Family Time & Meal Planning

There has been so much going on this month; financially, emotionally, you know basically all the stuff that goes along with being a responsible adult/parent, that I just haven’t had the time to do much personal stuff. But I have had time to think, which being in your head too much can also be a bad thing. There are some things, that no matter what, you make time for, family being the biggest. You can’t really spend too much time with your family…granted there are times where I want to run and hide and just be alone, but in reality I would much rather be curled up with my son, playing games as a family or just going on little family outings.  You just can’t take those things for granted, kids grow way too fast and I know there will be a time where he won’t want to hang out with mom and dad. (We all went through it.) Keep them close as long as you can.

Both my husband and I work full time and both commute about an hour each way (mostly due to traffic), it was a sacrifice we made to be somewhere we feel comfortable raising our family and have the yard we wanted. But we also sacrifice the time during the week with our son, by the time I get home from work it is time to eat, then once everything is cleaned up its bath then bed time.  My husband gets home much earlier than me so he usually will make dinner during the week, well always unless he has to stay at work for some reason.

Where am I going with all this? Well, to help with family time during the week I decided to try my hand at meal planning, real meal planning. I decided to plan out our dinners for the whole month. I have seen a lot of things on Pinterest, but I really am not the best planner. I will usually figure out a few dinners right before I head out to the grocery store, which I would try to stick with what was on my list and on my list only. Who am I kidding? That never truly happens.  I will get ideas for different dinners as I walk the aisles, then I will think of lunches, as prepared I think I am when I go to the store I never really am. There are times I could be one of these extreme planners but it’s just not me, and frankly never will be.

Here is what I did:

1. Raid my cabinets and fridge. Why? I really wanted to know what we had on hand, what herbs, spices, and sauces…everything.

2. Come up with Meals. I didn’t reinvent the whole menu, I thought of what we like as a family. What do we eat most often? What do we currently have on hand? What can be made ahead of time and frozen? What can I introduce that my family will like?  I thought of all these things when planning, I pinned and looked things up. I also kept in mind there will be leftover, quick, and takeout nights.

3. Write it out.  I wrote down each dinner, and then wrote the ingredients I need for each one including the sides.

4. Make a list, the master grocery list. I wrote down everything I need and the quantity. Plus anything else we needed.  *I broke the shopping into two trips, once at the beginning and once mid-month. I will also break my list into aisles, or how I know I will walk through the store.

5. Shop. Try to stick with the list. Like I said earlier it can be hard and I don’t always do it. I will buy a different cut of meat if its on-sale instead of the cut I had on my list, you just have to use your best judgment.

6. Sort & Divide. Once I got home I went through everything.  I grouped things together per the meal.  I divided the meats, cheeses, or anything else that I bought in bulk.

7. Prep. I tried to come up with meals that could be made ahead of time and frozen. So this part was important. I cut up the meat, vegetables, etc. I separated them into individual bags for each meal (I always bag the meat and any vegetables separate, even if the whole thing will get dumped into a pot.)  I precooked what I could, ground beef and turkey for example.  I prepped as much as I could.

8. Label. Clearly label each bag. Make sure to add the cooking instructions as well, I also wrote down what else would need to be prepared on the day of.

9. Cook. Remember to take the meals out of the freezer the night before; this is something I have gotten much better at. (You may want a backup plan just in case) Cook per the instructions on the bag.

(sorry, didn’t take many pictures.)

The homemade meals:

Tacos (x3) I personally make mine with either corn tortillas or corn shells, with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa and sometimes olives. (seasoned meat can be cooked ahead of time and frozen, thaw in fridge and reheat in a skillet) For a homemade taco seasoning recipe click HERE.
Enchiladas with salad, I used beef/turkey combo with cheese rolled in corn tortillas, lightly fried and covered in enchilada sauce and cheese. Baked at 400 degrees. (can be made a head and frozen, thaw in fridge before baking) For a chicken version click HERE.
Baked Penne with salad, I mixed cooked gluten free penne pasta with sauce and a mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheese topped with more cheese and baked at 400 degrees. (can be made a head and frozen, thaw in fridge before baking)
Lasagna with salad, gluten free lasagna noodles layered with sauce and mozzarella cheese, feel free to add veggies or meat baked at 400 degrees. (can be made a head and frozen, thaw in fridge before baking)
General Tso Chicken Stir fry over rice, cubed chicken stir fried with frozen stir fry veggie blend (use fresh if you’d like) topped with a General Tso finishing sauce, we used THIS ONE, served over white rice. (trim and cube chicken, and freeze, thaw in fridge before cooking.)
Chicken Alfredo over pasta, cubed chicken cooked then simmered in your favorite jarred alfredo sauce, served over gluten free pasta. (trim and cube chicken, and freeze, thaw in fridge before cooking.)
Chicken Tikka Masala over rice, cubed chicken cooked then simmered in tikka masala simmer sauce, we used THIS ONE, served over white rice. (trim and cube chicken, and freeze, thaw in fridge before cooking.)
Orange Chicken over rice, cubed chicken stir fried with frozen stir fry veggie blend (use fresh if you’d like) topped with an Orange finishing sauce, we used THIS ONE, served over white rice. (trim and cube chicken, and freeze, thaw in fridge before cooking.)
Pork Chops, herb rubbed pork chops baked and served with mashed potatoes and green beans. (trim and freeze pork before hand, thaw in fridge before seasoning and baking)
Hamburgers with baked beans, a mix of beef and turkey combined with steak seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and a tad of olive oil then formed into patties. (Make patties ahead and wrap tightly, freeze then thaw in fridge)

BBQ Chicken Tenders, bbq marinated chicken tenders baked and served with chicken flavored rice and beans. (prepare and freeze tenders, thaw in fridge before baking) for a gluten free crunchy tender recipe click HERE.

Premade/Quick Meals:

Steak Sandwiches (x2) with baked beans, Steak-umms served on gluten free rolls (or corn tortillas) with a side of baked beans and chips
Pizza, frozen ready made pizzas, or for me pizza tostadas. Corn tortillas with sauce and cheese then baked.
Jambalaya, we use Zatarains and add chicken or sausage
Pancakes and Sausagegluten free pancake mix, such as King Arthurs, with sausage

Bacon and Eggs, Nic’s famous (at least in our house) scrambled eggs, possibly dyed green, served with bacon.

Each week we had one designated leftover night and Saturday or Sunday were “free” days.  The free day could be take out, going out, leftovers, dinner with friends or really whatever we want. Because I am trying to cut way back on my red meat intake, I combined ground turkey with the beef, but tried to mostly make chicken based meals.

Now to come up with next months meals…

Do you plan your menus? Or create easy make ahead meals?
I’d love to hear your favorites plus any tips or trick you may have!

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3 thoughts on “Family Time & Meal Planning

  1. Molly (Based on a Sprue Story) says:

    Planning and prepping meals for an entire month is SO impressive! Wow! And you went about it in such an organized way, too. Very smart. Do you see yourself continuing to do it this way for the long term? Has it helped as much as you hoped with having family time during the week?

    • mintgrapefruit says:

      It really has helped, I know my husband really appreciates not having to worry about dinners. I really hope to continue with the planning. I think the first month is the hardest because I figure I will repeat a lot of the same for the next month with a few new things mixed in. The most difficult part was figuring out what to eat on what days, trying to mix it up enough that it didn’t seem like we were eating Mexican or Asian flavors back to back.

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