How I Meal Prep

I am a list/shopping/deal fanatic!  I truly love making shopping lists, searching circulars, and planning meals for my husband and me.

Breakfasts for me include green smoothies, oats (overnight and cooked), yogurt bowls, and the occasional waffle or bowl of cereal.  Lunches are leftovers from dinners, salads, and wraps.  As far as dinners go, I try to plan 5 meals for the week and allow one night for pizza/take out or a date night out and one night for a family favorite (aka, not always healthy, lol).

I find meals in cookbooks, from favorite blogs, and a meal plan service called eMeals.  I discovered it through Groupon and have been in love ever since.  Through eMeals, you can select your diet, store, and size of the family you’re feeding.

Some favorite plans of mine include Paleo, Clean Eating, and Quick and Healthy.  They also have diets for low carb, low calorie, gluten free, and even geared toward children.  Certain plans allow for members to pick what store they want to shop and the meals will reflect what’s on sale or abailable on that given week.  Stores include Whole Foods, Walmart, Publix, and more.  Lastly, you are able to decide if you want the meals to feed 1-3 people or 4-6 people.  What’s even better, you can swap the plans as often as you like.  Say this week there is only one dinner that sounds appealing, you can go on the site or app and select a new one!

In addition to dinner plans, eMeals offers breakfast, lunch, dessert, and special occasion ones that you can add on to further plan your meals.  The breakfast and lunch plans tend to reflect the type of dinner plan you have (paleo, gluten-free, etc.).  The sizes of the add-on plans is typically for 4+ people.

Unsure if you want to commit to a 3 or 12 month plan? eMeals offers a 14 day free trial!

Once I figure out what meals I want to prepare, I start looking at my coupons and the ads for the week.  Three stores in my area offer online pickup/delivery, and while I prefer to shop myself, I am able to see the exact prices for the products on my list so I can make sure I am getting the best price,  After I write down the prices, I go to a different store where I purchase anything that is cheaper than my list price before i head to the next two stores.  While that seems like a lot to go through, luckily, the stores are within a mile or two of each other so it doesn’t take too much time.  I also don’t always go to all the stores on the same day, provided I have the ingredients for whole recipes from one store.

Once home from the store, I will divide the meat and vegetables to sort into dinner groupings to make my life easier come mealtime.  If I bought in bulk, I label the extra portions and place them in the freezer.  Then, depending on the vegetables etc., I will prep them for quick cooking.  If I need grilled chicken or other basic staples for meals, I will then fire up the grill (or oven/stove) and get cooking.  Last, I will make up smoothie packs for quick blending, prep overnight oats and lunches.

My whole process takes a couple hours, but it makes the rest of the week SO much easier.  I am lucky enough to only be working part time so I do have the time to do all of this.

 

Do you meal prep?

How do you find recipes? Deals?

Any recommendations for me?

 

The links for eMeals and Groupon are referral links.  I will be given credit for these sites for anyone who signs up and makes a purchase.  I was not compensated in anyway for this post.  I believe in these services and paid for them out of my own pocket.

Planning a Wedding- Venue Search and Tours

I knew when I got engaged, or let’s be honest as a little girl, I wanted to have a high level of control over my wedding.  I am fortunate enough to have great parents who wanted us to have our dream wedding (realistically speaking… they are retired teachers after all).  I am a deal hunter so I did a LOT to save money throughout the process, from “crafting” to spending hours (and hours, and hours…) shopping around for vendors, gifts, and items for the ceremony and reception.

The wedding posts will be coming weekly will go through different aspects, starting with planning, through rehearsal, wedding and honeymoon and everything in between.

The Venue:

Kyle and I knew we wanted to get married in the Fall (my favorite time of year) and didn’t want to wait over a year to be husband and wife.  We started shopping for venues in January, which in a popular area like Charlotte, is a bit late to be getting in the game, especially if you want a wedding on a Saturday evening.

I emailed countless places within a 50 mile radius that appealed to me (and Kyle).  We didn’t want to have anything too cookie-cutter or traditional. We liked unique, but wanted something that could be used to having important events (like weddings) so we could avoid confusion and things could go as smoothly as possible. I read review upon review on The Knot, Wedding Wire, Google, Yelp, etc. to ensure that we would have the best experience possible. 

Due to limited availability, we narrowed our choices to three places:

 

Separk Mansion

While this was near the top of my list, Kyle was a little less enthused about Separk Mansion.  I loved the unique floors and fixtures of this venue in Gastonia (about a half hour from Charlotte’s city center). I have a strong feeling that fate intervened to prevent us from actually touring this location.  Our initial tour had to be cancelled due to my mother in law’s mom passing away unexpectedly.  We rescheduled to tour after we went to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.  Kyle and I ended up going to see the Mansion before our other tour just to look at the outside.  I knew I wanted the option of an outdoor ceremony.  While this location offered it, looking at the outside, I couldn’t imagine it for myself.  It was more like a yard than a true ceremony site, and it left me overwhelmed.  The parking lot also seemed small.  Since we are relatively isolated from our friends and family (primarily in NJ, MD, and FL), we knew we needed more room for cars to safely park off the street.  I still clung to the beautiful images and glowing reviews so were still planning to tour after we finished at the Gardens (especially since they had some great dates available)…

 

Alexander Homestead-

Looking at pictures, I couldn’t put them all together to “understand” Alexander Homestead until we saw it in person.  Was it a house? Barn? Garden? This Charlotte venue was elegantly charming.  I loved the old house, garden ceremony site, and barn reception area.  They were reasonable price-wise, all-inclusive, and willing to accommodate my vision.  We really loved this venue.  There were a couple little things that nagged us when we were trying to make a final decision.  We kept saying “we like it, but…” which isn’t necessarily what you want for your dream wedding.  Our hang-ups included- rain contingency plan was cramped for the number of people we were expecting and the chance for rain and unpredictable temperatures, the reception site was a beautiful barn (which wasn’t really what we had in mind for our “theme”), beer/wine only (I come from a large Irish family… need I say more? Lol), we wouldn’t necessarily be able to try the menu for the food (that was a big one), and lastly, while the offer to customize was there, most of what we would have would have been picked out from a binder (centerpieces, bouquets, etc.) and I wanted more than that.  I would recommend this to anyone looking at venues in the Charlotte area, though!  It is so lovely and it would be perfect for the right wedding!
 

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens-

Christi Falls Photography

We have quite the story with the DSBG.  I emailed them and was told to schedule a tour for the location in Belmont (a little over a half hour from Charlotte’s center) and that would be in about three weeks.  I was warned that there was only one Saturday evening available for the venue (though they had daytime slots available- which happens while the gardens are open to the public) on October 15.  Kyle and I talked it over, but I knew that I really needed to see the place in person before I made a decision about booking.  We felt that if it was meant to be, it would still be available when we toured.  Less than four days later, we got an email that the date was gone.  They only had Friday evenings left for the entire fall season. We talked it over and decided to still go tour the gardens.  The day of our tour came and we absolutely loved it.  They had various special areas that could be used for ceremony, reception, cocktail hour, etc. and plenty of options to customize.  With the exception of catering and equipment rentals (which I will get to soon), we could pick our own vendors for everything from flowers to photographers.  We knew that this would be the perfect place for us to get married.  We asked about potential date availability and got the best news.  Our guide informed us that the person who booked October 15 had cancelled due to a music festival taking place at the gardens which would push any wedding that day back a half hour. We JUMPED on it and had our date and venue!
 

All three places were different and would be great for anyone planning weddings that might not be the traditional church, hotel ballroom, etc.  We are so glad we got to see a mansion, home/country, and garden setting to make the best decision for us.

 My advice? Ask questions both to your spouse and of the venues! Do you want extra options for unpredictable weather? Do you want to be more hands on or hands off? Do you want to have an all inclusive venue or a la carte? What kind of menu (food and bar) options are available for the space? Do they have specific vendors that must be used? Does this fit our vision? Can we see ourselves getting married here? Is there enough room for everyone we want to include? Are there accommodations nearby for out of town guests? Do you want your ceremony and reception in the same place?

These are just a few questions to think about and ask when touring potential spaces. 

 

I was not compensated for this post in any way.  All opinions are completely my own.

 

Where did you get married?

How did you decide on a venue?

Did you get a venue based on your vision or get a vision based on your venue?

Where Have You Been?!

Needless to say, I have neglected this blog 😦  It certainly wasn’t my intention to disappear for so long, but alas, here we are!  I plan on documenting my husband (yep, we’ve already gotten married) and my wedding over the next few weeks!


Like I said, we got married, and it was WONDERFUL!  We are almost six months in, and I still can’t believe I am married and Kyle is my husband.  We went on our honeymoon the morning after the wedding and got right back to reality.  I was lucky enough to have my wedding and honeymoon braces-free!  I’m a complete metal mouth now and things seem to be moving along.  I hit the six month mark at my last appointment so hopefully (if things keep progressing well), I should be all done with them by this time next year!


Being part of another family also gained me two nieces, with a third who joined the family in December.  We were lucky enough to go meet the new baby a few days after she was born and needless to say, it only raised the degree of baby fever I’ve had for… too long, haha.


I hosted my first Thanksgiving last year!  Our tiny two-bedroom apartment was overflowing with Kyle’s family.  We were joined by his mom, stepdad, two teenage half-sisters, and their friend.  I had some help by way of Fresh Market, but added my own dishes and desserts.  Needless to say, I enjoy being the hostess, but would be much happier in a bigger place next time.


Speaking of bigger place, we moved! We were given the option to renew our lease, but the rate was much more than we were expecting.  We knew we wanted a bigger place for family to visit us more comfortably, a larger kitchen for my sanity (plus the generous wedding gifts we received), and hopefully a yard or a better place for our dog, Bentley.  While we were sad to leave the Lake Norman area, we hit the jackpot of houses with our new home in Concord!   Not only did we get everything on our list, our yard is fenced in with a small dog house, has a patio and fire pit, and the location is great!  We are close to shopping and restaurants, and the drive (while about the same distance) avoids most of the congestion on 77 for Kyle’s (and my) job!  We plan on staying put until we buy (or if a dream job elsewhere comes along).


My job?  Oh yes, I am actually getting ready to start a new job next week 🙂  I am working part time for a very familiar company… Disney!  While not a career by any means, I am excited to have something for me that will help Kyle and I continue our pilgrimage to the mouse and love of Disney!
That’s about all for now!