Tuesday, February 5, 2013


One of my goals this year is to cook more.  I've never been much of a cooker.  I love to bake, but I haven't done much of that since Caleb's diagnosis.  It's been hard finding where food fits into our family.  But now that Russell is over one year old, he's supposed to be eating primarily table food.  And since he doesn't have any food restrictions at this point, I want him to be comfortable eating a variety of flavors and textures.  Realistically, a good portion of what goes into his mouth comes right back out after a few chews.  It's not a good habit for a FTT baby to have.

And then there's Caleb.  Eating is a social thing, and even when he can't eat the same foods as us, he still benefits from having us all sit at a table together, modeling the use of utensils, chewing, etc.

And then there's me.  I'm not picky in the sense that there are a lot of foods that I don't like.  I like pretty much anything.  But if something doesn't sound good to me at that moment, I have a hard time making myself eat it.  So when we don't have something planned for dinner and Nate looks in the fridge and says, "We could have tacos...pasta...," then I'm like, "GROSS!  Yuck!  No way!"  And I end up eating a granola bar that's about as healthy as a candy bar for dinner.  Then an hour later I'm hungry and I eat more packaged junk.  Another one of my goals is to be healthier--I have no intention of losing weight (although a few pounds would be alright), but I want to feel generally better.  You know.  Move more.  Not get tired from pushing my lightweights in their stroller up the hill at the zoo.  That sort of thing.

And then there's Nate.  He loves to cook.  He says that he's never cranky while he's in the kitchen cooking.  It's his happy place.  He contributes to our dinners a lot, and he's glad to do it.  But I get the feeling that he'd be glad to come home to some dinner made by me, too.

Enter: The Menu.

Such a novel idea.  Why did I never think of this before?

I came up with 28 meals that we all enjoy and organized them into five different weeks.  Each week contains one or two meals that takes some effort to prepare, and the rest are easy to throw together.  Most of them I don't even need a recipe for.  Some days are empty, for eating out or for leftovers or for whatever else happens to be going on that day.  I tried to put similar meals on different weeks (so we don't have lasagna and stuffed shells in the same week), but I also put many meals that use the same ingredients in the same week--such as southwest egg rolls and Mexican salad (both use partial cans of black beans, so we don't waste half a can of beans).

Each week has some leeway as far as what we make each day.  I see other peoples' menus that say: "Monday: tacos.  Tuesday: lasagna.  Wednesday: fried chicken," and I think, "But what if Monday comes around and I really, really, really don't feel like tacos??  Or what if Tuesday comes around and I don't have enough time to put together lasagna??"  I just know that sort of menu wouldn't work for me.  So, each day I look at my weekly list and choose what I feel like eating that day, and what I have the time and energy to prepare.

And I know that I'll have all of the ingredients I need for everything on that week's menu, because I also put together a handy dandy shopping list so we can go shopping every Friday or Saturday.  I even organized it according to where I will find the food in our local store, going from left to right, because nothing is more annoying than looking at your shopping list and realizing you have to go back to aisle 1 again, even though you're on aisle 8 already.  Grocery store ping pong.  What a pain.

And do you know what else I have found?  We're saving a lot of money by not going to Walmart.  When you go to Walmart for some spinach, you also end up buying some curtain rods and some shower cleaner and some baby clothes (because they're on sale and they'll look soooo cute on little Russell even though he has way more clothing than any 13-month-old should ever need).  And we're saving our receipts so we can see just how much money we spend on groceries in a month.  So far it's around $65/week (and we haven't used any coupons).  When we see something non-perishable on sale, we buy multiple so that five weeks later we don't have to pay full price for it.  Then, before we go shopping we look through our fridge and our cupboards and our food storage and cross off everything on our list that we already have.  And throughout the week I keep the lists handy so I can add to them when I find something ordinary that we're running out of (like butter or oil or flour).

This is our third week using this plan, and I can't tell you how much I love it!  It helps that my boys nap until dinnertime, so I have an easier time preparing food.  I honestly think this could be a really long-term thing for me.  It's not a phase.  I can do this!

So, would you be interested in seeing the menus and shopping lists that I've typed up?  So you can use them for yourself and save the many hours that I spent putting them together?  Well, alright then!  You're welcome!


Italian dunkers
Crock pot roast
Loaded baked potato soup (in blender)
Ginger steak salad
Breakfast for dinner (any combo of omelets, pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, etc)

O French bread
O pasta sauce (3)
O lasagna noodles
O pancake mix
O brown sugar
O hot dogs
O steak
O roast
O ground hamburger/chicken/turkey (choose for lasagna)
O bacon
O breakfast sausage (optional)
O cottage cheese
O mozzarella (2) and cheddar cheese
O eggs
O sour cream
O milk
O potatoes
O cherry tomatoes
O romaine lettuce
O jalopeno
O ginger
O green onions
O carrots
O garlic
O lime

Pollo Asado
Quesadillas with pinto beans
Lentil and Kilbasa soup
Sloppy joes
tuna melts

O bread
O hamburger buns
O corn tortillas
O pinto beans
O tuna
O stewed tomatoes
O lentils
O sloppy joe sauce packet w/ necessary ingredients
O pizza toppings
O rhode’s rolls
O chicken legs (large pack)
O ground beef
O keilbasa
O mozzarella and cheddar
O sour cream
O ricotta cheese (optional)
O apples
O oranges
O limes
O lemons
O carrots
O garlic (4 cloves)
O onions (3)
O avocados


Cabbage and sausage
Café Rio burritos
French dip
Crock pot chicken a la king
Taco soup

O hoagie buns
O tortillas
O 3 cans coke
O diced tomatoes (with green chilies, optional)
O diced green chilies
O red enchilada sauce
O a jus sauce
O black beans
O tomato paste
O chicken broth/bullion
O cream of chicken soup
O frozen peas
O corn meal
O brown sugar
O pork (for pulling)
O sausage
O chicken breasts (many)
O roast beef
O mozzarella
O biscuit tube
O lime
O garlic
O cilantro
O avocado
O peppers (optional)
O mushrooms
O onions (4)
O cabbage


Stuffed shells
Pot pie
Mexican chicken salad
Twice baked potatoes
Southwest egg rolls

O tortilla chips
O pasta shells
O mixed veggie can
O cream of chicken soup
O black beans
O frozen corn
O pie shell
O oil
O cumin and cayenne
O chicken breasts (many)
O ham/bacon
O ground sausage
O Mexican cheese blend
O parmesan
O ricotta cheese
O cheddar and mozzarella
O sour cream
O eggs
O ranch dressing
O salsa
O egg roll wrappers
O avocados
O potatoes
O romaine lettuce
O tomatoes
O green onions
O spinach
O cilantro
O lime


Random pasta with sauce
Pizza biscuits
Grilled cheese and tomato soup
Stir fry of some sort

O bread
O hamburger buns
O tortillas
O tomato soup
O enchilada sauce
O olives
O pizza toppings (pep, ham, pineapple, etc)
O pasta
O sauce (for pasta and pizza)
O pasta meat (optional)
O stir fry meat (chicken, shrimp, steak, or sausage)
O hamburgers/ground beef
O chicken breast
O biscuit roll or pizza crust
O milk
O cream cheese
O cheddar, mozzarella
O sour cream
O pasta veggies
O hamburger toppings
O stir fry veggies
O green onions

And there you have it!  A convenient plan to help you be healthier, save money, and be more organized while feeding your family!  Now I've got to go check on the roast in my crock pot.  It should be ready just in time for Nate to come home from work and for the boys to wake up from their naps.  :)


Heather said...

We're having a roast today too! You are awesome for coming up with this. It takes time and thinking power to come up with something that works for your own family. We have something similar but I'm spending way too much on groceries (maybe it's pregnancy cravings) so I need to tweak it. You have some yummy recipes I'm planning to borrow!

Janel said...

I have been using a menu for awhile now. Love it. I like your ideas. I may tweak method just a bit to incorporate. You would probably like freezer meal planning.

Janel said...

I have been using a menu for awhile now. Love it. I like your ideas. I may tweak method just a bit to incorporate. You would probably like freezer meal planning.

Laurie K said...

This made me miss you. If we lived closer we could trade recipes and trade making dinners, because we're best friends, and sometimes, when you just don't feel like making dinner, you go over to your best friends house. Anyway, I'm so happy you found something to make your life easier. You deserve it! I love you friend!

*Alice Anne* said...

Thanks for inspiring me to get on the ball about organizing food preparation in my home! I went on a rampage looking at recipes. Ha ha.

And I found this site: www.pepperplate.com

I think it's gonna be a life-saver.

Katie Bradley said...

I have been meaning to do something like this for ages. The problem is whenever I set myself down to think of meal options, I can think of, like, two. I cook more than two things but I just can't pull those recipes out of my head. I should just write them down as I make them over several weeks and then make it a pattern. You're an inspiration