Meal Planning and Grocery Lists

The best way to ensure that you eat at home and go grocery shopping with a purpose is to meal plan. I know…easier said than done. During the summer, life is a bit more laid back, but once school starts back, the craziness begins! Work schedules, homework, gymnastics practice, soccer practice, remembering to pack ballet clothes, making lunches… I really just want summer to last one more month.

So I try to be good during the school year and plan out all our meals in advance. I think of it this way…if we could just make it to Wednesday, the rest is easy. Basically, I plan Sunday-Wednesday. Thursday is leftovers and clean out the fridge night. Friday is date night. Sat. is family night out.

So here are some helpful hints to plan out your meals and go grocery shopping:

1. Take stock of what you have and what you can make with it. Go through the fridge, freezer, and cabinets to see if there are any parts of a meal you already have so you don’t buy something you don’t need.

2. Ask the family some ideas. What do you guys want for dinner this week? Let the kids go through a couple of cookbooks and magazines to see if there is something they might like to try. If they don’t help you out, threaten to make liver and onions. That will do it.

3. When you make your list, divide up your headings for each section of the grocery store.
Produce, Meats, Dairy, Grains/Pasta, Canned Goods, Baking, Frozen, Drinks, Breads, Misc. Items (like cat litter, paper towels, and batteries)

4. Shop the perimeter of the store for the bulk of your items. I know this is old news, but all the best and healthiest items are in the perimeter.

5. If you have coupons, have them ready. I have to be honest and say I don’t really use coupons. Most coupons I see are not for foods we typically eat. Sometimes I may have a coupon for dog food, cat litter, Greek yogurt, or cereal; I find most coupons are for processed and unhealthy foods, so I don’t really get in to the whole couponing thing.

Here is my meal plan for this week:
Sunday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas, home made cornbread
Monday: Pulled Pork sammies, baked beans, and broccoli
Tuesday: Tacos
Wednesday: Chicken cacciatore with pasta and corn
Thursday: Clean out the Fridge/Leftover Night
Friday: Eat Out
Sat: Eat Out

Breakfasts: Cereal, eggs, oatmeal, grits, French toast, lots of coffee for me =)
Lunches during the school year may be leftovers, sandwiches, or salads with the occasional school lunch.

Each week, I will post a new meal plan. Maybe that will help you guys get some ideas.

Caring for your cast iron pan or skillet

It is no secret that I love my cast iron pans. There are lots of reasons to embrace cast iron. First, it is non-toxic; when you heat it up, it is not going to give off any toxic materials, like a Teflon pan. It is very versatile. You can use it on the stove or in the oven. It cooks evenly, which means the heat is distributed well, and you don’t get any “hot spots.” It is easy to season and simple to clean!

When you get a new pan, you should season it well. Basically, you add fat to it. You could use vegetable shortening (Crisco), olive or vegetable oil, or my favorite, bacon fat. Save all of the bacon grease from the pan when you make bacon and keep it in a covered can of some sort in the refrigerator). You should also add a bit of salt and rub that in the bottom and all the sides.

Cleaning your pan is simple…Rinse it in hot water while the pan is still hot. DO NOT USE SOAP!!!!! This strips your pan of all its flavor and seasoning and all you are left with is a soapy taste. No one wants to eat soap flavored food. If your pan has been sitting out and has some food stuck in it, just heat it back up on the stove, add a little water or oil in the pan, and it will be easy to clean with a paper towel or gentle scrub brush. Do not soak your pan in water. You want to make sure you dry your pan completely. I dry mine off in a 200 degree oven for a while. This will help prevent rust. If you do find a bit of rust, you can rinse it in hot water and re-season the pan with some fat and salt.

Storing your cast iron pan- I keep mine in the oven, on the stove, and in the cabinet doors. Do not stack them inside of each other. This may cause them to rust.

Happy cast iron pan family