|This not a typical meal served at my house these days!|
My husband does some of our grocery shopping and buys whatever he can find that is marked down or on clearance. This stretches our funds and is a huge help, but it also makes meal planning have to occur once shopping is completed rather than before. Most every article I see about meal planning encourages a person to get the sale ads, make a menu based on what is on sale, and then go shopping. We end up seeing what we can get for the funds available and then I have to gather my cookbooks together to compile recipes and a menu that make the best use of the raw materials I have available.
|Frozen chicken tenders, a can of black beans, a can of corn, and a can of tomatoes and green chiles are the main components of Santa Fe Chicken. The canned items were all purchased on markdown by my hubby and cost 50 cents each!|
In addition to the challenge of creating a menu based on available ingredients, four out of the seven nights of the week, I do not arrive home until between 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. This makes cooking a meal a little dicey unless we want to eat around midnight. So, I am currently reformulating my cooking routine.
On Sundays now, I am making two meals. One to eat on Sunday and one for Monday. Reheating an already prepared meal is much easier than preparing a meal from scratch. I am now avidly searching online and in women's magazines for recipes that are cook once, eat twice type of recipes. A recent issue of Family Circle was a big help in this area. Some ideas they featured were: roast a chicken one day and the second day make a pot pie, serve spaghetti and meatballs one day and the second day serve meatball sub sandwiches. This type of meal preparation will go a long way to make serving meals in my home much easier. Here are a couple URLs that look promising to me: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20333807,00.html and http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/cook_once_eat_twice_recipes.
I used to do freeze ahead meals years ago and I think I will incorporate that into my meal planning as well. I really enjoyed looking at the nicely stacked packages filling the freezer shelves and knowing that we had meals at the ready. I used Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg as my guide to cooking up to a month's worth of meals in one day or over a weekend (check out cookbooks in my Amazon store link http://astore.amazon.com/thewhollyholl-20/detail/B0072O02AA to get their books). Most likely I won't have enough groceries at the ready to do a month of meals in advance but perhaps I can start with a week and utilize a freezer meal once or twice a week for those days when I am extremely pressed for time.
I am also employing the power of crock pot cooking at least once a week to help me over the meal planning and eating later in the evening hump. I am enjoying perusing the recipes at Stephanie O'Dea's website devoted to crock pot cooking. A big bonus for me in following her blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/) is that she is also gluten-free. I have eaten gluten-free since 2007 and I really appreciate being able to grab a recipe and not have to take the time to convert it to a gluten-free concoction.
Stay tuned as I share favorite recipes from my frugal busy cooking journey and please share how you handle menu planning and meal prep in your household. I need all the help I can get right now because last night I had to make a stop at Little Caesar's!