FREE Menu Planning Printables + How I Make a Menu Plan

Over the past few years, one of the biggest money-savers for us has been menu planning. It’s also a top sanity-saver for this {trying-hard-to-simplify-my-life} mom!   Today, I wanted to share a little bit about how I menu plan, but first…

Weekly Menu Plan

I have some fun freebies for you!  You can grab this downloadable Weekly Menu Planner Printable right now as my gift to you!

Cute Menu Planning Printables

I also have this set of five cute printable menu planners available for email subscribers.  If you’re willing to let me in your inbox, I want to be sure to share some freebies just for you!  Be sure to sign up for my email subscription to get themIf you’re already a subscriber, be on the look-out for them in your inbox (check your spam folder if you aren’t seeing it)!

 

How to Make a Menu Plan

We all have different personalities and priorities, so there is no one “right” way to menu plan.  Because of that, I hesitated to even share–but I know how helpful it is to glean from others and then make your own system.

Right off the bat, you should know I am a weekly menu planner (some people are able to plan effectively for a month or two weeks at a time, but it makes me feel too constricted)!  Every weekend, I make time for a MWM (Meet with Me) meeting.  Yes…I meet with myself!!  :)  It is an essential part of staying sane as a wife, homeschool mom, and business owner.   The meeting encompasses much more than our menu, but it is the place where organizing our meals happens.

Here are the seven steps I use to make a menu plan:

1)  I grab whatever I’m using to record my menu plan (currently, I am using this Well-Planned Day planner, but sometimes I will use one of the printable sheets from my home management binder–especially if I want John to know and be able to help with the cooking that week).  I also get a few cookbooks and/or printed recipes and/or my recipe idea sheet.

2)  I take a look in the freezer and see what meat we have available.  I also check out the pantry just to get a general idea what we have in there.

3)  I peruse our local grocery store flier and jot down a few of the best sales.

4)  I look at our schedule for the upcoming week and pencil in if we need a quick meal option on a particular night or if I want to use the crock-pot.

5)  Considering what is in the pantry, freezer, and what’s on sale, I scratch down a few menu ideas IN PENCIL.  I always write in pencil so I can change our menu as needed!   (Sometimes I’ll use the internet to search for a recipe with the certain ingredients I already have on-hand.  Other times, I really want to try a recipe from a certain cookbook, so I’ll add it to my menu-and add the ingredients to my shopping list.)

6)  I usually plan our evening meals first.  Then, I’ll *guess* what meals might have leftovers and plug those into the lunch menu.  I also try to have a few simple lunch ideas on hand at all times–ingredients for a salad, items for omelettes, pb&j sandwiches with coconut bread, or soup.  Breakfast is usually fairly standard:  oatmeal, eggs and fruit, smoothie packs, apples with peanut butter, or muffins from the freezer.  Sometimes I buy organic, gluten-free cereal if I can get a good deal, but that isn’t very often!

7)  I try to review my menu plan each evening after dinner so I can pull meat out of the freezer or chop ingredients and prep ahead of time for the next day’s dinner.  This is easier to do as the girls have gotten older–they can now help with the dishwashing and prep, too!

I would emphasize that each week is different.  For example, if I’ve had time to tackle a huge freezer cooking day, I don’t really have to do much planning.  Lately, I haven’t done that quite as much, so the steps above are fairly standard for me at this point!  Also, this used to take me quite a while, but it definitely gets easier–and goes more quickly as you become more proficient.

What about you?   Are you a weekly, monthly, or day by day planner?  How do you make a menu plan?

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge: Week 2

Welcome to the Strong Healthy Mom Challenge update!  Wondering what this is?  Check out this post to join us.  Then read on to find out how to enter to win this week’s giveaway and join us for a little accountability!

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge

Welcome back everyone!  I’ve been thinking about all of you and wondering how it went, and I’m excited to see your updates!  Here’s a look at how the week’s goals shook down for me:

1)  Menu Planning – I did it!  I usually do some form of menu planning each week, but I had been limping along for about a month or so.  Last week, I got everything written down for all meals.  So helpful!  (You can find a free menu planner as part of my Home Management Binder Set.)

2)  Start the Eight-Week Fat Loss Plan for Busy People from Fitness Blender  — Week 1 down.  It was more challenging than I expected for a {mostly} 30 minute workout each day.  

3)  Go to bed by 10:30 PM each night.  I actually did this six out of seven nights, so I didn’t quite make it.  But this is a huge improvement for me, so I’m counting it as a success.

I’m sure you all are with me in this, but the upcoming week is looking difficult.  We have three big family get-togethers with large amounts of food.  It’s going to take some planning and perseverance on my part to stay on track!

Goals for Week 2:

1)  Continue with the Eight-Week Fat Loss Plan for Busy People from FitnessBlender.com.  I am loving this!

2)  Eat mindfully at our get-togethers.  My goal here is not to declare anything off-limits, but to consider the consequences–and then decide what and how much to eat.  In other words, I don’t want to go on some kind of crazy eating binge just because it’s the holidays.  I’ve often set myself up for failure, because in my all-or-nothing messed-up-eating-thinking, I put rigid restrictions on myself.  Then, I fail and just say what-the-ever (and eat what-the-ever for days…).  After reading through Intuitive Eating, I’ve realized how much I sabotage myself, so it’s all about mindful eating this week!

3)  Continue working on improving my digestion.  After watching several of The Digestion Sessions over the past few weeks (specifically Mike Mutzel’s presentation about his book The Belly Fat Effect), it struck me that my weight-loss resistance is definitely digestive-related.  I’ve been following Trim Healthy Mama pretty strictly for about 3.5 months and have only seen about a six pound loss, so this is very frustrating to me (especially when I see some of the amazing success stories from the THM Facebook group)!!  I’ve been struggling with this issue for about a year-and-a-half, but I think what I’ve learned from those sessions is going to make a huge difference.  We’ll just have to see…

If you missed last week, here is a recap of what the challenge is all about:

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge:  Holiday Edition

From now through January 11, I will be posting weekly goals and sharing updates on how it is going.  Even better, I want to invite you to share your goals and progress…and be eligible to win.  Here’s how it works:

1)  If you haven’t yet, leave a comment on last week’s post with your long-term goals for the next eight weeks. (This post will be open for comments throughout the challenge.)

2)  Leave a comment on this post about how your week went.  Then, share your goals for the next week.

That’s it!  Each week, we’ll just share and be accountable to each other.  To keep it fun and mix things up, I’ll be throwing in a giveaway each week.  There will be things like Amazon Gift Cards, Jillian Michael’s DVDs, Fitness Blender programs, Trim Healthy Mama books, and Starbucks gift cards.  These winners will be randomly chosen from the comment section on each week’s post, and I will share those winners each week.  Each weekly post will be open for comments until the following Sunday at 8 PM CT.

Our “big” giveaway will be at the end of the eight weeks.  Those who have commented and joined in with us for at least four of the eight weeks will be eligible for that giveaway.  The winner will be able to choose what they want from these three options:  $100 Gift Card to Amazon, $100 Gift Card to Trim Healthy Mama store, or a $100 gift card to Target.  The final winner will be chosen on January 12, 2015!

I will be posting on Instagram (you can find me here) under the hashtag #stronghealthymomchallenge.  If you are on Instagram or Twitter, there will be a special giveaway at the end for those who use the hashtag, so use it so we can find you! :)

You can also join our Facebook group – Strong Healthy Mom Challenge!

 

Week 1 Giveaway Results

Last week’s giveaway winner was comment #7 from  jovicki@. I’ll be contacting you within the next 24 hours to claim your giveaway prize!

This week’s giveaway will be your choice of any digital Fitness Blender Program guide ($9.99 value), a Kindle copy of The Belly Fat Effect, or the paperback version of Intuitive Eating.  You have until 8 PM CT on November 30 to share your comment below to be entered to win.  The winner will be chosen from the comments with help from Random.org.

Alrighty!  How did it go last week?  What are your plans for this week?

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge: Holiday Edition (Join Me to Get Fit, Be Accountable, and Win Prizes!!)

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to make myself accountable for taking care of my health and stress levels this season–and invite you to participate, too!  When I first started blogging here, I often did 30-day fitness challenges to keep myself accountable.  We haven’t done any of those in a LONG while, but I have been really focusing on repairing and rebuilding my health over the past few years.

Last week, I finished up P90X3 and loved the short 30 minute workouts.  I increased my strength tremendously, and while I still have some weight I would like to lose, I finished feeling so strong and energetic.  In addition, I’ve also been loosely following the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan and have enjoyed trying some new recipes.  It’s been a great three months–I’ve learned a ton about food and exercise, and I really want to inspire others to make wise choices this holiday season.

Strong Healthy Mom Challenge:  Holiday Edition

For the next eight weeks (from now through January 11), I will be posting weekly goals and sharing updates on how it is going.  Even better, I want to invite you to share your goals and progress…and be eligible to win.  Here’s how it works:

1)  Leave a comment on this post with your long-term goals for the next eight weeks and your short-term goal(s) for this week. (This post will be open for comments throughout the challenge.)

2)  Come back next Monday morning and leave a comment on my Week 2 post about how your week went.  Then, share your goals for the next week. 

That’s it!  Each week, we’ll just share and be accountable to each other.  To keep it fun and mix things up, I’ll be throwing in a giveaway each week.  There will be things like Amazon Gift Cards, Jillian Michael’s DVDs, Fitness Blender programs, Trim Healthy Mama books, and Starbucks gift cards.  These winners will be randomly chosen from the comment section on each week’s post, and I will share those winners each week.  Each weekly post will be open for comments until the following Sunday at 8 PM CT.

Our “big” giveaway will be at the end of the eight weeks.  Those who have commented and joined in with us for at least four of the eight weeks will be eligible for that giveaway.  The winner will be able to choose what they want from these three options:  $100 Gift Card to Amazon, $100 Gift Card to Trim Healthy Mama store, or a $100 gift card to Target.  The final winner will be chosen on January 12, 2015!

Finally, I will be posting each day on Instagram (you can find me here) under the hashtag #stronghealthymomchallenge.  If you are on Instagram or Twitter, there will be a special giveaway at the end for those who use the hashtag, so use it so we can find you! :)

You can also join our Facebook group – Strong Healthy Mom Challenge!

 

My two #StrongHealthyMomChallenge overall goals:

1)  Increase my overall strength and fitness (I’ll be taking a fitness test and will compare results at the beginning and end).

2)  Lose 5 pounds.

My three goals specifically for this week:

1)  Menu Planning – I’ve been falling short on this lately, and I know it is the key to success for me.  When I take time to write down what I’m going to eat and have a plan for our meals, it makes it much easier to stay on track with my eating plan.  Be sure you are an email subscriber, because I have a packet of menu planning pages I will be making available later this week!

2)  Start the Eight-Week Fat Loss Plan for Busy People from Fitness Blender.  I am super-excited about this find!  I had no idea FitnessBlender.com existed and offered so many free workouts.  I did decide to go ahead and buy the $9.99 plan that is already put together, but there is a free 5 day option and you can also just mix and match your own workouts for free!

3)  Go to bed by 10:30 PM each night.  I am a night-owl, so this is a hard one for me, but I know that it is so restorative to get enough sleep.

 

Because I really want to inspire others to join us, I’ll be giving away your choice of a $25 Amazon Gift Card or a Trim Healthy Mama book this week.  You may leave up to two comments this week.  The first comment should share your goal(s).  You can also leave one other comment if you share this challenge with friends–either through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Just tell me how you shared it!

So, what are your goals?  Hit me with ‘em!  Let’s do this!!!

Disclosure:  These giveaways are sponsored by me.  I just want to inspire others to get strong and healthy this holiday season!

 

 

 

Ham, Kale, & Navy Bean Stew (Served Over Homey Cheese Grits)

eMeals offers many kinds of menu plans to make things easier (you can see my review here).  The slow cooker eMeals plan is a favorite that utilizes ingredients available at your local grocery store and appeals to a broad range of tastes and preferences.  You can currently test out eMeals free for two weeks, too!

Here is a recipe that was recently featured on one of the weekly plans.  It would also freeze well if you want to make it a freezer cooking recipe!

Ham, Kale, Navy Bean Stew

Ham, Kale and Navy Bean Stew (served over Homey Cheese Grits)

Ingredients:

  • 6 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 (15-oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16-oz) package chopped kale (or collard greens)
  • 1 (28-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16-oz) package fully cooked cubed ham
  • 1 (32-oz) carton chicken broth

GRITS:

  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 (8-oz) package shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For Stew: Combine carrots, onion and potato in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Top with beans, kale, tomatoes and ham; pour in broth.

Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until vegetables are tender. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

For Grits: Cook grits according to package directions; stir in cheese and butter until blended and smooth. Serve stew over the grits.