"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. "
The start of a new year holds so many possibilities...and to that end, I try not to make resolutions in the first few weeks of the year. See, I need those first couple of weeks to get recuperated from the holiday chaos, get some things in order around the house, and make a plan. Who has time to think of all that during the holidays? NOT ME.
So now that my house is back in order (mostly), and I do feel like I'm pretty well rested (because I didn't leave the house for a week and ruled the roost wearing super-soft black yoga pants and a fleece pullover every day), it was time this weekend to get some things in order and make a plan.
Yesterday, I cleaned out my fridge and washed it all out. Holy crackamoly, I cannot express to you how badly THAT needed done! Then I got a little crazy and took every. single. thing. out of my pantry and washed down all the walls and shelves and cleaned and organized it as well! It's truly amazing how much more 'on top of things' that can make you feel! After those little tasks were done, I was ready to move on to the next step...the meal plan.
I typically plan out a week's worth of meals at a time. I have found that in the chaos that can ensue around here at any given moment, the written out menu on the fridge helps keep me focused and less stressed about keeping us eating healthy and balanced meals. See, if you have the menu planned out, you know exactly what you need from the store...I make the meal plan first, then go to the grocery for the week. Stick to the meal plan and you will be surprised how little 'impulse buying' you will do...because you only buy what you need! Of course, you will also be buying things that aren't on your meal plan, such as lunch box staples, if you pack for your kiddos. But overall, it helps keep the impulse buys down...and keeps you from buying pre-packaged and processed foods, which we could all use less of!
Another great thing about the meal plan is the fact that you never have to worry about not having your meat thawed. I look at my menu for the week and pull all of the meat out 1-2 days ahead of time and put it in the fridge to thaw. That way when I'm ready to start dinner for that evening, I open up the fridge and there it is, ready to go. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Well, I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to set something out because I had no meal plan and no idea what I was going to make for dinner...I'd get home at 3:30-4:00 and guess what? It would end up being pizza night because there was NO WAY I was pulling together something that fast. This takes all the thinking out of dinnertime and keeps you from eating PB&J and cereal for dinner three nights a week.
So here's what my menu looks like for the next two weeks:
Monday: PW's Beef and Snow Peas, Rice
Tuesday: Italian Pot Roast, steamed broccoli, biscuits
Wednesday: Rocco DiSprito's Healthy Chicken Parmigiana, spinach salad, herbed angel hair pasta
Thursday: Pasta e Fagioli soup, Italian subs
Friday: Leftovers RULE!!
Saturday: Thai Grilled Pork Tenderloin, pan seared green beans, cheesy orzo
Sunday: PW's Chicken 'n Dumplings, salad
Monday: Leftovers RULE!
Tuesday: Beef and Noodles, steamed peas
Wednesday: Roasted Veggie Quesadillas, cilantro rice, refried beans
Thursday: Wild Rice Soup, crusty bread
Friday: Kendall's birthday...probably eating out!
Saturday: Kendall's birthday party...I'll be cooking for a crowd, and haven't decided what yet!
Sunday: Baked Turkey Sausage and Swiss Chard pasta, salad
Now, I know it can look daunting. I get it. But let me tell you that it really isn't! Because you KNOW what's coming up and you have taken the hardest part of it - the thinking about it - out of the equation. I don't plan for lunches, because I almost always have leftovers, and I always leave 1-2 days to eat leftovers for dinner, as they can stack up pretty quick. Plus, my hubby packs his lunch most days, and let me just tell you that he really appreciates having a good meal to take to work, especially in the winter. Sandwiches get old quick!
My Beef 'n Noodles recipe makes a ton, so I will take half of that and freeze it for another day. That, peeps, is what we call a BONUS MEAL! Love to find those hiding out in the freezer when you're looking for something quick and easy!
One other thing to keep in mind is that if you end up not being home that night for dinner, or you want something else, or heck, you just don't feel like cooking and you want pizza... it's NO BIG DEAL. Just bump that meal back to later in the week or even to the next week. Your meal plan can be totally flexible, because you've planned for it and you have all the ingredients in the house. Go ahead and push it off to another night. The key to sticking with any new routine is to not be so rigid. No one likes rigidity, so we automatically buck the system. Make your meal plan easy, don't be too hard on yourself, and HAVE FUN! This is the perfect way to work new recipes into your favorites. I really do like sitting down to do mine...I have all kinds of recipes I've torn out of magazines throughout the years, various cookbooks, emailed recipes...all waiting for me to work my way through them. You'll never try those new recipes it you don't plan for them...you'll just keep waiting for 'the perfect day'...and it will never feel like it, because you haven't thought about dinner until 2 hours before and you're scrambling to throw something together. Put it in your rotation and find some new favorites!
Meal planning...give it a try! Start your year off on the right foot! As for me, a few of the meals on my 2-week plan are new for me, so I'm hoping to get back to regular posting on Party in the Pantry!