I've been meaning to get back into weekly menu planning, and when we got back from vacation I started to really focused on planning out our dinners each week and making sure we stuck to the plan. I know menu planning is a hot thing right now, and there are a ton of tips on Pinterest, but I thought I would share what works for us, and also what some of our favorite meals were from last month.
Menu Planning Tips:
-- The majority of my recipes come from Pinterest. I love using Pinterest because I can organize my recipes by category (Soups, Appetizers, Breakfast, Dinner, Healthy Dinner) for easy reference. I'm still working on my organization method, but I feel that when you organize them by type it's easier to find what you are looking for, especially if you are wanting to quickly reference a recipe you previously made.
-- I also love Pinterest because it allows me to take my recipes with me wherever I go. Sometimes while I'm at the grocery store I'll come across a great deal on an item (like a roast for example), and I can quickly log onto Pinterest via the app on my phone and instantly find a recipe and check to see what additional ingredients I might need to pick up while at the store. You definitely can't do that with your cookbooks at home.
-- I also love to Pin my own recipes on Pinterest once I've shared them on the blog. This helps me to keep track of the recipes and ideas I came up with and helps me to refer back to them when I want to recreate them.
-- I also love watching cooking shows to get recipes ideas. If I come across something that looks interesting I'll find it online and Pin it to one of my food boards. This is how I came across the recipe for Black Bean Chocolate Cake (which you so need to try!!).
-- Each week I start my menu planning by pinning recipes that I'm interested in making throughout the week. If something really catches my eye I'll make a note in my planner. I usually start a sticky note in my planner each week of recipes I want to include as part of my menu for the following week.
-- At the end of the week I take a look at all of the recipes I've gathered, and then add some more if needed, and begin to start a store list. I always check my freezer and pantry to make sure I'm not buying something I already have on hand. Sometimes I make a list of all of the ingredients I'll need for the next week, and then go "shopping" in my pantry and cross off the things I already have. I then make my final store list of what's left, and add other items like detergent and lunch items.
-- I've recently started by putting my meal plan on our kitchen chalkboard each week so I can see what meals I have ingredients for. I usually don't assign them a day of the week just because I never know what we might be in the mood for, and I like a little flexibility.
-- I've also started writing down what we have for dinner each night in my planner. I have a customized planner from Plum Paper with a special "dinner" section to document this and I'll make notes or put a little star by the ones we really enjoyed. This allows me to reference what we have eaten over the last few weeks, and I can refer to when I'm looking for dinner ideas. (It also was a great resource for me while putting together my list of favorite meals for this post!)
Speaking of favorite meals, here are some of our favorites from the month of January. I thought it would be fun, and again a great reference for me, to list some of our favorite meals each month. I love getting dinner ideas from other bloggers, and hopefully this can provide some ideas for you.
January 2015 - Favorite Meals:
-- BBQ Pizza - we used pre-made crust (Udi's GF for me, Mama Mary's for Rick), and topped with BBQ sauce, grilled chicken, banana peppers and some cheese (Parmesan for me, Cheddar for Rick). We actually had this twice last month :)
-- Skinny Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles - this was amazingly good. It was very light and refreshing, but also had a lot of flavor. It didn't fill up Rick though. He followed this meal with left over BBQ Pizza, but I thought it was wonderful. I picked up this Veggetti from Walmart and it actually worked really well. I'm excited to try out a few more recipes with it this month.
-- Quiona Enchiladas - this was a slow cooker recipe that I modified from another recipe. I did not cook the quiona in the slow cooker as we were gone much longer than the recipe called for. My version also includes meat, but I did share in my blog post the original recipe which was vegetarian.
-- Hamburger Soup - a super easy, and delish, recipe from the Pioneer Woman that she shared on one of her shows last month.
-- Fajitas and Mexican Rice - for the fajitas I just diced up some chicken and peppers and sauteed on the stove top with a little salt and pepper. Then we filled corn tortillas with the chicken, peppers, salsa, a little rice, some guac and some cheddar cheese. Super easy and tasty Mexican meal.
-- Salmon Burgers and Bacon Lime Sweet Potato Salad - the salmon burgers are one of my favorite things to get at the Giant Eagle seafood counter. They are pre-made and all you have to do is pan-fry them for about 3 mins on each side. My favorites are the Garden Salmon Burgers and the Spinach and Feta Salmon Burgers. And this Bacon Lime Sweet Potato Salad was amazing! It had a slightly tangy taste from the lime juice, but also included some cinnamon which gave it a little warmth. Definitely a recipe I will make again.
-- Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork Quiona Burrito Bowls - this was a super easy recipe to make. Again I cooked the meat in the slow cooker and the quiona on the stove top after we got home later that night. I also browned canned/sliced pineapple in a pan, along with some bell peppers for toppings. I really need to work on other toppings thought. The pork was good, but I felt like I needed some more flavors. I really want to work on perfecting this recipe a little.
-- BBQ Enchiladas - I used the leftover pork from the recipe above, and just added pineapples and green chilies to corn tortillas. I then covered them with the BBQ Enchilada sauce in the linked recipe and topped with a little Parmesan cheese and baked according to the directions. Once baked, add a little guac and enjoy. Rick said this was one of his favorite Mexican meals I've made so far. And I loved the twist of adding BBQ sauce in with enchilada sauce.
-- Buffalo Chicken Quiona Bites - I made these for Super Bowl Sunday (yes technically a Feb meal), and they were really good but next time I want to add more of the buffalo sauce. I don't typically like really spicy foods, but felt it could be a little spicier. We also just topped ours with sour cream instead of making the dipping sauce. Rick placed his on a Hawaiian Roll and made it a Buffalo Chicken Quiona Slider and he said that was really good. That boy loves his sandwiches (He also loves to put things in a flour tortilla and make burritos out of everything. He will use any leftovers. The other day he turned Chinese stirfry, Mexican rice and Greek chicken into a burrito for lunch and he said it was delish! Ha!).
-- Sweet Potato Nachos - another Super Bowl recipe and one of my favorites. We used Italian Sausage and topped with diced tomatoes, some cheese and homemade guac.
What are your favorite meal planning tips? Do you have any favorite recipes that we should try this month?