nothing that would turn into screaming matches and two days of uncomfortable miscommunication and lots and lots of me crying. It was SO unhealthy. When it finally came to an actual end (less than two months before our wedding date) the pain of the relationship ending didn’t last long (there was a lot of other bullshit, but when isn’t there in these situations?). It was over before it restarted, and accepting that made it easier to transition out of our relationship.

With the help of some really amazing people, I made the decision to really focus on weight loss and on goal-setting – what am I doing with my life? What do I want to be doing with my life? How do I get there? What things are holding me back and how do I eliminate those things? As SOON as I started to figure this shit out, my life began to improve. I did things I’d always wanted to do but never did because… why? I didn’t have a good reason. I could blame 100 things, but at the end of the day I wasn’t living for me and that was my own responsibility. I went country line dancing and recorded music with the band, I started a band and sang my heart out to people I love and people I’d never met before. I took a selfie and thought, for the first time that I can remember – holy shit, I’m beautiful.

As I started to make decisions for only myself (and to write about all the things somewhat incessantly), I subsequently started to realize what I had spent the last 14 years of my life doing: hoping that if I was whatever someone else wanted me to be, they’d love me. We can talk for days about where this stems from (being abused as a child, being raised in a religion in which a woman’s value was her ability to take care of a husband and children, societal pressure to be everything to everyone, a lot of defense mechanisms because I was scared of basically everything) but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I needed to figure out how to move past all of that, past all of the reasons (excuses) and into a better place for myself. After all, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You have to be true to you before you can be true to anyone else.ย 

My dedication to my health and weight loss has been awesome – losing almost 50 lbs has really had a positive impact on my mental faculties. But what I’ve changed the most this year is how I treat myself. When the voice creeps into my head to tell me I’m [insert self-deprecation here, I don’t even want to cite an example because I don’t have time for that shit] I just shut it down. I literally say to myself, usually in my head, but whatevs if it’s out loud, “stop” or “that’s enough of that”. When I get dressed in the morning, I don’t pick apart every little thing about how I look in my outfit. I just smile at myself in the mirror and move on with my day. I’m working on not being obsessed with tight-fitting clothes – it’s okay for me to wear something loose or baggy, it doesn’t somehow take away from my weight loss progress. Instead of the normal golden rule of “treat others the way you want to be treated” I’m following the “golden rule of owning who you are and loving yourself”: treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Be nice to YOU, be good to YOU.ย Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. It’s hard work and constant analysis of your thoughts and actions. It’s taking an intricately woven cloth that’s had so much outside influence (and that’s 31 years old, in this case) and unweaving it, strand by strand, until you can take all of your fibers and weave them back together with your own love and your own patience. It’s also big, big lessons in forgiveness. Because you’re going to fuck it up. And have regrets, and then spend time learning how to not regret a second because you appreciate where you’re at and where you’re going. It’s deep breathing and not taking a moment of your life for granted, because even though sometimes it feels like it’s dragging on, it can end at a moment’s notice.

If you’re still reading (sorry, so many words) and you’re feeling at ALL like you need to learn to love yourself, please please PLEASE start today. Start right now. Write down five things you like about yourself and read it 10 times before the day is over. Then read it again tomorrow. Read it every day for a week, then make a new list. It’s a simple start but it’ll change your life. That’s the power of (self) love.

Recipe Review: Jalapeno Popper Chicken Casserole (LC, HF, GF)

I was scanning Pinterest a few weeks ago for “easy keto meals” and came across this pretty photo:

Pin

The tagline cracked me up, but DAMN that looks delicious! I pinned it and then decided to make it for lunches the following week.

Here’s a snapshot of the ingredients and instructions:

ingredients

directions

And here’s what I changed:

  1. I used a little over 2 lbs of chicken breasts because I use the Costco six-packs, so I used two of those.
  2. I sprayed the casserole dish with cooking spray because eew.
  3. I didn’t have time to let the cream cheese soften, so I softened in the microwave. It only takes about 15 seconds to do so!
  4. There is no way I only used 4 oz of cheese. More like 8. Ya know, the entire bag. And from the image shown, I can’t believe that’s only 4 oz of cheese, either, lol.
  5. I used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.
  6. I didn’t serve it with a side, but instead just split it into several Pyrex containers (Amazon affiliate link, just FYI!) for the week.

This meal is BANGIN’. It smells and tastes super-good, and is really filling. It did get hotter as the week went on and the peppers had time to settle in the meal, just FYI. I didn’t leave in any seeds and almost no pilf, so if you do, be prepared for more heat by Friday.

I managed to make us 8 lunches out of this, so it’d be great if you’re also cooking for two or you could make slightly bigger servings and have it for your whole week. 10/10; this meal will definitely be in the rotation!

Original recipe:ย https://easyfamilyrecipes.com/jalapeno-popper-chicken-casserole/