Tips for Weekly Meal Planning

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.

What are some tips you have for meal planning?

What to do When Your Meal Goes Unplanned

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

My New Perspective on Food

Before I can tell you my new perspective on food, I’ll tell you my original perspective. I used to only buy enough food for the week and nothing more. What I’ve learned is when sticking to a budget- How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget  and shopping at two stores where I can pick and choose what I want to buy based on the food items prices-I can buy more each week. I also used to buy whatever food I wanted, until I started recognizing what foods my body truly doesn’t like and recognizing what foods I’m addicted to. Here are my new perspectives on food:
Stock up on frozen & pantry foods. By stocking up on these items, it means you’ll always have something to eat. The only problem I’ve seen is that sometimes I’ll forget what I’ve bought a week or two ago. To combat this issue, I write down what I’m going to eat each week for dinner. If I have to buy food to go with it I’ll write that down that too. If I’m making something with fresh ingredients, I’ll incorporate them into my dinners for the week. However, if I’m making something frozen I can choose to make half of it for the week and the other half some other time.

Since I’ve been stocking up on food, my budget can go further by buying extra items-I’ll buy a package of chicken sausage even if I’m not going to eat it that week. Or I can save money by not buying any meats that week because I already have some in the freezer. I can also choose to spend my money on something that’s the same price as chicken.
What you eat each week begins in the grocery store. Over the past few years, I’ve realized what foods my digestive system likes and dislikes. One of the things I love is chips and artichoke & jalapeno dip from Trader Joe’s, however, my body does not. Not only because I’ll devour this food in a weekend but the food just makes my stomach upset. So, knowing this, I focus on buying foods that actually give my body energy and make me feel good. Since I know what foods I’m addicted to: chips, dip, salt, chocolate, etc. I try to minimize or eliminate buying them during the week. Another thing I’ve realized is that by eliminating the purchases of these items means I have money for fresh and healthy foods. The chips and dip costs almost $6, instead I bought hummus and veggies that cost less and makes my digestive system happy.

Tip: If you don’t know what foods you’re addicted to, start by looking at what you buy each week and try to figure out why you buy these foods. Is it because they taste good but then later your body doesn’t feel good or works improper? For one week, try eating different foods to see how your body handles them.

As I mentioned earlier, I am addicted to chocolate, so to combat this I’ve tried a few different things. Last year, I used to buy a  whole carton of ice cream and eat it in a week. I realized I should try eating less sugar each week, so I then started buying Greek Yogurt Frozen Pops (they are really good!). This gave me a small portion of chocolate to consume each week. Other things I buy are chocolate almonds-they come in a small pack and because I only consume a small handful every few nights, it takes me two weeks to eat through the pack instead of a week. The other thing I’ve tried is to buy 1 or 2 chocolate candy bars a week, which really cuts down my chocolate intake. After dinner is when I’d normally have chocolate, so if I don’t have it in my home, I’ll make sure I’m eating enough food at dinner.

The point of all of this is to recognize that the foods we bring into our homes is what we’ll be eating every day. And if those items are not making our body function to its best, we should try something else, or slowly wean ourselves into eating something else. I also learned last year that if I don’t walk down certain aisles in the grocery store that means I won’t be tempted to bring those foods home.

I’m curious to know, what is your perspective on food? Let me know in the comments below or on social media IG: @stylestomakeyousmile FB Page: Styles To Make You Smile

The Meals I Eat Weekly

If you saw my last post How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget you got to see a list of the foods I restock in my fridge. This week, I thought I would share what I eat for breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. The meals are simple and can be thrown together/cooked quickly. I try to have at least two-three options of each meal so I’m not always eating the same thing every day. I buy medium-large quantities of items so they last a while and will make each meal different; large pack of frozen berries, eggs and almonds. Having go to meals to eat on a regular basis means you won’t have to think too much about what to eat-just remember to stock up on fresh ingredients at the store each week!

Breakfast: Eggs-sunny side up during the week and on the weekends I add cheese, toast and avocado
Cereal-Topped with berries
Yogurt-Mixed with granola and berries (use one or both)
For the cereal and yogurt I include chia/flax seed mix for good digestive health. Also, I bring a piece of fruit to eat at work in the late morning, usually an orange or banana.

Tip: On Sundays I put frozen strawberries and mixed berries into glass containers and thaw in the fridge to put in my meals during the week.

Snacks: Fruit bars
Veggies and hummus
Smoothie-My smoothies can include a combination of any of the following: Almond milk, strawberries, mixed berries, banana, chia/flax seed, peanut butter, cacao powder, avocado and spinach. Sometimes I make these for breakfast when I’m in a rush to leave for work or am going on a long car ride.

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Just one of the many smoothies I enjoy making during the weekend as a snack or for breakfast

 

Lunch: Sandwich-Multi grain or whole wheat bread, chicken (rotisserie or sandwich meat), cheese, olive oil mayo, spinach and salad dressing (if I don’t have a store bought brand I’ll make my own with olive oil, lemon, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper). I also eat a side of Greek Yogurt-I buy several flavors so I’m not eating the same thing all week.
Salad-Spinach, chicken, almonds, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, chia/flax seeds, seasoning and salad dressing. Salads are very versatile so you could switch up the ingredients weekly by using different greens, meats, cheeses, nuts and dressing or use some of the ingredients one day and all of them the next.

Tip: I put the salad in a long tupperware so I can store a fork and small-round salad dressing container in it.

Leftovers-I’ll bring anything to work that will easily fit into one tupperware dish like soup or whole wheat orzo with chicken.

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Leftover Italian soup from Christmas dinner

 

Dinner: My dinner meals are different each week but my normal routine meal is: Meat, grain & vegetable-even in the form of pizza-because this totally counts! haha.

Store bought meals-Sometimes at the end of the week I like to splurge for something in the ready to eat section of the grocery store or get a wrap with chips. If I know I’m going to do this before grocery shopping, I’ll add the cost of the meal to my weekly budget.
Check out: How to Gain Weekly Food Inspiration for more ways to find dinner recipes.

Tip: Once you have the basics down for a few good recipes that you enjoy cooking, it’s easy to alter them with new ingredients to make the meals taste new.

I’d love to know what meals you eat each week! Leave some meals in the comments below.

How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget

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Grocery shopping is something I have grown to love. It’s something I do each week (possibly more than once a week). I try to focus on buying what I know I’ll want to eat throughout the week and make healthy meals that fit into my budget.
Here are a list of tips I use to stick to my weekly food budget:
• Know exactly how much you can spend each week on food. Try to make a budget that is doable as this will correlate into what you’re spending each month. During the week I sometimes run to the grocery store to grab fresh food instead of cooking I will then subtract the money I spent towards my next grocery run.

• Know your weekly schedule when planning meals. Keep your plans written in a planner to determine nights you’re free vs. busy. On the nights you’re free you’ll have time to cook a meal that will provide left overs for the nights you’re busy. Also, plan when you’re going to eat out so that you don’t have to buy/make any food for dinner that night.

• Know what foods you have in your kitchen. This all comes down to making a list of what you need and what you buy on a regular basis. Before you run out to the grocery store, consult the list of what you normally buy to see if you’re missing anything from your list. When you’re planning a meal you’ll know what ingredients to buy at the store vs. what’s already in your kitchen. Buying 1 or 2 ingredients because you know that’s all you need saves you money over buying what you already have.

 

 

• Shopping around is something I just started doing. Each week I buy from two grocery stores: Wegmans & Trader Joe’s. Each store has different items I buy weekly. Some of the items I buy at Wegmans are water, yogurt, almond milk, eggs, sandwich meat & at Trader Joe’s I buy fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and frozen meat. In order to stay within my budget I compare costs of items I buy regularly at both stores and buy the items that are inexpensive at that store, this is how I save money and how I keep a low food budget.

• Know what you’re in the mood to eat. If you feel like eating fried rice and orange chicken this week then make sure that’s what you buy, otherwise you won’t feel satisfied eating food you didn’t really want because you kept thinking about eating food you don’t have. Also, if you buy frozen food, like a batch of chicken that you’ll need to cook during the week, make sure you’ll want to cook it. A helpful tip is to cook during a night you’re free and you’ve recognized it will take a certain amount of time to cook. While cooking chicken you can also cook a grain and vegetable with it, and do some dishes while everything cooks!

Do you stick to a weekly food budget? What are some tips you have that help you stay on track of your food budget? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook @stylestomakeyousmile

How to Gain Weekly Food Inspiration

If you follow me on Instagram @stylestomakeyousmile, you’ll know I post a LOT of food pictures. I LOVE food, so I thought I’d share where I get my inspiration to create new recipes each week.
1. Grocery Store
2. Food Network
3. Social Media

1. Grocery Store-On my fridge, I keep a list of foods to buy each week at the grocery store. This helps me remember everything I eat on a regular basis. Before going to the grocery store, I can reference my list to make sure I don’t forget to buy something. Some of the regular items I buy weekly are: chicken, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. When I get to the grocery store, I’ll think of something new to make with my regular ingredients. This past week instead of buying pasta or quinoa I decided to try zucchini noodles. I bought a big container of them which lasted the week, just like pasta would. I know you can buy a spiralizer and make your own zucchini noodles however I liked having the precut version to save cooking time (since I had veggies and chicken to cook). I got the idea to buy the noodles just by walking around the store-mainly spending a lot of time in the produce department. If you’re walking around the grocery store and there’s an item you’ve always wanted to try cooking, then I encourage you to buy it! If it’s an item you aren’t sure how to cook then look it up online and read about it or watch a video on how to cook it properly.

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Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Sauce, veggies & olive bread

2. Food Network-Food Network has been a big inspiration throughout my life, mainly because I grew up watching it with my parents. I found the avocado cream sauce recipe (featured on my Instagram) on Food Network’s website. I simply went to the site, typed in chicken quinoa and the recipe Quinoa Bowl with Chicken and Avocado Cream appeared. Since avocados are on my regular grocery list and none of the other ingredients were very expensive, I decided to make it. I really love this sauce because of its versatility-I use it on quinoa, sandwiches, eggs and zucchini noodles.

*For the record I only used the avocado cream recipe from the link below.

Quinoa Bowl with Chicken and Avocado Cream


3. Social media- This is a wonderful resource for food inspiration. Similar to how I found the avocado sauce recipe, you can search for new recipes on YouTube, Pintrest, Facebook, Instagram and blogs. I’ve learned how to make breaded chicken tenders (pictured below) and boil eggs from YouTube. The best part about learning to cook from a video is that you can pause and restart it when needed. I’ll watch the entire video first (to make sure the recipe is doable and the person cooking is easy to follow along with), pause it while the chicken cooks then continue to finish the cooking process. With the other social media platforms you have the ability to save the recipe and refer back to them while cooking.

Parmesan and Panko Baked Chicken | BuonaPappa

Tip: When making a new meal, if you don’t have every ingredient listed you can sub ingredients already in your home, even if it’s only the seasoning.

All of these ideas will keep your weekly meal planning exciting. How do you meal plan each week? Where does your inspiration come from to make new recipes?