Tuesday, February 12, 2008

OCD and me....

Yes, just another glimpse into the world of OCD that I live in.

Actually...Sister Sassy requested my menu planning strategies as she says she is struggling in this area. So, I'm accomodating her here. You can just read for enjoyment. :0)

First of all...I'm going to put a big DISCLAIMER here:

I am not a chef. I am not a dietician. My friend Holly is...but I am not. I would never profess that all of my meals are well balanced, though I do attempt to feed my children "healthy" meals for the MOST part. {We have our moments of pizza/chicken nugget madness. :0)} Back to the disclaimer here....I do not cook gourmet meals. On rare occasions I get creative, but for the most part I stick with quick and simple using as few ingredients as possible. Also...it usually has to be kid friendly. I DETEST throwing away platefuls of food.

OK! So now that I've gotten that out of the way...we can move on!
Here's what I do.

At the end of every month I begin planning the menus for the next month. Sometimes I do it two weeks at a time, this last month I did it for the entire month of February. Just depends on how much planning time I've got. As I knew mid-February would be hectic for me, I opted for the whole month so I wouldn't have to worry about it.

To begin the planning, I look through my cupboards to get an idea of what I've already got on hand, and then pull out my handy refrigerator calendar. Using this I can quickly determine which nights will need to be super quick, super easy meals. Like the first two Tuesdays of every month I've got piano lessons and PTA meetings. This leaves me 1 1/2 hours to whip something up and have my family sit down together to eat it. {Which is a MUST in my house}
After figuring that out...it's time to figure out what's for dinner.

I admit I've got quite a collection of recipe books. I LOVE finding new, great recipes and trying them out. The ones I find to be share worthy I post on my recipe blog here. I have also found some really yummy ones here at my friend Alicia's family recipe blog. For those of you in need of some really great quick/easy recipes you can find oodles of them online. My favorite sites for these types of recipes are Kraft Foods, Pillsbury {I don't know if you can see them in the pictures, but I've got a couple of the Pillsbury cookbooks because I used so many of these recipes}, and of course...Food Network. I absolutely love Paula Deen. I have four of her cookbooks. She is fabulous!

Anyway...I have a few staple menu items that I rotate throughout EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Family favorites such as tacos {Jaysen's favorite}, spaghetti and meatballs {Landon's favorite}, and pizza for weekends. We cook a lot of Mexican food in this house as Jaysen loves it so much. And a lot of things I grew up on as well. Stuff like Shepherds Pie, Beef Stroganoff, and Tater Tot Casserole. My mom is an amazing cook and so is my grandma. I've learned to make a casserole out of just about anything. Seriously. Throw it all in a pot and there's dinner. :0)

Back to menu planning.

This handy little chart is my Febraury menu list. The first column shows my busy nights. Then, the day of the week, the actual date of the month, and then the menu for each night. I fill in the busy nights first with the quick and easy recipes. Stuff like spaghetti, or broccoli soup, sometimes Hamburger Helper {Jaysen is cringing}, Hamburger Gravy, etc. Weekends usually get the fun meals like pizza. Then I start searching through recipes to fill in the rest of the days. Where I've been doing this for so long, it usually only takes me about an hour to get through all of this. Especially when I print out, clip out, etc. recipes that I've found throughout the month that look yummy and put them on my desk to save for the next menu planning day. If you go to the Kraft Foods website, you can sign up and get a free magazine from them that has oodles of yummy recipes in it.

The main thing to remember once you've got this all filled in is to set out the meat the night before so it has thaw time. It's much safer {bacteria wise} to let meat thaw in the refrigerator.

Some other handy cooking tips I've found:

  1. Buy chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts. My kids can't ever eat an entire breast anyway, and when you are needing to chop and cook for other things it takes a lot less time.
  2. Cream soups, though fattening {I buy the fat free kind} are my best friend. I use them in almost all of my quick easy recipes. Stroganoff, hamburger gravy, shepherds pie, chicken enchiladas.....oh yeah. By mixing the soup with sour cream and onion soup mix you've got an instant "gravy" base on which to build WHATEVER you want. Good stuff.
  3. Crock pots are your friend. I have trouble remembering this one. But there are some really great recipes out there for "Set it and forget it" meals.

Also, while you are getting together your list of recipes you are using, make sure that you make a separate list of all the ingredients you DO NOT have on hand. This you take to the grocery store so that when you are ready to whip up that nights dinner, you've got everything on hand.

There you have it. It probably doesn't sound easy to anyone but me. It's a system I've used for a while now and it works great for me. The key is to find a system that works for you. If you know what you are cooking and you've already got the ingredients on hand, then dinner will be quick and simple and healthy. More importantly, you won't be prone to ordering out. I've been known to just throw up my hands and grab Chili's To Go if I'm caught without a menu planned for the night. I also love making things the kids can help with too. More time to spend with them. Like when we made homemade stuffed crust pizza and Landon got to help stuff the crusts with string cheese. Good times.

I hope this helps you out Sassy. If not, at least you got to see another one of my OCD areas. :0) Happy meal planning!


Montay said...

Wow I need this to work for me I hate that we eat out so much and it gets to be very expensive and adds on the pounds so I will be trying a few of your tips as soon as I can.. I love that you can plan ahead and feed your family healthy meals and fast one too.

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I am kneeling humbly at your feet. You are the queen of menu planning and I intend to copy you. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?

Melanie said...

Although I do attempt to plan meals, you amaze me. :o) I mean having it all mapped out on an excel spreadsheet...HOLY COW! My meal planner consists of a crayon or marker, scribbled on the back of someone's note from school.

Alicia said...

You are a girl after my own heart. I have to have a menu planned or I go nuts. I hang it on my fridge and we go from there. Love it, I have so many fun recipe blogs too, that when I am planning my menu I surf through them and try new things each menu. It works great.

Jane the Sane said...

Wow, you are my hero. That chart is awesome. I am not organized at all, which is why we eat out so much. I know I've got to do better at this. Thanks so much for sharing.

Bridget said...

Wow. I would love to be that organized with meal planning. I am feeling a little motivated right now. Must act on those feelings.

Anonymous said...

wow. that's all i can say. wow.

amazing woman.

you plan them out for the month?! on a spreadsheet?!

i am envious.

Sister Honey Bunch said...


Ashlee said...

Can I just tell you all


for your very nice comments. I was worried you would all think I was a freak. I mean...I am a freak and all, I just don't like letting TOO many people in on that. :0)

Bonnie B. said...

You're so funny. That is a fabulous system. Maybe you should hire yourself out and plan all our menus, too!!! I try to plan menus, but my problem is the evening comes, and it just doesn't sound good, or we waited too long to get dinner started. I wish I loved cooking as much as you and Alicia. I love to eat, just not cook.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

What is your meatloaf recipe?

Ashlee said...

Honey Bunch, I posted a couple meatloaf recipes on my recipe blog.


Sister Sassy said...

Thanks SO much for posting this. I broke my crockpot cause I'm stupid but I need a new one. Crock pot would make life easier.

And one of JimmyEW's fav meals is pork steak with cream of mushroom soup (mixed with itallian dressing) and rice. I got it from Kraft foods. Love the 1 bag 5 meals plans. Also great on cookiing on a budget.

Sorry it took me so long to resopnd. My server guy just smacked us down at work for doing non-work related things. I SO know he was talking about me!!