Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Simplified Winter Meal Plan

I have been feeling a need of recent to simplify my meal planning and prep, and in effort to do so I decided to make a 4 week meal rotation that I am going to use for the next few months.  Having my meals for the week already selected makes life much easier.
Photo Credit: Janine on Flickr
I had a few main goals when making this rotation.  First (as usual), I wanted to pick meals that are healthy and loved by my family.  All of these are "made from scratch" as this is healthier and cheaper than boxed foods.  Esther is picky, so mostly I try to pick meals that Alex likes (it would be impossible to please her!).  Alex, like many men, isn't a big fan of soup, but I have soup every week in this rotation because these are all meaty, hearty, yummy hubby-approved soups (I asked!).  We like a lot of ethnic foods (Indian, Thai, Mexican, etc) and this meal plan reflects that.

Secondly, I wanted meals with easy prep, with a focus on crock pot meals.  The hours between nap time and dinner tend to be hard so I wanted to make this easier by picking meals I could at least start earlier in the day.  I find that soup can be made mid afternoon, and left on the stove to be heated up right at dinner time.  Some of these meals I will make 2 pans of and freeze one, or at least double the sauce, crust, etc and freeze it to make life easier next time I made it.  Along the same lines, most of these meals only require one or two pans/pots to be used, which also makes things simpler.  I just can't do a main dish with 3 side dishes... too much clean up, especially right now while we don't have a dish washer!  Lastly, I picked meals that are good winter meals: lots of soups/stews, casseroles, and other hot, hearty meals.

You might notice that I tend to rotate through meats: most weeks I have one dish with each beef, chicken, fish, sausage and one meatless.  I know I'm probably weird, but I just like including each of these in our various meals each week for variety.

A few notes.  First, we have dinner with our small group on Sundays, so I only planned 6 days worth of dinners each week.  At the bottom I did list some ideas for small group meals for when its my turn to make the main; meals that are easy to make in large batches, generally liked by most adults and kids and able to be transported.  Secondly, I linked recipes where I use them on line, but many of these are meals that I make often enough that I don't really use a recipe, I just know how to make it.  But you can always try google or pintrest for some recipe suggestions!  Third, whenever it says rolls, I use an ABi5 sourdough recipe which makes life so easy and seriously fresh baked bread is sooooooo yummy.  Once you go ABi5 you never go back.

So, here it is.  I hope it helps you to simplify your life or at least inspires you to try something new!

Week 1
1 Beef Enchilladas with guacamole (this recipe for the sauce)
2 Crockpot seafood paella
3 Pesto chicken pasta (frozen pesto from last summer's bounty- yum!)
4 Pumpkin Sausage soup with rolls
5 Greek Chicken Pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spinach and Swiss quiche

Week 2
1 Beef Lasagna
2 Fettucine Alfredo with baked salmon (This recipe for the sauce.  Shh... don't tell bean haters it contains beans.  They will never know.)
3 Crockpot Coconut Indian Chicken (This recipe is so easy I wish I could do it weekly, but I am afraid we'd get burnt out)
4 Beef Chili with rolls or biscuits
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Black Bean Tostadas

Week 3
1 Crockpot Tex Mex Quinoa (with ground beef)
2 Brazillian Fish Stew over rice
3 Crockpot Tiki Masala Chicken
4 Sausage and Gnocchi soup with rolls
5 Pizza with Beef sausage (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

Week 4
1 Beef Burritos
2 Salmon Casserole (like tuna casserole but made with salmon instead)
3 Thai Green Chicken Curry
4 Hungarian Goulash with rolls
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spaghetti Squash casserole (basically this recipe but with spaghetti squash instead of pasta)

Small group meals: Chicken Enchiladas (this recipe for the sauce but I made the enchiladas themselves differently), sausage breakfast casserole, lasagna or stuffed shells, chicken and dumplings.

What are some ways that you have found help to simplify your meal planning?

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