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” 🤣)
  • 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!

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 😉

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 used @hatfieldmeats 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!

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: https://easyfamilyrecipes.com/jalapeno-popper-chicken-casserole/

 

2018 So Far: Goodbye (almost) 50 Pounds

My January 2, 2018 weigh-in basically crippled my emotional well-being, even though I knew it was coming: 235.5.

I’d been eating like crap because holidays, and I just didn’t really care. At that point in my life, I thought I was happy. Life had it’s very drastic ups and downs, but that was my normal and I’d accepted it as such, so I ignored all of the signs pointing to “be wary, lady”.

February and March didn’t prove to be the time I was going to help myself. I weighed in at 224 at the end of March, which to me wasn’t enough progress for 90 days. I was slacking and I knew it.

Then my life changed drastically and through some really painful self-reflection, I understood that I needed to make a serious change in the way I treated myself; I needed to learn to love and accept myself for who I am and stop changing to try to fit into whatever I thought other people needed/wanted me to be. That shit was killing me.

Even then, it really wasn’t until my BFFs S+S decided to go Keto and track macros that I really straightened up. We started using Carb Manager on April 16th (I weighed in at 218.7) and hooooly moly, I had forgotten a) how much work it is to track macros and calories and b) how productive it is to track every single morsel of food you put in your body (keto or not). I managed to stick with tracking (which normally turns me into a crazy person) through the end of June, where I excitedly weighed in at 190.5! Into ONEderland and freaking loving my progress. I’ve been 80/20 keto for the rest of the year so far, and lately have been bouncing between 186-192 (the latter this morning, but whatever). Here’s pics from April 16th compared to this morning:

I oddly enough don’t feel like there is a ton of difference between these photos when I look at them, but holy hell nothing could be further from the truth:

  1. I’m down another 32.7 lbs between these photos
  2. I’m down two pant sizes (from 16 to 12, and my 12s are big these days)
  3. My smile is freaking REAL
  4. I have actual love for myself: my heart, my brain, my body – ME. Actual real love. I’ve learned to prioritize my own needs before prioritizing others, and I’ve accepted that it’s okay to be what I want to be in life; I don’t have to change into what I think I’m supposed to do/be…I’m free to exist exactly as I am. While obviously weight loss plays a big role in my happiness, it isn’t everything. In fact it’s the opposite – getting to a place of self-love and self-acceptance is why I’ve been able to kick so much (of my own) ass this year. It’s the most beautiful cycle… love yourself, make progress, love yourself more, make more progress.
  5. Let’s give another read for #4, because holy shit I didn’t know it’d take 31 years to get here

I’m so super-close to having lost 50 lbs this year. People keep asking me what my goal weight is, and I keep telling them: I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want to get over 200 again, so I need to lose another 10-15 lbs so I can eat to my heart’s content over the holidays (I said it on IG and I’ll say it here, please save your judgement, I do what I want).

I cannot thank my amazing support system enough for helping me figure myself out and understand what changes needed to happen for me to get where I am right now (happy, holy hell). I’d list you all, but that’d be awkward and weird, so please, if you think it’s you, it probably is: thank you, so freaking much.

Onward and upward. Oh and I’ll try not to go six months before I post another update ❤

Weigh-In: Down 9.3 LBS! Woop woop! (Plus, Last Week’s Meals)

Hi, loves!

Well, I obviously gave it away in the title… down another 1.5 lbs at yesterday’s weigh-in, for a total of 9.3 lbs gone since I started back on the path of goodness on 9/4! Man, that feels good:

weigh in 9 16

I probably should’ve gone for the “HELL YEAH” but it’s my scheduled cheat day (still logging, though!) and I’m feeling like, OMG WHY AM I DOING THIS. But anywho.

Here’s what I made for food last week:

IMG_20170917_195640

I already reviewed the Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach in my last blog post, but I’ll definitely be reviewing some of the other recipes I found last week, too.

Now it’s off to finish off this logged cheat day with style – MREOW. I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday evening!

Recipe Review: Taste of Home Chicken Thighs with Shallots and Spinach (LC, HF, GF)

As part of my calorie-counting plans,  I wanted to use actual recipes *gasp* for my meal plans. It’s just a little less thinking for me to plan all the things when I can at least start somewhere with an ingredient list. I decided last week that I wanted to incorporate at least three new meals or meal ideas into our week of dinners. Of course that meant heading to my favorite place to find such things, Pinterest.

I searched “low calorie dinners” and got really good results, but for things I wasn’t really down for spending the time/money on. Bird really love chicken thighs, so I narrowed my search to “low calorie chicken thigh dinners” and voila! Success. One of the results that came up was a list of 30 Healthy Dinner Recipes in 30 Minutes from Taste of Home. There were quite a few recipes in there I was interested in, but nothing strikes my fancy like a dish with spinach. I put spinach in my scrambled eggs every morning I’m home (I drink BPC when I have to travel) and so finding a recipe that would just allow me to buy a bit more spinach? That’s meal-planning winning fo’ sho. Enter this freaking gem of a dish: Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach by Jenna Johnannes from Wrightstown, WI.

Here’s the ingredient and instruction list:

Ingredients and Instructions for Chicken Thighs with Shallots and Spinach

And here are the changes I made:

  1. Instead of using seasoned salt, I used himalyan pink salt and Simply Organic Herbs de Provence (affiliate link for Amazon, just an FYI!). I also added waaaay more than 1/2 teaspoon of the herbs, because YUM. It’s so delicious.
  2. I went with the reduced-sodium chicken broth. I’m sure the wine would be delicious, but meh.
  3. I used full-fat sour cream (Organic Valley makes reallllly good organic sour cream!) because I don’t believe in low-fat and fat-free things, except for cooking spray, lol.

I also logged all of the things into LoseIt as a recipe and put it as 4 servings (she listed six, but I try to make things that we can each just have half of, that way there aren’t leftovers to mess up my pre-planned lunches). Here’s what the recipe looked like:

my version

1010 calories for the whole shebang is perfect – that meant a 505 calorie meal for each of us. SO EXCITING when it just works out well! I knew that probably wasn’t quiiiite enough food for me after a really long day, so I added a side of roasted zucchini (zucchini, chopped with olive oil + salt + pepper, roasted at 400 degrees for 15 minutes) so the total meal came to 606 calories (29.4g fat, 14.2g net carbs, and 39.7g protein). Also, it plated up beautifully:

IMG_20170914_214314

This recipe was definitely a winner – can’t wait to rotate it in to a meal plan again in a few weeks!

I’m feeeeeeeeling goooooood

First of all, I love Michael Buble’s version of this song (not that I don’t love Nina Simone’s — mmph) but damn, that boy is a delight to ears (okay, okay, and the eyes):

As I mentioned in my last blog, I had a pretty eye-opening weigh-in two weeks ago. I was sort of in shock, disbelief… how did I let myself get back to this weight? I didn’t have the excuse of a car accident, it’s been two years since my head/spinal injury and even though that certainly plays a role, I could have adjusted by now and still been on my game…. without excuses, I just had me to blame.

I took some time to write in my personal journal to get a grip on myself. I’ve been coasting. A lot of things in my life had been a result of me coasting instead of working toward my goals. I’ve worked on a lot of those things – gotten my shit together in so many ways. But weight loss… something so important to me for so many reasons… I was just fucking around, ignoring it, putting it off, being lazy. It was time for a change.

It’s always nice when you make a commitment to something and see immediate results:

September 10 17 Weigh In

Yeah, yeah, that’s what up.

Here’s what my focus is on:

  • Meal planning (with intention of cost-savings and calorie counties)
  • Meal prep (getting all my basics cooked every Sunday so it’s not overly difficult to stick to plan because I’m being lazy)
  • Calorie counting in LoseIt, my fave app for weight loss (and totally worth the paid version; they’re a great company and the freaking data is amazing)
  • Carb-conscious (aiming for less than 100g of carbs per day, and those carbs need to be valuable, not empty)
  • Organic eats (my body is important to me and I want to treat it like I give a shit. I accept the trade-off of the cost of organic food to the cost of going to the doctor’s, something I rarely do unless it’s related to my injuries)
  • Do-able (for me) exercise (walking/hiking and Zumba once a week. I’m still considering a gym membership but have to talk to more doctors first about lifting with a spinal cord and brain issues)

Is all of this planing, prepping, and counting a pain in the ass? Yeah, kinda. But look at this progress. I can have an extra few hours a week to do whatthefuckever, or I can hunker down and take care of myself. I’m choosing me.

And it’s working.

Weight Loss Pro Tip: Use a Big F*cking Cup

In case you missed my IG post earlier this week, I had a miserable minute or twelve when I weighed myself and had gained a substantial amount of weight (substantial is in the eye of the substantiater – YMMV). House-buying, work-changing (eventually? Shoutout to my job for keeping me around <3), living-in-two-places, moving, (temporarily) losing our Maine Coon cat… the excuses are limitless. I was eating like shit and telling myself all the physical labor from moving would keep the balance.

WRONG. 

I weighed in at 230.2.

230.2. 

Fucking. Hell. Man.

I haven’t weighed 230 since after I put weight back on post car-accident. Granted, the lowest I’ve gotten since my car accident is 202. And my current weight pre-moving was 217.8. But, still. That number hit me like a ton of takeout containers. Normally I’d wallow in self-pity and give myself another five days of eating bullshit to get my ass in gear, but nope – straight on the calorie-counting train of goodness.

A big part of successful weight loss for me is drinking water – I know, I know. That’s a big part of successful weight loss for everyone. But listen – for me, it’s one of those things that if I don’t constantly have water near me, I’ll forget about it until I’m so dehydrated I can barely function. Enter my Weight Loss Pro Tip: A Big Fucking Cup (I edited in the title because not everyone knows me and my foul mouth :D).

Bird got me this for Christmas last year:

IMG_20170901_151621

It’s 24-oz and, most importantly, it has a STRAW. I drink out of it ALL THE TIME. Having it near me and it being so accessible – I just do. I’m on my fourth one today and it’s only 6PM. That means I’ve already had 9 cups of water. It also means I’ve peed about 10 times, but I digress. Bonus: it saves you some small change when you get it refilled at Starbucks – just tell them you have a “personal cup” and make sure to take the lid off/straw out for them.

PS – I have been faithfully planning/tracking my food for five days now (today included) and am already down 3.8 lbs. So, wahoo to me and eff you to my recent poor decisions. Time to kill it.