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Monday, May 23, 2011

Planning, Planning, Planning

A few weeks ago I met a "hero" of mine, Wendy Paul. She's the author of "101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes" and a couple of other awesome cookbooks. She has a great website full of awesome recipes, not just cupcakes. She is truly a remarkable person and it sounds lame, but she inspires me. Each Monday she shares what their family is eating for the week, yes, she's a planner! Maybe that's why I worship her?!?

She includes the recipes too. There are so many sites that I get my dinner ideas from, but am always looking for new ones. So I've decided to compile some menus here, maybe each week if I get organized enough, I will add our weekly menus. Dinner isn't just about cooking, it's more about planning. Here's the basics:

1- Decide what type of shopping works for you. I go once a month for the main stuff and plan my meals for the month according to what's on sale that week. We save just in doing that, but I usually add coupon deals into this shopping list. I know it sounds like a lot, but really once you figure out the method it's a snap. If anyone would like one-on-one help, please contact me. I promise it's worth it.

2- Shop your pantry or food storage. See what things you have to make already. Sometimes you just need one or two things to make a meal. If you know this ahead of time you won't over buy. I bring the stuff up from storage that I am going to use that week so I don't have to run up and down 100 times just to make dinner. Although I do have helpers that do a lot of my running for me.

3- Once you've made a list--yes, plan what you are going to buy and how you are going to use it. Plan your meals. You can plan a week at a time, or a whole month, or even a whole year. I plan mine on a blank, computer printed calendar and I use pencil. Why is this important? Because sometime I don't feel like Tuna Casserole on Monday or Enchiladas on Friday. I keep a list on my calendar of meals I have ingredients for and then assign it a day just so I can have things ready. If I decide I don't want what's on tonight's menu, I swap for another night and get my ingredients ready for that meal instead. Make sense?

4- So now you know what your making, what you need to buy and about when you plan on eating it. You now need to go get it. I break my list into sections according to the way my store's laid out. I figure many times I have little people with me, so get in and out asap. You can organize it anyway it make sense to you, but just try and keep things that are alike together so you don't have to go back to aisles over and over.

5- Once I've purchased all my stuff, I take it home. I do some prep work as I am putting it away. I marinade some meat for future meals, break my meat into meal portions, cut up veggies for the week and stock my fridge with the stuff I am using in the next few days. The rest goes into the freezer or storage for the upcoming weeks.

I know it sounds complicated, so let me help. Here's our menu for the week, in no particular order.

Tuna Casserole

Alabama Chicken from Wendy Paul
6 fresh chicken cutlets or 12 chicken tenders
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh black pepper
1-2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. kosher salt

Place chicken on lightly greased baking sheet or 9x13- inch baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine spices and mix well. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the top of your chicken, and place in the oven at 375 degrees to bake for 35 minutes if you are making chicken cutlets, or 15-20 minutes for chicken tenders.
Mix together the remaining spices with the mayonnaise until well combined. Set asideWhen the chicken is mostly done baking, remove it from the oven and spread the mayo and spice sauce on top generously. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Serve while still warm.

Chicken Enchiladas

Grilled Chicken with grilled veggies- this is one easy meal. Wash your veggies and mix them with salt, pepper or lemon pepper, 1 Tbsp. olive oil and either put in grill pan or in tin foil. I use carrots, onions, potatoes, squashes and/or tomatoes. For the chicken I either use a McCormick spice packet or 1/2 c. of salad dressing--Italian or Raspberry Vinaigrette work well.

Baked Ziti

That's our main week. We'll see what the weekend brings. Now you are thinking "I don't have time to plan all that every week." No fear, just visit this site for weekly plans and ideas. If you don't like what is on my plan there are literally hundreds of recipe and meal planning websites out there. Either way, once you've found a method that works for you, you will save time, money and energy doing an often mundane, but necessary task. Don't be afraid to get the whole family involved--maybe you'll even make some memories.

What's for dinner at your house?

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