Sunday, January 25, 2009

Huh? Dinner? What dinner?

Since January 1st, we've been on a pretty strict budget and eating almost all of our meals at home.  There's just one problem.  I hate meal planning.  I love having planned meals, but I hate planning them.  My family is tough to please.  We keep going back to the old (boring and often unhealthy) standards--spaghetti, pizza, mac and cheese. Occasionally, I'll try something new, but that usually ends in disaster (ask me about the African Peanut Stew).  So I've been looking for an easier way to plan meals.

List Plan It, a site that sells lists for everything from grocery planning to family planning has a list for organizing the 21 meals that you keep in regular rotation.  Of course I'm not going to pay for the list, but I'll gladly take the idea.  If I can come up with 21 meals, with some new stuff thrown in for variety, hopefully we won't get bored and fall back on our evil Baja Fresh ways.  Here what I have so far:

Grilled Chicken
Skillet Burgers
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Beanie Weenies
Smoked Sausage with Potatoes and Green Beans

And now I'll rely on my vast readership to help me fill out the rest... anyone who submits five meals that I know my family will eat (veggie-heavy meals and Mexican are almost always shunned) will be invited over for dinner.  And I promise it won't be Eggos in baggies.


  1. I'll bite...try easy stroganoff (cook ground beef, noodles, mushrooms, onions, then add a little sour cream, cheese and bake till warm and melted) or chicken with penne and pesto (add spinach or swiss chard to pasta when cooking for extra hidden veggies). Do they like polenta (mushy or baked)? Jeff likes it with spaghetti sauce. Cheap! Do they like Thai food? Chicken satay is easy and tasty with peanut sauce.

  2. OK, here are some of our regular meals:
    1. Tri-tip, or some other easy roast
    2. Sesame chicken (which you made for me when Renee was born) or, similarly, Annmarie's herb crusted chicken which is super easy and yummy
    3. Shrimp tempura (Trader Joe's has some affordable boxes in the frozen section)
    4. Quesadillas
    5. Tacos
    6. Do breakfast for dinner (Waffles, omelets, all the things you might not have time to cook on a busy weekday morning)
    7. Roast a whole chicken (I bought a clay dish that makes very moist, easy chicken. I LOVE it! To check it out go to and search for clay vertical chicken roaster)

  3. 1. English Muffin Pizza's
    2. Pasta - my kids love pasta. Its cheap from TJs
    3. Hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls (Pigs in a blanket)
    4. Fish sticks
    5. Breakfast for dinner (pancakes, French Toast, etc)
    6. Pot Roast
    I have a crockpot recipe book you can borrow.

  4. We just came up with a list of 15 things to put into rotation for that same reason. I guess we need more! Here are our favs:

    1. Hamburger chowder - a recipe from my mom in law. It has hamburger, potatoes, carrots, barley, and other stuff in it.
    2. Chicken pot pie
    3. Kraft mac and cheese with sauteed onions, froz. spinach, and sausage or hot dogs
    4. Pasta with pureed white beans and finely chopped brocolli. We call it mac n cheese.
    5. Lasagna

  5. 1. Quiche (makes eggs for dinner seem more elegant)
    2. Red beans, rice and sausage
    3. Fried rice, chicken, veggies, eggs
    4. Linguini, pesto, veggies
    5. ...and the ever memorable "Mormon Surprise"

  6. Monica - Nathan hates mushrooms, but I could probably work around that for the stroganoff, the penne with chicken and veggies will work, the polenta is a no go (Ian and Nathan both hate mushy stuff), and we love thai (had thai peanut noodles last night)... Thanks for the ideas.

    Annette - the tri-tip will definitely work, as will the tacos and roasted chicken... thanks.

    Leslie - we do fish sticks and pigs in a blanket sometimes and they're hit or miss (as most things are with kids), but I'll try the mini-pizzas (would work on bagels too)... thanks.

    Aileen - #s 3,4, and 5 would work, #1 would be iffy, but #2 is a no go (for no specific reason, I'm just pretty sure each kid would have a different reason for refusing to eat it)... thanks.

    Mom - quiche might work (Nathan SAYS he'll eat it, but he always seems to be "full" when we eat it), the kids hate red beans and rice, the fried rice will be a total hit, and of course pasta will work. What is in mormon surprise? I only remember the tater tots... thanks.

  7. So am I to infer from your response that three of my dinner impossible suggestions were actually acceptable? I only need to submit 2 more acceptable suggestions to win the "grand prize" invitation to dinner? I'm going to take the day off work to survey recipe books...I can't wait to accept the prize!

  8. ...oh, and I forgot to mention that even though I forgot the recipe for Mormon Surprise, it's not beneath me to show up for homemaking night at the nearest Latter Day Saints stakehouse to recover it. I'm serious about this challenge.

  9. I agree with Nathan on the mushy foods issue, which is why I bake polenta. So, you follow the instructions on the box, mix it with cheese and sauteed onions, plop it in a baking dish and bake until firm. Cut it like cornbread and slather it with spaghetti sauce.