Meal Plan

A meal plan for the next little while…

BREAKFAST

  • Monday-cold cereal, muffins, fruit
  • Tuesday-oatmeal, muffins, fruit
  • Wednesday-eggs, bagels, fruit
  • Thursday-oatmeal, muffins, fruit
  • Friday-granola/muesli, muffins, fruit

LUNCHES

  • Monday-peanut butter and honey, veggies, pretzels
  • Tuesday-pita pizzas/burritos/quesadillas, veggies
  • Wednesday-meat sandwich, veggies, chips
  • Thursday-soup/salad, bread/muffins
  • Friday-tuna/egg salad sandwich, veggies, pretzels

DINNERS

  • freezer meal (busy day)
  • crockpot meal
  • meatless meal
  • soup meal
  • meatless meal
  • nice meat meal with dessert
  • leftovers or ramen noodles

PRE-MAKE

  • muffins once a month (take bag out of freezer the night before)
  • make large batch of granola/muesli once a month
  • slice and bag all veggies once a week
  • every two weeks, make up a bunch of quesadillas, burritos and pita pizzas and freeze
  • make biscuits and cheesy bread/freeze until ready to bake
  • double recipes like baked spaghetti, chili, rice and black bean bake, other soups, etc

Meals at Our House-Part One (and a Half)

When I shared my budget/meal series with my family, my mom made such a very good point, that I didn’t think to include in  Meals at Our House-Part One.

Let me share with you what she wrote:

“I was thinking about another aspect of our food standard; who determines what it should be?

Are we thinking healthy food intake?

Or lots of everything?

Lots of variety?

Something that has stayed in my mind is visiting with our lady friends in San Buena* and we were talking about what we were fixing for supper. Well, they had two choices. Really both had the same ingredients but mixed differently. And then here we are with multiple choices…rice or potatoes or pasta or beans…etc. etc.

It reflects on Dad’s YouTube he sent out the other day. We all have plenty but there is pressure (an unspoken standard maybe?) from within and without to have ‘more’ or ‘different’ or ‘something’.

Is it wrestling with the age old learning to be content with food and clothing?

I know this is off of what the original question was! But I do wonder if there is a pressure without taking into account how the bigger world around us functions, helping put things into a truth perspective. I remember feeling afraid that we wouldn’t have enough, or I didn’t know how to make it enough…but look, God did it! He did provide and here we all are today.”

*San Buenaventura, a small town in Bolivia, South America

Thanks, Mom, for those excellent thoughts.  I think before we start trying to make menus and budgeting, etc, we need to ask ourselves how we think about food.  And then ask God to correct our misguided ideas and expectations to align with His.  I should have started out this series with the way we think about food.  Who is it for?  What is for?  How much do we need?  Are there any “rights” or “wrongs” about food?  Like my mom wrote concerning our food standard, “who determines what it should be?”

I do believe that God gave us food.  To sustain us and keep us healthy, and because we have taste buds, we know that He intended for us to taste it!  I often think about what it was like at the beginning of time, and how it will be when God restores the world to His original plan. (Acts 3:21) I personally think we will still get lots of fruits and veggies, and I sure hope cheese and bread are still on the menu! : )

I don’t believe I know the answers to all these questions.  I am learning to sort these out myself.

But I will share with you a few Scripture verses that are often in my mind as I think about the role that food plays in our family.

Psalm 104:14-15

“He makes the grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate-bringing forth food from the earth; wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread to sustain their hearts.”

This verse speaks to me of God providing for us what we need to be healthy and whole.

Proverbs 15:17

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.”

This verse speaks to my attitude about food.  I truly would rather eat another meal of rice with lentils or veggie stir-fry than have a house where my husband (or myself) is pressured to work more, do more, provide more, just so that we can eat “steak” every week.  And I’m not necessarily talking about steak, but any meal that requires a good portion of our grocery budget. I love that I get to stay at home and spend my days loving on my children (well, most days I love on them.  I admit that there are plenty of days where love is not abounding in this household.)  I would gladly adjust our budget and menu in order to work towards the dream that Chris and I have of me being a stay-at-home mom.

Proverbs 12:11; 27

“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

and

“The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.”

These verses speak to my need of being a faithful doer with what God has given us.  For example, it is better for me to actually a boil a chicken, using the broth and meat scraps for soup and setting aside the meat for a couple more meals, than for me to just sit and read someone’s blog about doing the same thing.  You know I love reading other people’s blogs, but my family is fed and satisfied if I actually put into practice what I read and learn.  My job is to use wisely what God gives us, His job is to make it “abundant”.

John 21:12 

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.”

I just love this picture of Jesus.  It is early morning, and he fixes fish and bread for His disciples for breakfast.  What’s not to love about this simple act of love which leads into a most beautiful conversation (and restoration) between Jesus and Peter?

Acts 10:15

“Do not call anything impure that God has made it clean.”

This is my reminder that God did give us the okay to eat meat.  I will enjoy the occasional steak here on earth, because I don’t think we’ll have it in heaven.  I just need to keep in mind, that if God created it-it’s okay to eat.  It’s the how much, what kind, where from, etc, that becomes the complicated issue!

I Corinthians 10:23

“I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial.  I have the right to do anything, but not everything is constructive.”

While God has given us freedom to eat everything, I need to be wise as to what we eat.  To ask myself “is this beneficial?  is this constructive?”
“Will this help me be healthy or hinder my health?”  This is the follow-up to the previous verse.

I Corinthians 10:31

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

And this is my comfort, knowing that many times I have to make difficult choices about what I can afford vs what I think we need or what is healthy.  I am human and I only have human understanding.  So, I do the best I can before God.  Praying that in spite of my difficult choices, God’s strength will sustain us.  For His glory.

In my past, the subject of food actually led to legalism in my life.  But I know now that judging others for what they eat, what they didn’t eat, or how they eat, or when they eat, is simply not my job.  It is something that now days, I don’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole!  So, please know in the writing of this, I truly am just sharing my personal thoughts.  I think we all need to ask ourselves these questions, but I believe that, when following general guidelines that God has set forth, the answers to these questions can be as unique as each of our families and situations.

What thoughts form the foundation of your budget and menu making process?  What are the “guidelines” that you have when creating your weekly menu?  I have friends who are vegetarians, friends who will only use recipes that can be made in 1/2 hour or less, friends that can only eat gluten-free or dairy-free.  Like I said at the beginning, I am still learning how to think through these issues, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Meals at Our House-Part One

I was recently asked about how I budget for and plan our meals, and so I thought I’d answer that question right here.  Part One will cover the budget part of the question, and Part Two will cover how I plan out the meals.

As far as the budget goes, I know the dollar amount that our family can live on.  I could easily spend more, but right now, I’m so thankful for what we have.  There was a time when it was much less than it is now.  God truly has provided what we need as our children have grown and consumed more.  Once in a while, I need to set aside some of my weekly money to plan ahead for a larger purchase-like our co-op order, or our CSA payments.  Those weeks, I just get more creative-usually meaning we eat one more meat-less meal.  As I was thinking through our budget, I became kind of curious as to what the average grocery bill is here in the United States.

The USDA Food Plan in 2011 says that on the Thrifty Plan (there are four different plans-from Thrifty to Liberal), our family (2 adults, 4 teenagers, and one preteen) would spend 267.70/week on food.  And while I would love to increase our grocery budget to that amount, at this time I cannot.  I spend 180.00 a week on food.  So, I guess that means we are on the “Even Thriftier” plan.  And I can live with that.

Because the children (with the exception of our eldest son) do school here at home with me, I am feeding our family three meals a day, Sunday through Friday.  On Saturday, we eat two meals-a nice brunch and a large dinner.

So, how do I feed all these hungry kids while staying within a budget?

  • We eat two meatless meals a week, usually beans and rice, topped with chopped vegetables, cheese, sour cream and salsa.
  • I purchase a lot of my food in bulk, which saves money and assures that there is always something healthy available.
  • My children do not drink milk every day.
  • We eat cold cereal only once a week.
  • We drink juice only once a week.
  • The snacks that I always keep on hand are carrots with homemade ranch dip and popcorn.  We also make muffins for snack.
  • We use whole grain flour most of the time-the fiber is more filling and satisfying, not to mention the health benefits.
  • I shop at Aldi, which saves me a tremendous amount of money.  For instance, they just started selling the individual Greek yogurts with pineapple or peaches for only 84 cents.  I still usually buy the larger container of Greek yogurt, but compared to buying the individual yogurts with fruit at Copps, it is a huge savings.
  • We do not make desserts-unless it is someone’s birthday!! : )
  • I’ve started making my own bread again.  That is actually one of my goals for this year.  We have lots of wheat berries, and I want to be a good steward of what God has given us.
  • I make most of our food from scratch.
  • I usually divide the amount of meat called for in a recipe in half.  I rarely notice the difference.
  • I try not to waste ANYTHING.  We eat up all our food.
  • We don’t keep soda in our house.  We most always drink water at meals.  (I’m so thankful for the nice tasting tap water here!)

As I read through this list, I almost think “oh, how depressing!”, but I promise you, it isn’t.  We love treats-my husband and son make killer chocolate chip cookies-and there is always something yummy hanging around in the house.  I use good quality ingredients, and insist on wonderful meals.  My children are healthy, and I am overweight-so the food situation in our house isn’t all that depressing!

So, that’s the budget side of meals at our house.  What are some of the ways that you save money and stay within your grocery budget?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

 

 

 

5 of my favorite “bulk” foods

I have purchased in bulk for several years. One reason being-it was often cheaper to do so. Another reason was that it made sense to purchase large quantities for our family of seven. Now, I love the convenience of having certain items always on hand.  These are some of my favorites…

  • OLIVE OIL..I started out purchasing one bottle at a time from Aldi.  But those days are over.  I now purchase the gallon jug at Sam’s Club.
  • RICE…I used to keep only brown rice in the house, but I broke down last week (after borrowing some twice from my friend) and purchased a 20 pound bag of basmati rice.  If you’re gonna eat white rice, at least eat basmati.  It is lower on the glycemic index than other white rices.  I felt I could justify an occasional meal with white rice since we eat so many other whole grains.  Anyway, I now have two types of rice in the house.
  • BEANS…the bean that I keep in stock is the pinto bean.  It cooks up nicely, and is very versatile.  Sunday supper is rice and beans.  I chop up whatever veggies are in the frig (tomato, green pepper, zucchini, green onion, white onion), put out the cheese and sour cream or Greek yogurt and everybody dives in and makes up a yummy bowl of rice and beans!
  • GREEK YOGURT…this is a relatively recent addition to our kitchen, but it has definitely become a staple.  My husband loves it with fruit and granola for breakfast, we have started using it in place of sour cream, I just used it yesterday to make a creamy caesar salad dressing, and I also use it in baking.  I love it when some thing I love is also good for me!
  • PARMESAN CHEESE…and I’m referring to shredded Parmesan cheese, not the cheese that Kraft makes.  I make a lot of Italian-type dishes and so I am frequently pulling the Parmesan cheese out of the frig.  Just like my olive oil, I used to buy small containers at Aldi, but now I purchase a large container at Sam’s.  They add just the right tanginess and texture to so many meals.  (right now, I could SO eat a whole bowl of pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and a (big) sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!!)

We do keep other bulk items on hand (wheat berries, popcorn, butter, rolled oats, coconut milk, spices) but these are a few of my faves.  Now, I’m off to make supper for tonight…lentil soup with crusty bread!

Recipe for "loving to cook"

Several years ago, cooking was not something that I even remotely enjoyed.  I (usually)did it, but only because I loved my husband and children.  It was a dreaded task, that at times my husband tackled after getting home from his job.
One day, in a desperate attempt for clarity in my goals as a wife/mommy/homemaker, I asked my husband to prioritize five aspects of my daily life.  I needed his thoughts on what he was needing from me, his helpmeet.  His number one request was that I made dinner every night.
And that day, many years ago, started the journey toward becoming someone who loves to cook.
These 5 things were key ingredients in the transformation:
  1. I began to make out (and use) a MENU.  At first, we just rotated through several of our favorite meals.  I didn’t try anything new.  I was just trying to get dinner on the table for my hardworking husband.
  2. As I started looking at more cookbooks and magazines (I was really into Taste of Home during those years), I was overwhelmed with all the meal choices that lay before me.  So, I started  SCHEDULING THE MENU, meaning I assigned certain types of meals to different days of the week.  For example, Monday-soup, Tuesday-chicken, Wednesday-meatless, Thursday-beef, Friday-pizza night, Saturday-fish, Sunday-meatless.  Through the seasons and the years, the schedule changes, but my method has remained the same.  Although I was trying new recipes, I still didn’t love cooking.
  3. A few years ago, I discovered how much fun it is to cut veggies when you are using SHARP KNIVES!  Go figure, right?  We were at my parents, and during that visit, I purchased the same brand that my mom had in her kitchen.  After several months, the knives became dull and the thrill of slicing veggies was wearing off.  But, voila!, one day while shopping at our local whole foods store, I found a knife sharpener made specifically for this brand of knife.  Woohoo~I’m a happy chef again!
  4. And while it has its drawbacks, the MEDIA has been a huge source of learning for me.  Between Food Network (boohoo! we are canceling in two months!) and some great blogs I have found, I am learning about different types of food and cooking techniques.  And when one understands what they are doing, I believe they tend to enjoy it more.  Now, making dinner is also my hobby.  I love putting on music and cooking my little heart out!
  5. The last thing which contributes to my love of cooking is the ability to be SPONTANEOUS.  As I am expanding our food horizons and keeping more ingredients on hand, I am discovering how much fun it is to come across a recipe and then discover that I have everything in the house I need to make it.  For example, I never used to cook with onions or red wine, but now that I keep these things on hand, when I come across a yummy recipe like this, I can make it right then and there…and that, to me, is fun!

It has taken several years, and lots of trial and error, but I can now officially say, “I love to cook!” (and I’m pretty sure my husband is REALLY, REALLY happy about that!)  Next week, I’ll share my favorite bulk foods to keep on hand!