Meal Planning – 5 Tips & Tricks

Before I begin, I should be transparent. I’m good at making meal plans but not always following through.

In my house, I get the question, “What are we having for dinner?” from the boys. Sometimes Hubby will also ask me. It’s good to have an idea of what you are cooking for dinner.

Meal planning may seem daunting. It doesn’t need to be.

  1. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
    I create plans that fall through ALL the time. There are days I get home from school where I feel exhausted. At those times, I know cooking a full dinner isn’t in the cards. That’s okay. You can certainly save your plan for the next week or the week afterwards.
  1. It may seem hard at first. That is okay.
    It will be hard at first. Here are some tips to help with that.
    • Create a list of your family’s favorite meals. Refer to that list. Update that list when you discover a new family favorite.
    • Create theme nights for each day of the week.
      • Ethnic night – Mexican/ Asian/ Italian, etc . . .
      • Sandwich or Pizza Night
      • Breakfast for Dinner
      • Soup Night (Salad Night during the summer)
      • Vegetarian Night
      • Family Favorite
      • New to Us
      • Family Dinner Night
      • Crockpot/Instant Pot Night
      • Once you create your theme nights, then it may get easier to plug in meals for that night.
    • Find favorite blogs to help you with inspiration.
    • What are activities going on that might require you to have an easier meal? Or that might be the night you eat out? You know your family’s situation and schedule. Plan accordingly.
    • Meal prep on the weekend or double up a meal during the week.
      • You should only do an hour of meal prepping on Sundays. I’m using Sundays as a base but you may meal prep another day of the week. Plan for only an hour.
      • Cut up veggies for the week.
      • If you are doing something that requires cooked ground beef, cook that up.
      • Put on some music, a book on tape, trashy tv show, or a Podcast to listen/watch during your meal prep. I tell my friends that I’m going to watch a trashy tv show. You don’t actually need to watch that.
      • Use your freezer. Certain items can be frozen, so that will help with your prep times.
      • Appliances will help you. I have an Instant Pot, Ninja Air Fryer, and a crockpot. Each of those can help with my meal prep. You don’t need those appliances. Take stock in what you have and use them.
  1. Don’t plan for ALL your meals at first.
    Yes, I said it. Don’t plan for all your meals at first. If all you can do is plan for your dinners, do that. At least you know what you are going to eat for dinner.
    You need to make the meal planning and prepping work for you.
  1. Create a rotating list of breakfast/ lunch items.
    Have a list of items that you like to eat for breakfast and lunch. Keep the ingredients for those items in your fridge/ freezer/ pantry. If you like breakfast sandwiches, spend some time making those up. Place them in the freezer for a future breakfast.
    If you have that list written down, then it makes breakfast and lunch time so much simplier.

    Since I’m a teacher, I need to have an idea of lunch items that can be eaten quickly between interruptions. That’s just a fact of life when I’m at work. So I’ve created a list of food that is easy for me to eat. I don’t need to create a meal plan for work days because I already know what I’m going to eat.
  1. You can plan to eat out.
    You don’t need to be a super person and cook ALL of your meals at home. There are times you can plan to eat out. Hubby and I like to go to local restaurants for dates. I can plan for those dinners or lunches.
    Last week, I put on the menu for us to eat breakfast for dinner. Then a friend asked me out to dinner. Since we were on break, I was able to changed the breakfast for dinner to lunchtime. We still followed the menu but just flipped some things around.

I hope these tips will help you plan your meals.

Happy eating,
Traci

Mom, What’s for Dinner? | December 20, 2021

This week’s dinners are all from our pantry/freezer to use up some of the food we already have in our house.

My mom used to do Chinese for Christmas. I’m going to make it on Christmas Eve this year. Our Christmas Eve service is at 6 pm this year, so we are going to have a small meal after the service. My mother-in-law and I are still planning that meal.

Christmas dinner has not been planned yet. We have invited over 2 members of our church to eat with us. Last night, we began talking about the menu. I’ve ordered some gluten-free desserts so that is covered. The rest of the menu is to be determined.

Happy Eating,
Traci

Shelf-Stable Lunch Ideas

I’ve been going to a dietician for the past 6 months because I was having health issues. Even though my weight is stable, I’m losing fat percentage which is good. Yeah for progress!

When I met with her yesterday, she asked me what I needed help with and I told her shelf-stable lunch ideas so that I can keep those in my classroom. My life changed once again where I’m leaving for work 15 minutes earlier than normal. On days I’m running behind, I won’t have to worry about packing a lunch because I know I’ll have something already at work.

Here’s the formula for lunch:

Protein/ Healthy Fat + Carb/ Fruit + Veggies

Protein Sources:

  • Beef / Turkey Meat Sticks (EPIC, chomps, Thrive Market has a good turkey one.)
  • Peanut butter / Nut butter – Get squeezy packets if you don’t a whole entire jar in your workspace.
  • Trail Mix – Make your own, so you don’t have chocolate or other sweets in your mix.
  • Tuna / Salmon packets
  • Almonds
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Jerky
  • Protein bars
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Healthy Fats

  • Peanut butter / Nut butter – Get squeezy packets if you don’t a whole entire jar in your workspace.
  • Trail Mix – Make your own, so you don’t have chocolate or other sweets in your mix.
  • Almonds or other nuts

Carbs

  • That’s It Bars – I tried the apple/cherry one yesterday. It’s not bad.
  • Fruit leather
  • Larabars
  • Kind bars
  • Squeezy applesauce / unsweetened applesauce cups – Keep a container of cinnamon in your workspace.
  • Crackers
  • Popcorn – I love the Safe & Fair chocolate drizzled kettle corn.
  • Rice rollers
  • Rice cakes
  • Fruit cups (juice – not heavy syrup)
  • Granola – Be careful that it’s not full of sugary goodness. Make your own.
  • Freeze dried fruit
  • 90 second rice packets

She also suggested I keep shelf-stable fruit and veggies in my classroom. Ideas are apples, oranges, mini peppers, and carrots.

If I have the basics in my room, I can just grab supplemental items in the morning. It makes it easier for me to get going in the morning.

Here are some of the basics I can grab in the morning.

  • Pb3 packets
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Yogurt

Here is a previous post about lunch ideas.

Happy eating,
Traci

Mom, What’s For Dinner? | Week of December 6, 2021

The last few weeks have been crazy. Thanksgiving week was spent visiting Columbus and Cincinnati, so we didn’t eat many dinners at the house. We also ate at our favorite spots. Last week, we were both feeling poor. I didn’t cook dinner at home because I was just trying to survive.

This week we are back to eating at home.

Monday

Smoky Tomato Soup (Budget Bytes)

Grilled cheese sandwiches

Tuesday

Chicken stew (Budget Bytes)

Wednesday

Million Dollar Chicken (Easy Family Recipes)

Pan Roasted Green beans

Ranch Smashed Potatoes

Thursday

Left-overs or you are on your own

Friday

Salsa chicken

Sauteed Peppers and onions

Mexican Rice

Breakfasts

Smoothies

Lunch / Snacks

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Sugar snap peas with hummus

Kalamata Olives

Yogurt with blueberries

I also have chocolate-drizzled popcorn at work that I can eat as a snack.

I hope these give you an idea of what to eat this week.

Happy eating,
Traci

Mom, What’s for Dinner? – Week of November 7, 2021

I created a list of meals for November. Yesterday I sat down with our puppy and planned out the meals for the week. Originally this week included sloppy Joes and cubed steak. I made sloppy Joes for church last week, so I knew my family wasn’t ready to have sloppy Joes on the menu this week. There wasn’t cube steak at the store, but I found shaved beef instead. So I changed my mind to Philly cheesesteaks instead.

We have 2 concerts planned this week, so 2 of the nights have to be easy meals. When we went to the Crowder concert a few weeks ago, we stopped for food on the way down. We were late. I rather have the food ready to go before we leave.

We are getting used to the new schedule. Several years ago, I would cook for the family all the time. Then as our lives changed, I quit cooking most of the time. I’m now back to cooking for the family. Oldest is happy because we are having family dinners once again. I’m glad my 18-year-old values eating with his family.

Sunday

Roast, Roasted Potatoes and Carrots, Salad

Monday

Mongolian Beef Sheet Pan, Rice, and Salad

Tuesday

Stuffed Pepper Soup, Salad

Wednesday

Philly Cheese Steak, Salad, French fries, Roasted broccoli

Thursday

Cashew Chicken in Crockpot, Rice, Salad

Friday

Leftover Stuffed Pepper Soup, Salad

Saturday

Chicken legs, mac, and cheese, salad

My goal this week is to eat more veggies, so you see salad on the menu every day.

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

What’s For Dinner – Week of October 3, 2021

Sunday – Ham, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob, Cornbread

Monday – Smoky sausage with veggies sheet pan meal

Tuesday – Fish tacos and chicken tacos, salad

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – Chicken nuggets, Tator Tots, salad, or fresh veggies

Friday – Lemon shrimp with rice, salad (greens, pecans,apples, goat cheese – balsamic dressing)

Saturday – Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork with roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts

Breakfast

  • Peanut butter granola bars
  • cottage cheese with blueberries, almond slices, and honey

Lunch

  • Stuffed Pepper Soup -OR-
  • Hard salami and cheese
  • Yogurt

Snack

  • Pretzels with peach jalapeno jelly and cream cheese
  • Cuties

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

Menu plan: May 24, 2021

Yesterday I went to see my dietician. We came up with a b rough plan for me eating. I’m dealing with disordered eating, trying to lose weight, and change of diet in the past month. I have moved back to eating a gluten free mostly vegetarian diet. My exception is seafood.

After meeting with her, I went home and wrote out a meal plan with items needed at the grocery store. Crossed out items are items I already have at home. Highlighted items were bought.

Well, the Kodiak cakes were a bust. I will change that to smoothies.

Mom, What’s For Dinner? Week of April 25, 2021 (Mainly vegetarian)

Jump to menu:

My dear children, you are not going to like what I have planned for dinner. (I’m talking about my 2 children, not all of y’all. Oh, and I’m not southern. I just like the word y’all.)

Let me pick up from where I left y’all. My health is not the best right now. We are still trying to figure out what is causing the pain. I sorta have an idea, but nothing is solid just yet. So, yesterday I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy to see what is going on with both my upper and lower GI. They found and removed a polyp from my colon/ large intestine. It’s now being biopsied. They also saw the gastric sac (not the real name) in my stomach. That is also being biopsied. Now it is a waiting game.

So Traci, who enjoys Googling stuff, found out that polyps are more than likely not cancerous. However, they are caused by eating red meat and greasy food. Three years ago, I went vegetarian for over a year. So, I know I can do it. This is a week 1 of back to eating vegetarian. Oldest told me that he’s glad that he is not going to eat vegetarian because he couldn’t handle not having red meat.

Sunday – Cheesy bread and sausage (boys) – Veggie cauliflower crust pizza (Me)

Monday – Italian salad (Me) – Boys are on their own.

Tuesday – Veggie Chili (Me) – Short rib pappardelle (Boys)

Wednesday – Nachos with leftover chili – Boys are on their own.

Thursday – Sloppy Joe’s (Vegetarian & Meat)

Friday – Loaded fries with leftover sloppy Joe’s

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

Mom, What’s For Dinner

Last night, I made a baked penne pasta dish. When Youngest came into the kitchen, he told me that it looked good. After he finished his dinner, he told me that it was excellent cooking. Swoon! That’s the best early Valentine’s Day present.

Here is what I’m planning for next week.

This QR code will take you to a plain copy of the menu.

Ohio is suppose to be getting two different snow storms this coming week. It’s unsure how much snow we will get between those two storms. I’ve seen reports of 10 inches up to 20 inches. We normally don’t get more than a few inches at a time, so this would be a historic storm if the predictions are true. Here’s the kicker: I’m supposed to go back to hybrid teaching on Tuesday. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to the school on Tuesday or not.

I needed to get food for next week, so instead of going to the store and dealing with the crowds I ordered the food and had it delivered. So much easier than dealing with the influx of people.

Happy cooking,

Traci