Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Menu Plans

Happy New Year! I hope this first 2 1/2 weeks have treated you well!

We have been doing a few things differently around my house that I'd like to share with you over the next few weeks. One thing I'd like to introduce today is a meal plan. I realize a lot of other blogs already do this, but I figure every one you look at gives you meal ideas to incorporate into your own life...so the more the merrier!!! :)

I've wanted to do this for some time, but just couldn't get myself together to do it. So this past Monday I decided to do a no pressure approach. In the past, I have always gone about this by pulling out a bunch of recipes, trying to narrow down what ingredients we have in our house, what we might want to eat on what night, and it just gets overwhelming. If it isn't super easy, I'm not going to do it.

So I just wrote down what we had already decided we wanted that night; then I wrote down a super easy meal (tri-color rotini mac-n-cheese) for the next night, that we had already eaten and loved the past week. Next I looked in the freezer and notice we had raw hamburger. So I asked my husband if he'd like tacos or spaghetti for dinner the next night and then wrote those two into the days he chose. That left Friday, which was easy, pizza! Also in the freezer was hot dogs and hot dog buns so that was a simple fill in for Saturday.

Some days I plan on making more specific (exact meal) and other days I plan on just writing the main idea (pizza) which could then become several different things depending on our mood that day (french bread pizza, thin crust pizza, regular pizza crust pizza, or even pinwheel pizza!). Trying to come up with every detail for everyday has always overwhelmed me, but doing it this way was VERY do-able! It took about 5 minutes (including the convo. with my hubby)!

Here's our meal plan for the week:

Monday: Chicken Fajitas
Tuesday: Tri-color Rotini Mac-n-Cheese
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Tacos
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Hot Dogs

For the Fajitas, we already had chopped green pepper frozen (great way to get rid of the rest of a green pepper if you're not going to finish it before it goes bad) and already cut, seasoned, and cooked chicken so this was a really easy meal. All that was left to be done is slice the onion (my sweet hubby volunteered to do the chopping, we used half in this recipe and threw the other half in the freezer so it is ready for the next fajita night!), throw everything in the skillet, and sprinkle on the seasoning.

On Monday, I threw the hamburger in the fridge to thaw. Wednesday, we'll cook both lbs. of hamburger together, then split them into two pans and add the sauce to simmer in one pan, and water & taco seasoning into the other. That way the next night is already half done. Let's keep things simple. That's the only way we're really going to do it right?!

As far as pizza goes, let me teach you a few simple tricks to always being able to make pizza easily (and much cheaper then buying it in the store or ordering out).
  1. Buy a loaf of fresh french bread (I buy the $1.50 loaf at walmart). Cut it into thirds and then cut those in half lengthwise (like a sub, but all the way through). Now throw those in a freezer bag and put them into the freezer for next time you want french bread pizza.
  2. Buy a large can of tomato sauce (29 oz.) - store brand should work fine. Make your own sauce with this simple recipe (cheaper then buying the "pizza sauce" and delicious!) :
    • 29 oz. tomato sauce
    • 6 pinches of Basil
    • 2 pinches of Oregano
    • 2 pinches of Garlic Powder
    • 6 pinches of Sugar

      Put it all in a microwave safe bowl and stir until mixed well. Heat on high for 5 minutes. Stir well again. Use however much sauce you'd like to  and then set aside the rest to cool completely. Once cool, spoon the rest into a clean ice cube tray and put it into the freezer. Once it's fully frozen, pop the cubes out and into a freezer bag.

      Now whenever you need pizza sauce, you can just pop out a few cubes and melt them in the microwave! Just as quick as a jar of sauce but MUCH cheaper!
  3. Keep a pack of pepperonis in the freezer and you can toss them on your pizza frozen whenever needed. This keeps them from going bad in your fridge if you don't use them often.
  4. You can also keep shredded cheese in the freezer and throw that on your pizza without thawing it out.
Some of these will inevitably get shifted around a bit, but that's alright!

Another big motivation for me is pretty things. If it's pretty to look at, I'm more likely to take the time to read it and look at it through out the day. So for my menu plan, I printed out the bottom half (just the months you need right now, we can print out the rest as we need them) of a center folded calendar I had purchased during the holidays to make calenders for family members (I used Just So Scrappy's Center Folded 2011 Calendar). I printed it out on card stock and punched holes in it so it would fit in my kitchen control journal (the central place for recipes I have printed off the web, healthy snack ideas, kitchen how-to's...pretty much whatever I need to have at my finger tips in the kitchen). The dates for the month are already on it so all I had to do was write the meals down. It took me maybe 1 minute MAX.

Hope these tips help! I'll be back soon with more! :D Have a great week!

                       -Christina

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