Kitchen Tips

Meal Planning 101

Hello there my lovely followers! It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. Okay, more like 15 months. That is just far too long but as you can imagine, life happens. First and foremost, I wanted to let you know I am in fact alive and well. I have been busy working full time managing a design studio, doing lots of freelance design work, carting my son around to sports which he does about 10 months out of the year, and squeezing in as much family time as I can during our down time.

But here I am, dealing with all the craziness that has come along with the COVID-19 pandemic. I am currently safe in my home with my family. My husband and I are both thankfully still working (from home), and trying to also juggle the schooling of our 10-year-old son. With so many events and youth sports cancelled, I find myself with more free time than I ever remember having. (At least since becoming a mom.) I am trying to make the best of it and just enjoying playing games with my family, doing puzzles, binge watching shows, finally finding the time again to get back to running a few days a week, sitting down and having at least two meals a day with my family, and in all that, trying to carve out a little extra time to get back to blogging. I am determined to let some good come out of all of this.

I absolutely love sharing recipes with all of you, so much so that I am literally getting teary as I am trying to post this. They are happy tears though. I hope that I can get you at least an email a week to bring a little sunshine your way.

So, what better post to come back with than, how on earth I manage my busy schedule and getting meals on the table. It is all about meal planning! It is the only way I can get through the week. When people ask me how I manage to cook as much as I do, I tell them it is all about meal planning. It seems like such a simple task but I realize so many people don’t even know where to begin. So, consider this my beginners guide to meal planning.

I am going to share with you my tips, tricks, and even a handy shopping list you can print and use at home. This is the same one I use myself every week. I have it organized by categories that follow the flow of most grocery stores. I absolutely hate it when I feel like a pin ball at the grocery store bouncing back and forth from one end of the store to the other. Organization and order is key!

It has been about four years of me using this list and I noticed that as soon as I started spending the 30 minutes doing my meal planning each weekend I was saving so much money by not eating out as often and not buying things I didn’t need, I reduced our wasted food to almost nothing, and best of all, eliminated so much extra stress! It is an easy routine that takes some time to adopt but so worth it once you get into the groove.

Meal Planning Grocery List

MY TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MEAL PLANNING

  • Print out several of my shopping lists at once. I do about 10 at a time. You probably won’t be as consistent if you are only printing out one at a time. If they are nearby and ready to go, you are more likely to use them.
  • If you find yourself running low on or finishing off any items, add that to the shopping list throughout the week. For example, if my husband finishes off the oregano, he just writes it on the shopping list clipped to the fridge. This helps keep you stocked on the essentials and you aren’t trying to rack your brain trying to remember what it was you finished off earlier in the week when you do go to sit down and write out your list.
  • When you are ready to do your planning for the week, look at your calendar and write in your evening commitments so you know what you need to plan around. If you have to work late, or your child has a game, plan to do quick and easy dinners those nights or maybe even takeout.
  • Clean out your fridge each weekend of anything that has gone bad or you know you won’t use. It is good to know what you do have in there.
  • Do a quick inventory of what you have that you need to use. For example, if I have half a bag of shredded cabbage or a handful of tortillas from a few days ago that I know will go bad if I don’t use it soon, I try to plan a meal around that early in the week. This helps you cut down on waste and can save you money.
  • When doing your planning, look at what recipes take common ingredients. For example, last Sunday I wanted to make pork tacos for dinner and those took cotija cheese, chopped red onions, and sliced jalapeños. I decided to make juevos rancheros for breakfast that day since they shared so many of the same ingredients. I was able to prep and chop all my ingredients for dinner while I was doing it for breakfast so come dinner time, I already had all my ingredients ready to go and I got two meals out of those ingredients.
  • Use leftover ingredients from one meal as part of the next one. I will cook twice as much broccoli as I need for a dinner, and then make a broccoli and egg quiche the next day or grill extra chicken for dinner on Sunday, to go on my salads for lunch throughout the week.
  • Plan your meals around seasonal produce. You will get the best quality ingredients and the best prices.
  • Make a shopping list every weekend for the week ahead. Once you have all your meals planned for the week, start filling in the bottom portion with what grocery items you need to make them. Having an organized and written shopping list keeps you on track at the grocery store. You are more likely to buy items you don’t need and spend more money if you go to the store and just try and wing it. Plus, you then only need to make one trip to the store a week.
  • Keep your dinner menu for the week on the fridge and check it each day. That way you remember if you need to defrost any meat, get anything marinated, or load up the crock pot before leaving for the day.

Meal Planning Dinner Menu

 

PREPPING FOR THE WEEK

  • Chopping and slicing can quickly become one of the most time-consuming parts of any meal. If you have a busy week ahead, consider washing and prepping all your produce on Sunday. I will wash and chop broccoli, onions, peppers, zucchini, pretty much any veggie ahead of time and then just put them in Ziploc bags in the produce drawer of the fridge.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for a marinade, combine all your marinade ingredients in a mason jar ahead of time. Before you leave for work in the morning just pour the marinade into a Ziploc bag with the meat.
  • If you are making a crockpot meal that calls for seasoning and liquid ingredients, combine all those together in a Tupperware or mason jar over the weekend or the night before so that in the morning you just have to dump it over the meat into the crockpot. I do not want to be spending my morning trying to open cans and measure seasonings when I am already running late for work.


OTHER TID BITS

  • Make a double batch of any of your recipes that freeze well. One for now and one for later. My enchiladas freeze awesome! I will make a triple batch, eat one batch fresh and freeze two more. It isn’t that much more work to just double a recipe if you are already taking the time to make it once. Then later on you have a quick dinner that you can just toss in the oven. Soups, lasagna, and baked pasta casseroles also freeze great.
  • Keep foil baking dishes on hand. They are great for your freezer meals! I love the 8” x 8” square foil dishes. They hold 4 enchiladas perfectly and slide right into a gallon Ziploc bag.
  • Purchase meat in bulk and separate into meal size portions. Huge money saver!
  • Invest in a FoodSaver so you can package items in a way that allows them to last a long time.
Grocery List Thumbnail
Click on the above image to save a printable pdf of my shopping list.

 

Is there anything I missed or do you have any advice? I always love hearing ideas from other people.  Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Dinners

Recipe—Jalapeño Popper Chicken

Today is the 5th and final day of my hot & spicy week! My jalapeño plant has been giving me more peppers than I know what to do with so this week I will be featuring five different jalapeño based recipes. I hope you enjoy each and every one! 

One of my all time favorite appetizers has got to be jalapeño poppers. I pretty much like anything with jalapeños but when you combine them with cream cheese and cheddar, oh my, it is good! This dinner recipe combines this awesome appetizer with a meaty chicken breast that ends up being so moist and tender. For this recipe I used crushed Ritz because I really like the crunchy buttery exterior but I really want to try it with Cheez-Its instead next time. I think that would be pretty darn tasty giving it that extra layer of cheesy crispiness.

Note: As much as I like my fried chicken this recipe has you bake it. If you aren’t concerned about cutting the extra calories you can certainly fry it up and then finish it in the oven for an even crispier exterior.

INGREDIENTS
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 jalapeños, deseeded and chopped
1/4 c cream cheese, softened
1/2 c cheddar, shredded
1 egg
1 1/2 c crushed Ritz crackers

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, cheddar, and peppers.
  • Using a small sharp knife carefully cut a pocket into the side of the thickest part of the chicken breasts.
  • Using your fingers work the cream cheese filling inside each breasts until they are packed full.
  • Secure the opening in each breast with a toothpick
  • Using a shallow bowl beat the egg.
  • Dip the chicken pieces into the egg and then the crushed crackers making sure to cover the chicken completely.
  • Place the chicken breasts in a greased baking dish.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. The cheese filling will be very hot!

Dinners

Recipe—Shrimp Tacos

Seafood and Mexican are a match made in heaven. Throw in a margarita or Corona with lime and I am in heaven! For how delicious this recipe is you would think it would take longer to make, but that is not the case. It is relatively easy and comes together very quickly. The shrimp are so good that when I am on a low-carb diet I just eat a bowl of the shrimp with cheese and avocado. This meal is light, refreshing, and yummy in my tummy. Add my mango salsa and it’s a flavor explosion. I hope you enjoy the tacos as much as my family does. Buen provecho!

Note: This recipe is written for tacos but sometimes I use large tortillas filled with black beans and rice for some awesome burritos.

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil
1 c white onion, chopped
2–3 serrano chilies, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
kosher salt
tortillas, warmed
2 limes

SOME FABULOUS GARNISHES
shredded  pepper jack cheese
guacamole or sliced avocado
sour cream
mango salsa (see recipe below)
pico de gallo

STEPS

  • Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat.
  • Add onions and chiles and cook stirring frequently until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove vegetables from heat and place in a small dish to the side.
  • Melt butter in the frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add shrimp to pan and cook until bright pink and no longer translucent. (Cooking time will vary based on the size of your shrimp. Cut to test and be sure they are cooked in the middle.)
  • Return cooked vegetables to your pan and stir in with shrimp.
  • Add cilantro, salt, and the juice from one lime.
  • Put shrimp into the tortillas and serve with a slice of lime on the side.

See my mango salsa recipe here for a great pairing with these tacos:
https://divadicucina.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/recipe-mango-salsa/