Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Simple Menu Planning

I was searching for different types of menu planning ideas, and came across a very fun, very simple idea. Here it is:

Monday-Pasta (Meatball Monday)
Tuesday-Tacos (Taco Tuesday)
Wednesday- Anything you can find (Wacky Wednesday)
Thursday-Soup (Thirsty Thursday)
Friday-Pizza (Foccacia Friday)
Saturday-DIY Sandwiches (Sub Saturday)
Sunday-Fancy Dinner (Supper Sunday)

I've seen a million different types of meal plan ideas, which include themes (Mexican night, Meatless night, Salad, etc.), but this one seems the easiest for me to do right now. My husband and daughter would be fine with pasta every single night of the week, but my son loves his tacos, and I love variety.

Once I have this meal planning thing down for dinners, I'll move on to actually planning breakfast and lunch :)

Do you do themed menus?

This is a great menu planner printable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cut Grocery Costs, add More Nutrition

I don't use ground beef much in cooking. Partially because it is the more expensive meat, partially because it's not exactly healthy.

I read a lot of articles regarding a whole foods diet, which includes real, organic meat (beef included). I have read the benefits of organic, grass fed beef. I was please to find out here that adding organic beef to your diet can actually improve your health. Knowing the benefits (including improving good cholesterol, lower calories than conventional beef) I have still been hesitant to purchase beef. The organic version is so expensive!

A few days ago, I had a brilliant idea. I could cut the cost of buying organic grass fed ground beef, cut the calories (because I think even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation), and add in more nutrients.


I purchased 1 pound of organic grass fed ground beef and 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. My total cost was $6. I peeled the sweet potatoes, cut them into very small chunks, and cooked them on the stove with some onions. When they were almost done, I added in the pound of beef and taco seasoning. After cooking it for about 15 minutes, I added in 1/2 cup of water.

My end result was delicious, nutrient-dense taco meat! 3 pounds worth of lower calorie taco "meat" for about $2 a pound.

If buying organic is not your goal, and you are simply trying to cut costs, you could cut your regular ground beef with regular potatoes, which are extremely inexpensive. In most cases, you will only want to use a 1 to 1 ratio to keep the flavor from changing too much.

If you have been following the One Step Up Challenge, this would be perfect for the Spice Challenge! Taco meat already includes chili powder, so that's one super spice. You can also add in some turmeric, oregano, rosemary and thyme (not too heavy on the thyme or turmeric) and you have a meal chocked full of antioxidants, vitamins and protein!

What are your creative ways to cut costs and eat healthy?

Monday, October 3, 2011

One Step Up Challenge 5: Add Some Spice!

This challenge has no levels. It's pretty simple (assuming you have a spice cabinet).

Have you heard of the Super Spices? They are the spices that are highest in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. I first heard about them on Dr. Oz, and slowly started incorporating these spices into every meal I made.

Your challenge is to add at least one super spice into every meal that you make. Here are some examples:

1. Cinnamon-Add this to your morning oatmeal or cold cereal. Sprinkle it onto a baked apple as a snack. Add a dash to your morning coffee. If you don't like cinnamon floating around your coffee, sprinkle some cinnamon directly onto the coffee grounds before you turn your coffee pot on.

2. Oregano-Use in spaghetti sauce, add as a seasoning on chicken or beef, mix with butter and garlic for some Italian garlic bread.

3. Ginger-Add to a chicken salad for an Asian chicken salad. Add into curry sauce and mix with cooked chicken.

4. Dried red peppers-Sprinkle onto salad, soup or sandwiches. This also tastes great added to dips (spicy ranch, vegetable or spinach dip).

5. Rosemary-Bake on chicken or fish. Crush and add to butter, garlic and oregano mixture for tasty garlic bread.

6. Thyme-Mix with olive oil and use to marinade mushrooms prior to sauteing them. Sprinkle some on a sandwich for lunch.

7. Turmeric-Eat curry and you'll get the turmeric. This is also often found in mustard. Another idea, if you use whole wheat macaroni noodles for your Macaroni and Cheese and your kids want the "yellow" kind, add a little turmeric! I use this in my scrambled eggs, ground beef and chicken.

What unique idea do you have to incorporate the super spices into your meals?

Friday, September 2, 2011

One Step Up Challenge 4: Sugar

It's really hard to get away from sugar. Even if you don't eat a lot of sweets, store bought items like bread, spaghetti sauce and canned fruit can be packed with sugar (or high fructose corn syrup).
Although sugar is sugar no matter the form, there are some healthier options for you to choose from.

Here's your next challenge:

Replace your sugar!

Level 1: Replace your white sugar with raw cane sugar. Raw sugar is less processed, and provides more nutrients than processed white sugar. It has a delicious molasses flavor to it.

Level 2: Replace your raw cane sugar with organic raw cane sugar.

Level 3: Replace your Organic raw cane sugar with a truly natural, unprocessed sweetener. Honey or maple syrup. This is a simple replacement when you are baking. I use 3/4 cups of honey to every 1 cup of sugar the recipe calls for. Sometimes less, if there's another sweet ingredient in the recipe (chocolate chips)

Which level are you on? What's your sweetener of choice?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple Menu Planning

I have been doing menu planning off and on for about a year. Recently, I decided to work on doing a weekly menu, and sticking to it.

Menu planning saves you money because you don't have much food waste, and saves you money because you are planning meals first based on what you have, rather than browsing a grocery store to see what you feel like.

Here is how I plan my meals:

  • I get meal ideas from magazines, and write those down. I am not really a recipe follower, so I don't write the whole recipe down. Just the basics.
  • If my pantry and freezer are running low, I go through the ads (most of the time just the front and back pages, since those seem to be the best deals), and write down items that are on sale at a great price.
  • I pull out my freezer/refrigerator/pantry inventory, and look at what meals I can make from what I already have.
  • I then look at what meals I can make using a combination of what I already have and what is on sale.
  • I menu plan on Sunday, and my plan goes from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is a leftover/whatever day.
  • I do plan breakfasts, but they are simple. Oatmeal 3 days a week, cereal 2 days a week, eggs once a week, and Sunday is usually something quick (if anything at all, we are always rushed on Sunday mornings).
I use these printables for my food inventory and menu planning.

Do you menu plan? What is your method, written meals or themes?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One Step Up Challenge 3: Chew your food!

No, really, chew your food properly.

This challenge has no levels. It's really that simple.

I am not a sloppy eater. It is not my goal to see how fast I can finish a plate of food. However, I do find myself often (if not always) swallowing my food as soon as it is small enough to do so (except that chip yesterday, that hurt!).

After reading about and implementing soaking my oats, grains and beans, I got to thinking about the rest of the digestion process (soaking is supposed to break down the food, so it's easier on your system, and more nutrients are absorbed).

You can read more here, or here about the benefits of chewing your food. Here are a few that top my list:

  • You will eat slower, because chewing does take time. Thus, you will become fuller with a smaller amount of food.
  • You get more nutrients out of you food.
  • You get to enjoy your meal, because get the chance to savor the flavors

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple go-to meals

My days are hectic, my nights are worse. I often find that I don't have the time to cook a good dinner. Here are a few of my go-to meals for the more hectic days.

Starch (rice or pasta), protein, veggies:
This is a very simple meal, that can be very flavorful by adding a few choice spices from your pantry.
2 cups cooked rice
1 or 2 cooked chicken breast (or any other meat you have on hand).
1 bag frozen veggies, cooked in the microwave.
*I keep a variety of sauces frozen in small tubs. Marsala sauce, curry sauce, alfredo sauce and marinara sauce. Just one small tub (about 8 ounces) is all you need for this dish.

Breakfast for dinner:
Breakfast is always much simpler to make, so about twice a month we do breakfast for dinner.
Biscuits and gravy using a homemade biscuit mix, homemade gravy using 2-4 pieces of sausage.
Egg sandwiches: eggs cooked how you desire, placed on toast.
Leftovers with eggs: If you have any leftover rice, meat and/or veggies, warm them up in a pan. Toss in a few eggs and scramble. Eat alone, roll up in a tortilla, or turn into a sandwich.
Cold cereal