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Sunday, April 19, 2009

First Quarter Meal Report

Before I got married, my regular dinner selections were pasta with alfredo sauce (usually all in one box), popcorn (a family tradition) or cereal with milk (my personal favorite). I never touched raw meat and probably never fixed anything with more than four ingredients in it.

When I became a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, I began making a real effort to cook more (including the occasional meat dish) to improve both our nutrition and our budget. But actually deciding what to have, finding a recipe I could manage and making it in time to eat was such a challenge that we resorted to frozen pizza, hot dogs or take-out more often than I'd like to admit.

So this year I finally decided to start meal-planning to try to make the dinner process go more smoothly and to add some variety to our menu. On Sunday nights, I write out what we're having for dinner each night of the coming week on a dry-erase board that I keep in the kitchen (see photo). I take into consideration what we have in the fridge/pantry, what we haven't eaten recently and what we have going on during the week, then try to pick meals accordingly.

It's not rocket science (and I realize other people have been doing it for ages), but this little one-week-at-a-time plan has made a world of difference at my house. Dinner is less stressful, we're wasting less food and my children are learning to eat something other than chicken nuggets and easy mac (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Out of the first 13 weeks, I was sick for one week (no cooking if Mommy can't keep anything down) and we were out of town for one week. So of the remaining 11 weeks in the first quarter:
  • 25 different dinners (I didn't know I could make that many things!)
  • 19 nights with leftovers (which isn't a bad thing at all)
  • 5 nights of eating out (including three date nights)
  • 7 nights with pizza and salad (but intentional pizza instead of default pizza)
  • 6 nights with grilled cheese and soup
  • 4 nights with pancakes, turkey sausage and fruit (Juni loves breakfast)
  • 4 nights with tilapia, rice and veggies
  • 3 nights with pork tenderloin, potatoes/rice and veggies
  • 3 nights with chicken, couscous and veggies
  • 3 nights with salmon, potatoes and veggies
  • 3 nights with spaghetti and meat sauce
  • 3 nights with mixed greens salad and grilled chicken
  • and an assortment of other meals once or twice
Now let's see if I can keep going through second quarter. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share, please post it in the comments or leave a link behind. I'll be looking for new menus to take us through spring/summer.


  1. Hey Cyndi -

    Love the blog. We recently discovered mahi is super easy to make and TASTY. We shop at Super Target and they have some in the frozen section. You thaw them out and slap them on the grill for a few minutes. We will grill some red potatoes or make sweet potato mashed potatoes (cut up, boil and mash with some butter and cheese), add a salad and you are good to go.

    We are a big fan of ground turkey (no red meat at our house) and we make turkey burgers once a week with grilled corn on the cob, some potatoes or just a big yummy salad. Again - quick and easy (and cheap).

    I recently tried ground turkey for tacos - very tasty, although, a couple of tacos feels more like a snack than a dinner so I need to figure out a "side" for that.

    Macaroni Grill makes 4-5 "pasta mixes" in the pasta section that you just add chicken to. They are pretty tasty and easy. I think the one in our pantry right now is creamy basil.

    Bella eats all of it, so hopefully, those are some kid friendly suggestions.

    Have a great week -

  2. I make a big batch of tomato sauce every month and freeze it in 1 cup portions. Some frozen tortellini or some angel hair and a chicken breast come together for a quick meal. Or meatball subs. Tomato sauce is my quick fix for most everything :)

  3. Realsimple.com is a great resource for easy recipes - you can even sign up for a newsletter that arrives once a week with a featured recipe (most are kid friendly). A good really quick, really easy favorite is chicken parmesan - get the frozen package of already breaded (and basically cooked) Tyson chicken breasts put them in a baking dish, sprinkle a little oregano over them, dump a jar of tomato sauce over them, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top, cook @425 for 15 minutes (or however long the chicken package says). I make a little salad and a side of spaghetti noodles to go with it. Meal planning is so great! And you have done a GREAT job with variety. I aspire...

  4. Oh and Heather you are right turkey burgers are fantastic - I put some onions in my mini food processor and puree them and add that to my ground turkey that I mix into burgers - just a little snazziness. That's my 4 cents, I'll be quiet now :o)

  5. You've inspiried me -- we've been talking about getting a white board like you pictured for awhile now to help us plan meals. We eat so much healthier and cheaper and are so much more efficient with time when we're organized.

    A favorite at our house is to buy the rotisserie chicken HT always has on sale on Sundays to eat with a couple of sides, and then use the leftover chicken for fajitas a couple of days later.

  6. I have added Lipton Onion Soup mix to the ground turkey before we grill it and that makes it tasty...similar to the onions in the food processor (w/o having to wash the food prcoessor) :)


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