Thursday, March 26, 2015

Meal Planning and that Magical Thing Called Pinterest

I've been a meal planner ever since I upped and quit a job I hated back in 2011. Without much thought, preparation or planning, basically just walking away from my annual salary; those 5 months at home became a real test of my ability to be frugal and savvy. Something I had never exercised before. Since necessity is the mother of all invention, I found myself planning our meals, recreating leftovers and stretching the dollars spent at the food store as far as we could. Sunday's roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes became Chicken Pot Pie and Shepherd's Pie later in the week. Leftover pork tenderloin would become pork tacos on another night. This was also the time when we started making our own pizzas on Friday nights instead of ordering take out.
Truth is, aside from constantly stressing that my selfish decision was going to bankrupt our family, those 5 months were some of the most amazing months of my life. And some of those meals were the best we have ever had. We lived large on that teeny, tiny budget. Mostly because for the first time in my adult life I slowed down, took a breath and spent time savoring the moment.
But I digress.
I've been back to work since 2012, yet I continue to meal plan. At this stage, it's the only way I can get a home cooked meal on the table every night of the week. Truthfully, between our work schedules, my daughter's tutoring and my son working full time, I don't often get the meal on the table until 8pm each night but it's home made. Not from a box, not take out, an honest to goodness (mostly) cooked from scratch meal.
How do I do it?
Sure there are nights where I more feel like cooking dinner than jumping out a window, so that's where the planning comes in. Then there are nights when no one feels like eating the planned meal. Now that's annoying. Fortunately, planning a week's worth of meals and shopping to it does afford us the ability to swap days around for those times when my family is a royal pain in my ass about what they have to eat. Then there are the weeks that the whole plan falls apart and we order out or heat up frozen chicken nuggets and make boxed macaroni and cheese. No one is perfect and neither is this life we live so sometimes we just have to go with the flow.
The hardest part is actually planning meals that sound so good we will still want to eat them 5 days later. It's a bit tricky. Everyone tires of the same old, same old so I am constantly on the hunt for new ideas that can be made quickly enough after a long day of work.
Enter Pinterest.
Pinterest has been a great way for me to find and work new recipes into our weekly meal planning. There are some truly epic fails, but lately there have been some fantastic finds. If you follow me on my favorite source of social media, Instagram, you have already seen some of these meals. For a while now I've been toying around with doing posts on some of these recipes I find. Pinterest Fails and may be boring to all of you but worst case scenario is that I've created a little journal to track the ones we have tried.
There are already a few keepers that I have added to our regular meal rotation and last night I found another: Easy 20 Minute Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli. My family love, love, loves getting Chinese take out and if I can recreate it at home in 20 minutes, all the better. I doubled this recipe since the original only serves 2 and it still came out perfectly. It was easy and delicious and made it to the table at 5 to 8. In this house, that's what I call #winning.

This recipe is super budget friendly. I used a pound of chicken tenderloins but if you wanted to cut the budget further you could cut up boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. My daughter thought it was too "saucy" but she's 12 and picky so she doesn't count. I, however, thought it was just the right amount of sauce to coat the rice. I also didn't have rice wine vinegar so I substituted with white wine vinegar diluted. Essentially that means that I only used 3 tbsp of the vinegar (remember, I doubled the recipe) and 1 tbsp of water. Worked perfectly with no need to buy an extra ingredient that will get minimal play in the kitchen. 
Savings like that could eventually add up to a new pair of shoes! Or, if you are me, more dishes. It's a problem but acknowledgement is half the battle, right? ;)
Oh, and if you want to follow me on Pinterest you can click the link in the side bar.


  1. Sounds and looks delicious! I couldn't ever bond with Pinterest. Im in a strict diet regime right now (vacation on the horizon) and meal planning has been vital. And it makes the week so much nicer

  2. Looks delicious! I am totally with you regarding the family not wanting to eat the previously planned meals sometimes... In any case, the effort made definitely counts!