Menu Planning and Lime Jello Salad

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

I thought I’d take some time to share with you how I menu plan and grocery shop. It’s not that my system is brilliant, and it’s not even pretty (like all those fancy online templates you can download), but I do kind of pride myself in the system I’ve developed within the first year of our marriage.

While I’ve never headed to the grocery store without a detailed list revolving around my week’s dinner plans (thanks for teaching me that, mom!), at the beginning I was a bit of a mess. I’d find myself darting back and forth between aisles repeatedly, wasting time and annoying my husband who would graciously tag along. We had a grocery budget of about $200 + eating out per week, which is now down to $80 per week + around $15-30 for eating out (depending on where we decide to go). I keep a good index of what staple items we have in the house, and utilize leftover ingredients from one meal for another meal. We also do some shopping at Costco which allows me to buy quite a lot for less, and while that makes the grocery budget grow slightly more one week, it greatly reduces it all of the other weeks.

To make sure I stay on budget before heading out to the store, I’ll run through my list and next to each ingredient write the price (very small, and rounded up). I’ll then add it up and put the total next to each store, that way if I spend $35 at Walmart instead of the planned $30, I know I’ll just need to cut back a little at the next store to make sure I make it up. I’ve pretty much trained myself enough now to be able to make a grocery list and just know I’m in budget without adding it up. But when I doubt- I always revert to adding to make sure.

I’ve also been slowly starting to ex out the processed food, buy organically when necessary (meats and fruits/veggies in which the skin is consumed), and cook low calorie meals for dinner to encourage the weight loss initiative going around in our house right now.

Since I shop at multiple stores and am driven by the sales those stores offer, I sort my grocery list by store and my food is sorted by the order in which I would find it in that store. I hate the crowds in stores, so I typically grocery shop earlier on a Friday morning, and complete my shopping all in one outing (I’ll bring a cooler along with me to keep my cold foods cold). I also make sure my list has this information:

– Menu for each day of the week, plus a short list of breakfast items, lunch items, snacks, and desserts that aren’t necessarily categorized into certain days

– Next to each item the amount that’s needed for my recipe

– Whether it’s a need (for a recipe) or a want to allow myself to make a different choice while in the store. I have to allow myself some impulse buying (especially if John is along).

I pretty much monitor all of the food consumption in our house, so it’s easy for me to plan things out close to perfectly. I pack John’s lunches, so I know what I need for them- I cook dinner, so I know what nights need a fast and easy meal, and what nights I can try something new (or what nights I can make John cook). This being said, I also make it open to John to let me know if there’s anything he wants to eat during that week which keeps the food circle of life a very happy circle in our home.

The only thing I think I need to improve is the display for the weekly menu. I just take my list and clip it to the refrigerator… but I would so prefer having one of those cool chalkboard pantry doors that creatively display the menu for the week. We’ll see what my DIY self can eventually pull off.

Here’s an example of my list (see, nothing spectacular):

It works really well for me, keeping me within our budget, and preventing the spontaneous meal I thought up on my way home from- wait, stop at the grocery store to pick up what I don’t have for that meal- okay, now I can head home.

Before I leave, I want to share with you a salad that has had me and my taste buds raving since I was a child.

Lime Jello Salad

This may not be new information to anyone, but I’ve never had it anywhere but home- and the other day I was craving it, so I called my mom and stole the recipe.

Ingredients:

Instant Lime Jello gelatin (small- you won’t use all of it)

Pineapple bits (or chunks, which ever you prefer)

Cottage Cheese (one regular container, small curd)

Crushed pineapple

Mandarin oranges (canned)

Cool whip (one container)

Optional: Coconut flakes (too much texture for me) and chopped nuts (yucky)

Chill all cans of fruit in refrigerator prior to preparing. Mix jello gelatin (I don’t use a full package as it’s really sweet!) and pineapple bits together in a large bowl. Add cottage cheese to jello/pineapple mixture and mix well. Add crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges. Mix carefully as not to crush oranges. Fold cool whip into mixture gently. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Enjoy!

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