Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Weekly meal prep - healthy & on a budget!

I often have people tell me that it is just too expensive to eat healthy. Now, I admit, I used to think this also. With a little planning and 1 day of work, you can have all your meals planned, cooked, and in containers, all while staying on a budget! 

My husband, Clint, works as a full time firefighter and fills his schedule with other part time gigs. He hops from 24 hour shift to 24 hour shift to provide for our family while I anxiously wait for the State of Texas to grant me a license to practice as a PA. In the meantime, I have a mortgage of student loans so I work as a nanny. We are ALWAYS on the road and we are trying to save money, so our meals travel with us. The process is quite simple. Check ads. Use coupons. Cook on Sundays. 


1. Look at Ads

Every week I get a big chunk of ads in the mail for Kroger, Aldi, HEB, and others. I briefly skim the ads to see what's on sale. I skip all of he "food-like-crap" (cereals, granola bars, premade meals) and stick to the basics. I focus mostly on meat, vegetables, and fruit. I also pay attention to household products like soap, detergents, toilet paper, etc. If I save more money in that area, then I have a bit more room with food. 

2. Coupons!

Yeah, I'm a 27 year old who avidly cuts coupons. I'm frugal. My sisters brought me to a coupon class a long time ago, but now they have online tutorials that break it down for people. I get the paper every Sunday and clip what I need. I also print from coupons.com.  I do throw a LOT of coupns away. I don't use cereal, or microwave meals, or any of that pre-made stuff. 

Stores like Kroger and HEB have electronic coupons. They link right to your shoppers card and are deducted when you buy the product. Yes, it's that simple. 


You can also search "Kroger coupon match ups" online and view a database that shows product sale price, which coupon to use, etc. Someone does all the work for us (and I wish I could personally hug them all for being a lifesaver!) 

Organizing clipped coupons is also important. You can't save money if you don't know what coupons you have! I have that little wallet sized holder with dividers. I categorized them based on what I buy "meats, eggs and dairy, condiments and spices, cleaning, laundry, hair care, etc." Search online for different methods to organize & find the one that best suits you! 


3. Rebates

Just recently I discovered yet another money saving ap called Ibotta. After my list is made, I look on the ap and see if there are any money back options for the things on my list. (https://ibotta.com/r/xtpadya


$27.50 lifetime earnings in 2 months. Not bad! 

4. Stock up. 

This week chicken was on sale at Kroger, so I stocked up and put some in the freezer. Last week ground beef and turkey were on sale so I stocked up. If frozen veggies are on sale (like this week private selections was 99 cents a bag when you buy 4) - STOCK UP! 

5. Meals 

Now where do I find the recipes to make? Simple: Pinterest. You can follow my recipe board if you'd like, but that's where 99% of my receipes are found! 

Typically whatever fruits and veggies are in season are cheaper. Kroger had bell peppers 99 cents each, so stuffed peppers were added to the menu.  Instead of buying prepackaged lettuce for salads that's around $3-4, I buy a large head of green leafy lettuce for 99 cents, wash and chop it up, and stick it in a salad spinner. Instead of buying the baby carrots, I buy a bulk bag and it's so much cheaper! For rice and beans, I buy them in bags and spent the extra time making them. They take longer, but they don't have all of the sodium the canned and instant beans/rice have! 

Now for the cooking. After I make my grocery haul, I start cooking. Just about any recipe can be cooked, separated and placed in the refrigerator. 



- Mediterranean Chicken Gyros 


I had some WildTree Mediterranean seasoning, so that made this recipe super easy! I also had some Tzatziki seasoning on had. No, I don't sell Wildtree, but I'm obsessed with it! The seasonings simplify my life so much, and offer healthier alternatives to a lot of condiments and spices. After the chicken, I quickly sautéed some onions and peppers and placed it in a container with some chicken. I put the wrap in some aluminum foil and put it on top of the chicken/veggie mix. The Tzatziki topping was put in another tiny container, so the gyros can be assembled when we are ready to eat. 

- Stuffed bell peppers
 

Wildtree saving the day again! This recipe can be found on the Wildtree website. It's called "Simple skillet stuffed peppers." 


Voila!  


- Spaghetti squash recipe



I typically make my own meatballs, but this week the meatballs were on sale and I had a coupon. I couldn't pass that up. I don't stress if my food isn't 100% clean. I just try to make 80% of the food myself, and 20% whatever. 


- Chicken, potatoes, and green beans


Self explanatory. Very basic recipe. If sweet potatoes are cheaper, go with those. Shop what's on sale, and don't be afraid to change up a recipe to suit what you have in your home. 

-Jalapeno chicken with Spanish rice

Spanish rice: 
2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup brown rice. Add some chopped onions and peppers. I added some Wildree fajita seasoning. If I didn't have that, I'd add some chili powder, cayenne pepper, chicken or veggie bullion, etc. Use whatever you have on hand!

-Black bean and corn quesadilla with Spanish rice 


For this, I didn't have a recipe. I cooked black beans and smashed them to a paste. I smeared it on a tortilla with some corn and cheese, and cooked both sides in a pan. I cut into 4s and placed in tin foil. I used some of our leftover Spanish rice, and included a little salsa dish. (On sale at Kroger, coupon available too!) 

Black beans + brown rice = total protein - so you don't have to worry about the lack of meat in this recipe! 

-Tex mex bowls with Spanish rice

I didn't have refried beans, and I didn't want the extra sodium. I had leftover black beans from the previous meal so I used those. 

-Dirty brown rice

I used my ground beef and turkey in the two previous meals, but I had some sausage in the freezer so I used that. Slight modification, but it still tastes excellent. 


I'll be the first to admit, it takes some time to learn. Hang in there! Remember, this is a lifestyle change and may take a while to make all of the adjustments. I know people who eat completely organic and 100% clean, and I have nothing against that. It's just not for me. I have made gradual changes over the year to get where I am now, and maybe I'll have more changes in the future. If you eat poor choices based on convenience, then this might be something for you to try, too.