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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7/19 thru 7/25 #mealplanning Shopping for the lowest priced store pays off BIG! #cooking #SAHM

Brand new to Meal Planning and want to get started?

Start by reading all about how I go about Meal Planning each week in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find the eight steps to meal planning - a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week so these weekly posts focus more on how I chose my menu (do we have a busy week? what's in-season and inexpensive? is it too hot to boil noodles and run the oven?) and why I purchased what I did.


This week's news:
I've really started focusing on shopping at the least expensive stores this year and have found Lucky's to be the cheapest overall. Their produce is dollars cheaper per item and per pound, which is the bulk of my purchase each week; however, I have found their poultry and fish to be sub-par and MORE expensive (go figure!) so, I still find myself swinging by Safeway or Trader Joe's on my way home each week. And that's okay! High quality at the best price is my goal. :)

The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.
We did eat everything we planned for so, here's my updated inventory list below less what we ate last week:

Inventory

5 portions ground sirloin
6 portions ground turkey
1 portions pork shoulder
3 portions stew meat
1 portion flank steak
1 portions wings & drumsticks
1 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
2 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
2 portions Brats

1 portions Italian sausage
2 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes

I looked through my pantry, freezer and fridge for inspiration, noting ingredients I had on hand to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List.
Simultaneously, I read the weekly ads and looked through the coupons via the iPhone apps to see what was on sale that might complement and/or substitute what I came up with. I also always try to stretch ingredients on my grocery list over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. For example, I needed limes and cilantro for my fajita marinade but would have leftover so I added guacamole as a side dish to one meal and added a meal that would use up the remaining guacamole this week to use it all up.

Here's this week's menu and why I chose these meals:

Weekly Meal Plan

Steak fajitas with chips and guacamole
Flank steak in my freezer made me crave fajitas and the steak sandwiches we make with the leftovers. I just had to purchase tortillas ($1.99), chips ($2), avocados (2@$3), cilantro ($0.33), an orange ($0.79/lb) and limes (5@$1) for the marinade and guacamole.

Chicken Alfredo french bread pizza
I saw this recipe on Six Sister's Stuff blog and David insisted we try it. I agreed because we'd have the leftover grilled chicken and I had mozzarella cheese. I had to purchase a loaf of french bread ($0.99), Roma tomatoes ($0.59/lb), green onions ($0.79) and Asiago cheese ($3).

Sloppy Joe's with oven fries
With a can of Manwich starring at me from the pantry and ground beef in the freezer, this was a no-brainer this week. I just needed to purchase burger buns ($1.99). 

Leftovers

Chicken toastadas with Spanish rice
Toastadas are a Tex-Mex staple and something I grew up on. It's like a flat taco shell that you pile high with whatever you like. Think nachos! I purchased the toastada shells ($2.19) and will use up the leftover guacamole, tomatoes and cilantro to top them. I'll make some home-made Spanish rice as a side dish.

Steak sandwiches with fresh herb spread and roasted cauliflower
Fresh arugula ($2.99), parsley ($0.50), capers, asiago, lemon juice blended together makes the most delicious spread to slather on hoagie rolls (in my freezer) and layered with tomato slices and leftover steak. YUM! I'll roast cauliflower ($1.49) to serve alongside it.

Family dinner out 

What did I purchase this week?

I spent $61.02 at Lucky's this morning. Yep, that's it and I purchased:
  • french toast bread, $1.00
  • deli ham, $6.99/lb
  • strawberries, buy 1 get 1 free, $2.50/ea
  • bananas, $0.59/lb
  • mangos, 2@$1
  • nectarines, $1.88/lb
  • seedless grapes, $1.49/lb
  • sandwich bread, $1.99

Monday, July 14, 2014

7/12 thru 7/18 #mealplanning when the kids are home and eating EVERYTHING you take advantage of in-season, cheap summer fruit! #kids #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning and want to get started?

Start by reading all about how I go about Meal Planning each week in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find the eight steps to meal planning - a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week so these weekly posts focus more on how I chose my menu (do we have a busy week? what's in-season and inexpensive? is it too hot to boil noodles and run the oven?) and why I purchased what I did.


This week's news:

We are all getting back on the healthy eating bandwagon, focusing on whole, raw foods which lead me to dig through the pantry to see what was in there that needed to be thrown out or replaced. Know what I found? The Hershey's chocolate syrup I let the kids mix into their milk has high fructose corn syrup as the number one ingredient. Yikes! :( I really want to find an alternative, any ideas?!?

The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.
We did eat everything we planned for so, here's my updated inventory list below less what we ate last week:

Inventory

6 portions ground sirloin
8 portions ground turkey
1 portions pork shoulder
3 portions stew meat
1 portion flank steak
1 portions wings & drumsticks
2 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
2 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

1 portions Italian sausage
2 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes

I looked through my pantry, freezer and fridge for inspiration, noting ingredients I had on hand to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List.
Simultaneously, I read the weekly ads and looked through the coupons via the iPhone apps to see what was on sale that might complement and/or substitute what I came up with. I always try to stretch ingredients on my grocery list over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. As I go through each store's ad it becomes obvious quite quickly, which store is offering the lowest price on the majority of what is on my list and that is where I'll do my shopping. We have a Lucky's 3 miles away and a Trader Joe's and a Safeway that share a parking lot just down the road. This week, Safeway was offering the lowest prices so, I went there!



Here's this week's menu and why I chose these meals:

Weekly Meal Plan

Spinach-stuffed shells with garlic bread
While digging through the pantry/freezer/fridge, I spotted jumbo shells, jarred organic marinara sauce, and block parmigiano-reggiano cheese. 32oz shredded mozzarella was on sale ($5) and frozen chopped spinach was $0.89 so, I chose this meal. I needed to purchase an onion ($0.69/lb), french bread ($1.99) and garlic spread ($1.29) to complete this meal. 

Peach-BBQ glazed grilled chicken with smoked corn cakes
With apricot preserves and our favorite Stubb's BBQ sauce in the fridge, this meal was an easy one. David always grills up 6-8 chicken breasts over the weekend for us to eat for lunch throughout the week (he hates deli meat sandwiches - I don't blame him!) and in other meals so, I just set a few aside that I'll slather this glaze on for dinner one night. Oh, corn cakes. This is Giada de Laurentis' recipe and it's to die for. We smoke our corn (4@$1) before stripping the kernels off and combining them with sour cream, bread crumbs, green onions ($0.33), and shredded fontina cheese ($5.99/lb) and forming little cakes that I fry up in a skillet. Delicious! I made double the recipe to freeze for another meal.

Brats with oven fries
I always try to choose at least one meal the add to our weekly menu that costs us nothing, meaning I found all the ingredients in the house. This would be one of those meals!

Leftovers

Crispy tacos with chips and guacamole
In an attempt to get more whole, raw foods and healthy fats into our diet, I knew I'd be whipping up some guacamole. Lucky me avocados were $1/ea! I'll use up some of the remaining red onion, leftover lime juice from our 4th of July party, and some cilantro I purchased for $0.33. I have chips in the pantry as well as corn taco shells and remaining organic Romaine lettuce and tomato from last week.

BBQ chicken pizza
A quick easy meal for me is this pizza because it uses bacon, which we always have leftover from breakfast, chicken, which we always have, and fresh dough that I can make myself but chose to buy this week for $1 because my time this week was definitely worth $1! :) I'll use up the remaining red onion and green onions and cilantro on our pizza. I'll use some of the mozzarella I purchased today plus the cheddar I have on hand. This is probably David's favorite meal ever!

Pad Thai
We haven't had this meal in a long time and all the ingredients I purchased today or have on-hand will complete this meal, which is fantastic for our budget! I have the noodles on hand as well as all the sauce ingredients. I'll use up the last of the green onion and cilantro. This meal will use up the other half of the ground turkey that I will brown for the tacos. I just had to purchase roasted, salted peanuts ($2.99).

What did I purchase this week?

We average about $150 per week, but I spent $120.89 this week. 

In addition to what I mentioned above, I purchased:
  • Yoplait 8pk, $3.99 plus $1 off coupon
  • Nutri-grain Eggo frozen waffles, $4.99 - for when we don't have time to make a breakfast from scratch
  • Totino's frozen pizzas, $1.00 each - Emily's favorite dinner
  • Cheerios protein cereal, FREE
  • Life cereal, 2@$5
  • Mesquite turkey and ham deli meat, $4.99/lb - the kids like deli meat plain
  • Ricotta cheese, $2.99 - for the stuffed shells
  • English muffins, $2
  • Triscuit sweet potato and brown rice cracks, $1.99
  • Breakfast sausage, $2.99 - I love breakfast burritos!
  • Canned mandarin oranges, $0.74
  • Bing cherries, $1.99/lb
  • Watermelon, $5.99
  • Yellow peaches, $1.88/lb
  • Organic strawberries, 2@$5
  • Organic fuji apples, $2.49/lb
  • Red plums, $1.99/lb
  • Sandwich bread, $1.99 - the kids love grilled cheese and PBJ sandwiches

2014 Summer #Vacation to #Texas - FREE Nature Nights at @WildflowerCtr are amazing for #kids #parenting #austin

One of the places we always visit during our summer vacations to Texas is The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center down in South Austin.

This year's trip we got a big surprise: they had FREE Nature Nights specifically designed for kids every Thursday in June from 5-8pm. Each Thursday had a theme, crafts, professionals to give speeches and answer questions, gifts, and lots of fun activities.

We attended the week that was dedicated to Dinosaur Fossils and we couldn't have imagined a better experience!

HEB always sponsors these events so we weren't surprised to see the HEBuddy there, handing out goodies bags (re-usable bags with an orange and bottle of water inside) and interacting with the kids; however we were surprised at how excited the kids were to see him, shake his hand, and take photos with him. Nolan was facinated, waving at him, hugging him, talking to him and being quite the hog of HEBuddy's attention. :)


You could walk around the grounds, doing all the activities at your own pace, or follow the itinerary that included a presentation and fossil hunt!


We were so hot, we chose to go inside the store first to "ooh" and "aah" over all the amazing books and treasurers all about the beautiful native Texas flowers and birds.


Then, we headed into the auditorium so Emily could make a fossil herself of a seashell! She rolled out some clay, selected a shell that she pressed into the clay, and then filled it with plaster before putting inside a bowl to set for a few hours.


Nolan loved all the fossil exhibits especially those about all the dinosaurs that were native to Texas.


We went into the theater for 15 minutes to listen to a presentation about a local fossil enthusiast group and learn about all the discoveries of fossils made here in Texas before we headed out to the garden, the most beautiful and interesting part of the center.


Every native Texas plant and flower you could imagine perfectly labeled and landscaped and laidout for you to leisurely stroll through and enjoy.

Emily's favorite part was the butterfly garden.


It's a very popular event so be sure you arrive early to get a parking spot, about 4:30pm and wear a hat and bug repellent as the mosquitos are fierce at dusk.

Also! They have the nicest bathrooms and ice cold filtered water as well as a little cafe where you can purchase something to eat or bring a picnic of your own. Lots of wide-open space to discover and run around the staff couldn't be nicer!

Go visit them today!
http://www.wildflower.org

Once again, I didn't receive anything for this post. I share my family's experiences with you for FREE because it's just something I love to do and hope you enjoy the LBJWC as much as we do!

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 Summer #vacation to Texas - A trip to the @AustinAquarium was a real highlight! #kids #parenting

Friends of ours living in Austin told us the new Austin Aquarium was a must-visit so, we planned a trip during our first week of vacation.


They offer discounts on tickets purchased in-advance online and we appreciated how quickly that made check-in once we arrived.

The aquarium is in a huge warehouse which was a former furniture store and is laid out really well! The walls are painted navy and it's dimly lit so the exhibits really stand out. All the tanks were spotless, the fish were exquisite, and there was plenty of room to move around and see the fish from all angles. Each display had LCD information screens to tell you about the fish, too!



There were several touch pools, the shark and ray pool being the kids' favorite! The sharks had just laid egg sacks, which were removed to prevent them from being eaten and set in their own aquarium. See the second photo below!



Most surprising was the fact that there are also reptiles, amphibians and birds on display!



There were three opportunities to interact with the animals:

A table where you could hold and pet a bearded dragon, leopard gecko, and corn snake;


A huge tank of Koi fish that you could feed for $2; and


A huge bird cage where you could walk in and explore (and feed for $3) birds.


The kids absolutely loved it and it truly was a highlight of our trip!

In no way was I compensated for this post. This post is simply to share something wonderful my family experienced that I think yours would enjoy as well.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

2014 Summer #Vacation to #Texas - swimming, Tex-Mex, and fun family nights! #kids #parenting #travel

We travel to Austin, TX every summer to visit family and friends, it's a trip the kids really look forward to because we stay with their Gram (my mom) for a few weeks.

She's their favorite.

She's my favorite.


This year is the second year in a row David has been under a deadline at work and he's had to stay home to work. It's a bummer for him to miss out but I do cherish all the extra quality time I get with my mom when the kids are napping or asleep at night.

We spent nearly three weeks in Texas this summer and felt extremely lucky to be there during a "cool front". It was 88-92 degrees every day we were there, mostly overcast and windy. The kids even experienced a good ole Texas thunderstorm!


We shared a lot of great Tex-Mex meals (drool!) around town and even more stories that had us all laughing so hard we were crying. My favorite emotion is laughter through tears.


But, their favorite thing to do every year is swim.  Every day!

It's hot in Texas and there are pools and splash pads and water fountains that you can play in everywhere, lucky for us.


Emily took another round of swim lessons at Emler Swim School and really nailed it.


She's a great swimmer though you wouldn't assume that from the foaties she's sporting in the first photo above. ;) She loves the buoyancy, can you blame her? Gram had inner tubes waiting for them when we arrived and they loved them, especially Nolan. The tube gave him so much independence - he was jumping off the side, twirling in the water, kicking, and splashing and chasing Emily from end to end.

We had several planned activities again this year including:
Click each link below for a separate post about each one!

A trip to the Austin Aquarium
Nature Nights at The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center
Community Nights at The Thinkery Children's Museum
BBQ at PawPaw Joe's house in Smithville
Meeting the great-grandparents
Lazy mornings at The Hoppin House
Lakeway Pool Adventures

Flying with both kids was a breeze this year.

We flew Jet Blue, everyone had their own seat, I checked two suitcases and carried on a cooler with snacks as well as a backpack full of supplies and fun. No stroller, no car seat, just us!

They are both really into electronic handheld games (what kid isn't?), which I stowed away in my backpack for a week before the trip, and were happy to see them on the plane. Emily is 100% self-sufficient so she was able to entertain herself, feed herself, get up and use the toilet and even help pass food and toys between us. She packed her own backpack and I barely heard a peep from her the entire four hour flight. Because of the timing of our departing flight (3:45pm) and the time he woke that day (9am), he didn't get his daily nap so, it was no surprise to me that right after take off he slumped over in my lap and slept for an hour.


We watched "Frozen" on the portable DVD player, we enjoyed a snack, we got up and went to the bathroom, they played with their own televisions and they played with the toys I packed. I enjoyed the free in-fight wifi and before I knew it, we were landing.

Our vacation always goes by way too fast - we are already planning our trip for next year!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

7/3 thru 7/11 #mealplanning to restock the house after a #vacation and NOT blowing the #budget!

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example - from start to finish - of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week which I briefly outline below.


This week's news:

WE ARE HOME FROM VACATION!!

What an amazing, exhausting, FUN few weeks with the grandparents it's been - posts with lots of pics to come soon. I did my grocery shopping last Thursday, July 3rd, as we had friends over for The 4th of July as we do every year and I needed to have items for that meal so, my shopping list was LONG and I spent over $200!
 
Are you following me along in my gluten-free-as-much-as-possible healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning though not by much, surprisingly. :) I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, which you can find in my Recipe Index, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a mostly naturally gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!

Step1:
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.


Inventory

6 portions ground sirloin
8 portions ground turkey
1 portions pork shoulder
3 portions stew meat
1 portion flank steak
1 portions wings & drumsticks
2 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
2 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

1 portions Italian sausage
2 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 


Step2:
Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. 


Step3:
Then, I read the weekly ad and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy which I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's). Why? Well, on shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy the items he's offering at a lower price. If I hadn't written down the lowest price of the fresh produce ahead of time, I wouldn't know if Dan's was really offering me a bargain. Then, I either drive over to Lucky's (across town and typically cheaper overall) or stop at Trader Joe's and/or Safeway (they are next door to each other!).

Step4:
Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients on that list, specifically fresh produce and expensive items, over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. This helps fill in the gaps when I need another meal or two and/or change my menu to avoid having waste.

Weekly Meal Plan

Thursday's July 4th BBQ - Tequila-soaked grilled shrimp tacos with mango salsa, smoked corn, spanish rice, refried beans
This is our 3rd annual BBQ with our friends/old neighbors and we have this exact same meal every year because it's all our favorite, is super easy to prepare, it's versatile, and it appeals to even the pickiest of eaters. I purchased 4lbs of jumbo shrimp ($9.99/lb), corn tortillas ($1.49), fresh corn (10@$2), and cilantro ($0.49), mangos (10@$5), and onion ($0.69/lb), and limes (5@$1) for the salsa. I'll also use up some of the onion for spanish rice and refried beans! I also purchased 2 six-packs of Mexican beer ($15) and will use up the rest of the limes to make margaritas. I also purchased salsa ($5) and chips (3@$5) and a huge watermelon for the kiddos. The leftovers will feed us for at least 4 lunches/dinners so I put a few "leftovers" nights on this week's menu.

Leftovers for Friday and Saturday
So we can unpack from vacation, organize the house, get the kids reacclimated to life at home, and eat up all the July 4th leftovers. YUM!


Smoked pulled pork sliders with steak fries and baked beans
Because it's a 3-day weekend, David has plenty of time (about 14hours!) to smoke a whole pork shoulder for us to pull and stack high on Hawaiian sweet rolls (2@$5) for sliders. YUM! DROOL! GASP! It's a favorite meal of ours. Can you tell? :) I have baked beans in the pantry but purchased a bag of frozen steak-cut fries ($1.99) to serve on the side.

Chicken Picatta with steamed broccoli over brown rice spaghetti 
4lbs of lemons were only $1.99 so because I had capers and brown rice spaghetti in my pantry, this meal was an easy add to the menu. I purchased frozen "steamers" broccoli (3@$4) that I'll serve on the side.  

Chicken enchiladas Verdes and chips with salsa
I purchased a cooked rotisserie chicken from Costco this weekend (that haul is not pictured - I was so tired, I forgot!) that I picked completely apart, shredded and bagged to make future meals and decided to make a few portions of this meal because all the ingredients were on sale this week! I'll use up the remaining corn tortillas, onion and cilantro. I had to purchase a block of Monterrey Jack cheese ($3.99 at Costco) and Verde salsa (Buy 1 Get 1 Free at Safeway). I had sour cream and chicken stock in my fridge. I'll serve leftover chips and salsa on the side. 

Leftovers for Wednesday
Probably pulled pork sliders because we honestly just can't get enough! And I need a little less excitement and work this week - vacations are hard!

Meatball subs with oven-fries
I have frozen meatballs, hoagie rolls were on sale ($1.88), and I stocked up on fresh mozzarella at Costco (3pk of 1lb balls, $6.99) so this meal was another easy add. I'll serve up the rest of the frozen steak-cut fries for David and will eat roasted zucchini with mine.

Grilled chicken, roasted zucchini & mushrooms and smoked corn cakes 
With the small amount of smoked corn leftover from the July 4th BBQ, I'll make corn cakes. It's just slightly pureed corn (removed from the cob), shredded smoked Fontina cheese ($4.10), green onion ($0.49), bread crumbs, sour cream, salt and pepper combined and browned on a griddle. DELICIOUS!!! It's Giada's recipe. Google it. David always grills a few chicken breasts each weekend to have for the week's lunches so I'll grab two and serve them with the corn cakes and roasted vegetables. Easy!


What did I purchase this week?

I spent just over $265 between Costco and Safeway to re-stock our kitchen (I spent about $150 at Costco on paper products, cleaning items, household items, cat litter, etc.). Other than what I already mentioned above, the things I purchased this week include:
  • Frozen organic flaxseed waffles, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Stubb's chicken marinade and BBQ sauce, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Annie's organic vegetarian black refried beans, $2.07
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 8lbs, $1.99/lb
  • Canola oil, $1.99
  • Bananas, $0.59/lb
  • Raspberries, $1.99
  • Blackberries, $1.99
  • Seedless grapes, $2.19/lb
  • Rainier cherries, $2.99/lb
  • Nectarines, $1.88/lb
  • Organic spring salad mix, $3.00
  • Baby carrots, $1.99 
At Costco I purchased:
  • 2, 24ct eggs, $3.59
  • 2, 2% milk
  • Tillamook cheddar, $8.99
  • Precious string cheese 60ct, $11.99
  • Ground turkey, $2.19/lb
  • 88% lean ground beef, $2.99/lb
  • 32oz mushrooms, $4.59
  • 24ct Zbars organic protein bars for kids, $8.99
  • Frozen organic spinach ravioli, $11.99 

Monday, June 16, 2014

We're on #vacation so #mealplanning is on hold until July 7th. Here are some cute pics from our light to Texas. #kids #motherhood #travel

Hi y'all!

It's summer: the kids are out of school and that means it's time for an annual vacation to Austin, TX to spend a few weeks with the grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and friends. Unfortunately, David is on-project and couldn't come with us (second year in a row :( ) but he didn't get a gate pass and sent us off properly at the terminal door. He let me eat and relax at the gate while he took the kids up and down the escalators at SFO about 1,000 times.

Family pic just before we boarded the Jet Blue airplane

We flew in Saturday night - we took the 3:45pm flight that landed at 9:15pm CST (my kids thought it was 7:15pm so it wasn't past bedtime) - and the kids were once again absolute angels on the 4 hour plane ride. It's probably due to the novelty of it all - they only fly once a year these days - and because it's a relatively short flight. I also had a backpack full of new games, crafts, and sugar-filled treats!

  All in one row, each with our own seat and own TV

We watched "Frozen" and a "Super Why" short, played on the iPad, took two bathroom breaks, enjoyed some snacks, and entertained ourselves with the free on-board wi-fi. It was a super fast flight, mainly because one of us didn't make it past take-off and slept nearly an hour. :)

Diggy slumped over during take-off and slept nearly an hour. Emily, almost 8 years old, was content to watch cartoons and draw. Flying with older kids ROCKS!!

The view of my lap. This happens when your 3 year old expects a nap and doesn't get one.

We've already been shopping, to the pool, and made plans to see the kid's great-grandparents. We are really enjoying our time here in the land of 100 degree days and just trying not to get sunburnt.

Because of all the eating out, quick picnics, meals at friend's houses and the like, I won't have any meal planning posts until we get home. So, I'll see you all for those posts on July 7th!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

5/31 thru 6/6 #mealplanning to use up everything you have before going on vacation! #motherhood #cooking

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example - from start to finish - of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week which I briefly outline below.


This week's news:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free-as-much-as-possible healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning though not by much, surprisingly. :) I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, which you can find in my Recipe Index, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!

Step1:
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.


Inventory

2 portions ground sirloin
1 portions ground turkey
1 portions stew meat
1 portion flank steak
2 portions baby back ribs
2 portions wings & drumsticks
2 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

1 portions Italian sausage
2 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes
1 portion made-ahead smoked pork tenderloin

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 


Step2:
Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. 


Step3:
Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy which I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's). Why? Well, on shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy the items he's offering at a lower price. If I hadn't written down the lowest price of the fresh produce ahead of time, I wouldn't know if Dan's was really offering me a bargain. Then, I either drive over to Lucky's (across town and typically cheaper overall) or stop at Trader Joe's and/or Safeway (they are next door to each other!).

Step4:
Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients on that list, specifically fresh produce and expensive items, over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. This helps fill in the gaps when I need another meal or two and/or change my menu to avoid having waste.

Weekly Meal Plan

Ribs, loaded mashed potatoes, grilled corn
With my family still in town and celebrating Nolan's 3rd birthday with a party here at home, I needed an easy meal that could be made almost entirely on the pit outside. Baby back ribs were on sale ($1.99/lb), I had leftover twice-baked potatoes from last week's Girl Scout bridging ceremony and potluck that I would turn into mashed potatoes and fresh corn was 6@$2 so this meal was added to our menu. I had to purchase smoked paprika ($1.99/ea) for David to make his pork rub.


Chicken spaghetti
I have literally every ingredient on hand to make this meal and had already planned to make a batch for the Girl Scout potluck so, I made a double batch to have one for my family. This meal cost me nothing this week.

Turkey burgers and oven fries
In order to not purchase too many groceries as we are going on a three-week vacation at the end of next week, I searched through my freezer to find this meal. I have pre-formed turkey patties and frozen hamburger buns as well as a bag of frozen french fries. I just needed to purchase a tomato to slice and serve on top of mine. I have cheddar, lettuce, pickles, and bacon to go on top of the burgers on hand.

Leftovers

Enchiladas Verdes with chips and queso
I'm pulling this pre-made meal from my freezer in a second attempt to clean the freezer out a bit and make life easier this week as we come to the end of the school year. I can whip up queso with the Rotel, Velveeta and seasonings I have on hand, I just had to purchase fresh limes (3@$1).

Chicken and sun-dried tomato pesto over brown rice pasta with steamed broccoli
While smoking the ribs over the weekend, David is also grilling up some chicken breasts so, I'll have him set one aside for us to have this pasta dish. I found a container of pre-made pesto (I have got to start taking better inventory!) and have dry brown rice pasta in my pantry and thus, this meal was born. I also have a frozen bag of broccoli I will steam with butter to serve along side it.

Brisket chili and cornbread/corn chips
The finale meal on this week's menu is also from my freezer. Corn chips were Buy 1 Get 1 Free this week and it reminded me how awesome that brisket chili was I made a few months ago. I will thaw it out overnight and warm it in a pot. I have sour cream, green onion, cheddar, and of course the chips to serve it with.

What did I purchase this week?
 
Not wanting to waste any time shopping when we had a birthday party to put on, I shopped at Trader Joe's for 90% of the above items, going into Safeway for only those items that TJ's didn't have. I spent $146.70 mostly on fresh produce and the items we consume in our weekly breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Stocking up was NOT this week's focus as I mentioned we are going on a lengthy vacation soon and I don't want anything to go to waste.

Items purchased include:
  • French toast bread, $1.50 - for french toast breakfasts
  • 2, 12ct eggs, $1.99
  • Vegetable radatore pasta, $1.99 - it's the only one the kids like
  • Refried beans, $0.99 - for nachos and quesadillas
  • Frozen "steamers" peas, green beans, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Bananas, $0.19/ea
  • Plums, $0.39/ea
  • 3lbs gala apples, $2.99
  • Yoplait yogurts, 10@$5 plus $1.00 off 3 or more, no limit
  • Peaches, $0.59/ea
  • 2lb strawberries, 18oz raspberries, 18oz b lueberries, $5/ea
  • Seedless watermelon, $2.99/ea
  • Seedless grapes, $1.99/lb 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Nolan: Three years old #toddlers #preschool #motherhood #parenting

It's your birthday, Nolan and you are three years old!

You are gentle and affectionate, free with your hugs and kisses, empathetic to the point of tears when others are hurting, sensitive to loud noises and cautious not to stray too far from us. If mama walks out of the room you call for her the moment you realize she's gone. You are consistently polite, using "please" when asking for things, "thank you" upon receiving things and "excuse me" when you burp or need to slip past someone in your path. You've never hit another child nor taken a toy from another child and you have only once struggled over a toy taken from you, you typically just run off and find something else to play with.

You are curious about everything in the world around you and eager to learn the words for it all. You point to things and say; "That's a ___" pausing for us to label it, filling in the blanks in your world for you. You also repeat everything we say and in the correct context at a later date. You constantly surprise us with what you know.

You are so sure of yourself, brave even, jumping and tumbling and racing around at the beach, our local playgrounds, and when chasing after your big sister; however, you don't particularly like having your hands dirty. You just got a new two-wheeled Razor scooter and steer it right into every bump and crack in the sidewalks in our neighborhood! You want to do EVERY SINGLE THING all by yourself and have been seen melting into a screeching puddle should anyone get in your way. Recently, you want to be up on a chair to watch us cook, wash dishes, and make espresso. You come running any time we start to do something saying; "Noooo, wait, I see". We are so happy to teach you!

You are dynamite in a rather small package, weighing it at 27lbs and just recently moving into 18-24mos clothes and a size 8 shoe. We have your Pediatric check-up soon and will find out your exact measurements then.

You are a champion sleeper, easy to put down for your daily 2-3 hour nap and bedtime after a diaper change, a lullaby or two, and a few books. You thrive under consistent daily routine and notice immediately if things aren't done, like the time daddy left your window open and we could hear you over the baby monitor asking us to come shut the window. We are loose with the time on the clock but consistent with your daily routine, putting you down for a nap 5 hours after you've gotten up for the day and putting you to bed 13 hours after you've woken up for the day.

You have your favorite books you want read to you daily and go searching for them if you can't find them including:
  • Good-night Construction Site
  • No, no yes, yes
  • The Grouchy Ladybug
  • Stuck in the Muck
  • Splat the Cat Takes the Cake
  • Biscuit (every book in the series)
  • Thomas Gets a Snowplow
You also have your very favorite activities you like to do daily including:
  • Going on a scooter ride around the neighborhood
  • Doing your new shapes puzzles
  • Pushing every little car/truck/motorcycle you own on all the surfaces in this house
  • Playing a game on Emily's old iXL and Leapster handheld
  • Grabbing your basketball and making about 100 baskets
  • Blowing/popping bubbles
  • Watching "Super Why", "Wild Kratts" or "The Chica Show"
  • Jumping on our trampoline
  • Pushing your lawnmower and shopping cart all over the yard
You love eating a donut while we do our grocery shopping, playing with the toys in Target, holding hands as we walk to our favorite restaurants, and singing along to the Music Together CDs we've accumulated over the years in the car.

You also really love going to all our favorite play places where we have memberships including the zoo, The Aquarium of the Bay, Habitot, Studio Grow, and Wee Play. You get positively giddy when we spend an afternoon at the beach and you can barely contain yourself as we walk to one of our local playgrounds. You will sit in a stroller when walking a mile+ but we rarely take a stroller with us when on outings because you are eager to explore on your own and we are okay with that because you don't run off.

You're a bit of a picky eater, following a bit of a Paleo-style diet of raw foods but we know your pallet will develop in time and we hope you'll try more foods as your grow up. You love nuts, seeds, cheeses, all fruits and some vegetables. You also enjoy some crackers, pretzels and popcorn but sparingly. You shy away from most meat. Your favorite meal is blueberry pancakes or french toast with bacon. You love peas, chocolate milk, peanut butter, granola and yogurt!

You seem to be jockeying for position in our family a bit more lately, exclaiming "some, too!!!" any time we are doing anything for or with or to Emily. If I'm washing Emily's face, I have to wash his, too. If I'm putting sunscreen on Emily, I have to put some on him, too. If I am hugging Emily, I have to hug him, too. Does anyone else with more than one child experience this with the younger one?!? We sort of keep things out of view at times to keep the peace.

You are very clear about what you like and what you want, you have even named some of your favorite toys - like the little black car with big, animated eyes, you named Ramone. You are also very clear about what you don't like! You vocalize your feelings when not wanting to dunk your face in the water during swim lessons or don't want to be outside when daddy is using the weed-whacker. You say "No, I don't like that!". It's very helpful!

Nolan, we love you so very much and are looking forward to seeing what this age will bring our family. We are excited to choose and start Preschool, begin the potty-training adventure (did I say excited? Perhaps anxious is more accurate), and look into getting you a big boy bed! We are most excited about our upcoming vacation to see family and friends in Austin, TX because it's been a year since we last traveled with you. Thank you for blessing our lives!

Monday, May 26, 2014

5/24 thru 5/30 #mealplanning over #MemorialDay and when guests arrive! Staying in budget and eating well for less than $200 #cooking #SAHM #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example - from start to finish - of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week which I briefly outline below.


This week's news:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free-as-much-as-possible healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning though not by much, surprisingly. :) I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, which you can find in my Recipe Index, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!

Step1:
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.


Inventory

2 portions ground sirloin
1 portions ground turkey
1 portions stew meat
4 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
3 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

1 portions Italian sausage
1 portions made-ahead spinach stuffed shells
2 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes
1 portion made-ahead smoked pork tenderloin

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 


Step2:
Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. 


Step3:
Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy which I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's). Why? Well, on shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy the items he's offering at a lower price. If I hadn't written down the lowest price of the fresh produce ahead of time, I wouldn't know if Dan's was really offering me a bargain. Then, I either drive over to Lucky's (across town and typically cheaper overall) or stop at Trader Joe's and/or Safeway (they are next door to each other!).

Step4:
Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients on that list, specifically fresh produce and expensive items, over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. This helps fill in the gaps when I need another meal or two and/or change my menu to avoid having waste.

Weekly Meal Plan

Steak sandwiches with fresh herb spread and oven fries
Because I was due for a Costco run with the new coupon book and our dwindling freezer and pantry stock, I decided to put this meal on the menu, which required me to purchase flank steak ($7.99/lb) - we will cook one and freeze the other for a future meal - and mini baguettes ($4.99). During my stop at Lucky's, I also purchased arugula (Buy 1 Get 1 Free), parsley ($0.50) and capers (Buy 1 Get 1 Free for the spread and a bag of frozen fries ($4.99) for the side dish. This meal will make leftovers for the week for David's lunches.

Chicken Picatta over brown rice pasta with roasted cauliflower
Brown rice pasta was $1.00 off at Lucky's and having already planned to buy capers and parsley, this was the perfect meal to use up those ingredients. I have a lemon tree in the backyard and chicken in the freezer so, with the purchase of a head of cauliflower ($1.79), I had everything I needed for this meal.

Sweet 'n Spicy wings with hot-crash potatoes
Lucky's was offering wings and drumsticks for only $0.89/lb so I purchased two value packs (we'll smoke half over Memorial Day and freeze the other for a future meal) to make this meal. I also purchased red potatoes ($0.67/lb) to make Pioneer Woman's hot crash potatoes as a side. I'll only have one or two potatoes and fill my plate with the arugula and strawberry salad I'm serving with quiche later in the week.

Orange chicken and snow peas over brown rice
Tomato sauce in the pantry, an orange in the fruit bowl, and green onions only $0.50, aha! This is the easiest meal ever to make from scratch, I just needed a bag of snow peas (mix and match with snap peas, 2@$3).

Meatball subs with oven fries
To use up the fresh mini baguettes and pull a portion of my made-ahead meatballs from the freezer, I chose this meal this week. I just needed marinara sauce (3pk organic Classico sauce, $6.99), which was already on my list for my Costco trip. I also purchased provolone cheese ($1.99 at Lucky's). David loves oven-fries with subs so I'll bake another batch to serve with this meal. I'll have a side of leftover roasted cauliflower.

Quiche and an arugula and spinach salad with strawberries and fresh herb vinaigrette
While we had a handy-man here to fix our broken ice maker and it was being emptied out, I found a 2pk of quiche from a few Costco trips back. I love when that happens! So, a quiche and a salad it will be and it will make perfect breakfast leftovers a few days later.

Spinach-stuffed shells with garlic bread
We have family in town at the end of this week so I'm pulling the huge portion of made-ahead spinach-stuffed shells from my freezer as it will feed an army! I also purchased garlic bread ($1.99) and will serve leftover arugula and strawberry salad with it.

What did I purchase this week?

I spent $186 at Costco and mostly focused on stocking up on pantry, freezer, and fridge staples including:
  • 4pk bacon, $16
  • Organic vegetable better-than-bullion, $6.99
  • 2-gallon fat-free milk, $5.39
  • Half 'n half, $3.49
  • 6pk mini baguette, $4.99
  • 60ct Precious string cheese, $8.99 
  • 3lb bagged fresh garlic, $3.99
  • Honey, $11.99
  • Soy sauce, $3.59
  • 2, 3pk organic marinara sauce
  • Tillamook cheddar, $8.99
  • 32oz cremini mushrooms, $3.59
  • Flank steak, $7.99/lb
  • Cooked edemame, $4.99
  • 4lbs strawberries, $8.99
Then, I drove across town to Lucky's as they had the lowest prices on everything on my list this week, again and spent $78.40! Items purchased included:
  • Breyer's ice cream, 2@$6
  • Salmon, $8.99/lb - baked for my lunches this week
  • Deli ham, $6.99/lb
  • Pears, $0.79/lb
  • Sunyside greek yogurt, $2.99
  • Canned pumpkin, $1.29 - pumpkin muffins for the kids
  • Seedless grapes, $1.50/lb
  • 6oz raspberries, 2@$3
  • 12oz organic blueberries, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Zucchini, $0.79/lb - zucchini bread for the kids
  • Whole wheat bread, $1.99
  • Red cabbage and parsnips, $0.49/lb for salad and oven "fries" for me
  • Gala apples, $1.29/lb