Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dinner Planning Made Easy: E-Mealz

So with having the baby and our schedules being dependent on his - planning dinners/meals has been harder than usual.  I've been good about going through the freezer and making a list of what we have and using up whats there.  The part that is hard is the 5:30 stare down when Ryan gets home from work.  We're both exhausted enough to not come up with an idea for dinner.  The meals I do plan and that we've had on hand are the easy ones - but they are getting old.  We've been eating those standard meals for probably the last 3 months because we needed easy & mindless and something we could both have.  Soooo - this brings me to the title of this blog post: E-Mealz!  I read about this probably 3 weeks ago online.  Dave Ramsey (financial guru) endorses it.  It looked like something we'd definitely use and something we need right now.  So I checked into it... 

The breakdown of E-Mealz (from what I've read) is they provide a weekly menu for you and your family.  This menu then comes with a shopping list.  The shopping list is matched up with specific stores (for example, Wal-Mart/Aldi/WholeFoods/etc.)  So it allows you to use the weekly Ad to make the most affordable meals.  There are 2 types of plans, but both cost the same.  One plan is for 3-6 servings with 7 menu options each week and the other is for 1-2 servings with 5 menu options each week.  We're planning to go with the 3-6 serving meal plan and use any leftovers for lunch the next day.  Here is where the budget part comes in.  Other than the "staples" most people have in their pantries (salt, flour, olive oil, etc) you're weekly grocery bill should come out to around $75-85 on the 3-6 serving plan or $35-45 on the 1-2 serving plan.  That is what hooked me on trying this!  If we could keep our weekly food cost to $75 + breakfast/lunch items we need - we might be able to keep buying all the formula this child needs!  And man does he like to eat! 
I haven't ordered it yet because we're still working through the meals we have plus the meals my friend Carley got us as our "new parent" gift.  She was awesome and got us 8 meals worth of prepared meals from this place called Dream Dinners.  Perfect for new parents short on time, energy and brain function : )  The reason I wanted to blog about the E-Mealz today is because there is currently a Groupon sale going on (looks like its valid until Wednesday night if they don't sell out).  To buy a full year worth of menu's/shopping lists it's $58.  Normally, you can enter the promo code "DAVE" to save yourself 15% - making each menu plan less than $1 per week.  They also have 3 and 6 month subscriptions that the code will work on.  But on Groupon, they are offering a 1 year subscription (normally $58) for $29!!!  That's 50% off and brings your weekly meal planning down to around 50 cents a week!  SOLD!  So I bought the Groupon last night and plan to order our first menu once we are down to 3-4 meals left to make here at the house.  You have until July to place your order using the groupon code - but you actually pay the $29 to groupon, so nothing is owed to E-Mealz.  If you don't have an account through Groupon - go here to sign up!
A few other perks that I really think are great:
1) They have different types of menus to select from.  You can do a standard menu, low fat option, low carb option, gluten free option, vegetarian option (this would be perfect for my sister!), portion controlled option (this includes Weight Watcher points - they just aren't allowed to call them that), and an organic/natural option. 
2) Each ingredient item on your shopping list has a number next to it to tell you what meal it's for.  For example, if meal number 5 for the week is a cod bake - and we don't eat cod (we don't) - then I just go through and cross off all the ingredients/shopping list items needed for meal 5 and come up with something else or maybe - just maybe we get a sitter and go out for dinner!  A girl can dream ; )
3) You log into the site each week to get your menu/shopping list and you can save it as a pdf to your own computer.  This is awesome!  I'll just create a folder on my desk-top and drag the menus each week into there.  That means I could have menus for the following year if I didn't want to keep subscribing. (This also means you could share the menu via email with other people - but that really only hurts the company and is dishonest.  With deals like this on Groupon... people should just purchase it themselves!)

I think we plan to do the low fat or the standard menu.  I know enough about nutrition at this point that I can sub out ingredients for more healthy options when making the meals. We also plan to purchase the Walmart plan.  None of the other grocery stores on the list are around here.  Walmart is about a 20 minute drive from us and I DESPISE shopping at Wal-Mart out here for groceries... but I have a feeling it would help the budget.  Because I'm not willing to give up my gas points from Giant just yet - I'll go through the menu with the prices listed on the Wal-mart menu and comparison shop at Giant first. If I can get it cheaper at Giant, I will.  Otherwise - I'll make the trek to Wal-mart and get the items there.  (Just a quick note - the store specific menus come with the cost per item on your shopping list - so it's easy to price compare at another store!).

So that's the plan.  We'll start using the meal planning option in the next 2 weeks or so and I'll keep you posted (hopefully through recipe postings).  Let me know if you decide to try it and how it works!

Recommended Calorie Counting App!

Baby is sleeping for a few minutes and I thought I'd take a minute to let you all know what's going on with our food around here. 

Random thoughts to start - New favorite "treat": microwaveable sweet potato with 1/2 tbsp of margarine and splenda brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon AND spice chai tea (I'm liking the Twinings brand) with 2 packets of equal.  Yum Yum Yum - and for low calories!

So that brings me to my next point... calories.  Ah, calories.  Now that the baby is here - my weight has been slowly coming back.  Nothing drastic, but there is a trend of about a half pound a week.  I'm still at 175, but I was at 172 (for my 2 year anniversary of my surgery... pictures were taken, just haven't had time to get them loaded and posted).  A few things are probably contributing to the slow creep up in my weight. 1) lack of activity with me being at home.  The baby likes to be rocked... a lot - which means my butt is in the chair.  2) Late night snacking/eating for "2" even though I'm now "1" again and 3) carbs and whites whatever.  I'm not going to go nuts with trying to make drastic changes because I know that doesn't usually stick and we're still adjusting to our new baby driven schedule around here.
What I am doing is using an app on my phone to track my calories/eating throughout the day.  I'm trying to keep my calories between 1600-1800 each day and make sure I get at least 75 grams of protein in each day.  This would be even better if I attempted to cut back on the carbs... but that would most likely be taking on too much at this point.  Before I had my surgery, I used the same app to track my calories/protein/sugar/carbs and I lost 20 pounds in about 3 months.  It's all about tracking with me.  The idea of "intuitive" eating just does not exist in my mind!  My intuition just tells me to eat eat eat (especially now that my appetite/hunger pains are back).  I really enjoy this app and it's free!  Almost like using a coupon ; ) There is an online site you can log into and then the mobile version.  My absolute FAVORITE feature of the app is the bar code scanner.  That's right - you can scan whatever product you're eating and it pulls up the nutrition information - then you just select the serving size you're eating and it's added to your food journal.  It's A-MAZING!  Here is a link to the online site: and if you're using the Android market, you can search for the free mobile app by typing in: "calorie counter" The image above is what the app looks like.  You can also track your exercise and weight on this.  I've been using this to track my weight for the last 2.5 years - it's pretty cool to go back and look at the graph of my loss : )

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crock Pot Pepper Steak

We had this for dinner the other night after Aiden's 1 month doc appointment.  We needed something that would be ready for us when we got home because we were short on time.  It worked out well and was pretty easy to prepare.  We'd both have it again and it made great leftovers for me the next day for lunch!

1-2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips (we just used 1 pound because that's what we had)
Garlic powder to taste
2.5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cube of beef bouillon
4 tablespoons of hot water
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 large green pepper - sliced into strips
1 large red pepper - sliced into strips
1 can (14.5 ounce) stewed tomatoes with liquid (we used diced tomatoes because that's what we had on hand)
2.5 tablespoons soy sauce (we use low sodium)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Rice (We used white, but brown would have been the healthier choice : )

1) Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste (we use quite a bit).  In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips.  Transfer to the crock pot.
2) Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved.  Pour into the crock pot with meat. Stir in onion, peppers, tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.
3) Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours or low 6-7 hours. 
4) Serve over rice.