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  • Meal Prepping for the Week

    Simpler Menu Planning - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve been discussing my menu plan struggles for the last few weeks, and my plan has been to use Mondays to prep for the week. I haven’t been very good at accomplishing much, though, and I’ve decided today is The Day It Happens. Here’s what I’m going to get done:

    1. Bake brownies
    2. Make strata for tonight’s dinner
    3. Roast cauliflower for tomorrow’s dinner
    4. Make tomorrow’s dinner
    5. Wash and chop veggies for salad {I keep lettuce in the salad spinner in the fridge}
    6. Cut pineapple {my “second” mom gets us a year-long organic fruit-of-the-month subscription from Harry & David}
    7. Turn brownies into bons bons
    8. Make simple syrup
    9. Make chai tea latte concentrate {recipe to come}

    I’ve already got the brownies in the oven, and the bread and ham for the strata are defrosting. My plan is to have everything done and the kitchen clean by the time we’re sitting down for dinner.

    If this goes well {fingers crossed}, I will try to do this every week!

    Simplifying My Menu Planning

    Simpler Menu Planning - chieffamilyofficer.com

    The benefits of menu planning are undeniable: You save money by not eating out or picking up take-out. You also save money buying only mostly what you need, and not buying food that just goes to waste. You can even save money by having leftovers for lunch the next day. And you tend to eat healthier, since you control the ingredients.

    However, as I’ve mentioned a few times now in my Menu Plan Monday posts, I’ve been looking to simplify my monthly menu planning. When I first started planning weekly menus, a monthly plan felt so overwhelming. But Gina, Camille, and others encouraged me to try it, so a couple of years ago, I finally did.

    I’ve been amazed at how much easier it is to plan a weekly menu when the monthly menu is already done. And I’m much more likely to plan a weekly menu if I’ve already done a monthly one. Oddly enough, even when I don’t follow my menu plan, I’m still more likely to make dinner at home than when I don’t have a menu plan at all. But at the end of each month, I dreaded sitting down to make the next month’s meal plan.

    Wendy suggested that each month, I start with a list of meals that I make regularly, and then fill in some of the days with other meals. I thought that was brilliant, so I promptly created a list of 30 favorite meals, which I referred to last week when I was drawing up my menu plan for March. I still needed my calendar of family events – in particular, the boys’ sports schedule, which once again includes weeknight games, in addition to weeknight practices, weekend practices, and weekend games. My menu plan has to be carefully constructed to take into account nights when food has to be ready the moment we walk in the door, or even taken to the field. {Admittedly, sometimes I just throw my hands up in the air and go with fast food or take-out. But it happens far less often when I have a menu plan than when I don’t.}

    You can see my monthly list of meals here {pdf}. Most of the meals have links to recipes, so you can try them yourself. And feel free to send me your list of favorite meals – I’m always on the lookout for new family favorites, especially ones that the kids will enjoy, and I’ll share them with other readers so we can all menu plan more easily.

    This post will be linked to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Witthaya Phonsawat.

    5 Menu Planning Tips

    menu planning tips

    Last week, I shared six ways that menu planning saves us money. Hopefully, that convinced you that menu planning is worth the effort!

    Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tricks that help make menu planning a little easier. Here they are:

    Plan monthly menus. I found creating a monthly menu plan daunting at first, but I got the hang of it after a few months. And now I find that I’m much more likely to plan for the week if I already have a starting point in a monthly plan. A monthly menu also allows me to space out different kinds of meals.

    Start with your schedule. I use a basic monthly calendar template in Google Drive to create my menu plan each month, and I always have my calendar open as I plan. This allows me to take into account social plans, the kids’ activities, and anything else that might affect what we have for dinner. For example, if we’re going to be out in the late afternoon but home in time for dinner, I’ll plan for something that I can make ahead and have ready when we walk in the door.

    When prepping your menu for the upcoming week, you may also want to check the weather report. I use the 7-day forecast to figure out which days I want to grill or bake, taking into account any rain or temperature fluctuations predicted.

    Decide on a weekly pattern. Some people do meatless Mondays, Mexican Tuesdays, pizza Wednesdays, and so on. Here’s how I like to plan my week:

    • 1 meatless meal
    • 1 pasta meal
    • 1 fish meal
    • 1 Japanese meal
    • 1 freezer meal
    • 1 breakfast meal {for dinner}

    Sometimes these meals overlap, such as when I serve misoyaki, which covers both the Japanese and fish meals. Or if I make my favorite bolognese sauce, I always make extra to freeze and it is also our pasta meal for the week. These parameters help me vary the meals we have throughout the week, as well as manage costs since meatless and pasta meals tend to be cheaper than Japanese and fish meals.

    Have some tried and true recipes to incorporate into your menu plan. I like to plug these recipes in when I’m first starting my monthly menu plan. These recipes are particularly handy because I have a good idea of how long it will take me to prepare them, and I know which ones I can make ahead for the busy days on my calendar.

    Collect recipes you want to try. I used to have a large three-ring binder for my recipes, but I now exclusively use Pinterest. As I plan my monthly menu, I peruse my Pinterest boards for new recipes I want to try. I take into account the season, what’s languishing in my pantry, and of course, whatever captures my fancy. As I mentioned last week, regularly trying out new recipes keeps things interesting at home and reduces the temptation to eat out just because we’re bored of having the same foods.

    If you have a menu planning tip or recipe to share, please leave a comment!


    Banner ad via Escalate Media Network

    Original menu image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Sujin Jetkasettakorn.

    Guest Review: Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux

    I was sent a copy of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free by April Peveteaux to review. I’ve experimented with going gluten-free, but my trial was pretty short-lived. So I thought the review would be more useful coming from my friend, R.D., who has celiac disease and truly needs to eat gluten-free. Here’s what she had to say …

    As the title suggests, the author is funny, but rather brash. Some newly-diagnosed people might find it too abrasive at first (when I was first diagnosed, I was an overly-sensitive self-contained pity-party that could cry at the drop of a bread basket!). But Peveteaux is completely right that the best way to approach this diagnosis is with humor and honesty, and she has a lot of great tips. Also, she is candid about the fact that her humor comes from a bitterness about having to be gluten-free. She even directly addresses those annoying hipsters who choose to be GF (and vegan or paleo). Anyone who has to be GF will ultimately connect with this book.

    The book starts out as a how-to guide on figuring out whether you need to be GF. Peveteaux’s story is entirely too familiar: no problems with gluten until a sudden onset of horrible stomach/bathroom problems without an obvious source, then invasive medical testing and a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Anyone who has been through this process will find Peveteaux’s descriptions recognizable and humorous. She also addresses those lucky people who discover a gluten intolerance/allergy without having stomach/bathroom problems. Later, she tackles how to deal with a child’s diagnosis, including several helpful tips about hidden sources of gluten in a child’s life (who would have even thought about Playdough?) and suggestions on snacks for GF kids of different ages.

    Because the book is a sort of hybrid between an introduction to going GF and a recipe book, it actually does not include very many recipes. However, the recipes I tried were all good, easy, and excellent resources for someone new to GF living. They are the types of foods you fear you will not be able to eat ever again on a GF diet (chicken fried steak?!), and they do not taste at all GF.

    I will say the recipes sometimes needed a little spicing up for my taste, but each was easily adaptable. For example, the macaroni and cheese was excellent, but next time I will add a little extra flavor – maybe some bacon or a more pungent cheese like gorgonzola. The Cowboy crepes were so good even my gluten-full boyfriend really enjoyed them. The chess pie (which I had never heard of) certainly lived up to its description as causing a “sugar coma” and was delicious!

    Peveteaux also provides good gluten-free cooking tips that will save a lot of time and bad experimentation. I wish someone would have told me not to eat GF dough (the terrible flavor of what looked like delicious chocolate chip cookie dough caused me some serious psychological damage), and that I could have saved a ton of time and frustration (and ended up with a better tasting pie) by just buying a frozen GF pie crust from Whole Foods instead of trying to make a GF crust from scratch.

    Overall, I think this book is a really good resource for anyone new to the GF diet.

    Thanks for your perspective, R.D.! (And I don’t remember any pity parties when you were newly diagnosed.)

    If you’re interested in purchasing the book, the Kindle edition is $9.99 and the hardcover version is $13.90 at Amazon.

    Impromptu Baking Day {Stock the Freezer}

    We are having some pleasantly mild weather today, so I’m going to turn on the oven. I’m actually running low on frozen baked goods, so the timing is perfect. I’ve pulled out some butter to soften, and I’m coming up with a game plan. Here’s what I’m thinking:

    Lemon Blueberry Muffins

    Banana Bread

    Snickerdoodle Bars

    Cinnamon Rolls

    Whole Wheat Toaster Pastries

    The last three are new recipes that so hopefully I’m not getting overly ambitious here – but I really want to get some things baked and frozen before it’s too hot to turn on the oven even once a week!

    I will post updates on Facebook, and have a Baking Day update here later as well. ^_^


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