Meal Planning Monday ~ Your Meal Planning Toolbox

          If you’ve been following our blog for even a few weeks, you know that one of the keys to successful Meal Planning is being organized.  Now, you don’t have be anal-retentive, get out your label-maker and alphabetize your food, organized.  However, a little bit of organization and planning is required to be successful in your Meal Planning endeavors.  I thought I would share with you some great tools and resources that will make this much easier for you!

            I am a big fan of Freezer Cooking, and I frequently make extra pancakes, muffins, batches of chili, soups, and stews to freeze.  These really help me on mornings or evenings when I don’t have time to make a proper meal.  I can pull something out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and have a tasty, home cooked meal in minutes.  However, I was running into the problem of not remembering what exactly was in my deep freezer.  I would either forget something was in there and have to throw it out, or would swear that I had a couple of serving of turkey chili in the freezer only to find out that I’d already used it a few weeks before.  So I decided to start using a Freezer Inventory Sheet to keep track of what is in my freezer.  I hang it on my freezer and every time I add or subtract something, I write it in.  For example, I would write “Turkey Chili” with a 4 for the number of containers I put in the freezer.  As I pull them out, I make an “X” in one of the boxes, so I know how many I have left.  When the item is all gone, I cross it off the list.  I update the whole thing once or twice a month on my computer so it doesn’t get too messy.  This has really helped me make better use of what’s in my freezer.

            I certainly hope that you are using some type of Meal Planning Calendar to keep track of your monthly meals.  I use the Coupon Wizard Software for this because it makes it easy to add meals to a day on the calendar and add any missing ingredients to my shopping list.  If you’re not computer-savvy, you can just as easily use a paper calendar and write your meals on it.  However you decide to do your Meal Planning Calendar, I suggest you hang a copy of it on your refrigerator, so that your family can see what’s for dinner each day.  You might even ask your family members to put stars by the meals they enjoyed so you’ll know which recipes were a hit.

            Another Meal Planning tool I can’t live without is my Recipe Binder.  Once I try a recipe and decide that I like it and will make it again, I add it to my recipe binder.  It’s simply a 3-ring binder with sheet protectors in it.  This makes it easy to pull out the one page recipe that I need and I can easily wipe off any flour, water, etc. that I might happen to drip on it while cooking.

            I also stumbled across this post on the Money Saving Mom website which has a Recipe Cost Calculator that you can download FREE.  It seems to be geared towards baked goods, but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t add other ingredients for your dinner recipes to see how much your recipe is going to cost you.  This may seem like work, but it may reveal some surprising insights about how much your favorite recipes truly cost to make.  Based on what you discover, you may decide to make certain recipes more or less to help ease the strain on your grocery budget.  I am going to use this tool to figure out how much each of my meals costs per person this month and see if it changes my meal planning strategies.

            Here’s my Meal Plan for this week:

~ Monday – Turkey Stroganoff served over Egg Noodles with Peas

~ Tuesday – FFY (Fend For Yourself).  I am teaching a Coupon Workshop at my church tonight.  I will probably eat one of my freezer meals (like Chicken Soup) before I go.

~ Wednesday – Fiery Fried Chicken with Potatoes and Broccoli

~ Thursday – Turkey Sausage, Perogies fried in a little bit of butter with onion, Green Beans

~ Friday – Meat Loaf with Freezer Mashed Potatoes and Salad

~ Saturday – Foil Packets on the Grill (See Recipe Below)

~ Sunday – Chicken Tacos with Refried Beans

 

Foil Packets on the Grill

 1 ½ pounds of chicken breast tenders, cut into 1 inch pieces

¼ pound of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 oz. of sliced fresh mushrooms

1 bell pepper, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons of diced onions

¼ pound of zucchini, thinly sliced

Sauce:

¼ cup of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of petite diced tomatoes, undrained

2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning

¼ cup capers, drained

Salt and pepper to taste

 Mix the sauce ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the diced veggies and chicken.  Stir to coat veggie and meat with the sauce.  Use four 12×12 inch sheet of heavy duty foil.  Divide the meat and veggies among the four foil sheets.  Fold the foil edges toward the center and crimp to seal.  Fold up the outside edges to seal as well.  Place foil packets on a hot grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let stand 3 minutes before serving.  (This recipe can also be made on the stove top with a large deep frying pan.  Brown the meat first, and then add the other ingredients.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Resolve to Save Money this Year!

          On Saturday, my husband and I were watching the 40th anniversary of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” and they were talking about the top five New Year’s resolutions for 2012.  Of course losing weight made the list, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t number one.  The number one resolution people are making in 2012 is “Save More Money.”  To say that I am excited about this is an understatement!

            As a Coupon Queen and experienced Meal Planner, I know firsthand how much people can save using these strategies!  Because I am a Nerd, I track my coupon savings and have done so for the past four years.  I love seeing my savings rack up as each month progresses!  What was my grand total for 2011?  I saved $6,939, which is about $578 each month by using meal planning, rebates, and coupons for just about everything!  What would you do with an extra $578 every month?  Build up your savings?  Pay down your debt?  Save for a large purchase?  All of these are great ways to use your coupon savings to improve your family’s finances!

            At YourStrongTower.com, we have all the tools you need to get started on your resolution to save money with coupons and meal planning!  There’s a lot of great (FREE!) information in the Meal Planning Monday archives on the website.  If you’re new to couponing, get yourself a copy of my e-book, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen: Secrets Retailers Don’t Want You to Know.”  For one more week, you can get it for the low price of $5.99, and save an additional 10% using the coupon code LEAH.  (The price will go up to $7.95 next Monday.)  If you’re already applying the stockpiling and meal planning strategies, get yourself organized with the Coupon Wizard software.  The software includes a FREE copy of the Confessions of a Coupon Queen e-book and is only $49.99 – use the LEAH coupon code to save 10% on this too!

            Leah and I are both very excited about the upcoming release of our new e-book all about Meal Planning, called “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking!”  It contains all the basics of meal planning and is chock-full of tips and recipes designed to save you time, stress, and money!  Stay tuned for details about the release.  We are also working on a new one-hour class: “The Magic of Meal Planning.”  We realized that whether people use coupons or not, everyone can save money by using meal planning and freezer cooking strategies.

            My resolution in 2012 is to help strengthen the finances of as many families as I can, by teaching them to save money with meal planning, couponing, and sound money management strategies.  May the year 2012 be known as “The Year of Savings!”