Friday, October 2, 2015

How to Menu Plan

The wonderful thing about menu planning is that you can use this with a one or two or three week menu plan- you do not need to do a whole month of planning. I can menu plan and shop for the whole month in one weekend because I have two refrigerators and a deep freeze to store all the food. You may not.

1.   So the first step is to gather recipes. No rush here, you have a month to find the recipes you need for the next month. I use  as one of my go-to places for recipes. You can go to the site with a recipe in mind, ie. spaghetti carbonara or search by ingredient! It's a wonderful help. I also LOVE the library as a resource! I can take out four or five books at a time, photocopy some recipes and give the books back. (I have no need or place to store a bunch of cook books. Of course you can hold a recipe swap day with friends, ask family etc. 

2.     You will need a two –pocket folder, clear plastic cover sheets and a huge binder to store all your recipes! YOU are creating your very own personalized cook book! No recipe is in my recipe binder that my family does not like. If I try a new recipe, and the family gives it the thumbs down, I take it right out of my cook book binder and throw it away! 

3.      BEGIN PLANNING! You will need a CALENDAR! A calendar that is ONLY for menu planning meals.
My weekly schedule:

Monday- cook new recipe or family favorite

Tuesday –cook new recipe or family favorite

Wednesday-cook new recipe or family favorite

Thursday-left over night 
(I heat up the meals from Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. Each family member gets a plate and chooses what they would like to have. I do this so I can have a night off and to get rid of left overs. I was tired of all the wasted food in the back of the fridge!).

Friday – pizza. (I used to buy pizza every Friday night, but then hubby asked if I would make it to save the budget. I now make different kinds of pizza on Friday!)

Saturday- kids cook. (My hubby and I have our date night every Saturday night, so the kids cook for themselves!)

Sunday-breakfast meal. 
I will cook eggs, pancakes, french toast, waffles, whatever they want for dinner, so long as it is a breakfast meal!

I share my menu plan ideas with you so you can see that I am not finding seven new recipes a week x four weeks = twenty-eight meals! I am only cooking three meals a week x four weeks = a total of twelve new or old recipes a month.

4.      Make your shopping list. Go over your recipes and make sure you put down everything you need to complete each meal- so you won’t forget anything. I used to shop with NO LIST! I would go aisle by aisle and just buy stuff. I’d think, Okay we’ll have tacos- I hadn’t checked before I left if I had meat, salsa, sour cream, taco mix already at home- so I would often OVER BUY and fill my cabinets with more of the things I already had! Before you shop look in your cabinets and make sure you are using up everything in the house before buying more!

5.      Now that all the recipes are chosen and the shopping list is made place all the recipes you will need for the month in your two pocket folder. It is much smaller and anyone can find the recipe!

I hope that helps and if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at!

This is the second article in a two part series. If you would like to read the first article entitled,
"Why I Menu Plan" click on the link =)

I have written other articles on Menu Planning:
Mommyhood-The Menu Plan for the Month
More Help in Planning a Month's Worth of Recipes!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why I Menu Plan

Before I begin explaining why I menu plan allow me a moment to dispel a few preconceived ideas. I don't menu plan because I am some great foodie-I'm not. I don't menu plan because I am super organized and need to have every area of my life in control-I don't. And I don't menu plan because this is the way my mother always did it-she didn't. Actually, I menu plan for five completely different reasons. 

1. The first reason is because I believe God has called me to be a wife and mommy. That may seem very obvious since I have been married for nineteen years and have six children. But for me when I met my husband I fell deeply in love. People would say, "I'm so in love-I'm on cloud nine," but I would say, "I'm on cloud 109!" I knew God had brought us together, so He didn't have to twist my arm to marry him. I wanted to marry him and didn't really see being Ben's wife as a 'calling.' The same is true with having my six children. So I was married with children and asked God, "What is my calling?" It took me a few years to figure it out, but eventually I got it. Well, with my calling of 'wifery' and 'mommyhood,' one of the roles I have is to prepare a dinner for my family each night.

2. Now, that does not mean that just because I was called I was equipped because I was NOT! I was afraid, even frightened of cooking and even cook books! I couldn't hear the word recipe without cringing! Just to give you a little example of what life was like before menu planning...each day at around 4pm my stomach would drop and some days I would just start crying just over the fact that I had to make dinner for my family. After a day of home schooling, changing diapers, nursing, laundry, etc. I had to still make DINNER! It felt completely overwhelming. I menu plan because I believe that in all areas of our lives God desires to set us free from fear. He wants His perfect love to infiltrate every part of our heart. Why menu plan? To allow God to break the fear!

3. The third reason I menu plan is because it allows for there to be peace at the dinner table. Prior to planning my meal I would come to the table on most nights disappointed in myself. I usually pulled something out of the freezer, (microwaved the rock, frozen meat until it was almost cooked instead of just thawed), and quickly threw something together. Cooking for me brought a level of anxiety and when I sat down at the table it was still on me. I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself. My heart wanted dinner time to be a time where we sat and talked about our day. A place where my hubby could lead us in a spiritual conversation, but I couldn't help feeling bad about myself. I felt much shame for not being a true wife and mother who knew how to cook. Now, with menu planning I can cook with confidence and sit down in peace knowing I have provided something good for my family and I am not ashamed of it.

4. Another reason I menu plan is it actually saves my family money. I used to go food shopping withOUT a shopping list! I would go aisle by aisle and just buy things that I thought would make a nice meal- ravioli, tacos, whole chicken-anything. But on arriving home I would find three bags of ravioli already in the freezer, boxes of tacos in the pantry, etc. I was over buying! I bought without knowing what was in my cabinets or without using up what I already had. That was completely frustrating. Menu planning also saves me time. There are no more last minute trips to the store to get an ingredient needed for a recipe. No running out or sending hubby to the store for last minute ingredients to go with a last minute dinner idea.

5. Lastly, I menu plan because it allows my family to help me. If I am running behind I can tell one of my children or hubby to look at my menu calendar and they can get out all the ingredients and/or begin making the dinner. The menu allows anyone to help prepare dinner, it is no longer only on my shoulders. 

So, those are my five reasons to menu plan. I've been doing this for eight years and it really has blessed my family and I, but mostly me, by helping me face my fears, setting me free, and bringing peace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Updating My Kitchen Cabinets

Can I just say,
I have waited fifteen years for this remodel!

I don't have pictures of 'before'
I painted the cabinets white,
(I painted the cabinets fifteen years ago).
but I do have pictures of what they looked like
before hubby and I changed the handles and hinges!

All of the cabinets had handles, but
I really wanted knobs.
A cleaner, sleeker look.

 The handles were big and antiquated.
(It's okay, you can say it...the handles were gross!)

And...oh yeah, I sloppily painted the hinges!
(Which was truly an accident-
I'm not the most careful painter!)

 But now they look like this...

Hubby painted all the cabinets with a fresh coat.  
He put in all new knobs on the top cabinets and 
handles for the drawers and bottom cabinets.

(This job wasn't as easy as it looks. Each top cabinet handle had created two holes in the each cabinet -one for the top screw and one for the bottom screw. A knob requires only one hole to attach to a cabinet. My husband filled each top hole, of every top cabinet, with wood putty, sanded it down and painted over it).

He also changed all the hinges! 
We bought all the items over time-
 using coupons at ACE Hardware.
We even waited for the paint to go on sale!

The kitchen has a new updated look without
the huge expense of a real remodel. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contentment Isn't Synonymous with Idleness

The other day, I asked a dear friend, 
"How do I straddle contentment and a fire in my belly?" 
Her wonderful response to me was, "Contentment isn't synonymous with idleness." I was stunned and asked her to repeat it. 

"Contentment isn't synonymous with idleness." 

I gulped down her words like a long awaited drink. Somehow I had gotten hold of the lie that to be content was to sit in my house, quiet, peaceful, doing motherly chores and at the end of the day sitting on a rocker, cross-stitching. 

Not that that is an unproductive or an unsuitable lifestyle, but for me- a type A personality, visionary, high energy, hard worker, multi-tasker...that life style is unreachable. I hated myself for not being 'content' under my definition of contentment. I can't sit still. I cannot help dreaming. I cannot stop hoping for... well, everything! (My husband just happens to call me his 'eternal optimist.') 

So, what has been my struggle? The struggle has been thinking that all my busyness is me not being content. I know people look at me and think, "Gosh, she's so busy!" Actually, people tell me that all the time. They say it like it is a bad thing to be busy, a wrong and discontented thing to be busy, as if I am busy chasing a dream that will never happen or I am busy trying to fill some void in my life. And I guess if I was busy doing that, well, yeah, I wouldn't be content.

So, what am I busy with? Well, I have a blog, a website, a little preschool, I home-school my kids, I volunteer, and I'm a mom who cooks three meals a day, cleans round the clock - you know, your basic mom. I'm always busy making something better, turning around furniture, teaching, writing articles, writing books, creating curriculum, and honestly, I love it. I find peace when I am using my God-given talents. I feel like each time I decorate a birthday cake for my children, it's honoring God. I'm using the talents He gave me to bless my children and He gets the glory. When I have the opportunity to teach my students in Joy School I am using my gift and love of teaching. When I write an article, like this one, and He has brought me to a revelation, I feel like I should share it with others and help others to be set free. 
Character Design - Busy Mom
picture from Dribble

So, I'll admit it - I'll own it - I am busy, but I love everything that I am putting my hands to. I'm not burnt out. I'm not stressed about how to do it all. It seems to come naturally to me to balance all this stuff. 

So, what's so wrong with it? The revelation is...nothing. Truly and honestly, I have finally understood and accepted that there is nothing wrong with me being busy. I am content with each day. I wake up and complete what I believe to be the task that God has put before me. Yes, sometimes I do too much, and then I slow down, but it doesn't take away the fact that I am still content. I love my husband. I love my children and my home. I have no regrets with the decisions we have made concerning our lives. And I love the visions the Lord gives me and I love working hard trying to obtain them.

Webster's dictionary says that "content" means: "pleased, satisfied, not needing more." I don't need more. I am happy with my life. I can't help having a vision for...let's say, a children's book. So, I find time and write it. I read it to my kids and they love it! I hope to publish it one day, but I am at peace with the timing. Contentment is a great feeling. 

I am content. I am not idle. 
I am just a contented mommy, who also happens to be busy.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 
(1 Timothy 6:6)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Best Cheese Ball

I found this 'French Quarter Cheese' or what I consider the best cheese ball recipe in the 'Very Virginia' cook book. I use it for any holiday or get together where a cheese ball is requested! The recipe, not changed in any way, is below:
  • 1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 garlic clove, minced, (I use two, but I'm Italian!)
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion, 
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
1.Combine cream cheese, garlic, and onion with a fork. Shape into 6 x 1 inch disk, place on serving plate and refrigerate.
2.Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan, heating until butter melts.
3.Cover chilled cheese with nut mixture. Wrap and chill. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Yield:10-12 servings. (I always double this recipe because it is such a hit!)

Okay, so I took this recipe one step further. My daughter LOVES hedge hogs, so we had a hedgie birthday party. I found a picture of a cheese ball hedge hog on Pinterest, but used my recipe instead of the one offered.

How awesome is this cheese ball?!