Friday, July 29, 2011

5 Meals in 1 Hour - Part 1

I came across a blog last week that caught my eye:

"Make 5 Dinners in ONE Hour"  

Yes, please!  The author of this blog, Michelle, describes the plan she created to make 5 dinners cooking only once a week.  She says, "I don't miss the greasy drive-thru meals at all."  Sounds like something I could use in my quest to eliminate fast food from our weekly routine.  Michelle describes her plan:
The Make 5 monthly menu plan can help you make all 5 dinners for the week in just ONE hour. All the menu plans have family friendly meals that feed 4-6 people and no, they are not all casseroles. :) 
The meals are fresh, not frozen. They keep in your refrigerator until ready to heat and eat.    
Michelle offers a free sample menu so you can try it before you buy it.  I'll take one of those!  Here is what she gives you:
  • A shopping list of what you will need for the week's menu.  It is organized in sections:  frozen, pantry, produce, dairy/meat, etc.  Cross off what you already have on hand before you go shopping.
  • A detailed prep list of what you should have out and ready for your ONE hour assembly session.  This list includes food, bowls, and other cooking utensils.
  • Instructions and instructions for assembly and storage, and for cooking.

I spent this week testing Michelle's plan.  What I love about 5 Dinners 1 Hour:
Affordable. 3 months worth of menus for $15.   
Detailed.  The plan's lists and instructions are quite complete. 
Friendly Food.  The meals in the sample menu were foods my family likes.  Now my family is not super-picky, but the meals weren't exotic and didn't include gourmet ingredients. 
Flexible.  I can substitute my own quick meals.  My sample menu had a variety of cooking methods - crock pot, oven bake, salad/sandwiches - so I can choose which type of meal fits that day's schedule.  

I'm looking forward to finishing up my week using the menu plan.  Be looking for a follow up post with my final review of "Make 5 Dinners in ONE Hour".

Have you used a meal plan similar to this?  Share your reviews!

(You can read Part 2 here.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Freezer Essential # 1 - Browned Ground Beef or Turkey

Secret To My Sanity:  
Having ground beef already cooked 
and waiting in the freezer.

Purchase ground beef in bulk,
such as the 5lb rolls commonly seen in the store.  

Brown 5lbs at a time in a large pot.  

Divide into 5 quart-size freezer bags.  

Thaws quickly and makes meals
~ spaghetti ~ tacos ~ Hamburger Helper ~ sloppy joes ~
a snap!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

PB and Celery, To-Go

I came across this idea for a no-mess travel snack at "Choose To Thrive".

While it might be a no-mess eating scenario, I'm pretty sure I would make a mess getting that peanut butter into the bottom of the jar.  But it does look like a good way to use the last of the peanut butter.  

Here's a link to Nike's original blog post with more less-mess snack ideas:  Thrive: Summer Road Trip #1: Car Snacks.

Honestly, though, I think these are too much work for me.  But maybe that's because I have older kids.  But I'm interested in hearing if you use any of Nike's ideas and how it worked for you.

Do you have any snack hacks?  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pancake Dinner

My kids will tell you I never made pancakes.  Unless you count the frozen ones you pop in the microwave for a minute.  Well, the pancake companies came up with a nifty marketing piece that I absolutely adore:

pancake mix in a jug

Can you hear the angels singing?!  This little jug makes all the difference in the world.  Just add water, shake, and pour.  No mess!  No measuring flour!  No batter dripping from the ladle onto the counter and stove!

We now have "breakfast for dinner" frequently.  I add chocolate chips to some of the pancakes.  Blueberries to some (if they are on hand).  I serve fruit and whipped cream to discourage syrup consumption.  Sometimes we go all out and include scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage.

Happy flipping!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Confessions of a Fast Food Mom

Confession Time:
I feed my kids fast food.  Often.  At my worst point, it was several times a week.

As mom to 2 teenagers and wife to a husband who is rarely home for dinner, we succumbed to the lure of  drive-thru meals.  The kids asked for it.  I obliged.  I assuaged my guilt by focusing on the illusion of "more time for family".  Everyone was happy.  The only one complaining was the budget.

I have never been one to cook “from scratch”.  Maybe it’s the requirement of planning ahead.  Maybe it was feeling like I’m stuck in a kitchen all hour or two of labor inhaled in 10 minutes (or worse, grudgingly consumed amid a chorus of complaints).  Maybe it's plain lack of ability.  Most likely it's a combination of all these things.

I love, love, love a quick meal, but we were all getting tired of spaghetti and Hamburger Helper.  So I started looking for shortcuts to a home-cooked meal.  

Quick. Swift. Speedy Gonzales.
The recipes I use are focused on ease and speed:  how quick can I get in and out of the kitchen and to the table.  Sometimes I get a flash of inspiration and find ways to add flavor and make it taste gourmet.  I use a lot of convenience items, so it's not always the cheapest way to cook. Some recipes may not be the healthiest either, but I'm sure whatever I'm serving up during the course of the week is a better alternative to McD's.

The Journey
We're still weaning ourselves from fast food... two nights a week... one night a week.  I wonder, does Subway count?  What about Pizza?  I'm okay with where I am on the road to recovery, as long as I keep moving forward.  This blog is about our journey to freedom from fast food dependency and welcoming other dinner-challenged families we meet along the way. Accountability, food, fun.... What more could you ask for?  Join us in our journey!

PS Who Doesn't Love A Good Hack?
Another Confession:  I'm not an obsessive housekeeper.  I know what you're thinking.
"She doesn't cook.
She doesn't clean.
What does she do?"  
Trying to keep the house orderly while living life is like trying to fix a car while it's rolling down the street.  So you gotta love tips, shortcuts, and hacks to cleaning and organization.  Stayed tuned for some great ideas.