Meal Planning Made Easy

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Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Are you haunted by the eternal question, “What’s for dinner?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. But there are a few simple things you can do to make your dinner planning effortless or at least as close to effortless as it can get.

The first thing that you’ll want to do is take an inventory of what you currently have in your kitchen, food wise. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but you do want to take a little bit of time doing this. Once you’ve done this once or twice it won’t take long at all. This actually accomplishes a few things. You’ll find out what has been hiding in the cupboards, throw out old or expired foods and gets what’s left organized. With an inventory list you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you have on hand that you can use. Why spend more money buying food if you don’t have to.

Now that you have your inventory in hand you’re ready to write down your family’s favorite meals. Once you have those family go to favorites, then add some that you would like to try out. This is your opportunity to introduce your family to new foods and flavors. This also gives you a chance to try something new in the kitchen. We all fall into the rut of making the same thing on the same nights because it’s easy. So let’s shake it up and go a little wild. I like to throw in a new meal every week that we’ve never had before. That way you’re introducing something new without your family feeling like test subjects. Making dinner doesn’t have to be a painful experience.

Let’s get a calendar. I print off a blank calendar from the internet and make several copies. I put the meal calendar on the refrigerator so the family can see what’s planned for dinner. And to be honest so I can remember what I planned to make. With your inventory list and family favorites in hand write down what you would like to make for each day. Remember to include the entree and sides. As you are deciding each days menu items start your grocery list. This will insure you don’t forget anything and it will save you money at the same time.

When deciding what to make for dinner each night there are a few things to keep in mind.
How much time do you have to prepare the meal?
What time will you be getting home?
What activities do you or your family have scheduled for that night?

You can have a perfectly planned out menu but you only have thirty minutes to prepare your meal and a recipe that takes an hour, that won’t help at all.

One thing I have found that makes my dinner preparation easier is making meals that freeze well. I’ll make a double batch, one for tonight, one for another. I have a few go to recipes but I’m always on the lookout for more.

Another great time saver is at night before going to bed is to pull out the next days meal ingredients. For example take the ground meat or chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw.

Below you’ll find one of my favorite make one for tonight and freeze one for another recipe. Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells.

Every Friday starting February 7th I will post a five day meal plan for the entirety of February. This will give you complete meals, with recipes, to get you on your way to planning your family meals.

Until next time.

Remember to follow me on Instagram @beinglaurakmarshall

20200204_1711013446437151933602511.jpg
Menu Planning recipes, grocery list and meal calendar

Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Prep Time 20 minutes Bake Time 40 minutes
Makes 2 8-inch baking pans

16 Jumbo dried pasta shells, prepared according to package
1 pound ground beef
1 package or (1.25 oz) taco seasoning
1 cup water
1 can (16oz) refried beans
1 cup (8 oz) shredded cheese
1 jar (16 oz) salsa divided
Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Cook beef in large skillet until brown, drain. Add seasoning mix and water. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Add beans and ¾ cup cheese to meat, mix well.

Spread ¼ cup salsa over bottom of both baking pans.

Fill pasta shells with beef mixture, place eight shells in each pan, filled side up

Spoon remaining salsa over the shells.

To bake unfrozen shells – Cover baking pan with foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. (My family likes cheese so I add extra cheese)

Serve with rice, salad, or chips and guacamole.

If Freezing – allow shells to cool in the refrigerator before covering the pan with plastic wrap, then over wrap with foil. Label and freeze for up to two months.

To bake frozen shells – Place baking pan in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Preheat the oven to 375. Remove plastic wrap and foil. Recover with fresh foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

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