Monday, February 22, 2010

Dinner Disorganization

I am, by nature, a disorganized person.

I am also a person who likes lists. And spread sheets. Colored coded if possible.

I like making menu plans. I love them. Because when I don't make a menu plan my life after work is chaotic and often expensive. It generally looks something like this:

Monday - beg Micah to pick up fast food for the family because I'm exhausted and it's Monday.
Tuesday - Order Pizza
Wednesday - Spaghetti for dinner. Eaten at 8pm.
Thursday - Junk night (translation: soup for Kylie, macaroni for Lizzie) Micah and I fend for ourselves.
Friday - Pot Roast because I finally got my act together and put it in the crock pot.

Rinse and repeat.

One of my saving graces has been acknowledging that I'm human and busy. I know my limitations in the kitchen on a week night where I have just put in a full day of work outside the house. But even when I was a stay at home mom, my limitations were still there. Frankly I much preferred taking Lizzie to the museum than worrying about dinner. And prepping for dinner.

To that end, I LOVE making meals ahead of time and just pulling them out.

I also love my crock pot.

Those two ideas have saved my sanity on more than one week and I want to share that with you today.


Because last week looked very much like what I described above so yesterday I went back into Make Ahead Meals and crock pot planning.

This is what my week will look like for dinner:

Monday - Manicotti w/ garlic bread
Tuesday - Chimichangas
Wednesday - Pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans
Thursday - Teriyaki chicken, rice, peas and carrots (I think I still have some of those)
Friday - Spaghetti (Kylie will be making this)

All of this eaten by no later than 6:30pm and all with minimal crazy surrounding it.
Each entree is either pre-made or crock-potted (is that a word?) and is much healthier than the pizza or soup the prior dinner menu had.

I love the make ahead meal (some people call this once a month cooking but I don't make it in that big a batch). At it's simplest form you can just double a recipe when you make something and stick it in the freezer to pull out later.

Some places like Dream Dinners and Saving Suppers do all the prep work and menu planning for you but can be very expensive. (Although these are the places I am more apt to try new menu items since I don't have the choice of making the same things over and over again)

I am a fan of the website Saving Dinner , specifically the Freezer Meals. I also have two cookbooks for freezer meals, Don't Panic: (Dinners in the freezer) and Dream Dinners. Don't Panic is my favorite for family meals for my picky eaters while Dream Dinners lends it self to more adventurous meals. All tasty, all good.

My favorite thing to do is to gather a group of ladies together for fellowship and dinner. Usually the host decides the menu (two chickens, a red meat and a vegetarian is how I like to roll when I host) and gathers the ingredients. The people who attend the party pay the host for their portion of the food (usually in the $30 range) and off you go. Partygoers chop, place items in bags, marinate and talk and laugh while they make their meals based on the recipe the host provides. When I host I also supply labels that detail how to prepare the item and what the item contains but you can just write it in permanent marker if you need to. I also like the ability to cut or add items based on what you like. If you like more onions in your marinate, then throw them in. Like less basil? Don't include it.

This is a great time to fellowship and bond with your friends and prepare your menu for the upcoming weeks or months.

And in my case it DRASTICALLY cuts down on the chaos in my life and provides my family a decent quality meal without having to be out of a box or containing a lot of preservatives.

Mmmmm, manicotti.....



Wow, that's awesome, Lacy.

I'm also a big fan of the Don't Panic book. I've never been brave enough to host a meal preparing get-together, but you make it seem so tempting and easy. Any chance you want to just use my house and host one in Ohio? I have a bed for Will. :)

Happy eating!

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