Friday, August 12, 2011

Meal planning made easy!

As the lazy, unstructured days of summer come to an end I am reminded of the frantic pace of the school year ahead. It is a merry-go-round of enormous proportions. Between homework, and violin, and piano, and gymnastics, and tennis, and golf, and oh, I don't know, any life of my own, our afternoons and evenings are quite full.

That said, I honestly and whole-heartedly believe in sitting down together as a family and eating dinner. I grew up in a family which sat down together every night and ate together. We talked about our days. We were forced to put our napkins on our lap and keep our elbows off the table. Fast food was not served {ok, maybe an occasional fried chicken night}. Suffice to say, I believe in the family dinner and work hard to provide fresh, healthy meals for my family on a very regular basis. We are clearly not perfect. The hubs travels quite a bit. And some days I just do not have it all together. But when the hubs is home we make every effort to come and share a meal.

Leigh at Hines-Sight Blog is hosting a Meal Planning Made Easy linky to help us all infuse our dinner routines with a few new recipes or strategies. What a great idea!

Of course I want to participate, but given that I am away from my own kitchen it is a wee bit challenging for me to provide a meaningful new post. I will, however, cheat a bit and provide you with ten of my favorite food posts from the past year. 
As for strategies, I strive to always have a little money in the bank. Who doesn't!?

In terms of meal planning, "money in the bank" translates into "food in the freezer". But certainly not store-bought frozen food. I mean, make it once and eat it twice {or more}. This works exceptional well with most soups {freeze them flat in ziploc bags - they take up very little space, can be stacked, and will thaw quickly in a sink of warm water}. I am also a big fan of making a huge batch of meatballs and freezing a few dozen for future meals. It is easy to even pull out five or six if I'm just eating with just the kids {pasta is our universal food of choice}. Ditto my "Mommy's homemade marinara." I make a huge batch and freeze what we don't use that night into family-size servings for future use. Money in the bank!

I also like to make it once and repurpose it later in the week with fresh food. For example, I will make a roasted chicken on Sunday night {when I generally have more time} and then serve chicken tacos on a hectic Tuesday night when I do not have time to do any more than dice a tomato. If I serve spaghetti and meatballs on Monday night, I use the leftover spaghetti on Thursday night and make Pasta Carbonara {#4 above}.

I enjoy cooking. I really, really do. Unfortunately, I do not always enjoy cooking a meal with 30 minutes to spare, while helping with homework, after rushing in the door from 3 hours carpooling. Life is hectic with school-aged children. There is no way around it. But, planning a bit in advance and ensuring you always have a little "money in the bank" whether homemade meatballs or a chicken roasted over the weekend, will ensure that your family can sit down at least a few times a week and enjoy a warm, wholesome meal!

Click on over to Hines-Sight Blog and see what other meals and strategies are being offered! 

hines sight blog Mini Spaghetti Pie

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