Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - 9/30/13

This week's menu has a couple of repeats from last week.   Friday night, I fell asleep when I got home & the baked spaghetti never got made.  (opps!)   Taco meat night was a disaster.   We've been using the Mrs. Dash Fiesta-Lime seasoning for our taco seasoning for a couple of years.  I can't tell the difference & you save so much sodium!  Unfortunately, it's been increasingly harder to find - so I picked up McCormick's Citrus-Lime seasoning.   I prepped everything the night before & it smelled so good.  However, the taste the next day was HORRIBLE. 

Monday - Baked Spaghetti

Tuesday - Taco Meat (for salads or tacos)

Wednesday - Salmon Patties

Thursday -Chicken Broccoli Braid

Friday - Hamburgers

What's cooking at your place this week?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Meal Planning 101

If you are here looking for the perfect method for meal-planning,  you may want to search again.  I'm not an expert meal-planner, but I thought I would share some tips & tricks that have worked for me.  I've tried meal-planning off and on for the past few years.  Despite the "planning",  it seems like we always end up in a rut of eating the same meals.   Since school started in late August,  I've tried a different approach.

1.  Sit down a make a list of recipes your family likes or of recipes you would like to try.   My list generated 32 recipes as well as a few "new" recipes.  Granted there are some variations on the list (tacos, enchiladas & spaghetti, lasagna, stuffed shells) - but there aren't any duplicates.

2.  Dedicate time on your calendar to make your weekly menu.  Thursday tends to be a good time - you can look at the grocery store sale flyers and generate your menu around meat or other items that may be on-sale.

3.  Make a grocery list and check it twice.  I live in the Southeast & two local grocery stores (Lowes Food & Harris Teeter) offer shopping online.  You submit your order online, they shop the order, and you arrive at your pre-selected time to pick it up and go.  They always call after they've shopped your order to see if you need to add any items.  The cost is $4.95 per order.   Some people think this is absolutely ridiculous.  However, I've found that I stick to my list and actually spend less because there are no impulse buys. (and you can still use coupons!)

4.  Keep a frozen pizza or other quick go-to meals in the cabinet just in case.  There will be nights where the mountain of homework is unending or you simply don't feel good & it's quicker and easier to do a frozen meal.  It's still cheaper than hitting a drive-thru.

5.  Prep meals.  I enjoy Sunday football but not all afternoon long.  While super-husband enjoys the game,  I spend a couple of hours meal-prepping.  On average, I usually have 3 of 5 meals prepped for the week.   When I get home, it's nice to preheat the oven and bake!

6.  Why do I only plan meals for Mon - Fri?  We have one "eat-out" meal per week and it tends to be Saturday or Sunday.  Some weeks we have leftovers and don't always go through the 5 planned meals so I prepare one of those on Saturday or Sunday if needed.

7.  How much do I spend?  My goal is to keep our grocery budget under $100 per week; however, on average I would say I have been spending $125 per week.  Understanding couponing is next on my list -- I've never done well at it or perfected the methods.

 It's required a little more effort on my end - but the trade-off is well worth it.  I feel more prepared at the beginning of the week (no thinking what's for dinner),  we're saving money & we are eating out less.  Do you have any meal planning tips?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - 9/23/13

Monday - Crockpot Chicken & Stuffing

Tuesday - Taco Meat (for salads or soft tacos)

Wednesday - Fellowship Meal at church (or leftovers at home)

Thursday - Crockpot Roast

Friday - Baked Spaghetti

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Orange Honey Teriayki Chicken & Quinoa Fried Rice

One of my favorite (and perhaps my only) Chinese dishes is General Tso's chicken.  I love the combination of sweet & spicy.   We don't eat Chinese often because it usually leaves me feeling miserable and bloated.  I ran across these two recipes on Pinterest & decided to give them a try.  Thumbs up for both of them!

Orange Honey Teriyaki Chicken - click here for the recipe.   I didn't not follow the recipe to a T because I didn't have all the ingredients on hand.  However, it turned out DELISH!   I omitted the mirin and ginger & substituted chicken breast in place of the chicken thighs.

Quinoa Fried Rice - click here for recipe.  I am a new fan to quinoa.  It is incredibly feeling and has a texture between rice & pasta.  This dish did not disappoint.  Of course, I modified and it turned out great.  I didn't use fish sauce, tomatoes, red peppers - but instead used a diced onion, a small can of peas/carrots (drained) and only 1 egg. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 9/16/13

Monday - Chicken Alfredo Roll-Ups

Tuesday - Meatloaf Muffins

Wednesday - Chicken Broccoli Bake

Thursday - Chicken Clubhouse Squares

Friday - Pizza

Saturday - Enchilada Bake

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes - Lightened Up

Last week, I made twice-baked potatoes.  It was the second time I've made the recipe and once again, it was a hit.   I pinned the recipe here.  If you want accurate serving size/nutrition information,  I would highly recommend running through a recipe builder.   The recipe was quite a few more calories according to My Fitness Pal.  We had the potatoes with a side salad it was filling and delish!

Easy Twice Baked Potatoes

3 large russet potatoes
1/2 c. fat free chicken broth  (I used reserved chicken broth from another recipe I was making)
1 c. 2% shredded cheddar
1/3 c. thinly sliced green onions
1/4 c. light sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 TBS Hormel real bacon bits

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pierce potatoes in several places with tip of sharp knife. Bake 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until tender. Immediately cut potatoes lengthwise in half; scoop out centers, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells.

Beat potato pulp, broth, 1/2 cup cheese, onions, sour cream and mustard with mixer until well blended. Spoon into shells; top with remaining cheese and bacon bits.

Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 6 Servings

I prepped these ahead of time & popped them in the oven when I got home from work.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/11 -- Stair Climb Challenge

Yesterday was a day of rememberance and honor for all those and their families who lost precious family members on September 11th.  It was also a day of recoginizing the unsung heroes - the men & women in uniform, the countless volunteers - all who made a difference in saving a life.

A local personal trainer challenged our area to a stair climb to honor each lost life of 9/11.  She organized the event on the campus of a local university.  It may seem an odd tribute to some but I can't think of the numerous lives that were saved because of the stairwell.  The stairwell became the ONLY access point for firefighters to enter the towers are one point.  I was unable to do the challenge as it conflicted with getting super-son to school. 

It was on my mind all day, so around lunch I decided to climb the largest building on our campus.  I knew it wouldn't be 2,977 steps - but to me it was honoring those on 9/11.  

The building was 265 steps from Main Floor to the Roof Top access.  (The count in unofficial - I may have lost count at some point) - so 530 steps total. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday

For the past two weeks, I've gone over budget on groceries.   My goal budget is $100 each week - I was over between $30-$40 each week.  I'm trying not to get too discouraged about it.   The good news - those groceries feed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plus snacks) all week.  We ate out once last week and once the week before.  Honestly, we are doing better than usual.  Enough about that - here's the menu...

Monday - Twice Baked Potatoes and Salad

Tuesday - Chicken Pie

Wednesday - Spinach Patties (a co-worker made these a couple of weeks ago - DELISH)

Thursday - Orange Honey Teriakyi Chicken and "Fried" Rice

Friday - only day I'm uncertain of - possible Pinterest party at my house  :)

Saturday - BBQ at my parent's

What's cooking this week?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's cooking?

Last Monday, I decided to cook up a couple meals to get started in the week.  I've done this before and it proves to be a huge time-saver during the week especially when school is in session.  It probably took me about 2 hours but was worth every minute.  There was no second-guessing what's for dinner.  Bonus, we had leftovers so I didn't have a sandwich every day for lunch either.  :)

After church today, I decided to do the same.  I was already scheduled to pick up groceries around 12:30p, so I had about an hour to play with.  I started stewing some chicken and put together super-son's breakfast pizza/casserole for the week.   After all the groceries were put away, I went right back to it.  Not only did I get 3 meals prepped and ready for dinner this week.  I have super-son's breakfast baked and portioned out for the week.  DIY trail-mix, wasabi peas, watermelon, cucumbers, celery are all prepped, portioned, and ready to put in lunch boxes.  It took me around 3.5-4 hours this week but that includes going to pick-up the groceries.  All in all not bad!

Do you have any time saving or meal-prep tips?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Half Crazy is Better than Full Crazy - Right?

Not long ago, I shared my 2013 fitness goals with you.  Tonight, I went to a information session to learn more about one of my goals  13.1 to be exact.   I turned 40 this year and I'd love to run a half marathon to celebrate.   I understand to most folks it sounds like the absolute craziest idea in the world.  I'm not sure why I want to do it so bad other than for most of my life I NEVER thought I would be able too.

Let me assure I will not be the fastest,  I will not win any awards - but if I do take the next step and sign-up for this program - I WILL COMPLETE THE RACE.   Whether you cross the line first or last - it doesn't matter.  Everyone who crosses the line is a half-marathoner.

Do you have a "big" dream/goal?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Menu Plan Monday (a day late)

Sunday - We had leftovers (BBQ drumsticks & the crockpot chicken & stuffing)

Monday - Hot Dogs

Tuesday - Baked Pork Chops

Wednesday - Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

Thursday - Taco Meat for Salad, Tacos, or Nachos

Friday -  Italian Style Chicken Roll-Ups

Have a great week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A little elbow grease, a little time = clean oven!

Yesterday,  I mentioned cleaning my oven as one of my "to-do's".   I'm happy to say I was able to check that off the list.   I've always said this blog was about keeping it real and the pictures of my oven will reassure you of that.   While I do have a self-cleaning oven,  I'd read reports and heard from a co-worker that this was not always the way to go.  It seems easy enough to hit "self clean" but the oven gets ridiculously hot as part of the process.  Since I wasn't trying to burn my house down, I opted for good ol' elbow grease.  Now, I will be completely honest and say the oven has not been cleaned in about 7-8 years. 

I promised I would keep it real - GASP!
How did I clean it?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I know Easy-Off is a popular oven cleaner but I've also read the fumes can be intoxicating.  This was another "no-spend" project, so I used what I had on hand.

  • Hot Water
  • Shaklee Basic H Degeaser
  • Soap Pads (I had the Dollar General brand)
  • Hot Water
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Sponge
I started my laying an old sheet underneath the oven door to catch any crumbs or suds.  Then, I took a damp paper towel and wiped out all the loose crumbs.  Next,  I sprayed the Shaklee Degreaser liberally on the back and sides.  While it was soaking, I filled a bucket with hot water.  I got the sponge wet and then started wiping and scrubbing.  The sides/back of the oven were relatively easy to clean.  Next,  I sprayed down the bottom of the stove. Again, it was alot of elbow grease & repeated efforts of spray, scrub, and wipe. I had a couple of stubborn spots on the bottom, so I grabbed the soap pads I had on hand and went to work.  I repeated the same process for the oven door.    It's not perfect - but it looks soooo much better!

Super husband had to help with the oven door because I had used all my muscles on the oven itself! I am so happy with the results and so happy the products I had on hand worked.  It really didn't take me that long, so why did we let it get so bad?!! 

Are you relaxing or tackling projects this holiday weekend?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Weekend Labor Day - Home Projects

Do you have a list of home projects or things you'd like "to-do"?    You know how I like lists.  :)     As I sit here this morning,  I'm slightly overwhelmed by my list because I don't know which project to start working on today.   But, it's quite possible that I could tackle more than one if I would quit thinking and just jump in!

On my list:

-Superson's bath room re-do (I had a revelation this week & realized that I could probably do this for ZERO dollars spent)

-Office closet (I need to declutter and reorganize the bottom half of the closet so we can start the transition to a mulitpurpose room)

-Clean my oven (undoubtedly the least exciting of all the other 2)

The optimist in me wants them all done today, so she can enjoy being lazy on her day off tomorrow.  :)

Do you have any weekend projects?