Posts Tagged ‘Meal Planning’

Eat Better, Spend Less

Yesterday, the October 2010 issue of fitness magazine arrived in my mail box to my very pleasant surprise as I thought my subscription had expired……… 

October 2010

Over the course of the nighth I proceeded to read it cover to cover and found tons of great information and recipes that I want to share with you.

FIRST, let’s start with a great article I found titled Eat Better, Spend Less that provides tons of supersaver shopping strategies that will help you slim your body without shrinking your wallet.

Eat Better, Spend Less

Eat Healthy, Save Money

The average family of four in the United States tosses out about $1,350 in groceries every year, according to Jonathan Bloom, author of the new book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It). “Fruits and vegetables top the list of most-wasted foods,” Bloom says. “It’s often because we forget what we bought. Things get pushed to the back of the produce drawer, and out of sight is out of mind.”

Shop a little smarter and you won’t have to trash good food or your hard-earned cash. And, as a bonus, you’ll boost your diet and your bank account at the same time. Check out these mega money-saving ideas before you hit the checkout line.

Smart Food Preparation Tips

Plan ahead.

The single best way to save at the supermarket is to map out your dinners for the week and shop with a list, experts say. Sounds like a no-brainer, but most of us don’t do it. That’s how we end up buying things we already have. Take a quick inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer so you know what you’ve got on hand. Then decide on the recipes you want to make for the week. Jot down the ingredients you need and head to the supermarket.

Shop for what’s in season.
The freshest foods have better flavor and more nutrients, and they’re also less expensive. In the off-season, try frozen fruits and veggies, which offer the same healthy benefits for low prices.

Veg out.

Go vegetarian one or more days a week and you’ll slash your grocery bill big-time. Angela Barton, author of the blog My Year Without Spending, says that since she and her husband switched to eating meat just a few times weekly, she saves 25 percent every time she shops. Swap beef and chicken for beans, grains, and eggs.

Grocery Shopping Tips

Stock up on superfoods.

Plenty of fruits and vegetables are both nutrient dense and inexpensive,” says Lauren Futrell Dunaway, RD, program manager at the Prevention Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. Her best budget-friendly, vitamin-packed produce picks:

  • Bananas contain plenty of potassium as well as vitamins B6 and C.
  • Cabbage is loaded with vitamin C. Every cup of cooked, shredded cabbage that you eat provides 75 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of C.
  • Cantaloupe is high in vitamins A and C.
  • Carrots have more vitamin A than any other vegetable, and they’re rich in vitamins C and B6.
  • Greens, such as spinach and turnip, mustard, and collard greens, are full of vitamin A.
  • Honeydew melon is high in vitamin C.
  • Oranges and grapefruits each supply more than 100 percent of your RDA of vitamin C.
  • Plums are packed with healthy antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  • Potatoes are a good source of vitamins C and B6 and potassium.

Downsize your shopping cart.

Don’t be lured into buying mass quantities of anything — whether it’s chicken, condiments, or paper products — at a warehouse store. It’s a myth that bigger is cheaper, says Joanie Demer, coauthor of Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey. Truth is, you’ll actually end up spending more.

Know when not to go natural.

People think that if they eat everything organic, they’ll be healthier, but organic butter and sugar have the same fat and calories as regular butter and sugar,” points out Jennifer Welper, executive chef at Hilton Head Health, a weight-loss spa in South Carolina. Plus, organic foods are often more expensive. When you’re choosing snacks, look for tasty, good-for-you foods that will fill you up for around 150 calories. A handful (about one ounce) of almonds, a piece of fruit, or a plain nonfat yogurt with berries is a much smarter choice than all-natural cookies or chips.

Simple Saving Techniques

Make a slick swap.

Yes, olive oil is heart healthy, but it’s also costly. Save it for when flavor really counts, as in salads, and use canola oil for cooking. “It’s much less expensive, and it gives you healthy monounsaturated fats as well as a dose of omega-3 fatty acids,” says Erin Palinski, RD, a nutritionist in Franklin, New Jersey.

Stick close to home.

You can find bargains on fruits and vegetables grown locally — and they’re typically treated with fewer pesticides, too. Go to farmers’ markets late in the day for the best prices. “Most growers will do two-for-one deals when they’re ready to pack up,” says Latham Thomas, a nutrition counselor and the founder of Tender Shoots Wellness in New York City.

Fish for good deals.

Despite the hoopla about fresh wild-caught salmon — which is rich in DHA, a type of healthy omega-3 fatty acid — it isn’t your only option in the sea. “All fish have DHA,” points out Mary Harris, RD, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Some types have more than others, but the most important thing is to buy the kind of fish you like and aim to eat it once or twice a week.” Tell the clerk to throw in a marinade while you’re at it. Most grocery-store seafood counters will give you one free, but you have to ask.

Bulk up.

Check the bins in the bulk section of your supermarket for healthy staples such as almonds, oatmeal, grains, and dried beans. You can purchase the exact amount you need, usually for a lot less than the packaged versions.

Save time — and money.

The right equipment can cut your food prep and cook time in half, says Jill Nussinow, author of The Veggie Queen. That makes it a whole lot easier to create healthy dishes. Consider investing in these genius kitchen tools:

  • Food Processor: Make quick work of slicing and dicing and avoid the temptation to purchase precut veggies, “which can cost five to 10 times more,” Nussinow says. (About $135 for a nine-cup food processor at
  • Pressure Cooker: It cooks grains and dried beans in a flash. Think lentil soup in 20 minutes, start to finish. (About $60 at
  • Rice Steamer: Just set it and forget it. No more pots of boiled-over or burned rice. (About $40 at

3 Easy Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bill

Cut back on coupons.

“I’ve seen it over and over in my research: People buy things they wouldn’t normally choose, because they have a coupon,” says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, PhD, coauthor of Gen BuY. “Cheap prices allow you to rationalize less-healthy purchases.” Ask yourself if you would want it without the coupon. No? Skip it.

Shop after you eat.

When you’re famished, you naturally crave the most calorie-rich foods,” Yarrow says. The next thing you know, you’re piling your cart with corn chips and doughnuts.

Leave the kids home.

As soon as you walk into the store, they start up: “I want candy/cupcakes/ice cream. Please, please, please!” Cue the tears. You end up buying more than you planned to. Have your husband watch them while you shop. Or trade babysitting time with another mom.


I just loved the above article, courtesy of Sharlene K. Johnson @ fitness magazine as I can never get enough TIPS when it comes to eating better and spending less while doing so.

In fact, I have also posted my own information on this subject that I have learned through the years called Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping 101 that you might also enjoy!


SECOND, I found ton’s of great recipes while reading the magazine last night that I can’t wait to try. 

In fact, I already added the ingredients for the below recipe to my shopping list I just made so I can have this for dinner in the near future, possibly Friday night.

Southwestern Pizza

Southwestern Pizza

Makes:                 3 servings

Prep Time:         8 minutes

Cook Time:        10 minutes


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 – 12 inch 100% whole-wheat pizza crust
  • 1 cup prepared tomato salsa
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded reduced-fat 2 percent mozzarella
  • 1 ½ cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place crust on sheet and top with salsa, 1 cup mozzarella, beans, sliced red pepper and scallions.  Top with remaining ¼ cup of cheese.
  2. Place pizza in over and bake 8 to 10 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.  Remove from oven and garnish with cilantro if desired.  Cut into six slices and serve.

Nutrition facts per serving (2 slices):  488 calories, 28 g protein, 72 g carbs, 12 g fat & 16 g fiber


THIRD and last, but surely not least, I would like to share with you a few of the soups I know I will enjoy from an article named 7 Healthy Soup & Stew Recipes that I found in the back of the magazine.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Prep: 8 minutes
Cook: 13 minutes
View Nutrition Facts


  •   Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4  6-inch  corn tortillas
  • 2  tablespoons  canola oil
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/2  teaspoon  oregano
  • 2    garlic cloves, minced
  • 1    green bell pepper, diced
  • 2    14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with jalapeño
  • 4  cups  low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  cup  frozen corn
  • 1  pound  diced cooked chicken breast (about 3 cups)
  • 1  ounce  shredded reduced-fat cheddar (about 1/4 cup)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Stack the tortillas and cut into 1/4-inch strips; toss with 1 tablespoon of the canola oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin and the salt. Place on baking sheet and bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a soup pot. Add remaining cumin and the onion, oregano, garlic and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the corn and chicken; simmer 10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the cheddar. Top with tortilla strips.


Turkey & Black Bean Chili


4 servings Cook: 23 minutes
Prep: 12 minutes
View Nutrition Facts


  • 1  tablespoon  canola oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2    garlic cloves, minced
  • 1    green bell pepper, diced
  • 1  pound  lean ground turkey
  • 2    15-ounce cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1    14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1    14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1  cup  frozen corn
  • 1  tablespoon  chili powder
  • 1  tablespoon  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1  teaspoon  oregano
  • 1  ounce  semisweet chocolate, cut into tiny pieces


In a soup pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes or until slightly softened.

Add the turkey and sauté 5 minutes or until no longer pink, crumbling the meat with a spoon as it cooks. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, chili powder, cocoa powder and oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir in the chocolate and simmer 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.


If you would like to check out the remaining 5 soups & stews from the article check it out here 7 Healthy Soups & Stews.

I know I will enjoy both of the above very soon!


In other news (personal news that is), I ate the following yesterday:


Usually, I am not a huge fan of  “plain” yogurt, however this morning it was VERY good once I mixed it with a diced peach, bran buds and a little sweetener.


Now, I know it doesn’t look like much but after seeing what I ate next you will understand why I just ate the above for lunch.

YUM, Cake!!!

I had to cut something somewhere to fit in the above of course!  =O


Dinner was had on a small plate last night. 

Not necessarily because I wanted too but but that was all the food that was left after cooking due to the fact that I only had 3 pork chops (thought I bought 4 but it was only 3 when I opened the package).

Pork Chop Prep

However, I had plenty of roasted broccoli and potatoes so I piled my little plate with tons of those.

Roasted Veggies

And, watermelon for dessert!



Well, I think I have supplied you with enough information and such for one post so I will be leaving you now…….however don’t forget to be on the look out for my next post that will be titled: How To Become A Fat-Burning Machine I promise you will learn a lot, just as I did when I read the information!!!

Meal Planning & Grocery Shoppping 101

Meal planning and grocery shopping are a major part of “my life”, without each of them I would not only have failed at my past & present weight loss goals….I also would be very stressed on a daily basis when it comes to feeding my family of “3”!

So in light of that I have decided to dedicate a post just to Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping!

I pretty much plan out most meals, aside from breakfasts that are either; cereal, oatmeal and/or waffles for all 3 of us and my daughter’s lunches during the weekdays as she prefers to eat at school rather than taking her own lunch. 

However, I do plan out what my husband and I will have for lunch during the week.  He typically has sandwiches most days so that is pretty cut & dry and I too have sandwiches (deli meats, tuna or peanut butter) as well and always have staples for them in the kitchen at work during the week days. 

From time to time I will make chili or soups that we share between us throughout the week or longer as well for lunch.

So for me, the REAL meal planning comes into play with dinner as I plan them out for the entire week prior to making my shopping list.  I even plan “take out” or “fast food” night(s) on my calendar, as well as eating at the “mother-in-laws” or “special event nights”. 

We, my family & I, live on a very strict budget, in which $100-$150 a week is spent on groceries/household items and varies depending on the purchases (house hold & hygiene items) I make for that week, and if any special more expensive meals (steak, large ingredient recipes, etc.) or dishes (baked goods, birthday cakes, etc.) are needed to be made.

Meal Planning

  • As I stated above I plan out pretty much every meal.  However, since breakfasts and lunches are often the same items (just rotated around each day/week) my main meal planning comes into play for our family dinners. 
    • First, I start by figuring out what meals I plan to make each day (Monday thru Sunday) of the week and then I write them down on my calendar on the fridge. 

  • Since we are a family living on a very strict budget we typically have many of the SAME meals each week (i.e. tacos, homemade pizza, spaghetti, hamburgers, pork chops, etc.) so I have a few “go to” meals that I typically list weekly, however I do try to “mix-it-up” every few weeks by adding in a new meal that I would like to try that I found in my recipe box, on another bloggers posts, online or by watching the Food Network (though I will admit their recipes can be a bit pricey so I don’t choose them very often, but I love to watch what they make for future reference).

  • Next, I look in the fridge & pantry to see what items are needed for each of these meals as well as breakfasts & lunches for the week. 
    • I then make a list of all the items I will need for everything on an excel spreadsheet that I tailored to my local grocery store, Publix, by their departments that I visit first (Bakery) to last (Dairy) in order so that my shopping experience is as efficient as possible and hopefully no items are forgotten nor is time wasted going back and forth across the grocery store looking for items I missed or forgot along the way.

In addition, I list Misc. Items or items that I need to stand out to me at the bottom highlighted in different colors so they are not forgotten as they may be items I do not buy every week and would most likely forget.

  • Then I check out my grocery store’s newspaper (online) weekly ad to see if there’s anything On Sale that I can use in one of the meals I have planned out or if I should change around my planned out meals to incorporate an item that is on sale that week into my menu.

For example, BOGO (By One Get One Free), sales are then added to my list and are then bolded in red or the sale information is noted next to them so that I remember this when shopping.

  • Finally, I review my grocery shopping list to make sure all items needed are listed!  This is very important as it saves you from having to visit the grocery store again (and again) during the week, which can be very inconvenient for a busy working mom and wife like me.

Grocery Shopping

So by the time I am on the way to the grocery store, which is usually every Saturday morning for me, I have my all my meals planned for the upcoming week and my Shopping List in hand.

After arriving at the store I grab my Publix Green Bags from my trunk and head inside the store.

Once inside I follow my shopping list by visiting the following departments in the same order as listed on the list:

1)  Bakery

2)  Frozen Foods

3)  Produce

4)  Meat/Deli

5)  Dry Foods

6)  Dairy

Usually, I hit the check out with about 90% of the things I had on my original list and 10% things I didn’t, because either an item on my list wasn’t available, didn’t look very good (produce) or was too expensive for me this week and I may make a few (very few) impulsive purchases that I just couldn’t resist or were on sale!


  • When planning your meals for the next week, always take a look at what you have in your pantry & fridge to see what you already have on hand.  Than try to create your meals around those items so that you can use up your supplies and save on your grocery bill that week at the same time.
  • If you find staple pantry items (rice, pasta, taco shells, tacos, spaghetti sauce, seasoning packets, canned veggies, beans, granola bars, chocolate f/the hubby, frozen waffles, eggs, etc.) on sale – stock up on them.  These are items that often used in the meals I make throughout the week.
    • In addition, I Stock Up on these items whenever I have a little extra from one of my monthly paychecks so that way when funds are tight I don’t have to worry about buying these items. 
    • I also buy these items at “Wal-Mart” as they are always cheaper!
  • Buy items like bread, cheese and meats in bulk when they’re on sale (got love BOGO at Publix) – most keep well in the freezer
    • Accept for certain fresh baked breads from the Bakery as I find they only last about a week before they start to taste stale even after freezing.
  • There’s nothing worse than buying a specific ingredient for one dish and having to throw away what you don’t use, which I avoid doing as it is just an expense I cannot afford.  I will actually not make several recipes that I have found because of this reason. 
    • If you really want to make the recipe however try and plan future meals that will utilize this ingredient.
  • If your grocery store doesn’t carry something that you’re looking for, ask the manager to start stocking it. 
    • I haven’t done this myself, however I have heard of other food bloggers that have as well as my mother-in-law who is from Montreal, Canada and has certain items she hasn’t found and requested.
    • Sometimes it can take a few months, so be patient.
  • At my grocery store (Publix) there is a flat screen that displays everything that the checker is scanning, as they scan it.  So PAY ATTENTION to what’s showing up on the screen as it’s being scanned, especially with produce and items on sale!
    • On several occasions I have been charged for the incorrect produce item.
      • Once could of cost me almost $15 extra as the checker entered the wrong fruit that had a much higher per pound price then the fruit I actually bought.
    • On other occasions I didn’t receive the sale price for an item.
      • I find this especially true if the sale item/price wasn’t listed in their weekly circular and may only be a daily special or something that wasn’t updated in the computers. 
        • This just happened to me last week with a sign that said $3.00 Post Cereals, limit one item per customer.  When the checker rang it up the sale price didn’t show and she had to send the bagger back to confirm what was posted, which he did of course as there were several signs posted.

So as you can see I am a HUGE planner!!! 

However, despite what you might think meal planning does not take that much time and in the long run will actually save you time. 

For example, you won’t have to waste time running back to the store for an item you forgot and you won’t have to spend “extra” time walking back & forth while you are at the grocery store looking for the items you need because everything you need is listed on your grocery list and in order by department so that you minimize your time at the store. 

And, the best part you will SAVE MONEY doing it! 

I have saved hundreds of dollars throughout the years and can’t imagine what I would come back with from the store or how much it would cost me if I didn’t use the above methods.

Try it for one week and see how much you save.