Time for another food post, but this is kind of a “bonus” post, because you don’t just get a recipe–you get a tip! 🙂
My tip revolves around meal planning. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I do not like to cook. Baking, I love, but cooking, not so much. Maybe because baking isn’t required, while cooking is (you have to eat, right?). Or maybe it’s because baking leads to special, yummy things. 😉 At any rate, for the first 15 or so years of my marriage, I cooked when I had to, but for the most part, my husband was the family chef. (And darn good at it, too!)
Then, last July, our family was hit with a big shocker–my husband was forced to take a 10% paycut. 🙁 On top of that, his health care premiums more than doubled. It was a real blow to my sometimes laissez faire budgeting method. Don’t get me wrong, we are not poor by any means, and a 10% cut is nothing compared to a 100% cut of losing his job, but it very quickly became apparent to me that we were being irresponsible in our spending and needed to rein things in.
One area where it was easy to see a need for improvement was in grocery spending. Here’s how our typical grocery shopping regimen would go: I would go grocery shopping every payday (once every two weeks), spending several hundred dollars on food, etc. Then, invariably, on one of his days off (when he cooks), my husband would call me at work during the week and say something like, “So, what do you feel like for dinner?” This would drive me crazy, because he usually called me right before I left work, and since it was obvious that he was just starting to think about dinner, it would obviously not be ready by the time I got home. This is very difficult when you’re dieting–and starving! So then I’d try to think of something to eat (which frustrated me, since I don’t like to cook), and no matter what I’d choose, I would always pick something for which we needed ingredients. That meant a trip to Meijer’s on my way home, where I’d drop another $30-40. Not to mention, it meant dinner wouldn’t get started until I got home!
When we had the big paycut, I decided it was time for a change. I decided we (I) would start planning our meals for two weeks at a time. My husband has a notebook of his best recipes, and I used it to come up with meal plans for two weeks. My method was incredibly complicated–I wrote them out on a yellow steno pad. 😉
Yeah, okay, it’s pretty low-fi, but it works! Using my hand-written menu plan, I can grocery shop for a two-week period. It’s a bit of work, but I do it, and I love knowing that I have all the ingredients for our dinners for two full weeks–no more “extraneous” trips to Meijer’s, where I always find more things to spend money on! And, as an added bonus, there are no more “what do you want for dinner” phone calls at 4:45pm. 😛
My husband has been willing to work within the new system, but he was constantly badgering me to put our menu plan “online.” I fought it for a long time, but I’ll admit that I wished I could make our meal planning more “automated.” Eventually, he downloaded a new app to our phones that intrigued me: the Menu Planner. I poked around in the Menu Planner app for a while, and quickly came to realize that, with some serious up-front work, I could save a lot of time! Basically, you enter ALL your recipes into the Menu Planner, creating not only recipes but specific ingredients. Once you had them entered, you could then assign them to days on a calendar, and as you added them to your “menu plan,” the ingredients for each recipe would automatically populate to a grocery list. You could alter the grocery list as needed (I have plenty of baking soda on hand, thanks! ;)), and then, you could add other things to it, ie, things that aren’t part of your recipes but that you buy pretty much all the time. (Toilet paper and saline solution, anyone?) Once you have your list set, you just take your device (iPad, iPhone, etc.) to the store with you, and you can easily check off items as you buy them. If you’re REALLY on the ball, you’ve set categories for your items, based on the way your favorite store is organized, so that when you’re in the “baking” aisle, you know what items you need to purchase there. And then you’re less likely to have to back-track in the grocery store because you’re in aisle 7, and you forgot to get something in aisle 12!
I won’t lie…I really love this app. I love being able to plan my meals, and knowing that I have two weeks of meals figured out in advance. Below is what the month of June looked like for us.
Yes, it takes a great deal of work to put all my recipes in it (and I’m not done yet!), and it also takes time to actually plan out the meals. But when I plan them, I take the time to look at our family Google calendar, so that I know when we’ll be at hockey or baseball until 8pm, and thus will need a crockpot recipe that’s done when we walk in the door. Or when we’ll need to stop at Subway on the way home because otherwise we won’t be eating until 9pm! It not only keeps our budget in check, it helps me stay on my diet, because, as everyone knows, planning is a key to staying a program like Weight Watchers.
So, that’s my tip for the day. And now, here’s my recipe…it actually comes from my other great meal-planning resource: Pinterest! When I started planning meals, I was desperate for new ideas, and that’s when I discovered Pinterest. I don’t do much on Pinterest except pin recipes, but I’ve found a LOT of great recipes there! I love that I can search for crockpot recipes, chicken recipes, desserts, or just browse my friends’ pins, and find some great stuff! I’ve finally figured out how to make my recipes “Pinable” (is that a word??), so you are welcomed to pin any recipes you see that you like. (In all fairness, most of my recipes will be from other sources that I found on Pinterest.) And feel free to follow me on Pinterest if you wish! (The link is on the sidebar of my blog pages.)
The recipe below is one we had for dinner last night (it was on the menu plan!). It was one I found on Pinterest, pinned by Stockpiling Moms. It’s really just grilled chicken with a marinade, which is yummy for sure, but I always struggle with calculating Weight Watcher points for a marinade recipe. I mean, you use half the sauce for the marinade, which you then throw away when you’re done with it. And damn it, I don’t think I should have to count the points for that! 😛 Usually, when I do a marinade, I increase the number the number of servings, or decrease the ingredient amounts, to make up for what doesn’t get used. For this one, I lessened some of the ingredient amounts to lighten it up a bit, and then I split it up into 8 servings in eTools (even though I only had four chicken breasts) to account for the amount I threw away. Based on that, the sauce was 2 points per serving. Don’t forget to add in your chicken breast points! (I usually do that separate just because it’s easier for me. I’m really good at eyeballing chicken breast portions!)
Here’s another tip for you, from my husband: when you have a recipe that calls for both oil and honey, put the oil in the measuring cup first, and swirl it all around. Then, when you put the honey in the same measuring cup, it will slide right out with ease! Here’s the honey in the oil-coated measuring glass.
Here’s the honey sliding right out of the glass.
Here’s photographic proof that I will never be a professional food-blogger.
Next time, I’ll enlist help so that someone else is pouring the honey while I’m taking the picture. 😉
Here are the ingredients in the food processor before blending.
And here’s the final outcome.
I won’t lie…my kids were not fond of this. They seem to have an aversion to thyme for some reason. 🙁 But I loved it, and I plan to keep making it until they succumb to my will. 😉 Meanwhile, they covered their chicken in French’s mustard (*eyeroll*) until they couldn’t taste the sauce. 😉
Hope you enjoy this recipe! Thanks for stopping by!
Caribbean Chicken Recipe
Modified from: Stockpiling Moms
Serves: 4 (sauce divided into 8 servings for WW point calculations to account for marinade that is not used)
WW PointsPlus: 2 points for the sauce based on tossing half the marinade and using the rest for four chicken breasts; points for the chicken will vary depending on how big your pieces are, but mine usually come out to 4 points each
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
- 6 green onions, sliced
- 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chiles
- 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
- In a blender, combine the first nine ingredients, cover and process until smooth.
- Pour ½ of mixture into a small bowl for basting; cover and refrigerate.
- Pour remaining marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add chicken.
- Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for up to 6 hours.*
- Drain and discard marinade.
- Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat, until done, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.
* Note: I never, ever have the forethought or time to get something marinading for longer than 30 minutes. It may not be as awesome using my 30-minute method, but it works.