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!

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/