Thursday, September 5, 2013

Meal Planning Part 1

So, I realized that I promised a little meal prep 101 for you and didn't deliver! My bad! I started babysitting the cutest little one year old today so I have been pretty busy preparing the house for her. 

I'm going to break this up into three parts cause maybe I am a little too detail oriented but I think there is a lot of things that I have learned over time and I want to be able to share as much as possible to steepen the learning curve. 

Every Friday I sit down and do two things. First, I pay all my bills. I'll get around to writing up a special post about the financial planning aspect of my housewife duties (my sister provided me with a really awesome spreadsheet I wanna share with you). Second, I meal plan for the week. 
 Post bill paying, actively meal planning on the dining room table. 

When I meal plan I take a few things into consideration. My biggest obstacle is my budget. 90% of the time I limit my food purchases to $80 a week. Yes, we eat three meals a day for around $80 a week. I know, its crazy but totally doable! Part of my responsibilities as a SAHM requires adhering to a strict budget so that we can afford for me to stay home and manage the house. Another thing I take into consideration is thinking up ways to use an ingredient in more than one meal. 

Sticking to a Budget
Meal planning is so important if you want to stick to a budget. I break up the budget into several parts. My first part of the budget is produce. I buy 70% of my produce from the farmers market on Saturdays, specifically Johnsons Backyard Garden. I try my best to stick to all organic fruits and vegetables and JBG does a great job of providing quality food at a great price. I spend an average of $15-20 while I'm there. As for fruit, its not readily available at the market so I end up buying it at the grocer. 

My farmers market finds. Sweet potatoes, cantalope, watermelon, shishito peppers, onions, and sage. Fruit is from the grocer, bananas, apples, and nectarines.

The second part of my budget is everything but produce. Proteins, dairy, snacks etc etc. Pretty simple stuff. I stick to the cheap stuff and limit loading up on anything that is in the aisles (canned food, sugary snacks, chips etc) and I avoid any beverage that is not milk or low sugar juice pouches for school lunches (we drink a lot of tap water). Beverages can suck up your budget pretty easily so I avoid them. 

Most importantly, be realistic about your budget. I feed three mouths a day so my budget may look a lot smaller than most. I also don't have any sons to care for, just a little dainty six year old princess with a small appetite. 

A few tips to staying within a budget

  • Bulk foods! I like this aisle cause I can get just what I need and not an ounce more. I usually get a few pretzels, honey roasted pecans (for my beet salads), almond butter, oatmeal, and brown rice. 
  • Reuse ingredients across your meals. Requires some careful planning but it reduces waste and ensures you spend less.
  • SIMPLE recipes. I am HUGE on 5 ingredients or less. Lots of Mrs. Dash, garlic, onions, and simple spices in my cabinet. Even better if I can make something using one pot.
  • Pizza sauce in the making. I jar it for a couple of weeks and use every bit of it.

    Strawberry syrup in the making. Boil strawberries and 1 part water to 1 part sugar for 10 minutes or until strawberries are mushy. Strain through a fine sieve into a jar and keep for up to 7 days.  

Like I said, my budget is my main restriction. If you don't have one, well then this will be really easy for you. Tomorrow I'll go over the actual meal planning process and some recipe ideas as well. Hope this first part helps! 

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