Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tips for Successful Meal Planning

Tips for successful meal planning1

A few months ago I wrote about the importance of meal planning and what a huge difference it has made for my family. (If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here!) The improvements it caused in our home were numerous! It greatly reduced the stress in our home in the evenings and restored a sense of peace and order. It also saved us money by cutting back on useless spending on convenience food or restaurants. It also saved us money by reducing the wasted food in our home: the things on my grocery list, I already have a plan for, so of course they are going to get used up!

Now I’ve heard a lot of people say that they associate meal-planning with dieting. There are a lot of diet systems out there that talk about meal-planning and food preparation. However, meal-planning is really just what its name implies. It is choosing what you are going to eat for each dinner throughout the week/month ahead of time. Then making your grocery list according to that plan and making the meal on the scheduled day.Now, I’m not saying that you can’t use this as a method for eating healthy and dieting. It is definitely a very effective way to help with dieting. However, I don’t want that to be a hindrance to anybody either. At the end of the day,  meal-planning is meant to make your life easier, not harder! So try to make it work for you and your family.

As with any new process, you want to set yourself up for success. To do this, you need to make sure that you are prepared prior to sitting down to actually compile your meal plan. One of the best and easiest ways I have found to start is by compiling a meal list. So, pull out your frequently used recipe books and grab your recipe cards. I started a few pages with different columns on them according to the main ingredient or meat. The columns I used are as follows: Ground Beef, Venison, Other Beef Cuts, Pork/Ham, Special Sandwiches, Breakfast, Fish, Chicken, Sausage, Misc Meat, Misc-Everything else, and Veggies & Side dishes. Once you have your columns planned out, then start filling in your families favorite meals.

Tips for successful meal planning2

To help you in your meal planning journey, I have included in this post 2 free printables!

Click here to download my Free Printable Meal Planning Chart!

Use the meal planning chart to record your meals for each day at the beginning of the week or month.

Click here to download my Free Printable Meal List Chart

Use the meal list to record all of your family’s frequently used recipes. Separate the recipes by main ingredient, title each box with one main ingredient category and record the corresponding recipes in that box. You will probably need multiple pages to have enough columns for all of your categories.

I know that meal planning seems like a huge undertaking when you are first starting out. But I can’t tell you enough times how much peace and order it brought to our home! It reduced my stress levels in the evening and who doesn’t want less stress! I hope I’ve inspired you and encouraged you to try out this meal planning thing! Good luck in all of your meal planning adventures!

If you have any questions about my meal planning techniques or need advice in your own meal planning, leave your questions in the comment section below or send me an email. I always love to hear from my readers!

April 2016 Homestead Update

April Homestead Update3

This is our second year on our homestead but it’s the first year of having a “real” yard. We have so much work to get done, it seems like we will never have enough time to get it all done! We have such a blank slate, in both the house and the garden that it leaves quite the lengthy to-do list. If you want to see a list of some of our homesteading goals, check it out here.

Landscaping-Mulched

Herb Garden-Mulched

Things we have already accomplished:

  • Finished painting the basement walls and floor. (This was a huge, time-consuming project. We are so glad it is done!)
  • Made progress with running water lines out to our shed & garden area.
  • Cleaned up our landscaping-removed all leaves and dead branches, trimmed bushes.
  • Added new mulch to our landscaping.
  • Added more “deer repellent” to our fruit trees. (More about this below!)
  • Removed all of the blossoms from our fruit trees-I have to admit that this was a little painful since they are so pretty, but when fruit trees are young, it is good to remove the blossoms so that the tree puts its energy into the tree itself rather than trying to produce fruit.

Pear Tree

More on the deer repellent for the fruit trees: So we added four new fruit trees to our backyard homestead at the end of the summer last year-two apple and two pear. We were a little concerned about them because we have a lot of deer that come through our backyard everyday. My dad gave us the idea to use Irish Spring soap as a deterrent. So we gave it a try! We took one bar of Irish Spring soap, cut it into quarters, and drilled a hole through each piece. We tied a string through the hole and then we attached one to each tree. This kept the deer away from our trees all winter! So, I don’t know if it’s just coincidence or if it really worked. I’m sticking to “It worked!” So we are going to continue using this method unless something changes. It is super frugal and has been effective this far.

Deer Repellent

Goals that still need accomplished:

  • Plan out the area for our garden-measure and stake out where exactly it’s going to be.
  • Build our garden fence.
  • Finish running water out to the shed & garden area.

To be quite honest, the month is quickly coming to a close, so some of these tasks may get pushed into May. But as long as they are ready for Memorial Day weekend, we’ll be in good shape. That is when we plant our garden every year! I can’t believe it’s almost May already!

April Homestead update1

Take a look at our new strawberry plants! They already have little strawberries on them! Friends of ours were thinning their strawberry patch and we were the lucky recipients of the leftovers! I also just planted some more strawberry seeds. So hopefully we will have a nice little strawberry patch in our new garden!

Strawberry Seeds

At the end of the day, the most important thing in accomplishing a large volume of tasks, whether around the homestead, in your homemaking or at your 9-5,  is to ensure that you have a plan in place and clearly set goals. We definitely have both of these when it comes to our homesteading goals, it’s more just a matter of having the free time to get everything accomplished.

April Homestead Update2

What projects are you working on around the house and yard this spring? Share in the comments below. I always love to hear from my readers!

Cornbread Waffles

Cornbread Waffles 1

If you are looking for a new and creative way to make cornbread this is it! It is also a great way to spruce up a meal that you cook for your family frequently.  A few weeks ago, I shared with you one of our frequent meals – my recipe for Homemade Crockpot Chili. This is a creative way to serve chili and so many other soups too!

Cornbread Waffles 2

My favorite cornbread mix is Jiffy mix! It is easy to make and an extremely frugal option. All I did was prepare the mix according to the instructions on the package. Then I heated up my waffle iron. Once it was ready, I poured a little less than a 1/2 cup  of cornbread mix into the iron and cooked for about 2-3 minutes. Every waffle iron is different though, so keep a close eye on them while cooking! Once they are golden brown, they are ready to eat!! Butter the waffles as soon as they come out of the iron.

Cornbread Waffles 3

Then, simply pour your chili over top of the waffles, sprinkle with your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese. And don’t stop there…Be creative with it! You can switch it up and top these waffles with whatever you like, your favorite soup, stew or chowder too!

What other ideas do you have that would taste delicious over top of these cornbread waffles? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas

I feel like I say this about every recipe, but this is one of my favorite recipes!! It is simple to make, tastes delicious and is pretty healthy. It is a great week-night meal to toss together in a hurry! Also, most of these ingredients I always have on hand in the pantry and freezer, so that makes it really easy for me!

Honestly, most Mexican style meals go over pretty well in our house! Whether it’s tacos, enchiladas or just chips and salsa, we love it all!

Chicken Quesadillas 5

Chicken Quesadillas

1 cup salsa
4 Tbsp Miracle Whip
1/2 tsp chili powder
10 flour tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheddar
Olive Oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked & shredded
(You can add seasoning to the chicken if you want added flavor. My husband likes me to add paprika, cayenne, garlic powder and cumin.)

Mix together the salsa, miracle whip and chili powder.
Spread the salsa mixture evenly on 1 half of the tortilla.
Layer chicken and cheese evenly over salsa.
Fold Tortilla in half to enclose the filling.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add quesadillas 2 at a time (if you can fit 2 in your skillet.)
Cook 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
Cut each into 3 wedges.
Add you favorite toppings: sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, etc.

Enjoy!

Chicken Quesadillas 4

Chicken Quesadillas 3

Chicken Quesadillas 2

Quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas 1

 

Our Vegetable Garden-2016

Our Vegetable Garden-2016

In order to accomplish big things, you have to set big goals. That’s what my husband and I are doing this year with our vegetable garden. We are definitely not newbies to gardening. We have been growing vegetables for the past 9 years. We started small as newlyweds with potted tomato and pepper plants. It quickly grew to include a herb garden and 2 raised bed gardens at our previous home. We were somewhat limited to what we could plant since we were space-challenged. Now, we are beginning the same process at our new home. Last year, we planted our herb garden and had a potted tomato plant. This year we are starting our vegetable garden!

Veggie Garden 2

I am very excited to get our garden started because we have so much potential now that we have an acre! Our garden will be much bigger than the one we had before. So I will have the opportunity to plant more variety and to plant vegetables that I have never gotten to grow before!

Veggie Garden 1

My goal is for our garden to produce enough vegetables to satisfy our canning needs for the year. Just to give you an idea of how much that is, we usually buy at least 2 bushels of tomatoes (a combination of regular and roma) and 1 bushel of cucumbers. Of course, I’m also hoping to have enough vegetables that I can cut back or cut out completely, having to buy vegetables at the grocery store.

Vegetables/Herbs we are going to plant this summer:

  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Snap Peas
  • Canteloupe
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Cilantro

We typically plant green beans and broccoli too, however we are going to skip this as we still have a decent supply. We have an abundance of canned green beans and frozen broccoli from previous years. I want to get those used up prior to adding any more to the supply!

When you are choosing what vegetables to plant in your own garden, keep in mind what makes sense for your family. Make sure that you choose foods that you use a lot of and your family loves to eat. Also keep in mind the quantity that would be fitting for your family! Sometimes, you can be very surprised by the quantity that even a small garden produces over the course of the summer. If there is going to be more harvest than what you can eat fresh, make sure that you have a plan in place for what you are going to do with the surplus. You can store root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc) in a cool dark place like a root cellar or even in your basement. Other vegetables can be preserved by canning, freezing or dehydrating. It’s important to have a plan, so that your harvest that you put so much time and effort into, doesn’t go to waste!

Our garden is going to take a lot of preparation and planning. We need to prepare the area and soil, build a fence around the garden and that all comes before we even plant anything. I will keep you posted on the entire process and what we are working on currently. The weather is a still wet and snowy, so we will probably wait until later in the month of April to get the preparation and fencing started. The next step in our process will be mapping out the exact space in our yard for the garden. Then, once we have the exact measurements I will be able to make an actual garden plan of where everything will be planted. I definitely have spring fever and can’t wait to get out in the yard and get to work!

Veggie Garden 3