Thursday, October 17, 2013

meal planning: saving pennies & calories

I've lived on my own since I was 18, and I got married at 25. In the seven years I have lived on my own, I quite possibly have only cooked about 100 meals. Perhaps I am exaggerating, but it can't be too far off from the truth. I wasn't really raised in home where we all gathered around the kitchen to watch mom cook. Most of our meals consisted of whatever canned food concoction my mom could throw together, or the cheap fast food deal of the week 
(Sunday .50 cheeseburgers from McD's, anyone?).

As I was approaching marriage, I told myself that I wanted to change this. I wanted to start our marriage off on the right foot. I read a few blogs about meal planning, and how it was a really efficient method to stick to a budget and also enforce nightly dinners at the table. I brought the idea up to Jamey and he was all for it! We are coming up on four months of being married, and I can confidently say that meal planning has been such a blessing to our home. I am no expert in this area, and I have a long way to go before I enter to be on Master Chef
but I'd love to share some tips that work for us!

  • Choose a day where you will go grocery shopping every week (ours is on Sunday)
  • Look at your planner or calendar to see which nights you will be at home. This is helpful for budgeting purposes. You won't always need to plan out 7 meals for the week, so don't waste food (or money)!
  • When planning your meals, gather all of your cookbooks and pull up any recipes you've pinned.
  • Don't do it alone! Your spouse has a voice too! Make sure to discuss the meals together, this way you're both included on what you'll be having for dinner.
  • Make a list. I don't know about you, but the second I get to the grocery store, I tend to go blank on what I need. Having a list will help you stick to the ingredients you need to make the meals you've already planned. Again, helping to save those pennies!
  • Write down each meal in your planner/calendar. This way you're more organized, and there are no surprises as to what you'll be having for dinner. We especially need to do this because we use our crockpot for half of our meals. Ever get up in the morning and realize you have to prep tonight's dinner? Not fun. Which sometimes means you decide to eat out instead -- meaning, not saving pennies and not saving calories!
  • Thumbs up or thumbs down? Be sure to talk about the things you like and don't like about the meal. We have our top go-to meals, and then we have meals that only lived to be tasted once, and now we've buried them for good. 
  • Love brews in the kitchen (cheese, I know!). I absolutely LOVE cooking with my husband. It's one of my favorite things to do. By the end of the meal, we both feel accomplished and appreciated. I don't know about you, but our meals taste much better with a dash of love in them. 

A meal that we planned out for this week turned out to be one of our favorites, 
so I figured I'd share the wealth!

Mini Pizzas 
(BBQ Chicken & Pesto Chicken)

Items Needed:
  • Sandwich thins (we used the Sara Lee brand
  • Pesto Basil spread (we used Classico)
  • BBQ Sauce (we used Lucille's - delicious!)
  • Grilled chicken pieces
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Cilantro
  • Red onion
  • Minced garlic

  • Preheat oven at 350 degrees
  • Begin prepping your mini pizzas by spreading the sauces (pesto basil & bbq - separate, not together!) on the sandwich thins
  • Add minced garlic on top of the sauce
  • Add a layer of mozzarella cheese 
  • Add chicken pieces
  • Add another layer of mozzarella cheese
  • Add red onion and cilantro
  • Place in the oven for about 8-10 minutes

**Note: We do not own a stove (crazy, right?) so we used a toaster oven. 
Adjust the temperature and time according to your own oven.

And there you have it, your very own mini pizzas! I can't wait to make these again and experiment with other ingredients. I also want to find a way to make the sandwich thins come out toastier like a real pizza. If you have any ideas or suggestions, make sure to comment below! 
I'd love to hear what you come up with.



  1. I am so going to try this recipe!! Love hearing all the tips your learning. I love cooking with a crockpot, its my absolute favorite. You can make so many things. Here are a few tips I have learned, you may already be doing them but if not, happy to share.
    -I also shop with a very tight budget, because you guys are so close to 3 different grocery stores, shop where ever has the best deals. Don't just stick to one grocery store. It can be a bit of a pain learning your way around, but don't be afraid to go somewhere new. Who ever has the best deals of items on my list, that who gets my business for the week.
    -I used to always forget to thaw out frozen meat the night before so that I can put it in the crockpot in the morning. I recently had a friend share her wisdom...You can place frozen meat in the crockpot and it will cook it just fine. I have done frozen chicken and porkchops. They came out even better, so tender, because they were frozen. 8 hours on low for both.

    I have learned to love meal planning, I love challenging myself to find new meals using the same ingredients so that my shopping list stays short. So far so good!

  2. Maricela! :)

    Thanks for the awesome tips. I am totally open to shopping around. I think I need to start actually looking at ads (and coupons!) and then go where the sales are! Crockpots are amazinggggg. If you have any other great recipes, pass them my way ;)


    PS- Can't wait to go see Shauna with you!!