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Weekly Menu Board and Cooking Shortcuts

Before I got married, meal planning was a foreign concept to me. My former roommates like to remind me how I lived off of mac & cheese and sandwiches. I know I must have eaten other things, but I honestly can’t even remember what I ate. After getting married, I jumped right in to cooking. And over time I have gotten much better at meal planning. Especially now with kids, having a plan for dinner is critical. You can’t just decide to head to Lupe Tortilla at 7pm. Not with a toddler and a baby. Around here we eat at 5:45pm. Sometimes even sooner if my husband gets home from work early. And we are just now getting to the point where our toddler will eat what we are eating more often than not. Now that I have declared that fact she will probably revert back to needing turkey dogs and scrambled eggs, but whatever. We are making progress.

Usually on Sunday nights I spend a few minutes planning out our meals for the week. I like to cook enough so that we can eat the leftovers the next night. I write out the meals for each day and make my grocery list. Then on Monday, I do the grocery shopping.

Several years ago I started using a menu board in our kitchen to keep track of the week’s meals. I would honestly forget what I had planned each night if I didn’t have it written down. So it is a great reminder to me, and also my husband always knows what to expect. I bought the frame and stand at Hobby Lobby and used some scrap fabric as the background. I use chalk markers or a dry erase marker to write on it. {By the way, I think this would make a great hostess or housewarming gift.}

Weekly Menu Board

I really enjoy cooking, but with two little ones I don’t usually have time to make anything elaborate. I try to stick with simple recipes or take shortcuts when I can. Here are a few of the things that have really helped me save time in the kitchen.

Making Shredded Chicken in the Crock Pot

A number of my favorite recipes call for shredded chicken, and cooking the chicken in the crock pot is by far the easiest way. I throw in the chicken breasts {sometimes even frozen} and pour in about 1/2 inch of chicken broth. I cook it on high for a few hours, and it basically just falls apart. Couldn’t be easier.

Doubling and Freezing

This is such a time saver. I do this especially when I am making a meal for someone who just had a baby – I just double what I am cooking so I have enough for our family and theirs. I also double soup recipes because those usually freeze well.

Buying Pre-Cut Foods

I always have pre-chopped frozen onions on hand. Sometimes I also buy the tubes of garlic or cilantro {in the produce section}. The frozen bags of stir fry veggies or pepper and onion mix are great for making stir fry. I know fresh veggies are probably better, but sometimes you just gotta do what works with the time you have.

Crock Pot Meals

Once again, utilize your crock pot! One of my favorite crock pot recipes is Hearty Pasta Tomato Soup. And if you use the crock pot liners, then you even save time on clean up.

Microwave Steam Bags

Some people may cringe at this, but I frequently buy frozen veggies that you can steam in the bag in the microwave – like edamame, whole green beans, and asparagus. So easy and no mess. I also buy Uncle Ben’s 90 second whole grain brown rice. When we need another side dish, it is just so quick and simple.

What do you do to stay organized with meal planning? Do you have any time-saving tips? I would love to hear!

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4 Responses to Weekly Menu Board and Cooking Shortcuts

  1. Amy Siler February 21, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Great post! I like the menu board. I think I will try this so my husband knows what we are having. Sometimes he comes home and says, “Oh, that is what I had for lunch.” That will prevent that! Thanks.

  2. Jana M
    Jana M February 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Thanks Amy! Yes that will help with hubby planning lunch. My husband likes the board but every once in a while will ask – what’s for dinner? I am like hello please see exhibit A my menu board 🙂

  3. Jenn L
    Jenn L February 24, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    I totally need to get in on those crock pot liners! Great post Jana!

  4. Kristin February 23, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    What a cute menu board! I just discovered a new shortcut! Some of my favorite soup recipes call for pre-cooked chicken that is supposed to either come from my magical stock of cooked chicken or sautéed with onions and garlic. Ain’t nobody got time for that though… Even more so when you have a baby! So I just started adding everything to the crock pot- including raw chicken breast- not diced! About 30 min before serving I shred the chicken and add it back in to soak up more flavor. Comes out better than on the stove and it’s easy!

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