Meal Plan Monday: Muffin’s Birthday Week!

Good Monday morning, meal planners!

In honor of Muffin’s seventh birthday on Wednesday, here are seven classic photos of Muffin:

In lieu of going out to eat on his birthday, we instead took him to brunch yesterday, and I will be making his birthday dinner on Wednesday.  The only thing he asked for was macaroni and cheese, so I will be serving that with some chicken made infamous by the fact that Muffin once stole it off of my plate.  We will also have green beans (one o his favorite veggies).

So, how does the week shape out?  Here’s how:

Saturday:  I chaperoned the prom.  I snacked there.  Josh and Muffin had pizza leftover from his birthday party, I think.

Sunday:  grill

Monday:  hamburger helper, veg, bread

Tuesday:  fajita rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures), chips, salsa

Wednesday:  Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken (A Bountiful Kitchen), macaroni and cheese, green beans

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza in some form

Saturday:  Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps (Fifteen Spatulas–triple the batch and freeze leftovers), egg rolls, soup from Chinese restaurant

Sunday:  Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce (Life in the Lofthouse), rice, green veg

What is on tap for you this week?

Meal Plan Monday: Meal Planning for Beginners

Good post-Easter Monday!  I come to you (not live) this week to talk about something very near and dear to my heart:  meal planning.

For many people, I might be preaching to the choir or giving you information that you already know.  I am going to try to trace the most up-to-date way that I meal plan with the hope that any meal planning newbies who are reading this will find needed tidbits of knowledge to lead to meal plan success.

I have had successes and failures with meal planning.  It has not always been smooth sailing.  There have been stumbles as well as fits and starts along the way.

As we are a family whose big “restaurant-spending risk” is at supper, I mostly plan only the evening meals.  My lunches are usually leftovers or a can of Aldi-brand Chef Boyardee at work, Muffin’s school lunches are an interesting blend of leftovers, sandwiches, homemade (or even, horrors, store-bought) Lunchables, or snacky lunches.  Josh tends to do the sandwich or leftover thing although sometimes he grabs stuff at Walmart or Target.

In the summer, I try to plan a bit more (breakfasts and lunches), and, if we have company, I plan all possible meals (dessert and beverage included).

Tip #1:  Meal planning is not optional.  It is a necessity if you live under any kind of budget constraints (and I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t).

Tip #2:  Gather recipes.  Some people meal plan around a rotational schedule and have recipes that they repeat over and over and over.  There are pros and cons to this.  The pros are that you always buy the same thing at the grocery store and know which ingredients to stock up on when they go on sale.  The cons, for us, would outweigh the pros.  Josh and I like trying new things.  A rotational meal plan would not allow us the freedom to do so.

I gather recipes everywhere.  My bookmarks/favorites in Chrome are mostly recipes.  My Dropbox is at capacity (and beyond) for recipes.  My computer has recipes.  I have pictures of recipes that I have taken with my phone that are in my photo roll.  I collect the special interest (and regular) food and cooking magazines that have recipes.  I look at blogs and ingredient provider websites for recipes.  And, finally, that great recipe glut:  Pinterest.

I have thousands upon thousands of recipe pins.  Seriously.  Thousands.  Morning, noon, and night, I contemplate recipes or even simply ingredient combinations.

Even if you go old school and gather recipes that you use in a binder, do so.

Tip #3:  From my available recipes, I make a meal plan.  I do not rely on pay-by-month apps or websites to plan my meals.  Part of the purpose of meal planning is to save money and time.  Spending money for a meal plan?  Ummm, no.  Another issue I have with these is that the ones that are completely pre-made tend to be recipes that use ingredients that one (or more) of us don’t like.  Curry powder, for instance.  Or anchovies.  Or, in some really sick why-would-you-ever-do-this-to-anyone-recipe-idea, curry powder with anchovies.

Note that I said from my available recipes, I make a meal plan.  Some people build their plans around the loss leaders in grocery circulars.  I went through a stage where I did that.  For me, a person who intrepidly treks to Aldi every two weeks (67 miles one-way), this isn’t really feasible.  I will buy the loss leaders at Kroger or Albertson’s if they are a fantastic deal.  Most loss leaders are either proteins that freeze well (and can have a meal plan built around later) or processed items that keep well (canned, jarred, or boxed items).  Produce loss leaders would usually end up being part of a side dish, and those items can be quickly swapped out.

Tip #4:  Find the day you know you are most likely to fudge on the meal plan and make it a leftover day (or something really easy that you don’t mind eating every week).  For us, that day is Thursday.  And the alternate meal is hot dogs.  Very rarely do we resort to hot dogs.  Usually, we eat leftovers.

Tip #5:  If you theme-meal plan, pencil stuff in.  Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday are the easiest days of my meal plan.  Tuesday is usually taco or Tex-Mex related.  Thursday is leftovers (Thrifty Thursday).  For Fridays, I usually list pizza.  This could be grabbing a pizza at Little Caesars, grabbing a slice at Sam’s, making mini pizzas (with English muffins or Texas Toast or French bread), or making a full-blown pizza.

Tip #6:  If you have holidays or special occasions, pencil those in as well.  Nights when you are out of town, holidays, nights when you have to work late, etc. easy to plan because you probably are going to (gasp!) eat out.  As long as it is part of your meal plan, you will not have already purchased food to eat out on that date.

Tip #6:  Plan around the week you know you will have (activity and weather-wise).  Longtime readers know that I drag the slow cooker, grilling, and chilled recipes out in the summer.  I refuse to heat up my kitchen (and, therefore, the rest of the house) if I can help it.  Also, if my weekend is busy (or we are out of town) and the work week is busy, no-brainer meals, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, tacos, something pulled from the freezer, or sandwiches.

Tip #7:  Make a shopping list of everything that you will need for those recipes (and the essentials to get you through your shopping period) arranged by the location of the items in the store.  Remove/leave off any items that you already have, of course.  Sometimes I will make my meal plan around items we already have around the house.  It is incredibly frugal to do so.

Tip #8:  Follow the shopping list.  (And don’t go shopping without, at least, a mental list.)  This should be the ultimate no-brainer.  However, there are reports of people who walk the aisles of grocery stores, adding items to carts willy-nilly with nary a meal plan or a list in mind.  Scandalous! I tell you!  Absolutely scandalous!  These people have no intention of meal planning or cooking their own meals.  They like the appearance of doing so but will not back it up with the “goods,” as it were.

I’m sorry.  But when people do that it really “frosts my cookies.”

Tip #9:  When you get home, organize your groceries in their respective locations by recipes.  This is just a thrown-out-there tip.  If the first time I use the corn flakes, I also use the cream of mushroom soup, those items are going to be together.

Tip #10:  (The Big Kahuna)  Follow the meal plan.  Again, I think I hear a chorus of “Duh!” in the background.  But there are weeks where I falter here.  I get sick.  Muffin gets sick.  Josh gets sick.  Work hits me over the head with a brick a few (dozen) times to the point that microwaving a bag of popcorn takes more effort than I have.  How do I do a preemptive strike around this?

I prep on the weekends.  Remember in Tip #6 where I talk about busy weekends?  Yes, that is where things have to be orchestrated carefully.  For the last few meal plans, if it hasn’t gotten done on the weekend?  It hasn’t gotten done.  So, I prep as much as possible on the weekends (to the point of completely oven-readying casseroles, putting protein in marinade, chopping up toppings for tacos, precooking taco and/or sloppy joe meat, and even making meals so that all we have to do is microwave individual portion sizes for the weekday).  Meals that cannot be prepped ahead that require a lot of work are designated non-busy day meals only (weekends, summer, school holidays).

Why did I feel the need to write this post?  1)  I believe passionately in the importance of meal planning.  It soothes me.  It feeds my soul (literally and figuratively).  It provides structure to my often chaotic and fragmented life.  2)  The people who “frost my cookies” from Tip #8?  Heard about some of them.  I am literally contemplating tying my fingers together to keep from being more insulting towards them.  3) In researching budget recipes on Pillsbury’s website, I was overjoyed to find a five-day meal plan (in an article that stressed the importance of meal planning)…until I looked at the shopping list.

The shopping list included ingredients that were super expensive.  In a meal-planning article on the budget portion of a recipe website, should you ever include recipes in a meal plan that have super-expensive ingredients?

Personally, as a huge corporation, that company should know better.  Sure, in many cases, the more expensive ingredients could be substituted (and I would), but, in my mind, you put people off meal planning with such a counterproductive meal plan.  (For those who are dying of curiosity, the ingredients included honeycrisp apple–one of the more expensive ones unless they are on an extreme sale, rotisserie chicken–wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy and roast a chicken, pumpernickel bread, organic canned tomatoes, and organic Thousand Island dressing.  Whoever heard of organic Thousand Island dressing?)

So, what is on my meal plan this week?

Saturday:  Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken (Just a Taste), rice, eggroll

Sunday:  Easter dinner

Monday:  red beans and rice, bread, salad (freeze leftover red beans for June)

Tuesday:  Fajita Rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures), beans, chips and salsa

Wednesday:  Baked Chicken Croquettes (Life in the Lofthouse), broccoli, rice, and gravy

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza

Saturday:  I am chaperoning a school event, and Muffin has a Cub Scout thing with Josh.

Sunday:  Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken (A Bountiful Kitchen), macaroni and cheese, green beans (freeze half of the macaroni and cheese for June)

What is on your meal plan this week?  How do you meal plan?

Meal Plan Monday: More New Recipes

Meal Plan Monday

Good morning!  Do you have any Easter plans?  Is the bunny planning to visit you?

Easter, in our family (and probably yours), means ham.  I am not the biggest ham fan.  My mom tries to dodge turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I try to dodge ham at Christmas and Easter.

Last Easter, I was lucky, and I was able to talk my mom into a pork loin.  I don’t know if I will be as lucky this time.

But here is the plan as it is (not etched in stone).

Saturday:  Creamy Chicken Casserole (Kraft), canned veg, bread

Sunday:  Chicken and dumplins, cornbread, salad

Monday:  Teriyaki Chicken and Buttered Rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

Tuesday:  tacos, chips, and salsa

Wednesday:  Roasted Garlic Spaghetti with Italian Sausage (Pillsbury), asparagus

Thursday:  hot dogs or leftovers

Friday:  pizza

Saturday:  Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken (Just a Taste), rice, egg roll

Sunday:  Easter Dinner

Do you try to avoid ham at Easter dinner?  What is on your meal plan for the week?

Meal Plan Monday: Happy April!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy April, everyone in the Pinteresting Blogosphere!

This week finds us back at school after spring break!  Yay!

I am trying a few newbie recipes that have inundated my email folder in recent months and that have colored my foodie imagination in my dreams.

Don’t you hate/love when that happens?!

But I will start us off with a bang!

Saturday:  Imperial Cathay-style Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, rice, eggroll

Sunday:  Smothered Chicken, rice, broccoli

Monday:  Baked Ravioli for Weeknights (Kraft Recipes), salad

Tuesday:  Fajita Rice (Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures), beans

Wednesday:  Cheesy Bacon Hasselback Potatoes (Kraft Recipes), salad

Thursday:  hot dogs or leftovers

Friday:  pizza

Saturday:  Creamy Chicken Casserole (Kraft), canned veg, bread

Sunday:  chicken and dumplins, cornbread, salad

What’s on the menu for your week?

Meal Plan Monday: A Lazy Spring Break Week

Meal Plan Monday

Good Monday morning everyone and welcome to the Spring Break edition of MPM on FHM&M.  (Wayyyyy too many acronyms there)  Maybe the “lazy” should simply be for the cooking.  This week is going to be a week of no new recipes (unlike spring breaks in the past with meal plan challenges).

So, what does this week look like?

Here we go!!!

Saturday:  ate at the hotel in Dallas

Sunday:  After the trip and a large lunch at Taco Cabana, I wasn’t hungry.  Muffin ate pizza.  Josh made a sandwich from the boneless ribs left over.  I eventually ate a piece of the yummy peppered maple turkey we bought at Central Market.

Monday:  nuggets, fries, celery sticks and dip

dsc_0687

Tuesday:  Ranch Chicken Enchiladas x 2, rice, beans

Wednesday:  Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna (recipe forthcoming), salad bar salad

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza rolls x several to freeze, corn

Saturday:  Imperial Cathay Style Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, egg roll

IMG_0738[1]

Sunday:  Smothered Chicken, rice, broccoli

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

Meal Plan Monday: Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated!

Good morning, Monday readers!  Well, I’m actually writing this Sunday morning, but I have Monday thoughts on this Sunday.

If you recognize the source of the subtitle, kudos to you!  I am waiting (with baited breath) for the sequel (supposedly in October according to the often-incorrect Wikipedia).

The last several months have been a delicate balancing act (read:  epic fail at that) of being the mama of a first grader, Star Wars and Nerf Gun enthusiast, and cub scout.  Oddly enough, the last has tipped the scales into insanity and hilarity quite often.

Added to that biweekly trips to Aldi (that turn into day-long excursions as lunch is usually included) and the following day spent cooking and prepping for the following week?  Yes, writing time has been almost nonexistent.

And, for a long time, I worried that I had lost my writing mojo.  I would stare at my list of dishes that I had prepared, new and exciting ones, and felt…blah.  Staring at a blank screen with a blinking cursor (and imagining the cursor taunting you with each blink…”You can’t do this; you can’t do this!”) is far more intimidating than staring at a blank spiral notebook page and a pen (which is how I usually compose fiction).

My Muse had escaped me, it seemed.  And, then, very recently (in both terms of fiction and here), a new Muse appeared.  In other words, the words that have been trapped in my head on the tips on my fingers, almost, have suddenly started purging themselves on paper–and on the screen.

I feel rejuvenated.

So, those people that I am related to (cough cough, my sister, cough cough) who have wondered why they have haven’t been receiving notifications about new posts, you should receive one soon.

This week abuts spring break (yay!  finally!) and a much-anticipated trip to Dallas (to celebrate our anniversary last November, Valentine’s Day, and everything in between), so the menu plan is going to look kinda…odd.

Are you ready for the super-charged meal plan?

Or the what-was-she-thinking meal plan?

Here we go!!!

Saturday:  Peeps be sick (or, at least Muffin was).  I had eaten at a Chinese buffet for brunch that turned into b’lu’pper because I ate too much.  Muffin was finally able to hold down two corn dogs from Sonic (yay!  50 cent corn dogs and happy hour drinks!), and I’m not sure what Josh had.

Sunday:  Asian-Paste Pork Loin with Two Onions, rice, tomato slices

33536071265_6c0eba758a_c

Monday:  grilled boneless ribs with a rub, grilled asparagus, French bread with butter

Tuesday:  Mexican pizzas, chips, salsa

Wednesday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Thursday:  breaky for dinner–Josh is off so eggs over easy, sausage from Aldi, biscuits (like Grands but from Aldi), and hash brown patties

Friday:  mini pizzas (Aldi had mini pizza crusts with sauce on clearance)

Saturday:  dinner in Dallas

Sunday:  dinner on the road or snacky lunch

What is your menu looking like this week?

Meal Plan Monday: The Between Christmas and New Years’ Edition

Meal Plan Monday

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted.  For the last month, the meal plans have sorta not worked too well.  As in epic fails.  As in, I knew when I planned them that they were not going to go well.

I will spare you the horrific details.  This week is how-to-prep for New Years’ Eve and New Years’ Day while still enjoying the leftover goodies of Christmas.

I’m going to supply the menu for everything for the next two weeks (because the “eves” and “days” are a bit more complicated, recipe-wise).

Here we go.

Saturday (Christmas Eve):  snackies (little sausages in barbecue sauce and raspberry chipotle Tabasco sauce because choosing to wait until December 23 to purchase jalapeno pepper jelly simply doesn’t work, white sausage rotel and chips, treat tray, cream cheese and pepper jelly)

Sunday (Christmas morning/breakfast):  sausage biscuit breakfast casserole, fruit cup, tomato slices, sparkling grape juice

Sunday Lupper:  turkey, ham, cranberry orange relish, dressing, mashed potatoes, tourtiere, gravy, relishes (pickles and olives, plus carrots, tiny tomatoes, celery, and cucumber slices), macaroni and cheese, spinach madeleine, yams richard, crescent rolls, and treat tray

Monday:  leftovers see above

Tuesday:  hopefully leftovers (see above)

Wednesday:  chili (freeze leftovers)

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dog

Friday:  mini pizzas

Saturday (New Years’ Eve):  chicken and steak fajitas, guacamole, beans, pico de gallo and chips, Spanish rice, treat tray

Sunday (New Years’ Day):  probably ham (or some pork like form), greens, hot water cornbread, treat tray

Monday:  fajita leftovers

Tuesday:  sloppy joes, fries or tater tots

Wednesday:  pizza lasagna, green veg

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dog

Friday:  pizza

Saturday:  stir fry

Sunday:  roast of some kind

And there you go.  The latest Saturday and Sunday are not set in stone.  But the rest pretty much is.

How does your time look to be shaping up?