So as I mentioned in my last menu planning post, I have been focusing on meals that can be prepared in advance of dinnertime. And I have to say: it's working so well! We are all so much happier and very well-fed. It helps with my sanity, makes for a much more fun and free afternoon and enables us all to eat together. The Buffalo Chicken Lasagna that I made last month was fabulous and so was the Baked Spaghetti (the latter is going to be a repeat for April). The Farmhouse Chicken was a huge hit - you should make it, your family will thank you!
The only "problem" is that I have had to be more creative and organized with my recipes and I don't really mind that one bit! Right now I'm working on a way to compile all the "winners" into a notebook or some other other printable format so that I can access the hard copies easily and I'm going to try to plan one month's worth of recipes at a time, taking a cue from Simple Mom's recent post on this topic (love this blog!). I didn't really use any of her recipes but I used her idea to plan a theme for each day.
M0ndays - pasta
Tuesdays - soup, salad, and/or sandwiches
Wednesdays - stir fry
Thursdays - crock pot or casserole
Sunday - easy
So today, I printed off a blank calendar for the month of April and started filling it in. I used the cookbook Southern Living Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites as my main source for this month and found more than enough recipes to fill in every spot! Unfortunately, most of these recipes are not online but if they pass the test, I'm going to add them to my file. And if you're nice, I might just figure out a way to upload the finished product to this blog! My own cookbook of sorts...fun!
So here is a sampling of what's on the menu -
Cheddar-Bacon twice baked potatoes (can be frozen!), salad
Mexican Chicken Soup (didn't get around to making it last month but it sounds fabulous!)
Chicken Spaghetti Bake
Sloppy Joe Squares, roasted carrots
Butternut Squash & Bacon Soup
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Ham & Swiss Muffins (double the recipe, freeze half), fruit
Cheeseburger meatloaf, asparagus
Asian Chicken Stirfry
Cauliflower Soup (I made this last month and forgot to mention it...it was a huge hit. Elliot loved it and so did the friends we shared it with!)
To make things easier, I sometimes make the dish vegetarian and omit the meat. Like tonight I made a delicious taco casserole (from the same cookbook) and used black beans instead of ground beef and honestly, you couldn't even tell! Ryan loved it and didn't even notice that the meat was missing. Charlie thought it was too spicy but Elliot ate more it than I did. Anyway, you really can do this on dishes like this where meat is just one ingredient. I always add a bit of olive oil, though, just to add some yummy fat.
I also never measure spices. I just add some and taste, add some and taste. That saves a lot of time and means less mess to clean up. I've never had a problem doing this.
For all of the recipes above, the prep work will be done in advance and just baked or warmed at dinnertime.