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 . . .