Sunday, January 6, 2013

Meal Planning Yes You Can!

The thought of meal planning, cooking ahead etc. is terrifying to many. I often hear excuses (from myself included):

"I don't have the time"
"I don't know where to start"
"Is it really worth it?"

YES it is worth it and you would be surprised just how little time it takes! I decided to challenge myself today and see just how long it would take me to do some prep for the week. I spent exactly 1.5 yes one and a half hours including clean up. Here is what I was able to accomplish:

* 2 dozen banana muffins
* 1.5 dozen cinnamon rolls (not from scratch)
* 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies
* 1 batch PF Changs Lettuce Wraps
* 1 batch Maui Chicken
* 1 pan of rice
* 1 meatloaf
* 2 loaves of bread (they are rising just need to bake)
* fixed lunch for 4 STARVING (yes they thought they were starving) children

By multi tasking and clean up as you go, meal prep can be quick and easy. Here is how this broke down:

* Step 1: Mix up the banana muffin batter. Bake the first batch along with the cinnamon rolls. While these are cooking go onto step 2.

* Step 2: Brown half the chicken (doesn't need to be cooked through) and then put it in the crock pot for the maui chicken. Start browning (and cooking through) the rest of the chicken and move to step 3.

* Step 3: Assemble the Maui Chicken in the crock pot. I used frozen peppers & onions I had in my freezer from over the summer. The crock pot will now do the rest of the work.

* Step 4: Take the muffins and cinnamon rolls out of the oven and put in another batch of muffins.

* Step 5: Start a pan of rice.

* Step 6: Dice up veggies for Lettuce Wraps. I don't like mushrooms and didn't have water chestnuts so I diced up carrots and cabbage. I also mixed up the stir fry sauce. Remove the chicken from the pan to cool and toss in the veggies to saute.

* Step 7: Take muffins out of oven to cool.

* Step 8: Mix up cookie dough and start first dozen in the oven.

* Step 9: Chop up the chicken and add it back to the veggies along with the stir fry sauce. Turn off burner to let it cool. Turn off rice to cool.

* Step 10: Mix up and shape meatloaf. Put it in the freezer (uncooked) for later this week.

* Step 11: Finish baking cookies while cleaning up the dishes.

* Step 12: Start yeast water for bread and fix lunch while that proofs.

* Step 13: Finish mixing bread dough and let it rise.

* Step 14: Package up muffins. Half go into the freezer and can be pulled out later in the week. Put the cookies and cinnamon rolls in airtight containers.

* Step 15: Package up Lettuce Wraps/Rice and Maui Chicken/Rice in divided containers to use for lunches this week.

* Step 16: Bake loaves of bread right before starting dinner. I will need the oven to cook part of dinner. This way one loaf can partially cool so we can enjoy it with tonight's dinner.

* Step 17: Take a basket of goodies to the neighbor (Cookies, muffins and some bread) its always good to share with others!!!!

This may seem like alot of steps but trust me it all went very quickly. No special skills are needed just a few simple recipes and a desire to save money and be prepared for the week!

What are you doing to be prepared for your upcoming week? Do you have questions on where to start of what does/doesn't work? Please let me know!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 2-5th, 2013

Eventually I will get up to blogging every single day, but it appears I am not there yet. It has been a great first week of the new year. Lets see how we did:

Grocery shopping: I managed to stay out of the store all week! I went today to do our grocery shopping for the next week and spent a total of $120.42 which leaves me with $279.58 for the rest of the month.

Eating out/Coffee: I am excited to say that the ONLY eating out done this week was today by my youngest son for FREE. He had a McDonalds coupon for a free happy meal that was set to expire before the end of the month. I packed my lunch to work every day and made my own coffee YEAH!

General Spending: The only spending done this week was yesterday for my daughters permit (yikes), and today for groceries, youngest sons haircut, shavings for our chickens, gas for the car and some general household items (batteries, lightbulbs and tp). I managed to stick to the lists on each item!

We did try several new to us recipes this week that were a huge hit! I  linked to a couple in a previous post but these were also a huge hit!

Cracker Barrel Chicken & Dumplings (I started with premade broth from our freezer-made from the free to us turkey, this saved a TON of time. I also used all purpose flour because thats what I had on hand)

Ranch Chicken Enchiladas (I made these with leftover turkey in our freezer from the free to us turkey)

Both of these recipes reheated well as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Tomorrow I will be doing a little cooking and crafting and will be back to share more information!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jan 1, 2013

What a fabulous day for the first day of a new year! While the weather was cold and frosty, the sun was shining and it was beautiful. One of our favorite places to spend time as a family is at the beach. My youngest son would spend all his free time there regardless of the weather. Because of the sun yesterday that was his automatic request lets go to the beach! At first I said no its too cold, then I thought, why not? We have gloves, hats and the time. So off to the beach we went! We didn't spend hours there like we do in the summer but we walked the beach and collected rocks and seashells and made memories.

Did I accoplish my 4 F's for the day?

FAITH: I spent time in the morning looking for an online devotional website and found one that I really like. I took time with the devotion and time with God.

FAMILY: We spent quality time at the beach yesterday (the two younger kids and myself) and I spent time with the older two watching a movie at the end of the day. I introduced them to one of my favorite movies of the 80's :).

FINANCES: Yesterday was a no spend day. We went out and about and didn't eat out or stop for coffee (one of my weaknesses). We were good stewards of our money.

FRIENDS: We spent time making cards for friends to help brighten their day and thank you cards for Christmas.

I also spent some time on a "use it up" project. I had a shirt I LOVED the color of but it had a grease stain on the front making it unwearable in public. I took that shirt and made it into a scarf! I used the pattern found here: T-Shirt Scarf Tutorial and I love the way it turned out. Here is a picture of my beautiful daughter modeling it :)

I also tried a couple of new recipes for dinner that were a huge hit!

Roasted Potatoes
Roasted Garlic Chicken

The potatoes I cooked in the oven and the chicken I omited the lemon because I didn't have any. I had roasting a turkey on the menu BUT I ended up cooking one last week and well, the kids didn't want turkey again. So I improvised with what we had on hand.

It was a good first day and a great way to start off the New Year!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Setting the Pace for A New Year

This last weekend at church we were blessed with a host band for worship. As they were preparing to play one of their songs for us, she gave a little background on how the song came to be. How we are all, as a society so busy and in a hurry. She shared how she is always tripping or running into things and she realized it’s because her mind is always two steps ahead of her feet and related that to how we tend to live our lives, especially when it comes to our faith. We are always two steps ahead of God, we need to slow down to be able to be in the moment and hear what He has for us.

This testimony and the song REALLY touched me. How often am I not “in the moment” and am worrying about what I need to take care of next? How many times am I in too big of a rush to stop and listen and wait to see what is going on NOW. Even in the small things like reading my devotions this morning. I caught myself reading but skipping ahead to the next paragraph with my eyes. I forced myself to stop, start over and stay with each word. Letting each word sink in and reach my heart.  The focus of the devotion: His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts,(Isaiah 55:9 NIV). I MUST and WILL remember this going forward.
I had lunch with a good friend Sunday and she asked me what my New Year’s resolution(s) were. I told her I wasn’t sure I hadn’t finalized my LIST yet. Yes my list. I am a total list person including my resolutions. I could make a list of 50 things I want to do this year without batting an eye or thinking that was overkill, and yes, I had one started. But I have decided to simplify it. Yes there is still a list, but it is much more focused. My New Year’s Resolutions are the 4 F’s.
FAITH: I will work on strengthening my relationship with Christ.
FAMILY: I will make sure to include more QUALITY family time.
FINANCES: I will get on track with my finances and become a better steward of what God has provided for us.
FRIENDS: I have some truly amazing friends and I need to spend more time with them. This year we will do so!
I wish you all a fabulous New Year. I look forward to sharing tips, ideas, recipes and new ways we find to be frugal through this blog. Not sure if anyone will read it but it will help keep me on track and accountable! Here is to a FABULOUS 2013!