Last week, I posted my shopping trips to Kroger and Aldi, and promised to show you how I fit these things into my meal planning. I work full time and try to cook healthy, low cost food (mostly from scratch), with two small kids, a ravenous teenager and an equally hungry husband. Things can get a little crazy sometimes. I also try to plan around what’s in season, what’s on sale, and what I have on hand. That’s a lot to keep track of!
So I use this wonderful online tool called PlantoEat.com. It’s subscription based- about $29 a year. I got it for half price during their Black Friday sale last year and bought an extra one for my mom as a birthday gift. She’s not as tech-savvy as me, so I’m not sure how much she’s used it, but I love it! I will be writing a full review of it soon. You can find me on there as FrugalMoms2. Add me as a friend!
PlantoEat has a free, full 30 day trial. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with it. I know I did. It’s very easy to use and very visual. You can add recipes from anywhere, even Frugal Moms2! And it works across all devices- phones, tablets, and computers.
Anyhow, here is the meal plan I created in PlantoEat for the week, along with links to recipes I’m trying or favorites that seem to get made a lot. I try to follow the plan about 80% of the time. Sometimes things come up or I have to rearrange nights. It’s so nice knowing I have the “stuff” to make all the recipes, regardless of when I do them.
The colored blocks are recipes in my personal PlantoEat recipe book (I’ve put links to all of the original recipes below). Each color represents a different meal time. White blocks are notes and entries I didn’t need a recipe for. You’ll notice a lot of repeats. I will make things in bulk and eat them for a few days straight. I’ll make double batches of smoothies, triple batches of breakfasts, etc. to cut down on prep time. If I like it, I don’t mind eating it more than once.
The breakfasts, lunches and snacks listed here are what I’m taking with me to lunch. The kids eat at daycare, the teen and husband takes care of themselves (mostly).
Recipes this week:
Juicy Buttermilk Porkchops (made this last night, it was AMAZING!)
Brownie Batter Smoothie (this wonderful concoction help keep me somewhat sane)
Mint Cacao Kiss (heavenly if you grow your own mint)
Italian Zucchini Spring Rolls (trying for the first time)
Chocolate Mint Brownie Overnight Oats (trying for first time, her other overnight oats are great)
Kim’s Easy Homemade Pizza
Portabello Mushroom Pizzas (using as a starting point)
Carob Frosty (curious to see if it really tastes like a Wendy’s Frosty!)
BLT Bowl (looks amazing but not sure there will be bacon left)
Roasted Sticky Chicken Legs
Bulk cooking/planning ahead:
I bought 15 pounds of porkchops last week. I made 5 pounds last night for the Juicy Buttermilk Porkchops recipe (which also used up 1/2 a quart of the buttermilk I got on clearance). They were really wonderful! I divided the rest of the chops into two freezers bags, 5 pounds each. I dumped the rest of the buttermilk into one freezer bag and sealed it to see if the porkchops can marinate while they thaw. I dumped 1/2 a can of leftover Hunt’s spaghetti sauce from my Easy Pizza recipe into the other bag.
Tomatoes + porkchops = yum!
I’m curious to see if I can make either of these into freezer-to-crockpot recipes. I’ll let you know. 🙂
I also purchased 5 pounds of asparagus at .99/lb. I cut off the woody stems and blanched four pounds for the freezer. I steamed a pound for dinner, and boiled the woody stems in the cooking water from both. Once cooled, I ran the stems and the broth through a blender and put in the fridge as a soup base for later in the week, when we’ll have Cream of Asparagus soup. I’ll use leftover mashed potatoes to thicken it, and buttermilk for the cream. Paired with some homemade sourdough, this will essentially be a “free” meal. I’ll post a recipe once I’m happy with the results.
Things that aren’t on the plan
We have some basic things going on that I don’t list, because we do them all the time:
- Weekday breakfasts– the kids eat at daycare, the husband has eggs (graciously provided by our chickens) and toast, the teenager usually has sugar free yogurt. He’s not a breakfast person. Neither am I, so I pack mine and eat it when I get to work.
- Weekend breakfasts– usually an egg dish, sometimes we have something as simple as yogurt or cereal. Depends on how everyone is feeling. I used to make big breakfasts but we don’t eat as heavily as we did before. We’ve recently discovered the spiralizer and we love it. Apple noodles is a favorite here.
- Snacks– we eat popcorn, fruit, cheese, salsa and chips, veggies and homemade dips, and tortillas as snacks. We don’t buy much, if any junk food. Occasionally I bake, but not as often as I used to because we’re trying to cut down on sugar and gluten, and I don’t have as much time. So I’m “relearning” how to bake when I can. In the summer, I’ll make popsicles.
- Lunches– we make a lot of leftover dinners into lunches for work. I will also make salads with leftover meats on them.
- Leftover night– If there’s not enough for a leftover night, because we ate them for lunch, I make something simple that night, like pasta.
- Drinks– we like iced tea, coffee, homemade hot cocoa, milk, homemade and store bought flavored waters, and watered down juices (have to do this for the little guys or their pants would be scary). My teenager likes to make his own sugar free lemonade, which is always a mess. He also likes juice with club soda to make it bubbly. And we LOVE smoothies!
- I try to cut up vegetables and divide bulk buys of meat for freezing the day I buy them or the next day. Otherwise, I might forget. Tammy over at Organize Yourself Skinny has some wonderful ideas for making ahead your snack packs here.
- When I remember to, I like to use veggie cooking water and leftover veggies for broths and soup bases.
- Often I’ll recycle part of a meal into another one. I’ll take a cooked chicken and turn it into soup, and then turn it into pot pie. Some cookbooks call this “chain cooking” and it’s easier than bulk cooking if you’re away from home for most of the day.
- Amy Dacyczyn from the Tightwad Gazette labeled and froze all her leftovers immediately after dinner. That would save a ton of money, but my problem is I’d forget to label it or use it, then we’d be throwing out freezer burnt leftovers. We try to eat ours for lunches as much as we can. We’re not always successful. Cleaning out the fridge the night before garbage day helps a lot.
- I buy a lot of reduced price produce and am also growing my own. Sometimes we can’t eat everything up before it starts to look a little droopy. Our chickens are more than happy to help and make those veggie and fruit scraps into eggs.
- If it’s beyond being “chicken worthy” or has meat in it, it goes into the compost pile in our fallow corn field to feed the garden next year.