When life gets busy, there are three things that keep me sane.  

1) Chore charts.  Everyone is helping, so I am not burdened by every little thing that needs to be done.  I STILL have to follow-through and make sure kids do their chores, but they get done. There are no privileges (TV, Computer, Trampoline, Friends, etc...) for those family members who don't complete chores by 2 O'clock.

2) Menu Plans.  I'm not married to them, but it sure is nice to have an idea of what I need to have in the fridge, and what to say to "What's for dinner, Mom?"

3) Daily Schedule.  Don't misunderstand. This one is a struggle for me, but when I keep a ledger of what everyone is doing with their time, I see WHERE it's being wasted, what needs are and are not being met and more importantly WHERE I CAN FIT THEM IN.

Here's our current meal plan:

Two Week Menu
Two Week Meal Plan. Click to see it full size.
_There are menu planning resources in my post, Menu Planning Made Easy.

For creating chore charts, check out my Chore Workshop Series.

Next: Planning Your Day
or The Schedule-Phobe's Guide to Organizing Your Day
Menu Plan Monday!
You will notice a couple of things about my menus. For one thing, I don’t like fish. Sorry. I have tried it, many forms, many times.  I just can’t get myself to like it.  I think it’s a texture thing. Secondly, after six years as an obese vegetarian, I realized that it’s not the right diet for everyone, and I am now a confirmed meat-lover. 

I share recipes that I have developed myself, but if I don’t share a recipe for something, it’s usually because I found it on the internet somewhere. Most likely, AllRecipes.com.  I would LOVE it if you would share some of your favorite recipes with me too. I love to try new ones.

Monday: Grilled Ham and Cheese with Soup (Cooked by my 11 YO.)

Tuesday: Lemon-Basil Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta and Sautéed Veggies
Wednesday: Pot Roast, Green Beans and Creamer Potatoes
Thursday: Orange Chicken, Broccoli and Brown Rice (Cooked by my 14 YO.)
Friday: Fend for yourself! (Leftovers)
Saturday: Pollo a la Mexicana (Recipe below) with brown rice
Sunday: Spaghetti, with Italian Meatballs (my hubby’s recipe below) and Spinach salad.

Oh, and you will find my FREE Menu-Planning Resources (shoppnig lists, menu planners) HERE. (Clicking will open a new window.)
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Javier’s Amazing Italian Meatballs

  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¾ pound Italian sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup milk

  1. Combine beef, sausage in a large bowl.  Add garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.
  2. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add the milk 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture should be very moist but still hold its shape if rolled into meatballs.
  3. Shape into 1 ½ in. meatballs.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes. After this, I like to brown them under the broiler for 5 minutes, but Javier thinks this is unnecessary.  I guess you will have to decide for yourself.
Pollo a la Mexicana
Pollo a la Mexicana (Mexican Chicken)
I created this recipe after we moved to Colorado from California, and I was missing my favorite Mexican restaurant, where I used to order this dish.

Chicken and Sauce
  • 2 tbsp.  oil (I use coconut oil or grape seed oil---oils that are not corrupted at high temps.)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (or 2 tsp. granulated garlic)
  • 1 white onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper sliced (I prefer red or yellow. Seeds and stem removed)
  • 2 cups (from a 29 oz. can) tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (or for more heat, use chipotle chili powder!)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste (about 1 - 2 teaspoons.)
  • 1 ½  cups brown rice (Just because it's healthier)
  • 1 ½  cups water (add 1/8 cup more for high elevation)
  • 1 ½  cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste (Optional. It will give the rice a reddish appearance)
  • 2 tbsp. oil (I use coconut oil or grape seed oil---oils that are not corrupted at high temps.)
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic, or 1 clove fresh, minced.
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Salt to taste ( I use about a teaspoon)
Optional additions
  • 10 - 12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed (optional)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups sour cream (optional, garnish)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups guacamole (optional, garnish)
  1. Put brown rice, water, broth and seasonings in to pot on high heat for cooking the rice. When the water boils, turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. (Until most of the moisture has evaporated.)
  2. Cut chicken breasts into pieces. Trim off and discard excess fat. (I cut mine with scissors into bite-size pieces)
  3. Set a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil and tilt pan to coat bottom. Add chicken in a single layer and brown for 3 - 5 minutes.
  4. Add onion, garlic, and bell peppers to chicken pan; stir often and cook 3 - 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add broth, 2 cups tomato sauce, seasonings, and chopped cilantro. Simmer for 12 - 15 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  5. While chicken is simmering, remove tortillas from package and warm on a plate with a clean dish towel over them. We spray the towel with a little water from a squirt bottle to "steam" the tortillas in the microwave. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. If they are not warm enough, turn tortillas over, recover and cook on high for another 30 seconds.They can also be warmed on a skillet for a couple of minutes each.
  6. When the chicken is done, it looks lovely served on a platter over the rice, and garnished with 2-3 whole cilantro leaves. The guacamole and sour cream (2-3 tablespoons for each person) can be served on the side of each plate, to each person's taste.
Summer Menu Series, August 8 - 14

Monday:Chicken Enchiladas Verde (recipe below) & green salad

Tuesday: Crockpot Round Roast, new potatoes and cucumber vinaigrette

Wednesday:Chicken-Veggie Kabobs and corn on the cob

Thursday:Beef Stroganoff (with the leftover roast) whole grain noodles and green beans

Friday: Leftovers (Also affectionately known as FF: Fend-for-yourself Friday!)

Saturday: Chicken-veggie stir-fry, with a lemon-ginger sauce (Doesn't that sound yummy?) and brown rice

Sunday: Barbeque with friends. Potato salad (Recipe below) and fruit salad. Yum!

Chicken Enchiladas Verde
Chicken Enchiladas Verde
(A family favorite!)
Serves 8 - 10 people
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

4 or 5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or even easier, a cooked chicken from the store!)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or 2 tbsp of garlic from the jar
1 cup sour cream
2 cups mixed shredded cheddar & jack cheeses (or the "Mexican Blend" from the store)
1 tbsp dried cilantro or 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
2 jars (about 3 cups) of your favorite green salsa (Target sells a good mild one by Archway Farms. Sometimes I make mine, because mild green salsa can be difficult to find, or you could use red salsa instead---but then, drop the "verde" from the name!)
1 bell pepper, chopped. (optional)
12 – 14 corn tortillas

1.  In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, simmer chicken until no longer pink and juices run clear. (or bake or boil 20 – 30 minutes) Drain excess fat.
2.  Dice or shred the chicken and return it to the skillet. Add the onion, garlic, sour cream, 1 cup of the cheese mixture, cilantro, paprika and pepper. Heat until cheese melts. Stir in ½ of the salsa and bell pepper.
3.  After coating the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish with a little of the salsa, roll even amounts (about 1/3 of a cup) of the mixture into tortillas and arrange them in the dish (I do two columns of 6, with the last 2 wedged in between the columns.)
4.  Cover with at least ½ jar of salsa (1 cup) and as much of the remaining cheese mixture as you like. (I use all of it!) Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 20 -25 minutes.

SUPER EASY German Potato Salad
(I get a lot of requests for this one!)

10 red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces & boiled until tender
1/2 large red onion, or 1 whole small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of dried dill
Thousand Island dressing (to taste) I like my salad "juicy" so I use 1 whole, small bottle (Usually Amy's Organic)

Mix, chill and serve!

FREE Resources:

Menu Planners & Shopping Lists

From Econobusters:
Free Menu Planning eBook

From OrgJunkie.com
Blank Menu Planner
Blank Grocery List Template (PDF)

From TheHomeschoolMom.com
Homeschool Planner & Menu Planner in One!
Menu Planner with To Do/Chore List

From KeepAndShare.com
Master Shopping List (PDF)
Glueten-Free Shopping List (PDF)
Lactose-Free Shopping List (PDF)

From LivingLocurto.com

(Including shopping lists!)

A Guide to Saving Your Money & Your Sanity!

I've done it many times.  We return home from Lego Club and it's 4:30.  The kids are hungry and my sweet, famished hubby is due home in an hour. I have no idea what I'm making for dinner.

It took me a while (I'm a slow learner) but I finally figured out that by planning my meals, I save money and I help preserve the modicum of sanity I still have. Many people have asked me how I do it, so here are the steps involved in planning a menu and creating a master shopping list. (Actually, the second part has been done for you!)  Please post questions, if you have them.

Step 1: List Your Family's Favorite Meals

Think of your favorite meals...
Make a list of meals your family likes for breakfast, lunch, & dinner. Write as many as you can think of. (If you want some ideas, I have included a list of our favorites.) Primarily, you want to focus on your dinner meals. Now is a good time to include a recipe or two that you have been wanting to try. You could even have a weekly “New Food Night!” Or, you may just want to stick to your tried-and-true favorites. My mother made the same meals week after week. Monday was “Fried Chicken Day” Tuesday was “Ravioli Day” Wednesday was “Taco Day” and so on. You can make your menu the way YOU like it. Also, if you have some really busy days, that would be the time to plan a freezer meal (like lasagna) or a “Fend for Yourself” night.

Step 2: Plan Two (or Four) Weeks of Meals

Plan your meals...
I plan a two-week menu for my family, because my husband gets paid every two weeks, but it's just as easy to plan for four weeks. So, every two weeks, each of my 6 family members (myself included) chooses two meals from my list of twenty-six. That way each is assured of having two meals that they really want during that time. (That's 12 planned meals and 2 "fend for yourself" nights) Then, I go through my recipes, and make my shopping list for the ingredients that we need. I add to that breakfast foods, lunches and snacks. At the end of this guide is a free, Blank Menu Planner that I found at OrgJunkie.com.  In addition, I have included links to a free Homeschool Planner AND Menu Planner in One and a Menu Planner with a To Do / Chore List from TheHomeschoolMom.com.

Step 3: Gather Your Recipes & Create a Shopping List

Shopping List
Gather your recipes from cookbooks, online or your recipe cards, or if you can remember the ingredients because you have made them so often, go ahead and review those recipes mentally.

I was tired of making a list every time I went shopping, and I always forgot something, so I created a master shopping list. It had everything needed for our meals, in addition to household items we regularly purchased. It was handy as I planned my menu, because I could just check off the items we needed without having to write it all out every time. At the end of this post, I have included a free, printable Master Shopping List if you want to use it. If you do not want to use a master list, you can create a list from the meals you just chose for your menu.

Example: Our Favorite Meals

You will notice a lack of seafood. Most of my family does not like fish, so I hardly ever make it.

Oatmeal with Raisins and Fried Ham
French Toast with nitrate-free bacon and Orange slices
Cold Cereal and Bacon
Breakfast Burritos (eggs, salsa, cheese, bacon or sausage in a tortilla.
Breakfast sandwiches – Wholegrain English muffin, egg, ham and cheese.
Bagel and Cream Cheese with Fresh Fruit
Wholegrain Pancakes, turkey sausage and Fresh Fruit
Breakfast Smoothie, made with soy and whey protein powder and fresh or frozen fruit.

Left-Overs from Dinner
Whole Wheat Pita Bread Pizzas (pepperoni or Hawaiian)
Turkey Wraps with lettuce and tomato
Soup & Quesadillas or Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Hot Dogs and Fruit Salad
Club or Hero Sandwiches and carrot sticks
Turkey Kielbasa, Tater Tots and Fruit
Egg Salad or Tuna Pita Pockets and apple slices
Hot Dogs and orange wedges
Main-Course Salad with protein, like Cobb or chef salad.

Whole Grain Crackers, Salami and Cheese with Sliced Apples
Whole Wheat Pita Chips and Hummus with Canned Pineapple
Graham Crackers with Cream Cheese & Jam
Tortilla Chips and Salsa
Whole-Grain Cheese-Its, Carrots or Snap Peas and Ranch Dressing
Almonds and apple sauce or grapes


    Poultry Dinners

  1. Lemon-Basil Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta and Sauteed Veggies
  2. BBQ Chicken (or fish!) with Potato Salad & Green Beans 
  3. Chinese Chicken Salad and pot stickers. 
  4. Orange Chicken, Rice & Broccoli
  5. Fried Chicken with Steak Fries (frozen) and Steamed Broccoli
  6. Shredded Chicken (or fish) Tacos with the works
  7. Chicken Enchiladas with Green Sauce and Salad
  8. Chicken (and Shrimp) Jambalaya with Rice (Veggies are in the Jambalaya)
  9. Fettuccine Alfredo with Broccoli
  10. Turkey Kielbasa in Red Beans and Rice with Cucumber & Tomato vinaigrette
  11. Turkey Breast Roast with Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
  12. Grilled Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches, Soup and Canned Fruit

    Beef Dinners

  13. French Dip Sandwiches au Jus & Cucumber Vinaigrette
  14. Lasagna (frozen) and Green Salad
  15. Hamburgers with Whole Wheat Buns and Fresh Fruit Salad
  16. Beef Stir Fry with Green Beans and Rice
  17. Round Roast with Red Creamer Potatoes & Spinach Salad
  18. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Cucumber Vinaigrette
  19. Meat Loaf with Steamed Broccoli and Rice
  20. London Broil and Baked Potatoes with Sautéed Zucchini & Yellow Squash
  21. Beef and Bean Burritos in whole grain tortillas with the works!
  22. Chili Dogs (or dogs & beans) & Salad
  23. Beef Stroganoff, noodles and steamed broccoli

    Meatless Meals

  24. Vegetarian Chili, topped with cheese and onions (The veggies are in the chili) Served with Whole Grain Crackers or Rice
  25. Build-Your-Own Potato with the works (Anything goes here!)
  26. Eggplant Parmesan and Garlic Bread

FREE Resources: Menu Planners & Shopping Lists

FREE Resources!
From OrgJunkie.com
Blank Menu Planner
Blank Grocery List Template (PDF)

From TheHomeschoolMom.com
Homeschool Planner & Menu Planner in One!
Menu Planner with To Do/Chore List

From KeepAndShare.com
Master Shopping List (PDF)
Glueten-Free Shopping List (PDF)
                                                Lactose-Free Shopping List (PDF)

                                                From LivingLocurto.com
                                               FREE WEEKLY MEAL PLANS & RECIPES!
                                                (Including shopping lists!)

Comments? I would love to hear them! 
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