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Posts Tagged ‘simple’

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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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.

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