Menu Plan Monday – A Reminder Of It's Benefits

I was going to post my menu plan for the week as usual – but I came down with a migraine that knocked me on off my feet. Literally. I spent the day in the silence of my bedroom, eyes covered with frozen bags of veggies and a window open even though it’s 33 degrees here.

But I didn’t stress about my boys. Our routines are written out, so Hubby was able to take over Little Dude’s needs. Plus, because I meal plan, I had the chicken for dinner already thawed.  All I had to do was tell Hubby what recipe to pull from my binder.

Meal planning is a tool I used for my sanity! Each day I’m (mostly) sane at dinner time because I’m prepared – whether I’m the one cooking or not.

Menu Plan Monday

I’ve made a change to my meal plan each week. I now have a new “theme day” – but before I tell you what that is, I want to share with you the story behind this change.

Last Thursday, Hubby worked late. Because he works overnight, he got home around 2pm. He was beat, so went to lay down and nap for a while. In the meantime, I prepared a delicious dinner (If I do say so myself).

Come 4:30, I send Little Dude upstairs to wake up Hubby and tell him dinner is ready. The table is set – my delicious dinner is ready to be eaten – and we all sit down.

“I’m not at all hungry. We had sandwiches delivered for our staff meeting and I ate too much” Hubby informs me.

Are you kidding me? You couldn’t have mentioned this before I went through the trouble of making dinner? Did it occur to you that I could have done something else with my time instead of slaving over the stove?

This may seem like I’m being dramatic, but it’s not the first time this has happened. Hubby works a bit late every Thursday because of his staff meeting. And recently, a few time he just wasn’t in the mood for dinner.

So from now on, I’m going to save myself the trouble. Thursday’s are now going to be “Breakfast For Dinner”. Hubby is not a big fan, whereas Little Dude and I could live on breakfast foods – particularly scrambled eggs. Now if I get “I’m not hungry” from Hubby, who cares – go fend for yourself. Little Dude and I are having breakfast.

And now for this week’s menu. I have the standards in stock for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. For dinners I’ve planned the following:

  • Sunday: Football Food (chicken wings, sweet potato fries and fried green beans – yum!)
  • Monday: Ham and baked sweet potatoes
  • Toddler Tuesday: Little Dude can choose from fish sticks, grilled cheese or pizza
  • Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Chicken
  • Thursday: Breakfast For Dinner – probably eggs and bacon (so I can make extra bacon for Friday)
  • Friday: Bacon Cheese Burgers
  • Saturday: Angel Pasta Chicken

So this week’s tip: plan your menus around the schedule of you and your family. If you know a particular day of the week is not conducive to making a full dinner, make it breakfast for dinner day!

PS: As always I’m linking to Laura @ OrgJunkie.com and participating in Menu Plan Monday. Head on over for some great meal planning ideas and recipes!

Menu Plan Monday

Hubby and I were super busy today clearing out clutter (more on that later on this week) so I almost forgot to post my meal plan for this week!

I’m semi-joining the Eating From The Pantry challenge from The Menu Mom. To be honest I’ve been so busy with house work recently that I didn’t make the time to really take an inventory of my pantry and freezer, So I just made this week’s menu from my memory (eek!). I plan on making time this week to really dig through my stock pile of foods to try the challenge!

And don’t forget, I’m cooking without an oven. (Yes I know, we really should do something about that!)

Anyway, here’s this week’s meal plan.

Breakfasts this week can be scrambled eggs, oatmeal, cold cereal, waffles, or muffins.
Lunches this week can be chicken nuggets, cold cuts, left overs or good old fashioned PB&J.
Plus we have cheese sticks, carrots, celery, crackers, raisins, and hummus for snacking. I have fruit cups, but I really needs to get out and pick-up some fresh fruits and veggies!

After all the rich foods over the holidays, dinners this week are very basic. And I’m looking forward to it!

  • Monday: Spaghetti and meat sauce
  • Tuesday: Toddler Tuesday – he can pick from ham steak, fish sticks or grilled cheese & soup.
  • Wednesday: Chinese chicken stirfry
  • Thursday: Beef stew (from the freezer) and dumplings
  • Friday: We’re ordering pizza – whoot whoot! (It’s been a while…)
  • Saturday: BBQ Chicken (fingers crossed that the weather hold’s up and let’s us use the grill)
  • Sunday: Baked ziti (from the freezer) and hopefully I’ll have an oven to make garlic bread.

As usual, I’m linking to my friend Laura’s Menu Plan Monday – take a peek cause she has over 400 participants this week! And I’m linking to Christine The Menu Mom’s challenge too.

Menu Plan Monday – With No Oven!

Remember when I blogged about hoping my harvest-gold oven would be the next appliance to die? Well my wish came true – at the worst time possible! Last Wednesday, right in the middle of baking Christmas cookies my oven decided to quit. The stove top works, and the broiler works, but the oven doesn’t regulate the temperature. It’s either off or 500 degrees – not good for baking!

Side Note: Just before she died, she baked 6 dozen snickerdoodles PERFECTLY. So at least she went out with a bang! I finished my Christmas baking at my Mom’s – it’s a good thing I only live about a mile from her.

So while Hubby and I decide what to do about replacing old “Goldie”, I’m trying to meal plan without using my oven. TRICKY!

  • MONDAY: Popcorn Shrimp and Veggies (Hubby got a Fry Daddy for Christmas so we get to try it out on dinner!)
  • TUESDAY: Toddler Tuesday – Little Dude can choose from grilled cheese & soup, bacon & eggs or Hamburger Helper
  • WEDNESDAY: No Cooking – we’ll be out with family
  • THURSDAY: Hors d’ourves (see below)
  • FRIDAY: Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken & veggies
  • SATURDAY: Split Pea and Ham Soup and home-made bread (left-over ham bone from Christmas dinner put to good use!)
  • SUNDAY: Pasta and Meatballs with home-made bread (pulling some sauce and meatballs from the freezer)

Each New Year’s Eve we have hors d’ourves for dinner. Since I’m cooking sans oven, I’m rethinking the appetizers to cook. Maybe we’ll take advantage of the Fry Daddy again and fry some chicken wings. I can make a nice cheese fondue and some home-made bread and veggies to sip. OOh, and I’ve wanted to try making a dip a dip in my slow cooker – maybe artichoke?

I’m sure that soups, slow cooker, or skillet meals will get old fast. Hopefully our decision process won’t take too long. But more on that in another post.

So If you have any suggestions on what to make for dinner without using an oven, I’d love to hear from you!

Free Thanksgiving Cookbook

Related: More Free Cookbooks To Download

Tips for Saving Time and Money in the Grocery Store

source: Flickr by the_musical

Photo from Flickr by the_musical

As a kid grocery shopping looked like fun. As the parent, it is a chore that many of us could do without. Here are a few tips to save you both time and money on your next excursion to the grocery store. You might just change your mind about the experience after trying one or two.

First, why do people dislike going to the grocery store? You probably don’t like the long checkout lines or the time it takes to go up and down every aisle to find what you are looking for. Or, it could be the high cost of food and other grocery items these days.

Now, examine the following tips in light of what bugs you about the grocery store:

1. Clip coupons. This point can’t be stressed enough. Using money-saving coupons on the items that you use most is free money. Some grocery stores routinely double or triple coupons. (You can print coupons from SmartSource, RedPlum and Coupons.com here)

2. Create a grocery list from your meal menu. Meal planning saves money at the grocery store because you start with a list that encompasses everything you will need for all meals that week. Only pick up those items. With a list, you can target what you want and get out of the store fast.

3. Visit the grocery store early in the morning. This works for stay-at-home moms. Everyone else is at work so you will have the place pretty much to yourself. Many trucks deliver supplies to the grocery stores in the morning. You’ll be the first to get the freshest cuts of meat and the best produce.

4. Know your store. The biggest pet peeve has to do with the need to shop every aisle to find something. Choose a grocery store that has all of the food and qualities you like in a supermarket. On your grocery list, put the number of the aisle next to the item. Now, you won’t skip over the bread on aisle two while looking for the green beans which are on aisle four.

5. Stock up on common staples. Since you plan your meals every week, you know which items are needed most. When shopping, it’s okay to buy those items in bulk so that it cuts down on weekly shopping bills. For instance, if peanut butter is a lunch menu item most of the time, buy a lot when the peanut butter is on sale to save money.

6. Leave the kids home. Grocery shopping can be chore on it’s own. There is no need to add onto it keeping an eye on the kids. Plus the distractions! My bonus of shopping alone: I use this time to catch-up on podcasts and take my iPod along.

These tips make you want to run to the grocery store right now don’t they? Start with one and eventually use all five to shop like a pro.

All The Best-

PS: Do you need help meal planning? Here’s a how-to-guide to get started.

Easy Additions for Perfect Halloween Meals

It’s Halloween! With just a few little changes or additions to things that you probably already make, you can put the spirit of Halloween on your table.

Scary Eyeballs – Add a little more mustard into the egg centers or a thin dollop under where you will lay a black olive into the creamy center.

Ghost Sandwiches – Cut your bread into ghosts, add the filling of your choice and your children will have a ghostly treat for their school or after school sandwich.

Wormy Hot Dogs – Thinly slice your hot dogs and then microwave. This will make them curl to look like worms. Put them on a hamburger bun and dress with mustard, catsup and pickles to make a slimy swamp underneath.

Ghostly Toast – Toast your bread. When it is cool enough to cut, with a gingerbread girl cutter or a plain knife, cut to make a ghost body. Top with whipped cream cheese or flavored yogurt with raisins or dates cut for eyes.

Orange Jack O Lantern – With a toothpick, gently carve a face into the orange. Careful not to injure the meat/pulp of the orange, your child will have a small version of the Jack O Lantern that is healthy and edible.

Graveyard Snack – Take a cup of plain or buttered popped popcorn; add a half cup each of mini pretzels, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, goldfish crackers and raisins.

Spider Snack – Taking two round crackers, such as the ritz, put peanut butter in the middle. Take 8 small pretzels and stick all around, 4 on each side to make the legs. Add raisins for eyes.

Salty Bones – Making breadsticks for your spaghetti tonight? Here’s a Halloween twist. Unroll a tube of refrigerated breadstick roll and separate the triangle pieces. Stretch each individual piece to make a long bone like figure. Cut about a 1 and a half inch slit in each end with your kitchen scissors. Roll the remaining 4 flaps into what would make the end of a dog bone. Sprinkle with coarse salt and bake as directed.

Goblin Tongues – Using mini bagels, spread cream cheese or mayonnaise, your preference, onto bagel. Cut slices out of circular pieces of bologna lunch meat to look like tongues and put into the top center of the bagel, leaving it to hang out like a tongue.

These are just a small sampling of things you can do to impress the kids or grandkids. Nothing fancy, quite simple for you but they’ll love them. Presentation and excitement is part of children accepting new and different things. Let them help you when creating these treats and they may just be a little more receptive to the new Halloween changes in foods they already love.

How to Get Your Toddler to Eat More Vegetables

“Yuck! I hate vege-bles!” you hear your toddler – or preschooler – say. Before you know it, the tug of war over how to get your toddler to eat more vegetables has begun. You’re determined you’re going to win this time, but things don’t look promising.

You may be pulling your hair out as you try to get your child to eat more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or macaroni and cheese. Try these six tips on how to improve your child’s opinion of vegetables.

* Let them pick what vegetable to have with dinner. Since starting “Toddler Tuesday” in my meal plans, I let my Little Dude (now 4 years old) pick what we’re having for dinner. Because it’s was picked by him and made just for him, he eats every bite.

* Make eating vegetables fun. If you cut them up into smaller pieces that don’t seem too big to eat, they may be more willing to give them a try. Make broccoli  into “little trees” or cut celery into “little boats”. Little Dude will eat carrots  as long as we call them “bunny snacks” and let them hop to his mouth. I can also get him to eat avacado, but you don’t want to know what we call that!

* Let them help in the kitchen. Of course, you’re not going to give your toddler a sharp knife and ask them to cut up vegetables, but you can still get their help. Get out your hand masher and let them mash either white or sweet potatoes. You can even add some milk, butter and cheese to cauliflower to mash them. I let my Little Dude put the veggies into a bowl, then into the microwave. Then after I set the time, he presses the start button. Because he “helped”, he eats it up!

* Make a deal to get them to try anything and respect their taste. We tell Little Dude that if he tries it, and doesn’t like it, he can have something else (like corn or peas from the freezer to easily heat up in the microwave). Sometimes they need a little coaxing to try something new. And sometimes, you need to get them to try something new 4 or 5 times before they actually like it.

* Add some cheese. I learned this trick with Hubby! Seriously, anything I add cheese to gets gobbled up. You can either melt some shredded cheese onto your veggie or use cheddar cheese soup to entice a picky eater.

* Sneak a veggie (or two) into a smoothie. The only way I can get Little Dude to digest any amount of  spinach is to include it with pineapple in a smoothie. The sweetness of the pineapple hides the flavor and he loves the “yucky” green color.

Your child may not want to eat their vegetables, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them to eat them with some clever thinking and a little bit of ingenuity. You may not like being sneaky when getting your toddler to eat more vegetables, but if you want them to be healthy it might not seem like such a bad idea.

I’m so excited to learn that Horizon now has yogurt with fruits AND VEGETABLES in it for kids. Since he already loves yogurt, I’m sure banana and sweet potato or strawberry and carrot yogurt will be a hit. You can find out more information and sign up for a coupon at www.LittleBlends.com.

And to help spread the word about www.LittleBlends.com, Twitter Moms is hosting a blogging contest. You can get the details and participate at the Twitter Moms forum.

Menu Plan Monday

I don’t have my usual menu plan done for the week. We were away for a long weekend visiting family, so I’m a little behind. But that’s OK – I always have back-up in the freezer! Maybe some zucchini lasagna or tuna casserole.

So I’ll share some tips instead of my weekly plan.

Menu Planning Tips for Busy Moms

Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day. If you are a busy mom or you know a busy mom, here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun.

1.    Schedule your meals a week in advance.  This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the last day of the previous week (let’s say Saturday for the sake of argument) what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.

2.    Look for bargains. Clip coupons, read advertising circulars and the like to decide where the best grocery to shop is for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.

3.    Search online. After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste. (Did you know I have a growing database of recipes?)

4.    Have a leftover night. After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It saves mom from having to throw away any food.

5.    Cook your meals in advance. After deciding on a menu plan for the week, go ahead and fix as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.

6.    Do prep work in advance. All of the meals can’t be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For them, so as much prep work in advance as you can. Enlist your kids to help chop (give them the kitchen shears instead) vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix together dry ingredients. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.

Meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone. My Little Dude loves to “help”. And I’ve talked before about Hubby’s meatballs and sauce. At dinner time my kitchen is full – and it’s fun! We prep, cook, eat and clean-up together.

If you need help with planning your menus, here’s a step-by-step guide!

Menu Plan Monday

I’m lucky this week! First, because I’m cooking mostly from the freezer. When I went grocery shopping, I didn’t purchase any meats.

Second, because we’re heading down-the-shore to visit family on Friday so I don’t have to plan for the weekend!

So here’s my meal plan for the week of September 13, 2009:

Breakfasts: cold cereals, oatmeal, bananas, yogurt, eggs, bacon

Lunches: cold cut sandwiches, cut veggies & hummus, soup (from the freezer), cheese quesadillas (so easy! shredded cheese and salsa on a wrap and baked)

Snacks: cut veggies, apples, bananas, cheese sticks, peanut butter pretzels, pop corn, yogurt

Dinners: (Each item marked with an ‘*’ is already in the freezer.)

  • meatballs* with brown gravy and egg-noodles
  • pierogies* (homemade from my mother-in-law – YUM!) and kielbasa*
  • Toddler Tuesday – Little Dude has a choice of grilled cheese & soup, fish sticks or frozen pizza
  • tuna casserole (already made using the the 2nd-half of the egg-noodles)
  • grilled honey garlic pork chops* (recipe found here from Amanda)
  • grilled teriyaki chicken breasts*

I just love meal planning weeks like this – easy peasy!

PS: I’m linking to Menu Plan Monday over at orgjunkie.com – go over and check out the great meal plans people are sharing!

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