Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Birthday Party Menu

Two of my girls - my oldest and my youngest - have birthdays within 3 weeks of each other. We don't normally do a birthday party every year for every child. Do some people do that?? But, we do usually have a big family party for the 1st birthday.

This year, we decided to combine the girls' birthdays into one celebration with family and friends. We really didn't invite too many families. But my husband is 1 of 8 kids and most of our friends have 3 or 4 children. All in all, we were expecting about 40 people.

Excited for the girls. Wondering where people were going to sit. Trying to think of creative party games for LOTS of kids. Trying to think of a yummy/cheap/easy menu.

Here is what I ended up doing:

Chili (I made 6 batches of chili the day before the party. We have a nice screened in porch that doubles as a refridgerator in the cooler weather. I served it with shredded cheese (which my oldest did in the food processor with my help) and tortilla chips.)

Carrots and homemade spinach dip (also made the night before).

Apple slices and homemade caramel dip.

48 cupcakes (baked the day before and decorated the morning of).


It really was so easy and extremely affordable. I did have pb&j supplies on hand for the moms who wanted to make one for kids who don't like chili. Everyone with a non-chili eater just fed their child the other items though.

We had a great time (on a budget we could afford) and I know the girls felt celebrated!

Meal Plan for the Weary

Wait a minute, do I still have a blog? When last I posted I was going to tell you all about my menu plan for my birthday involving 40 guests. I do still plan to do that. Really.

But . . . alas. Have I told you I have several jobs? My husband and I own a day trading software company for which I play many roles. Always a chance to use my brain in that capacity. I work for my sister-in-law's company for which I schedule and run gold buying events. Always a chance to talk to real people outside of my house and have fun doing it. I also have a business doing personal bargain shopping for friends who for some insane reason don't enjoy doing it themselves. Always opportunities to bargain shop and help friends save money at the same time.

And I have this blog. Which, more often than I would like, is left to sit unattended and waiting. So sorry.

But, when life is crazy - I am truly thankful at dinner time everyday that I KNOW what I am going to make and I KNOW I have the ingredients to make it. Whew.

Here is this week's plan:

MONDAY - Baked ham (cleanin' out the deep freeze), au gratin potatoes, apples

TUESDAY - Spaghetti, peas, bread (Jason is working at night - so just me and the kids.)

WEDNESDAY - Chili, shredded cheese, muffins (Chili I will pull out of the freezer. I am also bringing a meal to a friend from church who just had a baby. I probably do pulled pork, baked potatoes, perhaps another veggie, maybe some muffins, and cookies.)

THURSDAY - Vietnamese Fried Rice, yogurt, fruit and CUPCAKES!! (Our baby girl turns 1!!)

FRIDAY - Tuna Crescents, corn, fruit

SATURDAY - Pizza and movie night

SUNDAY - Leftover pizza (I will be working and Jason will be flying solo at dinner time.)

So there you have it. Should be a busy week with work and homeschool, a birthday, and several doctor appointments. Thank goodness for meal planning!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Week's Plan

This week's plan requires a little tweaking from my pre-set menu plan because we have a big birthday bash planned for Saturday afternoon. My oldest and youngest have birthdays within three weeks of eachother, and I thought it would be fun and easy to throw a combo party. With family and friends included, we should have 40 people attending. I will post this week about how I plan to throw an inexpensive, fun lunch party for 40 people. (Barring the swine flu, of course. Starting to feel a little achy. Paranoia??)
MONDAY - Sloppy joes (with shredded carrot snuck in), Pumpkin dinner rolls, potato chips (rare treat around here)
TUESDAY - Roasted Chicken, potatoes (not sure which way I'll prepare them yet), green veggie
WEDNESDAY - Classic Spaghetti (I'm tired of this - but my kids aren't!!), homemade oatmeal bread, peas
THURSDAY - Tuna, spinach and brown rice casserole (sounds weird, but VERY yummy), yogurt, corn
FRIDAY - Pizza, apples
SATURDAY - Popcorn and smoothies (post-party recouperation) - we don't participate in halloween, so nothing out of the ordinary for our family
SUNDAY - Pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs (I am not a morning person. But, I am a breakfast person!! So, I cook it for dinner and enjoy it while I'm wide awake.)
What do you have planned??
Check out the usual 300+ posts over at Organizing Junkie to see what others are eating this week!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vietnamese Fried Rice

I LOVE this recipe. LOVE it. My mom comes over every time I make it. My husband gets very happy - and heaps his plate full (more than once). The kids eats it - enough said right there.

But, the best part about it in my opinion is that not only is all of the above true, but it is simple, versatile, inexpensive and healthy. I get very excited about that combination.

Vietnamese Fried Rice
(modified from the More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Longacre)

Cook 1 1/2 c. brown rice or have 3-4 c. ready made. (yes, you could use white rice if you must)

Heat in a large skillet:

4T. cooking oil (I usually use olive oil.)

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 T. soy sauce (I always use low sodium.)

OPTIONAL: Meat truly is optional in this recipe. I have cooked it with no meat, chicken, BBQ pork leftovers, and shrimp. All tasty. If you are adding raw meat, add about 1/4 to 1/2 lb. of meat with the above ingredients and cook along with the onions and the garlic, etc. If I am using leftover meat (which is most of the time), I throw it in after the onions are mostly cooked just to heat it up.

Stir-fry until meat is hot and/or onions are translucent.


Cooked rice. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.


1 - 2 c. Veggies ( I add more if I am going meatless). Oh, you need something more specific? Honestly, this is never the same twice for me. I use whatever I have on hand. Occassionally I will buy fresh bean sprouts to throw in because I am really fond of them, but mostly - whatever I have. Peas, cut up green beans, corn, shredded carrot, broccoli . . . Stir into rice mixture and allow the veggies to cook to desired tenderness.

Just before serving, add:

2 eggs, beaten

Over medium heat, stir the eggs carefully through the mixture until they are cooked.


This Week's Plan

Monday - Tuna Melts, broccoli

Tuesday - Chicken Sausage and Roasted potatoes, green beans, pumpkin muffins

Wednesday - Classic Spaghetti (which we never ended up eating last week), bread, veggie

Thursday - Vietnamese Fried Rice, fruit

Friday - Tuna Crescents, veggie

Saturday - Pizza and Movie Night

Sunday - Blueberry Pancakes, scrambled eggs, yogurt

There it is - quick and dirty. I am TIRED and have a mountain of work ahead of me before I hit the bed. BUT - thank goodness for meal planning because I think I would serve cereal and PB & J's most nights if I didn't plan ahead like this!!

Go view MANY other fantastic meal plans for this week over at the Organizing Junkie, and JOIN IN THE FUN!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Day IS It Anyway??

Following my pre-written 6 Week Meal Plan has been a mealtime lifesaver these past few weeks. Life has been busy. Jason and I run a business from home, and I also work as an Event Specialist for a company owned by my sis-in-law. And we homeschool. And we have 4 kids ages 5 and under. I don't think this is anymore or less than what most other moms have going, but to think that we are ALL this busy!!! It is amazing that our families even get fed.

There were two nights this week that even with a meal plan, take-out was tempting. But take-out is not in the budget. So, luckily, even thought I hadn't thought about what I had or what to make with it until the time I should have been serving it - all I had to do was check my plan and head to the kitchen. OK - problem though. It is somewhat important that I know what day it is : ). I served Thursday's dinner on Wednesday - not on purpose. Then I served Friday's dinner on Thursday - again, not on purpose. I didn't even REALIZE this until Friday afternoon when I thought, "Hey, today is Friday. I cooked Friday's dinner yesterday." Fantastic.

As luck would have it, I was also pleased to discover that I had forgotten that Jason and I were actually GOING OUT (that is not a typo) tonight and my mom is making dinner for the kids! YEAH - on so many levels!!! So, tonight's dinner was served last night and all was well.

Except for the small problem of my brain being completely screwed up for 2 1/2 days about which day it was exactly.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Check Out the New Button

I just happened upon a blog and quickly decided to add her button over here on the left. Finding Joy in My Kitchen looks full of wonderful, health conscious recipes. Go check it out!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Loving, Loving, Loving It!

Since I finally hopped back on my own plan again with the 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan - I remember just how wonderful it truly is - I love not having to plan every week!! I love that when I don't feel like planning - I don't have to! I love that when I forget to plan - it doesn't matter because I already did! Don't be freaked out if you are budget-wise either. Having a 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan that you create yourself works seemlessly with stockpile shopping. I find it to be the best of both worlds for me.

You really need to follow along with my how-to posts and create one of these for yourself!

So without any additonal planning, or scanning ads, or digging through the freezer and pantry here we have it:

MONDAY: Tuna Melts, peas, apples

TUESDAY: Roasted Chicken, roasted white and sweet potatoes, creamed spinach

WEDNESDAY: Classic Spaghetti, green beans, bread

THURSDAY: Black beans and Rice, yogurt, fruit

SATURDAY: Pizza and Movie Night

SUNDAY: Blueberry Pancakes, homemade syrup, scrambled eggs

Follow other meal planners over at Organizing Junkie's round-up. You can get sucked in for hours!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

6 Week Rotating Meal Plan - Including Special Nights

To catch up with the other posts is this series click HERE.

You should have your 6 Week Meal Plan pretty well filled in with the basics after completing our last step. NOW, the fun part!

Meal time affords so many opportunities to enjoy each other and our food! There are several simple ways to really feel like meal time is special for you and your family. Incorporating one or all of these ideas keeps things fresh and fun.

1. Date Night - This can be done several ways depending on your budget and season of life. If you are able, schedule this meal to be something quick and easy for the kids, or a meal they can make themselves and GO OUT WITH YOUR HUBBY! If dinner out isn't in the budget, try eating something smaller at home and heading out for dessert and coffee. In our current season of life, babysitting and budget wise, we are not able to go out - at all. That's OK! It doesn't mean we don't want special time together. One idea is to feed the kids early and then have a nicer meal, just the two of us, after the kids go to bed. If your kids are little, put them to bed slightly early. If your children are older, let them stay up together in a bedroom playing games or some other activity they can enjoy together.

2. Family Member Favorite Night - Basically, just what it sounds like. Choose one night a week, or every other week, or once every 6 weeks to be family member favorite night. You can have one set night (every Tuesday, for example) and then rotate the family member who chooses the meal, or you can assign each family member a specific night during the 6 week plan. This way, everyone feels like they have some say, and no one's favorite meal gets left out.

3. Special/Theme Night - Every Saturday at out house is Pizza and Movie Night. We all look forward to that time together every week. Once or twice during my 6 week plan I will have a Popcorn and Game Night. You could have a day where you make several different appetizers instead of one main course. You could have a night celebrating a certain style of cooking or ethnic foods. The options here are really endless - set your creativity loose!

4. Husband Cooks Night - Ah - don't we all wish we had a regular one of these!! My husband is a self-admitted non-cook. Jason making dinner? Everyone knows it is grilled cheese or quesadillas. And you know what? FINE BY ME. If he is willing to do the work - I will eat it and be very happy. This is a nice way to give yourself a little break.

5. Kids Cook Night - Well, certainly not as relaxing as the previous option, but very important. All of our kids need to have this skill, and we should be diligent to teach them.

6. Hospitality Night - This is one of my favorites. You can plan to invite a guest or guests to your house OR you can cook double and deliver a meal to a family who could use the blessing. And, who couldn't use a blessing like that?!

7. New Recipe Night - This is an important one for those of us who love to experiment and try/create new recipes on a regular basis. There is no need to feel boxed in by your meal plan! Put a "New Recipe Night" in as often as you wish. I tend to clip and save recipes that I want to try and rarely try them because it is so much easier to make the tried-and-true. If I plan ahead, it happens.

8. Eating Out - I put this one last because I don't want those of us who can't afford it to feel like we are being left out of all the fun! With 7 other great options listed before this one, I hope it is clear that going out to eat is not necessary to make meal time special. BUT - if your budget allows it, don't forget to add this to your meal plan. If you go out to eat every Sunday evening, then write that in. Also, include nights of take out (Thai, Chinese, pizza) if that is what you like!

This post should give you the extra creative nudge to complete your personal 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan. SO - finish it up, and most important of all -


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I Learned in the Challenge

Participating in Mary's $75 a Week Grocery Challenge (check out the button in my sidebar) has been very enlightening. At the outset of the challenge I stated that this was just the push I needed to permanently cut back in this category.

I honestly never thought I could cut back that far and not feel the pinch. I figured I would deplete my stock pile and go without several items until the month was over. My plan at the end of the month was to raise it up slightly from the $75 and feel like I had a little more wiggle room but probably still feel squeezed.

I am blown away by the results at the end of the month. My pantry has never been so full - ever. I bought diapers, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a special toy for my son, frozen pizza (ironically - a luxury item around here), and many more items we could have lived without (OK - not the diapers!) for the month. I never felt deprived. I felt . . . challenged, and focused, and really excited to see how well I could do it.

I did learn that it takes more time to save more money. I was much more willing to hit a greater number of stores in order to hit the lowest price on something. I spent more time scrounging for coupons for everything I was buying - clipping and arranging A LOT. But, I saved the money. And, right now I have the time and NEED to save the money.

My previous $100/month allotment was a HUGE accomplishment for me when I began to shop differently almost two years ago. I had cut WAY back from my previous spending of I-don't-even-know-how-much. But, I became so skilled at my new way of shopping, that $100/week became quite easy. I was more willing to forgo a sale or skip looking for a coupon. I also gave myself license to buy things with the extra money that really had nothing to do with that budget category (such as clothing or haircuts). Not a huge deal, except that then I really don't have an accurate account of what I was really spending in those categories.

All that to say "THANK YOU!!" to Mary for the challenge. I enjoyed the stretch, learned a lot, and feel much more confident that I can permanently cut back to $75/week and survive - quite happily.
Click HERE to see how all the other challenge participants ended this month.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Last $75 a Week Spending Challenge!!

Here is this week's shopping low down:


1 can green chilis

1 box gallon freezer bags

2 pkgs. paper plates

3 cans veggies

6 cans fruit

4 bottles ketchup

4 Healthy Choice Frozen dinners

1 jar olive oil



1 matchbox motorcycle for 1 middlechild/only boy who needed a special day all his own



4 Chicago Tribunes for extra coupons



3 frozen OJ

2 frozen 100% grape juice

1 can cr. of mushroom soup

1 bottle reduced sodium soy sauce

1 8 oz. block cheddar

3 gallons milk

4 oz. chili powder

3 lbs. Gala apples

3 lbs. bananas



2 boxes quart, expandable freezer bags

1 bag brown rice

1 bunch celery

1 whole farm-raised natural chicken

2 tubs vanilla yogurt

2 cans chili beans

12 jars baby food

2 lbs. pears

1 lb. bananas

3 lbs. Golden Delicious apples



1 bag bean sprouts

2 loaves bread

5 frozen Jack's pizzas



18 cans of tuna

1 Reese's PB cups (for Jason)

1 bag candy corn (for Jason and Sophia)

1 bag caramels (for Jason and me!!)


Total spent for the week - $109.89. Yikes. BUT, I had $18.81 left over from last week AND my $20.00 Kraft rebate came this week!!! So, I had $113.81 left for the month when I started this week. That brings me to $3.92 left to spend (if I absolutely need something). I hope I don't!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

$75 a Week Update

Here is the low down on my shopping this week. Remember I am following along with Mary's challenge to only spend $75 a week on anything I buy at the grocery store (diapers and toilet paper included, etc.)

Meijer - $13.58
Chicken Sausage
2 hand soap pumps
2 pks. paper muffin liners
4 large cans baked beans
2 pkgs. turkey lunch meat
Jewel - $17.37
Boneless pork loin
4 loaves cinnamon raisin bread
4 bags Goldfish crackers
Sam's Club - $19.31
Swiffer sweeper pad refill
Walgreens - $24.49
6 packs of 6 kid toothbrushes (clearance for $1.09/each!!)
2 Angel Soft 12 double rolls
2 adult toothbrushes
9 12oz. bags of Nestle chocolate chips
KMart - -$22.60
I returned 4 Jumbo packs of Pull-ups that we no longer need (YAY!!!!)
Aldi - $4.04
2 gallons of milk
1 dozen eggs
Total Spent - $56.19

Pastry Chef - I am not

Today was a great family day of celebrating Daddy as he turned . . . older. Sophia and I made a cake this morning. She wanted a "tall" cake despite my reminders that my tall cakes usually fall apart in some way. Alright - we'll try again.

I was quite pleased with how things were shaping up with 8 minutes to go on the timer. Counted my chickens before the eggs hatched, for sure. I came back to peek with about 5 minutes to go to discover that BOTH circles of cake were oddly raised - really high - on one side of the pan. Dern it.

I got them out of the pans in one piece - yay. But they each had a lovely divot in them from where the ginormous air bubble used to be in the pan. When we were ready to frost this thing, I did my best to camouflage the pit by aligning the layers just so. No luck. Then I thought - aha! we'll FILL the pit!! I gave the kids two choices - chocolate chips or marshmallows (the big ones - I'm serious about the size of this crater). They went with the marshmallows. Excellent choice. Slice, stuff, frost, douse with sprinkles.

That's what the pros do, right?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crock Pot BBQ Sauce Pork

I made this meal last night and was reminded how much I really like this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Crock Pot BBQ Sauce Pork

1 can of cream soup (celery, chicken, or mushroom will work) or equivalent of homemade
1 C. of BBQ sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 large onion chopped
garlic powder
pork chops

Place the pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and a little garlic powder. Sprinkle with chopped onion. Mix the soup, BBQ sauce, and soy sauce together and pour over chops. Cook on high for 30 minutes, then turn the crock down to low for 4 1/2-5 hours.

I usually put my crock pot meals together around lunch time, but you could easily throw this together in the morning and cook it on low all day.

I served the chops with lots of sauce poured over the top, oven baked fries, and broccoli. Delicious!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Week's Plan

I have finally completed my new 6 week Rotating Meal Plan. I will be posting in the next couple of days to keep you going on the path to creating your own!! I am actually starting the plan on Plan #1, Week #2. It made the most sense for the groceries I have on hand already. I am still challenging myself to spend $75/week or less on groceries, household and personal items (including diapers). So far, it has been difficult but doable. I think I will adjust in time. Here are the meals I have planned this week:
Crock Pot BBQ Sauce Pork, Roasted Potatoes, green veggie
Sloppy Joes (with a shredded carrot snuck in the mix) on homemade Pumpkin Rolls, green veggie
Baked Penne and Spinach, bread, fruit
Black Beans and Rice, veggies
Tuna Melts, veggie, fruit
Pizza and Movie Night
Waffles, Homemade Blueberry Syrup, yogurt, sausage
That's the plan - and I plan on stickin' to it for a change. What do you have planned? Follow along with other Menu Plan Monday participants at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Giveaway Alert!!

Kelly over at The Morris Tribe is giving away a copy of Mary Ostyn's book "Family Feasts for $75 a Week" - head on over there and poke around. And don't forget to sign up to win this great book!!

Stickin' to the Plan

What a wonderous thing it is to actually stick to the meal plan that I created earlier this week. Tonight will be spaghetti, tomorrow will be tacos, Saturday will be pizza and movie night, and Sunday is soup.

OH - how freeing!! I may even have time to make that bread we've all been dreaming about around here. . .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mega Spending Challenge Anyone?

Day 14 of the $75 a week spending challenge. I am wondering if there is some crazy group of bloggers out there who are doing the opposite challenge - the "How Much Money Could I Possibly Spend in the Month of September?" challenge. I think I would feel ill after reading the first 3 links. I am quite happy pinching my pennies.

After thinking I was going to blow the budget last week, things actually turned out quite well. I never did make it to Walmart, thus saving all the money I was planning on spending there. And, I was kinda dumb when I was calculating my totals last week and included a Walgreens purchase that was not actually for me. Yay. So I was able to subtract $15.40 from last weeks total. But then of course I needed diapers. Always the diapers. So add back in $19. After all that adding and subtracting - I basically came out just a tiny bit shy of $75. And I didn't feel deprived at all. Amazing.

This week is going quite well. You can find my meal plan for the week and a couple recipes here, and here is what I spent to make that happen:

Jewel - $0.79 This was 2 loaves of bread, bananas, peaches, nectarines, and grapes. I used my Register Reward coupons from Walgreens to bring my total down to almost nothing.

Walmart - $32.96 Blasted Walmart. I was able to price match a few things though, which always makes me happy. And makes the people behind me in line a little annoyed : (. Sorry. I bought a gallon of vinegar (for cleaning), 2 gallons of distilled water (for the fish bowl), 1 roasting chicken, 1 bag yellow onions, 2 cans of low sodium beans (finger food for baby with no teeth), ricotta cheese (also for baby food), 3 vats of vanilla yogurt, bananas, All You magazine (that counts as a staple, right?), 2 frozen pizzas (price match and coupon), apples, and 18 jars of baby food (I do make a lot of her food, but not all of it - time to stock up).

Aldi - $15.24 This was 2 gallons of milk, 12 eggs, 1 can refried beans, tortillas, lettuce, strawberries, 4 cans frozen juice, and 1 bottle of parmesan cheese.

Walgreens - -$1.58 The diapers I bought on sale last week went on an even better sale this week, so I brought my receipt back to get the difference. Woo hoo!



Which means I have $27 left to spend at Meijer this week to stock up on some great sale items.


I spent $20.21 at Meijer today and $8.39 at Target yesterday, bringing my grand total for the week to $76.01. I know I can make up that $1.01 next week!

How did everyone else do this week?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ironic Chili Recipe

I plan on roasting a chicken this week and then later in the week I will use the leftover chicken in this amazing White Bean Chicken Chili. Ironically, the recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker's Vegetarian Cooking, and decidedly UNvegetarian. I am not complaining though because it is definitely a family favorite.

White Bean Chicken Chili

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh or 1 t. dried basil leaves
2 15 oz. cans, or 4 c. chicken broth (you could use veggie broth to go vegetarian)
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (or nice sprinkle of dried)
2 t. chili powder
1 15 oz. can Great Northern beans, undrained (2 cans if omitting the chicken)
1 medium tomato, chopped

1. Melt butter in pan with olive oil. Cook onion and garlic until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except tomato.

2. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Serve chili topped with fresh chopped tomato.

Very easy, and can usually be made with things I have in the pantry and freezer. Make it earlier in the day, or the day before, for a night you need a quick meal but dinner time will be hectic.


This Week's Plan

I am excited about this week's meals. For no particular reason. They look a lot like any other week around here. Maybe I am just excited about the impending change of season and reason to make chili more often. And bake bread. YUM. I am trying to stick to things I already have in my pantry, and just filling out the menu with a few items from the store. Here is my plan so far (always subject to change!):


Classic Spaghetti, bread, green veggie

Blueberry pancakes, homemade syrup, scrambled eggs, yogurt

Tuna Melts, tomatoes, green veggie

Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob (Those foods are all the same color, which annoys me, so I'll probably have to throw in a green veggie as well.)

Tacos, fruit

Pizza, carrot sticks

White Bean Chili, bread or corn muffins


Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip muffins, baked beans, cheese/yogurt, fruit

Soup, crackers, cheese/yogurt (There was a time when 2 of my kids liked to have shredded cheese IN their yogurt - so glad that phase has passed. Ew.)

PB & J, fruit, pretzel sticks

M & C, veggies


Granola bars, cheese/yogurt, fruit, veggies

Apples & PB, crackers, cheese/yogurt

That about does it. Stop on over at I'm An Organizing Junkie to see what other families are eating this week!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chili - Can I Call it a Recipe?

Tonight we scrapped the usual pizza, in favor of "Chili and Movie Night." Equally great. I wanted to share my chili recipe since it is SO EASY, and people rave about it. It isn't even a recipe, so much as an opening of a few cans.

1 32 oz. can Brooks brand MILD chili beans (I go for the mild, because I like the flavor better, and there are several other ways to add heat if that's what you are looking for)
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey or beef
Chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Chop the onion. Cook the onions and brown the meat at the same time in a large pot. Add chili powder and ground pepper as it cooks. When the meat and onions are cooked, open up the cans of beans and tomatoes and dump them in the pot. Simmer and stir every once in awhile for about 30 - 60 minutes. Taste and add seasonings as you like.

That's it. Seriously. And every time I make it people ask me for the "recipe." ENJOY!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Make Up Your Minds, Kids

Tonight I planned to serve pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. Earlier today I cleaned out my freezer and found an entire meal's worth of frozen pancakes. Fantastic - now I don't really have to MAKE them. Love that.

During the clean out, I also discovered that I have depleted my stock of sausage links. Shoot.

So, I was glad I had eggs to scramble. But I NEVER know how many to make. 2 adults, 4 kids. Well, 3 kids eating eggs. It never fails that if I make 8 eggs, the kids let them grow cold and lifeless on the edges of their plates. If I make 5, everyone suddenly wants 2 and 3 servings and they are splitting the last morsel in 3 pieces to make things fair. And looking hungry. And sad. Tonight I went with 7 eggs. Mostly because that is how many I had cracked when I didn't feel like cracking another.

And guess what - not enough. So next time I'll think back to tonight and make 10 eggs. And have enough left over to feed the neighbors. I just can't win the "how many eggs?" battle.

$75 a Week Update

Can I buy a chicken, a tube of kid toothpaste, fruit for the week, and 3 tubs of yogurt for under $5? Dang. So, I guess that means I'm going over budget for the week.

I just couldn't stay away from the great General Mills deals at Jewel this week. But, like Mary said in this post, it doesn't seem prudent to pass up REALLY INEXPENSIVE cereal, soup, granola bars and frozen veggies just to stay under budget by a few dollars this week. I do need to think long term a little bit.

So far, though, my major downfall this week was Walgreens. Yikes - did I really go wild there.

Here is my running total for the week:

Walgreens - $53.46 (ouch)
Jewel - $6.83
Aldi - $10.14

Total - $70.43

I still need to go to Walmart to gather the above items to ride out the week. OR - I could serve granola bars and soup for dinner one night instead of chicken. Trust me - it's scarily tempting.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

As the saying goes, "Desperate times call for desperate measures." These are desperate times, Ladies. We have seen a DRASTIC reduction in income this past year and it is time to cut back. Again. Even further.

I am trying to cut back to $75/week for all grocery/household/personal items for our family of 6. This means staples and eating from the pantry. A lot. I'm looking forward to it though, because I have some yummy meals planned despite the restrictions. Here we go:

Dinners this Week:

Homemade Pizza, fruit
Tuna, Spinach and Rice Casserole (Jack's FAVORITE meal!), bread, fruit
Chili, cheese and crackers/corn bread
Blueberry Pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs
Roasted Chicken, potatoes, corn on the cob
Popcorn, smoothies, and veggies and dip
Classic Spaghetti, bread, peas

Lunches this Week:

PB & J, fruit x 2
Banana Chocolate Chip Oat muffins, baked beans, cheese and fruit
M & C, green beans
Grilled cheese, fruit
Leftover pizza
Cheese and crackers or PB, fruit, yogurt

I really do plan to make 2 loaves of Oatmeal Wheat Bread this week. Really. It is SO WORTH the effort - I just have to carve out the time. And clear off the counter.

Join in the Menu Planning fun over at OrgJunkie! Or, just snoop around there and see what others have planned. No pressure.

$21.54 to Go

I usually try to keep all of my shopping local unless there is a screaming deal worth the gas money and time to drive farther. This means I do my weekly shopping at Walgreens, Jewel, Aldi and Walmart.

I buy the free and cheap items at Walgreens and collect my Register Rewards. The Register Rewards are like money to be spent at Walgreens the next time I go there. However, since my next stop is almost always Jewel (which has no problem taking the Walgreens RR as coupons), I just spend my RR there. Then I don't have to worry about them expiring when I forget that I have them next time I go to Walgreens!

This week's Walgreens trip is pictured above and includes:

8 Crest toothpastes

2 Glade Sense and Sprays

2 Glade candles

4 Carefree Ultra Protection liners

3 AAA Duracell batteries

1 AA Duracell batteries

4 Reese's giant candy bar thingies (which I will have to hide to keep Jason from eating by the end of the week)

My total OOP was $43.30 and I got $39 in Register Rewards to use at Jewel.

This brings my original $75 for the week down to $21.54 (including my shopping trip earlier this week). I will hit Jewel and perhaps Walmart tomorrow. And by hit, I do mean "shop at" not rob. Aldi will have to wait until Tuesday, as their lucky employees get to enjoy the holiday.
I think I can get it done with the money I have left. We shall see.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Hot Dog Fairy

Another way I avoided spending today was the fact that my mom ran to Walmart for me this afternoon. And took two of my girls - BONUS. We do this often for each other, and we just keep track of what we owe and make good by the end of the week. Works for us.

I had asked her to pick up a loaf of bread for me. Ordinarily I would have made do without until my regular Monday shopping trip, but we have a Block Party tomorrow afternoon and evening. I could have gotten creative and whipped up something, but PB&J just seemed like the way to go. So I wanted bread.

But, my mom was feeling picnicky and opted for hot dogs and buns. And then she thought we could use some grapes. And apparently the girls shrilled when they noticed ice cream cones, and somehow they ended up in the cart : ). I started to sweat a little when I saw all of the unasked-for purchases unfurling on my island. I cheerfully said, "What do I owe you?" To which she answered, "Don't worry about this one. My treat."

Gratitude. Relief. Still $289.84 to go.

Spending Less Challenge - Day 4

Another day with no spending. It was a close call though. Jason worked out of the house today for the first time in about 10 months. Threw us for a loop. Back in the office days, I used to pack his lunch. And get up early : ). Well, those days are well behind us, so I was out of practice on both counts. I did not see him off and panicked around lunch time when it occurred to me that he may at that very moment be spending our $75 for the week on a cheesy take-out lunch. I vowed to be understanding. Thank goodness that, although he too was quite groggy this morning, he remembered to pack a lunch.

Lessons to take away from that:

1. Plan ahead to make sure your husband/children aren't tempted to blow the budget when the noon time hunger pangs hit.

2. Make sure you have drilled it into their heads that you cannot afford to spend the $75 for the week on one day's lunch.

I did neither, and thankfully it worked out in our favor. Whew. Way to go, Jason!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

6 Week Rotating Meal Plan - Step 4 Part B

If you haven't been following along and need the previous steps, click here and get caught up.

Step 4 continues. This is the big one - actually writing the meals in the plan. It can be a little intimidating to look at so many blank boxes, but take it one step at a time. There are many aspects of your life to consider as you do this.

1. Consider your budget. Don't include too many meals for which you can't regularly afford the ingredients. Common sense, right? Work with the money you have available to create meals you really enjoy making and eating.

2. Consider your schedule. This means work, travel, church, school, etc. Any outside obligation that may interfere with either meal prep or meal time. Plan for those nights as much as possible with make ahead meals, crockpot recipes, or dishes that are easily reheated.

3. Consider your shopping routine. If you always shop on a certain day of the week, plan to cook or freeze your fresh meats within a few days. If you shop on Monday, and plan to cook a roast on Saturday - stick it in the freezer for a couple days in between. Just don't forget to take it out : )!

Thinking about what your normal routine looks like, and preparing for the activities that can easily throw you off your "meal game" really helps you stick to the plan. This is why doing the work to create a PLAN JUST FOR YOU is so important. No one else has your budget AND your life!

Get as far as you can with these tips in mind. My next post will get your creativity flowing to finish your plans and really make them special for you and your family.

3 Down, 27 to Go

I did not spend any money today. Thank goodness. Suddenly I am very conscious of this, now that I have publicly stated that I am trying to cut back.

I had to will the van past Walgreens tonight to NOT go in and work the deals.

Whew. What is it today, September 3rd? So I have 27 days left and I still have money in my pocket.

I can do this.

Want to join us? Check out the button in the sidebar!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

$289.84 to Go

I'm going to be really annoyed with myself if I get to the end of the month and can't buy milk and fruit because I just spent $10.16 on non-essentials. If that is the case, it will be a lesson well worth learning. I made my first shopping trip since I started this challenge. A few questions I should ask myself as I ponder that trip:

First, why did I even go shopping when I don't normally shop at all except on Mondays?

Why did I go and buy things that I do not need and could have lived without, for sure?

Answering those questions gets at the root of why I haven't cut my budget back before now. It is SO HARD for me to pass up a deal. Deals are great, but not if I am spending money I don't have to get them.

Finding a happy medium needs to be my goal. I need to buy the items we need every week (milk, yogurt, fruit, bread, eggs), use any leftover money to stock up on deals, and be satisfied with the deals I can get with the money I have. Period. So much easier said than done.

Stay tuned . . .

$300 to Spend for the Month

I am following along with Mary, over at Owlhaven, and cutting my spending back for the whole month of September. I normally spend $100 per week on grocery/household/personal items, but I know I could do it for less. It would require more discipline (and less buying), and thus I have avoided cutting back. Well - NO LONGER!!

Hopefully, at the end of the month I will be used to a new, lower monthly amount of $75 per week. In that case, I can keep the $75 going, or I can raise it a little (maybe $80) and suddenly feel like I have a little more wiggle room. We'll see how it goes.

I am well stocked right now on most things, so that will help tremendously. I will need to buy diapers this month. BUT - only for 1 child!!!! 2 year old Elise is officially potty trained and that is a big relief in so many ways. Jason has a birthday in September, but to be honest we don't usually buy things for each other on our birthdays anyway. The kids and I will make and decorate a cake, make fabulous signs, and sing our hearts out. Free. Perfect.

Before deciding to follow this challenge, I made my usual Monday shopping trip and spent $100. While it was technically done in August, all of the food was for this week. Dilemma. Since there are still 4 Mondays in September, I feel like it will all work out even in the end. SO - $300 for the month. Crossing fingers. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

6 Week Rotating Plan - Step 4 Part A

Do you have your list from Step 3? Great! Let's keep planning . . .

Getting Started on Step 4:

Step 4 is the longest and most difficult to finish. This first Step 4 post will get you started. I will follow this post with several more that will guide you through Step 4 and make it very doable.

First, you will need to make a chart or a simple list that works for you. Something that has a spot for the day of the week and a spot to write down what you plan to serve that day. You'll need one for each of the 6 weeks we are planning.

Now - take a deep breath - start filling it in. Just start, and plan to tweak as you go. USE PENCIL.

This step is going to take the longest, and is definitely the most taxing. BUT, do not lose heart!! At the end of Step 4 you will have a meal plan that you can use for months or even YEARS to come. Speaking from experience it is WELL WORTH the effort now.

My next several posts in this series will guide you through how to choose your meals, what to consider and what to include.

Keep going!!

$75 a Week Grocery Challenge

One of my favorite bloggers has sent out a challenge this month, and I hope I am up to the task! Mary over at Owlhaven has begun a $75 a Week Grocery Challenge for the whole month of September. Yes, ANYTHING you normally buy at the grocery store is included: toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning products, shampoo, food, etc. And Mary has 1 husband and 10 children (8 of whom live at their house full time). Go Mary!

I only have 1 husband and 4 kids. Should be easy, right? Well, we'll see. But, I am willing to try. Of course as soon as I mentally committed to doing this, I began to dream about all of the things I want and will not be able to buy. This should not come as a shock to my system since I have really tried to cut out all unneccessary spending since Jason lost his job last November. I still dream about the day when I will be able to buy amazing smelling bathroom soap that doesn't come in a 5 gallon jug . . .

Let the challenge BEGIN!!

Follow along with all of the other ladies who have taken on this challenge HERE.

Monday, August 31, 2009

We Actually Ate What I Had Planned

That seems like such a rarity lately it deserves a title all its own. I made syrup and pancakes, cooked turkey sausage, and served yogurt. I refrained from making the usual scrambled eggs because they are Jack's favorite and I wasn't sure his little system could handle it today. Is that part of the approved diet when under intestinal duress? Anyway, it was the perfect meal for the little boy who didn't feel like eating all day until dinner time. Yay.

It was also fun because the baby was able to eat what the rest of us were eating. She loved the sausage. JUST KIDDING. But, she did enjoy the pancakes and yogurt. Very fun.

We'll see - tomorrow night we may even eat Black Beans and Brown Rice. But don't hold me to it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

This Week's Plan

My little boy is having some "intestinal issues" today. Yuck. My guess is that he will be dealing with this all week, and who knows who else it will attack as the week goes on. Again, yuck.

With all of that in mind, I am planning easy and bland meals as much as possible. Hopefully, we won't need them!

Monday - Pancakes, eggs and sausage (and that yummy maple syrup!)

Tuesday - Spaghetti, veggies from the garden, bread

Wednesday - Black beans and brown rice (this has seriously been on the menu for weeks now and I haven't made it once yet), fruit, yogurt

Thursday - Tuna Crescents (Sophia's all time favorite!!)

Friday - Sloppy Joes, corn (or perhaps chips if I have a moment of weakness as I pass them while out shopping tomorrow), fruit

Saturday - Pizza and Movie Night

Sunday - Popcorn, smoothies, veggies and dip and Games (given the beginning of this post, we'll put this at the end of the week!)

So there it is. Not too exciting, but I think it will do the trick. Most of the items I have on hand, so I very little of my weekly grocery budget has to go towards this menu. Yay. I love that. Then I have more money freed up to stock up on some amazing deals at Jewel this week.

To look at TONS more meal plans for this week from TONS of talented meal planning ladies visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Pig and Some Pizza

I really, really love pizza and movie night. Really.

I love the negotiating process the kids go through to choose the movie. I love listening to our 2 year old say "It's pizza and moofie night!" all day long. I love that my kids, who are TV deprived all week, get to be entertained for 2 hours while I make and eat pizza. I love their shrieks of excitement and giggles of laughter.

Tonight they chose "Babe". Such a good movie. I am by no means a movie critic, but I do enjoy it as much (or maybe a little more) than the kids. We all love to cheer at the end to share in Babe's triumph. Feel good, for sure.

Can't wait until next week's show!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Homemade Maple Syrup Recipe

Here is the recipe for the" Very Easy to Make Even Though I Am Slightly Annoyed Every Time I Have to Make it Maple Flavored Syrup":

Maple Syrup (recipe from the indispensable More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre)

Combine in saucepan:
1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. water

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook 1 minute.

Cool slightly.

1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. maple flavoring

Cover saucepan for a few minutes as syrup cooks to melt down crystals; helps prevent syrup from crystallizing later in storage.

Recipe credited to Elsie Epp, Marion, S.D.

Don't be scared away by the fact that my last post was about a moldy jar of syrup in my fridge. It was NOT THIS RECIPE. I was trying to switch things up a bit and try something new last time. Just for fun. Mold is not fun. I'll be sticking with this recipe from now on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maple Flavored Mold

I always make our "maple" syrup from scratch. Why would someone do such a thing? When that someone realizes she would have to spend $30 a month to outfit her growing family with real maple syrup. Not going to happen. After a defeated *sigh*, I found a recipe for the homemade version. I was willing to abandon the real thing, but not willing to dive into the world of high fructose corn syrup for way too much money in the tiny bottle.

Turns out, it was extremely easy and my oldest daughter's review was stellar. So, it stuck. No pun intended. Really. But, every time I have to make another batch I *sigh* head to the cookbook feeling a little sorry for myself that I am friends with absolutely no other woman crazy enough to save pennies by making her own syrup. Perphaps I need crazier friends . . .

This evening I was so pleased to have a full jar of syrup in the fridge from the last batch I made to go with our french toast dinner. French toast toasty, sausage steamy, table set, everyone very hungry - MOLDY SYRUP!! Ugh.

Remind me, what is so wrong with that little bottle of maple flavored high fructose corn syrup?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Complimentary Pork Chops

My mom does not cook - EVER. Not because she is incapable, but because she says she did enough when I was growing up, and now it is my turn. Since her house is attached to ours she can come any time she likes. Works for me - I love to cook and bake.

The bonus is the fact that because my mom still enjoys eating, she will occasionally purchase something for us so that I can cook it for her. Free food for me, yummy meal without the effort for her. This week she sprung for pork chops.

I was planning to do a pork roast anyway, so I just did the chops instead. I laid them in the crock pot around lunch time with a sprig of fresh rosemary, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, covered them with thick onion slices, set it on high and let it work its magic. I came back hours later to yummy chops and onions with the perfect juices for gravy stewing in the bottom. Well, and the gross, glossy fat globs. Ew.

I took the chops out, put them in their serving dish and covered them with foil. Then I spooned the juice into a gravy strainer (you know the kind with the spout on the bottom so you can eliminate the aforementioned fat globs?). I poured the strained juices into a pan and added a little flour to thicken it. A little more salt and pepper to taste and it was done.

I served that up with some mashed potatoes - also requested by mom - and broccoli.

Hubby raved and everyone ate piles of meat and potatoes, which is actually very rare around here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This Week's Plan

I am still in "plan one week at a time" mode. I will probably do it this way for a couple more weeks, and then get back on the 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan when we start school again. We homeschool year-round, but our official start date for our new year is September 8th. Here is the plan for this coming week:

Monday - French toast, yogurt, sausage

Tuesday - Pork Roast and Onions in the crock pot, potatoes, veggies from the garden

Wednesday - Pasta salad, homemade blueberry oat muffins

Thursday - Quesadillas, refried beans, fruit (I have a meeting that night, and Jason is a master quesadilla maker)

Friday - Black beans and Brown Rice, veggies from the garden, fruit, yogurt

Saturday - Pizza and movie night (YAY!)

Sunday - Tuna Crescents, veggies from the garden, fruit

So there it is. I never seem to follow the plan exactly, but I know I will have ingredients for seven different meals this week and it will all work out somehow!!

Meal Train Derailed

Once in awhile it feels good to not "cook" anything for dinner. Tonight was one of those nights. Big time. Here is what we ate:

Hubby - Leftover rice dish, green beans from the garden

Me - Bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Pecans and peaches (Jewel paid me to bring 4 boxes of these home last week with the use of some great printable coupons combined with a sale - sale and cereal, both very yummy.), slices of colby jack cheese, green beans from the garden

Sophia - Bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Pecans and peaches. This small child wolfed down two giant hot dogs for lunch at our church picnic this afternoon. She wasn't very hungry for dinner.

Jack - Leftover pizza, carrots, green beans, and cucumbers from the garden

Elise - Honey Bunches of Oats with peaches and bananas, colby jack cheese

Tessa - Squash and Cheerios

I love pouring dinner out of a box or pulling it out of the fridge in leftover form! We had a great, jam-packed weekend that has left me a little fried. Friday and Saturday garage sale ($2064 in two days!!), Saturday hubby and 2 oldest visited the Rockford Air Show, Sunday church picnic and ALL WEEKEND one really cranky teething baby. Cooking just wasn't going to happen this evening.

BUT - I've got my menu and shopping plan for tomorrow almost figured out. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, August 21, 2009

6 Week Rotating Plan - Step 2 and Step 3

Alrighty, Step 1 is done and you're back for more. Steps 2 and 3 are a little like Oreos and milk - they can be enjoyed separately, but they make so much more sense TOGETHER.

Now that you have your list of meals that you make regularly (Step 1), it is time to organize the list. Create categories that make sense to you and for how you cook. Some of the categories I use are: chicken, pork, pasta, rice dishes, crock pot, soup, etc. Make your categories and separate all of the meals you wrote down in Step 1 into those categories. Easy peasy.

Step 2 - DONE.

There are 2 reasons categorizing your list is important. It will make it easier to vary your weekly plans (hold your horses - we're not there yet), and it will highlight any glaring holes in your current repetoire. Gee - I have 27 beef recipes, 6 sandwiches and nothing else? Hmmm . . . time to fill in the gaps. Step 3 is born.

Step 3 - Sit down with a cup of tea and search out a few (or many, if you need them) new recipes to round things out. Email or call friends and family who like to cook. They know you and they know who you cook for. Tell them what you are looking for, and I'm sure they'll be happy to help. Recipe websites and blogs are also great for this. Don't forget to peruse your trusty cookbooks. Or, if you are like me, consult the bulging file folder of recipes that I still think would be yummy to try some day.

With your list organized into categories and a few new recipes added to fill the gaps, you are ready for Step 4.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Creating YOUR Plan

If you're searching this blog as part of your long and arduous search for the perfect-for-you-ready-made meal plan, I'm going to have to disappoint you. BUT, only momentarily! Reason being, I don't believe you are ever going to find what you are looking for, and you might as well set your mind right this minute to making it yourself.

That sounds like a lot of work. No, no. I'll tell you what's a lot of work - trying to follow a meal plan created by someone else. Cooking new recipes every night for one month or even one week sounds absolutely exhausting to me. And I enjoy cooking. That might qualify as torture if you don't.

The person who created that ready-made plan - no matter how fantastic it appears - does not have your life, your family, your budget, and your tastes. She may have one or two of those, but they ALL need to be considered in order to create the perfect meal plan for you.

Putting in the effort to create your own 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan will pay off in a huge way when you realize you actually use it!!

Stay tuned and I'll tell you how to begin . . .

6 Week Rotating Plan - Step 1

Earlier this week I wrote about how I have been opting to plan one week at a time for awhile now. This is one of the options that I teach people about, but it is actually not my favorite method and not where I think someone new to meal planning should start.

For a first-timer, the best method to begin with is my 6 Week Rotating Meal Plan. The 6 week rotating plan will give you exactly that - 6 weeks worth of dinners and sides that you will rotate through. At the end of the 6th week, you start over again at the beginning of week 1 and keep on cookin'!

The best part? My step-by-step process will walk you through the creation of YOUR plan using YOUR recipes and meals YOU ALREADY SERVE. The best way to get in the meal plan groove is to stick with what you know. No strange ingredients, no total flops, no 2 hours in the kitchen every night trying to figure out how to follow new recipes.

The first thing you need to do is think about what you already serve your family and write them all down on a list. Meal planning is for everyone - single, new mom, seasoned mom, single mom, Dad (bless your heart), empty-nester . . . meal planning isn't just for people who love to cook. We seem to get hungry whether we have that skill or not. So don't panic if you regularly serve take-out, sandwiches, or frozen entrees. Just make your list.

Go on, make your list. And then check back for Step 2!

Popcorn and Cucumbers

Ok, raise your hand if you would like your garden to slow down production on cucumbers. At least we all like them AND at least I wasn't crazy enough to plant zucchini!

Dinner tonight was the popcorn, smoothies, veggies & dip that was originally planned for last night. Last night, all that veggie prep work on top of my excessive hunger would have made me a little grumpy. Tonight, it was no problem and piles of fun.

We always place the spread (bowl of popcorn, tray of veggies, cups of smoothie) on the coffee table and allow the kids to serve themselves as we play games. We actually never even made it to games this evening- we were too busy chatting and chomping I guess. My favorite part about this special family night is watching my 2 year old fill her plate. Heaps of green beans, tomato slices, cucumbers, green pepper, carrots - and she eats them ALL!! Well, with the exception of the tomato skins. For some reason we can't convince her that a slice of tomato doesn't need to be eaten like a slice of watermelon.

Tomorrow night . . . we'll see if I pull off the waffle spread I planned BEFORE I remembered that I am hosting a garage sale at my house this weekend!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sloppy Switch

One of the best parts about having a meal plan is how it can FLEX for you. Tonight is supposed to be popcorn, smoothies, veggie & dip and game night. But that just isn't working for me right now.

I spent 3 and a half hours in the van today taking all 4 kiddos and my mom to see Grandma. It was a really wonderful visit - no one broke anything and the kids were very polite. They made me proud. And for some reason I am STARVING. Popcorn for dinner is not going to cut it for me. And I just don't feel like doing the veggie prep either. But, NO PROBLEM! I can just swap with Sloppy Joe night with no added shopping or stress required. Yay.

Now, instead of chopping veggies and not liking it, I am typing away with dinner already made and waiting for dinner time!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jason and Tuna Melts

Jason came home from work (came up from the basement) early today, allowing me to go to work (head back down said stairs) for an hour before dinner. Meal planning saves the day once again! Since I was planning tuna melts, I knew I could sneak downstairs and leave dinner in Jason's hands without any stress or last minute planning.

He prepped, I snuck away and worked, and Jason's tuna melts with a side of green grapes worked out wonderfully!!


First thing this morning (well, by first thing I mean 10:00am - qualifying as first thing around here), we piled into the car to visit our favorite local farm. We have been frequenting Marunde's for years, and today I was thrilled yet again.

During a nice chat with Farmer Kenny (he has superhero status in my kids' eyes) I asked him if all of his veggie stand produce was organic. He said about 99%, but ask about a specific veggie to get the skinny. Broccoli? Yes, 100% organic. Yay! 5 out of the 6 of us love broccoli and that definitely qualifies as a winner. Then he MADE MY DAY by telling me I was welcome to drive out to the field and CUT MY OWN!! Um, OK! Thankfully my father-in-law had his pocketknife along for the trip. Standard issue for the octogenarian.

The trusty van slipped her way through the muddy ruts out to the vegetable patch. We had an absolute blast with kids pointing out little heads of broccoli and me slicing away. At one point my 4 year old stuck his head in our bag-o-broccoli and said, "It smells SO good!" Broccoli for lunch, giant batch of broccoli baby food planned for later this evening, and I can't wait to use it up so we can head back for more. THANK YOU FARMER KENNY!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Week's Plan

I have three methods of meal planning which I use during different seasons of life. Right now, I typically use the "One Week at a Time" method. For the past several weeks I have been planning specific dinners for specific days and been a little more loose with the lunch options. Since I do my shopping on Mondays (yes, I try to do it all in one day every week), I usually have a completed plan by Sunday night. Here is this week's plan:

Monday - Roasted Chicken and potatoes, salad with veggies from the garden (the ones that the chipmunks so kindly left behind for us to enjoy anyway)

Tuesday - Tuna Melts, fruit

Wednesday - Popcorn, smoothies, veggies and dip and GAME NIGHT!! (I can hear the Trouble popper already!)

Thursday - Sloppy Joes (big plans to sneak a shredded carrot into the mixture), fruit, corn on the cob

Friday - Waffles, homemade blueberry syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage (no way am I awake enough to offer this kind of spread first thing in the morning - dinner it is!)

Saturday - Homemade Pizza and MOVIE NIGHT!! (Stay tuned to find out which family-friendly movie hits the small screen this week . . .)

Sunday - Black Beans and Brown Rice, yogurt, salad (again, barring massive chipmunk invasion)

So, there it is!

Here it is!!

For years now I have been passionate about saving time and money and eliminating daily stress by developing and using meal planning. I thoroughly enjoy planning and organizing for my own family and doing my best to weasel my way into my friends' lives and pantries in an attempt to organize them as well. With several happily-organized friends under my belt, I am now confident that I can reach out to many more harried meal providers and offer HELP!!

Follow along as I talk meal planning - what we eat, when we eat it, how I made it, which toddler snubbed it, and so forth . . .