Recipe For A Simple Life

Simplify your life, one day at a time

Menu Plan Monday

I went to Aldi today and picked up the groceries for the week.  I can usually get what I need for around $50.00 for our family of 5, but this week I had to re-stock some of the school lunch supplies and a few staples so it was over $70.00.  Then I went to Kwik Trip because milk is on sale until September 28 for $2.19 a gallon and spent another $10.00.  I was feeling kind of bummed about how much I spent until I sat down to write this post and my son came into the kitchen.  He opened the frig to find some supper (it’s leftovers on your own tonight) and said to me, “Mom, we have too much stuff!  The ‘frig is too full!”    Awwww, what a sweetie! :o)   Here’s what I’m planning to make with all those groceries:

 Our Menu This Week:

Venison Chops or Chicken Breast, Spinach Noodles, Carrots w/ Dip

Cheese Ravioli, Tossed Salad, Breadsticks

Sausage Cheese Muffins, Eggs, Fruit

Tacos, Corn, Applesauce

Stir Fry Veggies & Fried Rice

We also plan to eat out one night with friends after our opening night of fall soccer and we’ll be working on some leftovers by the end of the week.  I was really itching to put some soup on the menu, but decided I better wait just a little longer since that’s always more of a fall and winter food around here.  No sense in rushing summer out the door just because school started again…….

What’s on your menu this week?

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Menu Plan Monday


Last week we did some freezer cleaning and found a really large roast that we tossed in the crock pot for supper.  It was so huge that we had enough left over to have two meals, but no one around here wants to eat the same meal twice.  So, I’m “recycling” it into French Dip sandwiches this week and hoping it goes over well.  Here’s what else in on our menu:

 Our Menu This Week:

Egg-Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Fruit

French Dip Sandwiches, Broccoli Salad

Chip Hotdish, Tostitos, Corn

Egg & Spinach Quiche, English Muffin Bread, Fruit

Cheesy Beans & Rice, Veggie Tossed Salad

Pasta Primavera, Breadsticks, Leftover Salad or Fruit

What’s on your menu this week?

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Menu Plan Monday

Bean Taquitos with Cucumber Salsa
– Everyday with Rachel Ray

Another successful week of menu planning is behind me and I am happy to announce that I am  slowly getting back in the groove of it.  I’ve even been faithful about filling out what I’m spending on my envelope.  (We’re using a few cash envelopes from the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover plan.)  My favorite part of menu planning is definitely the amount of savings that I am seeing in the grocery /  household budget.  We will still need to buy milk (several times) and 2 dozen eggs (Walgreen’s has them for $0.99 / dozen this week) but so far I have only spent $53 on groceries this week and will be able to make the following menu items plus have some snacks on hand for the kiddos and a few extra cans of veggies that were at a rock bottom price today.  Not bad for our family of 5.

Our Menu This Week:

Black Bean & Avocado Salsa in Corn Tortilla shells (this was a carryover from last week because one night we chose to eat leftovers)

Cheese, Mushroom ‘n Bacon Pie, Blueberry Muffins (plus a few scrambled eggs on the side for the child who would starve before she would eat a mushroom)

Bean Taquitos, Cucumber Salsa

Pasta Primavera, Bread Sticks, Tossed Salad

Taco Soup, Corn Bread

 In case you are counting days, we plan to eat leftovers at least once and are eating out one night as part of the teenager’s high school orientation.  (I’m hoping it’s not cafeteria food, but free supper is free supper, right?)

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Menu Plan Monday

Going back to menu planning was definitely the right choice.  We mixed the days up a little, but only skipped one meal this week.  Ironically,  we (meaning I) opted not to cook one night and had sandwiches instead.  (We did eat them at the table and not in the car or in the bleachers though!)   I also found some frozen chicken taco bowl meat in the freezer (the meal we skipped) so we can have it on Saturday with the leftovers from the week.

The best part of menu planning again was knowing that I had some choices already semi-prepared.  Meaning that I had bought groceries and planned meals based on what we had in the house.  Fewer trips to the store = less money spent on groceries we don’t really need.

This week the menu plan looks like this:

Sunday:  Black Bean and Avocado Salsa Cups, Fresh Veggies and Dip

Monday:  Ravioli, Salad, Peas

Tuesday:  Egg, Spinach & Mushroom Quiche, Ham Steak, Fresh Fruit

Wednesday:  Fried Rice, Chicken Breast, Venison Steak

Thursday:  Eating out or sandwiches in the car while we take the teenager up for a weekend with her grandparents.

Friday:  Greek Style Skillet Supper, French Bread, Salad (maybe – depends on what’s left in the ‘frig by the end of the week)

Saturday:  Leftovers so there will be more room for groceries next week :o)

What’s on YOUR menu this week?

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A Return to Menu Planning

It’s been a while, but I’m going to try to start menu planning again.   We’ve been “winging it” for most of the summer because we’ve been so busy with the kids’ summer sports schedule.  Now that our summer sports schedule has slowed down we won’t need to include cold sandwiches (to be eaten in the car or in the bleachers) twice a week.

I was thinking about the way we eat as I sat down to plan out the week today.  We’ve really changed a lot in the past year with the way I cook and the foods we eat.  A year ago we ate meat almost every day, now we can easily go almost a whole week without it.  It’s been good for us.  We aren’t vegetarian by any means and never will be since we love a good burger, but we’ve found that there are healthier and cheaper alternatives to red meat.  We’ve also gotten away from boxed and canned foods, which I feel really good about.  I’ve even started trying to cook without always using a recipe and had some pleasant results.

Last week I took advantage of the great produce sales at Aldi and snapped up some cheap veggies that I’ll be using in this week’s menu. –

Sunday:  Black Bean & Mushroom Burgers, Fried Rice, Cucumber Slices

Monday:  Ring Bologna, Fried Potatoes, Baby Carrots

Tuesday:  Chicken Taco Bowls, Lettuce Salad

Wednesday:  Spinach Berry Salad, Summer Sausage, Broccoli & Cauliflower with dip

Thursday:  French Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Applesause

Friday:  Veggie Stir Fry, Brown Rice, Fruit

Saturday:  Leftovers from earlier in the week

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Menu Plan Monday – Lunchbox Edition

It’s a short lunch week for Katie’s kids.  We have Monday off for Easter – Yeah!  Here are the other things I’m offering this week for lunch:

Protein:  Ham, Peanut Butter, String Cheese, Turkey, Summer Sausage

Fruits / Veggies:  Baby Carrots, Applesauce, Avocado, Bananas, Cuties

Grains:  Wheat Bread, White Bread, Mini Rice Cakes, Saltine Crackers, Banana Bread (if the bananas are still here in a couple days – they’ve started to get brown)

Extras:  Easter candy, while it lasts, one or two pieces in each lunch is allowed

What’s in your lunch box this week?

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Menu Plan Monday

This week I am finally trying a new bread recipe that I’ve been waiting to make.  I’m planning to make it later tonight and serve it as a side with the taco soup we are having tomorrow night when I get home late from work.  Other than that, it’s a pretty short week for menu planning.  We have a birthday meal this week, so we get to eat out once – Yeah!


Here’s what it looks like from Katie’s kitchen this week:

Scrambled Eggs, Fruit

Taco Soup, Burrito Bread

Hamburgers, Potatoes, Veggies

Birthday Dinner

Stir Fry over Rice

Pizza, Breadsticks, Salad

What great meals are you planning to cook this week?  We’d love to hear what’s cooking in your kitchen…….


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Try This! Monthly Menu Planning

Do you menu plan?

I grew up thinking my mom could snap her fingers and make meals appear.  At least that’s how it seemed to me.  She made it seem so effortless.  Imagine my surprise when I grew up and realized how much thought and preparation it takes to make balanced meals without running to the store on a daily basis!

Over the years I have discovered that I am a planner.  I need to write down at least an outline of what I will make each week or we will end up eating cereal or drive thru fare on a regular basis.  Lately, however, I’ve been struggling to get a meal plan done each week.  It’s been even more difficult to get to the store to make sure I have all the ingredients I need.  This month I decided to experiment with monthly meal planning.  I know a few people who plan this way and decided it might help me get back on track.

At first, I was overwhelmed with where to start.  For those of you who check in often, you may remember the weekly meal planner idea I had in November.  It’s still cute and I like to look at it, but filling the weekly sheets in has become a bit of a tedious chore and I’ve only printed and filed 3 recipes since November.  (Thank goodness I decided to just print pages as I needed them instead of printing a year’s worth all at once!)  Then I remembered a few people who commented on the Facebook page about how they have “theme” nights to help them plan.  The wheels started turning in my mind…….

It took surprisingly less time than I thought it would to decide on categories and find four favorites from each category.  I won’t list out my entire plan for you (you’ll have to get it in weekly doses on Mondays) but here are the categories I decided to work with: Crock Pot Meals, Vegetarian Meals, Breakfast for Supper, Soups or Stews, Pasta or Pizza, and “other” for those things that just didn’t fit the other categories.  As I mentioned, I tried to pick 4 recipes from each category to keep it balanced and tentatively decided which day of the week we would eat from each category, although I am sure that part will change as our activity calendar fills up and my work schedule fluctuates.

Even though I’ve got an outline for the month, I’m still going to have to choose what to make each week.  The good part is that I’ve already narrowed it down to only 28 recipes.  As I see yummy new ideas online or in magazines this month, I’ll bookmark, print or file them  for April’s menu plan.  I’m also going to work on freezer cooking like Carrie posted about last week – More on that later this month.

If any of you are monthly meal planners and would be willing to share your system, I’d love to hear it!

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Freezer Cooking Part 2 – Vegetable Broth

My friend, Katy, gave a great guest post yesterday on freezer cookingHere’s a continuation of that post.  I absolutely LOVE this kind of freezer cooking and I’ve been doing it for months. 

Here are a few of my favorite freezer items:

  • Chopped veggies: carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower.
  • Homemade veggie broth (recipe below)
  • Extra loaves of bread/buns/English muffins
  • Green onions in a bottle
  • Cooked beans from dried beans
  • Cooked shredded chicken – We buy 20-30 pounds when it goes on sale for $0.79-$0.99/pound, and have a marathon cooking/de-boning/portioning session over the next 1-2 days, and then we have chicken for 2 months.
  • Some sort of baked good, whether we make a double batch of waffles and freeze half, or a half dozen muffins.  I’ve heard you can freeze brownies and cookies too, but those never seem to last long enough in our house…
  • Frozen pizzas.  These are one of my husband’s favorites, so we usually have a couple in there.

Everything is portioned out in smaller containers, usually 1-2 cups.  I label these with masking tape and permanent marker on the lids with the item, the measurement, and the date.  When I’m making my meal plan, I can look to see what I have, and plan accordingly.  When I’m cooking, I just pull out the ingredients I need and dump them in.

How to Make Homemade Broth:

When you’re ready to begin your veggie chopping session, get out a large bowl for the peelings, stems, and whatnot.  Wash all of your veggies.  Carrot peels, celery stems, onion skins and tops, squash skins and ends, can all go into this bowl.  The only thing I wouldn’t save is a part that is already going bad (hopefully you don’t have too many of those).
If you’re not going to make the broth right away, put all of this in either a container with a lid or a big ziploc, and store it in the freezer.  Otherwise, you can either make your broth on the stove or in a crockpot.  Dump all your veggie bits in and add water until everything is covered, plus enough to fill your pot up to an inch from the top.  Add seasonings of your liking.  I usually add a large sprinkle of garlic powder, oregano, dill, salt, and pepper.  Cover, and simmer on low for at least 2 hours.  If you’re using a crockpot, put it on low in the morning, and strain out the broth after dinner.  The longer, the better, as it gives the flavors more time to develop.
Using a slotted spoon or a sieve, strain out your veggie bits, and you’re left with awesome broth.  I usually portion this out in smaller containers of 1 to 3 cups, because that’s what most recipes call for.  If I’m making a soup that uses more, I can always use 2 containers.  These go into the freezer once they’re cooled as well.
Now that your freezer is full of ingredients, get cooking!  Here are some of my favorite recipes:


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Try This! My March List

I did fairly well on my February list of things to try, with only one thing that didn’t quite get done as intended.  My March list looks like this:

Monthly Meal Planning

Freezer Cooking

Homemade Hair Detangler

Homemade Baking Mix

Recycled T-shirt Headbands

In case you are wondering why I choose the things I do, there is a method to my madness.  I try to include at least one recipe idea, one craft idea, and one organization idea.  Since I’m writing about one idea each week, I also try to make sure I have as many ideas as there are Tuesdays in a month.  That’s really all there is to it.  Now, I better go get to work on the first one – meal planning – because I have NO IDEA what we are eating this coming week!!  Hopefully by the time you read this in a couple days I’ll have that figured out.


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