Eating Healthy on a Budget: Shopping the “Three A’s”

Eating Healthy on a Budget Three A's

Over the past three years, we have changed our eating habits dramatically.  I’ve been dealing with various medical issues for a while now and made the decision to eat real, whole foods once I realized how much better I felt after giving up processed foods.  Unfortunately, eating a more whole foods diet can be more expensive, but it still can be done on a budget.

With that said, we have increased our food budget over the past few years (being healthier overall should end up saving us money in the long run).  While we’ve had to cut back on other areas to free up more money for food, I don’t regret it.  Simplifying and eliminating “stuff” has allowed us to make this change, and I shop the “three A’s” to get the most bang for my buck!

The “Three A’s” that Help Me Stay on Budget

1)  Aldi

You know I love Aldi, right?!!  It’s been a great way to add a few more organic and gluten-free items into our diet and still keep the cost manageable.  I purchase lots of fruits and veggies, some fish, gluten-free pasta (on occasion), and some of their special buys.  Because we live about 45 miles away, I don’t usually get there frequently, but I’m sure to stock up when we’re there!

2)  Azure Standard

If you aren’t familiar with it, Azure Standard offers tons (and I mean tons) of natural and organic products for less.  Now, sometimes I can still find cheaper prices through Amazon or with certain sales at my local grocery store, but I find buying in bulk through them helps keep prices lower.  Also, purchasing items that are directly from Azure Standard farms can also save me money.  I like to buy sprouted rice, dry beans, canned tomatoes and sauces, raw cheese, butter, gluten-free noodles, and much more through them.

3)  Amazon

I pay attention to sales on natural and organic food items on Amazon to grab some great deals and help keep the budget low.  I often buy our dairy-free chocolate chips, coconut oil, almond butter, almonds, and more at Amazon.

I also utilize farms in our area, friends with chickens :) , Bountiful Baskets when I’m not able to get to Aldi, and preparing most of our food from scratch.  Those also help us to stay within our monthly food budget.

On a side note, if you’re are interested in eliminating processed foods from your diet, I share some ideas on how to transition to real food here

 

Homemaking

Don’t forget!  The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle sale ends in just a few days.  You can find some great helps in meal planning, whole food recipes, saving and living on a budget, and so much more!

FREE Menu Planning Printables + How I Make a Menu Plan

Over the past few years, one of the biggest money-savers for us has been menu planning. It’s also a top sanity-saver for this {trying-hard-to-simplify-my-life} mom!   Today, I wanted to share a little bit about how I menu plan, but first…

Weekly Menu Plan

I have some fun freebies for you!  You can grab this downloadable Weekly Menu Planner Printable right now as my gift to you!

Cute Menu Planning Printables

I also have this set of five cute printable menu planners available for email subscribers.  If you’re willing to let me in your inbox, I want to be sure to share some freebies just for you!  Be sure to sign up for my email subscription to get themIf you’re already a subscriber, be on the look-out for them in your inbox (check your spam folder if you aren’t seeing it)!

 

How to Make a Menu Plan

We all have different personalities and priorities, so there is no one “right” way to menu plan.  Because of that, I hesitated to even share–but I know how helpful it is to glean from others and then make your own system.

Right off the bat, you should know I am a weekly menu planner (some people are able to plan effectively for a month or two weeks at a time, but it makes me feel too constricted)!  Every weekend, I make time for a MWM (Meet with Me) meeting.  Yes…I meet with myself!!  :)  It is an essential part of staying sane as a wife, homeschool mom, and business owner.   The meeting encompasses much more than our menu, but it is the place where organizing our meals happens.

Here are the seven steps I use to make a menu plan:

1)  I grab whatever I’m using to record my menu plan (currently, I am using this Well-Planned Day planner, but sometimes I will use one of the printable sheets from my home management binder–especially if I want John to know and be able to help with the cooking that week).  I also get a few cookbooks and/or printed recipes and/or my recipe idea sheet.

2)  I take a look in the freezer and see what meat we have available.  I also check out the pantry just to get a general idea what we have in there.

3)  I peruse our local grocery store flier and jot down a few of the best sales.

4)  I look at our schedule for the upcoming week and pencil in if we need a quick meal option on a particular night or if I want to use the crock-pot.

5)  Considering what is in the pantry, freezer, and what’s on sale, I scratch down a few menu ideas IN PENCIL.  I always write in pencil so I can change our menu as needed!   (Sometimes I’ll use the internet to search for a recipe with the certain ingredients I already have on-hand.  Other times, I really want to try a recipe from a certain cookbook, so I’ll add it to my menu-and add the ingredients to my shopping list.)

6)  I usually plan our evening meals first.  Then, I’ll *guess* what meals might have leftovers and plug those into the lunch menu.  I also try to have a few simple lunch ideas on hand at all times–ingredients for a salad, items for omelettes, pb&j sandwiches with coconut bread, or soup.  Breakfast is usually fairly standard:  oatmeal, eggs and fruit, smoothie packs, apples with peanut butter, or muffins from the freezer.  Sometimes I buy organic, gluten-free cereal if I can get a good deal, but that isn’t very often!

7)  I try to review my menu plan each evening after dinner so I can pull meat out of the freezer or chop ingredients and prep ahead of time for the next day’s dinner.  This is easier to do as the girls have gotten older–they can now help with the dishwashing and prep, too!

I would emphasize that each week is different.  For example, if I’ve had time to tackle a huge freezer cooking day, I don’t really have to do much planning.  Lately, I haven’t done that quite as much, so the steps above are fairly standard for me at this point!  Also, this used to take me quite a while, but it definitely gets easier–and goes more quickly as you become more proficient.

What about you?   Are you a weekly, monthly, or day by day planner?  How do you make a menu plan?

Ham, Kale, & Navy Bean Stew (Served Over Homey Cheese Grits)

eMeals offers many kinds of menu plans to make things easier (you can see my review here).  The slow cooker eMeals plan is a favorite that utilizes ingredients available at your local grocery store and appeals to a broad range of tastes and preferences.  You can currently test out eMeals free for two weeks, too!

Here is a recipe that was recently featured on one of the weekly plans.  It would also freeze well if you want to make it a freezer cooking recipe!

Ham, Kale, Navy Bean Stew

Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Stew (served over Homey Cheese Grits)

Ingredients:

  • 6 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 (15-oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16-oz) package chopped kale (or collard greens)
  • 1 (28-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16-oz) package fully cooked cubed ham
  • 1 (32-oz) carton chicken broth

GRITS:

  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 (8-oz) package shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For Stew: Combine carrots, onion and potato in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Top with beans, kale, tomatoes and ham; pour in broth.

Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until vegetables are tender. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

For Grits: Cook grits according to package directions; stir in cheese and butter until blended and smooth. Serve stew over the grits.

Paleo Turkey & Bacon Meatballs

paleo meatballs

One of the recipes shared on the eMeals Paleo Menu Plan last week were these Turkey-Bacon Meatballs with Tomato Sauce.  I wanted to share the recipe with you and remind you that eMeals is now offering a FREE 14 day trial.  It’s a great chance to see how you like it, and if it would be something that works for you and your family.  I’ve been using it off and on for several years now, and it’s really handy in the busy seasons!

Paleo – Turkey-Bacon Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

    • 4 slices bacon
    • 2 lb lean ground turkey
    • 1 (8-oz) package sliced fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 T Italian seasoning
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 2 T coconut oil
    • 2 (14.5-oz) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes

Place bacon on a paper towel-lined plate; microwave on HIGH 1½ to 2 minutes or until crisp. Crumble bacon. Combine ground turkey, bacon, mushrooms, onion, Italian seasoning and egg; shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Heat oil in a large deep nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook meatballs 4 minutes or until browned and no longer pink in centers, stirring frequently. Remove from skillet, and keep warm. Add tomatoes to skillet; bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add meatballs to pan; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.