Meal Plan Monday – Freezer Favourites
I grew up and lived 3/4 of my life on the Canadian prairies before travelling through Europe, living in Japan for 2 years, and in Northern Ireland for 10 years now. Each of these experiences have helped to shape my menu planning. Growing up I learned how to be frugal from Mom and Grandma, which I really appreciate now that I have my own growing family. I used to be a VERY picky child when it came to eating, and I was fortunate my grandparents only lived two doors away so I had more meal choices than most if I didn’t like what Mom was serving!
Although Canada is a multicultural mosaic, and just one of the things I love about my homeland, I didn’t really come to be very adventurous with my meal choices until I began to travel. I didn’t always know what I was eating, but I would always give everything a try, and most things were ok, and some I really loved.
I’m trying to have healthy meals on a budget for my children, and I want them to experience a wide variety of foods while they are young. For the most part they are quite adventurous with food which makes things much easier for me!
My husband is away to work about 12 hours a day, so we work our meals around his schedule so that he can have breakfast and dinner with our children everyday.
Breakfast on work days is at about 6:40 am. I stay curled up warm in bed and listen to the children and Phil chatter over breakfast. This is their time each day to spend a little time just with Daddy before he heads away to work and we get on with our day of learning. Breakfast on work days is generally either porridge with fruit, cereal, or toast. Phil brings me a cup of tea to enjoy in bed, and I have my breakfast when I get up shortly after he’s away. Recently Kallista loves to make my toast for me, she’s getting to be a great help.
We have our morning snack after the majority of the table school work is completed around 10-10:30am. Morning snacks will usually be cheese and crackers, frozen zucchini pancakes that have been heated up, or some fresh fruit.
Our lunchtime meal is at about 1:00pm, though sometimes it’s earlier if Phil has the day off work or we’re in need of some nourishment after a big morning walk.
Our usual standby for lunch is some homemade soup that’s been taken out of the freezer. We usually have a couple of varieties to choose from. This week we have lentil and carrot soup as well as sweet potato and squash soup. If the soup is fresh sometimes the children prefer to eat it cold rather than hot. Phil also takes soup to work for his lunch, he heats it up at home and take it in a Thermos.
If we have rice left over from the night before we’ll have that for our lunch. I’ll make an omelet-type egg and then slice it up and fry the rice in the same pan along with any leftover vegetables. If we don’t have leftover veggies, then I’ll throw in some frozen corn, peas and bell peppers and cook until it’s all piping hot.
The family’s favourite lunch at the moment is to have homemade easy cheesy falafel in pita bread with tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, some cheese and a little salsa or salad dressing. This meal works well for us at home, as well as for sending to work with Phil.
The children enjoy their afternoon snack at about 4:00pm. They usually have vegetable sticks, pickles in a bucket, yoghurt, or any of the items mentioned for the morning snacks.
As a home educator, although I am currently home or working from home childminding, there isn’t much time for a lot of cooking each day. And to be honest, by the time 6pm rolls around and I have to think about making dinner I’m too tired to be making large meals from scratch. So instead, I tend to do my cooking and baking (from scratch usually) in big batches and portion the meals into appropriate sizes to freeze for the future. This means that even if I haven’t planned ahead (I’m trying to get better at this, honestly) all I really need to do is grab something from the freezer and put on some rice, pasta or potatoes and the meal’s done. This way of cooking isn’t very common here, but it works for me!
Our dinner is usually around 7:00 pm, though we do try to aim an hour earlier on the days Phil is home so the dinner clean-up isn’t so rushed and a little more time can be spent with the children before bed unless they’re tired and would prefer an early night. Here is last week’s dinner meal plan; dinners are the main meal in our home and also the most varied. We always sit down together to eat dinner, with the exception of ‘date night’ when the kids enjoy some time together and Mommy and Daddy eat after they’re asleep.
Manic Monday – I still have some beef pieces in the fridge from our monthly grocery shop. I asked Phil if he’d prefer stew or niku jaga. He requested stew and dumplings because he really likes the dumplings. This meal works well for Mondays as I can make it a little ahead and just keep it warm so that it’s ready to put on the table as soon as my husband is home. Mondays are always a bit rushed as right after supper I have to head out the door to the local camera club (I know my photos may not look like this is where I spend my Monday nights, but that is precisely the reason I go–to learn more). Phil will put the left overs into 1 or 2 containers and freeze them for another cold winter’s meal.
Tired Tuesday – Tonight we had an easy meal as I’m usually on the tired side after a long manic Monday of laundry and a late night. So tonight is pasta with homemade sauce and meatballs. Usually we cheat on our meatballs by squeezing sausages out of their casing into a frying pan in small pieces to make our meatballs. So sometimes they’re beef, sometimes pork, and we can add different spices to them while cooking to make them more interesting. These little sausage balls can then be frozen and used later for a quick pasta or pizza topping.
Wednesday – Tonight we brought out our old standby; a recipe my sister sent me that we’ve adapted to make it more frugal and more healthy, Brian’s chicken. But to be honest as the price of meat keeps increasing we end up using less and less of it in the recipe so it would be very easy to leave the chicken out and make it a Brian’s veggie meal! I make this up ahead in a huge batch and freeze it so it’s ready to pull out quickly. When it’s time to eat we put some rice on the stove, pull a bag of Brian’s out of the freezer and heat it until it’s piping hot and ready to serve. Any leftover rice we use for our lunch the next day.
- 4-6 Whole boned chicken breasts, cut in chunks
- ¼ tsp Pepper
- 3 TBSP Oil
- 1-1.5 Kg of frozen veggies of your choice (we use broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or baby carrots-whatever we have at the time)
- 2-3 cans of cream of chicken and/or cream of mushroom soup
- ½ C Salad cream
- 1 TBSP Curry powder
- 1 TBSP Lemon juice
- 4 oz Grated Cheddar cheese
- Sprinkle chicken with pepper and sauté in oil.
- Cut broccoli or other veggies into small pieces and put them in the bottom of a large casserole dish.
- Spread the sautéed chicken over the top.
- Mix together soup, salad cream, curry powder and lemon juice and pour over the top of the chicken.
- Sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese.
- Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile cook the rice according to their directions.
- Serve and enjoy.
We don’t usually serve this dish with the cheese and it’s still great. If you want a little crunch to your meal, crumple some breadcrumbs or corn flakes over the meal before you sprinkle the cheese on top.
Thursday – Tonight we had hedgehog scramble. Don’t worry, it’s just a name, there aren’t any hedgehogs in it; it just looks a little prickly! This meal also works great cooked inside bell peppers and cooked in tin foil.
Friday – When I’m grocery shopping in person I always go straight to the bargain bin areas. Some shops may have a few of them- one in the chilled section, one in the bakery, one for dried goods. I see if there are any great bargains there first before I do the rest of the shop. Last week there were some fine-looking pork chops at a great price so we stocked up on them, foregoing another item for this month. I cooked them in the oven plain tonight, with the flavour being perked up with some homemade Andean spicy fries (you can also make these without the cayenne pepper if you don’t want them spicy.
Saturday – Breakfast is on and the kids insist that Daddy makes breakfast, which is OK with me! Phil makes Hole-In-Ones for him and the kids, while I prefer mine deconstructed as simply an egg and toast.
Saturday -Date night dinner! On this night the children have a meal together of their choice. Tonight they had some pasta, some nights they choose a pita pizza, and other times they actually choose porridge with fruit for supper! After the kids are sleeping soundly and surrounded by good dreams then it’s time for Mommy and Daddy to share a meal and watch some TV or a movie together. Tonight Phil fried up some chorizo we found hiding in the freezer when I was defrosting it. He served it on some bread-maker bread I made yesterday.
Sunday – Brunch – Since we’re still cooking meals for the freezer, Phil has made some Irish soda bread; we’ll put the ones we don’t eat in the freezer for another day. These can also be made with goat’s milk, rice milk, or soya milk. Our son has a cow’s milk allergy so a smaller batch is made just for him. He likes it because his sodas have his initial on the top of them!
Sunday dinner was an easy meal for Phil to prepare, and his stand-by – Sausage and Northern Irish champ with some saucy beans. A little clean-up tonight and we start the whole week again tomorrow.
Our children don’t often have treats, as that is what we think they should be; not something to eat every day. We do like to bake, but I try to give some away so we don’t eat it all. I also tend to keep it in the freezer and just bring a little out at a time.