Monday, March 25, 2013

Super Long Menu Planning Monday

Today I am linking up with Elizabeth form The young retiree and Jane from Adventures to Taingamala  for
Menu Planning Monday

* Sorry this is so long, I promise the next one won't be!  I guess tis really could have been two posts but oh well.

I don't seem to Menu Plan like the average person.  I figure out what I want to eat for the week, double any recipes that I am making that are getting low in the freezer, mark the ones that are time sensitive, and then cross my fingers I get to them all.

I would have taken a picture of my dry erase board that I have on my fridge but I doubt any of you could read my chicken scratch.  With hubby in the field I haven't had any desire to make it even remotely legible to anyone other than me. 

Basically I have four Columns:  Meals Planned, Freezer, Ready to go, and Shopping list

 Planned meals : These are meals that I would like to make or eat within the next week to two weeks.  I say 2 weeks max because lets face it I can get lazy and rely on freezer meals more than I should.  I also don't like to plan per day as I would rather eat something I am in the mood for than to eat something just because I planned for it.  I will do that if items are time sensitive (dairy, fresh veggies, etc) but I like flexibility in my menu.

*Spinach Stuffed Shells
*Italian Chicken Lentil Soup
*Chef Salad
Homemade Mac and Cheese
Pizza (store bought frozen)
*Strawberry and Pecan Salad
Freezer Meal
Baked Egg Dish
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Blue Berry Pancakes
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

This week I have a variety of things that I would like to make.  The ones in Italics are meals I will be doubling.  The meals with Astrix before them are ones that have items that will spoil if not used sooner rather than later.  The Spinach Stuffed shells for example have ricotta in then that is quickly approaching its expiration date so I need to make them soon even if I don't plan to eat them right away.

Freezer: Click here to get more tips on my freezer meals.  This is exactly what it says it is.  I like to keep a running list of all the items in the freezer in my kitchen so that I know what I have and what I am getting low on.  Clearly I can't do anything with the spinach stuffed shells if I don't have any frozen sauce.  If there is no number next to the item then there is only one of that item left. I also double check myself when I go to meal plan for the next week (or two) to make sure that i didn't forget to take something off or add something.  Bad things happen in our house when this is wrong.  Obviously lg means large (for two people), sm means small (usually single serve), and ss means Single Serving)

Pizza (3)
Gumbo (4 lg, 1sm)
 Italian Chicken Lentil Soup (6lg) I made these yesterday
Spinach Stuffed Shells (9ss) I made these Yesterday as well

large bag of fries
peas (2)
Chopped Spinach
Mixed Fruit
Blueberry Pancakes (4ss)

Shrimp (2)
Chicken (2lg, 2ss)
Fajita mix (2lg)
Crawfish (9 half pound packages)

To be honest my freezer is not stocked at all right now.  Since the move we had to use up so much so that we could transport the freezer without too many issues.  I typically like to keep 6-7 different homemade meals, 3-4 different crock pot prepped meals, and 2-3 different store bought meals.  Then various portioned meats and lots of frozen veggies and fruits.  When fresh veggies and fruits are available I buy in bulk, freeze and save for later.  I don't really do canned veggies.  I will for things I don't use very often or tomatoes products.  I however feel that the quality of them is not as good as frozen.  

Ready to Go:  I recently added this as I have found that between the pantry and the freezer I have items on hand to make a variety of different meals.  I try I keep a special section in the pantry for this stuff in particular.  Mainly because I know I will use up an item and then forget to take off the meal.  This is really only 3-4 meals but they will do when I don't want to go shopping or use up a freezer meal.

 Shrimp Scampi
Grandma's Bow tie Pasta meal
Tortellini soup

Shopping list : This is self explanatory.  

I do find that the more I keep up on this the smoother meal planning runs, we eat out less and there is far less waste at the end of the week.


This week I took the time to make meals I know I hubby is not a huge fan of as well as to start majorly stocking my freezer in preparation for this up coming deployment and the arrival of the little one.

I made a double batch of Spinach Stuffed shells.  They are super easy to make, double and freeze! Typically when I am making a freezer meal I will eat it that night for dinner or save some for the following night if I am making two things in one day.

The recipe is simple! This is a single recipe.  Not sure where I got it but it is the best I have found.

one roughly 15oz container of ricotta
one regular shredded Italian cheese mix
one roughly 15oz package for frozen spinach (thawed and as much water removed as possible!)
one egg
one box of shells
a drizzle of olive oil
1-2 cups of sauce (if not freezing)

Cook shells according to the directions but leave al dente add a bit of olive oil to the water! Mix ricotta, cheese, spinach and egg in a bowl.  Once shells are cooked drain and rinse with cold water.  You want the shells to be cold when stuffing them or it will begin to cook the filling. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and mix to keep the shells from sticking.  Remove any shell that is too damaged to stuff.  I place them in a bowl throw some sauce in and there is my lunch.  I typically put a mounding tablespoon of filling in each shell.  If you are going to cook the shells right away put them in an oven safe dish with sauce on the bottom.  Add your stuffed shells and cook covered at 375 for 30 minute or until the center of the shells reaches at least 160.  I then remove the cover sprinkle a bit of cheese and sauce on top and cook for until cheese starts to brown.

Now for freezing make the shells as directed above.  From there you can put them in a tin try with sauce if you intend to store them overnight and cook the next day.  If you would like to freeze them longer you can put them onto parchment paper that is taped to a tray or cutting board and place them in the freezer overnight.  If you are crunched for time 3-4 hours will work too.  Then place them in freezer bags by serving size.  I have found that 3-4 per person it a good serving size.  This could be more or less depending on who is eating them.  Make sure you label "needs Sauce" on the bags.  I have on more than one occasion found out that I didn't have any sauce on had after planning for this meal.

To cook from frozen place shells in oven safe dish with sauce on the bottom.  place in preheated oven at 375 covered for 30-45 minutes.  Cook until center of shells is at least 160.  Remove cover, add a bit of sauce to the top and sprinkle with fresh cheese if you have any.  let it melt, remove and serve.


  1. YUM!!! These all sound amazing! :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Strawberry pecan salad sounds SOOOO good! Yum! And I'll definitely be trying out your spinach stuffed shells!

  3. I made double batches of soups and stuffed shells/lasagnas to freeze for a rainy day. (Days my husband is hungry for dinner and I don't want to cook.) GREAT menu post. You've really got this figured out, Jenna!

    Kristin :)

  4. You are certainly well organized! I'm impressed!


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