Sunday, November 8, 2015

1 week meal prep PLUS a head start on Thanksgiving dinner, $98.47 at HEB!

When I was in PA school, my professors used to tell me to study smarter, not harder. I would sit in a classroom ALL day, sometimes up to and exceeding +/- 12 hours, and then go home to study more. I quickly learned to divide and conquer with some of my best friends. We did this by using study guides that were already created, or creating new ones by dividing the material within our group.

The same principles can be applied to meal prepping. Prep smarter, not harder. Many people ask me how I plan for a week, let alone grocery shop, prepare, AND use coupons. I will start from step 1 and walk through the process.

1. What is a meal?
When I first began to meal prep, I started with the first step - what constitutes a meal? The term "well balanced diet" was thrown around often, but I couldn't wrap my head around what that meant. About 3 years ago, as I am trying to familiarize myself with nutrition, a friend told me about the The 24 Day Challenge . This program became the foundation to what I follow to this very day.  The Daily Guide includes portion sizes and food suggestions, and the cookbook contains 34 pages of yummy recipes. I completed the first 24 days with my coach, and after that, it became a habit.

I simply learned to create a meal using a protein, vegetable, & complex carbohydrate.
With the above link, you can download this meal guide and cookbook, too! 

2. Where do I get recipes?
Pinterest, cookbooks, or simply pick one protein, one complex carb, and one veggie on that daily guide and cook with seasoning of your choice. I hardly EVER create my own recipes though. The most I do is substitute ingredients out for different ones, but the basic recipe outline was from another source. If you are cooking for yourself, remember that a typical meal has about 4 servings in it, so that is 4 meals checked off.

3. How do I save money?

I wrote a blog about meal prepping on a budget, that explains looking at ads, using coupons and rebates. That is how I shop every week. This week I took a look at the ads, and kept in mind what I had in stock already.
I wasn't planning on making salmon this week, but with this price, I couldn't pass it up. I purchased some and threw it in my freezer for a later date. 

Lettuce. This is how I ALWAYS buy my lettuce. It is this same great price week after week. As for the potatoes, I have a Thanksgiving dinner coming up, so I snagged some potatoes for that.

Broccoli! My husband LOVES broccoli, so I basically try to make it every week. 

WHAAAAAT! This made my day. I bought a ham for $30 (I'll make ham and soups and all sorts of yummy things later on!), and received a 12lb turkey for free. Thanksgiving is covered. :)

This receipt basically shows how CHEAP produce can really be, you just have to plan ahead. I splurged on Honeycrisp apples. Normal price is usually $2.47/lb though!!

I also got split chicken breasts at $1/lb, and Turkey wings for just over $1/lb.

4. What recipes can I use with these sales? 

-The ham and salmon were placed in the freezer for a later date.
-The turkey & potatoes = Saturday's "Friendsgiving"!
- The chicken was used to make slow cooker BBQ chicken & slow cooker chicken burritos.
-Black bean quesedillas and brown rice were on the menu since I had all of the ingredients to use up.
-The turkey wings were used to make gravy for friendsgiving, and after that, the meat was used for turkey noodle soup!

All of those meals at HEB for $98.47.

5. Final Product

This week I utilized 2 slow cookers. I removed the skin, fat, and bones from these chicken breasts and split them up between 2 slow cookers. The first slow cooker I poured in BBQ sauce of my choice until each piece of chicken was covered. I turned on high for 4 hours. The second slow cooker I followed the "Slow cooker chicken burrito" recipe from the 24 Day Challenge recipe collection (Link above). I turned that on high for 4 hours. 

While that was cooking, I baked sweet potatoes, steamed peas and broccoli, and made some fiesta brown rice.

As items cooked, I divided them and placed them in appropriate containers.

I forgot tortillas for the burritos, so I poured the chicken/salsa mixture over brown rice.

BBQ Chicken, broccoli, and sweet potato. 

While my slow cookers were cooking the above 2 meals, I started making the make ahead turkey gravy to prepare for Saturday. 

While that big ole' pan of turkey wings, veggies, and herbs baked in the oven, I started the black bean quesadillas.

VERY simple. You will need strained black beans (If you buy canned, get the ones without sodium added), cheese, corn tortillas, and some taco seasoning. Throw cooked (or canned) black beans in my blender with a splash of salsa & taco seasoning until peanut butter consistency. Spread on corn tortilla. Add a pinch of cheese and top with another corn tortilla. Spray frying pan with cooking spray, and cook quesadilla evenly on both sides. Voila! Pair with some of the fiesta rice from earlier and you have a complete protein.

Lastly, after the turkey wings were done baking, the broth was used to make the gravy for Saturday. I removed the turkey meat from the bones and used it in this delicious turkey noodle soup recipe. 

I hope this helps you learn to meal prep! Download those guides and start making balanced meals for yourself! Take a look at previous posts for more meals. :)

In good health,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

16 meals, 64 servings, $107 spent at Kroger.

My goal in life is to be better than I was the day before, even when it comes to meal prepping. Once I started buying the healthier ingredients, I realize my grocery lists become less and less, and I saved money AND my sanity. :)

To start, I mapped out everything I needed for this week. In addition to this week's meals, I also added ingredients to prepare for freezer meals. I took the list, and looked in my pantry to cross items off that I have in stock. Then I tackled Kroger. $107 later, I had everything I needed! NOTE: It might be more expensive for you to start because you don't have the ingredients on hand, but it gets better! I always, always, always have some form of veggie in my fridge or freezer, along with brown rice, black beans, and salsa in my pantry.  I also don't buy veggie or chicken broth, ever. I make it myself since there's much less sodium. :) You'll see how below with my rice recipe! 

 My grocery list was pretty long, containing 12 lbs chicken, 1 rotisserie chicken, 2lbs turkey burger, turkey bacon, beef roast, pork roast, 9 bell peppers, 7 onions, cauliflower, pineapple, quinoa - plus more... No worries. A lot of that was for the freezer meal workshop I participated in. I made these recipes: (and even doubled the pork and pineapple kabobs). These meals at package and stowed in the freezer for a lazy day in the future. :) 

If you haven't tried the freezer meal workshops, do yourself a favor and jump in! SO worth it! 

Now, for the good stuff. After all, this is the part you're waiting on, right!? 

1. Rotisserie chicken, sweet potato, and rice 
Buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. You can also buy a whole chicken and make it yourself, but with preparing 11 freezer meals, I didn't have time. So I purcheased a whole chicken from the deli. They are less than $10, and will be used for many of the meals this week.

I don't weigh my food, but I eyeball what 4-6oz of the chicken (protein)  would look like and stick that into 4 separate containers. I added a side of cooked Jasmine rice (1 c. Uncooked rice was enough for 4 sides) and 4 sweet potatoes topped with plain cinnamon. 

Grocery list:
-Rotisserie chicken
-1c rice (Jasmin, brown) flavored to your liking
(Note: how I always make mine) 

- 4 small sweet potato or 2 large cut in half. 
($ saving tip! If you have frozen or fresh veggies on hand, use them instead of sweet potatoes. Save money!) 

2. Chicken fajita bowls
You still have tons of chicken left, so why not use it up!? I used more chicken meat, sparing the leg and thigh meat since that'll be used for the next recipe. I threw it in a pan with a sliced onion and 2 sliced bell peppers. Add some fajita/taco seasoning and voila! (Labels. Read them!! Make sure you watch for sodium. I don't sell  Wildtree products but again, Wildtree for the win! You'll see I use a LOT of their stuff.)

Make 2 cups brown rice and season with taco seasoning. I throw some salsa in, too, for an added kick. 

Place rice on the bottom of the containers and chicken mixture on top. 4 Chicken fajita bowls!

Grocery list 
- leftover chicken from last recipe
- 2 bell peppers
-1 medium onion 
- taco/fajita seasoning 
- brown rice 
-optional: salsa and jalapeƱos

3. Buffalo chicken salad 

Well, we still have the leg meat to use from that chicken, and after this meal its about picked clean. Put the shredded chicken in a bowl and throw in some buffalo seasoning of your choice. If you don't like buffalo, you can also just eat the plain rotisserie chicken on the salad since it has nice flavor. Chop lettuce, carrots, etc (whatever you like on your salad). I put them in mason jars because they don't get soggy. 

Layer like so: 
Bottom = dressing. I use Bolthouse Ranch that is made with Greek yogurt (found in produce section. Healthy alternative!) 
Next, chicken. 
Next chopped veggies.
Last, lettuce. 
Top with the lid. 

($ saving tip: buy the 2-5lbs bag of large carrots, much cheaper than baby carrots! Also buy a big head of green leafy lettuce or romaine lettuce. You can get them at Kroger for 99 cents! You just have to wash and chop. It's easy and worth it)

Grocery list:
- leftover chicken from above
-buffalo sauce (optional) 
-salad toppings (onion, bell pepper, carrots) 
- dressing (Bolthouse ranch Greek yogurt dressing in produce section is my fav) 

This made 6 small jar salads or 4 big salads. 

4. Meatloaf and cauliflower mash

Throw 1lb turkey burger into a bowl with an egg. If you have whole grain or wheat bread/buns on hand, tear 1 piece in tiny pieces. Finely chop 1/4 onion (I had leftovers from salad). Add 1 tsp pepper, garlic seasoning, and 2 tbsp BBQ sauce. Mix together well and place in loaf pan. Add some more BBQ sauce to the top evenly with a brush. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. When it's done, cut into 4 pieces.

Steam cauliflower. When steamed, throw in a blender/food processor with some garlic. Some people add plain Greek yogurt, I just added some minced garlic and pepper. Blend away until it's like mashed potatoes! 

Grocery list 
-1lb turkey burger
- 1 head cauliflower 
- BBQ sauce 
-1 egg
- optional : seasonings and bread crumbs mentioned above in recipe 

5. One Pot Mexican Quinoa 

Adopted from one of my best friends, this recipe is so EASY. You can literally toss in just about anything. This time I added 1c quinoa, 1c cooked black beans (if you want to buy them canned, search for low or no sodium), 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (if you don't have this, use salsa), 1c. Veggie broth (low sodium, or buy bouillon and add water), 1 tsp chili powder, & 1/2 tsp cumin to pan and simmer for 20 mins until quinoa is cooked. Recipe also calls for 1c frozen corn but I didn't have any. You can top with cilantro and avocado if you want. 

Grocery list:
1c quinoa
1c cooked black beans (if you want to buy them canned, search for low or no sodium)
14.5oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (if you don't have this, use salsa) 
1c Veggie broth (low sodium, or buy bouillon and add water)
1 tsp chili powder 
1/2 tsp cumin
Optional: cilantro, avocado 

And there you have it. Each freezer meal is at least 4 servings, and each recipe above also has 4 servings. 16 meals X 4 servings = 64 servings total! 

For more meal prep recipes, check out other blog posts such as "Weekly meal prep, Healthy and on a budget"  and "More on Meal Prep" !  or follow me on Facebook & Pinterest!