Family Meal Planning

Saturday, January 24, 2015


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From my Instagram (where I do post a lot of our meals)
Delicious and easy recipe here (I used fresh basil from our garden and gluten free pasta)

A really good friend of mine recently asked how much we spend a month on groceries.  She was shocked and in disbelief at the low number.  In fact, she thought that I could not possibly be correct.  In light of our way of eating (some organic and gluten free), she assumed we spent a lot more.

After talking about it, my friend and I realized that the reason we don't spend as much is the planning. After asking around, I learned that many of my friends don't have a weekly menu plan.  They run to the grocery store (often whole foods because it is the closest) and buy their ingredients daily or a few times a week.  I could never do that.  It seems so time consuming and stressful to me. But maybe some people like the grocery store (like my friend Shana!)

Dave (awesome husband) does our grocery shopping.  I typically plan our meals for the week and write the list. He does our shopping for a few reasons.  It kinda started back when I was in a car accident and getting acupuncture/chiropractics and was told "no lifting."  But honestly, I hate grocery shopping and Dave sticks to the list.  If I go (which I do sometimes), I throw in all sorts of treats we don't need and waste money and food. Plus, did I mention that I hate grocery shopping and he's the best husband?

So, when I sit down to make the list each Saturday or Sunday, I have a few methods.  First, I look at our week to see what we have going on.  For example a few nights a week, we are not all home at the same time.  Kate has gymnastics, Will has water polo or ACT class or work or friends, Harry has lacrosse, I have clients or book club, etc. On those nights when we all need to eat but at different times, I typically make something like a lasagna or chili or stew or something in the crockpot. Most of those meals make enough for 2 dinners so we eat leftovers the second night. That way, there is something simmering on the stove and people can eat as they get home.  Or they can warm it up easily in the microwave. Dave and I usually eat together with whomever is home around 6 or 6:30 (Harry and sometimes Will) and then serve the others as they get home.  Kate doesn't get home from the gym until 8:50 so she eats a small late dinner a few times a week. I really hate that.

Until this year, we ate as a family almost every single night.  That was HUGELY important to me.  There are tons of studies on family dinners and the benefits to families. And for 17.5 years of parenting, we were able to do it.  Unfortunately (but fortunately for her), last month Kate was moved up a level in gymnastics and now she gets home too late 2 nights a week for us to eat together.  But we really try to do so the other nights as best we can.

At least three/four nights a week we eat together at home (some of the other nights, we eat out as a family too).  On those nights that we are all home, I typically plan things that should be eaten right away such as grilled meats and veggies.  For example, this week, I will make the pork tenderloin on a night we are all home to eat together and the slow cooker meal on a night when our dinners are staggered. Make sense?

Typically, we plan the meals but not the exact nights. So I have meals I make on gymnastics nights and meals I make on non gym nights but I don't always plan which exact one I will make when.  We probably should do that but I like to be a little flexible.  Sometimes we are craving meat or pasta.  Our weather fluctuates so much this time of year (freezing one day and gorgeous the next) that we might want a salad one day and stew the next.  So, we have an idea of what we are making but we decide the days as they come that week.  Plus, plans are always changing with teenagers and an 8 year old.  And I hate when I make a big meal and no one is home to eat it.

Dave used to cook about 50% of the time (when we lived in VA 6-10 years ago).  Dave is a really good cook. Now he works later and so I typically cook during the week. He will sometimes do a quick weeknight dinner of tacos or sautéed fish if he gets home at a good time. And he typically cleans up on the nights I cook.

Usually, Dave cooks a big and delicious Sunday dinner for our whole family.  Sunday night dinner is kind of non negotiable in our family.  I want everyone home.  Friends are welcome but I want my kids home.  In fact, we have sometimes opted out of games, parties and practices on Sunday night because I strongly believe that is family time.

How do I decide on the meals? Some weeks, I ask the kids and Dave if there is anything they especially want me to cook.  I am  also a big fan of cookbooks and pinterest.  Some weeks, we stick to the things we have been making for years (tacos, pasta with sundried tomatoes and grilled chicken, lemon pepper shrimp, roasted chicken, gluten free pasta with sausage and meatballs, etc).  Some weeks, I am adventurous and find new recipes to tackle.  I use Pinterest and cooking blogs a lot.  Pioneer Woman never lets me down.  EVERY SINGLE recipe is good (although I sometimes adapt them to make them gluten free or use more fresh ingredients).  Ina Garten is another favorite as well as Giada, Two Peas and their Pod and Skinnytaste.  I also try to plan by varying the kinds of meats (pork, turkey, chicken, red meat and fish) and including one meatless night but the teenage boys rebel so I have to be sneaky about that.  We choose about 4 meals per week counting on leftovers for one or two and eating out once a week.  Once in a while, we have grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches or hot dogs (GASP!) or pizza or Chinese food.

So, this is our meal plan for the upcoming week:

Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin
Slaw Salad
Baked Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken with jasmine rice.

Note ~ If I make this again, (which I probably will because the flavor is great) I will make on stovetop so the chicken stays crispy. The crockpot was an added unnecessary step in my opinion.  Also, you MUST double the sauce or it will burn/stick in the crockpot.  Luckily, I did this.  

Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with a fresh green salad.

Dave will also cook a Sunday meal tomorrow. I just don't know what it is yet:) Often he grills or cooks ribs or steaks or fish or beef braise with veggies and sides. The boys are meat eaters for sure.

Added: Dave slow smoked ribs on the grill. They were delicious!!!  He also made sweet potato fries and a wedge salad.

Last week we had:

Lasagna (I use fresh bulk Italian Sausage and gluten free noodles and freshly shredded Parmesan to lessen a little of the processed foods)  This makes enough for our family for 2+ dinners and everyone LOVES it!

Jambalaya
(This was really good but TOO spicy for Kate and some others).  I used half the creole seasoning and we like spicy foods.  I am thinking our  andouille sausage was also very spicy)  I will make it again but adapt for the spiciness. This also made enough for 2 meals for our family.  Maybe I doubled the recipe…not sure?

Slow Cooker Honey Chicken Thighs
Broccoli
Sweet Potatoes


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*This last meal was in the plan but because of a few missing ingredients and a change in plans, I had to punt.  I ended up making buffalo chicken thighs that I kind of made up on the fly in the crockpot.  They were surprisingly good.  I will make these properly very soon though as they look delicious and easy and the reviews are excellent.

If you want to see the recipes I pin, you can follow me on Pinterest here.
If you want to see the recipes I Instagram, you can follow me here.

I am not a meal planning expert at all, this is just what works for us and I thought it might help others too. If you have a favorite recipe or tip, please share it or leave the link in the comments.  I am always looking for new ways to feed our family (we need more vegetables).  I am going to try to post more often about our meal plans here as well.  Maybe not weekly but maybe twice a month:)  Also, if you have any questions, I will answer them in the comments too.


Also, thank you for all the kind comments on my last post.  I think I responded to everyone and visited those of you that have blogs.  I am grateful for the continued support of all of you.

Blog Anniversary (8 YEARS!) and Christmas Day 2014

Monday, January 12, 2015
My first blog post was January 7, 2007.  I have written one thousand two hundred and fifteen posts (1215!) for Three Peanuts.  You have left almost 34,000 comments over the years and I cherish each one of them. And there have been almost 4 million visits to 3 Peanuts (more if you read on a reader or feed).

I have shared so much of our lives with you.  When I started this blog my goal was only to document Dave and Will's trip to China to bring our daughter home.  I never imagined that I would still be journaling on line all these years later.  But I am so glad that I have.  First and foremost, this blog has served as our family photo album and scrapbook.  I always say that some day when I am gone, my children will be able to come here and see how fiercely I loved them.

But this blog has brought us so many more blessings.  I have made incredible friends through blogging…some that I have met and become real life friends with and some that I have never met but I cherish just the same.  Kate's adoption has inspired other families to adopt.  I never had any idea God would use us that way.  Harry's prayer table brought a family back to God and church.  Again, we never had any notion that things like that would happen.  So, thank you. Thank you for saying hello when we see you out and about.  Thank you for reading and for praying for our family over the years.  It means a lot to me.  If you feel comfortable, I would love for you to say hello in the comments today.  I love to know who is reading over the years. Tell me how/when you found 3 peanuts.

Now onto Christmas Day.  Thankfully, Kate and Harry woke up at a reasonable hour.

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Harry and Will asked for some clothes and a few things. Kate asked Santa for a balance beam. That was what she really wanted.
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The kids coming down the stairs…

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I think Will is still asleep here;)


And here is when she saw the beam….




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Running to look for the beam:)



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This was the first gift Harry saw.  It was a total surprise for him and he loved it.  I took his shirt from the Junior Olympics (which is too small to wear now) and put it in a t-shirt frame. I love this idea to frame a kid's first t-ball jersey or favorite t-shirt.  Harry LOVED it.  You can get it here.


Harry also got a new fishing rod and reel…

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Dave did too…

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Will, Harry and Dave are kind of obsessed with fishing these days.


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Will really wanted this patagonia fleece.  And everyone else in the world must have wanted it too because it was SOLD OUT everywhere locally and online.  Finally, I found it at the last minute at Zappos and it was here in time.  I love Zappos.  I think Will has worn it almost everyday since Christmas so I'd say it was a winner.

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Will gave Kate a skien of beautiful yarn and a box of graham crackers.  She had asked for both and was so happy.  Kate learned to knit on the 23rd of December and was in heaven with this yarn!!

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Kate gave Dave a winter hat and Will gave him this Southern Marsh baseball cap.
 I think he is all set for hats.

And Miss Katie Ru asked just days before Christmas for a hot pink "Columbus" fleece.  It is Columbia but she calls it her Columbus;) And she wears it constantly.  We like cozy fleece here.


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Harry and Kate are so cute together.  I love how they love one another.  Kate bought Harry some stinky fish stuff.  She knows what he loves.

I bought this sign below for Kate's room. I thought she'd love it.  She was not a fan.  It is too bright so we returned it:)

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Scout always gets a new toy or treat in her stocking too…

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See that beautiful hand made portrait/ornament with my monogram hanging on the tree?
 Kate made one for each of us.  That one is me.  I love it.

 There is a funny story about this Santa toy. I bought it at Marshalls months before CHristmas with a few other things.  It was in a bag in my closet with the other things…HIDDEN.  One day I came home and Scout had it out and was playing with it.  She had gone upstairs (which she is not supposed to do), found this toy amongst several other gifts in a bag and brought it down stairs to play with. I have no idea how she know to go looking in my secret hiding place for her Christmas present but she is one smart dog! I had to hide it up high until Christmas.

We had a nice brunch as a family and then Dave and I got busy cooking Christmas dinner.  This year we served beef tenderloin, ham, sweet potato casserole, roasted asparagus with shaved parmesan, mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and goat cheese, my homemade world famous macaroni and cheese, Aunt Waukita's zucchini casserole (yum!), biscuits, pies and a yule log.  I also made gluten free mint brownies (interest recipe…lots of work not very yummy).

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 We had a great time telling the jokes from our crackers.

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After dinner we played a game we like called the family game. We had never played it with Dave's brother and the nieces and nephews before but it was a lot of fun!

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We had to get Scout in the photo too;)

Here are two more videos I want for my own memories …

This one is the letter our elf, Happy left…



And the letter Santa left on Kate's beam…



That is it for Christmas. It was a good one.
 I have a couple of posts planned for favorite things and books and such.  Be back soon.

Please make are to say hello in the comments.

Christmas Eve 2014

Sunday, January 4, 2015
For the past few years, I have been an absolute sloth the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.  And this year was no exception. We usually eat, watch movies, play games, read and laze about.  This year we learned a new craft (post soon). I barely got out of my pajamas most days and even skipped my barre classes for the first time in 18 months.  I also had a 2-3 day migraine that rendered me completely useless for New Year's Eve.

So, I am just now taking a look at our photos form Christmas Eve and Day. I absolutely LOVE Christmas Eve.  I am not sure why but I am like a little kid on Christmas Eve and morning. In fact, I think I like Christmas more as an adult than I did as a child.

Last year the flu swept through our home for Christmas and really changed thing up.  Harry missed Christmas Eve Mass and Kate woke up sick on Christmas day with fever of 104.  We had to cancel Christmas dinner with our family.  So, I was really excited that this year we were all in good health.

We always attend Mass on Christmas Eve as a family. It is important to me that we start the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.  We snapped a few pictures before heading to church…

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Photo Creds to Harry:0)

Some years after Mass we go to a restaurant for a nice dinner.  Here in Houston it seems that the only restaurants open on Christmas Eve are fine dining and I am not always up for that.  This year we opted to eat at home (which is my preference but the boys love the fancy dinners out).  Since I cook a big breakfast on Christmas Day and a big dinner too, we got our favorite Italian take out earlier in the day and heated it up after Mass.


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You can still see the red sauce on Harry's face;)

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Kate and Harry goofing around before presents. They wrestle. So cute.

After dinner, the kids get one gift each.  The boys always get a nutcracker and Kate usually gets an ornament (and sometimes a bracelet or charm).  But lately Kate has been saying she wants a nutcracker like the boys.  So this year Kate got a nutcracker too.  And as you can she she was thrilled!!!

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I think she liked it:)

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Will and Harry were a little less enthusiastic and dramatic but they liked theirs nonetheless.

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Just wanted to show you that they don't always cooperate for photos.

Let's try again kids…


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Much better!

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And this time with Scout (who does not get a nutcracker). But she loves to get in family photos;)

Kate got a sparkly nutcracker because I have yet to see a gymnastics one.  Harry got one with a gingerbread house because he is the gingerbread house boss.  And Will got a lifeguard one because he works as a lifeguard year round here (for the past 2 years).

After the nutcrackers, we read Twas the Night before Christmas and the story of the birth of Jesus.  For the past few weeks, I have heard Kate practicing reading Twas the night before Christmas in her room.  She asked if she could read it this Christmas Eve to our family. 

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At first, Will did not want Kate to read it because that is not our tradition (and she reads a little slowly) but he eventually came around. It is not an easy read (at least the version we have) but Kate nailed it!

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Next, Dave read the story of the birth of Jesus.

Okay terrible of WIll and Harry but I love how Kate is cuddled up to Dave…

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 Some goofing around….


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After reading that, we went upstairs to the media room and watched Santa Claus is coming to town. The one with Burgermeister Meisterburger:)  It was good family time. 

Next up, a Christmas Day post.