Weekly Menu Plan: FREE Printable

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We’re continuing on with our “Feeding a Family” theme and today we’re talking MENU PLANS!

Let me start by saying…menu planning is NOT my favorite thing to do. There…I said it. In fact, I can usually find 500 other things I need to do like now instead of planning the menu. The thing about it is, I know it benefits me so much to have a game plan for the week ahead.

Additionally, there are so many different styles of menu planning that it’s going to take time to find the “right” way to do it for your family.

Oh, and then there’s that whole as seasons change, so must your meal plan. Ha.

So…I think what I’m trying to get at is. Meal plans are good. Very good actually, BUT…you shouldn’t be so rigid about it that you can’t allow for life to happen and change plans. Because really, that would defeat the purpose of that meal plan, wouldn’t it?

The best recommendation I can make for you is this, shop around and pull ideas from lots of folks. Find the one that best fits your family and the current season you’re in (i.e. babies, picky eaters, eat you out of home(ers) or all the above).

Remember why you’re doing it in the first place. To help your family eat well and avoid unnecessary stress about what to feed that little army of yours.

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Keep it simple and don’t forget to add in some fun things…make sure everyone in your family can find something in the mix to get excited about. Trust me, you won’t please every member every day and some days you may not please anyone BUT a good meal plan will help you overall make it easier on you to please them and feed them healthy more often.

Ok. now that all that is out there…here’s a basic run down of how I plan:

*I usually plan my meals Sat/Sun because since Covid craziness became a thing I’ve been shopping weekly on Saturdays (I used to shop biweekly at multiple stores). Now I go to one store and order anything I can in bulk from Amazon. I start planning before I go shopping and then I finalize it after I get back because I still seem to have trouble finding everything I planned to use for meals at one store.

*We have a couple of meals that we do each week like “Friday night Pizza night” & “Taco Tuesday”. This is both fun and gives me a couple of “freebies” each week.

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*I try to have a couple of “back ups” on my radar and in the pantry and freezer. Think homemade Einkorn PBJ or “snack lunch”. Again, life happens and with four kids…it happens a lot and the whole point of all of this is to make life easier not more stressful, right? RIGHT.

*If something from the meal plan doesn’t end up getting used I shift it to the next open day and if necessary sometimes I switch meals from one day to the next…for example, this morning I made tomorrow’s breakfast because I was running behind and tomorrow I’ll make today’s instead.

*Don’t forget to plan what snacks you’ll have available for the week (if you have small kids you know what I’m talking about).

*It’s also a good idea to plan for a couple of desserts for the week too. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice treat a few times a week. And…if you at least plan to bake something you can make sure you have all of the ingredients at home when you go stock up for your week of meals.

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As you can see, I’m pretty easy going when it comes to my meal plan. I don’t have time or mental space for complicated things right now so simple is how I prefer things. If you’ve never done a meal plan but you’re interested in starting one, you can give this little worksheet a try. I created it especially for ya’ll (well…and myself). It is super simple and embarrassingly basic (don’t judge me) but it follows the basic principles I outlined for you and it will get you going.

Weekly Menu Plan

Happy planning people! ❤

 

Bagels From Scratch

One of the best things I ever did for myself and for my family was taking meals that we already love and making healthier versions of those things at home from scratch.

The next best thing I did for us is make a list of regulars for each meal that we rotate through on the weekly meal plan.

As promised, we’re starting off with breakfast and at the conclusion of the series we’ll give you all a free printable e-book with all of the recipes we’ve discussed OR you can just print each of the ones you love most right from the blog post.

Today we’re talking about one of our favorite breakfast items to make, Bagels. Fresh bagels straight from the oven with a nice cream cheese or homemade butter and jam are an AMAZING breakfast. Even my picky eater approves. Not only do they work wonderfully for breakfast, but those left over breakfast bagels can easily be turned into a bagel sandwich for lunch.

A couple of things you’ll want to consider:

  • Fresh baked goods will not store the same as the store bought versions. At most I can get 2 days out of homemade breads because they contain no preservatives. Typically when we bake breads here at our house, we eat them the same day OR we freeze them the same day and then stick them in the oven when we’re ready to eat the rest.
  • Use good flour…I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a grain mill this year so I can use the best quality of grains possible but if you can’t take that step, just make sure you’re getting the most nutricious flour you can afford. There are many reasons why freshly ground flour is the best option nutritionally speaking but it is a big investment. Consider using jovial foods or something like it to order a good quality flour. Check it out here: https://jovialfoods.com/organic-einkorn-all-purpose-flour-2lb/ 
  • When you’re baking breads, you have to know what breads require a higher gluten content. It’s certainly possible to use a low gluten grain like Einkorn alone for bagels but for us, we prefer to do half Einkorn and half white hard wheat. It gives us the texture we’re looking for and a great flavor.
  • Some breads require a little extra time and a few steps. Bagels are one of those. Consider making these in bulk, partially baking them and letting them cool. Store in the freezer and then pull them out and bake the rest of the way when you’re ready for more.

Let’s get started:

Homemade Bagels

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*I’m using a blend of Organic Einkorn flour (freshly ground) and Hard White Wheat (freshly ground). You will need to experiment a little to get the texture and flavor your family prefers but generally a mix of both a good All Purpose flour and Bread flour (for gluten) works well. I usually do a 50/50 mix.

Preheat your oven to 415 degrees Farenheit & prepare a large pot of water for boiling the bagels.

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1 1/4 c water

1tbsp pure maple syrup

4 cups flour

1tsp salt

Add yest and approx. 1/2 cup warm water to mixing bowl along with the maple syrup and let sit for 15 minutes until bubbly.

Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until gluten is well developed (dough is good and stretchy).

Let the dough rise for approximately 30 minutes.

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Separate into 9-12 even balls of dough and let rest for a few minutes.

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Shape into bagels and let rise for another 30 minutes.

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**you need to pinch the dough ends together to make sure the bagels hold their shape**

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Boil the bagels for 2 minutes on each side.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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For the Love of Food: Feeding a Family

Feeding a family is both a great joy and a big job. There are so many factors to consider. Family size, family budget, likes and dislikes. How much time can you allot for meal prep and clean up? All of these things are important to consider.

The larger your family, the more planning has to come into play. Meal time looks much different now with four children than it did years ago when we only had one. The more people you’re feeding, the more opinions and requests, likes and dislikes threaten to make meal times a daily challenge.

Additionally, there’s the food boredom that strikes when meals become too repetive. Food is meant to be enjoyed and special. It holds the potential to bring you back in time just as your favorite songs do.

Oh and let’s not forget that we want to ensure the food we are serving our loved ones is also nourishing their bodies. So many of the easy, prepackaged convenience type foods we buy from the store do nothing for us besides fill our stomachs for a time. There’s very little those foods actually do for our health.

Some days your creative juices are flowing and meal ideas come naturally, other days there isn’t a thing in the cupboards or fridge to strike your fancy.

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Making mealtime something special and nourishing is possible. It’s not always easy and some days you’ll need to look for inspiration, but take heart, with a little planning and trial and error it can be done.

So how do you get started? 

  • Love food for more than a full stomach. Love the beauty it offers…the nourishment and enjoyment. Food is such a vital part of our lives, we might as well enjoy it.
  • Remember why you’re doing it. You have been given the joy and responsibility to feed your people nutricious and delicious foods.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed and don’t compare yourself to gourmet cooks if you’re just getting started. Start small. Stick with it and you’ll get there.
  • Learn all you can…Pinterest, Youtube, Blogs, Books…there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Give yourself grace and allow yourself to make terrible meals and messes. Even the best cooks and bakers make inedible creations from time to time.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to take you all through some of our “regulars” on the meal plan to offer a few ideas and inspire you. We’ll start with breakfast, then lunch and lastly dinner.

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We’ll also look into some different types of meal planning forms and share recipes for some of our favorite meals.

My hope is that you’ll leave here feeling refreshed and inspired. Ready to cook…and EAT!

 

Chocolate Chip Scones Recipe

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I have a tasty breakfast treat for you all today! These delicious scones are made from 100% homeground whole wheat flour (though you can certainly subsitute store bought whole wheat flour as well). They taste just about the same as a chocolate chip cookie, just slightly less sweet. Not only are they delicious, they are super easy to make and take only a few minutes to bake. Perfect for a weekend breakfast treat!

 

Chocolate Chip Scones

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cups flour (I used freshly ground hard white wheat)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt or pink himalayan salt

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2-3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butter (cold)

101/2 tsp vanilla (pure vanilla)

1 egg

1/4 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk if you don’t have cream, but the cream does make a tasty scone)

** you may find that you need slightly more cream…after adding the first 1/4 cup, add a tablespoon at a time extra if needed to make the mixture come together**

Step One:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Combine all dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and chocolate chips)

Step Two:

Combine your wet ingredients (egg, cream, vanilla)

Step Three:

Cut in cold butter to the dry ingredients

Step Four:

Combine your dry ingredients and wet ingredients

Step Five:

Shape the dough into a slightly flat circle and cut into eight pieces with a pizza cutter

Step Six:

Bake on 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown

Enjoy! 🙂

Saving Money on Groceries

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Groceries. They are vital in all of our homes and use up a significant portion of our income. With a family of six, we have to be very intentional about how we plan meals, purchase and prepare food.

Let’s talk about five simple ways we save money on groceries:

Consistency

This is probably the hardest for me. At least in this current season of life. There is always something that seems to come up that stops me from being able to get my menu plan done or go through the pantry, fridge and freezer, make the trip to the store etc. The problem is when I don’t consistently go on the same day, we end up running out to the store for “just a few things to get by” and spend much more than we would have.

Typically for us it’s best for me to go either Friday on payday or the Saturday after since by the end of week two we’ve used up pretty near everything we have. Haha!

Bi-weekly or monthly shopping 

As I mentioned earlier, bi-weekly or monthly grocery shopping can drastically cut your grocery costs while feeding your family good, whole, from scratch foods. It’s also a lovely perk that it helps keep you out of the store. I know not everyone may feel the same, but I’m not much of a shopper. I just don’t enjoy it, so if I can suffer through a larger shopping trip and have to do it less often…I’ll do it! When the time comes and space allows for it, you’ll likely find me jumping on the “once a month grocery shopping” bandwagon!

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Shop the right stores

This ones a big one for me! So many times I’ve found myself in the wrong store thinking I can make the shopping trip easier by shopping for everything in one store without over-spending, but I end up paying far more than if I’d just made a couple of extra stops. For our area, I hands down recommend Aldi for the bulk of groceries.  It’s always worth the trip. Even when I don’t really feel like driving the extra distance.

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Some things I can’t find at Aldi and usually purchase at Walmart or Kroger. For most everything else like cleaning supplies and toiletries/household items I usually use Walmart and purchase the least expensive version without compromising quality.

Cooking from scratch

This one is something that so many write off immediately because they’re “just not much of a cook” or they “don’t have time for that”, but you’d be surprised at how easy and fast some of these “from scratch” items actually are.

If you’re new to cooking from scratch, I’d suggest starting with one or two new things at a time and working at getting good at it. For example, say you’re used to buying store bought pizza or ordering pizza, start by trying out different pizza dough recipes and find one that your family prefers and work out the kinks. Over several weeks of making it repeatedly, you’re going to get faster. You’ll save quite a bit of money and eat food that’s made with real ingredients that you yourself selected. No extra preservatives. Just real food. Once you master something like pizza dough, move on to bread. Similar ingredients and process so it’ll be a relatively easy new product to learn. Start small and build on it to avoid burn out and don’t get frustrated. I’ve been baking for many years and still mess up more than I’d like. Just the other day I was prepping breakfasts for the week and managed to forget to add yeast to the dough since I knew I wasn’t going to have time to let the sourdough rise the dough and ended up with hockey pucks instead of bread. It happens.

Preparing food ahead of time

Oh this always makes for a day of hard work but it’s always so worth it in the end. My week goes so much smoother when I make the time to prep meals ahead of time. We don’t find ourselves in a pinch running to the store to grab something quick or eating out. Planning out and cooking/baking in large quantities also helps save money in most cases since purchasing ingredients is most of the time less expensive than purchasing the smaller quantities.

Get yourself a simple meal plan going and plan out everything from breakfast and snacks to lunch and dinner.

Check out this free printable planner page:

https://niftymom.com/2016/01/printable-weekly-meal-plan/

Prep what you can ahead of time and then eat it through the week. For example, one of my favorite things to prep ahead of time is breakfast. It’s always a stressful meal to make and clean up with homeschool, baby and chores so simple and fast is key! One of the things I like having on hand are items like from scratch english muffins and bagels, regular breakfast muffins, pancakes, frittata, etc. All of these keep well either in the freezer or the fridge and are simple to make.

Another little food prep tip…come up with weekly themes, like Taco Tuesday or Friday Pizza night, this will not only make meal planning easier but will also ensure you’ll always have ingredients on hand for a meal if you do end up in a pinch. We usually have homemade pizzas every friday night so at any given time I will have what I need to throw together a pizza if I needed to. Speaking of prepping ahead, did you know you can make multiple dough balls for homemade pizza, throw them in the freezer and thaw them as needed?!

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Mix up a few fancier meals each week with simpler/less expensive ones

This is probably one of my best tricks to keeping the kids and hubby happy with meals on a small budget. I love meals like Spaghetti and black beans and rice but a good portion of the rest of the crew isn’t quite as thrilled with it so it helps for me to sprinkle in the “good stuff” in between the not so favorite items.

You can make a couple of vegetarian meals in between heartier meals with meat to please the family too. Most of our family enjoys a good big salad so every so often we’ll just make a big salad and either substitute boiled eggs for the meat or leave it out entirely. You could also make some chicken to go on the salad if you’re just not into meatless meals. It’s a quick meal with ingredients we typically always have on hand and it’s healthy!

What are some of your best tips for saving money on groceries?!

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Christmas Tree Decorating Traditions

Today we’re talking about a super fun family time! Picking out and decorating the Christmas tree! This is such a wonderful family activity that costs very little once you have your initial cost of ornaments and lights out of the way. It creates lasting memories for your family, especially your kids! We started this tradition when our oldest was still a baby (he’s 9 now). It’s changed some here and there over the years as we’ve gone through different seasons but the tradition, the anticipation, the process and the memories created by it are something we hold dearly and we’ll continue on with it as long as we’re able to.

When we choose our tree picking day, we make a day of it. We pick the tree, buy a special ornament or decoration for that year, bring it home, decorate it from start to finish and pull out all the other decorations. We get done as much as we can that day and we celebrate. We have cookies & hot chocolate (like a special, made from scratch, sprinkles and marshmallows…the works). We listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies.

Keep in mind that some years will look a little different depending on what your current season looks like but I’m telling you, this is such a sweet tradition! Our kids get so excited to do this every year! This year they had a count down written down on the school white board to keep track of how many days before we’d get our tree! My prayer is that these memories will stick with them well into their parenting years and that their children will also look forward to it with bright and eager eyes!

So what does this day usually look like for us? This year, we got a little extra excited and decided to get the tree the day before Thanksgiving (it’s usually our “black friday” tradition because we don’t really do black friday. To be honest the day before Thanksgiving was not the best day for it and if we decide to do it earlier next year I’m voting for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We got up that morning and drove around pricing out the different trees in our area. Unfortunately we don’t have any tree farms close to us (that we’ve found anyway) so we usually end up at either Lowes or Home Depot. We’ve found Lowes to have the lowest price on trees in our area usually so that’s where we usually end up.

Then we went home and we ate lunch. After that, we got the tree prepped and pulled out all of the decorations from the attic. The boys and I got the cookies started and the hot chocolate. The boys worked on some Christmas themed crafts, and the rest of the day was just spent decorating and doing all things Christmas! I’ll leave you with some fun photos from our day.

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The 2019 Tree!!

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Getting it all set up.

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Christmas crafts! This one was a super cute gingerbread man ornament set. Simple and fun!

Helping with the hot chocolate and cookies.

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Enjoying their masterpiece!

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Admiring the hard work.

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Here they are posing for Christmas cards in front of their fully decorated tree!

What are some of your most favorite, inexpensive and simple Christmas traditions?

Advent Traditions

As we prepare for Christ’s coming, I’ll be kicking off a new series all about Christmas. Specifically, a simple Christmas. I hope you’ll join me over the next four weeks and that you’ll find something to inspire you.

Here are a few simple ways we celebrate Advent here in our home:

First up, is a book by one of my very favorite Authors, Ann Voskamp, “The Greatest Gift”. It is a beautifully written book that is perfect for daily family reading. It’s short enough for the little ones to sit through and includes scripture and sound biblical teaching. Perfect for families with kids of all ages. You can find it in most book stores, as well as Amazon.

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Next, is the lighting of our Advent candles. Each night as we begin to read, starting with the first Sunday of Advent, we light our candle. Mine isn’t a traditional “Advent wreath” but this little antique candle holder is beautiful and simple and works perfectly for us. Here’s a tip for keeping Advent (and Christmas in general) simple, use what you already have and love. This little candle holder is something we always have around. Sometimes we add greenery to it, sometimes we simply place greenery by it. This year it sits on our faux fireplace next to a garland made of Leyland Cypress clippings from our yard. It’s simple, frugal and beautiful.

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What are some of your family’s favorite simple Advent traditions?

Join me later this week for a simple and frugal Christmas DIY tutorial!

Happy Advent Season!