Develop Your Own Plan for Easy Meals by Cindy Rushton

I guess that everyone of us has at least one area in which we may find ourselves a bit “challenged” from time to time. Well, I guess that you should know that MY area is: cooking!

Hummm…I am fine as long as I am ONLY cooking…but just add any other responsibilities and my brain begins to overload. From the very beginning of our homeschool adventure, this is an area that I have found myself battling with TIME the most. It has been either homeschool and eat junk food…or eat well and have “snack” style lessons. (!!!!) As you can imagine neither solution manages a home well.

What to do? What to do? Well, I recommend EASY meals. Talk about looking well to the ways of our household! We CAN do it! But, how? Here are some quick tips:

  • Cook in bulk. Actually I call my plan, “Serve and Store.” The first years of homeschooling I had a home business of sewing for the public. I would sew one day, cook one day. On the sewing days, we would have leftovers from my cooking day. In other words, I would cook and SERVE on one day…and sew and eat the food that we had STORED on the next day! It was a nice balance which enabled me to operate a successful sewing business while homeschooling and homemaking! From this, I developed a habit of cooking in bulk that has continued till today. It is easy to just buy double ingredients… usually it is cheaper! I just double my recipes and freeze the extra dish. Yesterday, I had the “fruit” of my labors as we had Lasagna already prepared last week that only needed to be popped in the oven and served with our fresh bread. You can be prepared at all times for those dropping in if you freeze a variety of foods as you cook them! Bulk Cooking redeems the time so you can stay busy with the important things in life…relationships!
  • Make Your Own Freezer Meals. Same concept, except go ahead and put together a full meal on a microwave dish and freeze for those quick moments that you may need a full meal, but not have time to prepare the whole thing. OH! This also works nice for families with special diets, picky eaters, or even for those wanting to prepare meals for shut-ins or others needing a touch of ministry.
  • Crock-Pot Meals. I LOVE my Crock-Pot! It is my number 1 servant in my house! 🙂 It is soooo easy to pop a few ingredients into the Crock-Pot in the morning and get moving with my day. The meal cooks itself. The house smells YUMMY! I am able to get everything else done without scrimping on our health. And, time on my feet at the end of a long, long day is minimal. Crock-Pot cooking is easy. Just collect some great recipes–ask your family, friends, church members, online mommy pals (or look at our Mommy Homework assignment this week–FABULOUS recipes!!). I pick the ones with minimal ingredients and steps. It is funny. Our favorites have been the simplest–popping a roast and big bottle of honey barbeque sauce into the crockpot for easy barbeque beef sandwiches…popping stew meat, frozen veges, and a big can of tomato soup into the crockpot for an easy soup etc. Why not pull out that Crock-Pot today for a fun and easy meal? It is the perfect time to keep that Crock-Pot going strong!
  • Make Your Own Monthly Menu. I have a very good friend that has THE BEST plan I have ever seen for planning out her menus. She has ONE monthly menu that she has put together. Everyone knows exactly what to expect for each day of the week for the whole month. Can you imagine how much stress this alleviates in her life—not to mention, how she is building a legacy in her home. Her children KNOW what to expect. Plus, they can easily help Mommy get the meals together, because they know what she does for each meal! Yep! I have decided to simplify my own plans to make things a bit easier in our home too. Not only does this save our BRAIN, but it also makes things so much easier for shopping (only ONE shopping list—she prepared hers on her computer ONCE and now only goes through checking off what she needs!)…and storage (She only stores what they are eating regularly—she can buy in bulk, but she is not buying anything that is not used each and every week!!!!). See our section and forms included in this issue for your very own Monthly Menu Planner. Of course, you can choose any system that works for you!
  • Don’t forget EASY Meals! Probably everyone can benefit from this! One thing that has helped me for those inevitable tights that I face almost on a daily basis—at least for one meal—was when I developed a list of our favorite EASY foods. I try to keep all of the basic ingredients needed for these “quick meals.” All I did to develop this was brainstorm through what we choose over and over again. Then, I grouped ours by mealtimes, although we LOVE eating a full breakfast with all of the goodies—biscuits, scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, ham, bacon, honey—for occasional evening meals! After that, I made a list of what I needed to be sure to keep on hand. Then, I posted the list on the refrigerator and kept a copy in my Meal Management Notebook. All we do now is look at the list, grab the ingredients and devour! EASY! Why not make your own list too? Here are a few of our favorites…

Breakfast:
Muffins (my favorites are in Sue Gregg’s Cookbooks)
Smoothies! (we make ours full of fresh fruit, yogurt, and even a spoonful of flax seed—yummy AND nutritious!)
Bagel/Cream Cheese/Fruit
Cold Cereal (go Sam’s!)
Hot Cereal—grits, oatmeal, cream of wheat! EASY!
Fruit and Yogurt! (LOVE strawberries and vanilla yogurt/blueberries and vanilla yogurt!)
French Toast (another goody that you can buy at Sam’s and just warm up in the toaster!!!)
Breakfast Quiche (there are SO many great recipes in cookbooks and on the web!)
Breakfast Burritos!
Pancakes (Sue Gregg’s Blender Batter Pancake Recipe is the BEST in the world!!)
Southern Breakfast—Eggs, Biscuits, Breakfast meat…
Waffles! (Sue Gregg’s waffle recipes are the BEST!)
Granola (LOVE homemade!)
Yogurt with Granola topping

Lunch…
Soup and Sandwich
Hot Dogs/Chips
Homemade Pizza (easy!)
Super salad! Mix in grilled chicken leftover from dinner!
Grilled Cheese/veggies and dip
Bagel Bites (pizza!—Go Sam’s!)
Macaroni and Hamburger Quickie!
Tacos
Fruit Salad
Soup and crackers

Snacks…
Banana Bread
Smoothies
Yogurt with Fruit or Granola Topping
Muffins
Cereal
Tuna and Crackers
Trail Mix
Homemade Granola
Applesauce
Sliced vegetables and Dip (we buy pre-sliced from Sam’s—easy and fast snack!)
Jello
Fruit slices (either by themselves or with fruit dip)
Cheese cubes and crackers

Dinner Meals:
Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes or Macaroni, Salad, Dinner Rolls
Spaghetti, Salad, Homemade French Bread
Lasagna, Salad, Homemade French Bread
Loaded Baked Potato
Make Your Own Taco Salad Bar
Make Your Own Nacho Salad Bar
Nachos with Cheese Dip (and a movie!)
Homemade Pizza
Chicken and Rice Casserole/Steamed Vegetables
Chicken Stew/Cornbread or Crackers/Sandwich
Chicken Noodle Soup/Crackers/Salad or Sandwich
Chicken Tortilla Soup with Mexican Cornbread
Grilled Chicken Breast, a variety of Vegetables on hand, Rolls
Barbecue Grilled Chicken Breast, Baked Beans, Potato Salad, Rolls

Easy???

What do you think? Easy? Yep, make it easy! Choose whichever ideas will help you to make EASY meals while leaving you time to enjoy the journey! Not only will you enjoy meal preparation much, much more, but you will also have more time to enjoy all of little things during your journey!

Have fun!
Cindy