Monday, September 19, 2016

How I Effectively Meal Plan

This post is sponsored by Taste of Home in conjunction with Blog Meets Brand, and I have been compensated for my participation. All opinions are my own.

Meal planning is just kind of my thing.  We all have a few household chores that we really get into - and inventorying our pantry to figure out how I can feed my family wholesome, delicious recipes each week is one of mine.  I love it.

But, of course, to meal plan effectively, you have to have the right tools.  I like to have a few cookbooks on hand full of attainable ingredients and simple steps.  While I love to experiment in the kitchen, I also want recipes that aren't too complicated and are totally doable for a quick weeknight meal.

My meal planning process is pretty straight-forward: each week, I inventory the meats and perishable items in my kitchen that need to be used soon; those become the basis for next week's meal plan.  I come up with 4-5 meals that use up all of the items that have to be used, filling in as I can with things from my pantry that are a little more shelf-stable.  That makes for less food waste in our home and really reduces my grocery bill each week.  I fully believe in shopping your own kitchen before shopping at the store!

I like to have a cookbook with a variety of recipes that use just about anything that might be in my kitchen.  That's where cookbooks like Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious Cookbook come in.

This cookbook has over a thousand (yes, a thousand!) easy and delicious recipes that are perfect for busy parents looking to feed their families a wholesome, homemade meal.  It came along at the perfect time for our family - I was looking to kind of revamp our meal plans with the new school year, and the recipes in this cookbook were the perfect fit!

The recipes in this cookbook are broken down by category; choose from labels like "Finished in 15," "Slow Cooking," "Fast Comfort Food," and "Cook Once, Eat Twice."  More importantly for my meal planning process, you can also look up recipes by ingredient.  In need of a chicken recipe for tomorrow night?  Simply flip to the index and browse dozens of different ideas.  There are easy-to-understand tutorials and kitchen tips along with the recipe ideas.  Both newbie and seasoned home cooks could learn from some of the ideas in this book!

Every course of your weeknight meal is covered in this book.  There are appetizers, side dishes, main courses, and delectable desserts.  Our family has been working through just a few of the ideas Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious Cookbook over the past couple of weeks, and we have been beyond impressed.

Want to see what I mean?  Check out a couple of recipes from the book below!

Southwestern Sautéed Corn
source: Taste of Home

1 tablespoon butter
3-1/3 cups fresh corn or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen corn
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add corn; cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in tomato, lime juice, salt and cumin.

Cook 3-4 minutes longer or until heated through. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro.

Yield: 5 servings

Confetti Spaghetti
source: Taste of Home

1 package (16 ounces) spaghetti
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef, green pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in next eight ingredients. Drain spaghetti; add to beef mixture.

Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer.

Yield: 12 servings

We also tried Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole (which everyone in my family loved...and that never happens)...

...and Trail Mix Blondie Bars.  These were so good that Noah and I caught ourselves eating the remaining crumbs out of the pan.  So easy to make too!

Get ready for this book to revolutionize your meal planning routine.  No matter your tastes or time limitations, Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious Cookbook will help you get incredible meals on the table!

Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious Cookbook is available now!  Check out how you can purchase your copy on Amazon or, for more info, visit Taste of Home's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest pages.