Friday, October 29, 2010

Menu planning in a {pinch}

We've all been there haven't we? "Honey DON'T spend anything for the next ........!!!" YIKES! You think as you remember you just cooked your last "planned" meal and you've got a whole bunch of hungry mouths to feed! Well before you freak are a few things you can do!

1. Shop your Cabinets.
Since you can't shop at the store, start with what you have. Take a good look at ALL your ingredients and canned items. Pay close attention to produce that might be going bad and try and use that up first. From there you can start building meals and recipes using the most of what you've got. Don't be afraid to substitute items that are similar. Can't make a Beef Stew using cuts of Beef? Use ground beef instead, it will still taste great! Go through your freezer as well, sometimes there are little ingredients hidden in there!

2.Gather your resources.
Use websites like Kraft Foods ! On the right hands side of the website there is a "Use what's on hand" tool. This is amazing! I love this website because it uses a lot of things you've already got in the house! I've built many a great dinner around this website, and honestly they have all been delicious! (no I am not being paid by Kraft Foods!) This recipe for Creamy Italian Chicken Fettuccine is awesome! And really only 1-2 chicken breasts can feed a whole family of 6 when you chop the chicken into little pieces! Sift through your recipe box or binder and check out what is in there. Chances are you'll find things you can cook!

3.Go with Soup!
Soup is a great thing to make when you are low on food! Water makes the meal a lot larger! Often times it can feed you more than once! It's also easy to add or omit ingredients you don't have! Some of my favorites are Chicken noodle (again 1-2 breasts shredded go a long way!) Chicken Tortilla, Lentil Soup, Vegetable Stew (with or without beef). If you only have a little ground beef or a little chicken breast or ham, shredding it will make it go a lot farther and help everyone get a little fuller!

4.Try Homemade.
Homemade bread only takes a few ingredients, so do tortillas! You may find that you have the ingredients to make these items instead of buy them! The French Bread recipe is the best! It's easy if you have a mixer and only requires yeast, sugar, salt, crisco and flour! This makes 2 loaves!! Even Pasta can be made with a few ingredients! If you've never tried it why not! Make it an event! And homemade pasta sauce is very simple! Noni Bianci's Recipe : Either Tomato sauce or paste (thin with water), onion, diced peeled tomato, meat, Garlic, Basil, Rosemary and Oregano. Mix it all up, the secret is letting it simmer for a few hours! You can add just about anything to spaghetti sauce and it will taste delicious!

5.Mix it up!
Who says you can't have breakfast for dinner or hotdogs for breakfast?? Call it backwards day and then eat Ice Cream for lunch! Get creative with what you do have! My husband's family had a tradition on Sundays to have a big lunch, then at night have popcorn and snacks for dinner and watch a movie! You can add snacks, veggies or fruit, gogurt Popsicles, granola get the idea. 

6.Plan for the next time!
If this has never happened to you, consider yourself very blessed. It's happened to us quite a few times. There are a few things I like to do on a just in case basis. When canned or frozen items are on a great sale, I'll get an extra 1 or 2 of them. Tomato soup, cream of mushrooms soup, frozen mixed veggies, dried beans, ya just never know. Take the time to shred that whole chicken breast you cooked for dinner one night. Pick out all the meat, bag it and freeze it. A quart sized bag will make a nice hearty soup for later! Don't throw away that one extra french toast or the extra batter for pancakes. Make them, they freeze wonderfully! And make for a great quick breakfast when you've run low! If you can buy in bulk, having yeast and flour on hand can be a life saver for a lot of things!

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