Growing up, it was just me, mom, and dad, and with our schedules, it seemed easier to go out for dinner most of the time. If we were going to eat dinner at home, someone would have to go to the store and that would add hours to the time we would eat, and we would usually just decide it was easier to go out. However, when I got married, that wasn't an option. Not only did we want to eat healthier, but we also didn't want to go out to dinner and we didn't want to spend the money.
I'm a meal planner. I knew I wanted to go shopping once a week, or as infrequently as possible. I became a non-perishable hoarder and quickly had enough to last us a while in case of a zombie apocalypse or the end of the Mayan calendar. I started a routine of sitting down each weekend, picking out four or five recipes and making a shopping list. I would usually make the full size recipes (as opposed to halving them for two people) so we would have leftovers to eat for lunch.
I wrote a few months ago about freezer meal planning, but for some reason, I don't like using my crock pot in the summer. It just reminds me of winter food. We eat more sandwiches and grilled food during the summer so I decided to give my slow cooker a much deserved break. I made this specific meal plan for my mom. She wants to eat at home more, and I'm trying to teach her how to do this. I'm actually really excited because I know they'll save money, eat healthier, and waste less. It was a huge adjustment for my brothers coming to my house this summer because they thought I was going to be taking them out to lunch every day.
I typically gave them two sandwich options, unless I had time and make the sandwiches before they arrived; then they got what they had. I was told more than once this summer that I'm mean. If they didn't finish their sandwiches, I had them put it back in the bag and in the refrigerator because I knew they'd get hungry later. At the beginning of summer they got so mad at me because I was so mean, but as I found the other day going through our refrigerator, they've really gotten on board. I also had them take the compost bowl out to the bin and try to teach them about wastefulness.
Josh and I are adventurous eaters. We love all different types of food, and once we've been to a restaurant once, I usually try to recreate the meal at home. I've nearly perfected Indian, and am still working on Thai. My family, not so much, so I was challenged to go through my recipes and find five recipes that we would like at our house and they would like at their house. Also, I was looking for meals that were simple enough to encourage them to get into it and realize that it doesn't have to be hard or time consuming.
This is what I came up with:English Muffin Pizzas (You can also do this with a store bought French Bread)
Other desired toppings
Directions: Preheat oven to 400° Halve muffins and place open faced on a cookie sheet. Add pizza sauce and additional toppings. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is brown.
Hot Ham and Cheese Roll up
Refrigerated Pizza Dough
¼ cup Miracle Whip
1 egg, beaten
Directions: Preheat oven to 350° Flatten pizza dough on a rectangular cookie sheet Place ham on the dough, leaving ½” around the edges Mix cheese and dressing, spread on top of ham Fold the dough lengthwise in thirds Turn loaf over so it is seam side down. Cut several slits on top and brush with egg. Bake 35-40 minutes or until dough is golden.
Creamy Chicken Fajitas (4 servings, I usually double for leftovers)
1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into strips) or tenders
1 c thin onion slices
1 c thin green pepper slices (optional if you hate green peppers)
1 tub Philadelphia Santa Fe Blend Cooking Crème
8 flour tortillas
1 c shredded cheese
Directions: Cook chicken and vegetables in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat until chicken is no longer pink. Add cooking crème, cook and stir two minutes Spoon down center of tortillas, top with cheese.
Grilled Chicken and Red Potatoes
Boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
Marinade of your choice
One pound red potatoes
2 tbsp water
2 tsp oil
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp grated parmesan (if you have it, if not, use shredded cheese)
1 tbsp chopped parsley (if you have it, if not use salt and pepper)
Directions: Preheat grill. Cut chicken into strips or thin enough pieces that grilling won’t take as long (I use kitchen scissors and tongs because I hate to touch it.) Place chicken in a bowl and cover with marinade of your choice. Set aside for thirty minutes. Place potatoes in center of an 18” long piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, or a double layer of regular foil. Drizzle with water and oil. Bring up foil sides. Double fold tip and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Grill potatoes 18-20 minutes or until a fork goes in easily. Grill chicken until no longer pink inside. Brush extra marinade on top of cooking chicken for extra flavor. Cut slits in the foil to release steam. Open packet. Drizzle potatoes with butter, cheese and parsley/salt and pepper. Serve with cottage cheese.
Fish Sticks and French Fries I have one meal a week when I do regular planning that doesn’t require any effort. You’ll still be eating at home and saving money. Pretend you're on Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade and make yourself a cocktail.
Shopping list: To make this easier, group similar items together so you don’t have to back track through the store.
English Muffins (bread aisle)
1 bag shredded cheese
Refrigerated Pizza Dough (with the refrigerated canned biscuits)
Two packages boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 green pepper (optional if you hate green peppers)
1 tub Philadelphia Santa Fe Blend Cooking Crème (with the cream cheese)
8 flour tortillas
Marinade of your choice (we like teriyaki, or lemon pepper. Italian dressing is also a good marinade)
One pound red potatoes
2 tbsp grated parmesan (if you have it, if not, use shredded cheese).
Butter (if you don’t already have it)
How do you approach meal planning?