Posts Tagged ‘Meal Planning’

Amy’s Notebook 09.03.15: M Challenge Meal Planning Syllabus

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

M Challenge Focus on Meal Planning Guide a notebook full of tips, tricks & recipe links

As a wrap-up of each month’s M Challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will be something that you can refer to in the future as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

August M Challenge: Focus on Meal Planning

Other Links for Meal Planning Tips, Recipes & Ideas

How & Why to Meal Prep via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Thirty Handmade Days

 

Meal Planning Tips & Ideas:

Why, what and how-to’s for meal prep with 100 tips, tricks, recipes.

How to menu “plan” when you don’t really like to meal plan.

Colorful free weekly menu plan with shop list and daily serving checklist.

An easy monthly meal planning idea.

Menu planning tricks for times when you get stuck.

Set yourself up for success with this beginner’s guide to meal planning.

DIY recipe organization & meal planning binder.

Free money saving weekly meal plans with recipes & grocery lists.

6 meal planning methods.

Cheap & Healthy Recipes via Growing Slower

Source: Growing Slower

 

Recipes for Meal Planning:

Eat healthy and save money with these 35 recipes to inspire your meal planning.

10 Sunday food prep ideas for busy weeks.

15 grab ‘n go breakfast ideas that are freezer friendly.

60 meatless meal ideas.

10 make ahead lunches meal plan with tips for packing lunches.

100 low budget meals anyone will love.

A list of foods that freeze well.

How to prep a week’s worth of meals to stay on track with your plan & your budget.

30 freezer meal ideas for busy moms.

13 main dish recipes with 3 ingredients.

 

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas with Jessica Fisher

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Jessica Fisher is the force behind both Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats, where she shares budget-friendly, family-centered recipes and ideas. She has been a friend of mine for many years and I so admire all the work she does to create family meals on a budget! I’m so excited to have her contribute to our Meal Planning M Challenge with some great dinner ideas straight from her new cookbook!

5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas from Jessica Fisher on MomAdvice.com

What to Do When You Don’t Know What’s for Dinner?

It’s happened to all of us: 5 pm rolls around, tummies start to rumble, and you find yourself staring into the vast cavern of your refrigerator, wondering what’s for dinner. Your impulse might be to say, “There’s nothing to eat. Let’s go out.”

For most of us, this isn’t entirely true. There’s nothing easy to make to eat, but there’s probably actual food in the house. So, what do you do? Do you give in to the impulse and pay for overpriced burgers and fries? Or do you exert yourself, as Jane Austen would say, and cook something up?

I’m going to make the case for the latter and go so far as to say, “Suck it up, Buttercup. You can do this in 30 minutes or less.”

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated — or longer than your favorite TV show. If Agent Coulson and his team can catch the bad guys and acquire major super powers in 60 minutes, you can make dinner in half that time.

Consider these 5 quick fix dinner ideas that taste great and won’t break the bank:

Beans and rice – A rice cooker can produce perfect rice in 20 minutes. Opening a couple cans of beans, shredding cheese, and mixing up some salsa might take you another ten. Between the two of you, you’ve got the makings for a great supper that’s filling as well as economical. This Chicken-Cilantro mixture will be the piece de resistance.

Lotsa pasta – Pasta is the go-to choice at my house. My kids can smell boiling noodles from a mile away. They’d be satisfied with butter and parmesan, but in just a few minutes, I can whip up a broccoli cream sauce that they gobble down with gusto.

French Bread Pizza from Good Cheap Eats

Piece’a pizza – It might take an hour or two to proof traditional pizza dough, but we can have a great pizza dinner without the wait. Using French bread, pita bread, lavash, or tortillas for the base, I can create custom pies in just a few minutes.

Wrap it up – Keep tortillas on hand for quick sandwiches and burritos. Frozen chicken tenders cook quickly; just pull as many as you need from the bag. Throw on some shredded cheese and vegetables, and drizzle with your favorite sauces. Or go meatless with something like these Green Chile Burritos.

Cobb Salad from Good Cheap Eats

Salad’s on – I’ve got an 11-year old boy who will eat Caesar Salad until the cows come home. If I keep those ingredients on hand, I’ve always got a dinner he loves. Explore the world of salads and find those that really make your heart happy. Cobb? Tostada? Pasta? Cole slaw? Use those as your go-to’s, stocking those ingredients as pantry staples. Add a cooked meat for the carnivores in your midst. You’ll eat fresh in no time at all.

Need more inspiration for a quick fix?

Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

I spent a year researching how to make dinner quick, easy, and healthy. My findings are stuffed into Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!).

My new cookbook provides over 200 recipes that feature real food, real quick. With over 100 time-saving tips, you’ll eat for a day (or a month), as well as learn how to adapt your own kitchen skills to economizing time and money.

Dinner time doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or stressful. You’ve got the skills; you just need to know how to use them to your advantage. You can totally do this!

What’s YOUR favorite quick fix?

 

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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3 Challenges & Solutions to Meal Planning for My Family

Monday, August 17th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Meal Planning Challenges & Solutions

Sometimes I think my family is out to get me. I mean, surely they can’t be so obnoxious without some planning or plotting! Could they be this difficult naturally? All at the same time? Without coordinating their attack on my patience and sanity?

These are the thoughts that bombard me several times a week, almost always in regard to dinner.

DINNER. They want it every single day. Every! Single! Day! And do they want the same things? NO!

Sigh. Okay, fine. They’re probably not out to get me. But I bet I’m not the only wife/mom/home manager to feel that way – especially around dinnertime! So in case you also struggle with picky eaters or busy schedules or lack of motivation (oh, just me?), I thought I’d take a look at three of the challenges – and their solutions – I face to meal planning for my family.

1. Time

Every Sunday night my husband and I have the same conversation. It goes like this:

Me: Heavy sigh.
Him: What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing. Just thinking about everything I need to do.
Him: Can I help you?
Me: No. I just need more hours. Could you give me more hours?

Poor guy. He just wants to snuggle on the couch and watch another episode of Blue Bloods with his wife, and here I am mentally reviewing my to-do list and trying to figure out how to get it all done – no – get ANYTHING done. Because I often feel like the repetitive but necessary tasks of everyday life take up 90% of my time, leaving me very little margin for new ideas, extra projects or defrosting my refrigerator.

So when I think about making a menu and a corresponding grocery list, it feels overwhelming. I mean, REALLY. Who has three hours to sift through all those yummy recipes I’ve pinned and clipped over the years to find five or six meals to make in the coming week? And then to choose sides to go with it? And look in the pantry and fridge to see if we already have any of the ingredients? And THEN make a list?

Gah. It seems so much faster, in the moment, to just hop in the car, drive to the store and buy what I think we need for the week. Except . . . you know just as well as I do . . . that does not EVER save me time. Or money. Or that precious commodity: sanity. Going to the store without a plan never results in the right combination of food for a week of meals! I KNOW THIS! So, how do I resist the temptation to do it anyway?

Easy. I don’t make a new menu every week.

I have a few basic meal plans that I can rotate, based on categories for each day. (e.g. Monday is something grilled because my husband has more time that day, and Wednesday is something fast and easy because my daughter has piano lessons that night.)

And those new recipes I want to try? I remember that I’m not actually Betty Crocker and limit myself to one or two a month. Because seriously, our family favorites are favorites for a reason. (And, honestly, my family would happily eat tacos every single week for the rest of our lives.)

Speaking of tacos, I know a lot of people who use theme nights for the meal plans. So Monday is Italian night, Tuesday is Mexican night, etc. Sometimes I do this, too – although sometimes it’s to remind us not to have Mexican three times a week.

2. Preferences

“Preferences” seemed like a nicer way to put it than, “Picky eaters.” But that’s really the issue, isn’t it? One of the things we say often in my house is that different people like different things. I started this to help my oldest daughter understand that just because someone likes green or football or country music or tattoos or Minecraft, they aren’t weird. They just like different things.

But for the love of sweet potatoes (which some of us like and some don’t), finding food that all four of us like gets harder every day! And while I am NOT a short-order cook, I do want all my people to get enough to eat. So where’s the balance?

My solution for now is to cater to their wishes – sometimes. I know what they like (until they change their minds again), so I plan to fix those foods and those meals often.

But sometimes I want to fix and serve something that one or two of them don’t like. And in those cases, we always have peanut butter and bread (if it’s the main dish) or cup of peaches and applesauce (if it’s a side dish). I’ll let my daughter replace one of our foods, but then she has to make do with the others. So if she doesn’t want green beans OR rice, she has the choice of which one to “choke down” and which one to replace with fruit. That’s our compromise.

As for new foods or new recipes, everybody has to try a few bites. And in the case of new recipes, we take a vote after giving it a try. If the majority (or at least the parents) like it, then we add it to the rotation. If not, well, at least we tried!

3. Motivation

Last but DEFINITELY not least is the biggest challenge of all in my house: motivation. I have to confess: sometimes I’m just lazy. Or busy. Or tired. Or ALL OF THE ABOVE! And the last thing I want to do is think ahead or make one more list. Especially after a week that’s included a bombed recipe or forgotten plans or unexpected dinners out.

But all I have to do is a little math to get myself back on track. I know how much I spend on groceries when we’re planning and cooking meals on a regular basis at my house. So a quick calculation of how much we’ve spent on fast food and take-out when I’ve slacked off will cure my lack of motivation REAL FAST.

Plus, I know that we eat a lot healthier when we eat at home. And sure, I might not have to do dishes, but my trash can (and dining room table) is overflowing with Styrofoam cups and paper bags! Yuck.

Staying mindful of those realities – and remembering my easy meal plan solutions – helps me plan meals for my family (and stay sane while doing it)!

What challenges do you face when meal planning for your family?

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16 Ideas for Quick Weeknight Dinners

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

16 Ideas for Quick Weeknight Dinners

The school year is upon us and along with that comes the chaos of planning what to make for dinner each night so I’m sharing 16 easy weeknight dinners that are perfect to share with your family around the dinner table. These can be made very quickly or can be thrown in your slow cooker for those busy nights full of activities after the school day has ended. I’m also including ideas for side dishes that are just as easy. They happen to be our family favorites and I know that they can be your family’s favorite too!

Don’t forget that you can use our free printable meal planner or use the menu planner in our Home Management Binder to get your dinners organized! 

1. Grilled Ground Beef Gyros 

Skip heading out to your local gyro joint and enjoy a gyro at home with this handy recipe. The toppings and sauce can be prepared the night before and keep a package of store-bought pitas in your freezer just for this easy weeknight meal. This one is ready in about twenty minutes. Serve this delicious dinner treat with baby carrots.

2. Rosemary Chicken

Rosemary Chicken is my go-to dish that can be made with a couple of ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. If you do not have fresh rosemary on hand, you can substitute with dried rosemary instead. This quick chicken dish makes for fantastic leftovers that you can put in tortilla wraps to send to school with your children or can make a fantastic addition to a delicious salad. Serve this easy and elegant chicken dish with a side of pesto rice and microwave lemon broccoli for a quick dinner that the whole family will love.

3. Salmon Patties

Even if you have never been a fan of salmon patties before, I believe this recipe can convert anyone over to this easy and frugal weeknight dish. These patties are filled with a little lemon zest within the patty and a baked potato to stretch the salmon The breadcrumb coating made with Italian breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan makes these taste like something served at a fancy seafood restaurant and a little squirt of fresh lemon juice turns boring cans of salmon into something spectacular!  Serve these wallet-friendly wonders with my easy perfect baked potato and lemon roasted green beans.

4. Perfectly Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pulled Pork Sandwiches not only make the perfect slow cooker dish for busy weeknight activities, but they just so happen to make the world’s greatest leftover sandwiches for other nights too. This pulled pork can be simmering away in its root beer bath while you tackle all of the rest of the day’s activities. Serve these sandwiches on whole wheat buns with corn on the cob or a bag of frozen corn.

5. Chicken Italiano

Fewer dishes are loved more by me than this simple dish that can be created out of frozen chicken when you (whoops) forget to thaw your chicken for the evening’s meal or that can be popped in the slow cooker when your family feels swamped with activities. I love to serve this dish over spaghetti noodles or baked brown rice with a simple salad.

6. Baked Ziti With Turkey Meatballs

Entertaining your child’s entire football team? Have company coming on a school night? This is your dish because it is made with store-bought meatballs, can easily be doubled, and can be prepared the night before so it is ready to go. This isn’t your typical dried out ziti thanks to the addition of chicken broth to the sauce, which really coats the noodles well and adds a depth of flavor to the dish. Serve this with some easy Portuguese White Bread (made in your bread machine, of course) and a spinach salad.

7. Braised Balsamic Chicken

This braised balsamic chicken comes together in a mere twenty minutes, but tastes like it has been cooking all day long. The balsamic vinegar compliments the diced tomatoes perfectly and the addition of these spices makes this dish a true winner in our home.  Serve this braised balsamic chicken over angel hair pasta and with your favorite side salad.

8.  Skillet Penne & Sausage Supper

You want simple, easy, and less dishes? Skillet suppers are the way to go and this one is packed with veggies and flavor. This dish has all the ease of Hamburger Helper, but without the sodium and preservatives that you really don’t want your kids to be eating. Serve this simple supper with bowls of applesauce on the side and prop those feet up thanks to a night free from a kitchen full of dishes.

9. Skillet Ziti with Chicken & Broccoli

This is another night for embracing your vegetables and not embracing dishes. This Skillet Ziti with Chicken & Broccoli can easily be personalized with fresh diced tomatoes on top for the tomato lover’s in the family. To make this dish vegetarian, just omit the chicken and up the veggie quotient. With the sprinkle of tomatoes or a handful of sundried tomatoes and spinach, it could make this a veggie packed dish worth repeating. Serve this fun dish with your favorite fruit and slices of whole grain bread with butter.

10. Panko Crusted Tilapia Nuggets

While breading fish can be a bit labor intensive, this dish can easily be done in stages for quick assembly in the evening and is truly a dish that the whole family will love. These tilapia nuggets can replace your kid’s adoration for those fried chicken nuggets and offer a fun & healthy choice in their place. Serve the nuggets with lemon rice pilaf and steamed edamame. I love to make these sides in my rice cooker, for a fun meal that is ready in under thirty minutes.

11. Bow Ties With Tomatoes, Sausage, & Cream

This delicious dish is the one that I go to whenever we have unexpected company or when I am looking to make a dish that I can serve as an elegant lunch the next day. This dish restaurant-worthy and can easily be doubled when running a meal to someone else.   Once you try this one, I promise that it will go into your regular rotation forever. Serve this dish with lemon roasted green beans.

12. Pot Roast Italiano

My Pot Roast Italiano is guaranteed to knock your socks off and will change any feelings you previously had about roast forever.  This roast simmers away in the slow cooker all day and at the end of the cooking,  a can of tomato paste is whisked in to finish off the delicious gravy. I served the roast over cheesy orzo pasta and with a simple side salad. Leftover meat can be placed into slider rolls for Italian beef sliders the next night served with tortilla chips and carrot sticks.

13. To Die For Pot Roast Sandwiches

You will notice that few of our recipes have convenience foods or mixes in them, but this roast is my one exception to the rule since it relies upon three packaged mixes to create.   Do your best to look for low-sodium mixes though and avoid adding any salt to this recipe. These three little mixes and some water make the most flavorful roast. Not a hint of dryness in this roast and the leftovers heat up perfectly for a special lunch. Serve these easy sandwiches on whole wheat buns (homemade or store-bought) with fresh apple slices and glasses of milk.

14. Cracker Barrel Grilled Chicken Tenders

Made from ingredients that are likely already in your refrigerator and pantry right now, these simple ingredients are exceptionally delicious and create a flavorful & juicy chicken tender that you will absolutely love. This recipe yields a pound’s worth of tenders. I triple the batch for salad topping and grilled chicken wraps that make easy weekday lunches or a busy weeknight dinner for another night in our house. Serve these with baked brown rice and baby peas.

15. Presto Pesto Pasta Con Pollo

This dish replicates the flavors from my favorite meal at a local Italian restaurant. With the simple addition of sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes, it takes this easy dish to an elegant level with minimal effort. Of course, no dish is complete without my signature addition of lemon zest and a squirt of lemon juice to freshen and lighten the flavors. The best part about this dish, in my opinion, is that it incorporates items that I already have in the pantry and can easily be pulled together with leftovers in the fridge. Leftover chicken, vegetables, and any type of pasta can be pulled together for a dinner that is worthy of an evening gathered with friends and family around the dinner table. Serve this elegant dish with my easy pumpkin cornbread muffins.

16. Italian Turkey Sliders

Sliders are a new addition to our family’s meal rotation and I guarantee if you try these that they will go into your rotation too! These Italian Turkey Sliders not only are quick to prepare and easy to bake, but thanks to their tiny size, these pint-sized sliders are ready in only fifteen short minutes. Sliders are not only highly fashionable for entertaining, but they also are super fun for little ones who will appreciate your small burger efforts as a way to make the dinner hour more fun. Serve these with homemade oven fries for a fun dinner at home.

What meal always makes it into rotation at your house? Have you tried a meal from this list?

Note: Originally published in 2011, this remains one of our site’s most-searched articles so I’ve updated it with a Pinterest-friendly header to go along with our M Challenge Focus on Meal Planning. These dinner ideas are perfect for busy school nights!

 

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