Weekly Meal Planning

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You’ve probably all heard about how meal planning saves your family’s time, health, money & helps you avoid last minute drive through suppers.  Well, all of those reasons are why I decided a few years ago to make meal planning a priority.  I can definitely say  it has saved me from many “5:00, what’s for supper?” panics!  Although the thought may seem daunting, it may not be as hard as you think.

I’ve tried different methods of meal planning, from doing a monthly plan, to a weekly plan, and have used different tools for keeping things organized.  I think I’ve finally settled on a method I really like.  The lovely Edie, over at life{in}grace suggested using a Google calendar to lay out your meal plan.  There are several things I love about this method.  I can view my calendar, or meal plan as it is, from my phone.  I can also type in or copy & paste the actual recipe into the calendar entry (or paste a link the the recipe if it’s online).  And, I can use the “repeat” option to schedule our favorite recipes to recur as often as we’d like.  So, I can set it to schedule hamburgers every other month, or plug in our Sunday night tradition of “mom’s night off from cooking” nachos.  As I continue to use it, a lot of the work is done for me!  If you’re looking to start meal planning, or if you’re in search of a new way to do it, definitely give this a try!

I love to plan things out, but flexibility is also a must for me!  Although I do plot out our suppers on specific days, I know well that meals will likely be shuffled around throughout the week to accommodate what we have planned for the evenings or simply because something sounds better one night than another.  As long as I have 5-6 meals laid out for the week, I know what to grocery shop for (if I don’t already have the ingredients on hand) & I don’t have to stress over what to make, because let’s be honest, often times this is a bigger task than actually making supper!

Supper is the only meal I consistently plan for around here.  Breakfasts tend to be a rotation of our good ‘ole stand by’s & lunches are almost always leftovers.  We do tend to snack a fair amount (aka, a lot – probably more than we should), so I try to plan out a couple of healthier snack options each week to have on hand, especially since we don’t do the typical processed stuff like store-bought cookies or crackers.

My meal planning day is always Monday.  This just seems to be the best time for me to look ahead to the rest of the week & make a plan.  If you do your grocery shopping over the weekend, Thursday or Friday may be a better day to look ahead to the following week.  If meal planning is a goal, find what works for you & stick to it.

Starting next week, I’ll be sharing my weekly meal plan here.  So if you’re in need of some fresh ideas, come back & check it out!


Azure Standard Delivery Day

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Azure delivery day is always exciting at our house, because every 4 weeks, this is where the majority of our groceries come from.  And, well, who doesn’t get excited about food?

If you’re not familiar with Azure Standard, here’s their “in a nutshell” description from their website:

We specialize in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products. We deliver directly to customers, buying clubs and retailers by semi truck and UPS.

I’ve been ordering from Azure for 4 years now & I love the selection of healthy products they offer at great prices.  Living in a small town where we don’t have all of the shopping options that a big city offers, it’s awesome to have this available.

Here are just a few of the things that we ordered this month…

Organic carrots, organic lettuce, sprouted wheat tortillas, mozzarella & raw white cheddar, yum!  And yes, those are both 5 pound blocks of cheese!  We’re a bit cheesy you could say :).  Also, cheese freezes great shredded!

Check out this watermelon!!  It’s huge!  And organic!  We’ve already cut this baby open & are enjoying every bite!

Whenever I talk to people about Azure, they always ask what I buy.  An easier question to answer might be what don’t I buy.  It wasn’t an immediate thing, but as I began ordering from Azure every month, I would look up more & more of the products I typically buy at the grocery store & found Azure offered a lot of the same types of products, from great brands & for a great price.  We get everything from fresh, in season produce, baking supplies, detergents, frozen veggies, bathroom products & so much more.  (No, this is not a commercial & I am not being compensated in any way for writing this post ;).)  I am working on a grocery shopping resource page where I’ll share more specifics on what we order, so keep an eye out for that if you are interested.

If you are in my local area & you are interested in giving Azure Standard a try, let me know & I can get you the details for ordering & delivery.  If you are located somewhere else, I’d encourage you to go to their website & see if they have a delivery point near you!

Disclaimer:  I do not work for Azure Standard nor was I compensated in any way for writing this post.  I simply love Azure & wanted to let everyone know.


Slow Cooker Black Beans

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There’s a few reasons you may want to consider buying & cooking dried black beans {or any variety of bean in fact} versus buying the canned type.

First, there’s the cost factor.  I haven’t taken the time to do the exact math on this, but I think it’s fairly obvious that dried beans are the more frugal way to go.

The other factor for me, is health.  Many of the cans that are used today still contain BPA {here’s just one article of many that you can find on the web about why we should avoid BPA} .  There are companies out there that have switched to a BPA-free can liner {Eden Organic is one brand that I know has} but they are a little harder to find & because of the better packaging, the price will be higher than others.  Rather than search out the BPA-free cans & pay the higher prices,  I just find it easier to go the dried beans route.

I buy my black beans {again, you can do this with about any variety of bean, black beans are just the kind we use the majority of the time} in bulk from Azure Standard, a natural food co-op {I plan to share more about them at a later date}.  I can get a 5 lb bag of organic black beans for less than $10 & that lasts us quite a while.

The first step in cooking your beans is to soak them overnight {be sure to pick through & toss out any pebbles or icky looking beans before covering in water too}…

Cover the beans with at least 2 inches of water.

In the morning, strain the beans in a colander & rinse with cold water…

Dump the beans into your slow cooker…

Use fresh water to cover the beans by at least 2 inches…

Cover & cook on low for about 8 hours.

Strain into your colander again.  To use in place of canned beans, use 1 2/3 c. of cooked beans in any recipe.

I like to make a large batch anytime I cook up some beans & then freeze them in small jars…