My family and I were away on vacation for two weeks. It was wonderful! We visited family who live out of state, where (incidentally) July and August temperatures do not reach triple digits! It was all simply delightful. The time with family. The beauty of the natural surroundings. The cooler temperatures. And, we even got to go horseback riding for the first time! But, I’m sure you can relate to the dread associated with traveling (especially with younger children) after a lovely vacation. Dread. Then, once the endurance contest is over, you head home to an essentially empty refrigerator and no leftovers. What do you do?
Do you get all your luggage in the house and then get out to the grocery store to then begin to prepare a meal? Do you stop at a drive through for fast food that is likely to make the already sleep-deprived and exhausted now feel greasy and gross? Or, do you have a plan before you go on the trip to begin with?
Honestly, I have answered “yes” to each of those questions at some point after a long trip. And, because I have, I wanted to make sure I had a plan this time. In the past, I have prepared a meal or two in advance (usually by just doubling up meals from before the trip) to freeze so that all that would be necessary would be a little thawing and heating. I highly recommend doing this if you can manage to make extra before you head off on your trip.
This time I did something just a little different. I made sure that I had a very simple meal that wouldn’t require much preparation once we got back. So, I made sure we had some of my family’s favorite ravioli and spaghetti sauce in the pantry. I also knew we had some ground beef in the freezer. So, before we left, I had planned the meal for the day of our return. It was a super easy pasta with meat sauce and some steamed frozen broccoli. It doesn’t register as the healthiest meal that I prepare; however, it suits its purpose after a long day of travel and is better than fast food that we could have picked up to make things easy. This gave us easy, quick and no yucky post-fast food feeling in our tummies. Success.
What do you do to make your post-vacation meal preparation easier?
It’s been a while since we’ve meal planned which is unlike us, but we are back at it. We are desperately trying to use as much in our fridge as possible. We’ve seen a lot of waste from our fridge and want to reduce that by just cooking whatever we have on hand. It’s pretty satisfying to cook the food you have in your fridge and not have to throw it away.
Bacon Wrapped Dates-This is my newest obsession and it’s ridiculously easy to make. I love them so much, I am making them into our dinner. These are super easy and inexpensive. Serve them with a good salad and you’ve got yourself a meal! Here’s the recipe I use.
Taco Tuesday-Need I say more? Actually if you haven’t tried the salsa I made last week, Tuesday is the day to make it and have a party in your mouth!
Pulled Pork Sandwiches with coleslaw. This is our go to meal when we are busy. Throw a pork roast in a crockpot for 6-8 hours, stress and throw in the BBQ sauce and let cook a little longer. Then serve with or on some fresh coleslaw. Our kids LOVE it too!
Homemade Pizza. We got a pre-made crust and already had all the toppings so this meal cost us an extra $3. So nice that we already had everything else. We are pretty simple and just use pepperoni, mushrooms and olives with our cheese. Then bake and it’s done! It’s awesome! And yet again, another kid pleaser.
Dip Friday. I am a sucker for dips and since we have a lot of veggies and cheeses in our fridge, we thought we’d just do dips and whatever we have around. I found THIS recipe on Pinterest for roasted brussel sprouts with a garlic aioli and my life has been changed. And HERE’s a yummy nacho cheese sauce that we are going to dip fried chicken strips in that we have in the freezer.
Total groceries we had to buy this week? $10! We already had everything else in the kitchen!
Why is it such a struggle to plan meals? It’s so easy to pin every awesome recipe on Pinterest, but when it comes to making a real plan, that’s a different story.
I’m going to give this a try: Meals By The Week – 1-Week Free Trial
Best of all, “Currently, Meals by the Week publishes 18 different menus each week for grocery store chains, including Safeway, Hy-Vee, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, and others. We also publish a Vegetarian and a 400 Calorie menu. Our recipes are family-friendly, and we like to build convenient menus based on real food.” Even my favorite stores are on the list!
I’ve been away from meal planning and my wallet is proving that. We’ve spent over $100 more than normal last month because of 2 weeks off from meal planning. It’s amazing what a little planning can do for your monthly grocery bill. We’ve been super crazy busy and had some personal things come up that has made meal planning harder, but now I know how much it is worth it. I will be gone all next week, so my goal this week is to make enough to also store enough in the freezer for my family to eat. I am basically making a lot of crock pot meals and other stuff that freezes easily.
Here’s the plan…
My Famous Chili – Sorry guys, I cannot give out the recipe, but HERE is a good one I used when I needed something more simple. I would double it so you can freeze it. My family won’t just eat chili next week, they will have chili cheese dogs so it’s different. We are BIG fans of chili cheese dogs!
Crockpot Potato Soup - It’s cold where we live, so THIS is the perfect thing to warm us up. We also have some potatoes we got on sale. This is a great thing to do when you are planning your meals, ALWAYS check with what you already have in your house. The less you buy, the better.
Bulgogi - I am an ethnic food junky, but it can also be expensive, so I’ve learn to make a lot at home. THIS is my favorite Korean dish and it’s TO DIE FOR with this recipe. It’s one of the all family pleasers in the house. I do suggest using a ribeye meat though instead of sirloin. I liked it better that way, but sirloin is cheaper.
Chicken Chili - Yep another chili, but it’s way different than the other chili, so it’s ok. It also freezes so wonderfully! My kids weren’t huge fans, but I loved it. They can’t always get what they want right? I serve mine over rice.
Strogganoff – By far the biggest crowd pleaser among my friends. It’s also WONDERFUL for taking to friends who’ve just had babies. It freezes awesome which is why I always tripple the recipe. THIS recipe makes a small amount. I figure if I am going to do it, I might as well do it big. I also use a medium size of sour cream instead of cream cheese. I would make it both ways to see which you prefer.
Every week the husband and I sit down and plan our meals for the week. I really enjoy doing this so we area always on the same page for meals. We talk about it, we go over our schedules and it’s a nice family thing we do. Here’s our plan this week. We have a pretty busy week, so it’s not full, but we do what we can.
Crack chicken-This is what my family calls it now. I’ve shared it here before and it’s amazing. We make it twice a month and we aren’t tired of it yet. HERE is the pin for it. It’s such a simple recipe and so yummy!
Au Gratin Potatoes-THIS is a really easy recipe and super yummy. This is definitely a rich meal, but sometimes you need some comfort food.
8 Layer Casserole-This is a new one for our family, but the ingredients are simple and it looks yummy. I need more yumminess in my life! HERE is the recipe if you want to try it with us. It has spinach in it so no veggies on the side for us.
Hawaiian Sweet Roll Sandwiches-This is another Pinterest recipe. Cam you tell I get all my ideas from there? THIS looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!
Raw veggies-We eat a lot of raw veggies around here because the kids LOVE them. They will go well with sandwiches.
Mommy has to work from home, so daddy is making a picnic and taking the kids to the park. Sometimes simple picnics are a big hit!
It’s date night!
On these nights the kids always have mac and cheese with tomatoes. Not very protein laden, but it’s a nice treat since we don’t get dates often.
What’s on your menu this week?
This week I am doing something different for meal planning. Everything is going to be a crockpot meal. First of all, I love crockpot food. I love how all the flavors meld together for one amazing flavor. I love how there are ALWAYS leftovers. I love how most crockpot meals are cheap. I love how there is less work to do at the end of the day when my energy is zapped from spending the day with my two little ones. Crockpot meals are every mom’s friend!
So here is what I am making. I am also trying a lot of new recipes, so forgive me if they are horrible. We are experimenting too!
Crockpot pizza-The name just sounds amazing. I have a recipe for a pizza casserole that is a family favorite. THIS recipe is very similar, but in a crockpot. This is definitely going to be a family pleaser.
Strogganoff-This is one of my tried and true and it’s wonderful. It’s such a comfort food. My eventual goal is to find an alternative to the golden mushroom soup, but it works for now. My kids even like THIS recipe! It freezes wonderfully too so I always double it!
Roasted chicken-Did you know you can roast a whole chicken in a crockpot? It’s as easy as washing your chicken inside and out and throwing it in your crockpot for 6-8 hours on low with your favorite seasonings. I like to stuff the inside of my chicken with garlic, apples and onions then rub butter and garlic salt on the outside. It also makes great broth to save for when you need broth.
Pulled pork-This is proof that not every crockpot meal has to be a casserole type thing. I simply put a pork roast in the crock pot with nothing else other than some seasonings. I let it cook for about 8 hours on low. It will make it’s own juices, so leave those in there. Then shred your pork after 7 hours then stick it back in the crockpot with BBQ sauce and let it cook on high for another hour. I like to cook it on high to caramelize the BBQ sauce. This also freezes wonderfully so cook two.
Curry chicken-You can even make ethnic foods in your crockpot. Indian food is my absolute favorite food ever. Unfortunately we don’t have an Indian restaurant anywhere near us so I am left to making it on my own. THIS recipe is another new one for me, but with the ingredients listed, I can’t go wrong!
What’s on the menu for you this week?
It’s Monday and it’s also shopping day here so I always get our next meal plan ready for the next cycle EVERY time I go shopping. That way we always have food to make in the house. Not having food in the house is a big deal and will cause you to go out more and spend far more than would have had you just cooked at home.
With that said, here is our meal plan this week. Enjoy! I know we will!
Macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and cucumbers-I admit that I am gone this evening and the only way my kids won’t end up eating out is if I plan and give the husband something easy to make. I got a really good deal on macaroni and cheese, so we are saving even more! This is our go-to easy meal-kid and husband approved!
Breakfast for dinner-Your morning meal is probably always going to be your cheapest. Most things you serve at breakfast are just inexpensive. I am NOT a breakfast food person though, but this meal just makes my husband’s day! This time I am making one of my favorite. They are like little quiches, but without a crust. They are called egg and cheese puffs and they are amazing!
Coconut shrimp, baked potatoes and green beans. We still have some shrimp in our freezer that we got on sale so this meal is very inexpensive for us. However, if you don’t have cheap shrimp somewhere, skip it and wait until you do. Shrimp isn’t cheap usually, but when you can get a good deal, this is amazing. Check out this recipe I always use. I wish it were Wednesday and dinner time now!
Spaghetti casserole with french fried onions. I was compelled to start making this recipe when I read on a blog that you usually have everything in your pantry to make it. And it’s true we did! That means one less run to the store and you are reading this now and need something for dinner, check it out and see if you already have everything to make it. It’s incredibly yummy and tastes even better the day after!
Leftover day! We haven’t done one of these in a while, but on these days we reheat all the leftovers from the week and set them on the table. It’s a free for all! Everyone can eat whatever they like and I usually make a salad to accompany it since our veggies from the week usually don’t reheat well.
What’s on your meal plan this week? I need some ideas for next week!
Ever so often we end up with a lot of different meat in our freezer. I would guess because we buy it when it’s on sale whether we need it immediately or not. So the challenge this week is to cook from what we have to save money. If you have the same issue, I highly encourage you to cook with what you have. It frees up space in your freezer and encourages you to try different things.
8oz cream cheese
1 stick of butter
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 pound peeled shrimp
1 can cream of mushroom
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 sleeve of ritz crackers plus 1/4 quarter cup of butter
Saute onions and bell pepper in butter. Then add everything but ritz crackers and spoon into 9×13 pan and top with cracker with butter. Cook at 350 for 40 minutes or until crackers are golden.
Amazing Chicken (that’s what we call it)
4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1 c mayo
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Spread mix over chicken breasts, bake at 375 for 45 mins
Crockpot Bacon and Cheese Casserole
This will seriously blow your mind. I think I’ve posted it before and if you haven’t tried it please do!
Steaks with baked potatoes and green beans. This was the husband’s request and since we have steak in the freezer it fits our plan this week.
Swedish Meat Balls
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 c crushed cracker
2/3 c milk
2 T grated onion
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t nutmeg
Mix well, make balls.
Bake 500 degrees for 15 minutes, turn balls over, add 1/4 c water, leave in for another 20 minutes.
1 can mushroom soup
1/2 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
Pour over balls
Cover, bake at 350 for one hour or in your crock pot for 4-6 hours.
What’s on your menu this week?