Tag Archive for menu planning

My Menu Planning has Gone Haywire

Menu planning has been a part of  my weekly “to-do’s” for a long, long time.  It makes the grocery shopping easier, fewer trips to the store, and if I have a good reserve of menu items in the pantry and freezer it makes it much easier on my brain to get the meals on the table day in and day out.

However, lately the menu planning structure has not been working all that well in my Domestic Engineering endeavors.  Do you get into cooking ruts? Can’t figure out what to make for dinner? Tired of going to the grocery store? How do you pull yourself out of it?

Our dinner time can be quirky at The Spindle Ranch. Sometimes I’m home by myself,  many times there are just two of us for dinner. If everyone’s home for dinner I’m cooking for 4. If a friend or family member stops by we can have 5 or 6.  Crazy menu planning right? Has your household dinner-time ever run like this?

Not knowing how many people to cook for on any given night can boggle the brain.  It makes for a wacky menu plan. Will I cook too much food, or too little food?  I have my arsenal of weekly “go to” recipes that can handle a crowd or just a few people. My second dilemma arises when I feel like I can’t think of anything new I’d like to try, or my recipe arsenal feels tired and boring. I really do not like to use going out to eat as part of my menu planning for the week. I would much rather be at home sitting around the dining room table having a great meal and good conversation.

My oldest daughter, Naomi totally amazes me with her menu planning.  Every weekend she is trying new recipes, and giving us her pictorial reviews on our family Facebook page. I really have to draw some inspiration from her, and just dive in and try new recipes.  If anyone needs me I will be perusing Pinterest, or maybe The Tasty Kitchen to seek out new recipes for my arsenal of goods.

If your menu planning’s been a little wacky lately can you let me know how you pull yourself up out of the rut?  How do you find that little spark that entices you to try to cook something new and / or different?  I’ll be here waiting to hear from everyone.


The Grocery Paradigm Shift

grocery picFor many, many years our grocery budget always seemed so out of control.  Managing meals and buying groceries for a houseful was always a daunting but necessary task. Trying to keep the grocery budget under control and being able to  provide good meals for everyone was part of my weekly life mission for such a long time.

Now,  we fast forward to only one of our twenty-something’s left in the house with us.  Being minus a few bodies to feed is beginning to open up a whole,  new grocery shopping world.  This is a big deal for us because we had been so used to feeding an army for so, so long.  Particularly when the boys got to their teen years- Yikes!!

Pre-empty nesting,  lots and lots of ground beef or ground turkey was purchased.  Lately we have been eating a lot more steak, of the New York strip variety!!  Travel Man gets home from a trip and he likes to grill.  So of course we run over to the store for a couple of steaks.

Also, our hot dog menu has changed.  Pre-empty nesting,  I would only buy whatever hot dogs were on sale.  ( I’m on a budget here people). Now, since there are a few less bodies to feed I only buy Hebrew hot dogs.  These hot dogs used to be a “special ” treat for us because they are a little more expensive when you are feeding an army and trying to keep on a budget.  Do you realize how many hot dogs a family of seven can eat in one sitting?  The other reason we only buy Hebrews now  is that it is the only hot dog Travel Man will eat.  He has been working in the hot dog manufacturing plants.  Only all beef hot dogs  in our house.

We have also discovered that everything, and I do mean everything is better with butter.  For such a long time we bought the ginormous tubs of margarine at SAMs Club.  Nowadays we are buying the little tubs of butter, and I am cooking with butter all of the time.  Yum, yum so much more flavor in the food when you cook with butter.

At the rate we are going with buying ourselves the goodies we like,  the budget for groceries may not be dwindling anytime soon!!  Travel Man actually brought this to my attention in the past few days.

The one thing we are looking forward to is switching over to organic milk.  This is a silly little thing, and we would  probably be ok taking that plunge now.  But we do not want to go whole hog in our first month of The Great Grocery Shift.  We do need to leave a few food treats until the next month or so.  We should have some delayed gratification right?

These are just some simple, little changes with the groceries.  However,  they are noticeable and distinct changes.  I suppose for me because it is signaling a change in the times in our home.   A change of routine for sure, and a definitive change of lifestyle.  Kind of like a rite of passage.  We have made it  through the child-rearing years, and are coming full circle into a time all our own.

Re-Discovering My Love of Cooking

If you are a regular follower of my blog you know that last year I quit my full-time job and became a full-time Domestic Goddess, as my husband likes to call me.  Being home full-time has given men the freedom to do lots and lots and lots of cooking.  I have always liked being in the kitchen and cooking for my family.  But having the time to try new recipes, and being diligent about menu planning can become a difficult routine to follow when you are working full-time and juggling your job and family/household needs.

You know when you are a working full-time and seeing to the needs of your family I think you get into a cooking “rut”.  Even when you do your menu planning it’s easy to get into a rut and just make the same dinners week after week.  I think it is kind of like “comfort foods”.  You have this set catalog of recipes that you are familiar with and “comfortable” preparing for your family.  This mindset alone made it difficult for me to say to myself that I should try something new.

Here’s my list of what I would call my “staple” dinners when I was in the working world:


Sloppy Joes

Chicken Patties & Mac-n-cheese

Baked Chicken & Potatoes

Toasted Cheese Sammies & Soup

Brats & some kind of potatoes

Taco/Nacho Nite

Chicken Stir-Fry & Rice

Hot Dogs or Hamburgers on the grill with chips, etc.

Friday Nite Pizza Night- Usually from Little Caesar’s

So, I would rotate these meals, and Friday would be pizza night or take-out night, and then the rotation would start over again.  And just to be clear this list is just an example of the cooking rut I found myself in.  But, I did not really discover that fact until I stopped working.  That was an eye-opener for me.  I have always loved cooking, but it just became monotonous and routine for me.  It was comfortable, and not stressful for me that way.

But now, being the new and improved “Domestic Goddess” that I am, I am able to love trying new recipes, and being way more adventurous with my cooking.  And it is so much fun discovering new recipes that the family likes.  It becomes fun to “rate the recipe”.  Kind of a gauge of how everyone liked the recipe and would I make it again. 

Some great resources that I have found online and like for new recipe ideas are; The Pioneer Woman, All Recipes, and Cooks.com   Each of these sites has their own unique advantages.  Any of the Pioneer Woman recipes have always been delicious.  I was just telling the kids the other night that I don’t think there is a recipe that I have tried that we did not like.  The All Recipe, and Cooks.com sites are very practical and easy to follow.  They both have good search tools, ad you can really find a recipe for anything.

So, I am now pleased to report that my new and improved two-week menu plan would look something like this:

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Italian Sausage & Mushrooms – make a double batch of sauce and use the leftovers to make lasagna.   This was an amazing recipe: Pioneer Woman’s Best Lasagna Ever .  I will never buy the Stouffer’s frozen variety again!

Jambalaya with Summer sausage, grilled onions and peppers, and rice of course.  This is my daughter Naomi’s creation and it’s delicious.

Homemade pizza in the oven or on the grill when Travel Man is home.  Here’s a link to the recipe I now use for my homemade pizza sauce.

Beef Stew in the crock pot with Bisquik cheese biscuits.  This recipe is from the Fix It and Forget Cookbook.  See the details below.

Chicken Breast in the crock pot seasoned with taco seasoning to make shredded chicken for tacos, nachos, fajitas,etc.  Another creation from daughter, Naomi.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese , Pioneer Woman style, and this could be a meal all by itself.  We usually have it with some sort of baked chicken.

Broccoli Cheese Soup – another one of my Pioneer Woman all time faves!!

Turkey Tetrazzini – This was a favorite with the leftover turkey meat at holiday time.

Chicken Tacos that were pan-fried in the shell – Totally yummy.

What a turn-around from my previous “in a rut” menu.  And I also make a lot more salads to go with the dinners than I ever did. 

You can tell that I have truly enjoyed the Pioneer Woman recipes.  The recipes are nothing complicated, but always packed with great flavor.  And my favorite all time book for crock pot recipes is the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.

This book is jammed packed with great recipes for soups, main dishes, dips, etc.  I have used this one over and over again with great success.

So if you feel like you’re in a cooking “rut” jump on the internet, or go through your old cookbooks and find a new recipe.  Try it out on the weekend or on your day off when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen.  Happy cooking everyone!

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