Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meal Planning and Shopping on a Budget: Part One

A lot of bloggers recently have done posts on how they meal plan, and grocery shop for that plan, and I decided to join in. About three years ago I started to be much more strict about our meal planning. When Ben and I first moved in together and were engaged, our grocery shopping consisted of, "that looks good, let's get that," or "that reminds me of a recipe I like, let's make that this week." There was little sitting down to plan, beyond when I would randomly find a recipe I liked on a blog or website, and then put those ingredients into my grocery list that weekend.

All that has changed now, and especially changed now that Austin eats dinner with us each night. We don't have a choice but to have a dinner plan, because Austin needs a good, filling meal, and can't just have a bowl of cereal if we don't feel like cooking like Ben and I can do.

During this two part series, I'll touch on our grocery shopping habits, and then in the next post, how we meal plan. I'll start with where we shop and what we go there for.

There are certain staples for our groceries we get at Costco. We go about once a month for certain items, and then buy other items there as we need them.
 Costco Staples:
  • Ground Beef
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • Apple Sauce
  • Quinoa
  • Milk
  • Chips
We do have to buy milk more often than our trips to Costco, but try to stock up as much as we can there, since it's such a good deal. Austin has started to get really excited when we walk into Costco because he knows he will get to try a few samples (there have been a couple days where he had so many he didn't need lunch after).

For other staple grocery items, we go to Super Target or Target. A recent news story done in our area on grocery price comparisons shows that Target and Wal-Mart (where I hate going and refuse to) are the most affordable for staple grocery items.
Target Staples:
  • 99% Lean Ground Turkey
  • Cereal
  • Canned Goods
  • Frozen Fruits and Veggies
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice Cream
  • Frozen Meals
  • Bread
  • Peanut Butter/Hummus/Condiments
  • Snack Bars for lunches
  • Fruit and Veggie Pouches
  • Other Random Grocery items
  • Toiletries
I prefer to use ground turkey when I can over ground beef, so I buy this at Target, as I haven't been able to find 99% lean at Costco. For saving at Target, it also helps that we use the Target Red Card for an extra 5% off, bring our own bags and I clip coupons for items we normally use to help us out. We usually get other items we need at Target outside of groceries like toiletries (we order diapers through Amazon prime).

For fresh produce and gluten free items, I usually go to Wegmans. I absolutely love this store, it has good prices for the level of service it has, and the store is beautiful and clean with bountiful produce options, delicious cheeses and bakery items. They also have a lot of fresh cut produce ready to use in recipes. I try to avoid these items to save money, but if I know I'll need them for a crazy week, I pick them up here.

Enjoying a Snickerdoodle while Shopping at Wegmans

If you're not familiar with this East Coast grocery chain, and read this in Minnesota, let's just say it's like Byerlys on steroids and not as expensive. Their hot line food bar is also restaurant quality for grabbing a quick meal. I'm digressing, but I love Wegmans. If I ask them to look into a certain gluten free item that I can't find on their shelves, they will try and special order it for me, and call me when it comes in to pick up at their service counter. Their customer service is simply wonderful.
Wegmans Staples:
  • Deli Cheese
  • Specialty Cheeses
  • Gluten Free Bread
  • Gluten Free Convenience Foods like frozen meals, crackers, etc.
  • All Produce
I also like Trader Joes and will randomly go there for certain items, like the ones I wrote about in this post, but like I said then, their produce does go bad quickly, but I like certain convenience items there.

Basically, there are certain items I like from certain stores, and sometimes based on time, I have to bite the bullet and just do all my shopping that week at a certain store (that usually ends up being Wegmans), but meal planning helps us not have to run back to the store during the week for random items.

Next post, I'll talk about specific meal planning and how to do that with food allergies, and toddler and different food preferences on a budget each week.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Here We Go Again...

As I let the social media world know late last week, we have some news in our house...

We're having a baby! 

Baby number two is due to arrive around the first week in August and I couldn't be more excited and petrified about it. Having two under two for a bit will be a tad crazy, but I think a lot of fun in the long run, and I'm so glad my children will be able to grow up together.

When I told you all I have pregnant with Austin I put a few things out there in this post and I still feel the same on many of those topics. So just like with my last pregnancy, there will be no bump pics, no ultrasound pictures, no details of my bodily functions, etc. But, I will be honest and forthright about what's going on as we prepare to become a family of four (Cooper piped in to say--family of five!).

People ask you the most random (and not so random) questions when you are pregnant, so I will try to answer some of them below.

How are you feeling?
I am feeling good. VERY tired still as I get into the second trimester, which I'm not sure if it's a combination of a full time job along with parenting a walking and running toddler, and trying to stay active, but it's the perfect storm to have me very fatigued by the end of the day. I have had some nausea with this pregnancy, but nothing like my previous pregnancy where I was throwing up often, and only had a few foods I could consume. In fact, this pregnancy has brought on crazy cravings, where my mind is constantly on food. Some of the them good for me, some of them terrible. All of them tasting delicious when they're fulfilled!

How far along are you?
I am fifteen weeks right now, due August 8.

Will you find out the gender ahead of time?
No, we are going to wait until the birth to find out the gender. I know how crazy this may seem, but I love the surprise!

Do you have names picked out?
Yes and no, we have many possibilities, and have decided to not share any of our name selections, or contenders with anyone until the baby is born, and named.

Will you you have a planned C-Section since your last delivery was a C-Section?
No, my birth plan is to VBAC if my body allows that to be possible. If I reach one week overdue, I will have a C-Section at that point. I would really like to avoid another C-Section, but most importantly would like to bring home a healthy child, so I'm not going to obsess over this. I'm not a fan of scheduled C-Sections just because, and am glad my doctors support this decision.

Will you have more than two children?
I think this is always really personal when people ask this, but I know people are curious when others have their second child since it seems to be the norm to have two children. Our plan was always to have at least three children, and I have always (and still do) think two kid families are so boring in the long run (but trust me, it's not boring while you're raising them, I know how crazy it can be, and I pass no judgement on people who only want one or two children, I get it). I like the idea of having multiple siblings to grow up with and come home to as an adult. That said, these first two kids are going to be fairly close in age, so unless something unplanned happens there will be a bit of time before we have more children, and luckily since I'm young enough, age is not an issue to push us to have them sooner. Ben and I agreed before we were married that we wanted to be done having children before I turned 35, and I'm hoping that works out.

Are you running?
No, I am not running. Running and pregnancy just does not work for me, it leaves me feeling way too out of breath, like my heart will beat out of my chest and light headed. I have been taking a spin class once a week, and swimming once a week as well while Austin and Ben do swimming lessons. I also try to make it to the gym at work at least once a week for some sort of cardio (either elliptical or walking) and strength training. I plan to start prenatal yoga in the next few weeks, as I did with Austin. It's right smack in the middle of the day on the weekends, so it may be difficult, but I'd like to go as often as I can.

So there you have it, my pregnancy 411 for Baby Cush Part Two. This blog will remain the same, as it did through Austin's arrival, but I look forward to bringing you all along for the journey. If you have any other questions for me, feel free to ask!

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fantastic New Gluten Free Food Finds

Lately I've stumbled on some really great Gluten Free finds without even looking. Things just jumping out at me when I'm out grocery shopping. So many, that it's warranting it's own blog post!

First, at Trader Joes I recently found these cupcakes and quick make macaroni and cheese.

The cupcakes were delicious! Perfectly moist and the butter cream frosting was amazing. You must eat them within the first two days of opening them though, or they go down hill fast. So, unless you want to ruin your healthy eating, I'd get them when you can share the pack with some friends, because they won't last for several days. They are no where near being good for you, but a nice treat.

The macaroni and cheese was okay. I would eat it again in a pinch, but can't say I loved it. It was a huge portion, so hard to take for lunch at work, as it needs to split in two, and had a bit of a gritty taste to it. I enjoyed it while eating it, but after couldn't stop thinking about the grit. I would recommend you try it for yourself and see if it fits your flavor.

In the snack bar realm, there are a couple new varieties out on shelves, Van's PB&J bars and Annie's granola bars.

I loved the Van's PB&J bars, especially the strawberry. I also prefer strawberry jelly on my PB&J sandwiches, so that's probably the flavor preference there. I haven't been able to find these in stores, and Van's was not very helpful when I tweeted them (they told me to use their product locator on their website, which only tells you which stores carry Van's products in general, not specific ones), so I'm stumped on where to find these. A friend of mine received them in a sample pack with a few other products and gave me them, so I guess I'll just have to keep watching grocery store shelves.

The Annie's Double Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Cookie Chewy Granola Bars were found at Super Target. I really love the Double Chocolate Chip and think the Oatmeal Cookie ones are only okay. The Double Chocolate Chip ones taste great, are 120 calories and a good little snack. The Oatmeal Cookie ones have a sickening cinnamon flavor that's over powering, and take away from the bar. I will not buy that flavor again, but have since purchases more Double Chocolate Chip flavor.

And a final delicious gluten free find, Dole Strawberry Dippers!

Dole assured me these are gluten free when I tweeted them, and they are delicious! They are on limited release right now, and I could only find them at Wal-Mart in Virginia. They are really good though, with four chocolate covered strawberries per pack, and 60 calories a pack. They already have a banana variety of these, but I'm really happy they came out with a strawberry variety, because as most of you know, I am not a banana fan.

Hope you've enjoyed these gluten free finds! Most of them are delicious whether you are gluten free or not.

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