Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meal-Planning: Back on the wagon...

All the hullabaloo of my birthday, then the trip, then our budget figuring-out (IT IS SO HARD, OMG), and all the extra work a teacher has when he/she attempts to take a day off when it's not already scheduled... yeah, meal-planning fell away in all the madness, as did The Non-Processed Project. I did do some cooking at home, but the rest of the time was mostly freezer meals from TJ's. Nice side-effect of not being able to afford to eat out as much: I think I've lost a few pounds! WHOOOO!

Well, in one of my earlier entries, I reminded myself to try, try again. And honestly, when we're strapped for cash (as we are towards the end of the month - a side effect of one person being paid monthly and one bi-monthly), the best course of action is to PLAN!

So I did! Honestly, it's so much easier when I just use the recipes I know by heart mostly, with one or two new ones thrown in for interest/ audition to see if they should be added to the repertoire.

FYI, if you're looking for meal planning ideas:
The triumphant return of Slow-Cooker Sundays! This week is Pot Roast. I'm perfectly happy with the dry-onion-soup-mix method. Baby potatoes and baby carrots sprinkled on the bottom, the pot roast on top of those, sprinkle on the soup packet, and no more than 1/2 cup of water over the roast. (And yes, this totally goes against the whole "Non-Processed" dealie, but until I find a better spice blend, it is what it is.) I'm considering it my "welcome back, Fall weather!" celebration. *That reminds me, I need to wash my crockpot out...*

Leftover Pot Roast (Mondays are so crazy, it's just easier to eat leftovers. Luckily, there is always a TON of leftovers from Pot Roast since there's only two of us.)

 Creamy Tomato Basil Soup/ Grilled Cheese Sammiches

    * 2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
    * 1 can chicken broth
    * 1 Tbsp fresh or tube basil (or 1 tsp dried)
    * 3 tsp. sugar
    * 1 cup half and half or milk
    * ¼ cup butter, cut into sections

Heat tomatoes and broth to a simmer. Stir in basil and sugar and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in half and half and butter sections. Cook, stirring regularly, until butter is melted. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

(This is a new recipe, I haven't tried it, but I am TOTALLY excited for it! I hate the condensed stuff. As for the sammiches, I keep it old school - KRAFT American cheese slices 'cuz they're the meltiest, mmm. I also add about a 1/2 tsp garlic powder on top of the softened butter before I spread it on the bread - it adds a GREAT touch!)

Tater Tot Casserole (I'm going to 1/2 this recipe)
    * 2 lbs. ground beef
    * kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
    * 1 10 oz. can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
    * 1 cup sour cream (low fat is okay) (I'm using plain yogurt instead)
    * 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    * 1 32 oz. package frozen tater tots

   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
   2. Brown ground beef. Season with salt and pepper, while browning. Drain.
   3. Spread ground beef in the prepared baking dish. Whisk together soup and sour cream. Spread over ground beef in an even layer.
   4. Sprinkle one cup of cheddar cheese over the soup layer.
   5. Top with tater tots.
   6. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
(I'll also steam some broccoli to go with this to make myself feel less like a fatty.)

Soyaki Chicken and Rice/Noodles
This is another one of the "I know it already" recipes, and it's ridiculously easy. Take a couple of boneless chicken breasts (I usually do 1 breast per person eating), cut them into bite-size pieces, spray some cooking spray in a skillet and cook the chicken pieces all the way through (cut a bigger chunk in half to make sure when you think they're done). Pour out any juice, pour in enough Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce to cover the chicken, and let the sauce heat through. Pour chicken over cooked rice or noodles (I'll usually boil Ramen noodles for this w/o the seasoning packets, I like the texture).

Frozen meal or meal on the run! We've been good all week at this point, dammit.

Breakfasts will be instant oatmeal (now that the weather is perfect for it!); Lunch is PBJ due to the brokeness, with bananas and nut mixes I still have from TJ's to round out, or leftovers if we have enough from the night before!

Aside from my own cooking brilliance, the sites I like to use for recipe ideas are Menus 4 Moms, I'm an Organizing Junkie's Recipe index, and the food blogs I follow (check my profile!). I also have subscriptions to Women's Day and Family Circle, and will occasionally indulge in a Real Simple (who I also follow on Twitter, and will bookmark a good recipe when they tweet them). The hilarious thing is, for all my recipe collecting, I really don't cook nearly as much as I should! One of my goals with meal planning is to try at least one new-to-me recipe a week, and if I don't like it, DELETE IT/ toss it out! Hahaha.

Now, as for the Non-Processed project... well, I still plan to pursue it again, but not this week. Unfortunately, since I haven't gotten the pre-made mixes ready for situations like this, I have to rely on the processed stuff temporarily. However, I HAVE found recipes for cream soup replacements in meals, and even DIY instant oatmeal that I still totally plan to use once I have a spare weekend. But this week, considering how stressful life has been lately, I'm giving myself a breather from my impossibly high standards. =)


  1. I think the little planner in me secretly LOVES meal planning. I went on a cooking spree the last few months and now I am always looking for new (quick) things! I am in LOVE with cooking light magazine! SO FUN!


  2. I have to admit, every week I meal-plan is a good week. I love the feel of cooking, so when I motivate myself to do it, I feel good. When it's a last-minute scramble to figure out dinner, it's a chore and not a pleasure.




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