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This Week’s Meal Plan

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?

My experiment with avoiding wheat and dairy this week is so far having absolutely no effect on my nursing baby’s skin issues.  Bummer.  One good thing that has come out of it so far, however, is these delicious muffins.  I found the original recipe here, and made very few changes.  I am just not confident in gluten-free creativity yet :).

My husband actually said these were the best tasting muffins he has had in years.

Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 eggs

1/2 c. coconut oil

3 ripe bananas

6 dates (pitted)

1/4 c. honey

1/2 c. coconut flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 /2 c. finely chopped walnuts

1/2 c. chocolate chips (dairy-free, if needed)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and proceed:

1. In a blender, combine eggs, coconut oil, bananas, dates and honey.  Blend until evenly combined.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking soda.

3. Dump the dry ingredients into the blender with the wet.  Blend again to evenly combine.  Scrape the sides as needed.

4.  Stir (don’t blend!) in the walnuts and the chocolate chips.

5.  Divide the batter evenly between 12 – 18 muffin cups (depending on how large you want them).  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy!

I’ll be sharing this recipe with:

Real Food Wednesday’s

These Chicks Cooked

Full Plate Thursday

Newlyweds

Sweet Tooth Friday

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.

My 2012 Goals – Myself

Morning Quiet Time

Image by asha susan via Flickr

This year I am attempting to be much more intentional with goals.  You know, radical things like creating them and writing them down.  After reading several things in the past few months that convinced me that I really ought to have goals in order to actually accomplish things this year, I was a little lost as to how to actually begin.

I read Telling Your Time in one night, and found that it helped me immensely.  By the time I worked my way through the book, I determined what areas of my life I wanted to focus on, how I wanted to change, and how I was going to actually do it from day-to-day.

My plan is to share with you, one area at a time, what I will be working towards this year.  I’d love to know what your goals are for this coming year, and how you plan to spend your days to end up where you want to be!

Area 1: Myself

As the book told me to do, I asked myself the question, “What kind of Self (body, mind, soul) do I want to be?”  My answer?  I want to be merry in heart, contented, hard-working, accomplished, loving and organized.

And how do I plan to become that woman I want to be?

  • Manage My Time WellNot managing my time well stresses me out, being stressed-out makes me tense, which makes me short-tempered, which works directly against everything I want to be.  I will make it a priority to manage my time well, keep lists and have a routine to my days.
  • Rest and Sleep – Obvious, right?  Maybe.  But, for someone as driven and busy as I am, this is something I need to make myself do.  Tired Mommy is not as loving as rested Mommy.  I will get ready for bed at 11:00pm and set the alarm for 6:30am.
  • Time By Myself – I wrote an entire post on this here.  I realized this year, that time by myself is how I recharge.  And taking the time to recharge is not selfish, it is smart.  I cannot be the woman my family and friends deserve if I am drained and overwhelmed all the time.  Even if I never leave the house, it is necessary for me to carve out time in my week to read, research, look at recipes, etc. in a quiet place.
  • Time with God – Clearly I am not typing these in order of importance, as this one would be at the top.  More than I need quiet time by myself, I need quiet time with God.  This is where my soul finds rest and He speaks to me through his Word.  No, I am not saying that I hear the audible voice of God, but if I never sit and read my Bible and pray, I will never hear Him.  He is my source of strength for today and hope for tomorrow (as the old hymn goes), and where I need to come first for refreshment.  Quiet Time with the Lord at 7:30 every morning is essential for me.
  • Haircuts and Decent Clothes – Yes, this actually needs to be on my list.  Would you believe that it has been over a year since I had a haircut?!  Terrible.  I feel better about myself, meaning I have a brighter spirit and a better attitude when I am not embarrassed by my appearance.  Clothes that fit (hard to do when I have been every size in the book being pregnant and nursing for about the last 8 years) and a decent haircut are on my to-do list.
  • Regular Meals – Another one that should be a given, but just isn’t.  Sometimes it takes me so long to get meals ready, kids’ plates fixed, the baby nursed, and the baby fed – nibbling as I go – that I am just not even hungry anymore.  As a nursing mom, I cannot afford to eat lightly!  Being intentional about eating nutritious foods, often, is important.

Simple, really, when I write it down.  But, without writing it down, I know that I would continue to struggle with success in these areas.  I know they are a priority, and now I can clearly see why they are a priority.

The other part of setting goals for the year, and equally important as having the actual goals, is making my action points a priority in my day-to-day schedule.  I am not a “by the clock” kind of gal, but it has become necessary for me to at least have an outline to my day.  It gives me peace of mind that theoretically, everything that I think could happen, could happen on a perfect day.

Perfect days never happen, and that is OK too.  At least I know where to jump back in after interruptions when I have a routine to guide me.

Next up – Area 2:  What kind of spouse do I want to be?

What are your goals for yourself this coming year?

I am sharing this post at Gratituesday by Heavenly Homemakers.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Time for my second two-week meal plan.  I am posting one week at a time, but I decided in the New Year that I would try planning and shopping for two weeks at a time.  Hopefully, I will save both time and money this way.

So far, I think it is workingDefinitely saving time by not having to drive 25 minutes each week to do my shopping.  And, I think I am saving money – but that will take a few months to really determine.  I am buying so much stuff for the two weeks that I think I am more hesitant to buy anything not on the list!

The other new thing for me with this week’s plan is that I am going to make a serious effort to cut wheat and dairy out of my diet for a time to see if it clears up the really dry, red patches on my nursing baby’s cheeks.  My theory at this time (after trying every lotion under the sun!) is that it could be an allergy/sensitivity or teething.  Let the experiment begin . . .  What do you think?

So, here is my plan for the first of the two weeks:

BREAKFAST:

I am SO TIRED of all of my kids being SO TIRED of the things we normally have for breakfast.  This week I am just going to have a list of things they can choose from and let them choose from the list each morning.  We’ll see if this is even more irritating than their burnout on the usual :).  Oh, and one morning I do plan to make Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes (yum!).

LUNCH:

Black bean and corn salsa w/fresh tomatoes, corn chips

Lettuce Wraps, egg salad, veggies

Baked Potatoes, cheese (none for me, of course :(), broccoli, fruit

Crock Pot Spaghetti, veggies

Lentil Stew, veggies

Leftovers x 2

DINNER:

Vietnamese Fried Rice, fruit

Beef and Cabbage Soup, fruit

Taco Soup, corn chips, cheese (again – not for me), fruit

Honey Pecan Salmon, sweet potatoes, green beans

White Bean Chili, peas, fruit

Roasted Potatoes, Sausage and Green Beans, fruit

Leftovers

SNACKS:

  • Gluten Free Banana Nut Muffins
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit
  • Cheese
  • Nuts

I have previously cooked black beans in my freezer already, so I will just need to make a big crock pot full of pinto beans this week.  I also plan to make homemade chicken stock and beef stock – to use and to freeze.

What do you have planned for the week?

Paper snowflakes – there could not be a more perfect family activity today at our house.  The first measurable snow fall this season – which is momentous since we live near Chicago! – is turning our outside world white.  And what better way to spend our cozy afternoon (after putting on all the gear and romping in the snow, of course) than crafting together and making the inside as beautiful as the outside.

Until a few days ago, I hadn’t made a paper snowflake since about the second grade.  I admit that I had to do a little googling to refresh my memory.  In case you are like me, just follow these steps and you’ll be paper-crafting a la Will Ferrell in Elf in no time!

Grab your rectangle piece of paper and fold the bottom right corner up to match the opposite edge.

Save your rectangle if you have little ones!

Use your scissors to cut off the extra part, so all you have left is a square that is folded into a triangle.  If you have little ones who aren’t able to cut snowflakes very well, have them cut and color those extra rectangles to participate :).  At the end of the post, I will show you how my little ones contributed.

Now, fold your larger triangle in half to form a smaller triangle with the opening on top.

Now, the next couple folds you will need to kind of guesstimate.  With the openings at the top, fold one third of your triangle over to cover the middle third and crease.

Fold the last third over on top of the other two thirds.

Cut off the little paper tails sticking out the top from the thirds you folded over.  And this is why pictures are helpful :).

It should look like the picture above if you have done everything correctly.  If not, it’s just paper – start over.With a decent pair of scissors, cut designs into both sides of your triangle.  Just remember not to cut all the way across.

And that opened up to become – THIS!!  Easy, right?  And those rectangle scraps that the littles colored?  Cut them into strips and use them to hang up the snowflakes!  Now everyone helped to create something lovely to decorate the home.  It really needed something special since the Christmas tree went away, didn’t it?

See our colored hanger?

Enjoy your snow day!

This is the first post in a short series on different ways to create a weekly meal plan.  I truly believe that if you only make one change to your home management for 2012 – this should be it!  It will ease your mind, simplify your life, and save you both time and money!
a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

Image via Wikipedia

The first method I want to talk about is the “Theme System”.  Nothing I ever do is complicated, or I would never do it :).  So, trust me when I say this one is simple.

The basic idea is to pick a theme for each night of the week to guide you as you plan.  Here is my quick list of themes:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Seafood
  • Pasta
  • Asian
  • Italian
  • Mexican
  • Breakfast (who doesn’t love a breakfast spread at night?!)
  • Crock Pot
  • Leftovers
  • Pizza
  • Dad/Kids cook
  • Vegetarian

These are just the ones that popped into my head as I was typing, so I am sure you could think of more.  Now, turning this into a system, might look something like this:

  • Monday – Meatless/Vegetarian
  • Tuesday – Italian
  • Wednesday – Chicken or Beef
  • Thursday – Crock Pot
  • Friday – Mexican or Pork
  • Saturday – Pizza or Dad cooks
  • Sunday – Leftovers

You pick the themes, and you decide which theme works best for which night.  Make the system work for you, your schedule and your family’s activities.

For this system, you will want to designate a specific day and time on which to force yourself to sit down and get specific about the actual meals you want to serve for the week.  Grab a notebook and a pen, or your iphone, or whatever works for you and plan your meals!

Once you have a dinner plan in place, create your grocery list.  Go through the recipes (either the actual recipe or from memory) and determine what you need to buy.  Add the extra stuff you need for breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

There you have it!  Save your list of possible themes and the ones you have chosen for now.  And, plan to use it every week for a few weeks to get in the groove.  You can always come back and switch it up when you want to.

My last tip  – post your plan where your family can see it!  This may be the biggest motivating factor to keep you on the meal planning track.  You will quickly realize how valuable it is to smile and point at the list when the eighth person of the day asks you, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

To read my post on why meal planning is so important, click here.