Meal Planning

As I mentioned the other day, something I've been doing to try to manage my time better in the new year is an update to my meal planning methods.

I've been working so far this month on planning our weeks out a little better so that on the daily things go a little more smoothly. I am a planner at work and I have always been a planner at home as well, but I have managed to get more organized and it's awesome! When I have a plan, I have less anxiety about getting everything done.

Here are a few things I have done to help us.

1) Planned all our meals for January in advance.

This took a time investment for sure! I just turned on Netflix and went to town. It took me a while, but it was worth it because it has made each day since so much easier!

The first thing I had to do when making my meal plan was to focus on dinners that would be easy to cook once I got home from work. I really enjoy cooking and in the past I would pick things that are complicated and take a while and would be so upset that it was 8 pm and I was still trying to finish dinner. I finally accepted that wasn't working and isn't good time management. So for this plan I worked to make it more realistic. :)

2) Once I had the menu planned out for the month, I printed out my weekly meal plan printables that I created on my computer and wrote in the meals for each week on there. I hang these on the fridge for the current week for reference.

You can download these for free at the bottom of this post if you'd like to try them yourself. :)

3) After I wrote out each weekly meal plan - I also made the grocery list for it in advance. Then I am able to go grab all (or most) of my groceries in advance and get them put away at the house. This is the greatest help of all!! I am able to come straight home from work and not have to think about what I am going to make or what I need to grab at the store. I am able to get home and just start cooking! :) I have been loving this new process. As you can see above I'll write each item needed for each day on the right side of the meal plan.

Once I've done that, I write my list again on the shopping list below which is organized by category. It may seem redundant, but it's been very helpful for me! When I get in the store and everything is organized by category it makes the shopping process so much faster!

At the point I'm filling out my list by category, I also gather any coupons I have on hand and keep them near my list in a pouch. I don't coupon as much as I used to. I go to Publix and the rules have changed so much on what you can do, but now they offer more BOGOs each week so it's all good. :)

4) To keep track of all my lists, I put them in my household binder. Yes, I made a household binder before the new year and I love it! It keeps everything so organized and stops my paper piles all over the house, which I am really prone to do. :-S

I'll share more about the binder later. It's just been such a huge help getting our meals under control! We want to save money in this new year and by having the work done on the front end we are able to stick to the plan! :) We've only been eating out on Saturday nights and I think 1 lunch at work? It's awesome! :)

The printables with the gray stripe are part of The Household Binder I downloaded from Clean Life and Home. I purchased the download on Etsy and it was worth every penny for me! I used to keep lists all over the place trying to remember things, but this has stopped my paper piles because I am able to write everything down and keep it in here! I'll share more of my binder later, but it just has been so hugely helpful!

For example below, the binder comes with a Recipes to Try page. As I'm browsing Pinterest and a recipe catches my eye I'll add it here. I also add things that James says he'd like to have one day. Then when I am making my meal plan I can just go through this list and add things to the plan! It's great.

IMG_4089-1.jpg

There's also a print out for family favorite meals. I told James he needs to add all his favorites to this list and I'll make those more often. :)

If you also love planning your meals in advance, feel free to download one of my weekly meal plan printables! :) I made them in 3 different color schemes and may add more later. I love the rainbow one of course because bright colors give me life! But, I included a more neutral scheme though for those that may prefer it. :)

Click to Download

Keep an eye out in the weeks to come because I'm going to be sharing some of my recipe binder printables!

Have a great rest of the week and happy meal planning! :)

Craft Night

I still haven't been able to get shots of the laundry room, but I hope to have those next week. :) For now I have something else I want to share with you guys!

Recently I hosted a craft night at my house for some sweet friends of mine. It's something I had been wanting to do for a while, but it's easy to put off, you know? I finally just sat down and scheduled it. Once I sent out invitations, I started making it happen! I decided to serve dinner and provide supplies for crafts so the ladies could just show up, relax, hang out and create! I just asked them to bring themselves and some cash to cover cost of supplies.

I really enjoyed the process of preparing. I am a planner at work and a planner at home. It's kind of hard to get away from, haha. It was fun picking out projects, shopping and planning the menu.

I made these little welcome bags with some of the supplies inside and a tumbler as a gift for coming, for each guest. I found the bags on Amazon Prime and they were 11 dollars for the pack, which I was happy with as they are jumbo size.

IMG_2978.JPG

I wrote each woman's name on a cute piece of paper and attached it with a tiny, colorful clothespin. :)

The supplies gathered together:


I also decided to do a little giveaway. I made this goodie bag with various girly items that I got from Target.

For the giveaway I made this game based on the classic icebreaker game 'two truths and a lie'. For each guess a girl got correct, I gave her a tally mark and the one with the most correct guesses won the goodie bag.

It was fun hearing all the cards read aloud!

Here's the house all ready for the craft night!

I made this fun banner and printed it on cardstock to welcome the ladies in! The ladies seemed to appreciate it and I love that I can reuse it for other craft nights. :)

The table all set up for dinner with the ladies welcome bags. :)

Like I said earlier, I wanted to prepare the meal so that the ladies wouldn't have to worry about anything and really be able to have a "girl's night out" to just enjoy themselves. We did have 2 sweet ladies who brought dessert - brownies and cherry pie, which were delicious!

For dinner we had:

  • Potato soup with toppings - cheese, sour cream, chives, oyster crackers
  • Salad with lemon vinaigrette, pine nuts, craisins, parmesan, croutons
  • Spinach cups
  • Pasta salad
  • Veggie tray
  • Goat cheese and crackers

The table all ready with our supplies for the night.

Dinner and chit chat! Essential for ladies night!

After dinner, we cleared the tables and covered them with a large dropcloth and then got ready for our first craft! Which was painted canvases with one of our initials on it. :)

Here are the ladies getting ready to start working:

See those easels? James MADE them! All of them! In 1 afternoon! I am so in love...

He's planning to write a tutorial on his blog for them and I will link to that when he get's done. :) But let's just say I was so impressed! It was super helpful to have an individual easel for each lady to use! Love you James!!

So, the next thing we did was take our blank canvases and use painter's tape to plan out our design. I just did stripes. Here's my canvas ready for me to paint:

And there's my letter F for me to paint (for mine and James' last name). Of course I had to pick the colors that match my house. :)

After I painted my canvas and letter and they dried, I was able to glue the letter on. We used quick dry craft glue from Hobby Lobby.

And, finished products!!

It was so much fun seeing how different they all turned out! We had such a good time!

The other craft we did was yarn wreaths, but it was so late when we got done we didn't take any pictures.

I'm so glad that we did this! It was so fun to hang out with friends and create together!

Stuffed Shells

This is a delicious, meatless meal that can be made pretty quickly and is filling! James and I were having my family over for lunch one Saturday and we were able to get this meal ready in about 45 minutes. :)

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and then I grabbed my ingredients.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 box of jumbo shells pasta
  2. 1 32 oz. container of ricotta cheese
  3. 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  4. 1 egg
  5. 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  8. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  9. 1 teaspoon basil
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  11. 2-3 cups pasta sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook your pasta according to package directions and while the pasta is boiling, mix up the shell filling.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the spices.
  3. When the pasta is done, I like to drain and rinse it with cool water so I can handle the shells without burning my hands/fingers.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup of pasta sauce into the bottom of the pan (so shells don't stick). Fill shells with filling and put into the pan.
  5. Pour rest of pasta sauce over the top of the shells and top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Spreading sauce and adding filled shells:

This is how it looked when it came out of the oven

We served the shells with my favorite salad and our homemade bread.

If you like more spices, add more spices or if you'd like a different type of cheese, go for it! It's a very flexible recipe. :)

Valentine's Weekend

How was your weekend? We had a lovely, somewhat quiet, Valentine's weekend. We both really enjoyed it though :)

We talked in advance about what we both wanted to do for Valentine's Day. I didn't really want to go out on the actual day because I knew every restaurant would be crowded and that is not the atmosphere I wanted to celebrate in. I did want to go out one night, but we decided that James would take me out on Friday night when it would be less busy and that we'd cook at home on Sunday and spend a nice, quiet evening at the house. It worked out really nicely!

After work on Friday we got dressed up and he took me to a really great place that serves fresh, local foods. I didn't take any pictures of the food as I was trying to be "in the moment" on our date.

I had the crispy, panko-crusted tofu with sauteed onion & apple topping, fingerling potatoes, broccolini, horseradish buerre blanc. It was amazing! The horseradish sauce was so good with the crispy tofu, my fingerling potatoes were cooked perfectly and the broccolini was delicious.

James had the scallops with sauteed spinach and apple-onion couscous. I can't speak to that, but he said it was very tasty and we both left stuffed. What a great meal!

We came home and exchanged gifts afterward.

Saturday was low-key. We relaxed a lot, which was awesome! We all need that from time to time, you know?

A really awesome thing happened on Saturday. We ordered a sewing machine for me! I've been wanting to get one for a while now to be able to do several different projects that just aren't possible without one. I am so excited! I'll have to share a sneak peek of what I've been up to since I got the machine yesterday. :)

On Sunday, James made me hot tea in my mug that I received from our church's 15 year anniversary. It was so sweet to get to be lazy and hang out in the bed while he made me tea and cooked me a wonderful breakfast! He made waffles, cheesy eggs and the best grits.

He also surprised me with some beautiful roses and the sweetest card. What a great way to wake up!

IMG_3511.JPG

James also took me out shopping, which was so fun. He took me to Michael's and on my Instagram I was joking about how it looked like Kate Spade for Michael's:

Next, he took me to Joann's and I picked out some fabric for my new sewing projects. It was such a fun day!

I was also so happy because we got a lot of projects done around the house. My sweet husband repainted a bunch of areas that really needed touched up in our house and he caulked and painted baseboards, quarter round, and areas in the kitchen and bathroom. He worked so hard! I did some laundry, cooked our little Valentine's dinner and then we were able to relax and enjoy our evening.

For dinner I made Ina Garten's Bowties and Broccoli, roasted corn (Pinterest recipe, it was amazing!) and kale salad.


Such a great day!

Vegetable Lasagna

I have been making this lasagna for many (9!) years now and I love it. When I still lived at home with my mom and sisters I would cook most nights and every time I made this vegetable lasagna the whole family enjoyed it. It's a nice way to do "Italian Night" and still be meatless for me and also get some veggies in for everyone else. :)

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (less if you don't love garlic like I do :))
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped squash
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • black pepper

Directions:

1) In a large pot boil water and salt. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

2) In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and ground black pepper. Stir to blend; set aside.

3) Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes and then add carrot slices and garlic and saute about 3 minutes. Then, add broccoli, zucchini and squash. Stir all together, reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour veggies into the ricotta mixture and mix well.

4) Preheat oven to 350F

5) Pour some spaghetti sauce into a 9x13 inch baking dish and spread over the bottom. Place 3 strips of lasagna lengthwise in the dish, then place about 2 cups of the filling over the pasta. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the filling and then pour a little spaghetti sauce. Repeat layer of 3 lasagna noodles, 2 cups of filling, sprinkle mozzarella and spaghetti sauce. Then cover with last 3 lasagna noodles and pour the rest of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with mozzarella/parmesan if you so desire. :)

6) Bake at 350F for 1 hour and then let it sit for about 10 minutes so it firms up.

 

We had James' mom over for dinner the other day and we served the vegetable lasagna with my "famous" salad and homemade bread that we buttered and toasted in the oven. I'll have to share what I do for my salad one day. It's super easy, but I love it and eat it almost every night. :)

Stay tuned and on Thursday I'll be sharing one of my "kitchen helpers!" :)