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Rachel Goes On and On and On About Menu Planning and the Cost of Food -OR- A Sad Post With No Pictures

I just spent about two hours planning all of our meals for the next two weeks after payday.  I used a free trial of Plan To Eat, which is pretty cool.  I actually won a free years subscription on a blog giveaway, but I have not gotten any info about it so I might end up paying for it later.  I am trying to get on top of it, as Michael and I have been eating like crap for the last year or so since we moved out of our apartment.  I want to cook and be a good wife, and make healthy food for us, but if I don't plan it out, I usually revert back to Hamburger Helper or a trip to McDonalds.  You can judge me if you want, but I know its bad for us, and that is why I want to change it! 

My meal plan involves some very expensive grocery shopping, and I might need to reign in the spending depending on how it actually turns out to cost.  The main expense is going to be from my desire to make smoothies almost every morning.  Frozen fruit is generally pretty expensive...  But smoothies are a quick, healthy way to start your day as long as you don't add things like ice cream to them.  Michael doesn't usually eat breakfast because he gets up with just enough time to shower and leave.  I figure that smoothies are a good answer for that.  I have seen that man drink 32 ounces of water in about 15 seconds (literally!) so I figure he has time for a smoothie.  I will also make them for the girls, because like I said they are a healthy way to start the day, but if it is to expensive, I might continue giving them cereal or eggs or something later, since they don't eat at the same time as us anyways. (As I was typing this, I realized that Jordyn doesn't eat breakfast at my house for 3 days a week, because she is in pre-school... Now I have to re-write my grocery list, or at least part of it...)  I also might make Michael an egg most mornings, because he is quite a lot bigger than me and the girls and needs more protein and calories to get through the day.

I also will be sending salads or sandwiches to work with Michael everyday.  I do sandwiches sometimes, but we always buy lots of deli meat to make them, and then most of it goes bad, so I will be sticking to tuna and peanut butter for the time being.  That should shave a little off the grocery budget as well.  I can't send him left overs, because he is a delivery driver so he can't heat them up.

At first I was a little disturbed at the thought of adding so much money to what I spend on groceries every month, but when I took into account that Michael spends AT LEAST $5 a day on lunch, plus oftentimes he grabs breakfast, and that Michael and I are both cutting down our soda consumption drastically, there is a minimum of $100 extra for groceries every month.  And that is the bare minimum, because that is just counting his cheapest lunch option, not our soda, his breakfast, or our habit of eating out.

I am pretty excited to start cooking real food for us.  I love junk food, but I eat way to much of it, and all my dancing and soda eliminating isn't going to do much to help my waistline if I don't quite eating mass amounts of calories and sodium from processed garbage food.  Plus then I can quit giving my money to people that make money by basically poisoning people.

Do you menu plan, and if you do, what do you use: some sort of software or just an old fashioned pen and paper?  What are some typical meals in your house?  Do you make most meals from scratch or are you a boxed meal addict like me? 

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  1. Soda is my poison. I drink it daily and not just one glass. I'm trying to eliminate my intake and I've had a little success but I'm not so sure I can get rid of it altogether. I usually plan meals around what's on sale that week. So, one week we'll have things with hamburger and the next week it might be pork chops. Like you've realized, I found out not too long ago that eating out costs a fortune. We've been doing much less of it and have saved some moolah.

    1. I know I CAN quit drinking soda, its just that I quite enjoy it. I have stopped for a month at a time, and only drank it on Sundays during Lent last year.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting :)

  2. Oh I love this post! I, like you, want to get better at planning meals ahead of time. What does the "Plan to Eat" do you for to make it easier? I normally just get out a pen and paper and our pantry and freezer list and go from there.
    You talked about smoothies - we used to have a smoothie every morning (almost) and it was great. Now I don't do it as much, but Scott still does. But most of our fruit is free. We pick it in the summer and freeze it for the rest of the year. Blueberries and cherries we got free from Salem Harvest. Blackberries we picked at our house. Strawberries I gleaned from a place in Dayton (I think). Plums I got from my Dads house. I also was able to dry and can, apples, peaches and pears.
    Anyway, back to the meals. Because of Scott's job we can eat meals at the camp basically whenever we want. So we almost always eat weekday breakfast and lunch there. So I really only have to make dinner. And it is because I want to and enjoy cooking. However since I am so out of the habit (we have been here 3 1/2 years) that even planning dinners is sometimes hard. I seem to wait until after lunch to plan that days dinner, which makes it hard to thaw things or go to the store.
    Our meals that I go to way too often are - enchiladas, spaghetti, chicken casserole, chicken divan, tilapia, homemade mac and cheese with ham, buritos, soup. I love making (and eating) chicken parmesan, stir frys. We eat tons of brown rice (I don't even have white rice) since it is so healthy (at least that is what I hear), we have it probably 4-5 out of 7 meals a week.
    Sorry this is so long! You should post some meals ideas and then I can try a few new ones. :)

    1. Plan to Eat allows you to get recipes off of any site and it reformats them to fit their site. Then you can drag and drop the meals into the calendar and change serving sizes. When you have it all planned out it makes a grocery list of what you will need, which you can edit based on what you have, and other stuff you might need.

      I do have frozen plums and a few blueberries, but I tend to snack on frozen berries to much to have them last.

      If I don't have a long term plan I always end up being like "what should we eat" at like 5:30. Menu planning is a pain in the butt, but it makes life so much easier.

      My "go-to" meals are usually pasta based :( - spaghetti, stroganoff (my own picky person version), tacos, tuna casserole, and chicken and rice are pretty much all I cook if I don't plan out my meals.

      I am thinking I might post my menu plans on Mondays... and then a couple recipes I try out during the week...

    2. Please do! I am so much more inclined to meal plan when I see other peoples ideas. Even if they are basic it sparks me to plan them!

  3. I don't menu plan... probably should, but I don't. I get intense food cravings so I try to cook each night around those. However, I do manage to keep my food costs way down (mainly by shopping at Aldi - I love that place) and then will splurge a few times each month by making a really fancy and expensive meal like lobster! I do need some new menu ideas, though... my regular stand-bys are getting boring.

    1. We don't have Aldi here, but we have WinCo which saves us tons of money!

      My food cravings are always very bad. I really like junk food, so if we ate based off of my cravings it would be pizza, hamburgers, or fettucine alfredo every night :)

    2. The Lancaster one. It is the closest to my house.

  4. I'll post my menu plans soon. And as I make the recipesI'll share them if they are good :)

  5. I only menu plan dinners. I do about two weeks at a time, before I go grocery shopping.

    Bananas (freeze em) are cheap things to use for smoothies. I also put chia seeds in ours... but you can't buy those at winco ;) (I don't think)

    1. I know you plan dinners, because I am a stalker and I look at your wipe off board when I am at your house :)

      I saw chia seeds somewhere that I wasn't expecting to see them, but I don't know where it was now...

    2. We go through lots of frozen bananas too. I try to stock up when they are on sale for being "ripe".

  6. Here is my meal planning strategy. It's funny, we survived for years with the "What's for dinner? Let's see what ingredients we have..." approach, but now it's hard to imagine operating without the plan!

    About the lunchmeat: You can wrap enough for one sandwich in wax paper (or pieces of the bag from inside a box of cereal or crackers work really well, and that's free!) and put all of them in a freezer bag, squeeze out all the air, freeze, then thaw the number you need for each week's menu. We don't eat meat anymore, but I used to do this for my lunches in high school. You can even make the sandwich with the meat still frozen, and it will thaw by lunchtime--but it may get a little damp. Do NOT freeze a whole sandwich including lettuce--yuck!!

    1. Your plan sounds like it works great for you! If my husband cooked we would have steak, pork chops, or cereal every night :P

      Thank you so much for the tip about the lunch meat! I will definitely be using that!

  7. Rachel,
    I came behind you at thought provoking Thursdays, and genuinely enjoyed this post. Sounds like you have a plan, and it sounds good.
    Peace and good to you.

    1. Now I just have to execute it, which is where my plans tend to fail LOL

  8. I've thought about trying Plan to Eat. I'd love to hear your review on it after a couple of weeks. :-)

    I plan our menus using pen and paper. I plan two weeks at a time. We live a little distance from the grocery stores so it works out better to only have to shop twice a month instead of once a week. :-) My two favorite sources of recipes are my Taste of Home cookbooks and Pinterest. :-)

    I recently did a blog post with some my family's favorite meals.


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