I’m a little off this week. My kids haven’t been to school all week due to what we like to consider “extreme weather conditions.” Go ahead and get your laughs out now. No school means I’m not packing lunches, and instead, we’ve been cleaning up the leftovers. I was also planning a post about my baby’s birthday party, but that didn’t quite go as planned either. He got sick 30 minutes before his party was to start…so hopefully that post can happen next week after his re-scheduled party.
I’ve been tossing this idea around for awhile, just haven’t been real sure on how to present it. I’ve been asked to do this before, and the request came again this week: Meal Planning. It’s something I do fairly religiously. I do it because it’s the only way I can get reasonably healthy meals on the table with our busy after-school schedule. I do it because it keeps me on budget. I do it because people think I’m incredible for doing it. Just kidding. I do it because once you get into the habit of doing it, it’s not hard, but it is easy to slip and suddenly we’re eating out too much or not getting enough variety in our diets.
Anyhow, I haven’t decided how I should share menu plans…for the upcoming week, the week prior, or some combination. For now, I’ll tell you how I come up with a plan. I shop once a week. Usually I end up at the store mid-week for some forgotten item, but 98% of my shopping gets done on Sunday. I figure out which nights everyone is going to be home for dinner, and which nights I’ll be home to cook, versus which nights I need to have a ready-made dinner. Some weeks, I have several nights that I won’t be home to cook, so I look to see if any of those days are paired with days where I could prep a meal during the day and just throw it in the oven at some point. Most weeks, I find that I need one crockpot meal (ready-made), a meal that results in a second night of leftovers (a second ready-made) and then 3-4 other meals based on what we have going on.
My other dirty little secret…I have a reasonable freezer stash. It includes chicken in various forms (cooked and shredded, sliced for stir fry, plain breasts, marinated breasts, thighs); ground meat in various forms (turkey, taco meat, browned ready for sauces and soups, frozen chubs, sliders, meatballs, meatloaf); pre-homemade meals (chili, enchiladas); and a very few frozen/processed meals. It does take some time to have all this ready, but it has been a huge time saver. If you have Zaycon deliveries in your area, consider giving it a try. It’s a lot to deal with, but it also forces you to get a significant portion of food prepped.
I also look at the food ads – most weeks I will only buy up to two other meat type dishes since I have so much in my freezer. I usually choose a cut of meat that is on sale. And I am try to be good about choosing a vegetarian type meal too.
Here’s an example of what we have eaten this week. I know you’ll all be asking for recipes, and that is something I’m trying to figure out how to add in, cleanly. So please, if there is something you want, please just ask!
Sunday – Italian Beef Sandwiches, pulled from the freezer – otherwise a crockpot meal if “fresh”
Monday – Birthday Boy’s Choice – mac ‘n cheese from a box, Baked Shells with Winter Squash for the grown ups (ironically, everyone but the birthday boy likes this better than mac ‘n cheese from a box, but we all ate our obligatory serving of the birthday boy’s request)
Tuesday – Cheesy Cauliflower and Potato Soup with fresh french bread. Best soup ever. All my kids devoured it. I thought it was a huge pot, but there was barely enough left for lunch today. Based off my friend’s recipe, with my own modifications based on what I thought my family would like:
Cut up 1 head of cauliflower, 3 small red potatoes (peeled), 3 carrots and an onion. Put in a pot and cover with water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes. Simmer til veggies are very tender. Melt 3 T butter in a stock pot. Add 1/3 c of flour to make a roux. Add 2.5 c of milk and stir until thickened. Add about 6 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Add veggies and broth by the ladleful, mashing veggies and stirring into milk base. Continue until all veggies and liquid is added.
I didn’t mash the veggies all the way, and if you family wants it totally smooth, I’d just throw it in the blender. My family likes thick soups with a bit of texture.
Wednesday – Pork tenderloin and Crash Hot Potatoes. Pork was pre-marinated from the store and not very good. Won’t be trying that one again. But the potatoes were super yummy. I’d highly recommend them.
What’s up for the rest of the week? Well, see what happens when I don’t meal plan? I have a few ideas up my sleeve. Tomorrow will call for me resurrecting the rest of the icky pork tenderloin. I’ll fill you in when I figure it out 🙂
Hope you are all staying warm!