Thursday, February 7, 2013

How To Get OUT Of The Kitchen!

First I shared how I simplified my house cleaning - and now I am going to share how to spend less time in your kitchen while still providing a healthy meal to your family! I have been a weekly meal planner for a while now and found that it really did help to alleviate the pressure of the dreaded "what are we going to have for supper?" It got me planning meal ideas and making sure I had the proper groceries on hand for the week. It did not, however, help with the actual preparation of the meal and took no consideration to getting out of work late and being tired exhausted. i kept it up for a fairly long stretch, and then we moved and lived in a teeny, tiny apartment while doing renovations and let's just say it did not successfully make the move with us. I tried a few times to pick it back up but it was hard and I was completely unmotivated and uninspired. Then I had baby #2 and as he started to ease into somewhat of a routine I started pinning ideas and really thinking about how to get healthy meals on the table without spending all afternoon in the kitchen. I wanted to be able to nap if both kids (by some great miracle) were napping. Or I wanted to relax if one was napping and the other was playing contently. In my search I came across a lady who did her meal planning and prepping for a month. She explained it all out and shared her recipes and tips. While I was reading this, I thought to myself - using her recipes and my tried and true recipes I should easily be able to fill more than a month.

So shortly after New Year's I started to tackle my goal. I planned, and I planned, and I PLANNED. It took me a good seven days to be able to get it all straightened away and my grocery list ready.  But by being meticulus this time, I am pretty much prepared for the next time and will only have to tweak my grocery list instead of starting from scratch and pouring over every recipe. Here is what I did:

First, I printed out a blank calendar for January and February, gathered and printed my recipes, found a pencil and a stack of looseleaf.

Next, I filled out any special days, meals, dinners on my calendar. For example, I knew we were going to Jason's parents' place for the weekend so I did not write any meals on those days. And Shrove (Pancake) Tuesday would be in February so I already knew we would be having pancakes that day. I also decided that we should try Meatless Monday and Fish Thursday to ensure we had a good variety of meals.

After the special days were filled in I just started filling in the days. I tried to have variety between the chicken, pork and beef recipes and any recipes that seemed similar I tried to space them out. Some of the recipes are easily doubled so I used some twice but made sure they were well spaced. My planned meals were to begin on the 15th of January and I filled my calendar to the end of February. You may also want to keep in mind what else is going on in your life. So if you have a meal you prepare the day of, you may save it for a weekend when you have more time and keep the slowcooker meals for throughout the week when you won't have time/want to prepare so you can just dish it out and enjoy.

Then I went through and wrote on the top corner of the recipe whether it was to be made single or double. That way I would buy enough ingredients.

Once I had that done I started compiling my grocery list. You will need a whole piece of paper to do this - not a little piece on a notepad. On the top part of the paper I used for items that would be common and in more than one recipe, like green pepper, onions, certain types of meat. The bottom part of the paper was for items that were only in one or two recipes. I made sure there was room to write beside each item in case I had to increase the amount I needed. I then went through each recipe and started adding or tallying what I needed. Some things I already had in my cupboards, just by chance or because they are basic staples. Making the list took me an entire evening. My head was hurting by the end of it! I also made a separate list of items that I would have to buy closer to the day of the meal. For example, I froze spinach for a few of the meals in the slowcooker, but frozen spinach would not be good for the Chicken Spinach Salad.

With the grocery list prepared (and double and triple checked the next day!) I started to plan out how I would get these meals prepared and into the freezer.I went through each recipe and figured out what prep was involved. I got this idea from Callie @ Greater Things and it was SOOOO helpful. I had three categories: PREP/NO COOK, PREP/COOK, DAY OF. I then divided my PREP/COOK recipe according to type of meat that i had to cook. I allowed myself 2 days to get everything prepped/cooked/frozen. The first day I did all of the meals that did not involve any cooking, just mix, put in labeled freezer bag and put into freezer. I also did any of the ones that involved only cooking/browning vegetables. Packaged them according to recipe and put them in to the freezer. The second day I did the rest, so that would be all the ones that involved cooking meat.

Next, I did my grocery shopping. I went to Costco and Superstore. Costco has some really decent prices on meat and some of the other items I needed in bulk, everything else was Superstore - simply because it was on the way home. It was an expensive day - like $400+ expensive. BUT I am not going to have to buy another large grocery order for almost 2 months and some of the things I bought will carry over to the next time. I SHOULD only have to go to the store for basics like eggs, milk, bread - but I know so far I have still been going to the store far more then I want (I just can't help myself!) 

FINALLY, I got down to cooking. My first day of prepping was on the weekend and my hsband was home to help with the kids. The second day I took Lucy to the babysitter so that I could focus on the stove between Reece feedings and cuddles. Whew - it was a BUSY 2 days!

Now, I can sit back and not have to worry about what is for supper. I check the calendar the night before, take the meal out of the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight and cook/dump in the slowcooker in the morning. Easy-peasy!

***When i filled out the calendar I allotted one meal per day. If there were leftovers they were usually lunch the next day. Sometimes though we would have the leftovers for supper the next day and bump that days meal. Meal bumping also happened when we went to my Mom's unexpectedly overnight. This is going to leave me with meas at the end of the month which I will carry over. I am very interested to see how much 'extra' I have and also how much $$ I spent all together. I will keep you posted once the food is gone!

And now - the moment you have all been waiting for (dramatic pause...)


January 2013





Chicken Pot Pie
BBQ Pineapple Pulled Pork
Maple Dijon Salmon



Mac N Cheese
Stuffed Peppers
Chicken & Sweet Potatoes

Taco Casserole
Maple Curry Pork Tenderloin
Veggie Lasagna

Shake N Bake Chicken
Wok in the Pork

February 2013

Turkey Chili

Ravioli Casserole
Pulled Pork
White Bean & Tuna Spinach Salad

Chicken Curry
Chunky Chicken Chili
Chicken Spinach Salad
Lemon Garlic Chicken
Maple Curry Pork Tenderloin
Baked Beans
Chicken Pot Pie
Maple Dijon Salmon
Taco Casserole
Turkey Chili


Lemon Garlic Chicken
Ravioli Casserole
Chicken Curry
Wok in the Pork
Meat Lasagna  
Mac N Cheese
Chunky Chicken Chili
Omelet & Baked Beans


AND THE RECIPES (please note that these are not my personal recipes. Some have come from Callie @ Greater Things KraftCanada, and I do not claim any rights to these recipes)

Slow-Cooker Chicken Curry - doubled this - prep/no cooking
What You Need
10 bone-in chicken thighs (2-3/4 lb./1.2 kg), skin removed
1 jar (650 mL) thick and chunky salsa
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 cup (1/2 of 250-g tub) Philadelphia Cream Cheese Spread
Make It
PLACE chicken in slow cooker. Combine next 3 ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover with lid.
COOK on LOW 8 to 10 hours (or on HIGH 5 hours).
TRANSFER chicken to platter; cover to keep warm. Add cream cheese spread to slow cooker; whisk until cream cheese is melted and sauce is well blended. Spoon over chicken.

White Bean, Tuna and Spinach Salad - Day of
What You Need
1 can (19 fl oz/540 mL) white beans, rinsed
1 can (170 g) white tuna in water, drained, flaked
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh fresh basil
1/4 cup Kraft Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tuscan Italian Dressing
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup Kraft Part Skim Mozzarella Shredded Cheese
Make It
COMBINE first 6 ingredients in large bowl.
ADD spinach and cheese; mix lightly.
SERVE immediately.

Slow-Cooker Chunky Chicken Chili  - doubled this - prep/no cooking (Froze chicken, onions,corn in separate bag)

What You Need

1 can  (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can  (15 oz.) light red kidney beans, rinsed
1-1/2 cups  TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick 'N Chunky Mild Salsa
1 can  (15 oz.) no-salt-added tomato sauce
2 Tbsp.  chili powder
1-1/2 lb.  boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 cup  frozen corn
1 cup  KRAFT Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese

Make It

COMBINE beans, salsa, tomato sauce and chili powder in slow cooker. Top with chicken, onions and corn. (Do not stir.) Cover with lid.
COOK on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours); stir.
SERVE topped with cheese.

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese - doubled this - day of

What You Need
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
½ cup sour cream
1 (10 ¾ ounce) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 cup 2% milk
½ teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon of Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of Cayenne
What to Do
Cook pasta for 6 minutes ( Drain pasta) *NOTE – some find that cooking it for only 3 minutes works better
In a medium saucepan melt and mix butter and cheese together.
In your crock pot mix all ingredients

Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours, stirring hourly.
Garnish is cheese ( if desired)

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Lasagna- single - prep/cooking - froze sauce/cheese mixture separately

What You Need

1Tbsp.  oil
1/2lb.  sliced fresh mushrooms
red peppers, coarsely chopped
1pkg.  (6 oz.) baby spinach leaves
1 jar  (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 container  (15 oz.) POLLY-O Natural Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1 pkg.  (8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Italian* Five Cheese with a TOUCH OF PHILADELPHIA, divided
¼ cup  KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked

Make It

HEAT oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add mushrooms and peppers; cook and stir 3 min. Remove from heat. Add spinach; stir until wilted. Stir in spaghetti sauce.
MIX ricotta, 1-1/2 cups shredded cheese, 2 Tbsp. Parmesan and egg until blended.
SPOON 1-1/2 cups sauce into slow cooker; top with layers of half each of the noodles (broken to fit) and ricotta mixture. Cover with 2 cups sauce. Top with remaining noodles (broken to fit), ricotta mixture and sauce. Cover with lid.
COOK on LOW 4 to 5 hours (or on HIGH 2 to 3 hours) or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; let stand, covered, 10 min. or until shredded cheese is melted.

One-Pan Baked Chicken & Sweet Potatoes -single - day of

What You Need

1/2cup  KRAFT Zesty Italian Dressing
3Tbsp.  brown sugar
1Tbsp.  chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2lb.  sweet potatoes (about 3), cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges
Bone-in chicken thighs - cut into 8 pieces

Make It

HEAT oven to 375ºF.
MIX dressing, sugar and thyme in large bowl. Add potatoes; toss to coat. Transfer potatoes to 15x10x1-inch pan, reserving dressing mixture in bowl.
ADD chicken to reserved dressing mixture; toss to coat. Place in pan with potatoes.
BAKE 1 hour or until potatoes are tender and chicken is done (165ºF). Transfer chicken and potatoes to platter. Strain drippings from pan; pour strained sauce over chicken.

BBQ Pineapple Pulled Pork - doubled this - prep/no cooking, freeze
 - one 4 - 6 pound pork shoulder
 - all purpose seasoning 
 - one bottle of barbecue sauce 
 - one 15 ounce can of diced pineapples, undrained

 - Rub pork shoulder all over with all purpose seasoning and place in slow cooker.
 - Dump can of pineapples (undrained) over pork.
 - Pour bottle of barbecue sauce over pork.
 - Lift pork a little to let the sauce get underneath.
 - Cook on high for six (6) hours or low for ten (10) hours.
 - Shred in the pot and mix with the juice.
  Strain & serve!

Slow-Cooker Lasagna - doubled this - prep/cook, freeze
 1 lb. lean ground beef (could be substituted for italian sausage)
 1 jar spaghetti sauce
 1 c. water
 1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese (we used skim ricotta to save some unneccesary fat haha)
 1 pkg. Kraft Italian Cheese (approx. 2 cups)
 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
 1 egg
 2 tbsp. parsley
 6 lasagna noodles, uncooked
 Brown meat in large skillet; drain.  Stir in spaghetti sauce and water.  Mix ricotta, 1-1/2 cup  mozzarella, 2 Tbsp. parmesan, egg and parsley.
 Spoon 1 cup meat sauce into slow cooker; top with layers of half each of the noodles (3  noodles broken up per layer), broken to fit; and cheese mixture.  Cover with 2 cups meat  sauce.  Top with remaining noodles, broken to fit; cheese mixture and meat sauce.  Cover with  lid. Cook on low 4-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed.  Sprinkle with remaining  cheese; let  stand, covered, 10 min. or until melted.

Lemon Garlic Chicken - doubled this - prep/no cooking, freeze
 1 tsp. dried oregano
 1/2 tsp. salt
 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
 2 T. butter
 1/4 c. water
 3 T. fresh lemon juice
 2 cloves garlic, minced
 1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have fresh parsley, so I just used dried and  it worked   perfectly)
 1 package cream cheese (you can use 1/3 less fat or fat free)
 1. In a bowl, mix the oregano, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture into chicken. Melt the butter in  a skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken in butter for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Place  chicken in a slow cooker.
 2. In the same skillet, mix the water, lemon juice, garlic, and bouillon. Bring the mixture to boil.  Pour over the chicken in the slow cooker.
 3. Cover, and cook on High for 3 hours, or Low for 6 hours. Add the parsley to the slow cooker  15 to 30 minutes before the end of the cook time.
 4. About 15 minutes before you're ready to serve, remove the chicken and place on a serving  platter. Add the cream to cheese to the juice in the crockpot, and whisk until smooth. 
 Ladle the sauce over rice or pasta, then place your chicken on top!


Crock-pot Ravioli Casserole - doubled this - prep/cook, freeze
 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
 1 onion, chopped
 1 clove garlic, minced
 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
 1 can stewed tomatoes
 1 tsp. oregano
 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed (I used fresh spinach)
 16 oz. bowtie pasta, cooked
 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
 1 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
 *Brown ground beef with onion and garlic.  Put in crock-pot and add sauce, tomatoes and seasonings.  Cook for 6-7 hours on low.  Add the last 4 ingredients during the last 30 minutes of cooking and turn  crock-pot to high.  I added the fresh spinach, pasta, parmesan and 1 cup of the mozzarella and I mixed it  all up really well.  Then I added the last 1/2 cup of mozzarella to melt on the top.

WW Taco Casserole - 7 points plus - prep/cook, freeze in dish
 1 lb ground skinless chicken breast
 1/2 c onions, chopped
 1/2 c bell peppers, chopped
 1 clove garlic
 1 pkg taco seasoning mix
 8 ozs taco sauce
 1 c fat-free sour cream
 1 c fat-free cottage cheese
 1 c low-fat tortilla chips, whole or broken up
 1 c low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
 3/4 c salsa
Heat oven to 400. Spray cooking spray on bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. In a skillet, cook chicken, onion, peppers, and garlic clove until tender. Add seasoning mix and taco sauce; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese; set aside. Place half the broken chips in the bottom of casserole dish. Add meat mixture to cover the chips, then cover the meat with sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining crushed chips. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted. Top with 3/4 cup salsa if desired. Makes 8 (1 Cup Servings) 

Crock Pot Stuffed Peppers - 8 points plus - prep/cook, freeze peppers wrapped in foil
4 large bell peppers
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) or 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup water
Pine nuts, optional
Cilantro, optional
1. Cut thin slice from stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. 
Remove seeds and membranes; rinse peppers.
2. In a 10 inch skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium high heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until beef is brown; drain. Stir in tomato sauce, cumin, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Stir in couscous. Divide beef mixture evenly among peppers.
3. Pour water into 4 1/2 to 6 quart crockpot; stand peppers upright in crockpot.
Cover and cook on LOW 5 to 7 hours or until peppers are tender.

Callie's Chicken Soft Tacos (because I made this up and it's yum!)
- 5 frozen chicken breasts
- 1 can enchilada sauce
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 35-40 tortillas
- Shredded mexican cheese

Put first 3 ingredients in crock pot.  Cook 5-6 hours on low, or until chicken is done.  Shred chicken, return to crock pot for another hour.  Fill tortillas with chicken and cheese.  Roll up, wrap in foil, freeze batches of tacos in gallon sized zip lock bags.  Pull out, unwrap, and microwave for an easy lunch on the go!

Wok in the Pork - doubled this - prep/cooking


  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1¼ lbs (568 g) pork tenderloin, cut into cubes or strips
  • 2 tsp grated gingerroot
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1½ cups each chopped green bell pepper and sliced carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) pineapple chunks, undrained
  • ¼ cup each ketchup and white or rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 4 cups hot cooked brown rice or quinoa


Heat oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork, gingerroot and garlic. Cook and stir for 6 to 7 minutes, until pork is cooked through and begins to brown. Remove pork from wok and keep warm. Add green pepper, carrots and onions to wok. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, prepare sauce. Drain pineapple, reserving ½ cup juice. In a small bowl, combine reserved pineapple juice, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch and chili powder. Add sauce to vegetables in wok, along with cooked pork and pineapple chunks. Cook until sauce is bubbly and has thickened, and pork and pineapple are heated through. Serve over hot, cooked rice.


Starvin’ Guy Chicken Pot Pie - doubled this - prep/cooking (freeze in dish)

1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth ((reduced fat)
1 1/2 cups potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup sliced green beans ((cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 (10 ounce) can low-fat cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts ((about 3/4 lb.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil and ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper


1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup skim milk


1 Spray large saucepan with non-stick spray. Add onions and garlic, cooking over medium heat until tender.
2 Add broth, potatoes, carrots, and beans, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Potatoes should be slightly undercooked. Remove from heat.
3 In small bowl, stir together mushroom soup and flour. Add to the vegetables, along with chicken, parsley and spices, stir well. Pour into a medium casserole dish.
4 For crust combine flour, baking powder, sage and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk.
5 Form a ball with the dough. More flour can be added if the dough is too sticky.
6 Roll out on a floured surface to fit the top of the casserole. Place dough over chicken mixture and prick several times with a fork.
7 Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Maple Curry Pork Tenderloin - doubled this - prep/no cook


1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloins
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce, and
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, and
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced


1 Trim pork of visible fat.
2 Place pork in a large resealable bag.
3 Wisk all the ingredients together and pour over pork.
4 Marinate for at least 1 hour.
5 Transfer pork and marinate to a small roasting or baking pan.
6 Roast, uncovered at 350 F for 40 minutes It should still be slightly pink.
7 Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
8 Drizzle with extra sauce and serve.

LowFat Baked Beans - doubled this - prep/cooking


1 -- onion, chopped
1 -- green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 ounces Canadian bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
2 (19-ounce) cans white kidney beans (cannellini), drained
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, saute onion and green pepper until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add Canadian bacon.  Cook 5 more minutes. 
  3. Place beans in a 2-quart casserole dish and add sauteed vegetables, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, barbecue sauce and mustard.  Mix well.  Bake, covered, 40 minutes.

 Whew - that was a long one! And hopefully a useful one! If you have any questions, please, ask away! And please check out Callie @ Greater Things. I owe her BIG TIME for getting me OUT of the kitchen!

One more thing! I keep my monthly meals on my fridge so that I always know what is coming and what I need to pull out for the next day. It is easier to remember if it is always in front of you!

Happy Meal Planning!

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