Building a routine

When I first started posting my menu plan, I wasn’t sure it was actually helping anything at all. The first week, I just kind of made myself do it. The second week, I had fun adding variety. The third week, I was amazed that I was *actually* sticking to it and decided that this would be a regular “thing” in my life.

This whole menu planning routine I’ve created is awesome. And I love it. Since starting to plan out my weekly menu, here are the benefits:

  1. I’ve barely spent any time staring at the fridge with that blank I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-make look on my face.
  2. We’ve had more variety, without me even learning that much “new” stuff. I had kind of felt like I was in a boring cooking/eating rut, but now that it’s all laid out I can easily make sure I’m not repeating stuff too much
  3. I have all the ingredients in advance- no more say OOOOOO I should make that! Only to find out I don’t have that and can’t make it.
  4. I have seriously cut down food waste- no more veggies spoiling in the drawer when I don’t get to them in time. My pantry is stocked, but not filled with excess stuff that’s not getting used.

Now, here it is again. Monday. Which means I get to play! By play, I mean review my pantry supplies, research a few techniques I haven’t tried out yet, and plan. The result will be my week’s menu. Let the lists continue.

  • Monday Taco bowls.
    • The bottom is a layer of Spanish rice
    • Next is ground beef: browned, drained, then add Pace picante medium salsa, a hefty amount of cumin, and a splash of water, cook it down, then season to taste with Lawry’s seasoned salt. I actually already have this made up from a batch of “breakfast quesadillas” I made on Sunday.
    • Black beans: from a can- rinsed and drained, then add a bit of water, salsa, cumin, salt and pepper while heating gently on the stove top
    • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese: The stuff from the bag. I like that it holds up against the heat here, in any situation where I wanted it to melt, I would grate some fresh off the block. Here, I don’t want it to melt, so I use the bagged stuff.
    • Quick salad: chopped romaine lettuce, roma tomato, cilantro, green onions, dressed with lime juice, salt and pepper (skip this for the kid who doesn’t like tomatoes- his salad leaves, carrots and green peppers will be on the side to dip in ranch dressing)
    • Cheater guac: dice up a ripe avocado, add fresh lime, salsa, seasoned salt and pepper
    • Top with sour cream, pieces of corn tortilla chips, and more chesse and cilantro. It’s so simple, and yet I used a ton of words. Sorry folks!
  • Tuesday Fish dinner- pre-fab breaded fish baked in the oven, fresh lemon for squeezing on top, homemade tartar (mayo, dill pickle relish, pepper & lemon juice), this garlic bubble bread again but I’m using whole wheat challah dough (because I’m a rebel, and it’s the dough I have), sauteed broccoli
  • Wednesday Sushi! My rolling technique could really use work, but I make veggie sushi with Kokuho Rose rice and this recipe. Served with a soy sauce, pickled ginger & wasabi. Sides are salted edamame, and some broiled soy/sesame/honey/sriracha chicken skewers.
  • Thursday Faux chicken parmesan. Kind of.
    • Preheat oven to 450. Season and brown boneless chicken thighs in a 4 qt. saute pan, set aside. Start microwaving potatoes for mashed potatoes.
    • Add sliced onions, sweet peppers, minced garlic and olive oil to pan and cook til soft. Get a separate pan started with butter and garlic for the mashed potatoes.
    • Add marinara and a bit of extra water to the pan or peppers and onions & stir to “deglaze” and get the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
    • Add a dollop of pesto, slice chicken and return to pan, taste for seasoning. Add grated parmesean if not salty enough
    • In a bowl, microwave melt a bit of butter, then toss in italian bread crumbs and parmesean. Top chicken/marinara/peppers/onion with the bread crumb mix, and put in the oven til golden brown.
    • Make mashed potatoes with garlic butter & whole milk. Cover to keep warm til ready to plate. Then potatoes go on the bottom, chicken-mixture-thing goes on top.
    • Serve with a side romaine salad- plus carrots, craisins, cheddar cheese, tossed with balsamic dressing.
  • Friday Baked garlic/lemon/pepper chicken drums, green beans, and rice with lemon, garlic, dill & feta. This week is a bit chicken filled, but that’s what happens when chicken is on sale.
  • Saturday/Sunday: Update!
    • Maple syrup boiling has been postponed. The sap just plain isn’t flowing in Lutsen yet, so we’ll see what the weather is like the week after easter.
    • I’ll still be making fresh bread  and banana muffins for weekend snacks. I’m making it up to them with the following foodstravaganza
      • Saturday brunch: Buttermilk waffles, fresh strawberries, cheesy potatoes, turkey sausage, grapefruit supremes
      • Insert video games with Dad here
      • Saturday lunch: Home made lunchables. Not as gross as it sounds! Pre-fab crackers, sauteed chicken strips, dip-able veggies, and apple slices
      • Insert hike from Minnehaha Falls to the Mississippi River here
      • Saturday dinner: Partttty night! Home made pizza, nachos, and freshly baked cookies a la mode.
      • Sunday- quick oatmeal and fruit for breakfast before church, brats for lunch with broccoli slaw salad, archery and soccer outside if it’s nice, apples and peanut butter for a snack, more playing and stirfry for dinner. Laundry somewhere in here too!
      • Re-update: There’s enough sap flowing for a mini-boiling extravaganza, plus there’s still snow on the ground so the boys can get in their usual sled-a-thon. If we waited til the weekend after Easter, all the snow would be gone.

So this is what dinner will be this week. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it sure does make me happy. Almost as happy as all the snow melting here in Minnesota.

Making menu planning part of my routine has been great, and now I’m ready for more. What routines do you have that bring you joy?

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