Tag Archives: family

New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The best way to celebrate the new year is with champagne and strawberries. These Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes make the perfect kickoff for a brand new year!

I am so excited for the new year!

More excited than I was to move to Florida. More excited than I was for Christmas.

What better way to celebrate the new year than with some bubbly champagne and delicious strawberries? That sounds like a good start to a new year to me.

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I have had such a build up of excitement lately. This feeling I think normally hits people in fall or spring but for me it is right now. I want to shed all of the dead weight of 2015 and start 2016 clean, new and fresh. I have so many ideas and projects in store. I just can’t wait to share all of them with you.

Of course I will be maintaining our special Fridays of delicious cupcake goodness (forgive this one for being a bit late (I know, I know, not a great start for a new year)). But, I also have some other great recipes to share that I know you are going to love and some projects I’ve been working on as well. My house is going to undergo some changes this year with planning and budgeting and maybe some inexpensive remodels too. I can’t wait to get underway!

But first, let’s have a cupcake!

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The natural inspiration for this cupcake was bubbly champagne. You pour a glass, you toast a friend, you kiss your love and that’s what New Years is all about. Well, for most folks anyway.

New Year Bubbly and Berry CupcakesCaptain Cupcakeasaurus was working at the station on New Year’s Eve so the kiddo and I packed a few glasses, grabbed a bottle of sparkling cranberry juice instead and toasted in the new year that way. Our family was together and that was the important part.

New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes

I am not one to just “miss out” though. When the holiday calls for champagne, we are going to have champagne dang it! It is funny because I have been craving ham for months now expecting it to come around for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Well, when my grandmother announced she wouldn’t be doing ham for either of those holidays I practically purchased a ham the same day and announced we would be having it for our New Year’s dinner. They were a great price at Aldi and I ended up buying two.  The point is, I’m not missing out on my ham either!

New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes

The natural pairing with champagne (outside of orange juice for a morning mimosa of course) is strawberries. This New Year Bubbly and Berry cupcake brings you both in a supremely sweet package. The cupcake has just a hint of champagne flavor so no need to splurge on fancy bubbly for this recipe. The cheap kind works just fine. The batter will be wetter than some of our other batters but it works out in the end.

New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes When they are ready to come out of the oven they actually resemble muffins in look and density.

New Year Bubbly and Berry CupcakesNew Year Bubbly and Berry CupcakesDon’t let that fool you though because topping them in a fluffy sweet Strawberry Buttercream makes for a delicious little cake. You can enjoy them on their own or go ahead and serve with bubbly good stuff.

New Year Bubbly and Berry CupcakesIt is time for the toast. Hold your glass high. Here is to a new year full of energy, fun, tasteful treats  and another year of making life taste sweet!

 

 

New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Light Champagne and strawberry cupcake topped with a sweet Strawberry Buttercream.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-25 minutes
New Year Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Light Champagne and strawberry cupcake topped with a sweet Strawberry Buttercream.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-25 minutes
Ingredients
Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes
Strawberry Butter Cream
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
Bubbly and Berry Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 24 cupcake tins with liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and strawberries on medium speed. Add in champagne and vegetable oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients a cup at a time into the ;large mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Batter will be quite wet.
  5. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cupcakes will resemble muffins. A toothpick will come out clean when done.
Strawberry Buttercream
  1. In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Add 4 cups powdered sugar and vanilla to the butter and mix on medium high until well blended.
  3. Add pureed strawberries a little at a time while mixing into the buttercream. Powdered sugar may need to be added to maintain firm frosting consistency after pureed strawberries are added.
  4. Pipe frosting on to cooled cupcakes and enjoy.
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Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Christmas festivities need a warm melting hot chocolate cupcake to keep spirits warm and bright.

Hey Guys!

Christmas is almost here and hopefully everyone is staying safe and not getting too overwhelmed this holiday season.

If you do feel a bit stressed, just grab a piece of chocolate and take a deep breath. The holiday is about love and giving not stressing out over gifts and making everyone happy.

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The Little Cupcakeasaurus Rex started Boy Scouts a few weeks ago and will be celebrating with them soon for a Christmas party. What kind of Cupcakeasaurus would I be if I didn’t volunteer to bring the cupcakes? I asked the kiddo for his favorite flavor as my jumping off point for this one.

Chocolate!

Can you blame him? Also, I enjoyed the Lindor white chocolate truffles so much in the White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes that I was excited to incorporate them again using milk chocolate this time. So, if we were in North Carolina or perhaps even farther north, then it would be cold enough to be enjoying hot cups of cocoa.

 

The Best Hot Chocolate

Now, I don’t know how you’re used to making your Hot Chocolate but I love making it for the little man by adding a few extras to make it really delicious and over the top. I do usually use a base of Swiss Miss and milk, not water. I’ll heat it on the stove and add in some chocolate syrup and a good bit of cinnamon.

After pouring into his favorite Spiderman mug, I add one milk chocolate truffle to melt into smooth rich chocolate. I top his with marshmallows though I typically prefer whip cream for myself. Then a little drizzle of chocolate syrup on top to really finish it off.

Ideally these are enjoyed just before dropping him off somewhere else so they can endure the sugar high from all the chocolate. I’m kidding of course but I realize I’m fairly serious about my Hot Chocolate.

 

The Best Hot Chocolate Cupcake

Thankfully cupcakes don’t need specific temperature requirements to really be enjoyed. So I can bring all those wonderful flavors from our Hot Chocolate right into an easy to eat cupcake. I hate waiting for my Hot Chocolate to cool down enough to drink. I’m so impatient I end up burning my tongue on it and having a sore spot for the next few days. No risk of that with cupcakes.

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The cupcake base is a chocolate cupcake recipe I edited to bring out more of the cinnamon flavor. Amazingly the cake does not use butter or eggs. Instead your liquid ingredients in this one are going to be Greek yogurt and milk. The batter is extremely thick but it is also super easy to mix. I didn’t even use my mixer this time; just my whisk and a little elbow grease.

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I started by mixing my dry ingredients of flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. I whisked that together until well mixed. Then I added in the milk, Greek yogurt, and vanilla extract. Like I said, the batter is really thick. It does get softer as you mix it though. The last step is to fold in the chocolate chips. I suppose technically chocolate chips would be an alteration to the Hot Chocolate recipe but we’ll pretend they are subbing in for the chocolate syrup.

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Just like we did in the White Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes, take your kitchen shears and cut into the top of the cupcakes an X shape and push an unwrapped milk chocolate truffle into the top. Press down slightly so that the top of the truffle is almost flush with the top of the cupcake. If it sticks up a bit that is okay too.

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Icing

These cupcakes do not need a significant amount of icing. Pretty much we are just icing them enough to hold the marshmallows on and to add a bit of contrasting flavor.

Hot_Chocolate_CupcakesIn a large mixing bowl, with the whisk attachment, mix on medium high two sticks of butter, two teaspoons of vanilla, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 1.5 lbs of powdered sugar. The icing will be quite thick as well but the butter will be creamy. Make sure that there are no chunks of butter remaining and everything is smooth.

I then piped a thin amount of icing on top of each cupcake in a circular motion starting from the outside of the cupcake and wrapping my way to the middle. I pretended it was like whip cream swirling at the top of the mug.

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What’s Hot Chocolate Without Marshmallows?

The marshmallows really have no rhyme or reason. I mean I didn’t count them or have a method of how I attached them or anything. I just took a handful and placed them on so that it looked like a dome of marshmallows on top of Hot Chocolate. That is the whole look we are going for after all.

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Hot_Chocolate_Cupcakes

I had some leftover chocolate from the Rum Soaked Chocolate Covered cherries the other day, so I heated some of that up. There are several ways to do a drizzle. If your chocolate is cooperating, you can take your stirring spoon and drizzle the chocolate right over the cupcakes.

If it isn’t, then you can use a mini squirt bottle like I did or I’ve even used a sandwich bag before. I don’t recommend a sandwich bag because if the chocolate is the slightest bit too hot it can melt a hole in the bag and go everywhere. I learn from experience folks. In a pinch though, it does work if you are careful about the temperature of your chocolate.

 

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Hot_Chocolate_Cupcakes

The last finishing touch that really sells the Christmas party theme for these Hot Chocolate Cupcakes are the little mini candy canes. I remember going to Black Hawk Hardware and sitting on Santa’s knee for pictures. He would always give out these little mini candy canes. It is funny to me how important talking to Santa was back then but I could not for the life of me tell you one thing I ever asked for him to bring me for Christmas. I do remember he had a real beard and I was fairly convinced he was the realest of all the Santas.

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Speaking of Santa, I am sure he would love one of these Hot Chocolate cupcakes left out for him with a tall glass of milk.  That’s how you get the fun stuff kids!

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What a way to make the holiday magical? Whip up some Hot Chocolate Cupcakes and maybe enjoy them with your own mug of Hot Chocolate as well. Curl up with your family and enjoy the holiday. This is how I’m making life taste sweeter.

As always please like, share, and follow to spread the Christmas cheer.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes stuffed with Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffles topped with a simple vanilla butter cream and mounds of marshmallows. Finish with a milk chocolate drizzle and mini candy cane for holiday delight.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 40 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 40 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes stuffed with Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffles topped with a simple vanilla butter cream and mounds of marshmallows. Finish with a milk chocolate drizzle and mini candy cane for holiday delight.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 40 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 40 minutes
Cook Time
15-20 minutes
Ingredients
Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes
Simple Vanilla Butter Cream
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients of flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Add in Greek yogurt, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well blended.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula. Fill 24 lined cupcake tins 3/4 full with batter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean. Using kitchen shears cut a cross into the top of each cupcake. Insert an unwrapped Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffle in to the opening and press down slightly until the top of the truffle is nearly flush with the top of the cupcake.
Simple Vanilla Butter Cream
  1. In a large mixing bowl, with the whisk attachment, mix on medium high butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
  2. Swirl a very light flat coating of icing over each cupcake. Add about 10-12 marshmallows to the top of the icing.
  3. Melt Almond Bark in a microwave safe bowl on High in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and add 10 seconds until completely melted and smooth. Using a spoon or squirt bottle, drizzle Almond Bark over the top of cupcakes. Garnish with a mini candy cane on each cupcake.
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Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

Hey Guys!

Thanksgiving

It is the week before Thanksgiving and we are all getting ready for our family and friends and good eating. Besides all the pumpkin we’ve been making with Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pecan Praline and Pumpkin Pie Inside Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, the next family favorite is always the Sweet Potato Casserole. Who doesn’t love the sweet crunchy goodness of brown sugar and nuts over sweet potatoes and my personal favorite the gooey toasted marshmallows? Yum!

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

 

Well, I say family. Little Cupcakeasaurus Rex swears up and down that he hates sweet potatoes. After these cupcakes, he is going to have a hard time getting away with that again. He ate it so fast he barely chewed and then wanted to argue with me when I told him the ingredients. Little Stinker! Suffice it to say, I think the boy likes sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato or Pumpkin?

In many ways I treat sweet potatoes like pumpkin. I mean think about it, they are similar in color and once cooked pretty similar in texture. Their flavors are similar in many ways especially when you spice them up with things like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves,  and allspice. In fact, unless they are side by side, bite for bite, I think sweet potato pie can easily pass as pumpkin pie.

Sweet_Potato_Casserole_CupcakesI like to do this recipe in one consecutive baking session. Sometimes I will bake the cakes, then do a topping and then come back to frost them. This recipe is just much easier all at once.  First preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Even though they won’t be needed until later, I went ahead and placed my pecans on a little baking sheet to toast.

Sweet_Potato_Casserole_Cupcakes

While those are becoming nice and toasty, I then start on the sweet potato purée.  Cut the sweet potatoes into about one inch cubes. I think the smaller pieces make them easier to mash but don’t stress on exactness here. Then just barely cover the potatoes in cold water and place on high heat. Similar to making regular mashed potatoes, just let them boil and get real tender. I used my wooden spoon to mash them into a purée but a fork or potato masher would work fine too. I felt like I was making homemade baby food or something while mashing these sweet potatoes.

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The next step is to mix up the Pecan Topping. Mmmmm. There is quite the debate on whether this is the best part or the marshmallow is the best. I’ll let you decide. Mix together the Pecan Topping ingredients and just set to the side. It will be crumbly but that is the way we want it.

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All In the Mix

Like many of my recipes, I whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl which is later added to the wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, the sugar, butter and lemon zest will be creamed together. Add in the applesauce a little at a time. For conversion sake, if you are planning on making a cake and want to take the eggs out of it (or you ran out of eggs like a silly baking goose), then 1/4 cup applesauce is equal to one egg. However, you’ll want to add a bit more baking powder to balance it out. I would estimate about an 1/8 of a teaspoon of baking powder per egg being replaced. It is a fairly handy trick when you don’t have eggs or have a vegan in the house.

Add in the sweet potato purée and mix well. It is almost time for those dry ingredients to start making this batter look more like batter and less like sweet potato pudding.

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Alternate adding the dry ingredients in with adding in the milk. I usually add in a third of the flour mixture and then half of the milk. Then, I will repeat that cycle by adding in another third of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk. The last third of the flour mixture you will want to fold in manually with a rubber spatula so as not to over mix the batter.

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Fill the liners 3/4 of the way full of batter and then spoon the Pecan topping on top. Do not worry if the topping domes over the top of the cupcakes, just lightly press it down so that it really seeps in to the cupcake. Bake those for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with just a few clinging crumbs.

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Now, the original idea behind these cupcakes was to take the traditional Sweet Potato Casserole and turn it into an easy to eat delectable treat. However, at some point during the planning process, I overlooked the fact I was missing a baking essential! I didn’t have eggs! This did not pose a problem for the Sweet Potato Casserole cupcakes. In fact, by using applesauce instead of eggs, I feel like it really enhanced the flavor of the spices in the cake.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

The problem really arose when I went to make the Whipped Marshmallow Frosting. Here is my disclaimer: The toasted marshmallow fluff in the picture is not the recipe posted below. Why? Well, here comes the embarrassing part. So, I get the bright idea to make Whipped Marshmallow Frosting. I have never made it before. Without reading a recipe (NOTE TO SELF: READ THE RECIPE), I began whipping up what I believed to be marshmallow fluff.  Did I start with sugar or gelatin or marshmallow spread? Of course not. I started with a bag full of marshmallows. I have my off days guys. I’m allowed. 🙂

Sweet_Potato_Casserole_Cupcakes

Anyway, as I’m mixing away at my bag of marshmallows, I finally decide to pull up a few recipes on how to make Marshmallow Frosting. Low and behold, that is when I see that I may need eggs for this project and now what is a girl to do? As a baker, I have powdered meringue on hand for just such occasions when I need egg whites and I don’t have them. So then I kind of try to follow the recipe but still including my original bag of marshmallows.  None of it was really working. So I decided to save you the trouble of making my mistake so you can have beautiful tasty cupcakes instead of the mess I created.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

Oh, you think that doesn’t sound all that bad? You haven’t heard the half of it. Since I did not follow directions, or started following them too late, or whatever, my marshmallow fluff was way wetter than it should’ve been. Even though I piped it onto the tops of the cupcakes, they quickly dispersed and spread across the tops of the cakes and down the sides of my tins.

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I also learned a handy lesson about broiling during this endeavor. Marshmallows only take a few seconds to toast. If you walk away for even just a minute, they could catch on fire like campfire marshmallows and you’ll have an oven full of fire and a smoke detector going off and trying to explain to your Fire Captain fiancé how you almost burnt the house down. That’s all speculation of course. But, please learn from my mistakes and lightly toast your marshmallows instead of torching them.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

Thankfully, my friends are those funny people who like the more blackened pieces of the campfire marshmallows and they actually loved the taste of the Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes with the added charred marshmallow topping. But, if you’d rather not explain that your cupcakes are just charred and not chocolate, then I suggest a light toasting doing the trick.

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Maybe this year, instead of pulling out the casserole dish, pull out the cupcake tins instead and enjoy the traditional family favorite of Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes with all the sweet delicious flavor and the added benefit of easy individual servings.

Enjoy the time with your family folks. I know I will be. Make life taste sweeter by sharing this recipe with the ones you love.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Spiced Sweet Potato Cupcake with toasted pecan topping and whipped marshmallow frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes
Print Recipe
Spiced Sweet Potato Cupcake with toasted pecan topping and whipped marshmallow frosting.
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 cupcakes 30 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes
Pecan Topping
Whipped Marshmallow Frosting
Servings: cupcakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on cookie sheet and put in oven to toast while preparing batter.
  2. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into one inch cubes. Cover in pot with cold water, just enough to top sweet potatoes, and boil on high until sweet potatoes are soft. You can blend them or mash them with a fork once tender. They are so soft it really doesn't take much to mash into a puree.
  3. If pecans are toasted, pull out of oven. Leave at 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with 24 liners. Mix Pecan Topping ingredients in a medium bowl. They will be crumbly. Set to the side.
  4. In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the rest of the spices. Whisk together and set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat light brown sugar and granulated sugar with the melted butter and lemon zest. Mix well. The mixture will become thick after 3-4 minutes. Add in a applesauce a 1/4 at a time. Mixing well between each addition.
  6. Add in sweet potato puree and vanilla extract until batter is creamy.
  7. Take dry ingredients and alternately add them to the mixing bowl with the milk. Add a third of the flour mix, then 1/2 of the milk, etc. The last 1/3 of the flour mix you'll want to hand fold in with a spatula so as not to over mix the batter.
  8. Fill liners 3/4 full with batter. Spoon Pecan topping on top of each cupcake and press down slightly to really get the topping down into the cupcake. Bake 15-20 at 350 degrees. A toothpick should come out clean with maybe just a few crumbs.
Whipped Marshmallow Frosting
  1. Place egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof mixing bowl. Set over a saucepan with boiling water and whisk ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Move mixing bowl to electric mixer. Add in vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mix starting at low and gradually moving to high speed until stiff peaks form.
  3. The frosting is very sticky. Using a piping bag, pipe a dollop of Whipped Marshmallow Frosting on the top of each cupcake. Put in oven on high broiler for just a few seconds to toast marshmallow. You can also do this manually with a kitchen torch if one is available.
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3 Tips To Make Your Monthly Meal Plan Work

Three tips to make your monthly meal plan work for you and your busy family.

Hey guys!

Before we dive head first into my recipe book (like I actually use one of those ;)), I wanted to share a few more tips I’ve learned along the way in making this monthly meal plan work. There is a lot of information out there and sometimes we get sucked into believing things that may be true for some but don’t typically work for the average Joe. For example, I have always lived on some sort of budget. I don’t mean this nice and neat pie chart thing that tells me I have x amount of dollars to spend on groceries that month. I mean the type of budget that I think many Americans live on these days; the type of budget where you aren’t a hundred percent sure you will be able to pay your electric bill and your car payment and go grocery shopping all in the same week. We aren’t exactly poor but we still have that looming worry over our heads that prevents us from making financial decisions without considerable thought. Not to mention if any unexpected expenses arise along the way and put a huge hiccup in our plans.

I’ll be the first to tell you that monthly meal planning is not for everyone. I, by no means, want to persuade you to do something that you have no interest in doing or feel isn’t right for your family. I only recently discovered monthly meal planning myself and I am always looking for new ways to provide for my family and save money.

 

3_Tips_To_Make_Monthly_Meal_Planning_Easy

1. What’s Important

Decide what is most important to you and your family. Are you looking to save money or are you looking to create your meals from all organic material? Do you have the space to buy in bulk or are you willing to travel in order to get specific ingredients?

In my family, I look for the best deal. However, I hate the stress of the store and being in a new town, I don’t like to travel outside of a 15-20 mile radius from home. I also can’t stand to go to too many stores so you will not find me sale chasing. In fact, I don’t even look at sale papers or coupons anymore. What?! I know.  I know. But here’s the thing, I did do that for a while. I had six sales papers laid out in front of me and I used to find solace in the actual cutting of the coupons. I get it. I love the rush of getting a “deal” or “bargain”. But unless you are an extreme couponer and have the space to store all of it, coupons typically only save you about 25% off of your regular grocery bill. I didn’t grab those statistics from the internet. I went on grocery trips and calculated it each time. I even used coupons at the dollar store and the result was still the same.

I shop at Aldi and will sing their praises all day long. I do not get the excitement of finding an unbelievable price in a sales ad or opting into a buy one get one at Publix. I don’t clip the coupons and try out products I never knew I wanted until I had a coupon for them. I just shop at a store that has exactly what I need at a minimal price. Could Wal-Mart have better prices? Maybe, but the change I might be spending at Aldi is far less than the impulse purchases I would make at Wal-Mart. I have to know myself. I have to know that I don’t like stress and I don’t like temptation. If you have the will power for it, more power to you.

3_Tips_To_Making_Your_Monthly_Meal_Plan_Work

Though Aldi is my primary store it is not my only store. I also shop at Sam’s Club for meat and tortillas. Aldi has both of these but not exactly what I am looking for. Both breakfast burritos and lunch burritos are made in the monthly meal plan and regular old flour tortillas just weren’t good enough for me. Sam’s Club has a pack of tortillas that have added fiber and protein and make me feel like those breakfast and lunch burritos are more like meals.

Sam’s Club also has fantastic prices on meat. Since I have a monthly meal plan and know that if I need the meat for this month, I will also need the same type and portion next month, there is never a question of how or when it will get used. A large skinless salmon purchased at Sam’s Club is enough to make four full dinners. That is potentially four months worth of salmon. However, buying in bulk like this does require a place to store it, which brings us to number two.

3_Tips_To_Make_Your_Monthly_Meal_Plan_Work

2. Where To Store It

Find a way to store your food. Obviously making food last for a month in a place as hot as Florida is not always an easy task. Your deep freezer will be your best friend. All the meat goes in the deep freezer almost immediately except for the hamburger meat. The hamburger I will portion off into one pound increments or make into patties as needed for the month’s recipes. Fresh vegetables like onions and green peppers get diced and put into one cup increments in Ziploc baggies. These I keep in my kitchen freezer for easy use while cooking. Now, in our family, sometimes milk doesn’t get used quite as frequently as expected either so I will portion that off into recycled plastic jugs (mayonnaise and peanut butter jars work great) and freeze that as well.

The freezer isn’t just good for the raw materials. I also freeze leftovers or go ahead and marinate some meat and veggies and freeze those too. Like I said, your deep freezer will be your best friend.

What to do with all the non-freezable stuff? I am very grateful that Captain Cupcakeasaurus built me a large shelving space in the hallway that we call our pantry. I hope you have a large pantry or shelving space or hallway (though pantry is preferred) as well. Remember that thrill you got when finding a sale in the ad paper? Well, a similar thrill rolls through you when you see your pantry at the beginning of the month. All the shelves fully stocked and awaiting my use remind me of the pantries they show on Top Chef or Chopped.

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Whether you are buying in bulk, monthly meal planning, or couponing, you will definitely need a place to store it. There is nothing worse than buying a month’s worth of food and then not having room to fit it all in your refrigerator or have half of it left out on your counters.

3. When To Shop

Make your shopping day and your prep day two different days.  Some may think this is a no-brainer. Well, I didn’t. I thought that if I could get all my shopping done in one day, then I could also get all my prep done in the same day. Voila, I would have everything done in one day and not have to worry about it for another month. I must be delusional. Trust me, you will want these to be separate days. The idea is to reduce stress. You save money to reduce financial stress. You only shop once a month to reduce social anxiety stress. You prep on the second day to reduce… well, I’m not sure what that stress would be called but we are reducing it, dang it!

Also, prep day can be fun if you make it so. I have had prep days where I laugh with my fiancé while chopping onions. I have had prep days laughing with my bestie on speakerphone while chopping green peppers. I have had prep days watching Netflix on my phone and drinking Moscato while precooking ground beef. Please notice that my prep days include laughter with those I love, Netflix and wine. What could be less stressful than that?

Those are my tips to help you stay sane as you start out on your monthly meal planning journey. Let me know if there are any other hurdles you’ve faced while meal planning or any additional tips you’d offer to others starting. Thanks for reading and helping make life taste sweeter.

 

Why I Monthly Meal Plan

The reason why I monthly meal plan and how it can pay off for your family too.

Why I Monthly Meal Plan, Meal plan guide for busy family, Cost of monthly meal planning

In How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan, I shared that my family and I use a monthly meal plan system to feed our family healthy, delicious meals each month. However, I didn’t really get into the reasons why we chose to go this route.

Life Changes

I used to be a full-time working single mom who completed online classes and managed my household all on my own. This meant I was familiar with living on a budget and barely making ends meet. Being the only adult in the house also meant I was very comfortable making all the decisions without consideration for anyone but my son and me.

Things change, as they often do, and now I am a stay at home mom with a breadwinner partner and I must make considerations for the entire family. The new role was difficult for me to adjust to at first. I couldn’t help but feel controlled and I hated the idea of being “taken care of”.

The Job of Being a SAHM

So I approached being a stay at home mom like a job. The title of Home Manager was now my new position. I created a household binder and developed a family budget and monthly meal plan. My duties included taking over keeping track of schedules and bills and knowing the ins and outs of our household. Making what I do a job was the only way I could get my mind wrapped around my new role and really embrace it.

Captain Cupcakeasaurus was used to living the bachelor life and spending what he wanted when he wanted. Must be nice, right? Well, he now had a partner and child to think about and we were more expensive than I think he realized. We have some debt we want to pay off and a wedding to plan so we developed a budget that would allow us to do just that. Our monthly grocery/food budget is $400. I will warn you, the first month this will be hard to match. There will be things you don’t currently have in your pantry or your primary store won’t have all the ingredients you thought they would. It is inevitable so don’t beat yourself up too bad if you go over. The next month will be easier, I promise.

Why I Monthly Meal Plan, Meal plan guide for busy family, Cost of monthly meal planning

Month of Meals Math

I was developing our plan over the summer so I was figuring three meals a day for three people. Now, that my son is in school and eating breakfast and lunch at school, I don’t have to account for nearly as much. As mentioned in How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan,  we accounted for dinners six nights a week and the ability to eat out at least two times per month. The way I separate the budget for groceries is $325.00 for groceries and $75.00 for eating out. Of the grocery portion, $300 is used at the beginning of the month and $25 is saved for the mid-month milk and bread run.

Are these numbers exact? No. Will the cost of eating out and groceries be the same for your area? Probably not. Can you manipulate the budget to fit your family’s needs and the prices for your area? Absolutely. If you need help doing so, please just ask. It isn’t easy managing a home or staying on budget or trying a new system out without helpful resources. I read a ton of information online and then tweaked their suggestions to meet my own needs and still had some adjusting to do once put into practice.

Why I Monthly Meal Plan, Meal plan guide for busy family, Cost of monthly meal planning

Calculations Are In

Now we can all whip out our handy-dandy calculators to really show the benefits of monthly meal planning. $325 divided by 3 people equals $108.33 per person for the month. To estimate on the larger months, we will say a month has 31 days and that would leave $3.49 per person per day. Three meals a day would then give each person $1.16.

What? No way! I can’t feed someone a delicious and nutritious meal for $1.16! The vending machine costs more than that! Yes, you can feed your family for that amount and I’m going to show you how. But, just for giggles even if your monthly grocery budget was $500 straight for groceries, you’d still only be spending $1.79 per meal per person for a family of three. It can be done and once you start, you won’t ever want to eat out again.

Where can you feed a family of three for $3.50? That trip to McDonald’s will seem ridiculous because you’ll be buying junkie food that doesn’t even really taste good and paying nearly ten times as much for it.

But, just for giggles even if your monthly grocery budget was $500 straight for groceries, you’d still only be spending $1.79 per meal per person for a family of three. It can be done and once you start, you won’t ever want to eat out again. Where can you feed a family of three for $3.50? That trip to McDonald’s will seem ridiculous because you’ll be buying junkie food that doesn’t even really taste good and paying nearly ten times as much for it.

What To Exclude

I do feel like I should add a disclaimer. My family, in an effort to live healthier, decided to primarily drink water. So we do not spend money on soft drinks. Some juices are purchased but not many. We also do not include alcoholic beverages in our grocery budget. A decent rule of thumb is if food stamps don’t cover it, our grocery budget probably doesn’t cover it. Groceries also do not include any paper products, cleaning products, or our cats’ food.

Why I Monthly Meal Plan, Meal plan guide for busy family, Cost of monthly meal planning

Why I Monthly Meal Plan

So the real reason why I monthly meal plan is all in the numbers. I take pride in knowing I can feed my family for less than $5 a meal for everyone to have a tasty and nutritious dinner at home. Family is created at the dinner table. Take a look at the history of holidays and cultures around the world. People celebrate the people they love with food.

Every night I can bring my family around the dinner table and listen to their day, I know I am blessed. I know that I am doing my job as home manager and making the system work. We are saving our money to provide for our future, I am feeding them meals that will nourish them and comfort them. Hopefully, my son will one day tell his children about these dinners and think of me. That is why I monthly meal plan.

How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan

An easy guide on how to start planning a monthly meal plan to feed your busy and hungry family on a budget.

How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan, Grocery Planning, Family Meal Prep

My best friend is also a stay at home mom and I consider her one of the smartest women I know. She and I have similar views on parenting and homesteading and it is nice to have someone to play ideas off of and to complain to when those ideas don’t quite work out the way we planned. When I get discouraged I remember that she has two kiddos at home versus my one and if she can do it, then surely I can too.

Our friendship is not a one-way street. So when she told me about her weekly meal planning, I considered giving it a shot. I had never meal planned before in my life. You mean people know what they are going to eat before dinner time the day of?!? I had no idea.

So I spent some time online and discovered that the monthly meal plan sounded like something I could possibly manage. I hate shopping. I mean I hate the going to a store and spending more money and time than I intended and being exhausted and ready for pizza at the end of it. For me, there is a  narrow line between thrifty and comfort. I could easily see the benefit of having my groceries delivered to me, but, frankly, I’m not going to pay more for something I can do myself. A once a month trip sounded like it could work though so I set out to start.

If you are thinking about starting a monthly meal plan, here are a few things to consider first. The monthly meal plan is not for everyone. Whether it be because of the budget, food preferences, or produce availability or just that you and your family don’t like it, there may be some reason that monthly planning doesn’t work for you. That is okay. I don’t suggest it for everyone but it works for us. Since I spent some time on it and the bestie was inspired to try her own version, I figured I’d share my experience.

How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan, Grocery Planning, Family Meal Prep

When To Shop

First, you will want to figure out when you want to do your monthly shop. The beginning of the month is when people get paid and receive food stamps, so often the stores are more crowded at that time. This doesn’t stop me from going at the beginning of the month, I just choose to go in the morning on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

 

Where To Shop

Second, I strongly suggest choosing one primary store to do your shopping. Multiple stores mean multiple receipts, which usually also means more money spent and who wants to travel around to different stores all day? I chose Aldi as my store of choice. If you have one near you, I strongly recommend going there just to try it out. They do not take coupons and some of their products are off brand but if you are not brand specific and would prefer a lower base cost than trying to do the math on coupons and sales then it is well worth it. Also, if you are a couponer, then you already know that the sales are weekly and not monthly and this meal plan may not be for you… or maybe, just maybe couponing isn’t for you.

Flexibility

Third, even though it is called a monthly meal plan, it doesn’t mean that I can’t pick up things if I need them at the two-week mark. This is usually my bread and milk run. I just include this mid month trip in the budget and account for it accordingly. This monthly meal plan does take patience and it takes about a month or two to really get the hang of it. I’m going into my fourth month now and I am still finding ways to improve the “system”.

Making It Work

Alright, now that you have the basics and you’ve decided to proceed with this crazy monthly meal plan idea, let’s get planning. For my family, I first came up with theme nights. I find this helps with answering the “What’s for dinner?” question. You can use the ones I do or create your own that fit with your family and your schedule.

How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan, Grocery Planning, Family Meal Prep

 

Daily Food Themes

Mondays

We have Meatless Mondays which are our one night a week to eat vegetarian.

Tuesdays

Home Cooking Tuesday doesn’t quite have the nice alliteration ring to it but this is the night I make the comfort food I grew up on and know by heart without a recipe. (Edit: I have since named this night Tried and True Tuesdays. Now, that alliteration I can get behind.)

Wednesdays

My fiancé (Captain Cupcakeasaurus) and I are gamers and have a weekly game night hosted at our house. I realize this isn’t considered normal for most families but almost everyone has some sort of activity that prevents them from being able to cook that night. Crockpot Wednesday is perfect for when someone is at dance class or soccer practice or whatever else your busy family is getting into that night.

Thursdays

We have Culture Night Thursday, again I need help with catchy alliterations for these days of the week. (Edit: This is now Taste the World Thursday) Culture Night is an attempt to expose my family to dishes from other countries. They may not be authentic but it mixes up the menu a bit and lets us explore new cuisine.

Fridays

Fish Friday is pretty self-explanatory but I include all seafood in this fish definition. Shrimp even qualifies for Fish Friday.

Saturdays

Pasta Night is Saturday (Edit: Noodle Night! Gotta love that alliteration again.) and includes almost anything with noodles. We are a carb friendly family and I’m not sure I could go without my pasta again. I have previously done the Atkins diet and though I lost weight for a while, I really missed my oodles of noodles.

Sundays

Sunday is set aside for leftovers or eating out. We don’t eat out often nor do we need to, but I allow a day for it so we can budget the eating out as well. 

 

Recipe Collecting

If you are a Pinterest user, go ahead and create a board for each day of the week minus Sunday of course. When I see recipes I want to try or something that just looks too delicious to pass up, I’ll pin it to the appropriate board. (Edit: My Pinterest now has a board for each night so you are welcome to steal ideas from there.) At the end of the month, we sit as a family and discuss what we want to eat the next month. My son has some of his favorites that he loves and definitely wants to have them on the menu during the month.

How To Start A Monthly Meal Plan, Grocery Planning, Family Meal Prep

The Math

I try to choose five recipes for each day of the week. If you notice that comes out to 30 recipes and ta da you have a month worth of meals! Now you are ready to make that monthly meal plan work!

As we continue, I hope to share with you all the recipes I have personally tried on my own family. We will discuss more about the monthly meal plan process, creating the grocery list, and that dreaded first grocery trip when the cashier asks if you are feeding an army. I will also then go meal by meal, sharing all my successes and failures with you. It will be fun, I promise!

Of course, I’ll add in some more cupcake recipes along the way because after all I aim to make life taste sweeter and you’ll want one to reward yourself after all your meal planning. Feel free to ask questions along the way and share your own experiences with monthly meal planning. We are in this together.