Eat at Home Habit #7 – Pantry and Freezer Challenge!

It’s the final post in our series on 7 Habits for Eating at Home.

If you are just joining us and would like to catch up on the other topics we’ve covered including topics planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer, the 15-minute meal, tools and tips for mastering time-saving cooking methods and a collection of dinner conversation starters. Today we have the perfect way to wrap up our series on healthy eating habits with a pantry and freezer challenge.

Habit #7 – Pantry and Freezer Challenge

One habit that needs to be in the rotation for all of us is the occasional pantry and freezer challenge.  We are blessed to live in a country where food is abundant and getting it in hand is easier than it ever has been before. We have the ability to buy and store all kinds of food to keep on hand whenever we want it. We can even have it delivered to our door in some instances!

But the other side of that coin is it’s easy to keep buying things we don’t need while letting ingredients we already have languish and spoil in the pantry and freezer. Of course, wasted food is not only sad but it’s not really great for the budget either. So I like to be intentional about taking a week or two every so often to go through what I have and make a plan for using it up in my meals. This means I waste much less food than before and still put great meals on the table for my family!

Here are a few tips for taking a week (or more) and using up the food that’s been hiding in your kitchen and turning it into delicious and satisfying meals for your family.

  • Go on a search and rescue mission in your pantry and freezer.  You need to know exactly what you’ve got in there.  Examine expiration dates, pitching what’s already past its prime.  Make a list of what you find.
  • Search recipes for meals that use the foods you find.  Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients and get creative in your cooking.
  • Grab a calendar and plot out your meals. You might surprise yourself and be able to plan several weeks or a whole month!
  • Commit.  Stay out of the stores as much as possible and keep to your plan.  One way to commit is to designate a way to spend or save the money you’re not spending on groceries.  If you budget a regular amount of money for the grocery, during your pantry and freezer challenge you won’t be spending that.  That means you can put that money aside for something needed or fun!

I think this pantry and freezer challenge is the perfect way to end our 7 Habits of Eating at Home series.  I’d love it if you took a moment and told me what you’re making from your pantry and freezer this week!

Here are a few more things that might be helpful in your pantry and freezer challenge this week

 

Next week we’re starting a new series on Summer Slow Cooking and Pressure Cooking. Let’s keep the kitchen cool together!

Read all the posts in the 7 Successful Habits for Eating at Home

  1. Plan Meals around your calendar and lifestyle
  2. Simplify Grocery Shopping to save time and money
  3. Stock up your freezer with easy meals and shortcuts
  4. Plan 15-minute meals for busy days
  5. Master time-saving tools in the kitchen–before you are in a time crunch!
  6. Create intentional conversation and connection with your families at the dinner table + FREE PRINTABLE!
  7. THIS POST: Use up what you already have by shopping from your pantry and freezer when you plan your menu at least a few times a year!
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Eat at Home Habit #5 Master time-saving cooking methods

We’re in the middle of a series on 7 Habits of Eating at Home with tips on each habit to help in establishing out own healthy habits. We’ve covered topics like planning meals around your calendar, quick and simple grocery shopping tips, stocking your freezer and the 15-minute meal. Today we delve into some tools and tips for mastering time-saving cooking methods.

Habit #5 – Master time-saving cooking methods

In Habit #1 we talked about consulting your calendar when making out your meal plan so that the amount of time and the time of day available for cooking matches up with the recipe.

Strategically choosing slow cooker recipes, pressure cooker meals, sheet pan dinners, and 15-minute meals depending on what your day or week is looking like will make a huge difference in your success with eating at home.

But in order to make all of these amazing options for saving time in the kitchen work, you need to learn how to best use these appliances and cooking methods and which one makes the most sense for the different mealtime scenarios that come up in your schedule.

It really helps to practice with these appliances and cooking methods at a time when you aren’t in a rush so that you can figure out the individual quirks or steps for each one without a lot of pressure or stress to get it right the first time.  Don’t give up if you have a failure or two.  It could be that you’re just learning how to use the appliance, and with a little perseverance, you’ll come to find that it’s one of your absolute favorite kitchen tools!

A good recipe will go a long way to making you successful – and I’d like to think that the recipes we have here on the site are good ones that will make cooking a delicious meal for your family easy and enjoyable!

This post contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help sustain this site at no extra cost to yourself! 

Tips for Using the Slow Cooker

You can make a ridiculous amount of good food in the slow cooker. Prep time is fast and there’s little to no standing in the kitchen monitoring the food as it cooks. That’s a huge plus if you have a lot of other things to do besides keep an eye on the stove!

One of the biggest issues you may run into with slow cookers is that they tend to cook too hot.  Most often, this is because you’re using one that is too big.  If the food doesn’t fill the crock at least half way, chances are it will cook hotter than it needs to, resulting in dry and over-cooked food. Some slow cookers are better than others at cooking consistently, too.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use the slow cooker:

Tips for using the Instant Pot or any electric Pressure Cooker

The digital, electric variety of pressure cookers are fairly new.  I have the six quart 6-in-1 version and I use mine all the time. It’s such a handy kitchen tool! They’re really easy to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used a pressure cooker before.   Read through your manual very well and keep it handy so you can refer to it as needed as you set things up the first few times. I recommend trying to making something simple in the Instant Pot for the first time, like rice.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from using my pressure cookers this past year.

  • The most important thing to remember when using the Instant Pot or any electric pressure cooker is that you’ll need to add at least 1 1/2 cups of liquid to the pot to get it to come to pressure.  However, remember that the liquid doesn’t have to be water!  Things like broth, tomato sauce or juice, enchilada sauce and any other liquids work too. A good instant pot recipe will account for the need for liquid, but if you experiment with your own recipes, that’s something to keep in mind!
  • Also, remember that the amount of time you set the pot for is not the time that your dinner will be done.  You need to allow extra time for the pot to come to pressure before the cook time even starts. The amount of time needed for the pot to come to pressure and then the food to cook varies a lot. And it is usually still a lot faster than cooking on a stovetop or in the slow cooker so it’s a great option when you need to cut down cook time a bit.
  • Picking good recipes that are made for cooking in the instant pot is ideal for cooking a successful meal when you are starting out! Every week, we put instant pot as well as slow cooker instructions for many of our recipes in the Weekly Meal Plans. It’s been a hit with our members and I’ve enjoyed cooking these recipes as well!

Looking for a few recipes to try out? Here are a few of my favorites on the blog.

If you are considering buying a pressure cooker, but aren’t sure which to go for you can read my honest review of the two brands I bought in this post here.

Tips fop making fantastic Sheet Pan Dinners

A sheet pan isn’t exactly an appliance, but it is a really useful tool to have in the kitchen!  You can put nearly any type of meat and vegetable combination on a sheet pan and have a marvelous dinner with less time and mess than if you cook each item individually.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making a sheet pan dinner.

  • The best thing is to use a very large sheet pan like this one. If you don’t have a large pan, you can use two regular sized sheet pans, but the large one is really nice and not expensive. If you have a bigger family, two large ones can really make it easier, too!
  • Timing is everything with sheet pan dinners.  Figure out which ingredient will need the longest cook time and place that in the oven first.  Then add the other ingredients later so they get the proper cook times as well.
  • Be sure to oil the pan or use parchment paper to keep clean up easy. After all, the whole point of saving time is to spend it with those around your table, not standing at the sink scrubbing off baked-on food!
  • These sheet pan dinner recipes are super popular at our house and with our readers! Try one out and see what you think! Once you see how easy they are, you’ll have inspiration for endless varieties of meals you can toss together on a sheet pan and get in the oven for easy family meals.
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Eat at Home Habit #4 – Learn to make dinner in 15 minutes

We are in the middle of a series of 7 Habits of Eating at Home.

If you missed the first three weeks then you’ll definitely want to check those out too. Week 1 was on meal planning around your calendar. Week 2 was focused on quick and simple grocery shopping tips. And last week we talked about stocking your freezer to bring less chaos and more enjoyment to dinner time.

This week our topic is all about how to make a healthy and tasty dinner in just 15 minutes. At my house, this qualifies the chef for Superhero status and all of us can use a day like that every once in awhile! I’ll be on Facebook Live talking more about strategies for quick food prep and cooking and I’ll be making a 15-minute meal live so you can see how easy this is!

Habit #4 – 15 Minute Meals

Keeping several good recipes in your repertoire that can be made in just 15 minutes is one of the smartest things you can do.  Find a couple that your family loves and keep those ingredients handy so that you have something to fall back on. Even on the busiest, craziest nights, we can carve out 15 minutes to pull dinner together if we have a standby recipe or two to turn to and a pantry with basic meal builders ready for us!

If you are already a member, you know that Eat at Home Meal Plan members get a 15-minute meal each week in both the Traditional and Whole Foods plans to give healthy, quick options for that one night you don’t have any time to prepare in advance. There are really so many delicious, quick and easy meals to choose from that only take 15 minutes and I love having that choice on the menu every week!

Tools for the quickest cooking

In addition to those delicious 15-minute recipes, it’s a good idea to keep some tools on hand to make your prep and cooking time as easy and fast as possible. Stock your kitchen with these hard working tools to make cooking fast.

  1. Sharp knife –This is essential. So many meals require some chopping or cutting. You do not want to be fighting the food while trying to chop with a dull knife. Invest in a good, sharp knife and a knife sharpener. You will not regret this purchase.
  2. Garlic press – Fresh garlic makes a dish taste wonderful. Invest in a quality garlic press to make this step fast. Look for one that doesn’t require the cloves to be peeled. You also want an easy way to clean out the little holes. Pampered Chef makes a nice press, but there are other good brands too.
  3. Electric griddle – The ability to make many pancakes, sandwiches, or quesadillas at once makes this worth the space to store it. Fixing these foods one at a time in a skillet voids the meal of its quick quality. Unless you are only cooking for two people, invest in a large griddle.
  4. Large baking stone or cookie sheet – Useful for nachos, French bread pizzas, broiling sandwiches etc. I prefer baking stones because clean up is a quick scrape under hot water.
  5. Gas grill – Grilling can be quick, depending on the food you’re fixing. It’s an easy way to cook up lots of chicken for the freezer. Grilling also cuts down on cleanup.
  6. Microwave – I use the microwave for quickly thawing cooked meats. One or two minutes is all it takes to have cooked chicken or ground beef ready to add to a recipe.

Naturally quick-cooking foods & Meal Builders for your Pantry

It’s a great idea to keep your pantry stocked with key ingredients so you never have to worry about not having anything to build a meal on. This post talks about classic meal builders I always keep on hand in my pantry and it really helps!

There are also a few foods that are fast by nature.

These are excellent building blocks for quick meals at home, so it’s a good idea to keep some in your pantry for those days when your plan has to change unexpectedly and you don’t have time to run out for ingredients. Combine any of them with vegetables and maybe some meat and you’ve got a speedy meal. Bonus – most of them are inexpensive too.

  • Beans – Canned beans are high in protein and quick to fix! Alternately, you can cook them in the slow cooker or instant pot in advance and freeze them for easy use later.
  • Pasta – Angel hair pasta is especially quick, cooking in just 3-4 minutes. Ravioli and tortellini are also speedy and are more filling than plain pasta.
  • Couscous – 5 minutes and done. Hard to beat that!
  • Rice – My favorite is Jasmine, which cooks in about 15 minutes. Brown rice is healthier but takes longer to cook. An alternative is instant brown rice.
  • Eggs – High protein, inexpensive, and versatile.
  • Tortillas – Nearly anything can be wrapped in a tortilla and made better for the wrapping.

Pre-cooked and frozen meats

So here’s my biggest time-saving tip. Are you ready? My biggest ally in quick cooking is to have a variety of pre-cooked meats and even beans ready to go and stashed in the freezer. Doing this opens the door for a huge variety of meals that can be made in minutes instead of hours because the hardest part–cooking the proteins– is already done in advance!

  

You can precook meat in the instant pot (See this post for more info on cooking several kinds of meat for the freezer in the instant pot) or in the crockpot. I like to portion mine out before freezing so that I can easily grab a bag and it’s about the right size for a recipe for my family size without trying to break it apart or thawing too much at once.

15 Minute recipes to try

Ready to get in the kitchen and make a few 15-minute meals? Here are just a few of some of my family’s go-to recipes for when we need dinner on the table FAST!

There are 14 easy meals in this post that my family loves. You can get more ideas by browsing the 15-minute meal section of the blog, too!

Try Eat At Home Tonight

Want a simple, printable recipe for a 15-minute meal delivered to your inbox every week? Check out Eat at Home Tonight! It’s FREE to sign up and is a great way to get inspiration for the dinner table. Here’s just one of the delicious recipes that you’ll get to try if you sign up.

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Eat at Home Habit #2 Quick and Simple Grocery Shopping Tips

We’ve been talking about 7 Habits of Eating at Home in  a brand new series for the last couple of weeks. Our goal is to make the habit of eating at home low stress and high success–without spending hours of time in the kitchen preparing or cooking food.  You can read the first habit about picking recipes that fit your schedule here. This week we’ll be focusing on some quick and simple grocery shopping tips.

I went on Facebook Live and talked about all of my favorite tips and tricks, and demoed one of our favorite 15-minute meals! If you didn’t catch that, you can view the replay here. 

Habit #2 – Keep grocery shopping quick and simple

Grocery shopping can be time-consuming and tedious sometimes. Without a plan, it’s easy to come home with much more than you intended (and go over budget) or forget essentials and hvae to make extra trips. Here are a few ideas to make grocery shopping faster:

1. Organize your list by aisle of the store

If you’re an Eat at Home Meal Plan member, this step is done for you and it’s color-coded too so you know which ingredients are for which recipe.  If you’re not a member, go through the recipes you’ve chosen to make during the week and add all the ingredients to the list in the categories you’d find them in the store.

My lists (and those we create for members) have these categories:

  • Produce
  • Canned/Dry
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Other

2. Keep a running list of things you run out of during the week

I’ve learned that the best place for me to keep this list is in my planner, but you may like keeping a piece of paper on the fridge instead.  You might also have a chalkboard or dry-erase board in the kitchen you could use.  However, you keep the list, get in the habit of adding items to it as you run low on them.

3. Shop with purpose

Once you hit the store, shop with purpose.  This means have your list in your hand, grab your cart and go.  Focus on the list and don’t get sidetracked by other items and aisles.  Move quickly through the store and check those items off your list!

4. Work from the back of the store to the front

I like to start at the back of the grocery and work my way to the front.  That makes a quick trip to the cash register when I’m finished (and less temptation to pick up one more thing) and it keeps the produce from getting crushed since it’s the last thing I add to the cart.

5. Try online ordering with store pickup

Many grocery stores now offer this, including Walmart.  I can’t sing the praises of this service enough!  It’s such a time saver. I put my Eat at Home grocery list in one tab and have the Walmart site open in another tab. Moving between the two to add the items to my cart only takes a few minutes to complete the order.

Schedule a pickup for when you’re already out doing errands.  It’s so convenient and easy! If you haven’t tried it before, you can get $10 off by signing up here.

6. Check out Amazon Pantry

The prices aren’t always comparable to in-store prices in every area, but sometimes you can snag a great deal on pantry staples and have them shipped right to your door! I haven’t tried it myself, but I have a friend who uses it regularly and it saves her time and money! You can order other household staples and fit up to 45 lbs in a box. Each month, there are featured items and if you buy five of those, you get free shipping too. She uses this to stock up on toiletry items, band-aids, and cleaning supplies as well as pantry basics. They have a nice variety of organic and gluten-free options as well. Keeping an eye out and buying things you need anyway can make Prime Pantry a great time-saving choice!

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Let’s talk about meal planning and How to Recover When the Plan Changes PLUS – 3 Strategies for Dealing with Picky Eaters!

We’re starting the new series 7 Habits for Eating at Home.  This week we cover Your Calendar and Planning, along with my biggest tip for making sure your plan goes smoothly and how to recover when things change.

And as a bonus in this video, I talk about how to deal with the picky eaters in your life.

Be sure to like the Facebook page if you haven’t already!

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7 Habits of Eating at Home (without spending hours planning and cooking)

Today starts a new series on developing 7 habits of eating at home that make it both feasible and simple! Over the years I’ve learned a few things that really help when trying to build the habits of eating at home instead of grabbing takeout whenever I have a hectic day and I want to share those with you in this series.

So let’s start with the core basic–actually making a plan that works for you and not against you! We want to create habits that will benefit our family and budget with home cooked meals every night, but that take in account our busy schedules so we’re not spending hours of time planning out meals and then cooking them. We discussed this topic along with how to deal with picky eaters in your meal planning in this video along with lots of helpful tips and comments from viewers.

Your Calendar and Meal Planning

One of the things that often trips us up is the common advice to choose a day of the week for certain types of meals and then rotate recipes that fit each category.  Something like this:

  • M – Italian
  • T – Tacos
  • W – Sandwiches
  • Th -…

You get the idea.  This is okay advice if all of your days and evenings have the same routine that involves you being home in time to prep and cook dinner easily.  But my life doesn’t look like that and I bet yours doesn’t either!

We need a meal plan that takes into account our schedule so that we have time to make the meals we plan on. Instead of being frustrated because meal planning never works for us, if we learn to have a new perspective and create a plan that works with our schedule instead of against it, we are sure to feel great about our successes!

eating at home habits

Rethinking Eating at Home Habits

Instead of thinking about the type of foods when planning your menu, consider the cooking method and speed of the recipes you are looking at.  This will give you much a much better success rate because your plan will fit your day and create a lot less stress and work when it comes time to getting dinner on the table.

  • Slow cooker recipes are fantastic when you have a few minutes in the morning, but no time later in the day.
  • Instant Pot or pressure cooker recipes work great for hands-off cooking that can be started later in the day. I like loading my Instant Pot around 3 pm and letting it switch to “keep warm” after the cook time is up.  Dinner’s ready and waiting for us later.
  • 15 Minute meals are best on super busy days.  Having an arsenal of these types of recipes will save you from the drive-thru.

Habit #1 – Choose a recipe that fits your day and the time you have available to cook instead of making your day fit your recipe.

Read all the posts in the 7 Successful Habits for Eating at Home

  1. THIS POST:  Plan Meals around your calendar and lifestyle
  2. Simplify Grocery Shopping to save time and money
  3. Stock up your freezer with easy meals and shortcuts
  4. Plan 15-minute meals for busy days
  5. Master time-saving tools in the kitchen–before you are in a time crunch!
  6. Create intentional conversation and connection with your families at the dinner table + FREE PRINTABLE!
  7. Use up what you already have by shopping from your pantry and freezer when you plan your menu at least a few times a year!
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How to do dinner (without hours of prep and planning, spending a fortune or staring down frozen chicken at the end of a long day)

I’m pretty sure we all know how to not do dinner.  We’ve lived all the scenarios of ways to make dinner difficult.

But what if you want to:

~walk in the door and have dinner on the table in 15 minutes

~use your brain space for things other than figuring out what’s for dinner or what to buy at the grocery

~make the slow cooker or Instant Pot do the work for you

~save money on your grocery bill and on be able to skip the drive-thru because you know you’ve got dinner at home

If all of that sounds good to you, then Eat at Home Meal Plans is the solution.

I’ve put together everything I’ve learned in making 10,000 dinners for my family into a system to make your life easier.  My goal is for you to be able to walk into your kitchen, know what’s for dinner and be able to have it on the table in short order.

To do that, I give you slow cooker recipes (Instant Pot recipes are coming starting in February), sheet pan dinners, 15 minutes meals and more.  Dinner has to fit your schedule if it’s going to work at all.

This is a great time to become a member of Weekly Meal Plans and make dinner simple at your house.

Click here to learn more about becoming a member of Eat at Home Meal Plans and join thousands of others in having doing dinner the easy way!

 

 

 

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What I’ve Learned Making 10,000 Dinners

what-ive-learned-making-10000-dinners

Next week marks twenty-nine years of marriage for Jim and me and twenty-five years of parenthood for us.  A lot of things have happened in all those years, including the fact that I’ve made thousands of dinners for us!

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about what really works to get dinner on the table and what doesn’t.  I want to share a few of those lessons with you today.  

Cooking methods and timing

There have been years when it worked best to do my dinner prep work in the mornings, like when I had babies and toddlers.  Or when the kids had late afternoon practices or lessons.  Load that slow cooker in the morning!

There’ve been other times when things have been so crazy that there’s little time for prepping and cooking meals and we just need something fast. Fifteen minute meals to the rescue.

Lesson learned: I need recipes that work for the slow cooker, quick skillet meals, 15 minutes meals, freezer meals, sheet pan dinners and other types of cooking.

Red Gold Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

Easy ingredients

With four growing and active kids added to the family over the years, I don’t have time for long ingredient lists.  I also don’t want to spend time and money hunting down obscure ingredients that I’ll only use once.

Lesson learned: Use basic ingredients that I can find in any grocery store that will work in a multitude of recipes.

Pork Chops and Apples Sheet Pan Dinner ingr

Have a plan

It’s so much easier to face cooking when you know what you’re going to make. If you’re staring down a pack of frozen chicken near the end of the day wondering how to turn it into dinner, your chances of success go way down (and the chances of hitting the drive-thru go way up!).

Lesson learned: Have a meal plan that incorporates quick meals, slow cooker meals, easy ingredients and more. Post the menu plan on the fridge and work from it. 

meal-plan-set
Dinner is one thing I know how to do really well.

When I started Eat at Home, I wanted to share recipes that work well for family dinners.  But it wasn’t long until I realized that it’s not just about the recipes.  Having a meal plan that puts versatile recipes together with an easy grocery list is a huge part of dinner success.

Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans launched in 2013 and over the last four years, I’ve incorporated everything I’ve learned over my years of making dinner.  I’m still learning things too, so I’m still improving the meal plans.  Starting in February, I’ll be adding in pressure cooker/Instant Pot recipes to the plans.

My goal is that you can print your plans and recipes, quickly shop and easily make dinner for your family.  

This is a great time to become a member of Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans. Prices will be going up January 17, but you can lock in the current prices now.  If the meal plans help you avoid eating out just one time, you’ll not only make up the cost but earn a return on your investment (eating out is expensive!).  

And I promise if you use these plans you won’t be running through the drive-thru to find easy dinners – you’ll be making easy meals in your own kitchen! 

Find out more about Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans by clicking this link.

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6 Classic Meal Builders Your Pantry Needs

pantryneeds

The key to good meals at home is having a well stocked pantry.  There are lots and lots of options for filling the pantry, but keeping a few classic, basic items on hand ensures that you have what you need to fix a meal.  Here are the items I always keep around.  These things are true work-horse ingredients.  They’re flexible and timeless.

1.  Canned Tomato Products

My favorites in this category are crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.  Crushed tomatoes can be the base of nearly any type of Italian sauce.  Use it to top pasta, in a pasta bake, for pizza, on sub sandwiches, to top chicken or meatloaf.  Endless possibilities!

Diced tomatoes are much easier to keep on hand than fresh and go in all kinds of Mexican and Italian dishes, as well as many others.

Other tomato products worth keeping in the pantry include tomato sauce, paste and salsa.

2.  Beans

Canned beans make for quick meals, but you may also want to have dry beans on hand.  Dry beans can be cooked and frozen, then used just like canned beans.

Use beans in soups, casseroles, quesadillas or other Tex-Mex style dishes and much more.

3.  Broth

Chicken, beef and vegetable broth are all essential pantry ingredients.  Make your own and freeze it or use canned or boxed varieties.  Broth can be used in making soups and stews or in cooking grains or pasta.

4.  Aromatics – Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are both essential in many, many recipes.  They add so much flavor to any dish, but really bring out the best when you’re pulling together a quick easy meal.  They elevate the most simple ingredients to something delicious.

5.  Grains and Pasta

Rice, quinoa, couscous and all shapes of pasta are great building blocks for meals.  Top them with your protein of choice mixed with veggies.  Let your imagination guide you!

6.  Freezer staples – Meats and Veggies

In our modern world, the freezer acts as a (very) cold pantry.  I prefer fresh vegetables, but I do keep frozen veggies on hand.  It’s nice to know we can have vegetables even if we’ve eaten all the fresh and I haven’t made it to the store.

Frozen vegetables can also be roasted in the oven with great results.  Toss the still frozen vegetables (green beans, carrots, butternut squash, broccoli etc) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.

Having cooked meat stashed away in your freezer is a fantastic way to make quick and easy meals.  Cooked chicken can be ready to add to a soup, stew or casserole in just a few minutes of thawing in the microwave.  Cooked meatballs (make these homemade for the best flavor) are versatile for all kinds of dishes – sweet and sour meatballs, sub sandwiches, topping for pizza, served alongside rice or pasta.

These are items that show up on Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plan grocery lists over and over again.  They work in lots of different meals and you can find them in any grocery.

If you’re looking for a way to simplify dinners at your house, check out Weekly Meal Plans.  We do the planning for you so you can focus on time around the table with your family.

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meal builders your pantry needs

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Our most important tradition over the holidays

There are a lot of holiday traditions that my family observes and I know the same is true for you. But I want to tell you about one that has come to have a lasting impact on our family and our kids.

For the past three years we’ve gathered together to do a little soul searching and goal setting. We choose a day between Christmas and New Year that works for all of us. I make a big pot of soup and we share some special chocolate candy, but the main focus is working through a mini-course called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.  We crash-course it in just an afternoon, even though it’s designed for five days.

This year marks our fourth time to do the course together and I’m looking forward to it. But it’s not just me looking forward to it, even the older kids have started anticipating this.

kids

That’s my family in that photo. Well, the kids anyway. As you can see, our family has grown up and we’ve got teens and young adults now. Parenting older kids and launching young adults into the world is not for the faint of heart!

And that’s a huge reason why I really love doing 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever with them. It gives us a way to teach them how to think through all the important life decisions that they’re dealing with at this point in their lives. As situations come up throughout the year, we’re able to point them back to what we learned in the course and to the goals they set.

This is not about setting resolutions.  It’s about getting clear on where you are, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.  And it’s not just for families.  It’s designed more as a solo activity.   I bought it the first year thinking I would do it by myself, but I decided to ask Jim and our oldest daughter to join me.  She was 21 years old at the time and engaged to be married.

We got so much out of the course, that I bought it the next year and the next.  I just hit purchase again for the fourth time.

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If you’re looking for 2017 to be your best year ever, if you need a fresh start in life,  or if you’re looking for a way to help your teens and young adult kids to also have their best year ever, I highly recommend this course.  You will not regret it!

Early bird pricing is going on now through Thursday December 8.  The cart closes on December 15.

If you have questions about it, please let me know, but you’ll find fantastic info on this page.

I set several goals for myself last year.  One of those was a travel goal.  In July, Jim and I cashed in the frequent flyer miles we’d been saving and took off for Paris.  I anticipate that this year’s goals will be closer to home, but I treasure the memories we made on that trip.

Paris us in front of love wall

No matter how you set goals and think through the coming year, I wish you an amazing 2017!

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