Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's been a while....

Good Sunday afternoon ladies,

It seems like forever since I've checked in with you.  I've missed you and your sweet comments.  I've missed linking up to parties and writing about what's going on.

Last week we took the kiddos on a weeklong, much needed vacation!  It's been spring break here, and we had the most fantastic time.  The weather was as close to perfect as we could ask.  The destination was beautiful.  We lounged by the pool, we took in a couple attractions, we ate the most glorious meals! It was so great!

But this week, it's back to life as normal.  And what a busy week it will be...

It may not seem overly busy to you, but for me, having a bundle of things on my schedule is a bit daunting when you factor in the post vacation laundry, lawn mowing, end-of-school year activities, girl scouts, and catch-up at work.

So, here's the reason I'm posting today.  I wanted to give you my game plan for dinner on one of my busy weeks.

This week's menu consists of:

Salisbury steaks
mashed potatoes and gravy

Spaghetti with meat sauce
garlic bread

Steaks on the grill
baked potato
steamed broccoli

Chicken (in the crock-pot)
with veggies

Oven Fries
Cole Slaw
Corn on Cob
Baked beans

How, on a week, when I have so much else going on, can I manage to make home-cooked dinners 5 nights of the week?

Today is my prep day!  Let me tell you how it all comes about:

I have three meals this week that include ground beef.  I have two meals this week that need chopped onion.  I have three meals this week that include a salad.

So today, here is what I did.  I gave myself 30 minutes to prep these meals for the week -- all of them.

Let's look at each meal individually:  

Salisbury Steaks need:
Hamburger, chopped onion, bread crumbs and salt and pepper.

Chicken in the crock pot needs:
Chicken, chopped onion, chopped carrots and chopped celery.

Spaghetti needs:
Tomato sauce, spices and ground beef.

Tacos need:
Ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, spices and shells

Steaks need:
Steak, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Fish is pre-cooked from the freezer section -- no prep needed.

Starting with veggies:  I know I need onion for two meals, so I chopped enough for both the salisbury steaks and the chicken.  I went ahead and chopped the lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and celery for the tacos and crock pot chicken.

I know I need ground beef:  So I separated my ground beef into thirds.  In one bowl I put 1/3 of the chopped onion and 1/3 ground beef.  I added the bread crumbs to the mix.  The other 2/3 of ground beef went directly into my skillet to brown.  I scrambled it up well -- and while it was cooking, I mixed up the other ground beef mixture and formed them into patties.  These guys got covered and stored in the meat drawer of the fridge.  Meanwhile, back to the skillet.  The ground beef was cooked thoroughly, so I separated out about a cup of ground beef -- and stored it in the fridge.  The remaining beef got taco seasoning added to it.

We'll be having steaks:  So while the taco meat was simmering, I trimmed the excess fat from the steaks, put them in a ziplock freezer bag with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, and rosemary.  Enough.  It will be well-marinated when we want it later this week.  Into the meat drawer it went.

Chicken in the crock-pot:  So I already chopped all those veggies, right?  They got stored in a handy-dandy snap top bowl.  I buy flash frozen chicken in the big bag at the price club.  So out of the bag came 3 large chicken breasts - bone in, skin on for the crock-pot.  It never dries out or overcooks that way.  It went into a large gallon sized freezer bag with a chicken bullion cube.  As it thaws in the meat drawer of the fridge, the bullion cube will dissolve and it will be ready to go directly into the crock pot.

What does all this mean?  All this means that this week, when I arrive home exhausted and ready to fall asleep on the sofa, my evening meals will only take me about 15 - 30 minutes to make. 
How?  Why? Let's take a look:

Salisbury Steak night:
Grill up the salisbury steaks on my stove top grill (10 minutes)
make the pan gravy
Make the mashed potatoes (10 minutes)
Steam the peas (3-5 minutes)
put together the salad 
(remember I already chopped the salad fixin's and stored them separately in the fridge)

Spaghetti night:
Assemble the sauce with the pre-cooked ground beef, canned tomato sauce, spices, 
pre-chopped onions and garlic
Assemble the salad
pop the garlic bread in the oven
cook the pasta

Steak night:
Grill the steaks on the stove-top grill
pop the potatoes in the microwave (I cheat here a bit)
assemble the salad
steam the broccoli

Chicken night:
In the morning before I leave
Pop the thawed chicken and veggies in the crock pot with pre-chopped veggies and 1 cup chicken stock
In the evening when I return
cook the noodles and heat up any left-over veggies from the previous meals

Fish night:
This is the night I totally cheat.
I buy pre baked cod fish from the price club, I just have to re-bake it
pop the fries in the over with the fish to bake
heat the baked beans in the oven with the others
cook the corn on cob
serve with store-bought cole slaw

So, there you have it.... my weekly meal and prep.  I usually don't skimp on meals like I am this week, but it is quite the week, and the week following vacation.  I'm sure I'll still be in a vacation state of mind...  I hope!

I have other meal plans that I use when things get really crazy.  I'll try to post those at another time.  I just find that 30 minutes of prep on the weekend, and 45 minutes of planning before I grocery shop makes my weekly meals so much easier to manage.  

How do you plan your meals on your busy weeks?

Only by his grace,


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