First I wanted to give you all my final thoughts on my meal planning adventure. I had originally decided to try out meal planning because my fiance was home for a few months and funds were tight. I was having a hard time coming up with different meal ideas for every day and also balancing groceries into our very tight budget. Overall the meal plan was a success, the MealBoard app made the monthly planning very easy and I was able to make different meals almost every day. My fiance was on board with the idea, he would ask me what was on the menu for the day and didn’t seem to mind following the plan. I liked knowing ahead of time what I was going to make, I set reminders on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget to take certain items out of the freezer. On certain days I was even able to throw a few things together into the slow cooker before leaving for work, coming home to a cooked meal is always a bonus!
I also enjoyed having an organized grocery list and I didn’t need to make frequent trips to the grocery store. We did go on one BIG shopping trip, where we got all the items we needed for almost the entire month, however this required some prep work and lots of freezing. I also stocked up on staples, but would go to the store about once a week for milk and eggs, things that I did not feel comfortable freezing or that could not be frozen. I was able to save time and money by limiting my trips to the store and by using items that I had on hand.
My fiance has been back to work for a while now, so the funds are flowing more freely which also means he is only home on weekends. I am still trying to practice some of my meal planning habits, but on a smaller scale since I’m mostly cooking for one. So there you have it! If you are interested in trying a meal plan of your own, please feel free to check out some of my previous posts, there are lots of tips and information to be found.
And now as promised, I present to you my first wedding planning post! Since the big day is less then 4 months away, I still have lots to do, but I also have lots of things crossed off my list. As some of you can already tell, I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person, and I’m not your typical bride to be. So I will be sharing some of my most valuable tips, tricks and lessons learned. I had written a blog a few months ago (my first one ever) for a local wedding planning business, but the link does not seem to work anymore, so here is a new and improved version!
Pick your “Wedding Dream Team” – Just because you are planning a Do It Yourself wedding doesn’t mean you have to do it ALL BY YOURSELF, especially if your fiance (like mine) is not interested in the planning part. I decided not to hire a professional wedding planner, and for this reason I felt much better once I had recruited some help. My dream team includes my lovely mother, my maid of honor and oldest friend, and my bridesmaid/hair stylist/confidante. Keep in mind people on your team do not necessarily have to be family or part of the wedding party, especially if you have a large one. And remember to make sure your team is not too big, sometimes it is hard to focus on what you really want when there are too many opinions being given. Try to pick people who will respect your choices and that will enjoy the wedding planning process, these people are on your team to help you and make the process easier.
To Do Lists – Wandering through Chapters one day I found a book called “The Knot, Book of Weddings Lists”. This book is well worth the 15$ it costs, it’s almost like a wedding planning for dummies, they really thought of every little detail. In the first few pages it introduces you to a month-by-month timeline and then each chapter is a break down of what needs to be done right up to the big day and even after. For those of you who want to save money or don’t like books, you can go to http://www.theknot.com/?MsdVisit=1. The website has just as much, if not more information than the book and its free! Once I looked over the monthly timeline, I realized it was important to try and pick a date and make up a tentative guest list. Once my fiance and I made these two important decisions I found it much easier to move onto the next steps.
Get Inspired – My fiance and I decided we wanted a laid back outdoor wedding, but the inspiration ended there. This is when my bridesmaid told me about Pinterest, what a game changer! I can honestly say I have gotten most of my inspiration from this wonderful site. There are literally thousands of ideas for venues, flowers, decorations, dresses, invitations and the list goes on. The great thing about this site is that it links you directly to other great websites too, full of information and again for FREE! From all the beautiful things I read and saw I was inspired to start envisioning my wedding, how I wanted it to feel, how I wanted it to look. I settled on a rustic beach theme and with a little help I was able to book a great venue for the ceremony and reception. I felt that decisions and details were easier to make and plan once I had found and booked the perfect venue.
Find Resources – Being one of the first of my group of close friends and family to plan a wedding, I found I was a bit low on resources. Luckily a co-worker ended up being a fountain of knowledge, she had recently gotten married and had lots of great ideas and contacts. Because of this very helpful person I was able to find the perfect venue at an incredible price, and I found myself seeking her opinion and expertise time and time again. Talking to someone who has been there and done that can be very helpful, they can open your eyes to different possibilities and steer you in the right direction. Word of mouth can go a long way and open many doors, this can help you find professionals and vendors that will work well with you and your budget. By listening to others you can save time and headaches by avoiding vendors that may not be a good fit or within your budget.
Trim Here So You Can Spend There – Early on into the wedding planning I decided that two things were very important for me. First the photographer/photos, I’m that annoying person who always brings their camera to every family function or party and I have a dozen photo albums full of great memories. Capturing all the special moments of such a big day was #1 on my priority list, photographers that can do this and do it well, do not come cheap. The second important thing on my list is my dress, I could have ordered a dress online and hoped for the best but I fell in love with a beautiful gown I found at a bridal store, which also does not come cheap. To make sure I could work these things into my budget I compromised and worked hard to find the best possible prices. For some couples pictures may not be as important as having a 3 course meal and a professional DJ, these things need to be discussed as a couple so that each person can have what they want. When it comes to vendors, be honest and tell them what your budget is, most of them will work with you to meet in the middle so that you can afford their services without breaking the bank.
Some Things Are Better Left to the Professionals – The main reason I chose to do a DYI wedding is to SAVE MONEY! I am hoping to get it all done between 5000$-6000$, and with the help of my carpenter father and crafty mother we just might get it done. We are going to make or supply most of the decor for the venue ourselves, but I am now a firm believer that somethings are better left to the professionals. After some research I came to the conclusion that having invitations made at the local print shop will be cheaper and easier than making them myself. And instead of buying fresh flowers from Costco and making my own bouquets, I hired the lovely people at DS&Co. (http://designsstudioco.com/) to take care of the bouquets and the decor set-up. I decided that some things were just too important to take on myself, I feel like by hiring a professional I am paying for a better product and also peace of mind. As brides to be we go through a lot of stress, and learning this lesson has made things much easier for me. But in the spirit of DYI, here are just a few of the lovely decorations that my parents have already made for us, did I mention how awesome my parents are?!
My mom designed the flower pots, my dad built them and painted them, the flowers and twigs were bargain bin finds. These will be used at the ceremony sight along with some white draping fabric.
These flowers were 1$ a piece (small glass bottles included) they were the wrong color, but my wonderful mom hand painted each one to match closer to the purple we were looking for. These will be use as table decorations, did I mention my mom is a water color artist and retired?
This lovely sign was made out of an old piece of drift wood and hand carved by my carpenter father, it was used in our engagement pictures, and will be displayed at the reception.
And finally, don’t forget to have fun! I know its a cliche thing to say, but it’s true. Planning a wedding can be stressful, people and making decisions will make you want to rip your hair out with worry/frustration. Things will go wrong, even things that are carefully planned out, so just try to roll with the punches. When the big day finally comes, hopefully you will be too busy having fun, that the little things that go wrong will make you laugh, and will also make for a great story 🙂
So to complete this very long post, I will be sharing my most favorite and fool proof Chocolate Cake recipe. I have made this recipe countless times in cake and cupcake form, it’s so good you will want to make up special holidays and occasions just so you can whip up this cake. Not that you ever really need a good reason to make chocolate cake…
– 2 cups white sugar
– 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup milk
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in the boiling water by hand (the batter will be very watery, this is normal) Pour evenly into the two prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely. Once the two cakes are cooled off you can start frosting them, to make cupcakes follow the same directions, but reduce the cooking time to about 18-20 minutes, depending on the size of your cupcakes. Again check the centers with a toothpick, this recipe will make anywhere from 24 to 36 cupcakes, again depending on the size. Here is the link to the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/extreme-chocolate-cake/detail.aspx
Since I’m in a generous mood and you guys had to read a really long post before getting to the recipe, I’m going to share my favorite frosting recipe ever. This is the EASIEST frosting recipe ever, it’s also delicious and goes really well with the chocolate cake recipe.
– 1 package instant vanilla pudding
– 1 tub of cool whip
Prepare the pudding as indicated on the box BUT USE ONLY HALF THE MILK! If it calls for 3 cups, use 1 1/2 cups, the pudding will be ticker than normal, but this is exactly what you want. Slowly fold in the cool whip, make sure its had time to thaw out a bit, it’s makes it easier to blend into the pudding. And voila! This frosting is really easy to work with when decorating a cake or cupcakes, it spreads very well and keeps well in warmer weather. You can add food coloring to make any color you like or you can use different flavored pudding, I’ve used chocolate pudding and it was amazing!!! Here is the link to the original recipe I found on Pinterest: http://notjustcute.com/2010/06/24/dear-sweet-puddinhead/. And as always you can find this recipe on my Pinned and Made board as well.
I swear once you make this chocolate cake and frosting combo you will never want to make a box cake ever again, and forget the canned frosting! These recipes are so easy, the cake is so fluffy, moist and dark, the frosting so light and airy. People will be convinced you slaved in a hot kitchen all day, but I won’t tell them if you don’t 😉