photo RecentPosts-1.jpg

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Planning Meals Around What You Have + The First Meal Plan of The Year

I am SO excited to be getting back into the swing of things around here.  The two oldest kids finally went back to school today, after getting an extra two days off because of snow and ice.  I'm in my annual purge and organize mode.  So far, after getting the Christmas decorations packed up and put away, and the house mostly put back together, I went after the junk drawer, which was in dire need, and the kids helped with the nightmare hall closet that houses all the puzzles and board games, as well as two of the coffee table drawers, which hold handheld games in one and card games in the other.  I also went through all my dresser drawers and refolded everything, while getting rid of things that haven't seen the light of day in at least a year.


My sister got me a new Tillandsia for my birthday, since I murdered the one she got me last year.


I have quite a few more corners to tackle, but one of the priorities was the two freezers.  Gad.  The month of December usually ends up being all special meals, or dinner outside of the house, so I decided last week that I wanted to get an inventory of everything we had, and base our next meal plan around that.  I pulled everything out of the kitchen freezer and wrote down every single thing that was in there before putting it back in.  I did the same with our old fridge freezer that we keep in the garage.  Unfortunately, some of the things out there ended up in the garbage.  After jotting everything down, I rewrote the list in a more organized fashion, and I have it hanging on the inside of one of  the cupboard doors in the kitchen, where I keep the grocery list.  Now if I just keep it updated, it will be so much easier to keep track of what we have on hand.  I used to do it on a whiteboard for the garage freezer, but that seems to have disappeared.  Most likely buried in the disaster that is our garage.


The Dad got this cool old seltzer bottle from my parents for Christmas.


This is by no means fancy, or pretty.  
No cute chalk art or washi tape, but it's hanging where I see it every day, and hopefully will help me stay on top of it, which is the whole point.  
And if I get a wild hair, I may come up with something a little cuter, and easier to add and remove things from.





Our "pantry" is floor to ceiling open shelves in the utility/laundry/storage room right off the kitchen.
I don't take pictures of it.
Ever.
It's that dirty little secret room.
It's ugly, and most of the time, a total mess, but it houses everything from pantry items, to recycling, to dog and cat paraphernalia, to large kitchen appliances, to party supplies, to all my craft and sewing stuff.
And, it's where I do the laundry.
AND, it houses the utility sink, hot water heater and furnace.
Yeah, it's a work horse room, and it shows.
So ANYway, here are a couple closeups of what I've got goin' on for pantry shelving.
Again, not fancy, not pretty, but generally (it could use some love after the holidays) super organized and easy to access.





Soooooo, the goal was to create five dinners without going to the grocery store, aka without spending any money, and I actually got seven, plus leftovers for The Dad's lunches.
We do get dinner bread and produce once a week from a neighbor, who volunteers for an organization that gets donations from Trader Joe's.
She brings home whatever is left and several neighbors on our street go down and pick what we want.
There's always fruit and always bread, and generally some bags of greens and/or lettuce, so that's how I thought I could get away with not running to the store.
Although, with our snow and ice storm this weekend, she didn't call this week, so on my way home from the doctor the other day, I stopped in at a (sort of) discount produce store called Morrow's and picked up stuff for salads and some mangoes, which were 3 for a $1!!!!

All that being said, here's what our first meal plan of the year looks like, with notes on using what we have. (Blue text are links to recipes.):

Beets and Bread
(The roast is in the freezer, potatoes are in the pantry, I'll roast canned beets from the pantry, heavy cream is leftover from something else, and dinner bread is also in the freezer.)

Pasta, Salad, and Bread
(Shrimp are in the freezer, I have two fresh tomatoes and roasted garden ones in the freezer, a half a chunk of feta in the fridge, parsley in the fridge, pasta in the pantry, salad fixin's from Morrow's, and dinner bread in the freezer.)


and Bread
(Kale was from the neighbor last week, I used garbanzo beans I had cooked a giant batch of and stuck in the freezer, I threw in some sliced jalapeno-jack sausages from the freezer, I also added potatoes from the pantry, bread was from the freezer.)

Stuffing, Green Beans, and Rolls
(Whole chicken was in the freezer, I made a giant batch of apple butter with apples from the neighbor last week, I doctored up a box of Stove Top with apples, cranberries, and nuts, green beans were frozen, rolls were frozen.  I also got a second meal out of the chicken, (see below), plus three large jars of homemade chicken stock for the freezer.  Woot woot.)



and Salad
(Leftover chicken from previous dinner, salad fixin's from Morrow's.)





(We took restaurant fried chicken to my parents house for the Duck's game last weekend and came home with the leftovers.  I pulled the meat off the bones and used that, made the buffalo sauce from scratch, the pretzel rolls were in the freezer, celery and blue cheese dressing were in the fridge.)



Steamed Rice, and Edamame
(Chicken breasts in the freezer (you can also make this with shrimp), rice in the pantry, marmalade in the fridge, shelled edamame in the freezer.)



 We've eaten all but two of these, so I need to get my butt in gear for the next week's worth.
Now that I know what we have on hand, it should be fairly quick throwing together a menu and grocery list.
Having a meal plan written out for at least five days makes dinner prep go sooo much smoother.
I don't have to think about any of it, I just pick something off the list in the morning, and do whatever I need to do, like pulling meat from the freezer, or sticking something in the crockpot.
Then, come 5:00, all I have to do is prep stuff and get it in the oven, or on the stove.
I'm one of those weirdos who loves to dig through the fridge and pantry and come up with dinners on the fly, but most weeknights, that does not sound fun when you've got kids pulling you in fifteen different directions, and all you want to do is drink wine in a closet where it's quiet.
So this helps out a ton to have it already dialed in.
Plus, it saves a crap ton of money if you go to the grocery store with a plan and a list, and are able to stick to it, which is super important to those of us with limited funding.
Are you a meal planner, or a fly by the seat of your pants cook?



8 comments:

  1. Sounds like your new year is off to a great (and delicious) start! Ooooh, I'd love to help you organize your pantry. They are a favorite. (I'm an organizing junkie.)
    I have a menu-by-the-month plan that I use because I don't really enjoy cooking. I just do it because if I didn't, we'd all starve. ;0P

    ReplyDelete
  2. uhhh duh i need to be on the list of your trader joe friend. Call me when you have extra leftovers :)) Oh and I have tons of Kale if you want some yo.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, great job with your meal plans. I don't think I have even an eighth of what is in your freezer. I don't store a lot of food in the pantry either. Not having excess is what helps me stay more organized but we'd be in a world of hurt in a natural disaster. I also just reorganized my pantry and it took about two weeks to turn into a disaster area again. But I tried.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I admire you for creating meal plans. I have also been told it makes things so much easier. I am just so bad about making the plan and sticking to it. Really anymore I am bad about making meals...period. I hate cooking dinner every night. Ugh. Sick of the things I have made for 15 years and too scared to try new recipes. I have a family full of picky eaters and I swear they automatically don't like it, if it's something they have never tried before. I too am in my organization/purge mode. I keep telling my husband since we aren't moving anytime soon, then can I empty out the whole house and start over again. Lol.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I admire you for creating meal plans. I have also been told it makes things so much easier. I am just so bad about making the plan and sticking to it. Really anymore I am bad about making meals...period. I hate cooking dinner every night. Ugh. Sick of the things I have made for 15 years and too scared to try new recipes. I have a family full of picky eaters and I swear they automatically don't like it, if it's something they have never tried before. I too am in my organization/purge mode. I keep telling my husband since we aren't moving anytime soon, then can I empty out the whole house and start over again. Lol.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my...you are so so organized...it makes me shameful as we so fly by the seat of our pants in the kitchen...both of our freezers are so full, if a snake was hiding in there, it wouldn't surprise me....now, after reading your post, I am rolling up my sleeves and tackling that job...I'll do pictures so you can see me at work...lol

    ReplyDelete
  7. Happy New Year, Mindy!
    It feels like it's been forever since I've had the chance to leave a comment. My computer took a dump when my husband installed Windows 10 on it. It didn't work for several days. So happy that it's up and running again!
    Ok, so you're some kind of amazing!
    I PLAN 1 or 2 meals a week. The remainder is typically on the fly ;0).
    And every once in a while - I like to challenge myself to make dinner with what I have on hand in my fridge/freezer/pantry. It's fun :0)!
    I have a feeling that you're an incredible cook . . . and your kids probably don't even know it (yet!).
    I'm becoming a big crock pot fan! Do you have any food crock pot recipes??
    Sending hugs,
    Suzanne

    ReplyDelete

I love and appreciate all your comments. So don't be shy, just say it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover