Meal Planning (or “How to Keep Most of Your Groceries From Going Bad”)

Hiii (*waves nervously*) Let’s kick this off with the confession that I am not a foodie or a chef or a professional meal planner. I’m a newbie who still let’s the milk go bad and forgets to use the bananas before they’re squishy and grey.

Alright. Now that my credentials are out of the way…

*In between starting this post and finish it I went through our pasta cabinet and threw out so much expired food. Pasta, graham crackers, panko breading. Not a few months expired… years. Please note: All of that was purchase pre-meal planning. #oops

Toward the end of last year I started meal planning for our family of two. At the start of 2017 I made the lax resolution to meal plan every week. Surprisingly, I’m actually carrying this out with moderate success. A fellow blogger (Carolann, I think?) suggested I talk about my methods. So I thought, ‘Sure! Why not?!’

To be frank, I’m not even 100% sure I do this right. Critique me if you feel so inclined. I have thick skin; I can handle it.

Step 1

Pick three meals for the week.

Three?? But Audrey! Surely you’ll starve!

Fear not, my friends. We utilize the luxury of takeout and/or dining out at least once a week. (*cough*still working on budgeting*cough*)

Honestly, though. On Fridays we’re usually out with my parents and on Sundays we typically have dinner at my grandparents. Mix in one night of take out and fill that fourth night with leftovers and we’ve got three days left for home cooked meals.

… perhaps I’m not so qualified to write this post.

Stick with me, friends. Pick three meals from anywhere. I usually search Pinterest. Sometimes it’s not a recipe meal- sometimes it’s just burgers and veggies on the grill. It doesn’t matter… it still counts.

Ok. Got your three meals? I’m going to play along here and pick three, too.

  1. One Pan Sausage & Veggies (+ egg noddles with butter #healthy)
  2. Chicken Fajita Pasta (so good!! if this isn’t one of your 3 you should change that)
  3. Steak & veggies on the grill (+ mashed red potatoes left over from meal #1)

Step 2

Make a grocery list with the ingredients you don’t have.

can we ignore the “egg noddles”? oops

Now double check your kitchen for the ingredients you might actually have, but you put on the list anyway because you weren’t sure and you were too lazy to go look in the cabinet to check. (Oh. Just me? ) Cross those ones off.

Step 3

Go grocery shopping. I prefer Sunday afternoons because for some reason it’s a ghost town at the market but everything is all stocked for the week.

Obviously if there’s an afternoon NASCAR race this gets bumped to Monday night (which becomes the takeout night).

Step 4

Prep stuff if you feel so inclined.

Often I do not.

This is a good time to figure out WHEN you’re eating your meals. I don’t like to keep asparagus or steak too long so we’ll have those on Monday or Tuesday. If we don’t plan to make something until the weekend or we get busy and have to skip a meal I throw the appropriate meat in the freezer.

Boom Bang Ba-Da-Done.

the chicken fajita pasta… seriously- SO good

Some amateur tips:

  • if you never go out to eat plan for four nights
  • if you have a super busy week aim for two nights and make enough for leftovers
  • this doesn’t include lunch… and if you eat leftovers for lunch, go with 4 meals
  • make that Chicken Fajita Pasta… you won’t regret it

Was that even helpful…? Hahaha. Honestly, I never meal planned before this year but now that I do it’s pretty easy to stick with. This is probably a good gateway to meal prepping, too, but I don’t wanna demand too much of myself…

So tell me… do you meal plan? If so, what am I doing wrong? 🙂 If you don’t plan does this make you want to…?

Holiday (or any day) Recipes link-up

Today I’m linking up real fast with Julie & Jacqui to share some quick, easy, smaller-portion recipes for those spending the holidays with a smaller crowd- think one to three people. I don’t usually do recipe posts, but these are go-to ones for me that come in handy when you’ve got some leftover ham or chicken and you’re hurting for a side dish.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

In a pan melt about 2 tablespoons of butter. Add a handful of baby carrots- essentially as many as you’ll want to eat because this doesn’t keep well. Drizzle honey over carrots. Sprinkle a small handful of brown sugar over carrots. Mix. Cook until carrots are soft, stirring occasionally (~15 min). Serve immediately.

. . .

Smashed Potatoes

This one comes from the talented Pioneer Woman herself. Salt the water & boil some red potatoes until they’re soft (~12 min). Only boil as many as you’ll eat… I typically consume two or three. Remove from water and place on an oil-drizzled cooking sheet. Smash the potatoes twice in a crisscross pattern, flattening them and making a mark/breaking the skin. Brush each potato with melted butter and sprinkle generously with kosher salt (and maybe add a seasoning of your choice- rosemary, thyme, etc.) and bake at 450 degree on the top rack for 20 minutes. Done!

. . .

Roasted Veggies

You can roast anything, guys. Here are two of my favs, both roasted at 425 degrees:
Cauliflower – Cut up some florets, toss on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil, sprinkle some thyme, season with salt and pepper, and stick them in the oven for 35 minutes. Pull ’em out, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and toss, then slide them back into the hotbox for 10 minutes.
Asparagus – Toss the stalks in some olive oil, teriyaki sauce, and soy sauce. Put some foil on a baking sheet, spread the asparagus out so it’s not stacked, sprinkle some garlic powder over it, and roast those puppies for 12 to 15 minutes. SO GOOD.

. . .

Viola! Super hard to mess up and super yummy to eat!

Checkout the link-up for other tasty recipes!

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Life as Louise & HelloFresh

Welp, it’s Monday. I try to be grateful for every single morning, but Mondays make it tough. Ya know?

A few weeks ago I won a free week of HelloFresh (which included the ‘Classic Box’ -three meals for two people). No one asked me to write a post. No one is giving me money. I make nofin’ off this. I just thought you might like to see how HelloFresh worked for two rural married folk who typically whip together a homemade meal two or three times a week, tops.

(All that said, I believe this code does credit my account & it gives you $40 off your first box. Regardless, I don’t care if you use it or not  🙂 I’m just gonna’ leave it here. The actual numerical code is: 222525E4CHCG )

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I’ll talk about each meal, then the pros and cons of this service! As far as difficulty goes, 1 is simple and 5 is near impossible.

Meal 1: Jamie’s Oozy Shrimp Risotto w/ Tomatoes and Chile

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Why I Picked It: We love shrimp! (K isn’t a huge fan of risotto, but I figured he’d be alright…)

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

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Results: Out of all three this was the most challenging one. (The website says it’s rated very difficult.) Still, it was pretty easy. I cooked it first because A) it told me to and B) I was nervous about the shrimp going bad. It was really, really good! The salad was kind of a miss (leafy greens, lemon juice, oil = meh) but the meal was great! I’m slow in the kitchen & it definitely took me longer than the estimated time, but everything turned out just right! (I intentionally left the chili pepper out, fyi.)

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(From here out I started getting lazy with pictures/K was running out of patience with me.)

Meal 2: Chipotle Rubbed Chicken Salad

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Why I Picked It: It sounded good & I’m a sucker anything avocado!

Difficulty: 2 out of 5

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Results: I am an old lady & spicy foods do not agree with me. I dug alllll the seeds out of the jalapeno & limited the adobo sauce. Didn’t matter- it still had a kick. Haha! Both K and I don’t care for beans, but overall this salad was yummy. It took me longer to prep than indicated, but I think that’s a theme with me. For having a lot of foods we don’t normally eat in it, this was a successful meal, too!

Meal 3: Crispy Chicken w/ Brown-Butter Corn & Cucumber Tomato Salad

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Why I Picked It: Why wouldn’t you pick it?! Crispy chicken & buttery corn- oh my!

Difficulty: 1 out of 5

...and the most unattractive food picture goes to.... me. sorry!
…and the most unattractive food picture goes toooo…. me. (sorry!)

Results: WINNER, WINNER- CHICKEN DINNER. (Er, um, no pun intended…?) By far our favorite meal! I’ve never coated chicken in sour cream but you can bet your behind that I’ll do it in the future! Also, they said to cook the corn in a separate pan, but I threw it in the pan that I used to brown the chicken because #LessDirtyDishes. And it was SO GOOD with bits of crispy breading from the chicken mixed throughout. K really, really loved the corn (which is good because he really, really hates cucumbers- haha)! My mouth is watering thinking about this meal!

. . .

Ok, so a quick list of pros & cons & opinions…

Pros: Everything you need is included (except oil olive for most recipes), the directions are simple & there are pictures (praise Jesus), & the food quality is pretty great! Also, while you can freeze some of the meals to make later on, it forces you to stay home & cook.

Cons: Well, it forces you to stay home and cook. (Ha, I kid.) It’s a little costly and I was nervous about the meat while in transit. We received ours in the middle of summer and, while the box was a little soggy & the cold pack thingys were starting to melt, everything was still cold and fresh.

Another pro is that you can skip your box for weeks at a time (like right now we’re currently suspended because I don’t grow money), and they have a handy app that lets you control your deliveries AND the food each week. (You pick three out of the six meals.) It also lets you rate your meals and look up other HelloFresh recipes.

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I haven’t checked it out, but they have a vegetarian box option & family boxes! You can also change the number of meals you get and the number of people eating them.

So in conclusion, we liked our free week. We decided that we’ll probably get HelloFresh one week per month or one week every other month- depends on what they’re serving up! I’m pretty excited to try out some of the other recipes!

Have you ever tried a meal service like this? Would you ever?

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Friday Favorites: Dough Co.

Happy Friday ❤︎ Things got pretty serious on Wednesday so I want to spread some joy & change the mood around here today…

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This week K and I wandered out of our comfort zone and popped into a new local eatery:
Dough Co. Doughnuts & Coffee.

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Right off the bat I will admit that I am a doughnut snob. There is only one place (out of ±10) around here that makes me crave those glazed amazing circles of fried goodness. Still, I walked into this industrial-looking brick bakery on Wednesday afternoon with an open mind. Luckily, I also had an open nose: the smell was delicious!

Dough Co Doughnuts and Coffee

. . .

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The lunch menu wasn’t expansive, but you won’t hear us complain about the quality! K ordered a croissant with sausage, egg, and (American) cheese; I had a round with the like, except bacon instead of snausage 🙂 Are you wondering what a “round” is? I had no idea when I ordered it… Turns out it’s like a burger bun- except it’s fried dough, like an un-glazed doughnut.
AH. MAY. ZING.

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In addition to the made-from-scratch sandwiches, we also had blueberry cobbler coffee and doughnuts! K got a Long John (cream stick) with Bavarian cream and I had half a dozen doughnut holes. (Om nom nom… my weakness! ❤︎ ) Guys…. I have never had a taster doughnut hole. It was sweet and soft and fresh. I almost cried. You know how some doughnuts leave a waxy feeling in your mouth? These left no such residue; just a few thousand happy taste buds begging for more.

We will most definitely be back 🙂 If you live in the area (or if you happen to be passing through Ohio on I-77) you should most definitely swing by Dough Co. Doughnuts and Coffee.

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B O N U S
Check out Ben Rector for your weekend jams! (Thank you to my husband for introducing me to his music!)

That’s all she wrote! What are your plans? Have a great weekend!

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Change of Palate

A long while ago I made this post about adulthood and the reality of it verses my childhood perceptions. Piggy-backing on that, there are some foods that I HATED as a kid that I now rely on really enjoy.

Let me first say that I am not a picky eater. I love veggies and fruits. I can count on one hand the things that I won’t eat (ham, peas, lamb, peppermint patties, kiwi). I’ve tried snails, alligator, turtle, and weird fruits in India. For the most part, I really enjoy food. Luckily, my palate has changed and there are new foods that I now enjoy as an adult!

| AVOCADO |
When I was a kid I can remember my mom cutting, scooping, and slicing one of these on a plate. Maybe it was the green. Maybe it was the squishy texture. Either way, I decided it was icky. Fortunately, I’ve totally changed my mind and now I love this baby-poop snack! I’ll eat it alone or on a sandwich or in guacamole. Nom nom nom.

| COFFEE |
I feel like it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t drink coffee as a kid… Then I would’ve been a hyperactive, angst-y child. My mom would’ve loved that! As I mention previously, my love for coffee developed in college. Or maybe I just needed an excuse to collect mugs… Whatever. As long as there is a 3:1 coffee-to-milk ratio I’m a happy lady.

| ALCOHOL |
As a kid I wasn’t much of a drinker. (Kidding. Well, I’m not. I didn’t drink. But I also wasn’t allowed. Obviously.) Anyway, my dad would let me try his beer every now and then and I’d wrinkle my face and make a “bleech” sound. Then when I was 15 I thought it’d be cool to smuggle wine coolers to a friend’s house. First of all, alcohol was still gross to me at that time. Secondly, I got caught. Thirdly and most importantly, the sense of “badass-ness” you get from smuggling alcohol fades real fast when you realize it was just wine coolers. #teenagefail

| EGGS |
I’ve never actually disliked eggs, but if I have too many I throw up. My family tried to keep eggs from me but now, as a mature, intelligent adult, I can eat all the eggs I want! (And then throw up.) Around Easter K gets very frustrated with me and my arguably avoidable upset tummy…

| COOKED CARROTS |
I don’t know when or why this changed, but once upon a time I hated cooked carrots and now I’m cool with them. Raw carrots were always good in my book, but now their cooked cousin is acceptable to my taste buds. (Actually, raw carrots make my tongue itch. Is that normal?)

. . .

*For the record, I was referring to coffee when I said “rely on” and alcohol when I said “really enjoy.” Just clarifying.

Are there are foods you’ve come to enjoy as you’ve matured? Does anyone actually like peas? What’s a food that you’ll never like, no matter what?

-Louise

 

My Best Friend’s Baby

My new favorite baby is due on February 9th. Her parents, Nic & Erica, just happen to be our best friends. This is their first baby and they are going to be such amazing parents! We are 1 month and 3 days away from the arrive of their new nugget and just less than a month ago Erica had her baby shower.

Erica’s shower was themed:

Erica is About to POP!

Invite
Invitation

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Welcome Sign
Welcome Sign

We decorated with balloons and popcorn bags, and served popcorn, cake pops, snap-crackle-POP rice crispy treats, and popcorn-themed cupcakes! We also had veggies, croissant sandwiches, and fruit bowls.

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Balloon

The day before the shower we met at Erica’s parents’ house to organize the decorations and make the snacks. Between her mom, aunts, cousins, and friends, Erica & Nic have an incredible support system.

Cousin, Aunt, & Mom
Cousin, Aunt, & Mom

Erica and I slaved over cake pops (which we gave out as favors), but the most tedious task was the popcorn cupcakes.

Cake pop

We cut the marshmallows, stuck them to the cupcakes with icing, and then sprayed an edible yellow coloring over the finished products.

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The first step was to cut an “X” into mini-marshmallows.

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Our popcorn cupcakes!
Our popcorn cupcakes!

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Dessert table

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Punch & water

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Popcorn table: butter, white chocolate hull-less, white cheddar, & chocolate-drizzled caramel corn.

We played three games before eating. The first game was a memorization game with a tray of baby objects. The second game was a POP Quiz about Erica, Nic, and pregnancy in general. The last game was a word scramble.

Scramble
Click on the picture to find your own printable games!

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Quiz

I didn’t get a picture of the trophies, but they were based on these Pinterest beauties:

My based was square and the bottles were painted gold, silver, and pink, then filled with candy.
My bases were square and the bottles were painted gold, silver, and pink, then filled with candy.

It was such a fun day and the new parents got so many adorable outfits and useful items!

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Erica & her mom, Paula
Erica & her mom, Paula

I am SO excited to meet their baby girl! Congratulations, Nic & Erica!

Erica

-Louise

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Actual Jell-O Shots

For my Halloween party I made Jell-O shots in a syringe. They’re a smaller dose of shot-y goodness, but they are SO much easier than running your finger (or tongue) around the edge of the shot glass. These are super easy and they make a TON since it’s such a small dose.

At your local drug store ask for a box of oral syringes. They may have to order these- plan ahead. (These are what they give you at the vet to drug your cat.) Weird, I know. The pharmacist is going to look at you like you’re a nut, but they’re not expensive and they’re cool– which is what’s actually important.

Let’s do this…

1 oz. box of Jell-O
Water
Alcohol that goes well with your Jell-O flavor (like black cherry Jell-O and Malibu Strawberry & Whipped Cream Rum)

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For a 1 oz. package of Jell-O mix you’ll need 1 cup of water & 1 cup of alcohol.
Mix your 1 cup of booze with 1/4 cup of water and refrigerate ahead of time.

Put your remaining 3/4 cup of water in a small pan and bring it to a boil.

Pour Jell-O powder in a mixing bowl and add the boiling water, stirring until the powder is totally dissolved (2-3 minutes).

Once combined, add your cold water/booze mixture and stir.
*It’s important that this mixture is cold because the high temperature of the boiled water (allegedly) has the ability to weaken the alcohol. I’m not a scientist, but I was warned so I’m just passing that along.

Now that your concoction is made it’s time to suck it up into a syringe.

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Push all the air, put the open end into the liquid, & then suck it up!

Ignore the mess... Yes, an actual Jell-O shot in an actual syringe.
The syringes came with caps, so put a cap on that puppy!

Store the shots in mugs and stick them in the fridge for AT LEAST 4 hours.
I make mine the day before I need them.

Enjoy your crazy creations!