When Cody and I got married in 2014, I was an embarrassment in the kitchen. I seriously knew NOTHING about cooking or meal planning. My best kitchen skill was boiling water, and my frozen pizza game was on point, but beyond that? I had never used a grill. Plus, I didn’t know how to steam veggies unless they come in the microwave steamer bags. Raw meat made me cringe, and I avoided touching it by any means possible. I couldn’t cut anything, or even use a grown-up knife. Literally, I used one of those giant plastic lettuce knives to cut everything from meat to tomatoes.
Cody on the other hand had worked as a cook and bartender at a restaurant for a number of years. Ladies – marry a bartender/cook. Trust me. However, because of our schedules, I was left making most of the meals, so I had to learn and learn FAST.
For the first few months, we would just make a few random things that I could figure out and maybe one or two complicated recipes that would leave me almost in tears while Cody finished them when he got home. I felt like a failure of a wife. Not only that, but we were spending SO MUCH on groceries and had no idea how to fix that.
Changing the focus to the budget
Cooking clearly didn’t come naturally to me, but I liked the idea of budgeting, so I figured out a plan. Each week I would follow these meal planning steps to saving us money.
- Check to see what we had leftover in the fridge and pantry and what meals we could make from that.
- Pull together all the ads from local grocery stores to see what was on sale. Zucchini? Great. We’ll have zucchini boats.
- Add in a few other low-cost meals. You know, rice and beans and such.
- Make a list of all the ingredients we will need and cross of what we already have or what we can make do without.
- Grocery shop, often at three places just to get the best deals.
- Inevitably forget something and have to send Cody out to the nearest store (which was crazy expensive).
It worked. We were spending $50 a week on groceries. The downside? This whole meal planning process would often take three or more hours plus shopping time. It became exhausting, and I knew there were so many other things I could be doing with this time. I started to resent Cody for it, because clearly he didn’t appreciate all the work I was doing to get halfway decent meals on the table without breaking the bank.
We followed this process for a few years. It worked, but it wasn’t super enjoyable. I did get faster at prepping the meals, but that was mainly because we rotated through the same 10-15 meals all the time. We were also only eating “healthy-ish” – it was all homemade, but not super nutritious. We spent all this time making homemade meals, but in all actuality, they weren’t much healthier than just eating out. Our lack of a balanced diet left me 25lbs heavier than in college and Cody 25lbs lighter (the man needed some protein).
Taking back the kitchen (and our health)
Now we are a part of an amazing program that gives us brand new meals each week, created by a registered dietician. She sends us the meals, a grocery list, and a list of what we can prep ahead of time to make dinner run more smoothly. That’s right – I do no meal planning! We are getting a balanced diet with lots of protein. After one month, I am down a few pounds and Cody is building some muscle, just because we are getting the nutrients we need. We are spending a little bit more (roughly $80/week), but the health benefits and time saved is SO worth it! Plus the recipes are incredible and make me feel like my kitchen skills are amazing. We are taking back the kitchen, one healthy meal at a time!
If you would like more information on this way of meal planning or want to join us (we have a Facebook group with a week of free recipes you can test out), please contact me. I’d love to help you take back your kitchen as well!