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!

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

 

Keto Meal Planning – It’s Simple, I Promise!

Hi friends! So this is a super-long blog with a LOT of words, but bear with me, that doesn’t mean it’s complicated, I promise! I did feel, though, that I was writing sort of haphazardly, so I apologize in advance if I’m a little all over the place.

I get a lot of IG questions about meal planning–how do you plan ahead for the entire week? How do you economically grocery shop for everything you want to make? How do you stick to it and not get off track?

I meal plan in one of two ways: 1) I’m not bored, so let’s keep it simple, or 2) I hate everything and I need new meals in my life.

I’m also a “keep the staples in the house” kinda gal, so I’ve almost always got chicken, ground beef, and salmon in the freezer, and bacon, butter, cheese, cream cheese, and heavy cream in the refrigerator. I never run out of coffee/tea, and I think I keep the egg farmer in business with how many eggs I buy. I also buy fresh veggies (and frozen, depends on my schedule/mood) every week, and anything else is based off of option 1 or 2 above. One of the MOST important parts of meal-planning for me is finances. I am extremely budget-conscious, and that plays very heavily into my meal-planning/grocery shopping.

Let’s take meal-planning meal-by-meal to make it as simple as possible.

Breakfast meal-planning:

  1. I hate getting out of bed in the morning. I don’t want to get up earlier than I have to to get to work by 8:30, so I’m not going to make myself eggs and cheese for breakfast on work-days. Instead, I’m a HUGE fan of Bulletproof Coffee, and I have a nice routine down where I boil my water after my shower, mid-makeup I come out and grind the coffee beans and then French press my coffee. Before I head out the door, I blend in butter and MCT/Coconut oil with an aerolatte and drink half on the way to work and half when I get here (not intentionally, it just always happens that way).

Mid-morning snack meal-planning:

  1. I’m pretty much always hungry around 10, whether I BPC or eat a full meal at 6:30 AM, so I always comes to work prepared. Sometimes I nuke a quest bar for 15 seconds and eat that, but the more cost-conscious option is to bring two hard-boiled eggs. I hard-boil eggs on Sunday night and eat them through the week (I leave the shell on, though I’m not entirely sure why). This is a simple and super-cheap way to get a good snack in mid-morning.

Lunch meal-planning:

  1. Always, always, always make your lunch the night before. It saves so much early morning stress to already have it packed!
  2. I’m a salad-for-lunch kinda gal.Β Sometimes I switch over to everything I’d put in my salad being in a wrap, but not often. On Sundays, I buy a 3-pack of Romaine and chop/spin 1 head, fill my salad container for Monday, then chop/spin another head to get me through til Wednesday. I have this super amazing salad bento-box looking thing from Rubbermaid that I love. I put walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola, and protein in the top part (often times my protein is lunch meat that I chop, but this week it’s bacon I chopped/cooked last night) and bring a little refillable container of ranch dressing with me. I never ever get bored of this meal, so I have it just about all the time, lol. You can of course buy bagged, chopped lettuce, but it’s much cheaper to get the heads and DIY.

Afternoon snack meal-planning:

  1. CUCUMBERS. I’m telling you. This is the only answer for me. They’re crisp and cool and a great pick-me-up if you get sleepy in the afternoon. Sometimes I put my leftover ranch on them, but most of the time I just eat them. I slice them every night when I make my lunch so they don’t get yucky, and keep the remaining cuke in a ziploc in the vegetable drawer until it’s gone (I get the seedless hothouse cucumbers, and two of those gets me through the week of snacks).
  2. I also almost always have a Tervis Tumbler full of tea in the afternoon. The caffeine boost is nice, and I freaking love tea.

If I’m not bored, dinner meal-planning is super simple for me. I’m going to have a protein, I’m going to slather it in fat, and I’m going to have a veggie, and I’m going to slather that in fat, too. If I am suffering from boredom, I start with Pinterest. I have a fantastic love affair with Pinterest, and I’ll often come away from my boredom feeling excited about new dishes to make, new recipes to alter (I really love to cook, so changing things up is a past-time of mine), etc. Either way:

Dinner meal-planning:

  1. Start with what you have. Most of the time when people say they “have no food in their house”, they don’t mean it. I know that right now, I have three packs left of a multi-pack of boneless skinless chicken breast from Costco in the freezer. And two salmon filets. And two packages of ground beef. Even if I’m suffering from boredom, I can find something new and exciting to make with what I already have (that budget rules the roost, I tell ya).
  2. Work around your own schedule. I know that on Tuesday nights, I have about 20 minutes between getting home and needing to change/leave for club volleyball. So I need something that a) isn’t going to take forever or can be made the night before and b) won’t make me puke on the court. This is almost always cheeseburgers, which I make on Monday night when I make Monday night’s dinner, and then heat up when I get home on Tuesday. If you’re into leftovers (I’m not NOT into leftovers, I’m just a salad-for-lunch kinda gal) then you can make up a few extra cheesburgers, and take them for lunch on another day of the week. For me, and probably for most folks, making my life simpler is the best way for me to stick to something like planning ahead for five days/grocery shopping ahead/eating well/not being an asshole to myself.
  3. If you buy fresh or frozen veggies regularly, it’s totes okay to have “grilled chicken/frozen veggies” as your dinner meal-plan. Then you can have whatever seasonings/veggies you want, add in some butter or fat of some kind, and you’ve not only stuck to your plan, but you’re not grid-locking yourself into broccoli on Thursday and Brussels sprouts on Friday, no matter what.

With all of this taken into consideration, the actual most important part for me is to WRITE THIS SHIT DOWN.

I use a Happy Planner, so I have the Meal Planner extension (from the home expansion) and I use that. It has a lovely schedule for the days, I fill in the meals, and there is a grocery list on the opposite page (that I use for the next week, rather than the week we’re in). Because I use my HP for EVERYTHING, it’s super-simple for me to keep track of what I’m making, what I need to take out of the freezer and when, etc.

TL;DR: Use what you have. Buy what you don’t have. Change it up if you’re bored. Make lunches the night before. Write everything down so you don’t forget to take out the frozen meat and you stick to your plan of eating well. Kick ass. Repeat.