Monday, May 19, 2008

A Little More About the Meal Planning Plus A Recipe

Some of you still had some questions about the meal planning notebook last week. Hopefully I can answer them here, and if not, just ask again and I'll answer directly in comments. Above you can see my shopping list template--a blank one. It is organized by the aisles of my particular grocery store, so once I'm in the store I can move right through without back tracking and circling, which is what I do when I bring a regular list. It took a little planning to make the original template--I took some notes while at the store a few times and kept those so I can know which aisle everything is in. For the weekly lists the ingredients I need for that week are already printed (see below) and I keep copies in the hard drive, to be freshly printed whenever.
As far as how many meals I plan for each week, only four. Cooking every night still doesn't work for me, even when I am this organized. I plan two meals for the weekend, and two meals for the week (to be made ahead on the weekend and reheated so I'm not cooking midweek, which is hard with toddlers "helping" so much). Then on the other 3 nights we either eat leftovers or, more often, get pizza or Subway or burritos. Sounds bad, I know, but here is my rationale: I pack healthy lunches for us every day--with fruit, and little veggie packets, and leftovers from dinner for the grownups, and sandwiches for the teens, so we're not eating out at all for lunches or getting unhealthy cafeteria food, so our take-out dinners are somewhat more justified because of that. At least that's what I tell myself! We can only do what we can do. In truth, I still find the dinner hour overwhelming--I do think it will be easier when the little ones are not so little any more.
Okay, onto a recipe. I've been collecting recipes a long time and store all the "repeaters" in a huge 3 ring notebook. This one comes from Eating Well magazine and it's a family favorite. I cut up my own farmer's market veggies for it this time, but it calls for a package of fresh stir-fry veggies, so it can be super quick that way if you don't feel like cutting the vegetables.
Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken and Vegetables

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ c. smooth natural peanut butter
2 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 t. minced garlic
1 ½ t. chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
1 t. minced fresh ginger
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
1 12-ounce bag fresh vegetable medley for stir-fry (broccoli, carrots, and snow peas)

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for cooking pasta.
2. Meanwhile, place chicken in a skillet or saucepan and add enough water to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size strips.
3. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, chile-garlic sauce and ginger in a large bowl.
4. Cook pasta in the boiling water until not quite tender, about 1 minute less than specified in the package directions. Add vegetables and cook until the pasta and vegetables are just tender, 1 minute more. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse the pasta and vegetables with cool water to refresh. Stir the reserved cooking liquid into the peanut sauce; add the pasta, vegetables, and chicken; toss well to coat. Serve warm or chilled.

Makes 6 servings, 1 ½ cups each.
363 calories, 12 grams fat, 7 grams fiber

Source: Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook
Ease of Prep: very quick and easy. A good weeknight dinner.
Rating: very good to possibly excellent.


amy turn sharp said...

love this- you have been a great inspiration to me with meals and cooking- I have done this now-

Laura said...

Sounds like your family eats very healthy! Love how you organize everything!

crunchy peas said...

Wow! A grocery list by isle! I think that I am doing good when I organize it by category: meat, dairy, produce, etc. That is amazing! My recipes are not very organized. I decided yesterday to start printing out the Everyday Food recipes that I make and using a binder. Looking for them in the magazines each day is too much hassle. I also think it is great the you only plan 4 meals. That is realistic. Too often I try and plan 7 and then when I don't feel like cooking one of them...we waste food. What an organized ship you run around there!

Irina said...

I love the isle thing. I started doing that recently too! Also, you should start a food blog to store your recipes electronically. That way you won't have so much paper laying around, taking up space. All the best to you and your precious babies!

ames said...

Ooh, that looks yummy! I was craving peanut noodles all weekend, I think you may have just put me over the edge. Guess I'll be makin' some tonight!

Rachel said...

Wow, you are so organised! I try to write lists, then always leave them at home, so just look at everything in the supermarket and hope that I'll remember what we need! Until recently my husband did most of the cooking - he is now trying to get me to do more but I find it really hard to think of what to make - out of practice I guess. I find it hard to plan, as I never know what I'll feel like eating on any particular day! Perhaps I should try your idea of only planning 4 meals...!x

Kelli said...

that recipe sounds so yummy. I have a cookbook (cant find it just now, we moved) that helps you shop one day, chop one day and then assemble a months worth of dinners) to be stored in the freezer. I dont know if you have those kind of places where you live, were you go in and assemble them, take them home and then pop in the oven. The cookbook is similar.

Julie said...

Thanks for the follow-up post on meal planning... my question has been answered. I love that you are only planning for 4 meals and allowing for leftovers.

Gift of Green said...

Perfect! My wish was your command! :) Thank you!

Gift of Green said...
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Gift of Green said...
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periwinkle said...

You seem so organised, and Paprika sauce sounds lovely.
Lisa x

Rachael said...

You are amazingly organised! I go out with a detailed shopping list and always forget at least one thing... A crazy toddler doesn't help supermarket concentration!

amanda said...

I wish you could come to Minnesota and give me a one-on-one tutoring session! I love this idea, and I think cooking four times a week and having leftovers or healthy takeout the other nights is a great idea. We're having delivery pizza tonight as a matter of fact. yum! Thanks for sharing this recipe. I know it will be a hit at our house.

mom go green said...

thanks for sharing the details. it really will help me set up a system (goodness knows i need one). 4 meals a week sounds quite realistic to me - don't need to explain! we always have one night of "breakfast for dinner", either pancakes or scrambled eggs or something fast and easy.