It’s the beginning of a new month and I always love the beginning of each month because I like to treat it much like many people treat the New Year – a chance for a fresh start and to do everything better than you have in the past.  A new month is a whole new opportunity to make your life what you want it to be.

One of my main issues last month was the amount of money I ended up spending on food.  In an effort to reduce my spending and stick to my grocery budget better, I made it a personal goal to meal plan for the whole month of February and really stick to it.  Meal planning makes such a HUGE difference because then you are only buying items that you are sure you need for things that you definitely plan on making.  I am doing this in two parts to make it easier – the first two weeks of the month and the last two.  This way I only have to grocery shop twice in a month and I can just divide my grocery budget by two and that is what I can spend during my first trip.

FIRST STEP – CHOOSE YOUR RECIPES

The first step to creating your meal plan is to choose your recipes.  While I wanted to incorporate many AIP approved recipes this month, I am still not following a strict AIP diet because I feel that if I really want to do it right I need the guidance of a functional medicine doctor.  Overall my goal is to eat a lot healthier than last month without making myself miserable with strict limitations.  Obviously my two weeks of strict AIP at the end of December ended up with me rebounding on hoards of chocolate, so I am taking a more moderate approach to what I eat for the time being.

As you’ve seen in a previous post, I just got a new Ninja blender system and have a goal of incorporating more healthy smoothies into my diet, particularly in the mornings before work.  This gave me a good starting place for my meal planning, so I used Pinterest to pick out some healthy smoothie recipes to try.  Once I had picked some smoothies I made sure to pick out some snacks, sides, entrees and a soup that I have been wanting to try.  In the end my list looked like this:

Smoothies:

Healthy Sides:

Snacks:

Entrees:

SECOND STEP – MAKE A GROCERY LIST AND STICK TO IT

Once I had my list formulated I moved on to the second step, which is to make a grocery list and stick to it.  I used a piece of graph paper to write down each recipe with its ingredients and the amount of each ingredient needed.

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This is how my list looked, although some recipes are crossed out because I started crossing them out as I was preparing them and I didn’t think to take the picture until then (oops).

After I was done with that, I went down the list with the ingredients for each recipe and used it to make a grocery list of all of the ingredients that I didn’t already have in the house.  To make my life easier and make sure I was sticking to my budget, I went online to Wegmans.com and created a shopping list with all of the groceries on my written list.  I don’t know if the rest of you shop at Wegmans, but their online features and app make grocery shopping so much easier if you have an account with them.  Not only does it separate the items in your list by aisle so they are easy to find (which is a huge help because my Wegmans is gigantic and I get lost in it so easily), but it also tallies up the cost of everything so that you have a grand total of what you should expect to spend.  Getting an approximate grand total for all the items I need before I even enter the store is crucial to me sticking to me grocery budget.  My mom and I went to Wegmans on Sunday and picked up everything on my list, so I was able to get a head start on meal prepping Sunday night, which is our next and last step.

THIRD STEP – COOK AND PREP YOUR RECIPES

Once you have all of your ingredients on hand, it is time to refer to your recipes and to cook and prep everything you planned to make.  The first few things I chose to make Sunday night were Abby Pollock’s BBQ shredded chicken in the crockpot (because crockpot meals are easy and awesome), pina colada bars, and garlic and lemon roasted cauliflower.

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One portion of the Garlic and Lemon Roasted Cauliflower

I totally forgot to toss the cauliflower with parsley once it was done, but I think the parsley was mostly for a garnish anyway.  It still tastes good.

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Pina Colada Bars

The pina colada bars had limited ingredients and seemed super simple to make.  Not so much it seems.  It involved pineapple puree, which I was able to make easily with my Ninja blender, but I think I used too much puree.  It called for a cup but since I pureed a little over a cup in the blender and didn’t want to throw any out I just used it all.  Also, you mix the puree with coconut butter and the coconut butter wasn’t melted, although the recipe doesn’t seem to specify that it needs to be melted.  I think that because of this, the coconut butter didn’t mix well with the puree so the “bars” don’t really stay solid and together.  I think that if I make this again I would use less puree (only the cup it calls for) and melt the coconut butter so that the coconut butter mixes with the puree better.  That way when I put it in the fridge it should actually harden into a real bar.  Even though it doesn’t stay in bar form, it tastes good enough that I am just going to probably eat it with a spoon as a sweet treat.

The BBQ shredded chicken looks like BBQ shredded chicken – nothing special there.  If I were to do the recipe over again (which I am sure I will) I would use only 1 cup of chicken stock.  It called for 1-2 cups, which is a huge variable, and I think the sauce ended up being a bit watery.  I would have preferred it thicker.

Last night I prepared the liver detox sauerkraut.  Shredding the beets and apple in my Ninja food processor worked exceptionally well, although beets make a bloody mess everywhere.  I am just loving my Ninja so far.  My traditional recipe sauerkraut is progressing along as well.

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Traditional Recipe Sauerkraut on the left after 2 weeks and Liver Detox Sauerkraut on the right

As far as the smoothies go, I didn’t take pictures but the collagen berry green smoothie was really good and had a nice thick texture due to the collagen.  The black forest smoothie – which I was pretty excited about because I love chocolate – was pretty disgusting.  I ended up dumping most of it down my sink.  Not going to make that recipe again.  The golden turmeric smoothie calls for coconut milk, which I plan to make at home tonight.  I also need coconut cream from the coconut milk for the AIP cream of broccoli soup.  I just got a nut milk bag last night to strain the coconut milk after blending it, so that should be an interesting experience this evening.  I also am hoping to make the AIP bbq sauce and chicken bbq meatballs tonight.  I needed a good bit of cherries for the AIP bbq sauce recipe, so I tried finding pitted frozen cherries when I was grocery shopping to no avail.  I ended up buying a good bit of fresh cherries and taking the time to pit them individually with a paring knife.  Not a fun time.  Much like my experience with the beets, cherry juice ended up everywhere (even on my laptop – waaaaah).  In the future, if I continue to cook with cherries I am going to invest in a cheap cherry pitter.

If you have any questions about recipes or whether or not they are AIP approved, feel free to leave a comment for me.  I tried to include as many links as possible.

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