So, due to popular demand, I am going to attempt to post my monthly meal-planning (in the next post). The reason I plan one month at a time is because I HATE thinking about what to make for dinner and this way I really only have to think about it once a month! LOVE IT! I also prefer to cook healthy, nutritious, whole foods (as much as possible) with very minimal (if any) processed foods. I TRY to use what's in season and get it as "locally" as possible.
First, let me tell you how I put my menu plans together. First, I come up with a list of "categories" - mine are Beef, Chicken, Vegetarian, Soup or Salad, Fish and Fun Foods. Then I come up with about 5 recipes in each category, which I rotate until we get sick of them!!! HA! I try to do fish once a week and at least one or 2 "meatless" meals (to cut down on costs and to try to get more nutrients and vitamins in!). You can then pick certain days to correspond with your categories - for instance, Sundays = crockpot meals, Mondays = soup or salad night, Tuesdays = vegetarian, etc. Our Saturday nights are "fun food nights" so we often have homemade pizza and occasionally we alternate it with hamburgers on the grill or hotdogs in our fireplace!
IF you can connect with a food co-op near you, you will likely be assured good, quality food that is as unprocessed as possible. Using local farms is great too!! BUT IF NOT, no worries - try to start with one category below and find a local, natural source to get it from! Just start with one at a time otherwise it is overwhelming! At the very least, planning your meals will help save money as you will go to the store and ONLY buy what you NEED!!! It also prevents eating fast-food or eating out a lot (both costly physically and financially!)
Here's where I get my food from (I try NOT to go to the grocery store very much - save that for quick runs when we need things in between ordering from our co-op, or for things like Pull-ups, etc):
*We usually purchase a 1/4 of a cow twice a year for our beef so that we get the good grass-fed kind. I'm sure I will blog on the importance of using this kind of meat at some point.
THEN, I am part of a group of families who purchase through a co-op that we have together. The woman in charge has been doing this for a long time. She has a schedule and we are generally there to pick up food from various "vendors" once or twice a month. So, another good reason to plan meals a month at a time.
Our co-op orders from:
*From Costco (www.costco.com) I get our chicken (skinless/boneless chicken breasts) as well as Fryer Chickens once in a while, toilet paper, paper towels/napkins, nuts (they are the cheapest here!) and my one weakness, Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate chips!
*From Azure Standard (www.azurestandard.com) I purchase dried beans (SO much more economical) and soak them overnight before I use them. Along with my beans I purchase grains, flour and pantry items (such as baking items, canned goods, frozen items, etc), as well as some dairy. There are some local dairies that provide milk and cheese too, that I often use. I think you can order individually from it as well, but there is likely a minimum order amount.
*From Peterson Cheese Company I purchase my mozzarella and cheddar cheese (I usually try to purchase RAW cheese) as well as some great raw, natural italian sausage that I buy in bulk and freeze in approx. 1-lb balls in my freezer! They often have a great selection of natural/fancy cheeses, too that we often try - their Parmesan-Reggiano is the BEST!!
*Charlie's Produce out of Seattle - My produce is all organic and I get that through our co-op as well. Sometimes I end up with more than I need, so sometimes if the produce is freeze-able, I par-boil (boil for like 1 or 2 minutes) and then freeze, to pull out for soups, etc.
* We also get our coffee from Coffee Bean International (http://www.coffeebeanintl.com). They have some great organic, shade-grown varieties).
For the sake of time, I'm just going to focus on dinners first - I will put this in my next post, but at least wanted to get this much up tonight so you all can start working on assembling your recipes....if you need ideas, check back soon and you can use the menu I use!!! I will add some of our favorite breakfasts and lunches later!