We are half way through the last week of our month long meal plan and it has gone amazingly well. It has been so wonderful to not only know what is for dinner but to also have all the necessary ingredients on hand. Who knew a little organization could feel so good?

We have stuck to the plan pretty well, only changing a few things around when we realized that Sunday is too lazy to cook vegetarian, and swapping different meals within the week just because we felt like it.  Also, when we made Chili, the leftovers lasted longer than expected and we replaced Taco night with Chili taco night.  We are being really flexible yet sticking to the essentials of the plan. The only time we ate off the plan was last Friday when my in-laws unexpectedly picked up dinner for us. It is hard to say no to free food, especially on a Friday night when we were feeling lazy.

With the organized menu, we have increased our vegetables intake which was one of my goals.  Lots of salads and steamed veggies with dinner, and I am getting super into sweet potatoes. I mashed one today and ate it with a sandwich at lunch time. It was amazing! We have also ramped up our use of the bread maker, as I've been making tonnes of buns, loaves of bread, and weekly pizza dough.  Home made bread and buns are cheap, easy to make, and taste delicious!

In terms of cost savings, we actually spent more on groceries this month than we normally do. I think it is a case of spending more on the front end and over time it will be cheaper for us.  We bought some staple items that we won't have to buy monthly (a 10kg bag of flour, 2 jars of yeast because they were on sale, etc.), and my freezer is currently a stockpile of meats that will last well into February.  Just based on the amount of food we still have, I am predicting that February we will spend less than we normally do.

The plan for next month is to repeat the meals we had in January, accommodating for the minor adjustments we made.  I think this is a plan that will stick for us!

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, January 30, 2013 2 comments
I love the idea of Freezer meals; just pull something out and heat it up. It's home made fast food. Actually making the food takes time, but the time saved when I am hungry is totally worth it.

I eat steel cut oats everyday for breakfast, and if you've made them before you know they take about thirty minutes to prepare.  That doesn't work for me everyday.  According to the package directions, prepared steel cut oats last 5 days in the fridge, so I used to make them in 5 day intervals.  That didn't work for me either. I first thought about freezing them while watching my friend Betony freeze meals for her daughter using ice cube trays. I did some internet research and discovered that prepared steel cut oats can be kept for 30 days in the freezer and that adults get to freeze their foods in cupcake pans.

Start with Steel Cut Oats.  Have you tried them? I think they have so much flavour and I love the texture.

Cook oats as per package directions. I cook 5 cups at a time, in two different pots, so I end up with 25 portions for the freezer.

Scoop hot, cooked oats into freezer containers.  I use a cupcake pan and a mini loaf pan, each portion measuring about 2/3 cup.
Freeze for about 2 hours.  Remove from freezer for about 5 minutes to loosen edges. Remove portions from cup cake pan and put in a resealable Ziploc bag and return to the freezer.

Pop in microwave when ready to eat and enjoy quick steel cut oats.  I eat mine with cinnamon, 1 tbs dried cranberries, and 2 tbs chopped walnuts.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, January 28, 2013 4 comments
It is the last weekend in January and I still have my Christmas decorations up.  It is not because I am lazy (or tacky), it is just that I really like the glow of Christmas Tree lights.  Plus the cat has a pretty cool hideout under the tree.

I'm taking everything down today, but thought I'd ask what your tradition is.  Do you decorate for the holidays? How long before you take everything down? Are you judging me for keeping mine up for all of January? When I was growing up, there were some decorations that stayed up for years, so an extra month is an improvement on what I was taught. We are a funny bunch!

Posted by Jen B On Sunday, January 27, 2013 4 comments
Friday is Pizza night on our meal plan and last night we may have made the best home made pizza we ever have! We changed up the dough recipe we were using, as we thought there might be fluffier options out there.  I searched around the internet and think I've hit on one that works.

The dough rises more than the dough we used to make, so John used this fluffier dough to make a thick edge around the pizza. He basted the edge with olive oil and spices and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. It ended up tasting like garlic toast which really helped to make this pizza a winner!

The best part is that there are leftovers today!! YAY!

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, January 26, 2013 No comments
There is something in the blogging community called Liebster Awards, and in the past few weeks I have been nominated for two! There are designed to promote socializing on blogs which I am often neglectful of. 

Here are the rules of recieving an award:

“The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 300 twitter followers and the rules of the award are that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It’s a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow.”

Because I recieved two awards and because I am bad at socializing, I am abandoning the rules and just going to answer the questions my fellow bloggers put forth to me. Always a rebel.

Here are the questions from Just a Mum?, followed by my answers.

1. If you could learn any one skill overnight, what would it be and why? I would love to just know how to play guitar. I have tried to learn a few times, but am too impatient and have a really hard time moving my fingers to change chords. I am even bad at it while playing Rock Band.

2. What music do you listen to when you're feeling down? Sad music for sure. The words are clearer and more meaningful, the notes are felt more deeply, I get my sad out.  My favourties for those types of days are Alanis Morrisette, David Gray, and Ben Folds.

3. When's the last time you were stupid happy? Probably the last time I had Spicy Tuna Rolls - so New Year's Day.

4. If I gave you a t-shirt with a picture of bacon on it, would you wear it? Yes I would.  I like both free stuff and bacon.

5. In your opinion, what is the perfect food? In general it is tacos. On special occasions it is sushi.

6. Go to a party, or stay home with a book? I would probably go to the party, but if I was halfway through an exciting book, I might keep reading when I got home (even if it was super late).

7. Who would you most like to be trapped in an elevator with? Because I am currently watching Justified, I would have to say U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.

8. Do you watch the news? Why, or why not?  No, I actually hate the news. When really bad events happen I don't even go to Facebook because my newsfeed is full of real news.  The news is generally negative and promotes a lot of fear.  I don't need that in my life.

9. Servers start singing Happy Birthday to you at a restaurant: Do you cringe and endure, or sing along? I probably do a little 'sitting a the table' dance. And turn bright red.

10. Name a singer/song that you're embarrassed to admit you love. I'm trying to think of one but I'm pretty proud of all my music choices.  Even the bad stuff, I'd happily admit to loving.

11. If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be? Watching more Justified while eating a double order of Spicy Tuna Rolls.

Here are the questions from Awesomesauce & Other Experiments, followed by my answers.

1. Vanilla ice cream: a cop out instead of getting real ice cream flavours or truly fantastic on its own? Truly fantastic on its own (reminds me of my Nanny), though I would never pick it first.

2.  Are you one of those people who can only wear black socks, or do your feet get to have some fun colours and patterns? I generally wear grey socks, but there was a time in my life I had a cool sock source and wore a lot of fun colours, patterns, and lengths (even knee highs!).

3. What is your preferred method of caffeination? Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.

4. If you had to choose a domesticated animal as a house pet and could not choose a dog or a cat, what would you pick?  Bunny rabbit.

5. What do you want science to create in an easily commercially available way first: teleportation a la Star Trek or hover skateboards a la Back to the Future? Teleportation is a must!

6.  Unicorns or centaurs? Unicorns!

7.  Favourite food that tastes like purple? Blueberry muffins from a mix, where there is no real blueberry at all.  I love that flavour.

8.  Which do you believe is the better movie trilogy: original Star Wars (pre-Lucas mucking things about) or Lord of the Rings? Lord of the Rings (extended even!), but I do have a fondness for Star Wars as well.

9.  What is your favourite childhood song (eg. Down by the Bay, The Cat Came Back, etc)? Down by the Bay is pretty classic.

10.  What do you usually have for breakfast? Steel cut oats mixed with cinnamon, 1 tbs dried cranberries, and 2 tbs chopped walnuts.

11.  Pancakes or French toast? Pancakes. I have always viewed french toast as a waste of milk and eggs.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, January 25, 2013 4 comments

Part of my new meal plan is scheduling salad.  Believe it or not, my mind doesn't generally think of salad when it is thinking of side dishes. French fries? Sidekicks? Whipped potatoes? Those things I can think of no problem.  But salad I have to schedule.

Along with scheduling salad, I also have to remember to wash my lettuce/spinach on the day I buy it, or it is pretty much a guarantee that I will not eat it. Cutting up vegetables for a salad is hard enough, so I become a whiny little girl if it is almost dinner time and I have to wash lettuce too. "Aw, do I have to?" Most likely I will just skip the salad if it is not easy to make. I learned long ago to wash lettuce the day I get it, and it will always be ready to just mix and serve. No whiny me needed!

I used to store the lettuce/spinach in large Ziplocs, but recently picked up some plastic containers and they are just perfect. 

Yay salad!!

Posted by Jen B On Monday, January 21, 2013 2 comments
John and I are starting a new 4-week meal plan today. We already cook most of our meals at home, but we aren't really organized about it. For example, if we bought a box of hamburgers to have hamburgers one night, we would often times end up eating them for multiple days in a row. We don't tend to keep the fridge/freezer regularly stocked, so we often default to what we have on hand.
                                             John: "What do you want for dinner?" 
                                             Me: "Uh...Well, we have hamburgers. So...hamburgers?"  

It is really easy for me to eat hamburgers three days in a row.
A burger on the third day still tastes pretty awesome.
A downfall of not having enough food on hand, is that we often only have half the ingredients for five different meals, so we can't make anything without going to the grocery store first.  Living out of town, those trips eat into our budget with not only the cost of food, but the needless expense of gas and putting extra KM on the car.  Also, when we go to the grocery store to pick up only one or two things, somehow multiple bags of chips, and/or candy, and/or chocolate end up in the cart too! Hopefully our new meal plan will equate to less trips to the grocery store and in turn less impulse buys in the snack aisle.  

Hey! Who put you yummy things in my cart!
Another bad habit of not having enough food on hand, is I tend to freak out if it is going to take to long to a) buy groceries and b) make dinner.  On those occasions, it is just easier to pick up take out.  So having a meal plan will hopefully curb our take out spending as well.

Our current plan is to:

Eat Healthier:

-Eat a variety of foods we already like, while eating more vegetables
-Eat vegetarian two times per week
-Eat less chips, chocolate, candy (treats)

Save Money:

-Only buy groceries we know we will need for the month
-No wasted gas/KM on impulse trips to the grocery store
-Home made whenever possible; use the bread maker to make buns, bread, pizza dough, etc.

With our freezer, fridge, and pantry FULL of food, we are going to try to stick to our plan for the next four weeks and see how it goes. I am so excited to not have to say: "What should we have for dinner?"  I already know what is for dinner for the next 28 days! January 10th? Shake and Bake chicken legs with steamed broccoli, carrots, corn and a side of mashed sweet potato. Jan 23rd? Tacos.  Mmmmmmm...... 

Posted by Jen B On Monday, January 07, 2013 5 comments
Our Christmas Cactus had its first bloom right on schedule this season, appearing on Dec 21, 2012.  Since New Year's it has produced more and more flowers, and today I officially declare it to be in full bloom for another season.  Good job buddy!!

It has been three and half years since it survived a near death experience, and it has recovered and grown to be very full and healthy. One of our goals for 2013 is to clone this little guy (actually big guy nowadays!).

 Happy New Year from the Christmas Cactus! :)
Posted by Jen B On Sunday, January 06, 2013 No comments

2012 wasn't the best for me, but as the calendar changes, I choose to see this time as a chance for fresh starts and new opportunities.  I really want to embrace and focus on all the good things in my life, and I want to start this year off by sharing some of nice things that have already happened in 2013.

1) Spent New Year's with good friends, sharing good food and good times!

2) Had Spicy Tuna Rolls for New Year's Day dinner

3) Went on a snowy, cold, and energizing walk

4) Had a really good sleep!

5) Posted on my blog!

This year is off to a nice start.  Looking forward to things yet to come.

Happy New Year's to you and yours!

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, January 02, 2013 2 comments
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