Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dinner Plans 1/23-1/29/2017

Here is my meal plan for this week:
Monday 1/23: Pineapple Chicken, Rice, Asian salad
Tuesday 1/24: Haole Haystacks, Rolls 
Wednesday 1/25: Ham, Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, green salad
Thursday 1/26: Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Pasta, Veggies, Ambrosia
Friday 1/27: Sinigang, Rice, Green Salad
Saturday 1/28: Beef Stir Fry, Rice, Salad
Sunday 1/29: "Thanksgiving in January" Turkey, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Salad
A few of the recipes:
Monday's Pineapple Chicken recipe comes from this cookbook:
I don't think I can share the full recipe here (not my recipe), but essentially it is a mix of pineapple apricot preserves, Russian dressing, dry onion soup mix and pineapple poured over chicken breasts and baked. It was really good!
Tuesday's Haole Haystacks is a recipe you have probably heard of under the name "Hawaiian Haystacks" My recipe for this in my cookbook actually lists them as Hawaiian Haystacks. But my Hawaiian friend, Teresa isn't a fan of the name so we now call them Haole Haystacks. 

My recipe has somewhat evolved over the years. When I make Haole Haystacks this is basically what I do these days:
Step 1: put chicken in the crockpot in the morning.
Step 2: About an hour before I want to eat, I shred the chicken from the crock pot. I make a white sauce on the stove top (let me know if you need this recipe-it's simple) add that and one big can of cream of mushroom soup to the shredded chicken in the crockpot. Put it back on High for the next hour. 
Step 3: While the sauces are warming up in the crockpot for the hour, you need to cook the rice and prep the other toppings. I get the rice cooking first. Then I prep bowls of toppings. This is how I prep each item (because this is how I like them):

Broccoli: cut to bite sized pieces and lightly steamed (cooked but with some crunch still to them). I leave some of my broccoli raw because that is how my younger daughter likes it
Pineapple tid bits: open can, drain juice!
Coconut: I just buy a bag of pre shredded coconut and it's ready to go
Water chestnuts: open can, drain water out (if you bought the unsliced ones, you'll want to cut them a bit smaller as well)
Green Peppers: cut in bite sized pieces
Chinese Noodles: Open bag and it's ready to go
Mushrooms, sliced, cooked in butter and seasoned salt until soft and slightly caramelized. YUM.
Carrots, cut and served either raw or lightly steamed (just like the broccoli it can be served either way) serve these raw for this. And because I am lazy, I just buy a bag of shredded carrots, open it and I'm good to go. 
Frozen Peas: defrosted and warmed slightly (I do not fully cook these as I like them to be crisp and not mushy)
Green Onion: just cut it (you can actually use whatever kind of onion you want, but I really like the green onions for this)
Bean sprouts: wash and serve
Snow Peas: I cook these.
Sharp Cheddar cheese: grated

So, once you have the topping ready to serve (I usually put them in bowls), the rice done, and the "gravy" ready, then you just let everyone make their own exactly how they like it. Start with the rice layer, then I would do the cheese and other toppings, with the chicken gravy over the top of it all.

YUM! Cannot wait for this one tonight! I can smell the chicken in the crockpot right now (as a side note, I used the left over chicken from last night combined with a couple more breasts of chicken so I could would have enough).

Wednesday will be simple: we have a precooked ham in the fridge that we will pan fry. I will make either baked potatoes or Potatoes Augratin to go with it as well as baked Brussell Sprouts and a green salad.

Thursday's Crock Pot Sweet and Sour Meatballs is a recipe I am adapting from one I got in this book:

The recipe in this book is from a woman in my mom's neighborhood and is meatballs from scratch with a sauce baked in the oven. As I mentioned above, I am lazy, so I bought pre-made frozen meatballs and plan to use the recipe for her sauce. I am going to try it in the crock pot instead of the oven because Thursdays are insane here. The sauce is basically a homemade barbecue sauce consisting of brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, pre-bottled BBQ sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. I am looking forward to trying this. We will serve it with Veggies and Ambrosia (as requested by my daughter). I will share my mom's Ambrosia recipe another time. It is amazing!

Friday is that Filipino meal called Sinigang which is served with rice and green salad. Sinigang is an acquired taste. I LOVE it, as does my husband and a couple of our kids. Some of the kids will eat just rice and salad on Friday. LOL. The recipe is one from my husband that he got on his LDS mission in the Philippines. 

Before you try this out, make sure you can find a Sinigang flavor packet. We buy either this Knorr packet (this is an affiliate link to it on Amazon):
OR this Mama Sita's brand packet (Also an Amazon Affiliate link):
Here is a picture of the recipe from my Cookbook:

And in case you cannot see the picture well enough to read, here's the recipe:

1-2 Sinigang packets (depending on how strong you want the broth)
2 Liters Water
2 lbs Cubed Pork
1 Daikon (White Radish), peeled and cubed
1 lb Spinach
Cabbage, cut
Green beans
1 spicy pepper, chopped

Season and brown pork. At the same time boil water and Sinigang packet in a big pot. AND cook rice! When water is boiling, add browned pork, daikon, cabbage, green beans, and pepper. Let boil 15 minutes. Add Spinach. Boil another 5 minutes, Serve over rice. 

Saturday Beef Stir Fry served with Rice (use left overs from Friday) and salad. 

Sunday Thanksgiving in January! We have a Turkey in the freezer, so I figured we should cook it and clear our some space in there. Plus we love Turkey year round. It will be awesome! And I think I will just plan to use the left overs for a turkey noodle soup next Monday...look at me already meal planning for next week! :)

This is my plan. Feel free to steal ideas and inspiration or just skip past this and do your own thing! But please wish me luck in sticking to the plan! I am sure I will need all the help I can get to do this. 

And just like that we're back on the meal planning wagon! YEAH! 

Beckee's Deal on Meal Planning

I am a check list person. And I am kind of old school mixed with modern. I like to use apps and my phone for just about everything, but I still write out a lot of my lists and things by hand.

Here are my steps to Meal planning (for our dinners):
  1. Research 
  2. List Ideas
  3. Choose weekly dinners
  4. Compare recipes to my pantry
  5. Make Grocery shopping list
  6. Shop
  7. Try my best to stick to it!!
And to get a bit more specific:

1. Research: I love Cookbooks. 

I even wrote one when I was pregnant with my third child. (Someday soon I hope to do another one!)

When I research, I think about the tried and true meals we love as a family mixed in with new meals from my plethora of cookbooks (or from Internet searches). As I am doing me research, I do step 2:

2. List Ideas

The pencil I wrote in is hard to see in the picture above, so I will tell you that it is the list I made on Sunday (as I researched) of all the meals that looked good to me from my "regular" meals, from ids ideas, and from my cookbooks. (That is the top half of the page anyway). As you can see, it is a long list (about 30-40 possible dinners). I only need 7 for this week, but having a lot of ideas from steps 1 & 2 means I won't need to redo these steps again for a while. Yeah!

3. Choose Weekly Meals

Sometimes this is the hardest part. I have 5 kids that each take turns being extra picky and they all have their favorites. Also, my husband and I really try to eat healthy, which is not the favorite meals for the kids. Plus I have had to remove (or severely reduce) some things that we all love from my diet over the past couple years (most notably cheese and greasy foods). Sad. This all makes the meal picking part  really hard. But with all the ideas from the first couple steps, I choose what I want (with the next step already in my mind, meaning that I try to plan somewhat based on what I already have and can use).

4. Compare Recipes to my Pantry

OK. So once I pick meals, then I get out the recipes. I check through my pantry and freezer and see what ingredients I already have then I move to step 5:

5. Make Grocery Shopping List

Again, the pencil is a little light on that picture above, but this page shows how I organize the first step of my grocery list. On the left side of the page I listed the meals I planned for the week. Then I pull out each recipe and (with my pantry check already done and in my mind), I write the items I need to purchase in the column on the right and a small reminder list of what I already have on the far left. Usually I try to plan and shop for a full week at a time, but one of the items I chose this week for Friday had some ingredients that I have to get a a specific store (it is a Filipino meal). And I want fresh produce for that meal. So, I chose to only shop for the meals through Thursday. I will get the rest on Thursday while the kids are at school.

After I made the pencil and paper list, I wanted a more organized list. For that, I use a great app called "Out Of Milk"  (I have tried lots of apps for this and this one is the one I like) With this app, you can enter your grocery items and it will organize them by section of the store into a check list. Once you get the item, you just check it off and it moves the item. I took a screenshot of yesterdays list with some items still listed in their category and others checked off so you can see it:

This app has WAY more useful things than this list too. Check out all you can do with it:

I love this app. Get it. Try it out. (No, they did not pay me for this...if fact I have no affiliation with them at all. I just like and use it)

6. Shop

If choosing the meals is the hardest part, then this is the next hardest step, because it is SOOO tempting to buy more that you planned to. I love food. I love shopping, so this can be a pitfall. But I try to keep in mind the goal, which is to save money, and that helps me to really stick (mostly) to the list I made! AND I only take my phone with my Out of Milk app open into the store with me. None of the other lists or ideas. JUST that list I made in that app. It helps me to stick to the list and to focus on the goal. Which brings us to my last step...

7. Try to Stick to it

By this I don't JUST mean to stick to the grocery shopping list. I also mean try to stick to the meal plan you made. I know things will come up and you may not perfectly stick to your plan, but try. I often say that all I can do is my best, and sometimes that means I stick to the weekly plan, and sometimes it means we eat out a few times on really rough weeks. I am really trying to meal plan and stick to my goal. I am on day 2 of the plan and so far so good. I will share this week's plan in the next post. Maybe it will inspire some ideas for one of you! 

Getting Real about Money Saving on Food (by planning ahead)

OK, lets get real for a second guys, I have been wasting a lot of money lately. A lot. How, you ask, have I been wasting all this money? By NOT planning ahead. Specifically for meals. 

As you may know, we moved to a new place this past summer, and we are in a rental house. If I am being honest, I thought we would have found and purchased a home by now. And we would have moved into it. Knowing we were in a rental for a max of 11 months, we only unpacked about half our stuff, maybe. 

I only share this story to explain why I still feel unsettled in our new home. On top of that, my kids are in school now and they are participating in activities right now. We scaled down activities for this year, but even with that scaling down, I currently have 2 kids in a musical, 3 kids playing basketball, one in dance, 3 taking voice lessons, one taking bass lessons, and one that only attends public school for half the day because she is in online school the other half at Stanford Online high school. All of that, and my husband is a doctor which means he is on call some nights and weekends.

So, those are all my excuses as to why I have been spending way, WAY too much money on FOOD! I have had a hard time choosing and cooking healthy foods for our family of seven. Which means we eat out. A LOT. Which ends up less healthy and more expensive. Taco Bell is about the cheapest meal for our family and that still ends up at about $30+ for our family. If we go to a sit down restaurant, we're talking $100+ for our family. That adds up fast.

So, I am going back to the basics of meal PLANNING! 

I find that if I make up a plan I do pretty well at following it. The hard part is usually making the plan. But I did it this week! And I am going to share with you what my process was, and what my final plan is. You can maybe help me to be accountable. :) 

Watch for that post coming up in just a few minutes!!!