Monday, February 28, 2011

E-Mealz Dinners Verdict

The verdict is in. We have done E-Mealz for a little over a week now, and we really like the system. We have found the following...

The positives:
  • Saves a ton of time between planning, shopping and cooking
  • Super-easy to make with very minimal preparation involved
  • Saves money
  • Weight Watchers (WW) compliant and healthy
  • We liked the food
  • Try new recipes
  • Plans include a lot of produce items
  • Recipes make good quantities for two people

Our weekly shopping list is for Walmart, but we will likely buy local ingredients when we can. This may cost us a little more time and money, but using local meat and produce is worth it to us. We will also modify our plan some going forward. For example, instead of using pre-grilled packaged chicken breast, we will likely just cook our own chicken. It will taste better, be cheaper and will probably have fewer additives.

So far, we have had cheeseburger pie, cheddar cauliflower soup, chicken cobb salad pitas, tomato bacon chicken and broccoli mushroom quiche. All in all, we have liked all of the meals. The dinners have been super-easy and have taken minimal time to prepare. The cheeseburger pie and tomato bacon chicken have been the definite favorites and we will use these recipes more in the future. So far, none of the food has gone to waste/been thrown out, and the recipes make good portions.

We will continue our subscription to this service and look forward to trying more of their dishes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unusual Paper Flowers

Check out these unusual, little flowers that decorated our house for Valentines Day.

They brightened up a corner of our mantle and took just a few minutes to put together. They would make a good craft for kids since they were super-easy and most homes likely already have everything that is needed to make them. This includes:
  • construction paper (or whatever you have on hand)
  • sticks (from the yard)
  • a ribbon or string
  • glue (I used Tacky)

 The "roses" are made by taking various sized circles of construction paper and cutting them in a loose spiral pattern, as shown.

Then you simply roll up the paper, starting on the outside. The outside part of the spiral becomes the inside of the flower.

They pretty much stay the way they are supposed to, but I use glue to secure them. I then cut out heart shapes with red construction paper and glue the ends of the sticks in between the roses and hearts.

Finally, bunch the "flowers" together and secure with ribbon.

They pair nicely with the little Labrador picture cut-out I made...I believe this will stay in our living room for awhile.

Cute and different. There are all kinds of possibilities for ways to use paper flowers- I recently saw a picture of an adorable wreath that was covered with paper roses made from sheet music.

Now, on to other holidays and seasons. Please hurry, Spring, I am looking forward to real flowers :) !

I am linking up this week. Check out the below link to see other fun and creative ideas.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A New Kind of Dinner Plan

Are you perpetually over or under- thinking your dinner plan? John and I do this all of the time...we love to cook, but if we don't have a strategy then the amount of time we spend on last-minute shopping, the cost of groceries, prepping, cooking and cleaning sometimes is not worth it (esp for 2 people). The alternative of going out to eat often is also not good for our health or budget.

Imagine our excitement when we heard that E-Mealz has the new Weight Watchers point system two-person meal plans. Dave Ramsey writes about E-Mealz on his web site (and if it is good enough for Dave, then it is good enough for us). This system creates a weekly meal plan with recipes and a store-specific shoping list to follow (note: Wal-Mart is the only option listed for our area). There is a $5 charge/month for this service, but it seems to address exactly what is important to us:
  • Convenience
  • Helps us plan ahead (because when you are following an eating plan, or diet, planning makes you far more likely to achieve success)
  • Good menus- use foods we like to eat
  • Support nutition goals (which includes eating a ton of fruits and veggies- fresh when possible)
  • Save $- It aims to keep the entire week's grocery bill under $45 (for 5 dinners for two people).
John and I just subscribed to E-Mealz and will be able to utilize this system for three days this week. Tuesday is cheeseburger pie and salad (6 svgs). Wednesday will be cheddar cauliflower soup and toasted cheese pitas (4 svgs). Thursday is cobb salad pitas and broccoli slaw (2 svgs).

The total for my week one shopping list was $27.88 for the menu items (this does not include the price of ground beef, an item I aleady had). Then I spent an extra $10.76 on items I need that are on the "staples" list. So the grand total was 38.64 for what the recipes say= 12 svgs of meals. This means that we will have dinners for Tues-Thurs evenings and lunches for Wed-Fri for an avg of $3.22/meal. If you do not factor in the cost of the staples, it would be $2.32/meal. Either way, it more than beats the cost and nutrition of most other alternatives.

The menu items for this week

Items on the list of staples

I did some minimal prep when I got home- diced onion and browned the ground beef and onions that I will use tomorrow. I also hard boiled the egg that will be used in dinner on Thursday. Tomorrow's dish should take about 5 min to prep and then will bake for about 35 min. Sounds easy enough for me. I feel so accomplished already :)

John and I are hopeful E-Mealz is a good dinner solution for us. John has been doing Weight Watchers since October and has had a lot of success with it (42 lbs- way to go love!). I am really excited about trying out this system- it is great being able to support John and his goals, plus it is good for me too :)

Will keep you posted on how this goes...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cold Frame Project

John and I both love to garden and today's beautiful weather made us want to be outside. Since it is too early to start planting away, we decided to build a cold frame. We saw this idea yesterday on Design Sponge and tailored the concept to fit the materials we found.

We headed to our local Habitat for Humanity's restore and bought our supplies:
-5 used windows (2 were 31.5" and 3 were 33.5")
- L brackets (8)
-hinges (2)
-scrap 2x4
-handles (5)
-folding lid support
-various screws

The basic design really could not have been more simple. We used 2 of each size of window (on their sides) as the four walls of the cold frame. They were secured by brackets at the interior corners- one at the top and one at the bottom of the window frames where they meet. Then we cut the 2x4 to fit the top of the four sides- we used one board at the front of the frame and one at the back. The board at the back was used to secure the hinges for the top of the frame (the last window). The hinges were placed so the window was slightly angled toward the front (to shed water). Two 2x4 "wedges" were then placed on top the frame to help support the angle. A handle was then placed on the top window so the box could be opened. Then the folding lid support was installed and the last 4 handles were attached (2 on each of the two sides).

That pretty much sums it up. We can go ahead and get our garden started even though the threat of frost and low temperatures won't disappear until around mid March. If it is going to be cold, we will just use an old blanket to insulate the cold frame. If it is too warm, we will just leave the top propped open (it should not be left open during the night).

It was a fun project to do and we are looking forward to starting some seeds in it soon (hopefully tomorrow!).

I am linking this post up to The Lettered Cottage's "How To's Day" section as well as Today's Creative Blog. You can click the below links to check out a bunch of creative ideas from other bloggers.