The other day I found an old journal of mine from 2010. In it, I documented some goals that were more like ideals of how I want to be living. Here is what I wrote for the “food” category:
Looking back, this was also right after I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I would say that this is the time my “real food” journey began.
My real food journey
Since then I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with the process. Having kids to feed was a big incentive to do better. Completing whole30 was a huge step. Nowadays we have some health issues in our family – nothing huge, and nothing specific like food allergies – but nevertheless, it’s given me the kick in the pants needed to take this to the next level.
For the past year I’ve been pretty good about meal planning and cooking; it’s been necessary because of how tight our budget is. However, some processed foods have remained in our diets, the Chick-fil-a dinners became a little too frequent, and we had amassed a store of too much candy and unfortunately Meredith knew where to look for it. Also, to be honest I had gotten lazy about trying new meals and I think we were all getting tired of eating the same things over and over.
So I was inspired to give Frugal Real Food Meal Plans a try. I have been following Tiffany’s blog for some time, and it has just been the most incredible resource. I was pretty sure I would like the meal plans, but just to be sure I downloaded the 14-day sample plan. I wanted to see the meals and the setup – and sure enough, it looked great.
I wanted to test out the plan for a month before committing to an extended subscription, so I signed up for the month-to-month option ($15). Then if we like it and find that it’s helping us, I think I’ll sign up for the 3-month, and eventually go for the year-long subscription to get the best value.
So here is what I did, in kind of a step-by-step way, to get us going eating (almost) all non-processed food using the meal plans:
1. First I read through the plan. It’s almost 200 pages long, but most of that is recipes. I read all the notes, all the prep, all the lists, and skimmed the recipes.
2. I crossed out a few of the recipes that I knew wouldn’t work for us. For example, I do NOT eat seafood. So we won’t be making the clam chowder. :)
3. I read through all of the recipes carefully. This was time consuming. Some of the recipes have ingredients that also have to be made from scratch. When reading I was trying to decide how long the meal would take to prepare, and whether prep could be done ahead of time. Basically, I needed to know if it was suitable for a weeknight, after-work meal or whether I’d have to make it on the weekend. Next to each recipe on the plan I wrote: short (10-30 min), medium (30-60 min), or long (an hour or more). If it was more than an hour I tried to estimate how long it would take and I wrote that down too.
4. I printed out a blank calendar for the month and put in any events that we had scheduled that would affect our dinner plans.
5. I filled out the blank calendar with the meals on it, but personalized for us. I left off the meals we wouldn’t be eating, and rearranged a few due to time constraints and scheduling. I made sure to notice if one meal used leftover ingredients from a previous meal, and in that case I kept those meals in order.
6. I scheduled the meal prep. If something can be done ahead of time, I want to do it. On the calendar, I wrote in red what prep needs to be done each day.
7. I decided what I was going to be buying instead of making from scratch. Maybe one day I’ll be able to make everything from scratch, but I don’t want to get too overwhelmed. For now, I’m going to be buying: canned beans, tortillas, corn chips/taco shells, bread, and yogurt. I’m going to try to make from scratch all sauces.
8. I read through the recipes again, this time focusing on ingredients. At the same time, I made my shopping list. I decided not to use the one that was provided because of all the adjustments I made, and I want to do our shopping on a weekly basis.
After all this, I felt like I had a really solid plan. I’m not going to lie – it took me several hours. But I had a really good feel for what the process is like, and a plan for the entire month. The second month I used the plan it all went MUCH faster, too.
There were just a couple more prep steps for me. First, I cleared our kitchen of almost all the processed & junk food we had built up. I threw some of it away and donated the rest. Then, I sent David shopping for my grocery list!
For me, the actual “executing” of the meal plan started on a Sunday. I don’t even want to tell you what all I had to YouTube that day, but it included things such as “how to seed a cucumber” and “how to slice brisket.” Guys, there is a LOT about cooking that I don’t know! That day I spent probably 2-3 hours in the kitchen, but I got a meal made and lots of things prepped for the week.
I’ve been using the plan for two months now and it’s been a big success. We still eat processed food sometimes, but at least I know that most of our meals are going to be nutritious. Everything has gotten easier and it fits in to my working mom lifestyle. Eventually I’d love to branch out into making more things from scratch, but for now – baby steps!
You get an entire library of homemaking ebooks and ecourses, and these meal plans are included! SUCH a great deal. It’s only available until next Monday though! I’m a huge fan of these bundles and can’t wait to dig into this one. Let me know if you have any questions!