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.

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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! :)

Happy New Year!

I hope everybody is having a great New Year so far! James and I are. We are trying to start the new year right and build some great habits. :)

I have missed the blogging world and wanted to dive back in posting so many times, but the past few months have been tough! I don't want to complain, but James and I definitely stayed busy and then of course the holidays happened. :) We loved spending some extra time with our families and having a chance to slow down a little for that.

I'm trying to start this year by putting less on my plate (that is unnecessary) and re-focus. I want to make a priority of things that have to get done, while still making time for the things that we enjoy. Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles with finding balance?

I try not to put it all out there, because I like to keep things positive, but there were days in 2016 that I thought, "I have done many things this month (due to necessity), but don't feel I have done any of them well!" That is hard to swallow after a busy, full month, haha!

So anyway, all that to say I have been trying to do things differently in 2017 and work on my time management skills. :)

Would you like to hear about my day today? Great, because I was going to share it anyway. ;)

With work during the week, I sadly don't get much more done than maintenance (usually) so the weekend is my time to catch up on housework, organizing and laundry. So my Sunday ended up being a busy one, but it feels good to get things done!

I worked on my meal planning for February and making my grocery lists. I had to go to the store today to grab everything for this week's meal plan so I was also double checking my stock in the pantry and refrigerator. I'm going to be talking more about meal planning later this week so stay tuned for that. It has been such a huge help for me in 2017!

I was behind on ironing and I'm sure my husband does not want to go to work with wrinkled slacks and shirts so.... 2+2 = ironing.

Back from the store and replenishing my food bowls. :)

Sometimes I am amazed that 2 people can create so much laundry! But it has to be done and I don't really mind the job. :) I also decluttered the laundry room some while I was at it.

While I was working in the laundry room I went on a labeling spree. This was needing to be done for a while.

It's a good thing this bin was full of cloths because I had some dusting and mopping to do today. I had been wanting to get to it all this week, but ended up not having time after work.

I was able to check some things off my chore chart after my cleaning spree! That felt nice. :)

They reside here in the kitchen where I can keep up with them easily. I am a paper person in this digital age - it just helps me keep track of things better than relying on the ol' noggin.

The easiest job on my list today was cleaning the microwave. Just a few minutes time and it was looking so much better. I always just heat up a small container with half water, half vinegar for a few minutes and then wipe it all down with a microfiber cloth. Good as new! Ignore the burn mark in the back of my microwave....

I also cleaned the bathrooms, but I didn't take a picture of that, haha. Maybe I should have?

It was time to start cooking dinner after all the cleaning.

On the meal plan for dinner was blackened tilapia, dutch oven potatoes and zucchini. I started by prepping my potatoes and tossing them in the dutch oven with butter, salt and pepper.

Then you gotta put the lid on so the steam helps them cook. :)

James grabbed the camera and took this picture of me cooking.

I never see myself from the back. So that's what my hair looks like from the back!

Ready for the oven!

And all done! Ready to eat.

And now I'm perched in this spot on the couch with some hot tea while I work on a baby shower I'm helping with in February. :)

I hope you all had a lovely weekend! Talk to you later this week. :)

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!

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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!