Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 23, 2012

Menu Plan MondayI’ve fallen off of the menu planning and cooking at home wagon. We’ve eaten out more times in the last couple of weeks that I care to count and it’s got to stop. I could spend a healthy paragraph or two describing the hectic and harried state of my life that’s led to my recent rash of dining out, but the bottom line is we’re eating out too much. Last week I shook my guilty pleasure — fast food breakfasts — and am now ready to move on to family dinner. We need to eat more at home and I’m going to make it happen.

As preparation for making a strong return to cooking at home, I’ve reminded myself this week of my top three reasons for making eating out a treat instead of a regular occurrence:

  • Eating out is not budget friendly. If you want reasonable food for a family you have to (and should) pay for it. Spending $50 – $70 every now and again is okay, but not on any sort of a regular basis. And inexpensive fast food is not an option with the exception of an occasional trip to Chick-Fil-A.
  • Restaurant food isn’t generally waistline friendly. Research regularly shows that restaurant meals are full of fat and salt, largely because that’s what we all love so that’s what chefs give us. And while there may be dishes on the meal that are marked as “light” or seem light, because I’m not preparing the food I don’t actually know how many calories I’m consuming.
  • Family dinner time just isn’t the same at a restaurant. I’m a big proponent of the importance of family dinners. And while I’ll take family dinner time at a restaurant over no family dinner time at all, which we had to do just this past week, the value of family dinner is the strongest when we enjoy it in our own home.

As I’ve planned my menu this week I’ve returning to my tried and true approaches to making the males I plan actually happen:

  • KISS (Keep it Super Simple). Because I’m a food blogger I tend to want to make every meal a production, thinking about how I can use what I’ve learned on the blog. I have to remember to set that aspiration aside and instead aspire to cook a good meal for my family that we can enjoy together. That means returning to simple recipes that come together quickly.
  • Prep ahead whenever possible. After a fully day of running, work, and playing mom’s taxi service I’m often just too tired to contemplate making dinner. if I can do some prep work the night before (before I sit down – once I sit down it’s all over), I’m that much closer to dinner the next night.
  • Have a contingency plan. Even the best menu plan goes the way of mice and men, so I’ve added a couple of frozen pizzas to my freezer stash. While not an idea solution, a pizza is still a budget-friendly option and when accompanied by a quick salad I can stay more-or-less waistline friendly.
  • Plan and shop ahead. My new job at Whole Foods has thrown me out of my planning and shopping routine. Instead of stocking up at the store for a full week, I kept telling myself “I’ll just run by the store on the way home.” The reality is that when I’m done with work I just want to go home and then we don’t have groceries with which to make dinner. I’ve moved back to a once-weekly shopping trip and will keep a quick trip to the store on the way to the car in reserve for ingredient emergencies only.

This Week’s Plan

I’m finishing some recipe testing for the blog so we’ll be having some big game food for dinner this week. I’m pretty sure the family won’t complain and the recipes are all fast and easy. I’m also running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday so Saturday will be a carb-load day and Sunday will feature brunch and ¬†an easy dinner.

  • Monday: Buffalo chicken sliders, veggies and dip
    I’m working on a recipe that turns the traditional chicken wing into a slider and I’m testing the latest version this week. In homage to the traditional chicken wing accouterments, we’ll have fresh veggies and dip as a side.
  • Tuesday: Pasta with sausage and broccoli
    This dish has been a family favorite for a few years now and it comes together quickly. I’ll also prep the meatballs for Wednesday’s dinner before I’m done in the kitchen so I’ll have a head start.
  • Wednesday: Meatball sliders, salad
    Can you tell I’m working on a sliders blog post? We’ll use up our extra slider buns and I’ll have leftover meatballs to put into the freezer stash.
  • Thursday: Chick-Fil-A
    Speaking of the occasional trip to Chick-Fil-A, we’ll have to make one this weekend because there simply won’t be time around activities to have dinner at home. I’m working on some ideas for portable dinners but for now I can be okay with eating out as long as I’ve planned it.
  • Friday: Fajitas, fixin’s, rice, beans
    I’ll take advantage of the pre-seasoned meat from the meat counter downstairs to save myself from prep time on this Friday dinner. Pre-sliced onions and peppers will also be time savers to make this Friday night dinner something I can pull off no matter how tired I am.
  • Saturday: Gnocchi with Prosciutto and Parmesan, roasted vegetables
    For my pre-race carb load I’m going to replace pasta with potato dumplings in this simple yet hearty dish.¬†Roasted vegetables will be easy on the stomach and round out the meal.
  • Sunday: Tuscan Lamb and Chicken Skewers, naan, tomato and cucumber salad
    I’ll round out my blog post cooking by converting another family favorite recipe into kebabs perfect for game-day noshing. I’ll put the meat into marinate on Saturday night so dinner will come together quickly after my post-race nap.

How do you fight the desire to let someone else do the cooking when you’re tired? Do you have special tis and tricks for sticking to your menu plan? Please share them in the comments. I need all the help I can get!

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