Tag Archives: busy

Too much to chew

I believe I bit off more than I can chew this week.

I’d planned for this week, as you’ll remember from my meal planning post. I knew that it would be crazy busy. But I thought I could handle it all plus cooking dinner for the family. And for the first couple of days I could.

Sunday was our softball game, and I had the whole meal prepped before we got there. We lost miserably, but enjoyed one of my favorite dinners of late, the miso cod and Japanese salad.

Monday was another easy day. The game ended up being just practice, but that still meant I had to leave work in Santa Rosa early so I could rush to Petaluma and drive Taz back to Santa Rosa to the field. I grabbed a few things from the grocery store while he practiced, then picked him up and brought him home afterwards. One practice cost me 60 miles in commute. Oy. The meal that night was Shrimp Louie, and I totally second guessed myself on whether the amount of food was enough for the iron stomachs in my house. So I added a plate of leftover BBQ chicken and a twice baked potato on the side. As it was, no one touched the chicken, but the potatoes were much appreciated.

After dinner, the teens and I even conquered a little Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. Frizz wondered if that was all there was to it. DQ and I tried to reattach our worn out limbs. Truthfully, I noticed a difference in my stamina since I’ve been running regularly. But I was definitely noticing my muscles more – especially when I went to climb the stairs. Jello city!

Of course, when I went to sit down, Mr W lovingly reminded me that I’d planned on prepping dinner for the next night. Ugh. So I dragged my ass off the couch and went to prep the gnocchi eggplant casserole. Omg. It was heavenly to taste. I even set aside one that wasn’t smothered in cheese. And then I mopped the floor since I ran out of time on Sunday.

Tuesday was the Taz’ game which meant 60 more miles of commute after leaving work early again. (Granted, I was making up these early leavings by skipping my lunch and showing up early in the morning. But it still doesn’t make me feel any less like a slacker.) I rushed Taz to the game where his team annihilated the other, and then made it back home to eat by 8. I then prepped the next night’s meal of tortellini soup.

That looked like caca.

Oh man, this one did not look good or smell good. I was really worried about it. But what was I going to do? I finished making it and stuck it in the fridge for Wednesday. I went for a short run since my legs were a little sore from the Jillian Michaels DVD, but still needed to burn a few calories. And then all 5 of us sat down for some mandatory wedding cupcake tasting at 10pm to help me add those calories (and then some) back in.

I know. Life’s rough.

Wednesday I could barely move. It seems that Jillian Michaels conquered me. I re-found out last minute that DQ had a camp get-together that afternoon that I completely forgot about, plus she needed to bring a snack, plus she was spending the night at a friend’s house. Oops. Another early trip home, a trip to the store for chips and dip, and then back home where I had an hour to kill before I had my hair appt. I pulled out the soup and saw it was kind of chowdery, so I added some more chicken broth. The smell coming from the soup was quite delicious, a far cry from the detestable soup I was witnessing the night before. I whipped up some biscuits and left them wrapped in a towel in the still-warm oven so that Mr W would have dinner all ready when he came home, and then fixed myself a bowl. O. M. G. This one totally took me by surprise. The Taz so could not eat enough of it. Mr W, on the other hand, didn’t like it very much. Too bad.

It was about 10 pm that night when DQ texted me, informing me that she needed a ride home from her friend’s house the next day. I had my whole day mapped out to a tee. I was already leaving work early again for Taz’ counseling in Petaluma. And I’d already told DQ that she could stay with her friend IF she had a ride home. This threw a wrench in the whole system. We finally figured it out through all sorts of acrobats in scheduling and all is well with the world.

I’ll move Heaven and Earth back tomorrow.

Today is Thursday, and I’m exhausted. I’m at the finish line of the week, and I’m struggling to find the motivation to not bury my head under a pillow and hide.

One more day. That’s all. One more day to go.

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Busy Day Dinners

recipesBecause school is in, during the next few months there will be plenty of blogs and forum topics by me about the lack of time available. I know I am not alone in this boat, so I have been trying to share as many time-saving tips that I have. And the one area that takes a beating because time is so scarce is dinner time.

It is tempting to skip a nutritious dinner on busy nights in favor of a high-fat quick choice like McDonalds or Taco Bell. Or maybe you have a cabinet or freezer full of processed food like Macaroni & Cheese or TV dinners that you can make in 5 minutes flat. Yes, the kids love it and will eat all of it. Yes, it really is quick to make. Yes, that is your derriere getting larger, your kids getting chunkier and slower, and your wallet getting slimmer. But it really isn’t that hard to get everything done in your schedule AND sit as a family over healthy, home-cooked dinner.

The most important rule when it comes to any meal is making a weekly menu. This heads off the annoying “What’s for Dinner” question. But it also allows you to create a shopping list while you are planning your meals. As I write out my menu, I also write out the ingredients I will need on a separate piece of paper that will become my shopping list. I cannot tell you how important it is to make your weekly menu BEFORE you go shopping, or even how important it is to go with a list. Just those two tips alone will save you lots of calories and money that is wasted on impulse shopping.

Here is an example of a weekly menu, something that my family would most likely have throughout the week. Notice that some days are dedicated to leftovers. It is always a good idea to make more than you need, and to get your family used to eating leftovers. I make sure to have a container of freshly washed, cut up lettuce to make a quick salad to add to most meals. Also, we do most of our more involved meals on the weekends, and save crockpot cooking and easier dinners for the weekdays when we are busier. Finally, we eat a LOT of chicken and a bit of fish. It’s healthier than other meats, and our household enjoys chicken and fish much more than red meat.

Wednesday
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
Couscous
Salad

Thursday
Chicken Roll-ups (using leftover BBQ Chicken, wrapped in a tortilla)
Zucchini and bell pepper stir-fry (to add to the roll-ups)
Shredded cheese, salsa, and NF yogurt (instead of sour cream)

Friday
BLT’s (bacon, tomato, mozzarella, basil, lettuce and mayo on whole wheat bread)*
*I don’t generally eat bread in the evening, so I actually use lettuce leaves and just make wraps out of this. It tastes incredible, and is extremely easy on the stomach

Saturday
“Wine Country Meal”* (the kids nicknamed this one. It’s when we make a smorgasbord of foods that don’t need cooking, and arrange them in a special way. We will usually drink sparkling apple cider in wine glasses with it, and may even have lit candles to create ambience)
*This meal will be Caprese (leftover mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil with drizzled balsamic), grapes and apples, and crackers with cheese and turkey lunchmeat, or a tuna salad to spread on the crackers.

Sunday
Salmon
Rotini Pasta
Artichokes
Salad

Monday
Crockpot Tortilla Soup
(more on the Crockpot below)
Salad

Tuesday
Crockpot Tortilla Soup leftovers
Buttermilk Biscuits

When I make my menu, I try to use a lot of the items I already have in my house so I don’t have to do a huge shopping trip. And I try to buy in bulk those items that I use consistently: tomato sauce, garlic, pasta, etc. We generally go grocery shopping once a week, and our weekly total is $75 – $100. This not only includes dinner items, but also items for all of our lunches and healthy breakfasts, and necessary household items like TP or toothpaste. When you think about how much it costs to eat dinner out, and then multiply that by 7, you can see how tremendous the savings are!

I can’t end this without giving major props to the best invention ever made. Every busy household will agree with me, it’s all about the Crockpot. I love my Crockpot. I still don’t feel like I use it nearly enough. But when I do, I seriously question why I even put it away. It is way too easy to prep your meal in the morning, or even the night before, and come home in the evening to a home that smells wonderful and a home-cooked meal waiting to be served. Honestly, I don’t know how I handled sports and school before the Crockpot. There are so many quick and healthy recipes that can be made in the slow cooker. And with a little bit of extra planning, you can actually be free from cooking meals in the evening and enjoy sitting as a family around the dinner table at a decent hour.

The best website I have come across for slow-cooking is “A Year of Slow Cooking”, by Stephanie O’Dea. She blogged for a whole year, a recipe per day. Her blog is filled with so many great ideas, from Tortilla Soup, to soap, to Christmas ornaments, to BBQ pulled pork. I own several great Crockpot recipe books. But most of my recipes come from her site. She even has a book: Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking, coming out next month.

I hope this helped a little bit. Do you have some tips for busy households? How about some great dinner recipes? Leave a comment or mosey on over to the SantaRosaMom forums and leave your two cents!