Meal planning tips for a Sunday

It’s Sunday and that means meal-planning day.  We aren’t doing a large Easter thing today. I’m going to focus my energy for a few hours on getting ready for the week and planning out dinners for tonight, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I think sometimes people feel overwhelmed by meal planning because they think you have to do a ton of it at one time. Just start small and work your way up. I only feel like planning half the week right now, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

For me, the proteins are always easy because I do freezer cooking. If there is a day that I’m not prepared for, we simply grab a rotisserie chicken. Since today is planning day but not a giant cooking day, I like to think about pouring my energy into one or two side dishes that will do double duty for me during the rest of the week. For side dishes during the week, most of the time I simply match the veg cooking style with that of the main dish. I am low carb and B and D aren’t, so that just means I cook one additional veg for them that I don’t eat.

Here is my plan for today and the first half of the week.

Today: make chicken/vegetable soup for lunches. I will make mashed cauliflower, some for tonight and extra knowing that I’ll be making a shepherd’s pie some day this week. I’ll probably cook up the ground beef and assemble the shepherd’s pie for Tuesday. I might also assemble some tortellini/meatball freezer meals for Dylan, since that’s been his favorite meal lately on “choice night”.

Here are planned meals:

Sunday: steamed veg (carrots, broccoli, and green beans) + rotisserie chicken + mashed garlic cauliflower.

Monday: Weather is forecasted to be nice, so I’ve already pulled out the freezer meal for Wildtree best burgers. With this we will have grilled veg. (zucchini, asparagus, and bell peppers). Organic frozen fries for hubby and child.

Tuesday: GF, DF, EF shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower topping… Steamed veg (carrots, broccoli, and green beans).

Wednesday: Wildtree Lemon Rosemary chicken + roasted veg. (turnips, brussels sprouts). Hubby and child get roasted potatoes and carrots.
I’ve already pulled my two freezer meals out for tomorrow and Wednesday and put them in the “meat bucket” in the fridge. See picture… Basically it’s a plastic container that is big enough to hold the normal-sized meat containers from grocery stores. Mine is Sterilite and I found it at Walmart.  Our rule around here is that we have to think about meals every Sunday. I’m not allowed to buy fresh meat while there is something in the meat bucket, unless it’s something that I plan to prep during the first half of the week.

Today I will be buying ground beef and various vegetables. I was considering having the shepherd’s pie on Wednesday, but just rearranged so that I cook the meat today and we eat it on Tuesday. I didn’t want that much time to go by with the dish sitting in the fridge. I’m about to hit send on my Instacart list, but I’m just going to a mental run-down of needed staples in addition to the meals that I have planned through Wednesday.  I just added yogurt drinks, sandwich bread, kefir, red wine vinegar, and some other things to the list…

Please post your recipe planning advice/tips.  And if anyone finds a modern version of this wonderful thing featured on Downton Abbey, please let me know!

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Source: https://downtonabbeycooks.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/householdwants-indicator.png

 

Wildtree Top-Ten List

No recipe today. This is a list of Wildtree spices that I don’t think I could live without.  I was introduced to Wildtree last September when a friend invited me to a Wildtree tasting at her house.  I had no idea what Wildtree was, but it sounded fun and we’d just moved here in July, so why not?  Who knew that this was an event that would fundamentally change the way I cook.

Fast forward to now and I’m a rep for Wildtree (I’m in it for the discount) and cook with the spices and oils almost daily.  I just hosted my first freezer-meal workshop. If you’re wondering what the heck a freezer-meal workshop is, it’s basically like Let’s Dish or Super Suppers but in someone’s home.  The beauty of doing the protein shopping and prep yourself is that you completely control the quality of the ingredients yourself.  So, a few weeks ago, ten women came to my house and assembled freezer meals. Each meal feeds about four people, but we’ve found for our family of three that we get leftovers out of some meals that are enough for all of us. The workshop took about 90 minutes (actually, a little longer because there was lots of conversation and wine) and everyone went home with 10 freezer meals for their families. One person split the meals and so took home 20 meals for two people.  We did Comfort Foods, but there are tons to choose from.

So, here is my Wildtree Top Ten list.  You’ll see that my blog recipes often rely on these ingredients.  I always provide a substitution that’s a non-Wildtree item, so don’t feel compelled to order these. I’m just letting you know about these so that you can explore if you want.

Top ten list:

I don’t try to sell people on these spices because once you try them, they sell themselves. To your good health, I say.

Enjoy!

Freezer Inventory

I like making freezer meals and that means a bunch of bags in the freezer that can easily get stuffed into shelves and forgotten. Between leftovers, frozen veggies, Mac and cheese, frozen pizzas, and ice cream, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s in the freezer.

Over the years, I’ve developed a freezer inventory that I keep in excel. Every few weeks, I update it, print it out, and attach it to the fridge with magnets. As we eat things, I mark up the fridge copy with a pen or pencil. After the sheet on the fridge is a total mess, I go back to the computer and clean it up.  I also revise the sheet whenever I’ve done a Wildtree freezer meal workshop or some sporadic freezer meal cooking on my own.

Now that we have a fridge in the garage, I find this even more useful.  My most-recent freezer inventory has columns for the fridge location, cooking directions, and whether it’s a family or individual portion.  I just updated it with a new column that lets you know if the dish has to be cooked or reheated.  I’ve found this to be useful when trying to solve the “what’s for dinner” question. You can simply see what you have, find something that you’re in the mood for (especially if it’s fully cooked and just needs reheating), and voila!

Find my latest freezer meal inventory here. (Click the word HERE to the left to download the Excel.)

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To take meal planning to the next level, I suggest combining the freezer inventory with what we affectionately call “the meat bucket”. This is simply a sterilite container that is the right size to fit in your fridge. It should be able to hold at least three freezer meals. On Sunday night, simply pull out three freezer meals that you plan to cook during the week. Let them defrost slowly (the preferred method) in the fridge and then you’ll have meals that are ready to cook on Monday through Thursday.

As an aside, in our house, every baked good goes directly into the freezer. We have the “dessert shelf” that is full of freezer bags filled with mini brownies, tiny cake slices, cookies, and mini cupcakes. It takes away the temptation to “eat things before they go bad” and also teaches people that the right portion size for something sweet is just ONE.