*Just a note: This is not a sponsored post, in any way. I just want to share something that we are trying out in case it may help someone else. I don't get anything for sharing and I am paying for my membership. I just joined on Saturday, so it's still very new to us. :) *
I've been struggling with meal planning and going grocery shopping lately. I want to make some new or different meals - at least sometimes - but we seem to fall back on old favorites way too often.
Obviously they are old favorites for a reason, but it gets boring after a while and nobody wants to eat it. We are still trying to eat real, homemade meals - in other words, not from a box or mix - for most of our lunches and dinners, although we still tend to rely on cereal way too much in the mornings.
Jason and I watched a documentary the other night, The Perfect Human Diet. While I don't necessarily agree with it entirely, we did learn some interesting things, and Jason suggested trying a paleo diet/lifestyle. We aren't going completely "paleo" though, but limiting our grains quite a bit more. Having only started this yesterday in full force, it's been a definite change.
I usually plan two weeks of meals and go grocery shopping for 90% of what we need every other Friday or Saturday and get perishables as needed the next week - milk and dairy, veggies, fruit - which can be challenging in itself due to 14 dinners planned plus figuring out staples for breakfasts and lunches. The boys tend to take the same thing day after day, or at least week after week, which again can get boring.
On Saturday, after deciding to start planning for just a week, I attempted to find some new meals and while I found a few, I just couldn't concentrate. I remembered a site I'd heard about, eMeals, and decided to check into it. After a brief discussion with Jason, we signed up for a 3 month 7-day dinner meal plan - the paleo one - as well as adding on the 5-day lunch and 5-day breakfast menus. They give you a full week of dinners including recipes and grocery list, and for 5 days for the lunch and breakfast ones each.
There were 2 breakfast recipes we decided to skip (a smoothie and a pineapple cashew bar), but the other 3 look perfect for us to try. We are filling in cereal, scrambled eggs and toast or pancakes on the other 4 days this week. The lunches all look yummy and do-able. Today's was a parfait and pears with nut butter. I tweeked it a bit to fit our tastes, using regular french vanilla yogurt instead of french vanilla greek yogurt, granola cereal instead of pearl barley, and just strawberries rather than strawberries AND blueberries, and replacing nut butter with wowbutter, due to nut allergies at school. (I worry a lot, and even though there aren't allergies in either of the boys' classrooms, they aren't always diligent with the hand washing, etc and I'd hate for a friend in any other class that they see in the hall/lunch/recess that has an allergy to have a reaction. Better safe than sorry and they don't really mind :) )
Dinner last night was all new. Even though we've had ribs before, it was a new recipe. We baked baby-back pork ribs with a dry-rub for about 3 hours, till they were falling off the bone. For the side dishes, the boys had simply cheetos cheese puffs - no food coloring, although still processed, it's a compromise - and we all had spicy turnip greens. Having never cooked OR eaten turnip greens, I wasn't sure what to expect. With Jason's help in the kitchen, dinner turned out good! The turnip greens were sauteed/boiled with onions, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and dill pickle juice and then seasoned with sea salt and red pepper. They were sour, but not horrible. E and Alex really liked the ribs, with a bit of bbq sauce added, as did I. Jason ate them with and with out bbq sauce. Jack didn't want anything to do with the ribs. Jas, E, Alex and I ate the turnip greens - although the boys only had to try a small amount and weren't too enthusiastic, they did eat all of it! Jackson was leary about the whole meal to be honest, but did end up eating cheese puffs, a banana, and the ONIONS from the greens!! LOL. He kept saying "grapes, grapes" and pointing to the little diced onions, so Jason kept giving them to him.
Tonight, we are having fish and roasted veggies, and some baked fries for the boys. I have back-up stuff in the house just in case - fish sticks for the boys as the fish recipe sound a bit spicy. Although, they will probably at least eat some of it. I'm just glad they are willing to indulge me by trying this stuff ;) I won't be a short-order cook, but I'm willing to add something that I know they will eat to an all-new or mostly-new meal so they won't go hungry if they truly don't like it, and they are willing to eat at least a bite or two of most everything we offer them. Well except the toddler. He used to eat anything, but he's at a pickier stage now. That's ok. Just got to keep offering. Right?
One thing I'm not sure about with this new menu-plan thing is that I went way over budget for the week. I bought a week's worth of groceries, but spent almost all of our 2 weeks worth of grocery money...
Though I'm sure quite a few things are more than a week's supply - staples for the pantry. Plus we have 3 meals worth of meat that we had "extra" in the freezer from 2 weeks ago: a whole chicken and 2 lbs of ground beef. As well as adding an second roast since I bought 2 this week for a good price. We also usually have leftovers once a week, so we will do that, and move one of this week's meals to next week, as well as add one to next week, so that will only leave one dinner and then some breakfast/lunch items to buy. I will have to readjust our budget some though I think. It's a work in progress, but it will work out. I don't know when I've bought so much fresh produce!
I hope that nothing in the fridge freezes prior to tomorrow. We get our new one delivered tomorrow after 9am. I seriously can not wait!!! I've been watching the lettuce, kale and baby spinach, especially, like a hawk. They seem to freeze the easiest and then it's ruined. 24 hours!
I'm glad we decided to try this menu plan though. It's pleasing to all of us - Jason gets meat or seafood at every dinner (his favorite) and I get to serve more veggies and we get to try new things, while cutting down on the one thing I'm seriously addicted to: grains and starches. Plus it saves me time and energy. That makes me especially happy!
It's also October and we are trying - unbeknownst to Jason and the boys - eat less processed foods. Not completely unprocessed but much, much less.
We ordered pizza and cheesebread Friday night and all I could think about after and the next day was how much my stomach hurt. I mentioned it to Jason, and he said the same thing! It wasn't even that good tasting! Totally decided it's going to be quite awhile before we order pizza or even eat out anywhere.
How do you plan your meals? Do you cook a lot at home? Are you adventurous or at least willing to try new recipes or are you more conservative, sticking to your "old favorites"?