Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If JCK has to cook one more meal with chicken, she swears she will start sprouting feathers.

JCK is desperate. Yes, she is. It is her job to feed her family and to keep things...well, interesting in the menu department. The bedroom is taken care of, but the cooking going on in the kitchen is a pretty sad state of affairs. Boring...YAWN. YAWN. JCK would like to think of herself as a Domestic Diva, but truthfully she is barely adequate of late. The trouble is that she is flummoxed. If JCK has to cook one more meal with chicken, she swears she will start sprouting feathers. And with her familial history, well...let's just say feathers would not help. JCK is on a quest and she believes YOU can help her.

There are three things JCK needs to know:

JCK wants to know how you organize your meal planning.
In other words, do you sit down every Sunday night and plan a week's worth of menus? Or, do you see what's on sale and in season and plan your meals around those foods? Please tell JCK that you are not like her. Please tell her your secrets. JCK has no meal time planning secrets. She often finds herself scavenging through the refrigerator and cupboards at 4:30pm wondering what she will fix for dinner that night. And her children are like ravenous beasts flinging themselves at her, as if she knows what she is doing. Please, please tell JCK that you are not like her. Although JCK would welcome some company at that JackO'Clock hour!

JCK wants to know how you keep things varied and healthy when you serve your family dinner. Do you plan ahead? Do you use the crock pot? Do you have favorite sites that you go to for easy, quick family friendly recipes?

JCK wants to know how you save money at the grocery store without using coupons. JCK has tried using coupons, but has found that the foods/items that she buys for her family are usually fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. The food coupons seem to be for prepackaged foods that are often full of MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and other additives. JCK may have loose morals with her mixing bowl, but she takes a firm stand on those evil additives. The coupons are for things that JCK doesn't feed her family, so she would be buying foods that she wouldn't normally buy - hence spending more money.

JCK appreciates you taking the time to answer these deep, probing questions. You see, you will not only be saving JCK, but an entire family. Most especially her husband E who, truth be told, is a bit scared to sit down to dinner.

And for an extra bonus...what about fun, creative lunches? Lunches that JCK can pack for her husband and children that will be delicious and do not have to be reheated.

And...And, what are the must haves in your pantry??

JCK would love to share your ideas, these little secrets with everyone, so after you have left your tips in the comments section, JCK will create a post with your fantastic ideas and will link to you.

JCK is sighing deeply as it is now 4:19pm and she is unsure what will be for dinner...tonight. JCK really, really needs your help. Does anyone know how to remove feathers?

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  1. i do weekly meal planning, but i HATE it. i've been meaning to make a sort of regular schedule to help me something like this:

    sunday- some kind of sandwich (tuna melts, blt's sloppy joes, et.
    monday- something with pasta
    tuesday- something asian
    wednesday- something mexican

    then i'll just go through my recipes and pick something for each day, or troll allrecipes.com. when i find a recipe i like i email it to myself, and i put those in a folder.

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (I just fell off the chair laughing)
    You see, I am not a domestic diva and I know it - more like a domestic dumbass. I have been planning to write a very similar post to yours, entitled, "What's for dinner?" with a picture of Dylan with oven mitts on as he could possibly do a better job. Maybe I'll eventually get to that post, but in the meantime I really hope your readers have some ideas I can also use!

  3. I've been guilty of winging it - yes, the chicken pun applies - more often than I should admit.

    But. I've learned to menu plan for the week, draw up a list and go from there.

    I buy some staples from bulk to save cash, and shop 1x or 2x a week at Trader Joes or Whole Food to stock up on other things. Trader Joes has tons of delicious, easy sauces that pair easily with, gulp, chicken or shrimp or pork chops. (They've been cheaper lately.) I keep those on hand for easy nights.

    Also, check out BeanPlate, Beanpaste's new creation. She has fabulous new recipes to try on the cheap; I think I'll be grabbing from there.

    And this time of year, I'm not afraid to roll out some casseroles or soups that I can make ahead of time.

    I google Cooking Light and play from there.

    (I didn't cook nary a meal the first four years we were married, but I'm getting the hang of it. No, really. I can't wait to hear what you come up with.)

  4. Well I plan a menu each week but I don't know how healthy it is. I do know that this blog http://www.5dollardinners.com/ shares menus of healty meals for $5 per meal for a family of 4.

  5. i so need help with this. i have had the cooking blahs lately, which is really bad, because i usually have the blahs, and it's just worse now...

  6. Oh, this is going to be tedious reading, I'm afraid. But you asked...

    Menu-planning is an absolute must. (Note: this belongs in the "Do as I say, not as I do" department.) I've gotten a lot of mileage out of "Once a Month Cooking," either using it as the program suggests, or just doing certain recipes, which I then have on-hand in the freezer. They are not all casseroles, either! So you should definitely check that one out.

    What I do is make a menu for 10 days at a time...I'll usually invite one or more kids to "consult" on the menu development, which gives them a sense of investment (and therefore less complaining). I write the menus on a grid that takes up the top 2/3 of a piece of printer paper lengthwise; the bottom third is for my grocery list, which I compile as I'm making up the menus. Now, when I go to the neighborhood grocery store, I shop the perimeter, taking advantage of all the specials. If there are some not on my menu, I replace what's currently on the menu with recipes from the specials. That's the money-saver part. Then I go to Sam's with the rest of the list and fill in.

    I have found that if I know what I'm making -- and especially if I can start it ahead of time -- there are virtually no blahs. It's the thinking that brings on the blahs, for me.

    And of course, we resort to take-out at least once a week.

  7. "do you see what's on sale and in season and plan your meals around those foods?"

    yep. i've never planned a meal two days ahead, except holidays. I cringe at the thought.

    I do a lot of "rice and gravy" meals, creole chicken or sausage over steamed rice (my cajun heritage). Browned beef cuts with sauteed onions, bouillon, fresh parsley - gravy over rice. (This last dish was my tried and true "best way to a man's heart" recipe.. worked.every.time)

    A lot of pasta with my homemade garlic, diced tomato and fresh parsley sauce.

    Meals in a pinch: canned refried beans, shredded cheese, and homemade salsa on soft tacos or big round tostadas. Sometimes I make a quickie black bean dip: pour black beans into microwave bowl, add shredded cheese, chopped white onion, chopped jap peppers, etc. Serve with chips. Hearty and filling when you want to snack your way thru dinner (esp handy when drinking rita's beforehand)

    I'm not big on brands, but Hunts diced tomatoes are a staple for both the creole, the pasta, and the texmex (salsa). Keeping shredded texmex cheese also important staple in my fridge. Fresh cilantro and parsley are two must haves from week to week.

    Once a week we have a pot of pinto beans. I never heard of these til I married SAM. Now I crave them. With grated texmex cheese plus salsa on top. Heaven!

    As for lunches, most of the time the kids eat leftovers (microwaved at school). They're not big fans of sandwiches. They esp love pasta reheats. Or rice, cheese and refried beans or pintos.

  8. I subscribe to email newsletters from Betty Crocker and Kraft Foods, both of which send recipes for easy, quick meals. I also get ideas for meals when I troll foodnetwork.com or happen to catch 5 minutes of one of their shows during lunch hour, etc.

    I'm also terrible about coupons, but I do look at the supermarket's own newspaper insert when I enter the store to look over what they have on sale, that can inspire a meal if something is a particularly good buy.

    I also love my crockpot...pot roast, chili, stew, are super quick and easy to do: load the ingredients in the morning, turn it on low, and by dinner time you have a tasty meal that has cooked itself!

  9. Since the last time I arrived on site it was to create more work for you, the least I can do this time is give you the single tip I have to offer in this category(besides marring a man who does the majority of the cooking, like I did). Favorite recipes (currently about 50) are printed out on letter-sized paper, placed in plastic sheet protectors and then in a 3-ring binder. They are organized by ethnicity (Mr. O has lived all over the world so there's quite a variety). I'm known to grab that magic binder on my way out the door in the morning when I realize it's my turn to shop on the way home that evening.

    Otherwise? I got nothing. Except empathy.

  10. I will tell you all about my secrets IN PERSON. I want to see you! When? Fridays are not good. I don't know your #. Can you email or phone me? Andrea

  11. Sometimes I plan weekly and sometimes I don't. You can figure out which works better.

    I have a friend who keeps a list of last-minute dinners for which she always has the ingredients in her pantry taped to the inside door of the pantry. It's genius--I don't know why I don't do it.

    What really worked for me when my kids were little was that I completely prepped dinner in the morning, including making a salad and sometimes even getting the dishes out so it was quick to set the table. I had so much more time at 10 a.m. than I did at 5 p.m.

    Good luck with your idea gathering.

  12. oh girl, I wished I could give a comment or two... but we hardly cook (ashamed - head buried underground)

  13. I just found this gourmet cook on the go (??) on our SITsa site..I put her banner on my page too. But she had interesting recipes. Some looked very easy and doable...

    I am the last person you want to ask for recipes and organizational culinary skills...sooooo bad.

    BUT! I do enjoy shopping at our grocery store and it seems you should be a "member" to enjoy the added discounts that the "member" of the grocery store gives you.

  14. I don't plan meals. I have tried periodically and it goes much more smoothly. Also, my husband and 1 son are VERY picky eaters, so variety is not my friend. Every week goes something like this:

    Sunday Dinner - something big and time consuming.

    Monday - Chicken and Rice

    Tuesday - Sunday Left-overs

    Wednesday - Easy Pasta

    Thursday - More Chicken or maybe a meatloaf or tacos (try ground turkey!)

    Friday - Pizza Night!

    Saturday - Skip lunch. Convince Andy to take the kids to a 'family dining restaurant.'

  15. I know I'm most likely far too structured, but my daughter is four and it's just the two of us. I have the same menu every week. Ok, maybe we'll switch it up a little on the weekend, but Sun-Thurs it's the same menu. I always choose the "protien" part and my daughter gets to pick the "veggie" part. Works for us!

  16. Two things you should put into a google search: "Leanne Ely", and her book "saving dinner". That has been really, really helpful.

    But then, I can't really say anything about it because I just buy the same things every week, and then my husband makes delicious interesting meals out of them. It's like magic. All I got to do is grocery shop and wash the dishes. (And no, you can't have him, sorry.)

  17. PLAN? We're supposed to PLAN!?!?!?!!?!

    That explains much.

    I rarely do the cooking. I did make a lovely potato soup the other night (my mother's recipe). I did a lot of the cooking in my first marriage, but he was not a vegetarian. I know how to make all kinds of lovely MEAT dishes. The Mountain Man is a vegetarian, so almost all my recipes are useless. Plus I hate cooking (possibly part of the problem with the first marriage, but a small part).
    When we were first married and I got pregnant I was so sick I couldn't enter a grocery store or be near anything cooking. So he got in the habit of doing all the cooking. Then when the Queen came along and was attached to my breast 24/7, he just continued it. He actually likes it.

    We use the Moosewood cookbooks a lot. I don't use coupons either, because like you, they're either for stuff I don't buy, or for brand names that are more expensive even with the coupon than the store brand is.

    We do a lot of burritos, spinach lasagna, spaghetti with a variety of sauces, simple stuff really, because DeBoy eats almost nothing except chicken nuggets and cereal. The Queen is slightly better but not by much.

    Lunches? We're in danger of starvation. The Queen will eat turkey and swiss cheese sandwiches and the occasional tuna salad (not on bread). DeBoy eats a LOT of bread and butter.

    So this is an extraordinarily long comment just to tell you that I'm so sorry I'm of no use at all.

    However, do you know about Tater Tot casserole? It may have too many preservatives. I don't look at the label on tater tots and it calls for cream of mushroom soup, ground beef, and cheddar. VERY Southern!

  18. I'm just here to read the comments. ~snort~

  19. www.savingdinner.com...I had osme friends talking about this site. The same friends also have singed up for some sort of farmshare thing....where you get fresh seasonal fruits and veggies from a local farm once a week or so, and it helps save the environment....can't think of the link for the farmshare, but maybe just do an internet search...I know there is a pickup in Altadena???? Just a couple of thoughts. I persoanlly buy a lot of stuff from Trader Joes...some frozen and some fresh, and just shoot from the hip. Ther evil empire of Martha Stewart also has that daily food...little magazine thing, and it is mostly healthy stuff and quick and easy, and that Mag comes with a grocery list in the back of the mag. lunches????? man...if you get soe ideas there, let me know. My children are daily prisoners of the pb&j, or cream cheese bagel, a t.j.'s yogurt and some sort of fruit. They don't seem to complain, so I don't attmept to diversify.

  20. Dear, dear JCK, I am sorry to say I AM like you. Except worse. Because I wait until The Hubby gets home (5:45 or 6:00 or so), and THEN we both scrounge around and try to figure out what to make for dinner.

    I like to serve fish at least once a week, and we do chicken one or twice. The Hubby likes to grill some beef from time to time. We make sure we have 1-2 vegetables or a veggie and a starch, and some kind of fruit. We are simple eaters. The Hubby wishes it was more exciting, but he knew what he was getting into when he married me!

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. I have nothing to offer. I'm simply going to read all your other comments and steal their ideas.


  23. Ha! Love this. Okay --first secret. Once a week, I make a HUGE amount of salad mix -- lettuces with carrots, onions, cauliflowers and red peppers. Then I cut tomatoes and cucumbers and put them in their own containers. Any point, John and I have instant salad with or for dinner, all week long. There is NEVER NO salad in the house, period. Our children adore (sorry) chicken satays with a peanut sauce. We eat Connie's frozen pizza. Sometimes, we have popcorn with parm for dinner while watching a movie. Kids sometimes eat nachos (just plain chips and cheese) for dinner. Cheesoritos - tortilla with cheese, baked or microwaved, are a hit. Omlettes for dinner. Chicken noodle soup. Spaghetti. Lunch ideas: little yogurts, sliced apple with lemon sprinkled on to keep from browning, sliced lemons, cheese/crackers, chips & salsa, turkey rolled and pinned with a toothpick (they love that one), cheesoritos, fruit snacks, grapes, mac & cheese in a thermos, pretzels & cheese as a main course. . . . we shuffle through those! and yogurt :-)

    Now to read some others. . .

  24. I wish I was a meal planner. I think? But I am not. I fly by the seat of my pants most nights and we eat out far too often.

    Good luck. And if you figure it out - let me know!

  25. I'm a meal planner though most of the time its just in my head. We start with the basic framework of 7 meals. I pull things from the pantry and freezer then flesh out the missing things at the store.

    My staples are all raw: flour, potatoes, buttermilk, carrots etc. That way I know worse case scenario I'll pull a beef roast from the freezer and make it into something with carrots, potatoes and biscuits LOL

    I tend to make food that reheats well. We also like quick meals of Indian inspired curry - they are my go to for meals under 40 minutes.

    I don't have the lunch issue as my kids are here with me at home. Here are a couple of my non-chicken favorites:

    A big beef roast will roll into beef & vegetable stew for a second meal. Cooking one night with a bit of prep after dinner gains me a "free" night.

    I love my crockpot and a simple dinner is to throw in a pork roast cover it with BBQ *we have a no HFC one we LOVE* several hours we shred it into bbq sandwiches.

    Good Luck!

  26. We plan the menu on Sunday.
    We go through the fridge and pantry, make a list of what meals we can make out of the food we have on hand and assign those meals to a day of the week.
    Then, we determine what else we need from the store to create the remaining meals required.
    We pack our lunches every day, so most of the grocery items are for lunch, snacks and staples like milk and eggs.

    Our menu is boring and usually unvaried as we usually have the same items and we buy things in bulk and on sale to save money.

    Monday we usually roast a chicken and have it for dinner with some sort of potato and vegetable combo.

    Tuesday is always something made from ground beef or turkey and is usually Italian.

    Wednesday is the remaining chicken from the Monday dinner, thrown into enchilladas or a soup, or mixed up with steamed rice and veggies.

    Thursday is leftovers.

    Friday is homemade pizza, always.

    Saturday is never planned.

    Sunday it begins again, and often we have cheese slices, summer sausage and sliced bread or popcorn for dinner, because it's easy.

  27. In defense of coupons: One must only choose the coupons for things that one would ordinarily feed one's family--that is key. True, there are many coupons for a lot of junk food, but if you look out for them you will find coupons for milk, cheese, meat, cereal, bread, and produce. Plus there are great coupons for shampoo, deodorant, etc., and if you match sales to coupons you can get them for much cheaper than you would elsewhere, like Target.

    Also--watch the ads for special deals, like buy a certain quantity of something, and get a dollar amount of your order. For example, Ralph's had the big cans of coffee that I buy on sale--50% off, and if I bought four I got $5.00 off my grocery order. Big savings! When something non-perishable or freezable is on sale, buy lots of it.

    All that being said--I quit the Grocery Game because the SoCal grocery stores quit doubling coupons over $1.00--that's where the huge savings came in.

    Good luck!

    PS-And buy generic brands, too!

  28. I haven't read your other comments so if I'm doubling up, I am sorry.
    I'm lazy like that.
    I do a weekly menu (used to be monthly but hubby works weird hours now).
    I find it works for me because I do all the prep I can in the morning when my kids are fresher and not quite as wild.
    ie chop veggies, make the casserole, prep the salad, marinate the meat etc etc.
    Then when cooking comes there is less to do and less chance of me flinging my knife at one of my kids.
    One other way isave money is when I make a casserole I always make two and freeze one. That way, there is something in the freezer for days from hell and we are less likely to eat out.
    Canada has very few coupons so I don't coupon much at all. I am a HUGE believer in Costco. We know what is cheaper there, and what's cheaper at the grocery store and shop accordingly, but their produce is consistently good quality and we try to buy non-perishable staples when they are on sale and stock up.
    For lunches - i pack my hubby lots of finger food type stuff. PEa pods, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, beef jerky, (eww) home made muffins, banana bread, pepperoni sticks, I make him lots of tortilla roll-ups, clubhouse sandwiches, etc.
    He also loves yogurt and lots of fruit. He's practically a vegetarian (except for the beef jerky which I cannot figure out) so his lunches are pretty fruit and veggie orientated.

  29. i do not plan any thing at any time. I am a fly by the seat of my pants mom who has no schedule or routine. I know: my kids are screwed.

    But maybe this will help: for lunch, I sometimes pack whole wheat tortilla wraps with diced veggies.

    That's all I got.

  30. Meal planning? Well, since there are only about 6 things that the entire family will eat so that I don't have to make multiple meals, my planning is easy. And I grocery shop for about four days worth because inevitably I'll have to go back for something midweek.

    For savings: I use my Vons club card and try to buy whatever brand is at a discount. I've gotten really good at that. Plus the club card also applies to produce and meats.

    If I really need to save money one week I'll make a giant pot of spaghetti sauce and have that a couple of nights and then make a lasagna with whatever is left over. You can get about 4 nights of dinners out of one pot of sauce.

    Must have in the pantry: cereal.

  31. Oh, and I always keep the fixins for BLT's in the fridge. It's my back up emergency dinner.

  32. I sort of plan meals. I go shopping and buy all the things for certain meals. Then I know at some point during the week I will have meals A B C. I also keep things on hand for meals on the fly. Beans, pastas, tortilla shells and varied meats. That way in a pinch I can put together something quick and easy.
    At the grocery store, I shop sales and stock up. I am not a coupon clipper either. We have a big freezer in the basement. If chicken is on sale I will buy a couple months worth. I also buy bulk at Sams Club and repackage all of our purchases when we get home into family sized portions. It saves us a lot of money.
    For lunches, my family loves wraps. For some reason all the same ingredients in a tortilla is better than on bread. They are weird like that.
    You didn't ask for but my favorite thing to do with chicken is chicken parmesan. It is quick and easy to put together. And my family loves it.
    Hope this helps. Reading back over it, I look a lot more organized than I actually am. I think I am more like you than I let on.

  33. You have inspired me to take on these topics every Monday! I have posted one today about Costco type shopping. Next week I'll take on meal planning.

    I am an experienced mom of 3 with good planning in my genes - I hope my posts will be helpful!

  34. i think meal planning is big for my family. I have 4 kids and its hard to cook for them. I use alot of quick meals to make it easy.

    seasonal jobs apply free

  35. i think meal planning is big for my family. I have 4 kids and its hard to cook for them. I use alot of quick meals to make it easy.
    sewer line


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