Our readers went nuts over Jess’s meal planning article, so we asked her for an encore! Here are a few of her favorite easy-peasy recipes for healthy family meals.
Meal Planning Part 2: Easy-Peasy Recipes
Well here I am again, writing about food. How ironic for me! It is such a love/hate relationship. Anyway, this time around I am going to try to answer some questions about recipes, meal plans and budgets. How fun!!! But for real…. please know that these are things that work for me and my family, and I hope no one feels pressured by specifics. This is such a learning process for me, and I love that I am privileged to write about it.
First, as I said in the previous article, I select five meals. Here are a few of my family staples that we LOVE. And this is what a typical meal plan might look like
Butternut Squash Bake (oven-baked meal) I picked this meal while in the fall spirit, and have made it every week since. ALL of my kids love this. That is a miracle in itself!
Ropa Vieja (crock-pot meal) Here is my personal favorite!!! I did not make it this week, but it’s by far the most popular steak meal I have ever made.
Sloppy Joes (crock-pot meal) These are the healthiest, messiest and easiest Sloppy Joes ever. They are super easy on the budget, I can sneak a ton of veggies in there, and the kids eat them all!
Shepherd’s Pie (oven-baked meal) This is the most amazing Shepherd’s Pie recipe. It takes a little while to make, but even when I simplify it, it is comfort food at its finest!
Meatballs (crock-pot meal) This one I love because it is so versatile and affordable. I can throw it in the crock-pot with a can of spaghetti sauce, or cranberries… you name it. And it also packs a punch with the veggies.
Creamy Pumpkin Cranberry Smoothie Here is a little gem I found last month. It makes crazy mornings much tastier.
Breakfast Sausage I love to make these. They’re a great substitute when I am sick of eggs… easy to make and easy to freeze.
* For breakfasts I often pull out a bag of mixed frozen fruit, sprinkle coconut flakes and almonds and chow down.
I select my meals then I write down all the ingredients (adjust for quantity) and head to my beloved Walmart. Below is what a normal budget breakdown looks like for me. Some weeks, if I am feeling the budget squeeze, I will substitute peanuts for almonds, or chicken for steak. I don’t want to go broke eating healthy, so some weeks I just substitute out some of the pricier foods.
This is what this week’s trip looked like (remember, I shop for two weeks at a time):
Meats (ground beef, turkey, chicken, bacon, etc): $58.83
Produce (fruits, veggies and eggs): $85.57
Dairy (butter, yogurt, and cheese): $19.25
Other (almonds, honey, spices, applesauce, etc): $92.80
Household (diapers, cleaners, vitamins, etc): $61.00
Total: $325/2 = $162.50 per week
* This amount was higher than normal because I shopped 4 days later than normal… woops!
This made: Sloppy Joes 3X, Shepherd’s Pie 3X, Butternut Squash 2X, Meatballs 3X, Hamburgers 3X, Ropa Vieja 3X, Cranberry Pumpkin Smoothies 5, PLUS enough breakfasts, lunches and snacks for two weeks.
When I get home with groceries I hit the ground running (mostly to get the cooking part over with).
Here is what my meal planning and preparation looked like this week:
Planning: ½ hour
Grocery Shopping: 1 1/2 hours
Cooking: 2 ½ hours
Clean up: 1 hour
Total= 5 ½ hours
*FYI: When I first started I was much slower! After my first attempt, I swore I would never cook again. Yeah. Right.
So that’s it! If you are interested in meal planning, I suggest starting small. When I first started I did it once a week. Just set a budget, pick out some tasty meals, and “git er’ done!” Ya never know… you may get hooked!