My Story: Coordinated Meal Planning

contributed by Melissa

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Successful Meal Planning

We're all busy, and if we take an evening to cook, why not throw on a few extra things and be a few meals ahead? For instance, if I cook a chuck roast and make mashed potatoes and gravy, then I make extra mashed potatoes. After dinner, I boil the noodles and toss the leftover roast and gravy with noodles. Then tomorrow's dinner is ready except for adding in a vegetable. Another thing I do with a chuck roast is shred some of it for BBQ beef. I save the rest of the meat and broth, and after dinner, I make vegetable soup for the next evening's dinner. This is also a good way to use up leftover vegetables. Vegetable soup is better after it is a day old anyway.

Other meals I put together start with browning up several pounds of hamburger with onions and seasoning. That night I may make chili with some of the meat. The next night I make spaghetti with some of the meat and boil extra noodles. The third night I may make pizza and use the last of the meat. On the fourth night, I use the extra noodles and the leftover chili and have chili spaghetti with cheddar cheese and sour cream garnishes, and I add a salad and am ready to go. Then the next night is leftover night.

If I have a lot of vegetables to use up, I chop them up all at one time, and then plan my meals around them. I may have a squash/zucchini casserole one evening (throw in any meat you have browned) and a big pan of stir fry vegetables with rice the next evening. I usually always cook extra rice, which my daughter eats with butter, milk and sugar on it either as a snack or for breakfast. If I have any vegetables left over, I serve them with fish for another meal.

Sometimes I boil a chicken for chicken salad or shredded chicken sandwiches. I save the broth and use it to make potato soup for dinner the next night. I add grilled cheese sandwiches with the soup and that meal is ready to go in 10 minutes or less. If I decide to freeze the chicken broth for later, then I put it in freezer boxes of various sizes. The quart size is for soup and the pint size is for stir fry sauce.

The same thing can be done with fruit. When apples are in season, we take some time to make apple pies and freeze them, make apple butter and freeze it, and make apple crisps and freeze them. Most of the time I am able to get some of the fruit for free and making things and freezing them keeps the apples from going to waste. Also, if I have to take a dessert somewhere at the spur of the moment, then I pull something out of my freezer. These treats also make great Christmas gifts!

A friend of mine gave me some beet greens and beets, which I had never had or cooked before, so I went to the internet to find a recipe. I found a delicious recipe and my family tasted and tolerated the beet greens. I liked them a lot! And they were good for us and were free. I pickled the beets along with some boiled eggs, which last a long time in the refrigerator and can be added as a side dish with a meal.

When having baked potatoes, bake an extra four or five. They can be cut up and sautéed with onions and spices and used as a side dish later that week, and since they are already cooked, they are ready in about 10 minutes or less.

In the summer, I freeze a lot of tomatoes. I peel them, chunk them up, and put them in freezer boxes. In the winter, I thaw a box for my tomato-based soups. That saves me from having to buy canned tomatoes for my soups, and I have a good wholesome product from my garden that is ready to go when I need it.

This works for me because I would rather take one night and cook several things and have very little to do in the kitchen for the next few evenings. Plan to eat those meals on the night the kids have sports practice or you have a meeting. It is so nice knowing when you hit the front door that you don't have to mess with making a meal with all the clean up that goes with it.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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