Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meal Planning and Shopping on a Budget Part Two

Here's part two of my series on meal planning and shopping on a budget, you can find part one of the series on grocery shopping here, and check out the post below on meal planning.

Our meal planning (and schedule planning) is all based around this board.

In our old place, we had a smaller marker board on the fridge because this one was too massive to put anywhere. Now, this hangs at the entrance of our kitchen.

At the end of each work week I sit down and look through recipes I've favorited, or through my cookbooks, and compare them to what we already have in our pantry to see if I can use up things we already have for recipes and not spend as much that week. I do this on Thursday or Friday so we can hit up any stores we need to on Saturday or Sunday. Also, in true dork fashion, sometimes we make Friday a go out to eat, and then hit up Target family "adventure" night.

When it comes to picking our meals, I keep all of our tastes in mind (Ben does not like seafood, and beyond a few random items, generally neither do I), and my celiac with having to eat gluten free, and my distaste for a few items as well. Ben is not the worlds most adventurous eater either, so there are certain meals I plan for when he is not going to be home (like anything with squash or eggplant).

I feed Austin exactly what we eat every night. Some nights he loves it, some nights he refuses most of his plate (even if he's eaten that same thing a week earlier and loved it!) and has a mainly milk dinner. Austin would love it if we ate macaroni and cheese, black beans, or french fries on rotation every few nights.

Picky eating is something I don't have much tolerance for, but I'm also not going to serve Austin something I know he hates and have a fight, still he is served pretty much exactly what we eat. Also, I keep in mind he can't have particularly spicy items, or things hard for him to chew. Plus, I think it's great for him to try new things all the time. If he's unsure about something we usually say, "touch it to your tongue and see if you like it, and if you don't, you don't have to eat it."

"You want me to eat what?!"

Since Austin cannot express his tastes right now beyond refusal (which is sometimes more graceful than other times), I try to make him a well balanced plate each meal and let him chose what he wants to eat off of it, and my weekly meal planning is done with this in mind. We often throw away a lot of fruits and vegetables uneaten from his plate, but then certain times he surprises us and digs into them, and I know it was worth all the food we had to toss. I'm thankful that his daycare offers him a diverse lunch each day as well with a meat, starch, fruit and vegetable.

Most weeks we make dinner at home four out of the five weeknights, and eat out at an easy place like Chipotle, Pei Wei, Noodles, Jason's Deli, etc. one of the other meals, mainly for sanity reasons to give ourselves a night off.

I also try to do as many crockpot meals as I can so that dinner can be ready earlier, and with less clean up. This does require setting my alarm about ten minutes earlier in the morning though to get the recipe going.

Ben usually cooks one night of the week, doing something on the grill with sides. I love those nights because then I can come home and dedicate all my time to playing with Austin before he goes to bed.

On weekends, we don't plan as rigorously, and usually end up going out for one of our meals. I also make bigger breakfasts (eggs, waffles, pancakes, something like that) on weekend mornings.

To round out this post, I wanted to share with you some of the recipes that are staples right now in our weeknight meal planning, including:
I'd love to hear about your meal planning, and any go to weeknight recipes you have right now! I'm always looking for ways to have smooth meal planning, and a lower grocery bill! Please comment and let me know!

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