So, I got on to maybe write a post this morning and guess what?!?! I had TWO comments left on my post from yesterday! Seriously, just made my morning!!! I just turned to Keenan and said "OMG, at least 2 people read my post from yesterday!!!" Well, I know of 4 because my mom just called me to tell me that she just read it and she had my dad read it too..."very conversational" she said. I read a few months ago over on Pioneer Woman that when you write a blog, you should write it like you are talking to someone, so yeah that my mom thought so. Successo! (Sorry, that's some weird mob iphone game's way of saying good job!--I say it all the time now!)

So, thank you Jessie and Erika for your comments. Erika- homemade laundry detergent coming soon. And just in case someone is reading here that has not read Erika's blog yet, well, you should. It is honestly one of my favs to read- plus she updates almost every day!

I wanted to start this paragraph with "So" again but realized that I had started the two previous ones with that word....hmmmmm, maybe its not just my first graders who need to think about word choice. Ok, on to meal planning.

I have been officially meal planning since last March. I think like most people who begin meal planning, I began because I was tired of coming home to a fridge and pantry FULL of food (thank you Southern Savers) and still going, "Uhhhh, what are we going to have for dinner" which quickly would turn into "Want to just do breakfast for dinner....again?" So, my stockpile kept growing larger, I was throwing away way too much produce and there is only so many times in a week you should have pancakes and eggs. I decided that I was going to meal plan. At the time, I did not know of anyone who was posting their weekly plans anywhere. Sometimes, Jenny at SS would have some meals that you could make from that week's on sale items. I would use that occasionally but overall, not so excited about some of the meals that were on there. Now, I think everyone and their mom is meal planning AND putting it on their blog each week. So, if you have ever thought about meal planning, NOW is the time to start.

Anyways, when I decided to start, I printed off a blank calendar for the month, grabbed my cookbooks and my recipe folder, took stock of what was already in my fridge, freezer and pantry and began. At first, meal planning took me a very long time each week. However, each week got easier and easier. For those of you who have couponed, it is similar. The first time I couponed---at least 2-2 1/2 hours. Now, 20 minutes tops each week! Meal planning is the same. I pretty much have a weird running list in my head at all times of exactly what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Don't have to take stock of that each week now. I also know recipes that actually turn out yummy and not bland, which ones require way more time than they say and which ones let me sub in other ingredients I already have. I cannot stand buying a $5 or $6 ingredient only to use a tiny teaspoon and I have NOTHING else that will use it. Unless I want to remake the recipe again, which I have done just to use things up!

I have learned a lot of things since I started so I am going to quickly describe my meal planning process as of right now. I still have things I want to improve one and I will write about those too- and if you have already perfected them, tell me how!!!

Ok, I already said print off the blank calendar for the month. You could do a weekly calendar (since I plan food by the week) but I will go ahead and enter in ALL of our important events for the month at the very beginning. This keeps me from having to do it each week. So, all of Keenan's practices (I note if it is early, middle or late), his games (and note if it is home or away) any time spent out of town, people coming over for dinner, us having dinner anywhere else, my PTO nights and basically anything else that I can think of that may affect my ability to fix and eat dinner on any given night in the month.

After I have in all of those, I start planning for the week. I used to plan on Friday nights (I know, its kinda lame) and I would do my grocery shopping on Saturday morning, but since I have been doing Bountiful Baskets (if you don't know what that is, see this post) I do not get my massive amount of produce until Saturday mornings. Sometimes, their facebook group posts what is coming on Friday night and I can do my planning that night, know what I want from the store and go there as soon as I have picked up my basket on Saturday morning. We haven't had any posts for awhile so I will come home, prepare/wash/chop up anything that needs it (especially because we split our basket), then sit down and make my plan.

Now, at any given point, I have boneless chicken breast, cooked, shredded chicken, ground beef (both cook and uncooked), pork loin, pork chops, chicken quarters and an occasional boston butt or whole chicken in my freezer. I have all of those because of stocking up when they are on sale. I also have lots of soups or casseroles that I have cooked an frozen.

I will sit down with my recipes and that weird knowledge of freezer, fridge and pantry contents and decide what to cook for the week. Most of the time, I plan 4 good dinner meals. Right now anyways because Keenan generally had 2 games each week and I just have leftovers those days. I do not plan for Saturday because we will either have a date night or there is always a meal I did not get to during the week and we will cook it then. Last night for example, I had a meal I had not gotten to and several veggies that I needed to eat 2 weeks ago so we had grilled pork loin, roasted broccoli (thanks Diana!), mashed garlic cauliflower, grilled corn and homemade rolls. Don't worry- its was delicious!!!

Four meals each week, doesn't seem so bad, right? If thats too much, try 1 or 2! And in case you were wondering, I still put "breakfast for dinner" on about once or twice a month. Its so much better when its not a cop-out meal!

I will try to choose recipes that I have most of the ingredients for (which means goodbye Rachel Ray recipes) or at least the right cuts of meat and the first 2 or 3 big ingredients. I write them down on a calendar day but I keep in mind what time I tend to get home on those nights. For example, I do Zumba on Mondays from 5:30-6:30 and who wants to come home and prepare food for an hour--we would be eating at eight and let's face it, I start getting ready for bed between 8:30 or 9:00. Lame, I know, but that's what happens when you work 40 minutes away and like to get there a little early anyways.

Ok, so pick 4 meals that follow the do I have most of the ingredients guideline, pull those recipes to the side and grab your pencil and paper. I will go ahead and write down all the ingredients unless I know FOR SURE that I have it. That applies for the meat and probably the main ingredients. If I know I don't have it- it goes on the list. Then, I will go through my pantry, fridge and stockpile to see if I have them. If I do, I cross it off. But remember, I have that weird knowledge thing since I have been doing it for so long so most of the time, my list is spot on. Occasionally I might not be sure if I have a particular spice or seasoning or I want to make sure I will have enough of it. I promise, meal plan for a few months and you will suddenly know exactly what you have. Its like being in college and knowing EXACTLY how much money you have in your bank account- down to the cents!

Do this for every meal you want to make and bam!- you have your meal plan. This next part is not totally necessary, but in the long run you will probably want to do it too! I will log on to Southern Savers and look at Publix and Kroger's weekly ads. As I go through each, I will check the things that I like to keep stockpiled and any of the ingredients I need for the week that might be on sale. This is especially true for meat. I have a wide range of options in my freezer and its because even if I do not need it right then, if its on sale, I will grab it, freeze it and then it becomes an option for a later meal plan.

After I try to get as many of my needed meal-plan ingredients as possible, I print out my 2 shopping lists and add on my ingredients to the printed lists. I will try and remember if there is a store brand either and Kroger or Publix because it will be cheaper and either place then even the national brand at Kroger. If store brand is not an option, the ingredient goes on the Kroger list because it will be cheaper there than Publix. I also add things like deli meat, cheese, eggs and milk (you know, the essentials) to whichever list will make it the cheapest (generally Kroger's) and add any special treats we might want that week.

Then I have my shopping lists so I head to the stores and grab everything I need. Having my list makes my time at the store efficient and not nearly as many impulse buys. I think about how I used to go to the store and think...hmmmm, what are we going to have this week, which normally means at some point this week, I will be having the thoughts....what am I going to fix for dinner tonight.....which inevitably leads to ....breakfast for dinner again???---which is why I started meal planning to begin with.

I also started meal planning because I realized that when Keenan and I decide to start a family, I am not going to just wake up one day and be a fabulous cook. I am not just going to wake up one day and be able to conserve my time and energy at the store and cooking dinner each night while serving healthy meals to my family. I knew I had to start somewhere. So, I printed my first blank calendar, grabs my recipes and started. I have learned SO much and I have been doing this for 10 months now. It is not something that is perfected overnight. I also had to talk to my husband about this. He loves food but the process behind meal planning is kind of lost on him. I told him about why I wanted to do it (the what's for dinner feeling and to healthily feed our future family) and told him I needed his support. I needed him to compliment (I am words of affirmation!) my plans and tell me that dinner was good (even if it wasn't, at least for a little while). He can be more critical now that I am in more of a groove. I just knew that it wasn't super important to him, but I wanted him to know the why behind it and support me in feeling it was very important.

I know I have improved a ton since starting meal plans but I still have goals in mind. I want to put a cookbook together of the bigger meals I cook and ways to use its leftovers. Right now, I will just take leftover corn chowder to school everyday for lunch for at least a week. I also would like to get better and preparing ingredients on the weekends to make weeknight meals even easier. In August, I did follow a Rachel Ray monthlong plan where I prepared 5 staples (tons of them), froze them and then would just make a meal each night and pick up some extras for the meals at the store. I did a lot of subbing though because she called for some weird (ie- won't every use them again) ingredients. I follow a friend's blog and she makes a spreadsheet (my mom would be so proud!!) of meals and when she finds a great one (not many ingredients, things she has on hand a lot, healthy, quick) it goes onto the spreadsheet and takes and turn in their meal rotation. I am currently trying to take the produce we get and turn that into a bigger part of each meal with meat as more of a side dish--it will be a whole lot cheaper.

So, hope this helps some---if you even made it to the point, congratulations- this is the LONGEST blog post maybe in the history of blogging. Sorry- words just kept coming to me. Good luck with meal planning, I would love to hear how it goes-- and if you have any tips for me, please share!!!


So, remember when we had our first day of school.....2 years ago! Guess we got a little busy!

I don't know why, but I woke up this morning with the desire to blog. I know, weird. When Keenan first decided to start this blog I told him I thought it was a great idea but I was not going to commit to writing any posts on it. He was starting his first year teaching and I was getting ready to go back into my third and I knew how crazy teaching is. The last thing I wanted to do was commit to writing posts. He got 10 posts written.....then he wrote about The First Day of School. If you scroll down a bit, you will notice that that was the last one written...until today. I guess things got busy for us! And now, here I am, with all my non-committing, waking up and actually wanting to blog. I don't even know what I want to write about goes:

Not only did I wake up this this crazy desire to post on our blog but I woke up with so many things on my mind to get done. So. Many. Things. It is not unusual for me to wake up Saturday morning with a pretty long to-do list and normally I wake up between 7 and 8am (the joys of being a teacher). This morning, however, I set my alarm (just in case) for 9am so I have time to do some things before I go pick up my Bountiful Basket (more on that below) and the alarm woke me up. Then, I reset it for 10am...seriously. Woke up at 10am thinking of my many things to do (remember, not so abnormal), but I had already lost 2-3 hours of my "get it done" time. Ahhh! I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed off to get my basket.

Bountiful Baskets is a non-profit co-op where I (along with many others now too!) get my produce each week. The basket is guarenteed to be 1/2 fruit, 1/2 vegetable. I did it for the first time about 8 weeks ago thinking...surely, this cannot be as good as it seems...but it SO WAS. I have been doing it every week since. It costs $15 (plus $1.50 processing fee since it is non-profit) and here is was I got this week in my basket:

Just in case you are so shocked by the amount of produce here and cannot quite get over it in order to count all of the items, here is what I got: broccoli (2 big bunches), pineapple, lettuce, 10 bananas, 7 potatoes, 3 onions, 4 lemons, 5 grapefruits, 3 tomatoes and a carton of blackberries. WOW!

We split our basket with Keenan's brother and wife each week, so we really end up paying between $7-$8 for half of this awesome produce. I saw in one of the first few weeks of the co-op, a man had gone to Wal-Mart to price compare the produce and it would have cost $49 for the same items. For real!

Needless to say, when I stumbled onto a pic of all this produce on facebook (a lady I used to work with in Madison County a few years ago runs the Athens division) I was amazed. Again, I signed up for the first week a skeptic but it really is one of the coolest things ever. Here is the national site where you pay for your basket- Bountiful Baskets -They also have a facebook page for the Athens division- Facebook Group -

By the way- you're welcome for just changing your life. Well, probably anyway-haha!

Ok- so I also just made a list of all the things that I should probably blog about- like my meal planning (apparently, everyone I know does that now), my homemade laundry detergent (which I LOVE LOVE LOVE!), our upcoming trip to Scotland this summer, my new camera and an upcoming craft day, but alas- if I blog about them now (even though I REALLY want to), I will run out of things to write about and not post for another 2 years.

So, here's to me hopefully posting at some point again this year...and to me getting all those things done in 3 less hours than I normally have!