Well, summer is nearing and end; home schooling and work schedules are resuming. Therefore, I have to readjust and, once again, get serious about menu planning. Over the summer, I created menu plans, but didn’t always follow them. Summertime is a bit more laid back and relaxed around here. Not to mention, we eat a lot of salads, even if something else is on the menu.
However, starting in September, when home schooling resumes and my work load increases, it is impossible to navigate my week without having a plan for meals. The little bit of planning on the frontside of the week is worth the effort expended. Stress is reduced and no one goes hungry! Just a simple thing that makes this momma a bit more sane!
Usually, I only menu plan dinners. This year, since we are usually home for lunch, I am going to do my best to plan lunches, too. (If you live in our home, as a rule, you are on your own for breakfast! The kids LOVE making their own breakfast.) For lunches, I am hoping to make several batches of soups, stews, refried beans (for burritos), and muffins to freeze for quick go-to meals. Along with keeping fruits and vegetables washed and prepared, so the kids can grab ‘n go. Personally, I’ve found this to increase the amount of fruits and veggies my kids eat. They know I never say no when they ask for fruits or veggies.
For dinners, I am thankful to have a well-stocked pantry (my creative arsenal) and freezer, which is full of healthy, yummy ingredients just waiting to be turned into delicious meals. As well, on those days when I don’t have time to cook, or am just too tuckered out to think about cooking, a few friends and I are going to get together to prepare some freezer meals.
Usually, I keep browned ground beef and/or turkey on hand. I cook up several pounds at one time, dividing up the batches into Mexican meal blend, Italian meal blend, and an all-purpose blend. This helps tremendously when throwing together a quick, nutritious dinner, such as Taco Soup, Burritos, Chili, and any number of Italian dishes.
Recently, I have begun to do the same thing with chicken, too. It’s so easy to grab a package of cooked/seasoned chicken and make any number of dishes from Chicken Etouffee to Chicken and Dumplins. TIP: After you cook a chicken (slow-cook, boil, or bake), you can re-use the bones. Just de-bone the chicken and package it to freeze for later use. Place bones into a stockpot; add more water, seasonings, onions, carrots and celery. Slow cook for several hours and you will have the most amazing stock EVER! This makes the best soups and gumbos.
Even though I love to cook, there are days where I just feel like saying, “Stick a fork in me, ‘cuz I. AM. DONE.” These tricks save me a ton of time in the kitchen, as well as a ton of money because we aren’t tempted to go out to eat. Speaking of take-out: If you haven’t tried the “Better Than Take-Out Pizza” recipe, you should. Seriously, from start to finish, we can have freshly baked pizza in about 30-35 minutes. Delicious!
Breakfast for Dinner: Green Fruit Smoothies
Date Night for Mom and Dad. Spaghetti and Meat Sauce with Salad for the kids.
Vegetarian Lentil Chili with Quinoa and Fresh Fruit
Friend’s Birthday Dinner
Better Than Take Out Pizza, Salad and Iced Tea
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks, Coconut Rice, Honey-Ginger Carrots and Sesame Green Beans