Menu Planning – Out of Town Essentials

Menu Planning is a must in my house.

If I haven’t thought through what we’ll be eating each night then come 6pm I have a house full of hungry kids and adults with no idea what to make. I’m not sure what’s worse, hungry kids or hungry husband.

This week I will be attending a blogging conference and the Mr. will be here to fend for himself with the girls. I thought I’d give you some ideas of what I’m planning for them while I’m away. The next time you’re out-of-town, you can leave stress free knowing that at least your family isn’t starving while you’re gone!

Breakfast – We’re already a breakfast bar household. I like the Earth’s Best brand bars mostly because they are smaller and not full of evil ingredients.

Lunch – Frozen lunches are usually your best bet here. Usually the Mr. will go out while I’m gone so at least I’m not wasting anything if he doesn’t eat them. I can eat them when I get home if he doesn’t. Wraps and lunch meat are also good bets.

Dinner – Key things to remember: Quick & Easy & a little indulgent.

I like to think that my family LOVES everything I make but he fact of the matter is they tolerate my need to feed them vegetables and brown rice. So when I’m gone I try to leave them with things that can be prepared in one step and are a bit of a treat. Here are a few examples:

  1. Chicken Fingers – Frozen in a bag from the grocery store OR you can make your own ahead of time. Either way they are easily heated and served with a dip. Kids love dipping. Pair it with some Fresh Veggies and they can have a dipping frenzy.
  2. Pasta – Again you can make your favorite pasta or lasagna and reheat it OR you can buy it frozen. Pair it with some garlic bread and a Bag O’ Salad and voilà! *One warning though this does get kids dirty and usually requires a bath. If you try to avoid leaving the husband to do bath night on his own (like me) then skip the tomato sauce and do alfredo or lemon/olive oil.
  3. Mac & Cheese – I know you’re going to scoff at this. Mac & Cheese can actually be a pretty good meal. Get a family size box. Throw in some ground turkey and peas… and that is seriously one of my kids favorites.
  4. Grilled Cheese & Veggies – Men love to grill things, even if it’s in a skillet. Grilled Cheese is pretty easy to make. Pair it with one of those steam bags of veggies. Hey, at least they’re not eating McDonald’s french fries…
  5. Leftover Bonanza – This takes a little prepping but you can easily prepare extra servings from meals you made before you left. Then each night they get to eat the leftovers. We are horrible leftover people (I have good intentions, we just never actually eat them.) so this isn’t typically what I go with.

If your husband is anything like mine, then dinner can’t require 45 minutes in the oven or 3 different dishes/cooking processes. Microwave Oven is the best option, Stove top in one pan is the next best thing.  I know I’m probably going to get a little flack for all the carb-laden meals. Try to remember that this is a treat and the last thing you want to hear when you call to check on everyone is “she wouldn’t eat anything and had to go to timeout twice during dinner”. Try to make it enjoyable for all to cut the husband’s stress level and increase the likelihood that you’ll ever be allowed to leave them again.

Have a good week!

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Use what you have – Wrap in Aluminum Foil

Christmas Tree with Aluminum Foil Wrapped Presents!

Some years ago when the Mr and I were freshly married he had an idea. “Why don’t we wrap our presents in Aluminum Foil? It’s shiny, cheap, recyclable and best of all it can be compacted into a tiny ball once you’re done ripping it off the gift.”

Naturally I scoffed at the idea. I think I attributed his silly idea to his lackadaisical attitude towards gift-giving and thought that anyone who really cares about gift-giving wants the gifts to LOOK pretty.

So that year, he did it. He wrapped all his gifts in aluminum foil.

Well let me tell you it was a hit! Every year since then we’ve wrapped in Aluminum Foil and it’s now become our trademark look. Oh, I get a little liberal with it now and then by decorating with ribbon or special tags. But the basic theme is still there and now everyone in our family knows which gifts are from us.

As a part of my “use what you have” charge, I’ve shoved a large roll of aluminum foil into my baggage to wrap presents with once we get to our parents houses.

Ever thought about doing this? You should try it… and not just because you ran out of the expensive stuff… because it’s actually quite fun.

Merry Christmas and happy gift wrapping!