Menu Plan Monday

Wow! It’s the HOLIDAYS already!

When did THAT happen??

One minute, you’re sunning yourself by the pool and the next time you look around people are singing Christmas carols and putting up lights.

Sigh.

I hope those of you in the U.S. had a most wonderful Thanksgiving week.  We had a very nice week ourselves.  I am happy to report that I managed to stay at home for four straight days. Yep, I didn’t even go past my mailbox for that entire time! It was absolute heaven! If I could figure out a way to have everything delivered, I could quite happily stay at home indefinitely.

My family (especially Super Man and Big Girl) are not of the same mindset, though, so Little Bit and I have to leave the compound occasionally, much to our chagrin.

This week, we’re gearing up for the Christmas festivities. The trees are up and waiting for decorations.  The lights are up outside and most of the other décor is out and ready to enjoy.

Jingle the Elf made his debut on Saturday – the girls were thrilled.  He’s already been up to mischief and found  his way into a bowl of candy canes on Saturday night.

IMG_0671[1]

Today he was found riding the reindeer on the mantle.  There’s no telling what else he’ll get into before Christmas!

It’s rainy and cold here in our little mountain town.  Supposed to get snow tomorrow – which is amazing since we never usually get snow before January.  They are saying it most likely will not stick, but the girls are thrilled regardless.

With the cold weather, I’m planning some warm, hearty meals for us this week.  I want to be sure everyone’s tummies are filled and happy as we enter these long dark days of winter.

mpm-1

Here’s what we have planned:

  • Monday: Roast Beef (crock pot) and mashed potatoes. Also eating up the rest of the Thanksgiving veggie leftovers.
  • Tuesday: Crock Pot Meatloaf & potatoes
  • Wednesday: Teriyaki Chicken & Fried Rice
  • Thursday: Salmon Croquettes & Grits (SuperMan’s request)
    I’ll also be making some Pasta Fagioli soup to take with me on a girls’ weekend.
  • Friday: SuperMan and the girls will (probably) eat out, but I have the fixin’s for Tacos if they decide to eat them.
  • Saturday: everyone’s on their own. I’ll be gone and they will probably head to Golden Corral – their favorite place to eat when Mommy’s out of town!
  • Sunday: family dinner together after they go to church & I get home. Supper with our Small Group friends.

I’ve also made some brownies for lunch snacks this week and some baked oatmeal bars for breakfasts.

For lunch this week, I’m eating tortilla soup, made with the leftover turkey (instead of chicken).

Thinking I’ll make some more bread but waiting for a drier day – bread doesn’t do well in the high humidity. The honey-oatmeal bread turned out really, really good. A little crumbly, but tasty. I may up the moisture (or lower the flour) next time I make it. But it is definitely a keeper recipe.

What about you? Anything good planned?

Hop on over to orgjunkie.com for more menu ideas.

Menu Plan Monday ~ Thanksgiving Week

I bet you thought I’d skip planning meals this week, didn’t you?  I mean, at least two days are taken care of – Thursday’s turkey dinner and Friday’s leftovers, right?

Well, think again!

I didn’t want to spend my vacation week stressing about what to eat and rushing out to the grocery store (which will be packed with last minute shoppers) for something for dinner.

So, I planned accordingly, just as I always do. Now, I can relax and enjoy my family and crafting this week – and cooking, too!

Thanksgiving

Here’s what we have planned in our house for the week:

  • Monday: Leftover spaghetti or homemade pizzas (cleaning out the fridge for the big day!)
  • Tuesday: Low Country Boil (because I’m craving it)
  • Wednesday: ham, rice & black-eyed peas (using a ham slice, not a big ole ham)
  • Thursday: the BIG DAY! Turkey & the trimmings. We do potato balls instead of dressing & mashed potatoes. It’s SuperMan’s family tradition and I love sharing that part of our family with the girls. I’ll have an assortment of veggies: sweet potatoes, butter beans, green beans and maybe carrots. Add some yeast rolls and you have dinner!
  • Friday: Turkey & Dumplings (with the leftover turkey of course!)
  • Saturday: I’m hoping SuperMan is in the mood to make me some Brunswick Stew. He has an awesome recipe.
  • Sunday: probably eat out after church & then dinner will be with our Small Group from church

Since the girls are home with me this week, here’s what I’ve got planned for lunches:

  • BBQ sandwiches (I BBQed a pork butt on Saturday)
  • Chicken quesadillas (this may actually be Tuesday’s supper if we aren’t able to do the Low Country Boil)
  • Taco salads
  • Sub sandwiches (Little Bit will not eat any other type of sandwich, but she will eat a sub. Go figure)

I’m also planning to do some (minimal) baking this week. May try my hand at a pie (that is something I usually don’t do) and I’m thinking a Red Velvet or Carrot cake is in my future, too.

Other than that, I’m planning to spend my week being crafty, relaxing and just enjoying NOT working for a few days!  I’ve got some knitting projects I want to work on and a couple scrapbooking ones as well. 

We’ll also be going to see the Muppet movie when it opens – maybe wait until Saturday? And we are thinking about a trip to the bowling alley, too.  Should be a fun week.

What about you? Other than the big dinner, anything special planned? And for my readers who are in other lands, what’s on your agenda this week as we Americans prepare to eat ourselves into oblivion?

Menu Plan Monday ~ 7 November

Happy Monday, y’all!

Hope you had a great weekend – we sure did. The weather was beautiful and it was so nice to just hang out together as a family.  We didn’t have anything special planned and just enjoyed a relaxing weekend at home – which is special in and of itself, I think.

I’m a homebody. I love to stay home. I love being here, with my family and people I love, just hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company.

Yesterday, we finished up Big Girl’s menu plan week.  I have one dish I didn’t make that will roll into this week’s menu and I’m going to work on cooking out of my pantry and freezer this week. I want to see how long I can go without going to the grocery store… challenge myself to see how creative I can get with what we have.

So, while I have a menu in place below, I may shift things around so that I can avoid the store this week.  That’s the plan, anyway.

Here’s what I’ll be cookin’ up this week:

Lunches for me for the week will include some veggie/taco soup and maybe a salad or two.  SuperMan usually has leftovers or whatever soup I make and the girls get some form of a bento box or sandwiches.

I’m also trying something new out this week… I’m trying out Plan to Eat, an online system in which you can store your recipes, build your menu plans and shopping lists all in one place.  I have a 30 Day free trial (and you can too, if you sign up) and I thought I’d give it a shot and see how it works.Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

You may remember that my usual menu planning system involves index cards posted on my refrigerator door. This is way more high tech than that, but I’m willing to give it a shot. I want to see if it helps me to branch out from my “usual suspects” of dinner choices and find some new favorites.

image

Once I get my menu plan made, I get a nifty shopping list. I can add to it, move thing off of the list (that I already have in my pantry) and edit as I need to.

image

I am also curious about the option they have where you enter what you have in your pantry/fridge and it suggests menu choices for you. THAT will be way cool when I’m working on my “cook out of the pantry” challenge this week.

I’m also slowly moving my recipes over to the Plan to Eat website, so if you join (or are already a member) send me a friend invite and we can share recipes!

Anyhow, I’ll keep you posted as I fiddle around with the Plan to Eat software and let you know how I like it… and if you’ve used it before, I’d love to hear what you think, too! Please share!

For more menu plan ideas, check out orgjunkie.com.

Menu Plan Monday ~ Halloween

Happy Halloween, y’all!

IMG_0518

It is a gorgeous Monday morning here – full of all the beauty of fall in the Southern Foothills… The leaves are absolutely beautiful, the sky is clear and almost sparkling in the morning sunshine. I have really enjoyed just gazing out my windows this morning as I’ve sipped my tea and planned the week.

IMG_0598

The kids are out of school today. (crazy, I know, but it is a teacher work day) So, we started out slowly but the day will be busy.  Wal Mart, errands and then coming home to bake lasagna for dinner for our friends who are coming over to trick-or-treat with us. It’s a great tradition and we all really enjoy having everyone over. We eat dinner together and then the kids trick or treat with the dads while us moms hand out candy in our cul-de-sac.  It’s tons of fun and makes Halloween much more fun (for me, anyway).

As for dinners this week, Big Girl helped out with choosing our dinner plans:

Most of these are her requests (and her favorites) but I am happy that she has an opinion and wants to have some input. Now, if I can just get her to help with the cooking!

Hope you all have a great week & tons of fun trick-or-treating (if that’s your thing)

For more menu plan ideas, check out orgjunkie.com.

Menu Plan Monday

We had such a fun weekend. Hiking and exploring in the mountains, enjoying the beautiful weather and glorious views.  The leaves were gorgeous, the temperatures just chilly enough to warrant a nice, roaring fire and yet not so cold that we were stuck in the cabin all weekend. It was just about perfect.

We enjoyed some of these:

img_0828

And lots of this:

img_0851

And some fantastic vistas:

img_0854img_0856

img_0859

And now we are back to real life today.  No one wanted to get up this morning, we were all still in vacation mode.  The creatures were happy we were home, though, and Scooby Cat has been following me around like a little black shadow ever since I walked in the door last night.

Still figuring out what we are going to do exactly for meals this week. Some of it is easy – leftovers from the weekend, or food I bought to cook but didn’t cook because Mom had other things to cook.  Some of it is based on special requests from the little monkeys…

  • Monday: Chicken noodle soup – special request from the girls
  • Tuesday: Hamburgers & hotdogs (leftover from the weekend)
  • Wednesday: Lasagna – I’m craving it.
  • Thursday: not sure yet – most likely leftovers.
  • Friday: Pizza! (with extra sauce from the lasagna)
  • Saturday: grilled steaks (leftover from the weekend, but frozen so they can wait) with baked potatoes and grilled veggies

That’s it for me. What are you planning for the week? Have you taken up my challenge? Three menu plans for the next three weeks?

I’m also doing some baking today – need to  make some fresh bread and I’m planning to use up some brown bananas by making a double batch of banana bread.  I’m also making some baked oatmeal for my ladies’ bible study group tomorrow morning. Busy, busy, bee!

And now I’m off to catch up on email and other things online. Limited internet and phone access over the weekend. It was glorious, but now I need to see what the world was up to this past weekend!!

Hop on over to orgjunkie.com for some more great menu planning ideas!!

Menu Planning Tips & Thoughts

I’ve had so many of you say to me in conversation – “I don’t know HOW you do all that menu planning!” or something like “I just can’t do that menu planning like you do.”  And, usually, I smile and say something banal in response… but what I am really thinking and what I really want to shout at you is –

WHY NOT!?!?

It’s not like it is hard.  It is not complex.  It is actually SO VERY EASY and it makes SUCH a HUGE difference in your stress levels, your family’s schedule, your family’s eating habits and your budget!

It’s almost crazy NOT to menu plan.

Seriously.

I’m sorry, as I write this, my critic on my shoulder is telling me that I probably shouldn’t be so “in your face” with this as I am being. But this is truly how I feel. 

It seems daunting, I know.  Overwhelming, at times, I’m sure.

But it is SO WORTH IT to at least TRY it.

So, I have a challenge for you.  For the next three weeks, I want you to PLAN YOUR FAMILY’S MENU for dinners for the week. One menu per week for three weeks.

And to help you do that, I’m going to give you some suggestions – so that you will have a place to get started and to help you not feel so overwhelmed.

It’s not as hard as you think it is, I promise. If it was, I wouldn’t be doing it.

Let go of the notion that you have to plan meals for every single day of the week.

I never do.

I usually plan for 3-4 definite meals and then 1-2 “maybe” meals –

things I can cook if plans change or if something doesn’t appeal to me on the day I was planning to cook it.

I never adapted to the idea of specifying which day I would cook what.

It seems to rigid to me and I didn’t like the thought that I’d have to cook tacos on a night when I really wanted soup instead.  So, instead, I come up with my list of menu items and then I pick and choose what I will cook that day based on how I feel, what food needs to be cooked first, weather, kids’ requests, etc.  I have a general plan in mind, but I leave it open to the flexibility my life demands. You can too. Don’t feel stuck in having to cook exactly in the order you plan.IMG_0286

Pick at least one family favorite per week

– one sure thing that you know everyone will love and that you can fix easily.

Try to pick at least one crock pot or oven- type meal per week.

Make one day easy on yourself – pick something you can toss in the crock pot or oven and forget about until it’s time to eat. You will love this and it will free up time for you to do something else you might otherwise not get to do because you’re busy cooking – like spending some time with your kids – or taking a walk!

Another advantage is that these type of meals usually have leftovers and you can count on two meals from one preparation! (or some really good lunches if there isn’t enough for another family dinner)

Check your freezer and your pantry before you plan

What can you cook that you already have? Save some money and utilize what you have before you go shopping.

There are some great money saving ideas on this post over at Beauty and Bedlam regarding saving money for your groceries. I’m not a big coupon girl – too many of them are for processed foods and I’m trying to stay away from those things these days… but there are still some great ideas there beyond the coupon tricks.

Try to focus on cooking from scratch and not from “convenience” foods

This may sound counter-productive – why wouldn’t you utilize Hamburger Helper or Shake and Bake to make your dinnertime easier?  Well, for a couple reasons – one, they are more expensive, two, they usually are full of processed ingredients, preservatives and goodness-knows-what-else, and three, they usually don’t simplify things THAT much. I have found that it is just as easy to make my own homemade “shake and bake” when I need it than it is to pay for the already-made stuff. And I control what goes in there – making sure my family gets the healthiest, freshest ingredients I can buy.

It’s not really THAT much more difficult or challenging to cook from scratch – and the payoff is so much better for you.

Utilize websites to help you plan

Check out AllRecipes.com or Menu Plan Monday over on orgjunkie.com – there are lots and lots of websites with links to menus and recipes.  Don’t be afraid to pick one new thing each week to try out.  You will increase your repertoire of recipes to use and hopefully find some new family favorites!

Think about leftovers and include them in your plan.

This was something I didn’t learn for a long time. I would plan five or six meals, thinking we’d have one night to eat out or something and then I’d end up with all of these leftovers and no  idea what to do with them.

Now, I plan for at least one night where we’ll eat leftovers. Some nights that is just a “free for all” type meal where I put everything out and each person picks what they want and we warm it in the microwave. The girls like these “buffet-style” dinners (as I call them – it’s all about the marketing!) as they feel like they have control over what they eat.

Other nights, I plan for a ‘reinvented’ dinner – where I plan to utilize leftovers to make something entirely new – like using the grilled chicken leftovers from one night to make chicken & rice soup for dinner another night (something that wasn’t on my original menu this week, but soup that a rainy night called for)

Here are some other tips and tricks from some of my older posts:

And so, now, the challenge is out there for you – will you accept it?

Will you give menu planning a try?!?

YES – YOU! I’m talking to YOU!

Please do.

I really, sincerely, hope you will. It’s scary to start, but once you get in the groove, it is oh, so freeing. Liberating to have one less thing to worry about – to not have that 4PM panic of “oh, my gosh, WHAT am I going to cook for dinner?!?”

If you are going to join the menu planning bandwagon, let us know in the comments… I’d love to know how things go for you – and I’m HAPPY to help you get started – cheering you on as you go!!