Dinner. We all have to eat it at some point in the day! Some of us know what we're having for dinner a week in advance. Some of us wait until 3p.m. to plan it. And some of us find ourselves making a phone call for takeout for dinner. This school year, I do not want to be one of those making a mad dash to the local pizza joint 30 minutes before my family expects dinner on the table. It's unhealthy for both our bodies and our bank account. So this year, I will menu plan and have emergency meal plans waiting in the wings!
Now, I am not going to go into a long post on how to menu plan. There are many other bloggers that have done a much better job of explaining it, but I will give some you some ideas to keep in mind. And at the end of this I will share links to blogs and sites that I have found helpful.
- Know what you have in the freezer and pantry. Now might be a good time to take inventory and write it down. It doesn't have to be an elaborate inventory system, just find out what you have and try to make note of what you have added and used.
- Keep staples on hand. These might be different things for every family. We usually have pasta at least 2 times a week, whether as the main meal or a side dish. So I make sure that we always have it in the cupboard.
- Have one or two quick and easy meals that your family likes. Spaghetti with marinara sauce is my go to meal when it's been a crazy day.
- Keep your schedule in mind when planning your meals. Tuesday is not a good day to try out that new recipe for stuffed chicken breasts when you know that that is the day that your son has sports practice and your daughter has a music lesson. Try to plan easier meals for days and evenings that are hectic.
- Rely on your crock pot. One of my favorite things to do is to put a whole chicken in in the morning on high, then walk away. All I have to do then is decide how we want our potatoes and make the gravy from the juices in the crock pot. In fact, next time I do this I'm thinking of adding the potatoes to the crock a couple hours before dinner. I'll let you know how it goes!
- Cook once, eat twice. Whether you plan on eating the leftovers or you cook double the rice, pasta or meat needed for a recipe later in the week, you'll save time if you cook everything at once. And make sure to let your family know that you are planning on those leftovers!!
- Have a meal or two that's ready to go in the freezer. Not only will this benefit you, but if a friend or family member has an emergency, you can have a meal for them.
- Do as much prep work all at once, ahead of time. For a while I used to get home from the grocery store and cut up the carrots and celery for snacks, wash the grapes and take them off the stems, etc. Why not do this for dinner? Cut up your onions, shred your cheese, measure out your ingredients for the week. Then label them with freezer tape.
- Be flexible. One method of cooking and/or menu planning may work for one Mama and her family, but not for yours. Find what works for you and stick with it!
The other day I got a cook book on my Kindle called Fix, Freeze, Feast:The Delicious, Money Saving Way to Feed Your Family for only $2.51.* The basic premise is to but meat in bulk and cook one recipe using that meat, then dividing it up into meals that you freeze in 1gallon freezer bags, pulling them out when needed. I don't know if I will be using many of the recipes, but it gave me some ideas of how to do this with meals that I make now, as well as doing this for crock pot meals.
One site I stumbled upon abut 2 years ago was A Year of Slow Cooking. It's an amazing blog full of crock pot recipes for things I didn't even KNOW you could make in a crock pot! A good friend of mine that is our Pastor's wife, an art teacher and home schooling Mama of 4 (among many other things!) has used quite a few of these recipes. And you can go to Tipnut for crock pot cooking tips.
For menu planning, check out Organized Home for more information. You can also search online for make ahead meals, freezer cooking, etc. to learn more and get ideas. I'll be sharing more on this as the weeks go by.
Have a lovely day, Friends!