If you’ve made yourself a weekly food budget, you know how important it is to stick to it. The question is: Are you making the right decisions when it comes to buying food based on how much you eat per week? Do you under or over buy? As I mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve realized the importance of buying freezer meals-they last longer than fresh food and you don’t have to eat it all at once. Also, buying food in bulk can save money in the long run. When it comes to fresh food, you need to decide what meals you’ll be eating the food with or else it will go to waste (I’ve been guilty of this!). This all comes down to weekly meal planning.
Make meal planning easier by knowing: Exactly what you’re going to eat every meal, how much food you need to buy, the cost of the food and what foods will last the week or longer.
Tip: It’s also helpful to know what you already have at home that can go with your meals, so it’s best to make a list at home. I’m guilty of making a mental list of what I need and spend way too long at the grocery store trying to remember what I already have at home.
Basically, the longer your food lasts, the farther your money will go. Personally, my meal planning is about 50/50 with fresh and frozen/pantry items. Because I know what fresh items I need to buy each week, it will save time on meal planning. I can incorporate the fresh foods into weekly meals without over planning on what to eat. This also saves me from buying extra food-like if I want a small dose of something but don’t plan to incorporate it into another meal then I’ll wait until I plan an entire meal around that specific food.
You know those nights where you have dinner all planned out then something happens and your “planned meal” goes unplanned? The tomatoes you planned to put in the pasta aren’t good, you planned a fun night out but it got cancelled or you just weren’t in the mood for the meal you planned? Whatever your situation is, try to selvage any food you have in your kitchen to make a meal work.
Here are my tips on what to do when this happens…
Tip 1. If you’ve already begun cooking dinner and one ingredient is bad, mix in something similar. This literally happened to me tonight-hello post inspiration! I was planning on making pasta with chicken and tomatoes and found that most of the tomatoes I had bought three days ago went bad…so instead I replaced them with spinach and mixed it into the pasta. Cooking with fresh ingredients can be challenging because you don’t know how long the food will truly last-I have trouble using avocados all the time because if I don’t check on them regularly to see if they are ready to eat they can go bad pretty fast.
Tip 2. There have been many times where I will take out chicken to unthaw it and think it’s going to be ready to go the next night but turns out it’s not. When this happens my whole dinner game is thrown off. Also, the opposite has happened where I’ll forget to take the chicken out of the freezer to unthaw then I have to wait until it unthaws for dinner the next night. So what then? I’ve learned this year that it’s best to keep the freezer stocked full of food you can cook on the stove in less than twenty minutes such as turkey and chicken burgers. These are perfect substitutes when things go unplanned because you were planning on cooking anyway.
Tip 3. There is ALWAYS something in your kitchen you can cook for dinner. You might need to be creative-try mixing ingredients, looking online for inspiration (search for recipes where you already have most of the ingredients), cook something simple like pasta but make your own dressing. Or try my favorite, have breakfast for dinner-this can be anything from eggs on toast to an omelet with cheese and veggies. Don’t overthink the recipe and don’t get overwhelmed, as long as you’re grocery shopping on a regular basis and stocking up on food like pantry or frozen foods, you’ll always have something you can substitute when dinner goes unplanned.
Tip 4. For the nights when you thought you weren’t going to be home but your plans changed-instead of running out to the grocery store to buy food (since you were planning to spend money anyway on dinner) see what you have in the kitchen that you can cook up quickly. My mindset when this happens is that I’m not in the mood to cook because I was planning on having a fun night out, so if I can quickly cook up something in the microwave, in the oven or even make a sandwich I will. If all else fails, do what my grandmother would do and have a bag of popcorn! She always said that a bag of popcorn counts as dinner!
Tip 5. When you had a meal planned but you aren’t in the mood for it. This happens to me when I’ve made a big batch of something like pasta, and have eaten it for the past three days, it means it’s time to eat something else! Mood and cravings are everything when it comes to food, so ask yourself what are you REALLY in the mood for? If you can’t quiet figure it out, just make something that comes to mind or if it’s something you have in stock make that instead.
Do you have any solutions to unplanned meals? Let me know in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile
Over the past two years I’ve found a LOVE for making homemade smoothies. I make them either on my way out the door before work, during the late afternoons on the weekends or before a road trip so I won’t be hungry on the road.
The main ingredients I use are:
Cacao powder, banana, mixed berries, strawberries, almond milk as a base, avocado for creaminess, ice, chia seeds, flax seeds, basil, spinach and peanut butter.
The key to any smoothie is to have a liquid base (ice or milk), veggie or fruit and something to make it thick like an avocado or banana. Adding the chia/flax seeds to any smoothie can help for digestive health. My indulgent smoothie-Almond milk, cacao powder, banana, strawberries and peanut butter. Note-I only use a few strawberries as too many can overpower the entire smoothie. My work smoothie-Almond milk, mixed berries, banana, basil and chia/flax seeds. Others-Ice, spinach, avocado, berries and basil.
Would you try any of these smoothies? What are your favorite homemade smoothies? Share in the comments or on social media! @stylestomakeyousmile –Facebook Page & Instagram
I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of buying freezer meals. They are easy to cook, inexpensive and a great option for a night in.
The featured meal is from Trader Joe’s-Organic Superfood Pilaf-Quinoa with sweet potato’s, kale and carrots. This is ready in about 15 minutes by stove- you can also cook in the microwave.
To this I’ve added organic chicken that I cut into small pieces (it cooks faster this way). Once cooked I’ll add it to the pilaf with some olive oil, pink salt & pepper.
I love cooking dishes like this because of its versatility. You don’t have to eat it the same way twice especially with great add ons such as: tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, avocado, tofu or another meat or fish, soy sauce, balsamic, lemon dressing or Italian dipping oil with herbs.
When I go grocery shopping each week, I normally have a list of items to buy, but what I’ve come to realize is that I can add value to my shopping trip and stock my kitchen if I buy at least one extra item from the list below. This is helpful in case there were ever a time when I couldn’t run to the grocery store like getting sick or having a busy week.
Below are lists of items I stock up on: Freezer-Organic chicken and beef and turkey burgers, pizza, vegetables (you can get bags of these for under a dollar at certain stores), fruits-strawberries and mixed berries, vegetable rice/quinoa and Greek yogurt pops. Fridge-Water, Almond milk, yogurt, eggs Pantry-Cereal, peanut butter, soup, pasta, tuna, cereal bars, rolled oats. Other-Apples, oranges, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers
Stocking up on these items means I will always have a full kitchen. It also means I’ll never run out of ideas on what to cook. While I might buy something one week, it means I can eat it when I’m in the mood for it later on. None of these items listed costs more than $10 total, so it won’t break my budget. For more information on budgeting read: How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget When you give and take on your budget it all comes out the same-stock up on one expensive item one week-like organic chicken-then next week stock up on frozen vegetables.
How do you stock your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below or on social media @stylestomakeyousmile
While driving home from work, I realized I didn’t want what I had planned for dinner-chicken fried rice with veggies. While it is a simple dish to cook it didn’t sound appetizing. I caught myself wanting to drive to the grocery store to pick up something to eat, so I started to think about what I could make with the ingredients I’d already had that could be incorporated with the dish. Since I had fresh food at home I didn’t want to waste the money I’d already spent and waste another night of not eating the fresh food. I knew I had kale, zucchini and eggs. Since none of those ingredients take long to cook, I decided to cook them all, throw them on a plate and call it dinner. It came out really good and was a very filling meal.
Here are my tips when you find yourself in this rut while driving home from work:
1. Think about the foods you already have in your kitchen. If you have a lot of fresh ingredients cut up some or all of them and incorporate them into the dish you originally planned to have. Just thinking about creating a new dish will get you excited about dinner and will make you want to eat at home.
2. Think about the possibilities for two meals instead of one. If you make enough food to last two days or more, come up with ideas on how you can make the meal a different way for leftovers. Small things like adding new dressings, seasonings, bread or cheese will really add to the dish to make it taste new.
3. You’ll save money. If you’ve convinced yourself that the dish you’re about to make will satisfy you for dinner that night, then you’ve saved money. The fresh food sitting in your kitchen is something you picked up from the grocery store for a reason, don’t let it go bad for another day.
4. You get to be creative. Coming up with several ways to prepare a meal stretches your mind-you become versatile in cooking.
5. You’ll get to cook. Going to the grocery store to pick up dinner is really easy. However, I find that after work I enjoy cooking because it gives me something to focus on. Plus, every time I cook something new it helps to further my cooking knowledge and ability. It also shows me what I enjoy eating and is a meal I can cook again in the future.
Do you have any ideas for how to get out of a food rut? Any meals you enjoy making with fresh ingredients? Let me know in the comments below!
On March 3rd I went home for a Pasta Party! My Dad showed my family how to make pasta from scratch. We made spaghetti and ravioli. My Dad’s family is full blooded Italian so both his grandparents and parents learned and taught my Dad how to make fresh pasta. His family always made pasta for traditional holidays.
Over the past few Christmases my Dad received a Kitchen Aid, pasta attachments and he bought a drying rack for the pasta-these are all items his parents & grandparents would have appreciated. When they made pasta, they would roll out the dough by hand, cut it and then hang it on a broom that was placed in between two chairs to dry on. Fast forward to today and all you have to do to make the dough is put the ingredients in the mixing bowl and let the Kitchen Aid do all the work.
Recipe for Dough: 3 cups flour, 4 eggs, a few tablespoons of water and olive oil.
Mix the ingredients in the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl until it forms into dough which will then form itself into a solid piece (you’ll need the KA dough mixing attachment to create the dough), cut into quarters, place the pasta attachment on the Kitchen Aid and push the dough through the machine. You’ll need to do this several times and on a several number settings on the machine until the dough forms into the consistency that you prefer-you’ll need it thin for spaghetti and thicker for ravioli. Spaghetti: Once you’ve created the right consistency (thinness) for the spaghetti, you can push the dough through the attachment and it will cut the dough into thin strips of pasta. Take the pasta and place it on the drying rack to dry. If you purchase the Kitchen Aid drying rack, it comes with a wand where you can place the middle of the pasta on the wand and bring it over to the rack without having to handle it too much. Once you’re ready to cook, bring water to a boil, the pasta will cook in about two minutes.
We served the spaghetti with what we call “Seafood stuff.” This includes: crab, shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes (fresh from Dad’s garden-he froze these since the end of summer), lemon, garlic and wine.
Ravioli: Once you’ve got the right thickness for the ravioli, lay the pasta on a sheet pan, measure where the dough can be cut in half, cut there, then place the ravioli filling on the bottom portion of the dough. You’ll want to strategically place the filling straight across from each other on the pasta so you can cut down the middle and then in between the fillings. Before you cut, place the other portion of the pasta (that you cut in half) on top of the fillings and begin cutting. Once the raviolis are cut, use a fork to push into the edges to make indents in the pasta. Bring water to a boil and cook for five-seven minutes. This depends on the consistency you like.
Recipe for Ravioli Filling-Ricotta, sugar, cinnamon and sausage. Note: We made half of the ravioli with the sausage and the other half without it.
All the pasta tastes extremely fresh, soft and you can really taste the ingredients. I promise boxed pasta won’t ever taste the same! What are some of your family traditions? Do you have any family recipes handed down from other generations? Let me know in the comments!