Planning Life- One Week at a Time

Indian Summer

Ah bliss! A week after declaring cool weather it’s going to 80 today. So tonight is a chance to use the grill. Maybe one of the last. I’ve mentioned before my DH doesn’t like fish or seafood. I’m not normally into cooking two meals but for tonight I will grill two different proteins. The effort to do so is minimal. DH will have a steak and I will have salmon or whatever looks good at the fish counter today. I’ll put the steak on a few minutes earlier and just have to watch my timing.

Last week the slower cooker was a huge success. I’m using it twice this week. First I have parent night at school on Tuesday and that will be a life saver. I’m making a beef barley soup and as an easy side frozen rolls or bread that can be baked in the oven. I’m also going to use it for a pork chop dish that has apple cider in it. So even though it’s warm today. The rest of the week I have fall food on my mind.

Monday- Grilled Steak and Fish, Fries, and Green Beans

Tuesday- Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup with bread

Wednesday- Orange Chicken, Rice, and Peas

Thursday- Homemade Soup (no school!)

Friday- Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pork Chops over Egg Noodles, Veggies and Dip

Saturday- Away

Sunday- Leftovers or Brinner

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

1lb Stew Meat cut into small cubes

1 onion diced

2 handfuls of baby carrots chopped

2 ribs of celery chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic smashed

1 bay leaf

1 cup of pearled barley

6 cups of liquid (beef or chicken stock, water, some beer)

1 beef stock concentrate or bouillon

salt and pepper

Place everything in the stoneware of your slow cooker. Stir. Set the timer to 8 hours on low.

other items you can add to this soup, mushrooms, potatoes, parsnips, hard squash like acorn, worcestershire sauce.

Update:This was so yummy, even better leftover, I served it with sourdough rolls. For the liquid I did 5 cups of chicken broth and one cup of beer. The beer flavor was a bit sharp so next time I’ll use only 1/2 a cup.


Cool Down

There has been a noticeable chill in the air most mornings here in the northeast. Sweat shirts for the twins every morning and pants for me for work. Summer clothes have pretty much been packed away. And with this weather cravings for soups and stews have begun. I have always wished I could have dinner waiting for me when I got home from work but my slow cooker has never worked right. It was too big (6 quarts) and too hot. Stew would burn to the sides have 4-5 hours on low! I’d have to soak the crock and scrub it with lots of force to clean. I was baffled, was I doing something wrong? After some research it seemed I wasn’t the only one with this problem with that brand. So I bought a new one, to replace my too large too hot slow cooker. I got a 3.5 quart, with settings, High, Low, Simmer, Keep Warm and a timer.

I bought it on Sunday cleaned it and on Monday night filled the crock with 1.5 lbs Chuck beef cubed, 3 russet potatoes peeled and cubed, about a cup of baby carrots cut in 3rds, half an onion diced. One can tomato soup, 3/4 of that can chicken broth, one Knorr beef stock pack, some black pepper and herbs. I put it in the refrigerator over night. Before leaving for work at 6:30am I put it the unit set it to low for 8 hours.

At dinner that night I portioned the stew out into bowls and the meat was falling apart tender but not dry. The sauce was bread dipping delicious. Kids and DH enjoyed it! I knew DH would, this is one of his favorite meals since I first made for him in college.

Only two cons I saw were the outside of the pot gets very hot. So I need to keep it far back from small hands. And the potatoes near the top were a bit crunchy so next time when I get home from school I’ll give it a stir and while it sits on the keep warm setting the last few hours they should be good.

Friday I’m going to try sauce with meatballs. And here is our week.

Sunday- Whole Chicken in the dutch oven (from the recipe a Bird in the Oven)

Monday- Chicken Cashew Casserole made from leftover chicken, cream of chicken soup, some veggies, bread crumb topping, raw Broccoli spears with ranch
Tuesday- Slow Cooker Beef Stew with bread

Wednesday- Take Out! (Modern Family premiere at home date with DH)

Thursday- Cheese Steaks, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and mozz cheese

Friday- Slow Cooker Red Sauce with Meatballs over Pasta & Salad

Saturday- Away

Sunday- Leftovers, Mini frozen quiches, and pizza bagels

Back to school, back to life, back to reality. After a blissful of summer of relax and play it’s back to work. There is some time to play but planning out my week is still key to keeping my stress level down. Besides planning our dinners I also lay out clothes for the twins on Sunday nights. Pack my lunch and layout my clothes every night before bed. I’m not a morning person and leaving tasks to be done half asleep at 6:30am isn’t a good thing. I wind up without a fork, forget my water bottle, etc.

So here I am planing our meals again. I thought a little background on how I plan our meals might be helpful. The day I’m going to food shop, often Sunday, I take out a notebook I use for shopping lists and coupons. On a fresh page I list the next 5-7days of the week. I then think about that week. What is going? What nights is my husband working? Dentist appointment? Meeting at school? I make a few notes. Then I look at the sales flyer. Whole chickens are on sale, okay that’s good two meals out of that. And then I fill in. Here is this week.

Monday- Food shop, DH picks up the kids, Steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, salad (strip steaks on sale)

Tuesday- Kids are getting flu shots, running errands as a family, Dinner Out

Wednesday- DH works, Nacho Night!!! All the toppings, salsa, black beans, peppers, onions, cheese, tomatoes, avocados. We have a large toaster oven so pile it all on non-stick foil, and toast it up. (Tortilla chips were BOGO this week and I had a coupon!)

Thursday- DH works, Pasta with Creamy Veggie Sauce (recipe to come) huge hit, spinach is pureed in the cream sauce and the kids eat it up.

Friday- DH away, just the twins and I, Swai fish, rice, zucchini. I’ll make the Swai in a pan with some bread crumbs, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon. DH doesn’t eat fish but the twins and I do so this was the perfect night to plan it. I have the fish frozen so Thursday night I’ll move it to the refrigerator

Saturday- DH still away, Brinner, breakfast for dinner, most likely eggs, toast, and fruit


Easy Street

Where did this school year go? This is my last full week of classes and we are leading into a weekend away. I’m going to go easy on myself and cook some tasty but simple meals. Enjoy!

Sunday- London broil marinated and slow grilled with red potato salad, and veggies mix.

Monday- Grilled chicken lettuce wraps with Asian peanut dipping sauce and veggie slaw (YUM- will post the recipe and photos

Tuesday- BBQ flavored pot roast with corn on the cob and zucchini (I’ll slow cook the pot roast Monday)

Wednesday- Whole Chicken, I might beer can it on the grill, with any leftover sides

Thursday- Swai fillets pan seared in lemon and olive oil, rice, and peas

Friday- Heading away for the weekend, we’ll grab a pizza


This week I have a challenge in front of me. My husband’s (DH) work schedule will require some extra creativity and planning to make my life easier. So the food isn’t anything special or new. This week is packed with old standbys and make aheads. I’m going to break down each night and explain why we are eating that then. I do this often, I plan certain meals for certain nights to insure a good flow of variety but also ease.

Sunday- Grilled Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, and Broccoli- DH is working this night and he leaves around 6:30pm. Steak is his favorite meal and since this is his dinner leading into the last 12 hour shift this weekend I’m cooking him a treat. He will be home and playing with twins while I cook allowing me to make something that needs a decent level of attention. Dinner will be on the table in a bout 30 minutes.

Monday- Beef Stew (see A Tale of 2 Stews in February)- since it’s been rainy a chilly here this wintery dish will good over well and it tastes better the next day. In fact I have it cooking as I type this on Sunday. DH accepted some overtime hours Monday night and he needs to leave at 5:30. Having a heat and eat dinner will be ideal.

Tuesday- Baked (or grilled if the weather clears) Chicken Legs and Thighs, Homestyle Mac and Cheese, and a Veggie- DH will be off work this evening for the first time in 4 days. Planning something that requires some time and energy makes sense for Tuesday. I will also cook almost double the chicken I need for Wednesday good thing it was .99 cents a pound this week.

Wednesday- Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas- DH will away over night for work. Dinner will be just me and the kids. The chicken will be already cooked and making a quesadilla takes about the same attention and time as a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, add a few minutes if I chop up some peppers and onions in there.

Thursday- Frozen Pizza- Night 2 of DH away. Yup totally selling out to the “it’s not delivery” people.

Friday- Cheese Burger and Sweet Potato Fries- DH will be off work, home, and in charge of picking up the kids. I’m cashing in my mother’s day massage gift certificate after work and by the time I get home I’ll be short on both time and desire to cook. So burgers it is! I bought an unripened avocado Sunday to use on them. My kids love avocado.

And now my head is spinning.

The End is Near

I’m about a month from the end of classes at school and I have been debating if I will continue to meal plan over the summer. We are still on a schedule but it’s a whole different kind of focus. I’m sure I’ll still rough plan for my shopping trips.

On top of meal planning I have been couponing as well. It’s fun and addictive to see the total on my shopping bill go down. Today was one of my best. I saved $70.74 (32% of my bill) at my favorite supermarket. That was a combo of store sales an coupons. It included a free back of juice boxes, laundry detergent for $1.50, and six pizza dough rounds for $6. Plus my store does gas rewards. I’ve gotten up to over $1 per gallon.

Here is what will be on our table this week:

Sunday- Roast Chicken (the bird in the oven recipe) with veggies

Monday- Leftover Chicken shredded and made into wraps with cole slaw, lettuce, carrots, and cheese and spaghetti squash! Big favorite!

Tuesday- Cheese Burgers with potato salad (sides like potato and pasta salad are a good place to hide veggies, shred carrots, cucumbers, peppers, all kinds of things, I love to add shelled soy beans)

Wednesday- Something with chicken cutlets, green beans and rice. The weather is calling for a lot of rain, if it’s nice I’ll grill them, if it’s raining I’ll pan fry them in a lemon or orange sauce.

Thursday- Pasta in a light cream sauce with zucchini and peas

Friday- Take Out

At last some decent weather and I can fire up the grill! Throughout the spring and summer I use it as much as I can. I hate to turn the oven on in hot weather. I’m using it 5 nights this week. All the meals can be made indoors if needed.

Sunday- BBQ Chicken with cucumber salad and corn on the cob

Monday- Ham and Turkey Sandwiches with salad

Tuesday- Country style grilled spareribs and pasta salad

Wednesday- Grilled Chicken Fajitas with veggies, salsa, and avocado

Thursday- Cheese burgers and fries

Friday- Pasta in a light sundried tomato cream sauce and caesar salad

Saturday- Pork Loin with mashed potatoes and snap peas

Sunday- Take Out (Mother’s Day, now way I’m cooking!)

Sunday’s BBQ Chicken Legs
I can call this recipe BBQ because it is a low and slow method of using my grill. Most things I make out there are hot and fast, burgers, chicken cutlets, etc. But these Chicken Legs take about an hour to cook so plan ahead. I use a gas grill for multiple reasons. Control over the heat, lights in seconds, and easy clean up. Propane baby!!!


Chicken Legs and Thighs- about 8 pieces (I did all legs this time)

Vegetable oil

Grill seasoning

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce


Gas Grill

Spring loaded Tongs

Work bowl

BBQ Sauce Brush

Wire grill Brush

Small mixing bowl

My Favorite BBQ sauce:

I fancy up a bottle kind.

½ cup ketchup

½ cup BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)

Then a splash of the following


-Balsamic vinegar


-1 garlic clove chopped up fine


1. About 30 minutes before you are going to start grilling take the chicken out of the refrigerator and place in the work bowl.

2. Coat the chicken pieces with a little vegetable oil. And sprinkle with grill seasoning. Toss with your hands.

3. And hour before you are going to eat light the grill and put all burners on high heat for 5 minutes. Take your wire grill brush and give the grill a scrub. A clean grill will help to prevent flare ups.

4. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting on all of the burners. Place the meat evenly on the grill. Close the lid.

5. Set a timer for 10 minutes. After ten minutes turn the meat and rearrange as needed for hot spots. If things seem too hot turn off the center burner. You want to be cooking at around 300 degrees.

6. Turn the chicken every 10 minutes for the next 30. In the mean time prepare the sauce.

7. Coat the chicken well on one side with the sauce. I really like a silicone brush because it cleans easily and the bristles don’t fall out. Allow to set for abut 5 minutes.

8. Turn the chicken and coat the other side with sauce. Give it another 5 minutes to let the sauce set but keep the heat low because sauce can burn quickly.

9. Remove from the grill to a serving plate. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite sides. I did corn on the cob and a fresh cucumber salad.