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To mention my recent absence, or not to mention??  Truth is, blogging is not a business for me.  Just a fun hobby.  And as just about everyone in the entire world knows, there are seasons when hobbies cannot take a front seat.  Or even a back seat.  Or even a sidecar.

This, for me, has been one of those seasons.  Is she pregnant, AGAIN?!?!?  That will probably be the first question many of you will think to ask :).  The answer is, right now, no.  The Lord has seen it fit to keep me plenty busy with my current role of wife and mother to five.  I am content with that!

My husband’s business has kept our family extremely busy lately, and it seems that any time we have him to ourselves, I just don’t feel like sneaking away to blog.  I just want to enjoy our togetherness.

But, we are still eating.  So, at the very least, I can share with you what we have on the menu for this week!

Gluten-free was a short-lived experiment for us.  We just didn’t see any differences – good or bad.  Still very thankful that we do not need to be gluten-free.  I am still making a conscious effort to limit our wheat, though.  Mostly because I just don’t feel comfortable eating any food several times a day, every day of the week.

BREAKFASTS:

Chocolate Banana Smoothies

Oatmeal

Granola

Yogurt

Granola bars

Honey Nut O’s from Trader Joe’s (my kids thought I deserved Mother of the Year for this one)

LUNCHES:

Baked Potatoes, steamed broccoli, cheese

Bean Bowls (refried beans with fixin’s), corn chips

Turkey Sandwiches, fresh veggies

Pancakes, sausage, maple icing

Leftovers x 3

DINNERS:

Taco Joes (like sloppy joes, but taco-y and eaten with chips), shredded cheese, tomato, sour cream, corn chips

Roasted Potatoes and Sausage, green beans

Chicken Spaghetti, steamed peas, carrot sticks

Tuna, Spinach and Rice, oranges

Beef and Black Bean Stew, fruit

Pizza, fresh veggies

Church Pot Luck – breakfast theme this week . . . Still not sure about this one . . .

So, that’s the plan!  Are you in a busy season right now?  What are you doing to stay sane?

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Continuing with the gluten-free experiment this week.  I am still avoiding most baking and definitely avoiding all weird ingredients (gums, starches, garbanzo bean flour, etc.) just because I do not want to incur the expense or invest my time learning a bunch of new skills if this isn’t a permanent way of life for us.

So, I haven’t really answered the “Why gluten-free?” question.  Mostly because the post would actually turn into a rambling series that would induce sleep in most readers.  Basically, I have had digestive issues since I was old enough to remember constant stomach aches when I was little.  And headaches.  I also weigh less than I would like – I know, terrible, right?  But, it does both concern and annoy me that I cannot seem to look like a grown-up.  There are other little things that seem to possibly be gluten sensitivity related.

And, my middle daughter (who turns five today!!) also has several issues that could be gluten related.  So, why not try?  See if we feel better.  See if we look better.

I have found several great blogs that have some amazing gluten or grain free recipes.  And, with a little creativity, but not too much effort, avoiding gluten has been pretty pain-free.

So, here is this week’s plan:

BREAKFASTS:

Still in a healing phase from “Breakfast Burnout”.  This choose-your-own-adventure thing is a little more work, but a lot less complaining.  I’ll take that trade.

  • Eggs
  • Smoothie
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Apples and PB
  • Cheese
  • Fresh Fruit

LUNCH:

  • Lettuce Wraps (PB & J or veggies and hummus), fresh veggies
  • Sloppy Joes (no buns for the gf gals), steamed corn
  • White Bean Chicken Chili, green beans
  • Bean Bowls (Refried beans with fixin’s), corn chips
  • Egg salad, fresh veggies
  • Leftovers x 2

DINNER:

Have you tried any new recipes that you loved lately?  Calico Beans are definitely one for me! Have a yummy week :)!

Join me at Menu Plan Monday for more inspiration!

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Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free and dairy-free)

I survived “eat from the pantry” week!!  Do they have t-shirts for that?  Am I the only one who does not enjoy a break from grocery shopping?

Anyway, I took my usual trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s today instead of tomorrow.  Some of the kids are a little sick, and I am not sure if my sidekick (she does not prefer the title “mother’s helper” :)) is coming tomorrow.  And I do not want to go one more day without grocery shopping.

Always a problem when I go to the store hungry.  Even bigger problem when I am hungry and I have been eating from the pantry all week.  Needless to say, we have plenty of food in the house now!  And those treasured Trader Joe dark chocolate PB cups are mine again.

My middle child and I are still avoiding wheat for now, so all of our meals are gluten-free this week.  And I don’t want to buy a bunch of weird new ingredients, so this is gluten-free with plain old food.  Not too hard actually, if you are used to making many things from scratch anyway.  And you don’t mind eating a hot dog without a bun :).

BREAKFASTS:

– Still letting kids choose from a list of options until we get over the breakfast burnout phase:

Eggs

Smoothie (GF girl and I have been enjoying one of these almost every morning – YUM!!)

Oatmeal

Granola

Apples and PB

Leftover GF muffins (Orange Coconut or Banana Nut Chocolate Chip)

Yogurt (plain, sweetened with berries or maple syrup)

LUNCH:

– Still going with my “big meal of the day at noon” plan.  Works well for Jason’s schedule and managing the dishes.

PB & J Lettuce Wraps (I know this sounds so weird, but all of the kids like them!  Try it.  I swear.), cheese, veggies and hummus

Hot Dogs (the no nitrate/nitrite version), steamed green beans, apples (we GF gals will just go without the bun.  No biggie for us.)

Chicken Divan, oranges

Deviled Eggs (otherwise known as “egg boats” around here), fresh veggies and hummus, apples and PB

Split Pea Soup, apples

Leftovers x 2

DINNER:

Lemon Tuna and Rice, steamed peas

Baked Potatoes, steamed broccoli, cheese

Bean Bowls, oranges

Pizza Spaghetti and Movie Night (This is my GF substitute for pizza and movie night this week:  Rice spaghetti, topped with shredded Italian cheeses, spaghetti sauce with more “pizza-y” seasonings, sautéed mushrooms and sausage, and parmesan cheese on top.  Who is going to miss pizza?), oranges

Chili Burgers with lettuce, avocado and tomato, corn chips, apples (bun-less for the GF gals) This is my soon to be five-year-old’s favorite meal for her birthday :)!!  Ice cream sundaes for dessert since I will not be attempting a GF cake at this point.

Leftovers x 2

That is my week!  What do you have planned?

Check out other menu plans for the week at Menu Plan Monday!

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We have reached the end of the month.  And the end of the grocery money.  I do think it is a cruel coincidence that January – the month I stick to my budget like my ultra-shy-four-year-old sticks to me in public – has five Mondays.  Monday is the day I do my shopping, and I budget per month, not per week.  Darn it!

I do not feel like making do, or eating from the pantry.  I love to read other people’s blog posts when they do it, but I really don’t enjoy it myself.  Alas, I am really not giving myself the choice.  Laziness is not an option.  

Thankfully, I am not even close to out of food.  My freezers are bursting and my pantry is an amply supplied walk-in.  Yes, I do need to get real and stop whining about this.  I need to hit the freezers and pantry hard this week.  Please leave a comment and let me know if I am not alone.  And tell me any great bean recipes you have, because that is one thing I have in abundance :).

Also, I am still on the “big meal of the day at noon” kick.  It worked out so well this week!  I loved being able to tackle the bulk of the dishes in the morning and afternoon.  I also really enjoyed making a simpler meal at the end of the day, when my energy level is not at its peak.

Here is what I have come up with:

BREAKFASTS:

Smoothies (plenty of frozen berries and even some frozen bananas, and nuts in the fridge)

English Muffins (freezer)

Leftover muffins

Eggs (still have some from this past week)

Granola (all the ingredients in the pantry)

Oatmeal

LUNCHES: 

Zesty Soup, steamed green beans

Chicken and Noodles, steamed peas

Vietnamese Fried Rice, applesauce

Black Beans, avocados (still have from this past week), fresh carrots

Frijoles, cornbread, steamed corn

Lentils and Spinach, oranges

Leftovers

SUPPERS:

Baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, clementines

Tuna salad, bread (I’ll be baking), steamed peas

Waffles, Blueberry syrup, chopped nuts, fresh carrots

Pizza (happen to have three of these in my freezer :)), steamed green beans

Orange Coconut Muffins, steamed peas, fresh carrots

Leftovers x 2

Honestly, my workload should be about the same this week in the kitchen.  I do need to cook a chicken I have in my freezer and make stock as well.  I also plan on baking two loaves of bread.  Everything else will be done the day of.

What are you eating this week?

Find out what many others are planning for the week over at Menu Plan Monday!

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a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

Image via Wikipedia

You’ll see in my menu plan this week that I am planning on bringing back dinner.  The midday meal of yesteryear!  Whether a larger midday meal works for your family or not, crock pot cooking is extremely convenient.  So, if you are a “High for 4 hours” or a “Low for 8 hours” kind of gal, read on!

In theory, if I can plan ahead and get dinner (otherwise known as “lunch” :)) in the crock pot in the morning, either before or during breakfast prep, this should work like a dream.  Think about it!  This will mean that the bulk of the supper prep dishes that are usually staring at me (and often laughing) when I come downstairs after tucking the kids in will be done before noon.  Oh, that sounds so good.

The problem with crock pot cooking is that it can mean a lot of trial and error to find recipes your family loves.  And, if you are into eating real food, like we are, it can be difficult to find truly healthy crock pot dishes.  No canned cream soups allowed!  The following are some of my favorite sources for real food crock pot dishes:

  • Soups and stews – Just about any of your favorite soups and stews can be modified to cook in the crock pot.  If you plan to use ground beef, brown it before putting it in your crock pot.  Beans will need to be cooked ahead of time, or use canned, if you plan to eat the soup at noon.  If you plan to cook a cream soup in the crock pot, don’t add the cream or milk in the beginning.  If you add it about half an hour before serving, the results should be delicious.
  • Large Family Logistics – Kim Brenneman (who inspired me to use my crock pot more for the lunch meal!) has five yummy recipes specifically for the crock pot.  If you are not into eating meat, or are looking to save money by eating fewer meals with meat, these can easily be converted to meatless as well.  Also, check her easy lunches here.
  • Make It Fast, Cook It Slow – Stephanie O’Dea is a wonderful writer in addition to being a fantastic source of amazing crock pot recipes.  I happen to own both of her cookbooks, but all of those recipes, and many more, are available on her website.  And, bonus – they are also gluten-free!
  • Nourishing Crock Pot Carnival – Lindsay from Passionate Homemaking hosted a Nourishing Crock Pot Carnival back in 2009.  Who knew I would still be loving it in 2012!  There are definitely treasures in this link up.

These should absolutely be enough to inspire and motivate you to drag out your crock pot or to add a few new recipes to your usual line-up.  Come back here and let me know if you find any gems!  Or, just post your favorite recipe for us all right here in the comments.

I’ll be sharing this post with the readers over at Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by Good Cheap Eats.

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Ok, so my two-week grocery shopping plan needs a lot of work.  Apparently, I don’t have a really good concept of just how much food my family consumes.  I bought 20 pounds of apples less than two weeks ago, and we seriously have three left.  Thirteen pounds of potatoes, and again, three left.  Better planning is in order.

The other thing I am learning, is that I spend more time cooking than I would like.  Duh, right?  I guess we probably all feel this way.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy cooking.  It is just that with all the other responsibilities I have, cooking and baking can’t be a huge time taker for me.

I am reading Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman right now – even though our family may not qualify as large (seven people) compared to hers (eleven people) – and I am really gleaning some fantastic tips for organizing our household.

I am going to put two ideas into practice when it comes to my meal planning this week:

1. Leftovers

I need to cook larger quantities of dishes like soups, stews and beans so that I have enough for two or even three meals.  Years ago, I would make one batch of something and my husband would have leftovers for work the next day.  As our family grew, I had to make a double batch of things to have leftovers.  Now, we are at the point where I make a double batch of things and have no leftovers.  Leftovers save time!!!!  I now see that I need to start making triple or quadruple batches when I cook so that I can serve leftovers throughout the week.

2. Dinner

Dinner in the noon time, Little House on the Prairie sense.  My husband works from home during the day, and often times he works out of the house at night.  On those days, I typically serve a larger meal at lunch time – or dinner as it was called way back when.  Where my plan falls apart, is the fact that I also then feel the need to plan a larger meal for the kids and me later in the day.  So not necessary.  And, to be honest, my husband is really flexible.  I think to save myself the planning headaches, I am just going to plan a very simple breakfast, a very simple supper, and larger midday meal.  We’re bringing dinner back!

This week is also going to be an adventure for our family.  In addition to having my own five children ages eight and under, we will be watching my two nephews.  They are very energetic, very adorable little 21-month-olds.  Yep, that’s right.  Seven kids, eight and under.  It is going to be loud and messy – even more so than usual.  And we are all looking forward to it!  This is the perfect opportunity for my older two to really step up and help even more as well.  And, it will mean that I would like to spend even less time in the kitchen this coming week.

My plan = Big pots of stuff and lots of leftovers.

BREAKFAST:

Kids can choose from the following:

  • Eggs
  • Apples and Peanut Butter
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola

LUNCH (or DINNER):

  • Creamy Vegetable and Rice Soup, Steamed Broccoli
  • Beef Stew (yummy new recipe with potatoes and lots of dill)
  • Sloppy Joes (I use Laura’s yummy recipe, but add a bunch of chopped peppers and grated carrots), Steamed Corn, Steamed Peas
  • Cottage Mac and Cheese, fruit
  • Calico Beans , fruit
  • Leftovers x 2

SUPPER:

  • Refried beans, avocados, cheese, veggies
  • Baked potatoes, cheese, steamed broccoli, fruit
  • Eggs, apples, veggies
  • Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins, fruit, veggies
  • Grilled Cheese, veggies
  • Leftovers x 2

That’s my plan.  I know that the theme of my week is FLEXIBILITY, so we shall see how my plan plays out in reality :).  I am still going both wheat and dairy free to see if my nursing baby’s skin improves.  The experiment continues . . .

What do you have planned this week?  Do any of you have your bigger meal of the day at noon?

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Welcome to my second post in a short series about different meal planning systems that might inspire you to actually develop a system that works for you.  You can read about the Theme System here.  Today, I am introducing the Rotating Weeks method.

This one takes less thought than the theme system, but also has less flexibility.  This system works beautifully for people who have fairly predictable schedules from one week to the next.  The idea behind this system is to come up with six weeks of meals all at once (or start with four if that seems less overwhelming), and then just rotate through them.  When you reach the end of your six weeks – just start over at the beginning!

A meal at the court of Emperor Ferdinand I,

Image via Wikipedia

Here is what you do:

  • Write/type out six separate lists, Sunday – Saturday, and give some thought to your schedule.  Evening activities, church, Bible studies, etc. need to be considered.
  • Once you have your empty lists ready, and your schedule in mind – start filling in the blanks!
  • Don’t feel pressured to make every meal differentwho does that?!  If you have pizza every Friday night, then fill in all your Fridays.  Always make a roast on Sundays?  Fill it in.  Don’t forget to include eating out if that is a regular part of your week.
  • If you are having trouble coming up with enough variety you have two options.  Eat the same thing often :), or start searching for new recipes!
  • When you have all of your main dishes figured out, go back and add sides.  This will make creating your grocery list a breeze, and require even less thought from you in the future!

There are several reasons I love this system.  First, once you put the work in to create the lists – you don’t have to do it every week!!  You can also be intentional about planning date nights, family fun nights, nights when your kids cook, etc.  If it is on the rotation, you’ll plan for it.

Another bonus if you use this system is freezer cooking.  If you are making lasagna for tonight’s meal, it is extremely easy to make two at the same time and put one in the freezer.  You know you’ll be eating it again fairly soon because it is on the rotation!  No more freezer meals getting lost and never eaten with this system.

Stockpiling is also simplified if you know what you are making for the next six, twelve, eighteen weeks.  If an item is on sale for the rock-bottom price, you can buy with confidence knowing how much to buy and that you are sure to actually use it!

When you find your groove with this system, I strongly encourage you to create two different rotations – one for Fall/Winter and one for Spring/Summer.  If you do this, you will be sure to include the seasonal items we all crave and you’ll be ready to pull out the other plan when the seasons change.

At the beginning of your week, check your meal plan and make any minor adjustments (company coming so make a swap with another night’s meal, somebody wants their favorite meal on their birthday).  Create your shopping list for things you don’t have in the pantry or freezer, add breakfast and lunch items and you are off!

Easy-peasy!

Next up – the Three Meals A Day System.

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