The Care & Keeping of Meals

Does anyone else remember that American Girl doll book that basically introduced pre-teen girls to shaving their legs and using deodorant? “The Care and Keeping of You”? That just RANDOMLY popped into my head when writing the title for this post. So this post is dedicated to any of you other 90’s babies who remember that….

One of the adjustments of being married and living with your spouse is that you go from eating a lot of meals out with your friends, to eating dinner together most nights at home with your spouse. Because your best friend already lives with you now so it’s a great way to catch up on your days, have quality time, and save some $$$. If you’re like me, you also welcome this change because cooking for 1 person can be quite a chore so it finally makes cooking worthwhile to have someone with whom to share your food. Plus men always appreciate a good meal so it gives you a little extra confidence boost in your cooking skills!

After my last blog post, I got a few requests to share tips and tricks of meal planning and recipes. This is something that I really enjoy and know that I have the luxury of time to work on right now since I haven’t started working and don’t have kids. But I thought I would share tips and tricks of meal planning as well as what a “sample week” might look like for our house, in hopes that it may help any of you out there! I’m someone who loves cooking so much that I’m tempted to make every meal very elaborate and fancy which can end up eating into the budget just as much as eating out, so I’m also including some tips on how to save money and still make great meals! But yes.. this does require meal planning at the beginning of every week before you go to the grocery store. But having a plan can really help save money and feel good about the meals you’re eating!

Side note: We have one built in date night every week and usually eat out with friends one or two times a week so I made the sample week for 5 days.

Day 1: Crockpot Meal – “Italian Beef”
It’s Monday. Let’s be honest. When you get home from work, you’re probably needing something easy you can throw on a plate in no time. This is a recipe I got from my sister and you can cook it on low in the crockpot for 8-10 aka while you’re at work. Chances are, you probably have many of the ingredients already in your pantry, so the additional items you need to buy are minimal. Make sure to add veggies on your plate for some nutrients as a side. One of my go-to’s is my former roommate Lindsey’s brussel sprout mash-up: cut brussel sprouts in half, mix them up in a bowl with salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic powder. Toss to coat, then bake them in the oven on 400 degrees for 20 minutes. They are delicious!

Health tip: If you divided your plate into 4ths, non-starchy vegetables should take up half of your plate (asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts), a starchy vegetable or pasta should take up 1/4, and your protein should take up 1/4. 

Day 2: Salad – Chicken Bacon Avocado Salad with Roasted Asparagus
This is one of our FAVORITES. Andrew swears he would be fine with eating it every night. And an added bonus is that it’s super healthy! Greens on greens on greens… on bacon? Bacon makes everything better. I think bacon was invented to turn all healthy recipes into something you actually wanted to eat. This one definitely requires some multi-tasking as you prepare all the separate ingredients but good news is you can pretty much take out any of the headline ingredients and it still taste delicious. Odds are, you have at least a few of these already in your fridge… so why not throw them together and make a delicious salad?! It’s also my go-to recipe to take to people when they have a baby or aren’t feeling well… because it’s healthy, delicious, and NOT a casserole.

Health tip: Want to make it extra healthy? Change out your regular bacon for turkey bacon and exchange the butter for olive oil.

Day 3: Easy Meal – Sandwich
My best tip for how to save money is to utilize similar ingredients in as many recipes as you can in one week. That helps keep you from wasting food and cuts down on the number of total ingredients at the grocery store. But at least one day a week, I recommend doing something easy and cheap like spaghetti or sandwiches. For your sandwich, you could throw in extra avocado and chicken from yesterday’s meal? Or have leftover beef from Monday’s crockpot masterpiece? Throw that on some bread with provolone cheese. Planning on doing Day 5’s pasta recipe? Make spaghetti on this day to use the other half of the pasta box! This can be the day that makes you feel better about your grocery budget, but still can taste great.

Health tip: Avocado not only tastes great but is a wonderful “healthy fat” that can help you feel fuller without adding on the calories. Almonds are also a great source for this, but if you’re like me and have a husband who is allergic to nuts, you need another source of nutrients!

Day 4: Go Big or Go Home Meal – Option #1, Option #2, Option #3
Go all out! At least one day a week I let myself go a little crazy on the ingredients list and just have a blast trying something fun and new in the kitchen. I’ve included a few things that I’ve cooked recently and we’ve really enjoyed. But again, think about what ingredients you already have in the kitchen and see if you can find a recipe that includes those. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled random combinations of ingredients that I already have in my fridge and found a recipe that used them! It’s like the at-home version of “Chopped”. But if you’re feeling a little bolder, try one of the above recipes and see if you can incorporate the leftover ingredients into tomorrow’s lunch.

Health tip: CAULIFLOWER. Cauliflower is like a secret little agent that can be substituted for so many things while adding great nutrients into your meal. It’s like the backup dancer to kale and quinoa. I love how this recipe utilizes cauliflower in such a tasty way!

Day 5: Pasta – Linguine with Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Goat Cheese
Adding butternut squash to pasta was something I was admittedly uncertain about but now I am OBSESSED with this recipe! And it’s the perfect “fall comfort” recipe. Good news about this is once again the ingredients are so easy to transfer to another meal. Use the linguine noodles with spaghetti on “Easy Meal” day. Use the rest of the butternut squash as a roasted side dish (bonus if you sauté it with cinnamon, brown sugar, paprika, mushrooms, and spinach!) for Day 1 or Day 4. And use the goat cheese to top a salad for lunch one day. I made this a couple of weeks ago and already can’t wait to make it again. Ok now I’m getting hungry just thinking about it….

Health tip: This is an article that my CFA nutritionist sent me that is a great guide on “becoming an intuitive eater” and how to evaluate if you really need to keep eating or not. Check it out, it’s definitely great food for thought. And if you’re like me and gained a few pounds after getting married because you suddenly think you should serve yourself the same portion sizes as your husband, try this: Serve your food onto a smaller “salad” plate as a reminder that you probably don’t need to eat as much as (in my case) someone who weighs almost 100 lbs. more than you! And if you’re still hungry after eating off of the salad plate, think about the fullness scale from the above article and evaluate where you are on the scale before going back for seconds. 

And because it’s fall, and who doesn’t love pumpkin spice everything, give these pumpkin spice cookies a try this week!

I will admit, when Andrew and I first got married, I was so shocked by how much we were spending on food… until Andrew reminded me that for the last 18 months, he had been buying all of my meals LOL! But it’s been a great encouragement for me to learn how to save money and still make fantastic meals. And it’s true, I probably go all out a little more on my meals than someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking, but if you hear nothing else I say in this blog post, try and match ingredients within recipes so that your ingredient list goes down at the grocery store. OR move to a community like where Andrew and I live where you walk to the grocery store because having to carry everything home will make you think twice about how much you’re going to buy in one trip 😉

Thanks to everyone who has already provided support and encouragement from the first blog post! Now I’d love to hear from you. Was this post helpful? Did you learn anything new? What would you like to hear about next time?!




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3 thoughts on “The Care & Keeping of Meals

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Mary!! This is something we work really hard to do too. One of my favorite tricks is to utilize the crock pot and freeze half of what I make (since crock pot portions are never just for two! lol)… Then, in the future you have a homemade meal that just needs reheating. Italian beef is a favorite of ours, and I’ll have to try out this recipe. If you are feeling like you’d like to be lazy with it, there is a great seasoning packet by Hidden Valley. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

    Liked by 1 person

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