A blog about keeping yourself and your expenses lean in Oakland County, Michigan.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Guest Post: Don't Really Menu Plan.....I Plan Quick Ways to Make a Meal Courtesy of Sarah's Deals

Okay, I'm going to attempt to better explain the way my family eats. I don't menu plan. Never have. We are also not a casserole family....not often anyway. Several years ago I put a lot of time into researching methods for quick, easy, balanced meals. I utilize my freezer and pantry space to the max to make this work for us. Some families prefer to cook from scratch and I'm sure that there are ways to make that easier too....like an afternoon of preping and freezing every couple weeks.

What I've come up with works well for us, this will not be the case for everyone. Each family is different, but maybe one or two meals a week planned this way will take some of the strain off if you are time crunched and always seem to be behind. I've managed to make this work for us after several years. It didn't happen overnight, but with this as a guide, maybe you can make something work for you.

I do some prep work and have my freezer and pantry set up for 20 minute and under meals. Dinners typically include a meat, a pasta or bread, and one or two veggies. Lunches are usually a meat/cheese, bread/pasta and fruit or veggies. Breakfast is usually cereal/pop tarts/toast and sometimes fruit. Snacks throughout the day are sometimes junk food, often fruits/veggies/pretzels/tortilla chips/granola bars.

You've already seen in this post the end result when I bulk cook hamburger. This hamburger can be quickly added to many things without the time to cook it. Some of my staple hamburger uses:

Hamburger Helper

Spaghetti (meat dumped in sauce to warm up)

Taco Meat

Goulash Sloppy Joes

Added to the few casseroles I do make

Chicken is typically purchased in bulk on sale, then put into bags with the marinade, then placed in the freezer. When we are having chicken for dinner, it comes out of the freezer in the morning, is placed in the fridge to thaw through the day and the meat marinates as it thaws.

I purchase 5# of precooked and pressed ham at Walmart for $7.88. I have the deli thick slice it for me (they do this as a free service), and I take it home and package it for individual meals. I get 8-9 meals worth of meat out of each package. These can thaw in the fridge, or since they are precooked, I can dip them in warm water and have them just thawed enough to pull part for cooking after 2 minutes!

I detailed the meat above because that is the largest amount of my prep/planning time most weeks. To go along with the meat, we keep on hand:

Canned/frozen/fresh veggies
Canned/fresh fruit
Boxed/fresh potatos
Boxed/bagged pasta
Canned/jar sauces
Frozen/fresh/packaged rolls/bread
Canned soups

For smaller meals and snacks I keep on hand:
Chicken nuggets/fish sticks
Frozen pizza
Frozen fries/potatos
Cheese sticks
Hot dogs/balogna/smoked sausage/lunchmeat
Mac and Cheese
and much more!

I take a visual inventory of my pantry every week. When I'm beginning to get low on something, I start watching for it to go on sale again. I often have enough alternatives that we can eat well even if we go without one particular item for a couple weeks. We are often just as happy with plain buttered noodles instead of Pasta Roni.

So, what's for dinner? Whatever we want....and it can usually be prepared in under 20 minutes and many times about 10.

Want more information? Please ask. Have a tip you think will help me add to my plan? Please share! Please feel free to share if you try any of this and it helps.

My thoughts: Sometimes I am in a good routine and I will pull out my diabetic crockpot book or surf sparkpeople and have lots of new recipes ready to go.  Most of the time I'm a lot like this.  We don't keep soem of those things on hand like hot dogs fish sticks and chicken nuggets but a lot of the other things we do. And when I do crockpot I like to overcook and freeze some.  Recently my husband was going to be home late and I had leftover spaghetti from a couple weeks prior in the freezer thawed it out made the noodles and was done!  So these are great tips!  Thanks Sarah's Deals!

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