Menu Plan Monday (or Tuesday)

I meant to get this up yesterday but, unfortunately, I have a house full of sickies. So here it is a day late:

Photobucket

Monday — Spaghetti and meatballs with green salad
Tuesday — Meat patties over rice with gravy; celery with cream cheese; cucumbers
Wednesday — Soup and salad (probably potato soup as I have a few left over baked potatoes from Sunday night’s dinner)
Thursday — Tacos (taco salad for Mom and Dad)
Friday — Homemade Pizza
Saturday — Hamburgers and hot dogs

We’re doing a bit of a pantry clean out menu plan this week so I can defrost my chest freezer this week. I’m hoping it will get us a little ahead on the food budget, too, as I spent WAY too much last month!!!


Meal planning: How to get started

I’ve been working on this meal planning thing for a long time and the first thing I have to say is that it’s a work in progress. I still don’t have everything figured out and learn something new nearly every month. My goal is to have a set monthly meal plan (with a couple of spontaneous flex days allowed) with a set grocery list to go with it. I’m not there yet. 🙂

I’ve been talking to a very dear relative who is just starting this meal planning journey, though, so I thought I’d go ahead a share what I have learned so far.

I had no thoughts of meal planning when I was newly married. We bought whatever we thought looked good in the store and tried to figure out some recipe to go with it throughout the week. If there was a recipe I specifically wanted to try I usually made a special trip to the store for the ingredients. This wasn’t such a big deal. We lived in Nashville, Tennessee, minutes from several grocery stores including Kroger, Aldi’s, and a family run health food store. Also (and this is the biggie) we had no kids. We could easily go to all three stores together and spend hours puttering around and buying different things to try. What a fun time that was! I don’t mean to suggest we spent tons of money on food, though. Some weeks we only had $25 to spend. I could get a little despondent about that but Kenny always turned it into a game of what fun things can we do with $25. 🙂

But life changes. For us we still don’t have a lot of money for groceries and I can still get down about it at times. But I’m learning. I’m learning to be thankful for what I have (I know people who have far less and have far better attitudes about it!) and to be creative and flexible. Flexibility is not something that comes easy for me but we can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens us. (Phillipians 4:13) And God cares about our meal plan. He cares how much we spend on our groceries every week. He wants us to be good stewards of the money he has given us. I try to remember to pray before I go shopping each week. I pray that he will show me the good deals and help me to use my money wisely.

The first thing to do is print out a monthly calendar. You can print these from Donna Young’s homeschool printables or a hundred other places on the web.

Next ask your spouse what his favorite meals are if you don’t know them already. My husband almost always gives me high praises about my cooking (another thing he learned as a newlywed) so I actually didn’t know his favorites. Plug those meals into the calendar first. If he is on any dietary restrictions that will have to be taken into account.

The third step is to ask your children for their favorites and plug those in. Those meals are likely to be easier than you think! My kids favorites are macaroni and cheese, hotdogs and hamburgers, and tacos.

Fill the blank spaces with your favorites plus a few vegetarian meals and at least a couple “flex” nights when you can be creative if you desire.

At this point you can take a break. The hard part is over. You have at least a springboard from which to work. You can use this monthly meal plan over and over until it isn’t working any longer. (it’s possible kids could grow out of wanting to eat tacos and pizza every week; I wouldn’t know that yet!)

After you have your grand plan print yourself another calendar. This calendar will have slots for just one week’s meals. It will include breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks if you serve snacks. Look at that monthly plan and transfer one week’s dinners to the weekly plan. Make sure you fill this calendar in with a pencil! Then fill in some easy breakfasts and lunches. And finally some snacks that hopefully you can either prepare ahead of time or that the kids can get for themselves. Our current plan for breakfasts and lunches is:

Breakfasts:
Sunday — toast/bananas
Monday — oatmeal
Tuesday — cereal/ toast
Wednesday — muffins/ smoothies
Thursday — eggs/ toast
Friday — cream of wheat or oatmeal
Saturday — pancakes or cereal

Lunches:
Sunday — at church
Monday — snackie
Tuesday — roll ups/ wraps
Wednesday — sandwiches
Thursday — snackie
Friday — roll ups/ wraps
Saturday — sandwiches

For snacks they eat fruit, peanut butter crackers, pretzels or whatever else they can find. Sometimes I schedule snacks but I rarely follow the schedule. That’s an area that is still in progress in the Bailey house. 🙂

After you have your weekly meal plan set make your grocery list to match it. You may find as you make your grocery list that you will not be able to afford everything on your list. At this point you can substitute high cost ingredients for things you have on hand or things that are on sale that week. This is why you used a pencil and why you need to be flexible. Think of this as the grocery game. How well can I feed my family on what I have available? Use everything at your disposal — your brain, the sale papers, any coupons you may have, food you are given, etc.

Eventually you will find that you are writing some of the same ingredients down week after week. At this point you can make a weekly grocery list on your computer with those items already typed in to save yourself more time (things like milk, bread, eggs, etc.).

O.K. Let’s review. Here’s what to do to get started meal planning:

1. Print out a blank calendar
2. Plug in your family’s favorite meals
3. Plug in your favorite meals
4. Include some vegetarian meals and flex days
5. Print a weekly calendar
6. Transfer dinners to the weekly plan and add breakfasts, lunches and snacks
7. Make a grocery list to correspond making changes to your plan as necessary

That should get you started. We can delve into other areas in future posts. If there is anything you would like to know more about please ask in the comments! God bless your journey. Meal planning is part of being a Proverbs 31 woman!!


Menu Plan Monday

Photobucket

Sunday: Baked potatoes with all the trimmings (ham, cheddar cheese, butter, sour cream, salt & pepper), salad, fresh strawberries
Monday: Chicken pot pie, salad
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes, home fries, fresh veggie sticks
Wednesday: Chicken broccoli noodle bake, extra steamed broccoli
Thursday: Tacos, Mexican rice, refried beans from the pintos in the freezer
Friday: Pizza, chocolate pie for dessert night
Saturday: Homemade mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, fresh veggie sticks

That really doesn’t look like the healthiest menu plan, does it? Sloppy joes, tacos and pizza all in the same week? There must be kids in the house. 🙂


Freezer Cooking Day Results

Whew! I had forgotten how much work a freezer cooking day is! The best part, though, is that I got to devote almost a whole day to one of the things I like to do the most — cook. 🙂

I had planned to put up several posts to walk a freezer cooking “newbie” through the steps. I may do a bit of that next time around. This time I’ll just give a tip that makes the day go smoother for me. I like to write all my recipes out on cards and then tape the cards to my kitchen cabinet fronts on the counter where I’ll be making that recipe. It makes it so much easier to have the recipes all right in front of me and not taking up counter space.

Photobucket

The cards are not color-coded or anything. I just happened to have these cards in the back of my card file.

I started the day with granola. I made 4 batches which I’m hoping will last for four cereal mornings. I’ll be keeping track to see how quickly we use things up so I can adjust on next month’s cooking day.

Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t start with granola. The first thing I did at 6 a.m. even before I started my coffee was to get a huge pot of pinto beans going in the crock pot. I had soaked 32 ounces of pintos the night before. I drained them, added fresh water and a couple of ham hocks and turned them on low to cook all day.

I progressed with making 4 pancake mixes, 4 cornbread mixes, 6 oatmeal packets (I would have made more but I ran out of quick oats), 2 1/2 dozen Fall Comfort Muffins, 1 pumpkin bread, about 5 dozen pumpkin cookies and 8 pizza crusts. I did not get to the banana bread but decided I didn’t really need it for next month. I cut the 4 bananas I had set aside for the bread into chunks and flash froze them for smoothies.

The last chore of the day (and the only picture I took of all the food) was to bag up the pinto beans into 2 cup packs.

Photobucket

The only thing left to do was clean up the mess. I tried to clean as I went along which helped a lot. But I didn’t get my kitchen completely back in order until the next day. One of my little helpers wiped out the fridge for me. 🙂

Photobucket

I didn’t get the kids too involved this go round but they are anxious to help. I may set them up making packets next month. I’ve already got lots of ideas whirling around for the next cooking day. Especially since the 3rd Friday in November happens to be the Friday before Thanksgiving!!


Freezer Cooking Session Coming Up!

I love to do once-a-month cooking. It’s a lot of hard work but it really pays off when dinner is mostly done at the end of a hard day of homeschooling, potty training and nursing a new baby.

It has worked out in my schedule that I will be able to devote every 3rd Friday to freezer cooking. Yea! I wasn’t able to prepare for this budget wise this month as I just found out about the opening in my schedule, so this week I’m going to concentrate on things I can make from the ingredients I already have on hand. I will need to buy eggs but that’s about it.

Here is what I plan to make for the freezer this Friday:

Fall Comfort Muffins x4
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins*
Cinnamon Muffins*
Pancake mix x4
Cornbread mix x4
Pizza crusts x4
Taquitos
Granola x4
Banana bread
Pumpkin bread

*optional for if I have time.


Menu Plan Monday

Photobucket

Monday: Pottage, cornbread, salad

Tuesday: Chicken and Wild Rice Bake
*This is a new recipe I’m trying this week. I’m hoping it’s good. I’ve looked for a long time for an alternative to the cream of chicken and instant rice type dish that is so popular.

Wednesday: Minestrone soup, homemade bread, salad

Thursday: Basil chicken pasta
*The link directs you to a Chicken Tortellini recipe which we love but can rarely afford the tortellini. It is still delicious (and much more frugal) with bow tie pasta!

Friday: Spaghetti and meatballs

Saturday: Mexican rice and nachos supreme

Sunday: Red beans and rice

Hope the family is in the mood for rice this week! 🙂


Flying in the kitchen

*If you’re new to flying, check out flylady.net.

This week is kitchen week. And it is very timely for me! My kitchen is currently a disaster area. I’m looking forward to having a shiny organized kitchen again. I wish I didn’t have to do school or potty train the 2 year old this week. I could literally spend hours per day in my kitchen.

But that’s not the way flylady works. She tells us to do baby steps. I am SO the perfectionist that she describes.

Today’s task is to get the kitchen generally straight starting with a shiny sink.

That’s all the post I have time for at the moment. I’m off to start my day. Hope you all have a good one!


Another menu plan Monday

OK. It’s actually Tuesday. But this is just for ideas so no big deal, right. 🙂

I SOOOO want to blog more (like pictures of the new baby, all the birthdays we’ve had recently, school fun, etc.) but right now there just isn’t time. 🙁 Soon, I hope…

Photobucket

Monday: Spaghetti and meatballs (these meatballs are AWESOME and great for freezer cooking)
Tuesday: Spicy venison sausage, purple hull peas, cornbread
Wednesday: Pottage (recipe to follow)
Thursday: Basil pasta
Friday: Hamburger helper (I know — bad mama; but it’s Friday. I’ll be tired!)
Saturday: Left overs
Sunday: Breakfast for dinner (not sure yet; biscuits and gravy maybe or pancakes)


Photobucket

Monday: Hamburger stroganoff, salad, garlic bread
Tuesday: Tuna noodle casserole (macaroni and cheese for the anti-tuna crowd), canned green peas, salad
Wednesday: Hamburgers and hot dogs for the birthday boy
Thursday: Taco night
Friday: Meatballs and gravy over rice
Saturday: Clean out the fridge!


Last of the summer pesto

Photobucket

Well, actually it’s the first and last of the summer pesto. 🙂

Homemade pesto made from homegrown basil is the best!! I didn’t manage to make any pesto while I was preggo. In fact the first pesto I have made all season I made only a few days ago. The main thing I learned is that you can have excellent pesto even if you don’t have excellent ingredients on hand. There have been times in the past that I wouldn’t even think of making pesto unless I had fresh basil, a very good olive oil and real parmesan. This time I had very sad neglected basil which had not been watered in a long time and was choking on weeds, I had only Pompeiian olive oil (Colavita is my favorite but on my current food budget for 8 people I cannot afford $10 for a tiny bottle of olive oil no matter how good it is!), and I only had the green can of powdered parmesan. However, as previously stated, the pesto was super yummy. Even my picky eaters loved it and asked for seconds and even thirds!!

You do need to spend a little to get the pine nuts. I was lucky this time and had some in the freezer from last summer’s pesto. 🙂

Here’s the recipe. I have no idea where it came from — somewhere on the web last summer:

My favorite pesto:

Start a pot of boiling water before you begin. This pesto is delicious over any pasta. My favorites are mezzo penne or bowtie. **Save about 1/4 cup of your pasta cooking water to mix with the pesto when you combine with the pasta.

1/4 cup pine nuts, roasted 4-5 minutes in a skillet on medium
3 large garlic cloves (I skewered mind and stuck them in the boiling pasta for about 3 minutes to take the bite out)
2 cups fresh basil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (this isn’t optional; the pesto will be too dark without it)
7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parmesan (plus extra for serving)

Throw everything together in a food processor and process until smooth. I only add about 2/3 of the recipe to a pound of cooked pasta. The rest I freeze in an ice cube tray for a later use.

Serve immediately with extra parmesan.

ENJOY!