Monday, March 23

Menu Week of March 22

I'm a little late on planning my menu for this week. I'm also about out of money in my grocery budget for this month, so I've been looking around to see what we have in the pantry and the freezer. Looks like nothing exciting to eat this week - I'm not feeling inspired.

Monday: cheese ravioli

Tuesday: grilled steak & baked beans (maybe?)

Wednesday: lentil soup (from freezer) & dinner rolls

Thursday: baked potato bar - this has been a back-up plan for the past couple weeks, so I think I'll actually put it on the menu this week.

Friday: pizza? leftovers?

What are you making this week? I would love to see your menus!

Thursday, March 19

Have a Plan

I'm finally getting around to posting about the weekly cleaning plan I mentioned in one of my first posts. I first thought about having a weekly plan when I saw that a friend had a list of household chores to do each day pinned to her fridge.

Prior to this idea, my approach to keeping house had primarily been to clean when things started to look really dirty or if we were having people over. I knew this wasn't a good way to do it, but I wasn't willing to give up every weekend to cleaning either. Then, I realized that if I could just do a little each day it wouldn't pile up and become a huge task to be dreaded. Granted, I still don't enjoy doing housework, but it is much more enjoyable knowing I only have to do a couple things each day.

I've been reading "Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House" by Cheryl Mendelson and I feel that she makes some good points on why it is important to establish a weekly routine.

Having a weekly routine:
  • helps get everything done
  • gives a sense of accomplishment each day
  • allows you to enjoy a clean home
  • encourages you to be proactive rather than reactive

Mendelson also lays out a traditional weekly routine:
Monday: laundry
Tuesday: ironing
Wednesday: sewing
Thursday: shopping/errands
Friday: cleaning
Saturday: baking
Sunday: rest

My weekly routine is quite different from the one above. I've included my plan as an example, but I'm constantly adjusting it depending on what is going on in a particular week. As you will see, I've arranged my plan more by "home area" than specific tasks. Each day focusing on one or two particular areas that I've found need attention each week.

A few things to keep in mind when establishing your own routine. First, establish your priorities and start small. Don't worry if you can't do everything on a particular day, or even that week. Second, think about your home, the people who live there and how you live. The most important thing is to have a plan that meets your needs and is manageable for you/your household.

One other item to note is that the weekly plan doesn't include daily tasks. I'll admit that I'm not particularly doing all the daily things - which makes the weekly plan even more important, because at least I take care of everything once a week - but I always feel better when I do them each day. Your daily plan might include making the bed, putting away clothes (clean & dirty), washing the dishes each evening & putting them away, wiping counters, sweeping the floor, wiping down bathroom surfaces, putting away the mail or anything else you notice needs daily attention.

Monday, March 16

This Week's Menu

Last week I realized that I'd already used 2/3 of my grocery budget and the month is only half over, but the good news is, my freezer is stuffed with food. Therefore, I'll be pulling things out of the freezer to eat this week and maybe putting a few things back in.

Monday: bean burritos & salad (I agree with the comments that these burritos are a little bland. Next time I think I will mix some salsa into the rice or add something else to spice them up a bit.)

Tuesday: broccoli calzones (made pizza bread last week instead, will probably freeze half the calzones)

Wednesday: spinach manicotti & garlic bread (I made a whole package of manicotti a while ago and since we can't eat that much, I froze the individual filled manicotti. To freeze the pasta, I simply put them back in their packaging, wrapped with plastic and put in a freezer bag. You can thaw the manicotti overnight in the refridgerator, but you don't have to, it will just take longer to bake. To serve, I just take out 2-3 for each of us and then bake in pasta sauce & top with cheese - 375°, 30-45 min. or until heated through.)

Thursday: simple roast chicken & potatoes

Friday: chicken noodle soup from leftover chicken (hope to have enough to freeze some)

Saturday/Sunday: baked potato bar/leftovers/eat out?

Monday, March 9

Good, Easy Food in a Hurry

On Sunday evening I did not feel like making supper, but I knew we had plenty of food in the house so I didn't want to succumb to going out to eat.

So what to make for supper? I looked through the fridge, freezer and pantry, then I remembered a list of easy meals I created several weeks ago for just such an occasion.

I thought I would share my list of go-to meals with you in case, like me, you sometimes have a hard time deciding what to make, or just don't feel like cooking or heating up leftovers from the day before.

Good, Easy Food in a Hurry
  • pasta with sauce, veggies or cheese
  • quesadillas (usually canned black beans, salsa & cheese)
  • pizza - it's always nice to have a frozen one on-hand
  • soup (from the freezer or a can)
  • sandwiches
  • fried rice
  • frittata, scrambled eggs, omelet or similar
  • baked potatoes in the microwave
  • cereal

We had leftover rice in the fridge, so I decided to make fried rice by adding an egg, some frozen mixed veggies and a little bit of soy sauce.

What quick and simple meals do you like to make?

This Week's Menu

I share my weekly meal plan almost every week at This Week for Dinner, but I thought I would also post it here to inspire those of you reading my blog. I am also going to try to post recipes on this blog and I figured this would be a good first step.

Monday: Red Beans & Rice (slow cooker) - see below for recipe

Tuesday: Fiesta Salad with Black Beans (something similar to this without the chicken)

Wednesday: Salsa Rice Enchiladas and Salad - a variation on the recipe below with leftovers from Monday & Tuesday.

Thursday: Broccoli-cheese Calzones - see below for recipe

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday & Sunday: I don't usually plan meals for the weekend, because I'm never sure what we'll be doing or if we'll be home around mealtime. I also don't plan meals for the weekend, because I typically have more leftovers than I thought or we didn't eat a certain meal earlier in the week for whatever reason. However, I do try to keep simple meals from the freezer and pantry ready for if we are home and there isn't anything we haven't eaten yet this week. This weekend we might have pasta or a baked potato bar.

Red Beans & Rice
Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1lb dried kidney beans (2 cups), sorted, rinsed
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (1 ½ cups)
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups uncooked instant rice
Red pepper sauce

In 4 to 5-quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except rice and red pepper sauce.
Cover, cook on high 4 to 5 hours or low 8 to 10 hours
Stir in rice. Cover; cook on high 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with pepper sauce.

Makes 8 servings

Notes 3/10/09: We thought this recipe was good, but a little bland. However, it was super cheap and easy. If I make it again, I might add more seasonings to the slow cooker. We had leftover rice in the fridge, so I didn't add it to the crock pot. I also thought it would freeze better without the rice. I ended up freezing three 2 cup portions because we had A LOT of leftovers.

Salsa Rice Enchiladas

Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1 ½ cups chunky salsa
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 cup uncooked instant rice
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (11 oz) whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, undrained
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 flour tortillas (8 inch)
Additional salsa, if desired

In 10-inch skillet, heat 1 ½ cups salsa and the chili powder to boiling. Stir in rice. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in beans, corn and cheese.
Spoon about ½ cup rice mixture onto center of each tortilla. Fold up bottom of each tortilla; fold over sides. Secure with toothpick if necessary. Serve with additional salsa, if desired.

Makes 4 servings (2 enchiladas each)

Broccoli-cheese Calzones
Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
9 oz frozen cut broccoli, thawed (? cups)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 egg whites (or 1 egg?)
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 loaf (1 lb) frozen white or wheat bread dough, thawed
1 can (8 oz) pizza sauce

Heat oven to 375. Grease 2 cookie sheets. In medium bowl, mix all ingredients except dough and pizza sauce.
Divide bread dough into 6 equal pieces. On lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece into 7-inch round.
Top half of each dough round with cheese mixture to within 1-inch of edge. Carefully fold dough over filling; pinch edge or press with fork to seal securely. Place calzones on cookie sheets.
Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.
In small saucepan, heat pizza sauce over medium, stirring occasionally until hot. Serve warm sauce with calzones.

Makes 6 servings

If you're wondering why all the recipes are from the same cookbook this week, it's because I just checked it out from the library. Everything looked so good and EASY that I just had to get started trying them!

Saturday, March 7

Produce Bags Project

I've been trying to reduce the amount of waste I bring home from the grocery store each week, primarily all the plastic shopping bags, but also plastic produce bags.

At first, I starting reusing the produce bags when I went shopping. Then, I realized I could make my own reusable bags out of mesh packaging materials I might otherwise throw away.

How I did it: First, I cut off any tags and made sure the material was clean. Next, I sealed one end by crocheting it shut. If you don't know how to crochet, you could sew or even just tie knots to keep one end closed. Basically, you just need to secure it well, so nothing falls through. I also ran I string through the top, so my produce will stay inside.

I might look silly to some people at the store, but it makes me feel good to know I am making an effort to reduce the amount of waste I produce.

Tip: Sometimes mesh bags don't come apart in one piece. Don't throw these away, they can be used to help safely scrub food off your dishes without scratching. Just wrap a piece over your dishcloth.

Wednesday, March 4

Put on an apron

If you ever have difficulty motivating yourself to cook or clean, try putting on an apron!

I know it sounds simple, but it really helps! Wearing an apron is like putting on a uniform. It will transform your appearance and help you feel more like a cook or homemaker. (Of course an apron also protects your clothes and serves as a handy place to wipe your hands.)

To really complete your "uniform" wear a skirt or dress under your apron.

Pull out your apron this week if you need a little motivation. Let me know how it goes!

The apron my mom gave me for Christmas.