Meal Planning Made Simple

Every day I come home from work and get in the door, I hear “I’m hungry, what’s for supper?” I hate thinking up what we are eating that night and trying to come up with something by digging through the freezer and cabinets. It also doesn’t help that I have one extremely picky eater. I have started to come up with a meal plan before I grocery shop. I know it isn’t a novel idea, and there are far better blogs you can read about meal planning. But, I’m doing what works for me, and I’m hoping to get better at it as I go along. Now, it won’t be fancy and every meal won’t be planned out. I’m just getting started, so bear with me.

Here’s my new meal planning routine in a nutshell.
1. Check Pinterest for recipes — just enough for 5 meals. I know there are 7 days in a week, but I know I won’t cook every single night. So, instead of writing down 7 recipes and buying ingredients for those meals, I’m doing 5. That way I’m not setting myself up for failure. Make a “This Week’s Menu” board to pin those recipes to for later.

2. Make out my grocery list as I save my recipes.  Once the list is made out, check the kitchen and mark off the things I already have on hand. I do love using printable grocery lists that organize your items by category. You can print these out here and here.

3.  Check coupons.com for any coupons I can use to buy what is on my list.  Usually I can find one or two coupons, which doesn’t seem like much, but every little bit adds up.  Now, if you do stockpiling and couponing, don’t try to shop for weekly groceries in the same trip (unless you are organized and not easily overwhelmed—-not me)

4.  Figure out what meal you are going to eat on what day.  I find that if I assign a recipe to a certain day, I am more likely to follow thru.  It is too easy to go buy groceries and make the plan, then decide to not feel like it that day and just pop a pizza in the oven.   Or am I only one that does this?   Make a cute menu board and post the plan for all to see.  If the kids are excited about Taco night, then they will make sure you follow thru, too.

So, this is a fairly simple thing.  There are lots of blogs out there that post weekly menus with recipes and meal plans that you can subscribe to.  Those are great if you want to try out new recipes and not have to put a lot of thought into it.   It just hasn’t worked out that well for me because of my picky eaters.  I do better finding my own recipes.  Now, I just got into planners and so I purchased a Happy Planner Recipe Book.  I am adding recipes to that book that we have made and really enjoy.  My goal is to get it full of things we like and then not have to go hunting down recipes all the time.  Instead I will just flip open my book and pick a few.  You can also just print out the recipes you find and stick them in a binder.  Put numbers on each one and then when you make out your meal plan for the week, write the number beside it and you will know just where to find the recipe.

Just for the heck of it, here are some of my favorite recipe blogs or websites I check often.

 

UPDATE:  I have started using Walmart grocery pickup!! Huge timesaver!! Check out my review here!  Walmart Grocery Pickup – You must try it today!

 

Blue Apron – Yay or Nay to this meal subscription box?

I love the idea of subscription meal boxes.  I think it is such a great idea and obviously it is a very lucrative business because there are so many choices!  I have tried one other box in the past, Home Chef.  We were happy with it as well, so I have another of those boxes coming later this week.  This was the first time I’ve tried Blue Apron.  They sent me an email with a special discount, so I figured, hey, why not give it a try.  We got 3 meals for right round $30, so it was a pretty good buy.  Not only did we get all the groceries needed to make those meals, but we got more practice in the kitchen cooking things we never would have picked out on our own.

Blue Apron is much like other meal boxes, in that you go on their website and pick out the dishes you want them to send.  The selection at Blue Apron is okay.  There are only 6 recipes to choose from, and there is usually at least one chicken meal, one beef meal, a seafood dish, and a vegetarian option.  That way, all bases are covered.  I watched the menus for a couple of weeks before I found a week with 3 meals I thought we would enjoy.  We can be a little picky, so I wouldn’t be able to get a box every week because there just isn’t enough meals we would eat.  Not only that, but we couldn’t afford the regular price of a box (which is around $60).  I have more than two mouths to feed, so I need more food than they send for a meal.    However, if it was only me and my husband, I think we would be down with getting more boxes like the Blue Apron one.

Here are the meals we ordered:

Spicy Shrimp Coconut Curry with Green Cabbage & Rice

Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf with Crispy Potatoes

Moroccan Chicken with Prunes & Brown Rice

First, let me say how impressed I was with the packaging of Blue Apron.  The box sat on my front porch for a few hours, which made me nervous.  I was very surprised when I opened it up and everything was still very cold.  They put it all in a cushioned insulated bag and there are cold packs on top and bottom of the meat.  The food was great, all measured out and labeled clearly.  I also liked that they send quality ingredients.  No GMO’s, hormone-free meat, and fresh vegetables.  The other great thing about Blue Apron is the recipe cards.  They break it down step by step, and it truly is so easy to follow along.

The first meal we prepared was the Shrimp Curry with Rice.  My husband nor I thought we would enjoy this meal.  We love shrimp, but neither of us like cabbage all that much, and curry is not in our diet at all.  So, it was a pleasant surprise that we really liked it.  I would say it was my favorite dish of the three.  My husband loves meatloaf, so that one was probably his favorite dish.  I also enjoyed it very much and I am not a big meatloaf lover.   The Moroccan Chicken was very flavorful and we enjoyed it as well, except that it was chicken thighs, which we really don’t prefer.  All in all, we enjoyed cooking the meals and using ingredients that we were unfamiliar with.  We brushed up on our chopping skills while we spent time cooking together in the kitchen.   The surprise of it all was pretty fun.  We never knew what it was going to taste like, and Blue Apron broadened our future recipe hunts.

My vote for Blue Apron:  YAY   

If you want to try some new recipes and tickle your taste buds, give it a try!  I don’t have another box scheduled right now, but I definitely will keep checking their menus.

https://www.blueapron.com/

 

 

 

Healthy Make-Ahead Breakfast

I have discovered a great way to have a delicious, healthy breakfast without spending a ton of time preparing it!  BREAKFAST PARFAITS!   When I say the word, I immediately remember Donkey saying, “You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Heck no, I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious.”  Well, Donkey had it right because they are delicious!

The best part about this breakfast idea is that you can make so many different flavors by just switching out the ingredients.  It’s not rocket science.  And…you can make them up ahead of time so they are ready to pull out from the refrigerator and eat on your way to car line or work, or wherever your morning takes you.  All you need is 3 simple ingredients:  Fruit, yogurt, granola.  That’s it!  Put them together in jars or you could even use throw away cups.  Assemble by layering fruit, yogurt, then add granola right before you eat it so it stays crunchy.  Oh, another good tip is to add a touch of honey on top of your fruit to sweeten it up a bit.  The combinations are endless and you can get creative with it.  Have a different flavor for every day of the week!

Here’s some ideas to get you started—–

STRAWBERRY PARFAITS –sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen), vanilla greek yogurt (my favorite is Dannon Light and Fit Greek), granola (I tend to get vanilla flavored ones like Simply Balanced brand – found at Target)

BLUEBERRY PINEAPPLE PARFAIT —  blueberries,  pineapple flavored yogurt, blueberry granola (Quaker or KIND brand)

RASPBERRY CHOCOLATE — raspberries, raspberry chocolate yogurt, Back To Nature Chocolate Delight granola (find this at Wal-mart)

Quick and Healthy – Air Fryer’s are AWESOME

I finally got an air fryer after wanting one for a very long time, and let me tell you, I should’ve made that purchase much, much sooner! We use our air fryer several times a week, almost daily. I wasn’t really much into cooking fried foods before, so we just baked everything. My daughter hated fries in the oven. She said they weren’t crispy enough. Now I can cook her fries in less than 15 minutes and they are crispy, but not greasy.

I have 5 kids to cook for every other weekend when my stepsons visit, and it is so handy to be able to cook a big batch of fries, cheese sticks, and whatever other snacks they want without having to make a big mess or get out a messy fry-daddy. In fact, I have a Presto fryer that I had forgotten all about until I just typed that. I can get rid of it now.

Here’s the one I ordered off of Amazon.

I got the smaller version, but I think if you cook for several people, the larger one would be handy to have.  I didn’t even realize how popular these had gotten and I saw that Paula Deen has even written a cookbook solely for the air fryer!   I have to add that to my wish list.    You can snag it here!

Do you have an air fryer?  Tell me what you use it for.  I’m looking for new ideas.  I really wanna try some homemade donuts!  Or beignets!!!!

Why you need an Instant Pot

 

There’s this wonderful kitchen appliance called an Instant Pot, and you really should check it out. I got one several months ago, and while I don’t use it every single day, we do use it weekly. I have made soups to cheesecakes in it. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you are cooking faster than before.

This is the one I bought!  https://www.amazon.com/Instant-Pot-IP-DUO60-Multi-Functional-Pressure/dp/B00FLYWNYQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1485555595&sr=1-2&keywords=instant+pot

Are you a meal planner? Do you freezer cook? Buy the Instant Pot! You can cook whole chickens that shred up great for other recipes or prepare dishes and freeze to throw in the Instant Pot later. There is a wealth of recipes on Pinterest and Facebook. I’m going to just leave this here…..

Yep, that is a peanut butter cup cheesecake I made in the Instant Pot.  It was delicious!  Here’s the recipe I used!

http://www.pressurecookingtoday.com/pressure-cooker-peanut-butter-cup-cheesecake/

Make sure you follow my Pinterest board for this recipe and other great recipes and ideas for the Instant Pot!