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Featured/ Life & Motherhood/ Meal Planning

How I Meal Plan

One of my favourite things to do is to meal plan. I know, how dorky right? There’s something about meal planning that is so calming to me. I look forward to when new grocery flyers are available, I like planning ahead to what meals would work best on what day, and I LOVE thinking of new recipes to try during the week. I’ve shared a brief glimpse of how I meal plan in this post back in 2016, but let me give you a detailed look at my meal planning process:

Thursdays: The new weekly flyer for Safeway comes out, so I sit down and start making my grocery list. I do my weekly major grocery shopping at Safeway because I find that the quality of the meat and produce are consistent, the cashiers are friendly, efficient and knowledgeable (there is NOTHING worse than a fumbling cashier taking his/her sweet time with my groceries while I have a fussy toddler with me), and I like picking up a coffee for myself and a banana bread for the toddler at the Starbucks before we start our shopping. During the week, if we run out of one or two items, my husband or I will take the toddler on a walk to the Save-On Foods by our house and pick up the random items there.

I use the Flipp app to view the grocery flyers. I like that the app has “previews” of the flyers a day before they come into effect. The Safeway flyer comes into effect on Thursday, but it is available on the app on Wednesday, so I could do all of this one day in advance if I was on the ball!

On my grocery list, I’ll list the basics that we need to buy every week (milk, bread, eggs, avocados, bananas, etc), then I’ll write down the meats that are on sale that week that I want to buy – chicken thighs, steaks, ground beef, etc. Whatever is on sale and that I know I have a recipe for, it goes on the list. Then I’ll write down all the other things in the flyer that I don’t buy when they are regular price but are on sale this week – things like cantaloupe, grapes, chips, etc.

Then based on the proteins that I have on my grocery list, I go through this blog, my brain, my Pinterest board, photos of recipes that I’ve saved, etc and think of meals that I can make using those proteins. Once I’ve selected the meal that I wanted to make using that protein, I go through the recipe and add any other ingredients in that recipe that I need to buy onto my grocery list.

Fridays: This is the day that I usually do my grocery shopping. I have every second Friday off of work, so on those days, I like to go after breakfast with my toddler and that basically makes up our morning outing before her noon nap. On the days that I work, I go after work or sometimes it gets pushed to Saturday mornings. I prefer Friday mornings though because the grocery store is much quieter and relaxed.

My weekly meal plans run Friday-Thursday. In other words, if I grocery shopped on the Friday morning, the meal that evening is the first meal planned using that morning’s grocery haul.

My weekly meal plan also takes into account work schedules as my husband works shiftwork. His schedule is roughly five days on, five days off, and the five days that he’s on is split into day shifts and night shifts. When my meal plan covers weekends when he is off and I’m also off, I will plan for more involved recipes. Those are the days where I trial new recipes or make more complicated recipes as he is home to take care of the toddler so she’s not distracting me in the kitchen. On the days when he’s on day shift and coming home around 6:30pm-7:30pm for dinner, I usually make quicker meals or my go-to, often-made meals that I can do with my eyes closed. On those days, my favourite meals on this blog are often made, such as the Shepherd’s Pie, the Bolognese, the Swedish Meatballs, or the Vietnamese Braised Pork and Eggs.  On the days that he’s working nights, his shift starts at 7PM but he sleeps until about 3:30PM-4PM and leaves the house around 5:45PM. On those days, I’m basically with the toddler all day by myself so once again I gravitate towards the easier recipes or my go-to’s as mentioned above. Then there are the weekdays where I’m working and he’s at home. On those days, if it’s in the summer, he will grill steaks or kabobs with some veggies for our dinner after I get home to take the toddler off his hands. In the winter, I would have provided him with instructions on a slow cooker meal that he would have prepped earlier in the day, such as this ribs recipe.

I write out all my planned dinners in my personal planner.

And just to dispel the thought that I am superhuman and have homemade meals every day – not true! Life happens sometimes or I forget to defrost something the night before or I fail to meal plan properly and we have nothing to make into a meal – that’s when Skip the Dishes comes to the rescue or we head out to Boston Pizza. I think any mom can attest to the fact that no matter how picky your toddler is, the Bugs ‘n’ Cheese kids’ meal at Boston Pizza is always a surefire hit.

As you can see, I only meal plan for dinners. Breakfasts and lunches basically consist of the staples that we always have on hand – avocado toast, eggs, sandwiches, salads, leftovers, etc.

That’s my meal planning process in a nutshell. Does anyone else meal plan in detail like this?

(Cover photo: Free Stock Photo courtesy of picxclicx.com)

Canadian Recipes/ Featured/ Meal Planning

Apple Cinnamon Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

I have a poor nutrition confession to make: We eat a lot of bacon in our household. I’d say we go through 2-3 packages of bacon a week, and that’s a lot considering there’s only two adults in our household! Baby E isn’t exactly old enough to eat her fair share yet. The reason for the bacon overload is that whenever my husband isn’t working, it is our routine to enjoy a big breakfast together, consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, sliced tomatoes, and coffee. My husband works shiftwork (roughly five days/nights on, five days off), so on his days off I enjoy 5 days of big breakfasts with him. On his five days on, I fend for myself for breakfast.

I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about my five day stretches of bacon & egg breakfasts, so I’ve decided that on the five days that I’m on my own, I will eat a super nutritious breakfast to counteract all the grease from the previous five days (I don’t know if that is scientifically/nutritionally possible, but just humour me).

Keep in mind that when the husband is working, I am also home alone taking care of the baby, so I don’t exactly have a ton of time to prepare myself an elaborate breakfast. I need something that is prepared ahead of time, or easy enough to prepare with one hand, if need be. This is where this amazingly healthy apple cinnamon slow cooker steel cut oatmeal recipe comes in. I prepare this in the slow cooker the day before my husband goes back to work, and it makes enough to last me the five days where I’m flying solo for breakfast. All I have to do in the mornings is take a portion out of the fridge, plunk it into a bowl, sprinkle a bit of almond milk on it, and reheat in the microwave!

All the ingredients, dumped into the slow cooker.

I use almond milk in my recipe, but you can use whatever your preferred type of milk is. I use almond milk because I just recently found out that Baby E has a dairy allergy. I’m exclusively breastfeeding her so every time I have dairy, she gets severe eczema on her beautiful little face, digestive issues, and congestion. So don’t expect to see anymore recipes containing dairy on this blog for awhile! We actually found out about her dairy allergy after the seafood chowder recipe I posted a few weeks ago that contained a cup of milk and a cup of cream.

Since the steel cut oats take 7 hours in the slow cooker, you can technically make this overnight and have it fresh in the morning. I have never made it overnight though, only because I don’t like the idea of having something plugged in and cooking while I sleep. I usually make it the afternoon before my husband goes back to work so that it is ready later that night. I portion out individual servings that night so that it is ready to reheat and eat the next few days.

Give this super healthy and convenient recipe a try and let me know what you think! The weather in Regina is supposed to be on the plus side this week, so I’m happy to have this quick breakfast before I take the baby out and about. We have been going stir crazy being cooped up during last week’s -47 degrees Celsius weather! Enjoy the warmer weather, everyone!

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal

Print Recipe
Serves: 5 Cooking Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into little pieces (1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 1/2 cups of almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salted butter, cut into 5 little squares

Instructions

1

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray or vegetable oil.

2

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker (except for the butter) and stir.

3

Distribute the butter pieces evenly on top of the other ingredients, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

4

Store leftovers in refrigerator.

5

To reheat single servings: Put desired portion in microwaveable bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of almond milk (or preferred type of milk), and reheat on high for about a minute. Stir, and reheat for another minute if necessary.

Featured/ Frugal Tips/ Meal Planning

Keeping a Tight Grocery Budget

Earlier today I was interviewed on the CJME Morning News radio show here in Regina on how I am keeping my grocery budget in check despite rising food costs.  A study out of Dalhousie University is predicting that the average Canadian family will spend $420 more a year on groceries next year as food prices are expected to rise. $420 a year may not seem like much, but let me list all the discretionary fun things I bought this year for $420 that I would have to give up next year if the $420 had to go to food instead:

  • a pair of Ugg AND Sorel winter boots (I bought these online on Black Friday)
  • a Scotch advent calendar (I bought this for my husband on his birthday)
  • a Peg Perego car seat for my baby
  • a newborn photoshoot

 

Personally, I would rather try to be frugal where I can so that I can spend some of my hard earned money on fun things and enjoy life once in awhile.

To elaborate more on some of the tips that I shared on the radio and in the news article on how to control your grocery budget:

  • Meal planning – for the majority of us, the protein is the central focus of every meal so I recommend meal planning around what protein is on sale. Buying steaks when they are on sale and planning to have steak that week or freezing it to have steaks later is more economical than having a craving for steak one day and running out to the grocery store to buy the meat and all the fixings at full price.
  • Eliminating food waste – Meal plan to use up leftovers. There are so many times I’ve made a roast chicken for dinner one night and had a couple of drumsticks leftover that ended up sitting in the fridge for a week before I had to throw them out. Now, I meal plan for a couple meals in advance – if I’m making a roast chicken tonight, then I’m planning ahead that I’ll be making chicken caesar wraps or chicken salad sandwiches tomorrow using the leftovers.
  • Having a repertoire of “go to” recipes – Make note of what meals your family loves to assist with your meal planning. For example, if I see ground beef on sale I know I can make my shepherds pie or meatloaf.
  • Loyalty programs – Most of us are creatures of habit and usually shop at the same grocery store, so take advantage of whatever loyalty program your favourite grocery store has. Most grocery stores have some sort of points accumulation program that you can redeem for discounts off your bill. And most will also have loyalty cards and digital offers that track your spending and give you specific discounts for items that you purchase the most!

A little time and attention can help you save both time and money at the grocery store. I probably spend an hour every Thursday evening with the flyers for the coming week and plan my grocery shopping and meals. However, that one hour upfront saves me from wandering aimlessly through the store as I go with a detailed list and a plan of attack. Also, because of my careful planning, I only grocery shop once a week. I’m saving time as I rarely have to head to the store to pick up that one thing that I need right away. As for money, I used to spend $600-$700 a month on groceries. Thats just insane for a family of two adults! Ever since I started paying more attention to my grocery bill, meal planning and sticking to a cash grocery budget (no debit or credit for groceries), our grocery costs are now $500 a month. That’s a tangible $100-$200 that I’m saving!

I could talk about meal planning and frugal tips all day! If you have any questions or ideas to share, please leave me a comment, email me at culinarycents@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (links to my social media accounts are on the top left corner of this site).

Here is the link to the article: http://cjme.com/article/1033101/new-regina-mom-uses-strict-budget-sacrifice-combat-concerning-food-prices