Sunday, August 12, 2007

Meal Ideas - need your help!

I'm working on making my life more efficient and organized - something that is a necessity now. One of the biggest problems I have had in the past is mealtime. Both coming up with what to have for dinner, and making sure that I have all of the ingredients before I start cooking. I have never been really great about planning our meals - and I've been led by what sounds good at the moment. This strategy hasn't worked really very well lately, and so I'm revamping my approach. I'm hoping to make a menu for a week at a time (I'm going to work up to two weeks at a time - and maybe even further if possible) and see how that goes. I'll make my menu over the weekend (by Sunday evening at least) and do my grocery shopping on Monday's.

Here is the list I've come up with in the last couple of minutes. There are really easy recipes, and use ingredients I either already have, or basic ingredients I can stock up on at the grocery store.

  • Baked potato bar with green salad
  • Taco salad
  • Cobb salad
  • Spinach Salad
  • Oriental Chicken and cabbage salad
  • Creamy Chicken casserole
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Fred’s Sweet and sour chicken
  • Curry Chicken with rice
  • Hamburgers/veggie burgers
  • Grilled chicken breast (marinated and bbq) with grilled veggies
  • Stuffed bell peppers
  • Kraft magazine recipe for Alfredo sauce with chicken and pasta (with veggies)
  • Lean Cuisine Skillet dinners
  • Frozen Lasagna
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Cream chicken enchilada’s
  • Green chili chicken enchilada’s
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Fajitas
  • Lemon chicken quesadilla’s
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Pancakes/French toast
  • Sloppy joes
  • BBQ pork/chicken sandwiches
  • Crock Pot recipes (look for more of these)
  • Jessica’s chicken
  • Chili and cornbread muffins

So - this is where you can help. I would love suggestions for easy, healthy, possibly make-ahead meals that I could add to our dinner list. I'm going to make a big list of dinner ideas, and then each week I'll pick enough for the week and we'll call it good. Hopefully that will help me with the classic question,



Carpers said...

We have 3 ways we take care of this problem.

First, years ago, we put each day's menu on a 3x5 card - on the back we listed ALL the ingredients that menu called for - we added side dishes to each main dish so it was a complete menu. We kept them in a tupperware box in my purse, or in a zip lock bag in my purse.

Second, we have a rule to try one new recipe a week - they are available everywhere: Taste of Home or one of their magazines,, etc. They are all over the internet. Put the recipe on a 3x5 card and add it to the purse so you have it when you are at the store.

Third, we make up a month of recipes and post it next to the refrigerator. We keep going back to the top of the month - you really don't need more than a month of menus. From your list, it looks like you've got a pretty good start.

The only thing that changes the menu, is if something is out of season or on sale.

I don't carry the cards with me anymore, I pretty much have the ingredients in my head (and thus in my pantry and freezer).

Your mom is the QUEEN of cooking ahead in the morning, planning meals and keeping it in budget. I am always in awe of her talent in this area.

It is such a relief to have the meal planned - you have NO IDEA how many times a day you catch your breath and think , OH NO, I don't have anything for dinner.

Good luck - we have been using this system for 17 years and it works really well, even up here where we have such limited access to produce and groceries....when you live 25 miles from the store, you definitely learn to plan ahead.

Brian likes it too, in case he is home first, he knows what to start. We include lunches on the list now too, since that is such a big deal with 2 men to feed a big lunch to.

Try the 3x5 cards - menu on front, shopping list on back.
LOVE YOU, Aunt Charlotte & Alicia

Holly said...

Sounds like a good idea!! We have a "Master List" that we pull meals from when we're making menu for the grocery list. I shop for up to two weeks, making sure that I have 2 definitive Sunday meals on the menu (ie: roast, chicken, etc in the slow cooker). Then I just fill it in with meals from the master list! I also include in that two weeks a couple of nights that we'll eat out, or grab something, or a "no brainer" meal like grilled cheese, burritos, etc. Good luck!

Spencer & Ashley said...

We do a dinner group and I only cook once a week, and on Sat. and Sun. There are 5 families in our group that is the same size as ours, and we each have a day Mon.-Fri. that we cook for all five families. We just do the main dish and then each family does their own sides. So if we have enchaladas, we just make 5 pans. It seems really like a lot, but we have been doing it for 8 weeks now and we love it. We only have to cook once during the week, then all the other times, it is delivered before 5:00. A lot of the time, if it is something that has to be cooked in the oven, like enchaladas, we will make it up in the morning, and deliver it, and then they can throw it in the oven whenever thay feel the need for it. I don't have to stop doing what I am doing with the kids t ocook dinner every night, so they like it too. It has been very helpful, since Logan has started football and has practice at 6:00-7:30 three days a week. Here are a few ideas...

*navajo tacos
*chicken roll ups
*scalloped potatoes
*oven roasted hoagies
*chili & potatoes
*Yummy chicken casserole (big hit)
*chicken pot pie

If you want any of these recipes, let me know and I will email them to you. Good Luck.

Carpers said...

A couple other things that don't take a lot of ingredients are Hunter stew (fry up 1 lb. burger, add a can of vegetable (alphabet) soup (large or small size), stir until hot. Serve over or with bread. Sounds really simple, but its really good, also takes about 5-7 minutes - gotta love that. :) Another quick, easy one I thought of was porcupine meatballs. They use burger, minute rice, tomato soup, and a couple other things. If you want the recipe I could send it. Then I cook it in an electric pan so it doesn't get too hot. Anyway - good luck.

Oh a magazine you might like is "Simple and Delicious" they have lots of vegetable ideas and healthy stuff, but they also have the meaty stuff, plus it has REALLY good shopping lists right next to most of the recipes. Plus its got great photography so everything looks good. :) Love you. Alicia

Monica said...

Ooh...I will have to check back for ideas. I have a hard time coming up with something, making sure I have everything on hand, etc. Plus I have two semi-picky eaters which doesn't help!

Anonymous said...

I wrote a really long post, but for some reason it hasn't appeared. I ran out of time now, so I will try again later this week.

Love you much, and don't forget to add the jelled mackarel salad!

Anonymous said...

First, I just want to say that getting organized for the week around food is the only way we survive. Otherwise, we couldn't possibly be careful about what we eat and both work.

Just as a little aside, it might make sense to organize it to start some day other than Monday as your day to go to the store--that's the day of the week when the store has the least inventory and what's there is at least several days old. I think the best day for grocery stocking is THursday maybe? It's especially true for things like meat and produce and dairy products.

Because we are often packing both lunches and dinners for the day, we try to get a bunch of stuff cooked up on the weekend--an actual dish or two plus we cook up veggies (lightly steamed) and meats so that we can mix and match all week without having to do more chopping and basic preparation.

We often make zero pt soup and then change it different days with olives, bacon, different meat, new veggies, new sauces (do you have a Trader Joes near you?).

Or we get whole wheat tortillas and salsa and put different things in different days--some of those cooked veggies, whatever meat we've got around, tomatoes and greens, and make wraps. THere's pretty good canned refried beans that are fatfree and not too many pts.

And there's what we call Potatoes Garcia, esp on Friday nights, which is onion and garlic and potatoes made like homefries, with chicken sausage or some other meat. When the potatoes are about half done, add chard, kale, spinach, or beet greens chopped up and recover the pan. after awhile stir the greens in. We cut the chicken sausages in half both ways, so that we know 4 pieces = one chicken sausage= right # of points. THen we serve it and say
"Looks like a dogs breakfast, but it sure tastes good." We often stir in whatever veggie or meat is left over at the end of the week. If there's any potatoes garcia left over, we stir it into eggs on Saturday.

And there's quick cooking grains like couscous (1.5 cups of boiling water stirred into 1 cup of couscous in a bowl, cover for 20 minutes, fluff up with a fork, serve) or quionoa that last for a couple of days and give you a lower point grain than rice.

We're keeping basil on the kitchen window sill in a jar of water this summer, and it's great to just clip off some fresh herb to brighten some leftover up.

And the crockpot cookbook from Weightwatchers (I think it's called Slow Cooking) is full of fabulous recipes-my favorite is the moroccan lamb stew.

Hope that helps,

Cheers, Sandra