Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Meal Plan

Before I delve into 30 days of recipes and meals... let me be honest.

I don't know everything. I'm not a spectacular cook. My frugality still needs MUCH improvement. I love fast food. No really... McD's, Wendys, Pizza - still so easy. But I also really enjoy menu planning, attempting to save as much money as possible, feeding my family WELL, blessing others with meals, learning more cooking technique, and using meal time as a ministry to my family. And yes, I know, I know... fast food is so so bad. Which is why for the month of November I'm sticking to my guns and we will eat home made for every meal. {...I haven't mentioned this to my husband, but, I just know he'll be a-ok with it.}Even on ministry nights when things are rushed and crazy - I WILL plan ahead. We WILL not be drive through queens or cave and grab another frozen pizza.{grin}But back to my honesty - sharing this with you is only to encourage. I don't have all the answers or know how. I have been asked time and again how I do my menu planning. How I can at times spend under $100 for two weeks of meals? I have! So today I'm sharing my monthly menu plan and it's sources in hopes to spur you on to try new things, see ways you can save, and use your "shopping time" in a different way once its all done, early.

First, here are some of things I do to save money and time:
-Not every casserole needs a meat. Beans or other items like bulky grains, pastas, etc. are great and MUCH cheaper.
-That said, canned meat and frozen meat are both cheaper then fresh packaged - and still have great value and taste. If you aren't familiar with canned meats and all you can imagine is SPAM... go look again. It's 2012 people, the options have changed. :)
-If veggies are going bad {or herbs} - freeze those dudes! Chop up green onions, broccoli, and sliver carrots for a ready to go stir fry mix already ready already.
-I almost always freeze leftover broth, or any liquid from a crock pot meal - unless its swimming around grease or fatty nastiness. That can be used again for soup. And, makes unique flavor combos!
-As far as actually choosing recipes and meals: I grab a cookbook or handful of my written out cards and fill in my blank wall calendar. I don't plan for Wednesdays, but do plug something else in for every other day of the week. That said...if I'm making a big soup or casserole - I pencil in "left overs" at some point during that same week. There are also nights where we'll do homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs or just whip up whatever we find in the house instead. Flexibility is key!
-I now only plan dinners. Lunches are usually leftovers or something small. Breakfast usually oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, eggs or something baked. :) Tried to plan and buy stuff for lunches...not worth it.
-I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. It's down the street from us and has become almost a one stop shop. Their quality has gone up, and their options have grown. Whole milk is $2.59/gallon right now!  Occasionally I still need to hit another grocery or Walmart for a few items {specific meats, seasonal items, cheeses}
-As for sides - I just make whatever I think would go well with it - or, whatever the cookbook picture shows next to it. For example, below in week 3, the turkey cutlets had pictures of potatoes and veggies next to it - easy!
-Also, swap meats. If something calls for ground beef but ground chicken would be cheaper - try it! I own a meat grinder attachment for my stand mixer and can grind just about any type of meat. Wonderful!
And now to the good stuff! Anything in a different color is a link to the recipe.

Week 1: 1st - 3rd (Random sources for these recipes, so all are linked)
-BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and chinese cabbage salad
-Chicken & potato hand pies w/ roasted Brussel Sprouts
-Raspberry balsamic glazed meatballs over noodles

Week 2: 4th-10th (most of these from here on are from Quick Cooking cookbook, 2011. Search them all on Taste of Home)
-Baked Cavatelli & salad
-Cheesburger Stuffed potatoes
-Pesto Chicken Penne Casserole {MAKES TWO - Freeze one}
-Southwest Chicken Wraps
-Taco Soup
-Cider Pork Chops

Week 3: 11th-17th {Hubs birthday week, so we will go out at least once, oops!}
-Chicken Marinara over pasta
-Salsa sloppy Joes & ranch pasta salad
-Chili Mac & pepperoni salad
-Turkey cutlets, Italian style mixed veggies & crunchy mashed potatoes

Week 4: 18th-24th {Thanksgiving week, we'll be traveling}
-Ham with green beans and rolls {already have all of this in my freezer}
-Parmesan crusted tilapia & mixed veggies
-Beef & Broccoli w/ baked pear halves {my girls think this is a HUGE treat... just pears, halved, and baked til they are oozy}

Week 5: 25th-30th
-Maple pork chops & carrots
-Bacon Cheeseburger Roll ups
-Chicken Fajitas
-Ham Carbonara
-Inside out Stuffed cabbage

And there we have it. A month of meals all planned out, linked, and ready to be made. I shop for about 2 weeks worth at a time and only buy ingredients needed. No extras! I may throw in a dessert or two later in the month and grab those ingredients separately. Otherwise, we are set to go!

I would love to hear if this helped you out or if if gave you some ideas for your own family. Have a fun time being creative and serving in your home :) If you have any questions or tips for me - I'd love to hear them!

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