New Working Mom Meal Plan Debuts this Week!

Working Mom Meal Plans

 

I’m a planner. Sometimes the planning is more fun  than the doing for me. I really enjoy cooking and I love getting tasty, healthy, affordable meals on the table for my husband and six kids.

But I know that the planning part does not come easily for everyone. And I know that meal planning can be a challenge.

I’ve used several “ready-made” meal plans over the years, and I mostly liked them, but they did not always take into account my need for quick meals (but not necessarily boxed meals either). Some meal planning advice leans heavily on repeating the same 7 or 8 meals over and over again. And that may work for some people, but my family has gotten used to variety. Heck, I need the variety to stay interested in the actual cooking.

I know that when I meal plan a few things happen:

  1. We save money.  Going to the store with a plan in hand ends up costing less over the long run–even if it seems to cost more during that one trip to the grocery store.
  2. We eat better. Even the best quality take-out has a lower nutritional value than a home cooked meal.
  3. Dinner time becomes special. When I take the time to prepare a well-planned meal, my family notices and it changes the tone of our dinner table.

So, this is what I want for you too! I am working on releasing a monthly calendar of dinner plans. The weekday plans can mostly be prepared in 30 minutes or less OR can be prepared and frozen ahead of time, or can cook (all day) in the slow cooker (I do NOT have time for 3-hour slow cooker meals!). I have some longer, more involved meals slated for Sundays. Let’s bring back the old-fashioned Sunday Supper! I think it is important for kids to see that food can be prepared quickly and easily, but that there is also value in a long food prep as well.

I will release February’s calendar on Wednesday, in order to give you time to shop. It will have links to all of the recipes. Then, every Monday I will have a post discussing some specific tips for preparation of each week’s meals.

Readers who subscribe to my newsletter (I promise not to spam you!) will have access to a printable PDF of the calendar, as well as access to a Pinterest Board with all of the recipes. We will also have a little competition on the Pinterest board. The three recipes with the most likes at the end of the month will be carried onto the next month’s calendar. At the end of the year, we will see which recipes lasted the longest!

I am super excited about this new project, and I know you are too! Please share it with all of your friends!

And, if you have a recipe that you would like featured, leave a link or a recipe in the comments!

Meal Planning for Sanity, Health, and Savings


Meal Planning Made Simple

I am a huge advocate for meal planning. I am not always the most consistent meal planner, but when I do plan ahead, we eat better and spend less.

For several years now I have been a happy subscriber to eMeals. Some weeks I follow the meal plans to the letter. Other weeks I look to the plan for inspiration or to get out of a rut. I am currently subscribed to the eMeals Clean Eating Meal Plans, and while I have been happy with the meals, they have not been as much of a hit with the younger members of the family.

It is easy enough to switch plans, and I will likely switch back to either the Classic meal plan or I may try out the brand new Budget Friendly plan!

Some of the benefits of meal planning are:

  • Meal Planning saves Money: Not only does planning meals in advance give the opportunity to shop sales. meal planning takes the guesswork out of “What’s for dinner?” and avoids last minute (and expensive) take-out.
  • Meal planning encourages variety: If I am left to my own devices, I will make the same four meals week after week after week. This will be a great thing for my child who ONLY likes chili, however, everyone else begins to grumble about dinner.
  • Meal planning encourages teamwork: If I plan meals in advance, I can assign cooking tasks to family members much more easily. Rather than just ask my husband or a teen to prepare dinner, I can ask them to cook and give them the step by step instructions and guarantee that all of the needed ingredients are on hand!

I like taking the weekly plans from eMeals and then weave in our family favorites. There is usually at least one meal planned a week that just does not suit our family palate, and it is easy for me to sub in  a family favorite. If you take advantage of the eMeals iOS app there is even a new functionality that allows you to switch meals between menus.

Chime in! Do you meal plan? What is your favorite tool to make it easier? What meal is your go-to  for meal planning?

Healthy Meal Plans to Match your Active Lifestyle

Work-Life Balance Hacks

IMG_0394 One of the biggest struggles for working moms is finding a way to “do it all” or to have it all. Motherhood is already fraught with guilt, but when you add a career to the mix, the guilt does not only double. . .it triples.

I found this transition particularly difficult as I had spent so much time out of the career zone. In my sixteen years as a stay at home mom, I had plenty of jobs outside and inside the home, but none were careers. None of those jobs demanded that the lines between home life and work life would be so blurred as a career would.

My career assumes a traditional forty-hour workweek. I also have a monthly evening meeting, various fundraising events that happen within and outside of my “work hours”, occasional travel and various miscellaneous activities. While I may leave my office at 5 PM, my mind is constantly on my job.

Add into the equation the fact that I have six children and a husband who also juggles a busy career with multiple non-traditional commitments. Continue reading “Work-Life Balance Hacks”

Getting Our Dinners Back on Track With emeals

Loaded Potato Soup Recipe


eMeals Meal Plans

I’ve been an eMeals.com subscriber for about a year now. I’m a pretty good cook, and I have stacks and stacks of cookbooks, but I was getting bogged down with meal planning. And by bogged down, I mean that I stopped doing it.

I went through a stage of just making our family favorites, but then we all got tired of spaghetti and chili. I went through a cookbook phase where everyday featured a new recipe. That worked about half the time.

Then, I hopped onto the career track. Everything changed. Continue reading “Getting Our Dinners Back on Track With emeals”

Camp Cooking

healthy camp cooking

healthy camp cooking

Everyone has been asking what we ate, and how I managed food on our camping trip. Food is always my favorite part of every vacation, so I’m glad to share with you!

I heavily relied on the book, The Family Camping Handbook, Real Food in the Big Woods.

My bloggy pal for the first week of the trip, Essie, posted about how she handles food on a camping trip. We share some similarities and differences. The main difference between the two of us is that she brought nearly all of their food with them, which can work for a smaller family on a shorter trip. We knew that we would be camping for at least two weeks and would be feeding at least 8 people and 11 people on the second week. That is A LOT of food. So, I packed some nonperishable foods and we purchased all of our fresh foods in town. By the end of our trip, the good folks at Glen’s IGA knew me! I consider it doing my part to support the local economy.

On this trip, I decided to simplify what I brought to cook with. I’ve been guilty in the past of packing up my entire kitchen to take camping. While that may be convenient…it is a devil to clean up, and we had pretty limited space to pack. So I bought some essentials.

  • coffee percolator (of course)
  • large cutting board
  • 1 good knife
  • 1 large bowl for mixing and serving (I could have used one more, plus a serving platter)
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • colander
  • 2 wooden spoons, 1 whisk, spatula and grilling utensils
  • stockpot
  • 12 inch cast iron skillet
  • 4 quart cast iron Dutch Oven
  • 8 quart cast iron Dutch Oven
  • 10 melamine coffee mugs
  • and I cheated and used all paper plates and plastic utensils
  • 2 burner Propane gas stove (this time we brought a large propane tank instead of little individual ones, it saved us a lot of money, and was less wasteful and far more convenient.)

With all of this equipment, we made some fabulous meals.

One of my dirty little secrets is that I don’t care for hot dogs and I only mildly enjoy bratwurst or sausage. My kids tend to share my feelings on this. So, we did grill some hot dogs and brats on our first and last days, just to be traditional!

The grill grate was clean enough to grill on, however, the grates were too widely spaced! Aluminum foil to the rescue!

I’m not a fan of doling out snacks all day long (though my kids are fans of snacking) so I made sure that they had three complete (usually cooked) meals a day, and then I kept a variety of fruits on hand for snacking. (Nectarines went on sale mid-trip so we ate a lot of those!)

Breakfasts were almost always cooked by my husband. and were usually eggs (fried or scrambled) or pancakes, or both. I brought a large Sam’s Club package of Krusteeze Pancake mix and we finished that and started a new three-pound bag from the grocery store partway through our stay. We love pancakes. We usually added fresh fruit; blueberries were a favorite, and we also added chopped apple, chopped pear, and chopped nectarines on different days. All of the kids, including the twins, loved helping make pancakes!

At lunch, I still cooked, but I did rely on convenience foods for speed. Sandwiches generally don’t cut it for our crew, and let’s face it…cold cuts can get expensive for 8 or 11 people! We usually had macaroni and cheese, canned ravioli, Spam (once for the few Spam lovers in the family) or canned soups.

Dinners were delicious! We had the two hot dog meals, and one desperate, rainy day take-out of Sven and Ole’s Pizza. Other than that, I cooked (with help, of course!). We had chili, grilled pork chops, steaks, and even a beef stew …with a story.

July 4 started out sunny and warm. We went and hiked Devil’s Kettle, we got home and relaxed, and then it began to rain…I had planned grilled steaks for the evening and was going to attempt to “bake” some potatoes in the Dutch oven. But the rain began coming down harder and more intently, so I began to chop the potatoes, then some carrots, then some onions, I crumbled in some ground beef, added a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, some water, some salt and pepper, and popped the lid on. I added some coals to the lid just as the storm finally began to let us know it was really here and I got everyone in their tents. We waited in tents for 3 hours!

When we got out, my “stew” was not very cooked. The coals extinguished early on. So, we transferred it to the stock pot and finished cooking it. Then, my husband decided it needed some thickening…so he added (a bit too much) flour. So we had July 4 porridge stew, but we were hungry, and it was good!

We made a camping version of my stir fry and served it over ramen noodles (with scrambled eggs, as we had had a clumsy egg mishap!)

I made this excellent pan fried zucchini and potato dish several times. I just began the baby reds, chopped up, frying in some butter, then added sliced zucchini near the end. Hearty and delicious!

But my favorite meal, by far, was the roasted chickens! I was determined to master my Dutch ovens. I kept picturing us eating yummy roast chicken for dinner! Then, I was I was in the store and the whole chickens were on sale for $3.99 each. So I picked up two. I was so confident that it would work out that I also picked up some egg noodles to add to chicken noodle soup the next day!

I tossed my chickens in the 8-quart pot, added some quartered red potatoes, wedges of onion and baby carrots. I liberally seasoned with salt and pepper and I added a half cup of water to the pot. I arranged 12 hot charcoal briquettes underneath and another dozen on the lid and I let it sit. I added more hot coals halfway through. After about 2 hours we smelled some great smells! I also made some refrigerated biscuits in the 4-quart Dutch oven…I stacked it on top of the larger oven to save space and to share heat! I should have taken pictures during cooking  . . . but this bad blogger forgot!

We moved the chicken into the stock pot for serving because it was fall-off-the-bone good! Then we stuck the whole pot in the cooler and I made a huge pot of delicious chicken noodle soup the next day!

I even baked a few cakes! The 4-quart Dutch oven is the perfect size for a boxed cake mix! I mixed up the cake according to the package directions and then baked it in the coals. My first cake, which I was making for Essie’s family was a fail! I over-baked it (but the middle was good!). The next one was perfect!

You can see some of our favorite camping pins here.

I think we ate pretty well!

Chime in! What is your favorite camping food?

Healthy Camp Cooking