Monday, April 24, 2023

Menu plan for the week of April 24

This is the last week in this particular four week menu rotation, so there's hardly anything for me to actually cook this week.  It's so gratifying to reap the rewards of past Scarlet's labor.  I could get used to this.

As far as saving, I've noticed that the first grocery shop of a four week rotation is about 1/3 more than my typical weekly shop, and each of the three subsequent weeks is around 2/3 of what I would spend in a typical week, so that means that I'm possibly saving a little bit by shopping this way.  Maybe?  

Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • French dip sandwiches (I made extra and froze the excess.  There's enough left that I bet I'll get a couple of lunches out of it, too), provolone, buns, green beans
  • Tator tot casserole (from the freezer, yay!), applesauce, bread with butter
  • Fend for yourself (always a favorite)
  • Sheet pan chicken quesadillas (the filling's in the freezer, along with the shredded cheese), carrots
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, corn, tator tots or fries
  • Grilled chicken (already marinaded in the freezer), broccoli, salad

  • Cookies.  Maybe these or these, because some clearance Reese's peanut butter eggs jumped into my basket the other day, and now they're hanging out in the baking cupboard, leering at me.
  • Beef & broccoli casserole--I've been lacking in lunch options the past couple of weeks, and I happen to have leftover broccoli, and most of the other ingredients (I might even have some celery in the freezer, but if not, there's always celery salt)

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Meal plan for the week of April 17

 Whoops.  I'm a little bit late this week.  Hopefully you all have been able to eat without my guidance.  I feel like you're probably ok, especially since I told you that this week is pretty much a repeat from 2 weeks ago.

In other news, our microwave stopped working.  We're fairly confident that it's a switch issue and we'll be able to fix it, so don't worry about us.  In the meantime, we've been using alternative means to reheat leftovers, and we've been extra vigilant about taking things out to thaw with plenty of time.  I've found myself thinking, though, how did people reheat leftovers before household microwaves were common?  Did they use the oven?  Stovetop?  Just not have leftovers?  Repurpose leftovers into new meals?  Please comment below if you have any insight into this issue.

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for, here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Shepherd's pie (from the freezer, yay!), applesauce, buttered bread
  • Fend for yourself
  • Nachos, raw veggies
  • Chicken wings, green beans, jello
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hamburgers, buns, corn, chips
  • Grilled pork chops, roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes


Monday, April 10, 2023

Meal plan for the week of April 10

 Kind of a strange thing is happening with my menu planning.  I used to be super annoyed when the meal plan had to change for some reason, like a meeting I hadn't known about, which meant more of the peoples weren't going to be around for supper, or a practice being canceled, which meant more of the peoples were going to be around for supper.  I found this to be especially true when I planned more than one week at once.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was just because, if I was planning more than a week in advance, it was so much more likely that unanticipated events would occur at some point in the execution of that plan.

This time, though?  It doesn't bother me so much.  At the beginning of the week, I take a look at the calendar, and I take a look at the meal plan, and I move meals around if they're not going to work for the day they're planned.  And there's been a lot of meals not working on the day for which they were planned because track and field is a strange sport*.  And also, life.

This week, for instance, we're not going to be able to eat supper together on Tuesday, so the fend for self originally scheduled for Wednesday shifted to Tuesday.  Monday's meal moved to Wednesday, because we'll be celebrating a birthday on Monday with the birthday boy's choice of going out to eat.  Tuesday's meal was moved to Friday because I already did some meal prep for that Tuesday meal.  Friday's meal was taken off the schedule because it's something (pizza) we have every week, and I felt like no one would miss it this week.

And it's all fine!  It's ok!  I'm feeling sanguine** about it, instead of annoyed.  Yay!

And yay for food!  Here's what's on the menu this week:


* More on this in a future blog post.

** cheerfully optimistic, sometimes to the point of seeming complacent, oblivious, or na├»ve

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Food prep Friday (on a Thursday)

 I think I've mentioned that I food prep for the weekend on Fridays to minimize the amount of work I have to do in the kitchen on weekends.  This week, I needed a couple of the items I was prepping to be available on Thursday, so I went ahead and did the other stuff, too, and I thought I'd take you along.

First, I prepped my pizza crust for the month.  I added all of the dry ingredients, except the yeast, to quart sized mason jars, to make pizza crust prep super easy.  I just add the wet ingredients to the bread machine, dump on the dry, and top with yeast before starting the machine's dough cycle.  Making pizza crust in a bread machine is already really easy, but by measuring the ingredients ahead of time, it makes it that much easier.  During my first month of monthly meal planning, I actually made four batches of pizza dough on the first Friday of the month, which I froze.  But I didn't like how those frozen crusts turned out, plus they took up precious freezer space, so now I'm doing this.

Next up was jello cups, followed by peeling and cutting carrots.  These are both items that can be purchased already prepared, but both are less expensive to buy unprepared.  In the case of carrots, they also last longer in the fridge and taste better, if purchased with the peels on.

I made some buns to use for hamburgers this weekend as well as for sandwiches next week--they're in the oven right now.  I also put together a mini sweet potato casserole and its topping, for Hubby to enjoy on Easter.

Not pictured are the extra Shepherd's pie that I made on Monday and froze, the hard boiled eggs I made on Wednesday because all of the egg cartons in the house were in use and I had more fresh eggs that needed to be cartonized, and the sausage that I cooked up for this weekend's pizza and future quiches.

Also not shown are the three Bluefield-family-sized bags of boneless skinless chicken breast that I covered with marinades before freezing and the two pounds of cut-into-small-pieces-and-seasoned chicken that I'll use for a recipe next week and three weeks from now.

All this food prep, it's about being kind to my future self.  It's also kind of about future-proofing my life.  On any given day, I don't know how I'm going to feel about cooking for my family, but by getting as much of the prep done ahead of time as possible, I'm making it much less likely that I'll give up and serve cereal for supper.

What kinds of food prep do you do to make future meals easier to get on the table?

Monday, April 3, 2023

Menu plan for the week of April 3

 It's April, y'all, and as you know, if you read yesterday's post, I've got meals planned for the rest of the month.  Yay!  One of the advantages of repeating meals every two weeks is that I can meal-prep the first week for the third week.  So this week, I'll be making two Shepherd's pies--one for this week, and one to freeze for two weeks from now.  

Here's what's on the menu this week: 


  • I've been on a peanut butter cookie kick lately, but I think I've run out of peanut butter cookie recipes that I want to try for now.  Regardless, I'll make some sort of cookie, probably.  Maybe these?

Sunday, April 2, 2023

How I've been menu planning

Well hello, strangers.  Long time, no read.

Today I wanted to write about how I've been meal planning lately.  Spoiler alert: it's been so.much.easier.

For years I have heard and read that once a month shopping is a way to save  The idea is, you only shop once a month for everything for that month, and by staying out of stores the rest of the month, you're reducing impulse buys, and you're more likely to make do with what you have, versus running to the store if you discover you've run out of something.

When we lived in West Virginia, I shopped once every two weeks, because we were so far out of town.  It was easier to plan meals back then, because the kids didn't really have opinions about what they did and didn't like, plus our family, as a whole, ate much less back then, so I could rely on leftovers at least once or twice a week.  I mean, the kiddos were 5 and 2 when we left.  How much can a 5 year old eat, versus our current at-home teenagers?

When we moved, we were much closer to grocery stores, and I fell into the habit of shopping every week. Over the years, it's become more and more difficult to plan meals for various reasons, and it became a huge chore to figure out what we were going to eat every week.  I wanted to plan 2 or 4 weeks at a time, but I felt like I just couldn't get ahead.  It was so difficult to get one week down, I couldn't wrap my mind around doing any more.

In January, I decided I was going to do it: I was going to bite the bullet and plan a month of meals at once (it was fortunate that the month I decided to start has only 28 days :) ).  So here's how I did it.

I had already loosely defined a few days a week, for instance, we almost always have pizza on Fridays, and grilled food on Saturdays and Sundays.  So I put those things into the plan.  Then I filled in the other days, for two weeks, with themes, like Mondays were casserole-type things with ground beef, and Thursdays were pressure cooker rice bowls.  Finally, I copied those two weeks to the next two weeks, et voila!  I had 4 weeks of meals planned.  

And let me tell ya, it wasn't quite et voila.  It actually took me about 3 weeks to get that first plan actually planned.  I spent a lot of mental energy trying to plan a variety of proteins, styles of cooking, and flavor profiles.  But I am so thankful that I spent that mental energy up front, each week when I don't have to think about it.  Now whenever I think of a meal I'd like to try for the following month, I put it on the calendar right away, and generally the plan is complete by the time we finish the previous plan.

That first month, I actually attempted to get all of the shelf-stable food in my first shopping trip of the month, but I knew I'd be going back every week, since I could only fit one week's worth of milk in my fridge.

I don't think I've saved too much money over the past two months.  For sure I didn't save the I'd been promised, possibly due to prices rising, and possibly due to me already keeping pretty tight control over grocery spending.  But I'll tell you what I did save: my sanity.  It was so lovely to only plan once and have 4 weeks of meals on the calendar.  At this point, it's easy for me to sit down on a Saturday or Sunday and make my grocery list.  

So yay!  Menu planning, for now at least, is not as difficult as it has been in the past.  Let me know if you try it, or if you have any questions.

Up next: this week's menu plan.  Stay tuned.

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