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5 Easy Winter Meals + Meal Planning Tips

Can I just say FINALLY for the central California coast getting some cooler weather, like in the 70s, for the first time this year! There are no words to describe how excited I am for this chilly change of weather coming this week and there’s no better way to celebrate than with some warm, yummy soups, chilis and bakes.

Garlic Parmesan Chicken Lasagna Bake

via Pinch of Yum

Just within the past year I have fallen in love with a good bake. You can make them from your favorite traditional dishes and who doesn’t love a good excuse to add breadcrumbs to anything? I love lasagna and garlic parmesan is one of my favorite Italian flavors so how can you go wrong with a recipe like this?

Chicken Parmesan Soup

via Closet Cooking

Another favorite ingredient of mine: cheese. In that same breath, did you know that there’s a recent *study that claims cheese has the same neurological effect as cocaine and herion? That actually explains a lot about my cheese eating habits. But, with that being said, adding mozzarella to anything instantly makes it a better dish and this week I’m very excited to try a soup version of a traditional favorite: chicken parmesan. A great vegetarian alternative that my husband and I love making is eggplant parmesan. I’d be curious how this recipe would turn out when switching the chicken for eggplant. Hmm…

* via International Business Times

French Beef Stew with Red Wine

via Katie at the Kitchen Door

Put French in front of any recipe name and add potatoes and I’m game. Brisk weather and a good rustic stew go hand-in-hand and this recipe is savory, hearty and looks absolutely delicious. And did I mention it’s served atop garlic potatoes? OMG.

Homemade 30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

via Averie Cooks

My husband and I just made this dish tonight and it turned out great! I’ve been coming down with some pretty pesky allergies (or a cold) and this oldie but goodie has magical side affects in that it helped to soothe my sore throat and open up some of my sinuses. I look forward to packing this up and eating it for lunch all week. Bonus: just dip some slices of french bread (that I’ll also be using with my stew) and yum!

Beef & Bean Chili

via Weight Watchers

*If you’ve been a follower of my blog you know just how in love with Weight Watchers I am. I first began the weight loss program a few years ago to help me make attainable goals for myself and have a way to keep myself accountable for what I ate and how active I was each week. Obviously since getting pregnant I’ve had to pause my subscription, but it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying their recipes and discovering new ones. This chili quickly became one of our all-time favorites in our home and I’m excited it gets to make an appearance once again!

I am in no way sponsored by Weight Watchers. I just love their program and want to share my love and appreciation with you all!

meal plan.001

My husband and I have been meal planning for a few years now and we first began out of a need to save money. We originally were shopping at large name brand grocery stores and tried to stay within a $150/week budget. We found ourselves just grabbing what we thought we needed but realizing that we weren’t using everything we bought. Then, it occurred to us that when we became more organized with our grocery shopping we were able to save so much money, but more importantly, we were using all of our ingredients.

Here are easy tips and tricks that we use on a weekly basis and I hope you can find them to be useful in your own home! For more reading pleasure, read more about how we grocery shop here.

Plan out your weekly meals

Every weekend I dedicate an hour or so to finding new recipes to try or flipping through our recipe binder. It does take time, but it becomes so worth it to not have to think about what you’ll be cooking the following day and having all your needed ingredients ready and waiting for you.

Tip: Try creating a recipe binder where you print off or clip out favorite recipes so you have them on hand for the next time. Also, we write out our meals on chalkboard paper in our kitchen so we know which meal we’re making when. This tip is also great for families with kids so everyone knows, “what’s for dinner.”

Pick meals with similar ingredients

This is by far the next most important factor to consider when creating your meal plan. Try to plan your meals around the same ingredients so you’re sure to use all of them before the week is up. At TJs we can’t buy individual veggies (they typically come in a pack) so we try to find ways to use all those carrot and celery sticks. Tip: Consider making your own vegetable or chicken stock using leftovers! Save your veggie scraps in a gallon sized Ziploc in your freezer and use them later to create a stock for future recipes.

Create and use a grocery list and set a budget

This seems simple, but it’s so important to write down what you need and stick to your budget. Don’t fall victim to advertising or thinking you need that extra item. By all means budget for that pint of ice cream, but try to stick to your list the best you can. You’ll end up saving money over time and your wallet will thank you.

Shop smart, local, and fresh

 


Not only is meal planning important to help save money, but it’s important for your overall health too. My husband and I personally stick to Trader Joe’s and only rarely shop at major chains for those necessary items that TJs doesn’t carry. We’ve never been disappointed by their freshness, list of ingredients, prices or customer service so TJs has quickly become our main grocery store. Farmers Markets and specialty stores are other great alternatives because they carry fresh produce and veggies and are priced affordably without having to clip coupons.

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  • Your menu board is adorable! I don’t menu plan in the traditional sense because sometimes last minute things arise but I usually begin the week making two-three meals that we eat throughout the week. We’ll supplement with smoothies or breakfast for dinner.

    • Thank you! I am a bit guilty in that I don’t use it every single week, but it’s a great reminder for even just my husband and I. The 2-3 meals idea works too! It’s all about balance and finding ways to save 🙂

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