Meal Planning and Meatloaf

Hi everyone! I decided to take a few days off from writing, but I’m back! And I have lots of updates on my meal planning adventures.

Friday was my grocery list prep day, I started off by typing up a list based on the items that were shown in the list already created by the Mealboard app. From there I took inventory of items I already had at home and added items that were not already on my list.

I have decided that I will do most of my shopping at Costco since you can buy lots of items in bulk at very good prices. I will be doing the rest of my shopping at Sobey’s (a local grocery store), they usually have good deals every week AND I can collect Air Miles to help pay for our honeymoon next year.

So I got my hands on a flyer from Sobey’s (you can view their weekly flyers online but I’m hands on and wanted an actually copy to look through), and circled all the items that were on sale to make sure I didn’t miss any good deals. For example this week they had a great special on boneless skinless chicken breasts (a staple in my meal plan) so it was less expensive to buy them from Sobey’s and not from Costco. This is when planning comes in handy, some items will be much cheaper when you buy in bulk. But let’s be honest, we’ve all bought something from Costco thinking “this is such a great deal, I’m totally going to eat 48 cantaloupes!”, and by the end of the first week you can’t even stand to look at a cantaloupe let alone eat one. You end up throwing out a bunch uneaten fruit and a valuable lesson is learned. So just take the time to plan out which items you need in a large quantities and how you can store or freeze these items so they will last for a longer period of time. Also if you plan on freezing lots of things, make sure to add freezer bags to your list! Luckily I had a bunch left over but I will be adding these very important items to my next list, I like to use the large and small bags.

Saturday was our shopping day, my fiancรฉ decided he would come along and help ๐Ÿ™‚ We headed out to Costco first, I was armed with my trusty list and an empty cart. We hit the fruit and veggies section and loaded up, then moved on to the cold food section, they have great prices on butter and eggs! We then headed over to the grocery isles, the entire time I was keeping track of things on my list to make sure I didn’t forget anything. We saved time by not going into sections of the store that did not sell food items. Costco on a Saturday is insanity plus they always have deals on impulse items, it’s very easy to stray from the plan when everyone is going crazy over 100 batteries for 19.99$! So out of sight out of mind does help in this case and we were out of there in less time then it took to find a parking spot.

We went to Sobey’s next, I made sure to pick up the sale items I had seen in the flyer first and then went back around for the rest of the things on the list. While we were in line at the checkout I went over my meal plan again on my iPhone to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. The hole idea behind all of this planning is to avoid useless trips to the grocery store! So make sure when you’re done and ready to leave that you have all the items you came for ๐Ÿ˜‰

Once we got home I unpacked all the groceries and laid them out on the table. After a few hours of planning and an afternoon of shopping, we have enough groceries for (hopefully) one month, and the approximate cost is about 350$. Hooray for saving money and time! Here is a picture of our goodies.

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Next came the prepping step, since we had gotten LOTS of fruits and veggies from Costco I wanted to prep them and freeze them for future use. I used this website as a freezing guideline http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/. It has lots of great information and really came in handy since I had only frozen meats and leftovers in the past. I started with out the large bags of pre cut and pre washed broccoli and mushrooms. Since they were already prepped I just threw them into some small freezer bags. I then washed and prepped asparagus and bell peppers and made smoothy packets with berries and cut up bananas. These are great when you are in rush in the morning but want something good and healthy. I also froze bread, tortillas and the chicken breasts and other meats that I had picked up, don’t forget to write the name of the item you’re freezing and the date on each bag (I use a Sharpie, works great). When you’re digging through the freezer for something it will be a lot easier if everything is labeled, and if you’re like me and you have a tiny freezer you’ll be glade you did this! Here’s my freezer all stocked up.

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So now we are ready for a full month of meals! In 2 weeks I may need to buy milk and bread, I’m not a fan of freezing milk and I have absolutely no space left in my freezer for another loaf of bread. So I’m not opposed to picking up a few items in 2 weeks time. I’m planning on adding a white board on the fridge so that I can write down things as we run out, this should make it easier when it comes time to make my next grocery list.

Tonight is the first day of the meal plan and that means its meatloaf night! So I’m going to share my recipe, actually my fiancรฉ’s grandmothers recipe for yummy, simple and super moist meatloaf ๐Ÿ™‚

Nana’s Meatloaf

– 1 lbs of extra lean ground beef
– 1 medium onion chopped
– 1 can tomato soup
– 1 egg beaten
– 1/2 sleeve soda crackers crushed
– salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350, prepare baking dish with butter or olive oil so the meatloaf won’t stick to the sides. I use a normal sized loaf pan. Mix all the ingredients together, don’t be afraid to use your hands! Once everything is mixed and well blended together pour it into the pan and bake uncovered for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The top will come out nice and crispy and the middle will be moist and delicious.

Voila! The best and most simple meatloaf, enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

Mealboard and Brown Bananas

So here is an update on my meal planning quest :)I’m very happy with the Mealboard app (here is the link again: http://www.mealboard.com/), its not free (thumbs down) but it only costs 3$, and its worth every penny. The app already has a fair amount of recipes to start with and it is linked to several popular recipe sites (allrecipes, food network, whole foods and more), but I already have a pretty large amount of recipes that I have collected over time so I decided to start from zero.

Over the weekend I was able to enter all of our favorite recipes into the app on my iphone, entering the recipes was pretty easy. Some recipes I know by heart but still entered the ingredients so they would be added to the grocery list that is included in the app. One really nice feature is that you can set specific notifications for certain recipes. For example, I can set a notification to remind me to take out some chicken from the freezer the night before so it will be thawed out in time to make supper. I’m one of those people who don’t function really well in the morning and it’s a challenge just to get ready and make it to work in time. So I usually forget to grab something out of the freezer before heading out for the day, and then when supper time rolls around I have no clue what to make and anything worth making is a miserable frozen brick. Needless to say, I love this little added notification feature!

To continue, once the recipes and ingredients are added you can then start to make your meal plan. You can actually be quite detailed with this if you chose to do so. I decided to strictly make a supper meal plan (I know some of you might call it dinner but I’m french), but you can plan every meal of the day since they include a breakfast and lunch option as well. I always grab a quick breakfast at home before work and try to pack a lunch, so supper time is the most challenging and fun for me. I wrote down all of our favorite recipes on a sheet of paper (I asked my fiance if he wanted to add or remove anything from the list) and then started entering recipes into the meal plan one at a time. I decided that on Sundays I would make a big meal that requires more time since I’m home most of the day, and that Mondays would be a left over day (you can chose left overs as an option in the plan). I then picked a quick or easy recipe for Tuesdays and a fish dish for Wednesdays since I work that night and my fiance is way better at cooking seafood than I am. Thursdays and Fridays are quick or easy recipes again, and Saturdays are reserved for take out or restaurant since that is our “cheat day” (have to shed a few pounds before the BIG day). I was able to work it out so that I have a different meal for almost every day, and it will be very easy to add new recipes to the rotation in the future. Can’t wait for the warm weather so we can BBQ again!

The next step will be to plan out the grocery shopping part, I’m going to try and make a detailed list of what I need (with the help of Mealboard of course) and I will also be keeping an eye on the flyers to see what will be on sale this coming week. Because we live in the sticks we don’t receive flyers, but most stores have them to view online which is very useful and eco-friendly. My goal will be to do one shopping trip and get everything we need for a 2 week period. I came across another blog that has lots of great tips on how to save money on your monthly grocery bill without clipping coupons, here is the link: http://applevalleygirl.blogspot.ca/2012/01/10-best-ways-to-save-money-on-groceries.html.

Now on to the recipe part! I like to think there are others out there like me, people that buy a bunch of bananas and rarely manage to consume them before they turn brown and mushy. Luckily those brown mushy bananas can be turned into some pretty tasty stuff! Banana bread is pretty popular (it also make the BEST french toast ever, try it!) and so are banana muffins, and that is what I made last night with a bit of a twist ๐Ÿ™‚

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

– 1/2 cup butter (softened)
– 3/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
– 1 egg
– 2 or 3 ripe bananas (mashed)
– 1/2 cup peanut butter
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 cup flour (I used half whole wheat and all purpose)
– 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, bananas, vanilla and then peanut butter, mix well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt, slowly stir into the to banana mix. Throw in the chocolate chips and mix. Place muffin liners in your pan and fill them 2/3 of the way (I use a cookie dough scoop). Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your muffins, they are done once the tops are golden and a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for a little while and enjoy!

These muffins are very moist, but if your batter is a little dry or too thick try adding a little splash of milk. I love these because its almost like eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich ๐Ÿ™‚ You still get the stronger banana taste mixed in with the peanut butter and well, chocolate chips make everything better right?!

Meal Planning and Pancakes

It finally happened, my love of food and my need for organization have finally come together. I’m not proclaiming to be the worlds most organized person, but I do have a knack for it. Living in a small home with no closets and little storage space has thought me a valuable lesson. Over the years I have organized most rooms in our home, including the kitchen.

I thought I had it all figured out until I stumbled upon a very interesting blog post on Pinterest (yes, again with the Pinterest!). This blogger explained in a very detailed way how she does grocery shopping ONCE a month! She has lots of great tips and tricks on how to save money but I found this particular idea very interesting. Here is a link to the post if you would like to read it http://www.blissfulanddomestic.com/2012/03/31-days-to-yumminess-grocery-shopping.html?m=1.

I always seem to be “picking up a few things” at the grocery store on my way home from work and like most people I also get a larger amount of groceries on the weekend. But we all know that we can never actually leave the grocery store with that ONE item we went there for. We always end up grabbing a few more things and this adds up to a bigger grocery bill at the end of the month. It also means that some food is wasted because it is not eaten or is forgotten.

To make a once a month grocery trip possible, this blogger has a very detailed meal plan worked out and from there makes a grocery list to make sure she gets everything she will need to make all the family meals for a month. She does suggest trying to work your way up to a monthly trip rather than trying it right from the get go. So my plan is to try and make TWO trips a month, and hopefully cut down our grocery bill significantly. I’ve downloaded an app on my iPhone and started the process of entering my recipes and working out a meal plan for my fiancรฉ and I. I will let you all know how it works out! Here is a link for the app I’m trying out http://www.mealboard.com/.

So today is a stormy grey Sunday, and that always calls for pancakes! I love the weekends for obvious reasons, one of them is that I can take the extra time in the morning to make a delicious breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚ I fondly remember eating my mom’s famous pancakes (covered with molasses) on Saturday mornings, and if we were lucky we could even watch cartoons at the same time.

Once you try this easy and healthy pancake recipe you will NEVER want to buy or make the yucky boxed kind ever again. Guaranteed!

Whole Wheat Pancakes

– 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 cup milk
– 1 egg
– 1/2 tbsp oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk milk and egg together and add oil, pour into dry ingredients and mix well. The batter should bubble and thicken a little.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and spoon batter into the pan (I use a ladle). Once the batter bubbles around the edges it’s time to flip the pancake over. The pancakes will be golden brown and crispy around the edges with a fluffy centre ๐Ÿ™‚

This recipe makes 4 large pancakes or 6 smaller ones. I warm my oven to the lowest temperature (170 degrees) and keep the pancakes warm in there till they are all ready. You can also use a griddle if you want to prepare more than one at once.

You can add fruit or chocolate chips to the batter if you like. I like mine with maple syrup and some berries on top or with plain old molasses ๐Ÿ™‚ Whichever way you like your pancakes these are sure to be a hit!

Enjoy!

Change can be a good thing

After receiving some positive feedback, I’m here with blog #2! As you can tell, I’m still very new at this and I will try my best to make these posts interesting and full of yummy recipes. But for those of you that are reading this AND are interested in other useful information, I have something to share before I get to the recipe part.

My fiancรฉ and I decided one year ago that we would start saving all of our change. Twoonies, loonies, quarters, dimes, ALL of it. Instead of using our change for coffee or a little treat at the store, we started throwing everything in an empty orange juice jug (it has a cover and is shaped in a way that discouraged us from dipping into our stash). We even threw in some bills when we had extra cash, and added the American money we had left from our camping trip to Bar Harbour. Sadly life happens, and a few times we had to dip into our “jugs” for various reasons, but we always tried our best to keep the original plan.

Last night we finally decided to dump out all of our change and count it. I won’t say exactly how much we ended up with, but it’s enough to make a nice dent in the wedding/honeymoon costs ๐Ÿ™‚ So it just goes to show that even if you have a hard time saving money or can’t really afford to put away a part of your pay check every month, you can still save a little extra cash. We don’t realize that a few loonies and quarters here and there can really add up to something big! It also helps if you set a goal to works towards, it can be a trip, a new pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or that big screen tv that you’ve been contemplating.

I know this strategy may not work for everyone, but it worked wonders for us. We deposited our savings into the bank today and we will be starting round 2, and we are hopeful that we will able to save even more this time around. Just remember to save your change next time you break a 5$ bill ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ok, now on to the food! I’m really excited to share this slow cooker recipe I found a few months ago. The one type of food that I LOVE and have never really been able to recreate at home is Chinese Food. I’m a sucker for fried rice, chow mein, noodles, and especially beef and broccoli. There is a Vietnamese restaurant around here that makes the best b&b, hands down! I order it every time we go there and I can’t seem to get enough. So naturally I tried MANY times to make this dish at home, and every time it was edible but very disappointing. The beef was always a little tuff and the sauce was all wrong. Until I found this recipe on Pinterest (this site will be mentioned frequently), I’ll admit when I saw “slow cooker” in the title I was a bit skeptical. But my slow cooker has not let me down so far, so I thought it must be worth a try. And it was delicious!!!! A real game changer, I can now honestly say that I can make homemade beef and broccoli that can rival any Chinese food place and now you can too ๐Ÿ™‚

Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli

– 2 medium sized marinating steaks cut into thin strips
– 1 cup beef broth
– 1/2 cup low sodium soya sauce
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tbsp sesame oil
– 3 garlic cloves minced
– Fresh broccoli florets (as many as you like)
– 1 medium onion diced
– 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
– 1 tsp cornstarch

In your slow cooker mix together beef broth, soya sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame oil. Add beef strips and cook on low for 5-6 hours. During the last hour to 30 minutes of cooking time add broccoli, carrots and onions. You can also lightly steam your veggies before hand and add them to the slow cooker near the end. Once everything is mixed together, take about 1/2 cup of the sauce from the slow cooker and mix it with about 1 tsp of cornstarch. Add this mix to the slow cooker and it will help thicken up the sauce a bit. Serve over steamed rice or noodles, I like using spaghettini or vermicelli noodles.

And voila! Homemade beef and broccoli that tastes better than the restaurant and is healthier ๐Ÿ™‚ I love this recipe because the beef is super tender and the sauce is very flavourful, again you can add lots of different things to make this more to your liking. Maybe some hot sauce or chilli flakes to add some heat or some fresh ginger to make it a little more tangy. The sky is the limit my friends ๐Ÿ™‚

Like the potato patties recipe from my last post you can find the original recipe in my ” I pinned and I made” board on Pinterest. Here is the link http://m.pinterest.com/janol83/i-pinned-i-made/

Have a great weekend!

Taking the plunge with Potato Patties

So, after months and months of debating, I’ve finally decided to write a blog. A few weeks ago I tried my hand at writing a guest blog for a local event/wedding planning company and I really enjoyed it! I wrote a little something about being a DIY bride, and once I got all of my ideas in order, the words just started flowing. Here is a link to their website if you would like to read it: http://www.designsstudioco.com/apps/blog/guest-blog-post-confessions-of-a-diy. For those of you who will be reading this I would like to begin by giving you a little preview of what you can expect.

โ€ขRecipes – Lots and lots of recipes, some healthy and some not healthy, I’ll try to keep it interesting.

โ€ขRamblings – Which will include adventures in wedding planning, some blurry photos while I’m learning how to use my fancy camera and lots of neat things I discover on Pinterest.

So there you have it in a nutshell. I will also be adding some random anecdotes and little tidbits of (possibly) useful information. If you have any requests please let me know, I’m always open to suggestions!

And on that note, I would like to present to you my very first recipe post! I found this on Pinterest, and it is my new favourite left over mashed potato recipe. I know you’ve been there before, like spaghetti, you ended up making enough to feed at least 11 people, and after your meal you are stuck with a huge pot of leftovers. The last time this happened to me I was about to turn to my trusty potato salad recipe when I remembered this idea I had pinned a few weeks before.

Potato Patties

โ€ข4 cups cold mashed potatoes
โ€ข2 eggs
โ€ข1 cup shredded cheese
โ€ข1 tsp onion or garlic powder
โ€ข1/2 tsp salt
โ€ข1/2 tsp black pepper

Optional: cooked crumbled bacon and chopped onion

1.Mix together potatoes, whisked eggs, shredded cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper (can also add bacon and onions at this point).
2.Form mixture into 8 patties, heat frying pan on medium heat, add butter or olive oil and pan fry the patties until they are golden brown. About 5 minutes each side.

Voila! Potato patties, I’ve made this recipe before with less than 4 cups of mashed potatoes, so you can easily halve this recipe if you are feeding a smaller crowd. And don’t be afraid to add spices, seasonings or any extras you can think of. For those of you who do follow me on Pinterest you can find this recipe on my “Pinned and Made” board. Hope you enjoy!