Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 9/12

Hello beautiful menu planning people, how did your week go?ย  Did you have some menu planning success?ย  I only ask because hearing those types of testimonials is so encouraging for others to hear whether we are menu planning newbies or long time veterans at it.ย  Who doesn’t need some encouragement once and awhile ๐Ÿ™‚

So starting this week I’ll introduce one menu planning stumbling block and my thoughts on some possible suggestions that might help you out of it.ย  I do hope you find it helpful.

Menu Plan Stumbling Block:ย  sticking to a menu plan when you are too tired to cook

So let me tell you one of my secrets of menu planning.ย  I keep it simple.ย  For two reasons.ย  I don’t like to cook and I certainly don’t like to cook when I’m tired and cranky.ย  So when the four or five o clock witching hour hits I know myself well enough now that if the recipe isn’t easy, it’s probably not going to happen.ย  I mean forget about it.ย  How many of you can relate?ย  So as you know most of the recipes I pick out each week are intentionally pretty easy to whip up but some days I pick up that recipe and go ugh, what was I thinking as was the case with the Taco Pork Chops last week.

credit: Taste of Home

Total prep and cook time on this recipe was 20 minutes, seriously that’s nothing so why was I feeling like I wanted to just toss the idea out the window and eat popcorn for dinner?ย  Well for one I dislike pork chops (my hubbie loves them) and the other I absolutely love popcorn and could eat it for every meal.ย  However the real reason I wasn’t up to making that recipe was because I just didn’t feel like standing at the stove babysitting it while it cooked.ย ย  So rather than let that get me down I simply threw those pork chops into a 9×13 inch pan, tossed the taco mixture on top and cooked the whole thing in the oven instead.ย  That took me 2 minutes to prep and the rest of the time I read my magazine.ย  That’s the way it goes sometimes and it still all tasted great in the end.ย  So I guess the point I’m trying to make in all this jibberish is to not get discouraged when you step up to the kitchen to cook.ย  Select easy recipes going in (the beauty of a little advance preparation) but remember even those can be simplified further if you feel yourself reaching for the popcorn pot.ย  Although trust me popcorn for dinner once and awhile is okay too, yum yum ๐Ÿ™‚

Other ways to avoid the 4:00 tired dinner crunch include:
– preparing meals in advance and freezing for later
– using your slow cooker often
– have a super simple fall back plan that you always have the ingredients on hand for (think pancakes, spaghetti, grilled cheese and soup)


The winner of last week’s Comfort Food Diet magazine cookbook giveaway is #70ย  Talking Dollars and Cents.ย  Congratulations!!


Monday:ย  Cheeseburger Pasta

Tuesday:ย  Three-Ingredient Sticky Chicken served with baked potatoes and carrots

Wednesday:ย  Brown Sugar/Mustard Pork Chops served with rice and broccoli

Thursday:ย  Leftover buffet

Friday:ย  Slow Cooker Fajitas

Saturday:ย  Breakfast for dinner:ย  Buttermilk Pancakes

Sunday:ย  YOYO (you’re on your own!)


Menu Plan Guidelines, banner selections and recipe helpers are here.

More family favorite recipes here.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Have a great week everyone!

Filed under: Menu Plan Monday


55 Responses to Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan 9/12

  1. 1
    Susieqtpies says

    Thanks for the link up! Happy Monday.

  2. 2
    Kelly @ Dysfunctionally Functional says

    Happy Monday!

    Have a great day, everyone!

    Thanks for hosting, Laura! You rock!

    (I’ve had too much coffee this morning…I can’t seem to stop with the exclamation points! See? I did it again! And again! And… Oh, forget it. You get the point. I need some food to balance out all this caffeine…)

    • 2.1
      Laura says

      I love exclamation points myself!!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 3
    April @ Angel Foods Kitchen says

    Laura, I couldn’t function without my menu plan. I print it up each week, and put it on the front of my fridge, along with little notes to keep me on track with my day. It’s a life saver.

    Yum on the slow cooker fajitas. The recipe you chose is close to mine and we love it. Then again, we love just about any type of Mexican style meal.

    Congrats to Talking Dollars and Cents for winning the cookbook and thanks for hosting Laura!

  4. 4
    Lucky @ Making My Own Luck says

    I so agree about keeping it simple. I know that if I can’t get it on the table in 15 or so minutes it’s not going to happen. It takes a lot of planning and working ahead, but I guess that’s why we’re all here right?

    Thanks for the link up.

  5. 5
    Tiffany says

    I always hate it when I give in to being tired and skip cooking. It really isn’t hard, but I tell myself that it is.

  6. 6
    Queen of the House says

    Hahaha!!!! LOL! Thank you for being so real! I totally get it! Sometimes (okay, many times) I wonder what I was thinking when I planned my menu when it actually comes time to preparing it! I am all for simple and quick! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t tell you how many times I just ditched the menu plan and made something different for supper (like a sandwich, or popcorn…haha!)
    However, all joking aside, I will admit that having a plan in place is MUCH better than how I used to (try) and make meals for my family! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for all you do!
    Have a fabulous week!!!!

    • 6.1
      Laura says

      I would soooo be lost without my menu plan…I really wish I’d known about it all those years before I was 34 years old!

  7. 7
    Tammy @ Skinny Mom's Kitchen says

    My suggestion to the “don’t feel like to cook” stumbling block is to cook ahead meals on your menu plan as much as possible. Also use freezer cooking to have meal starters, complete meals, and snacks ready to go. This is what I do and it helps immensly during the busy week. A little upfront planning saves tons of time and energy during the week.

    I actually add freezer cooking instructions to ALL recipes I post on my site. Because honestly if I can’t make it ahead in some way, shape, or form then most likely I will not prepare it.

    With my weekly menu plans I also include make ahead instructions for my readers. I go over the ways I prepared that menu ahead of time so it is ready to eat.

    Have a great week everyone!

    • 7.1
      Laura says

      Great advice! Oh and I wanted to thank you for introducing me to MyFitnessPal…so loving that site compared to some of the others I’ve tried!

  8. 8
    Michelle @ Getting Through the Day says

    I am trying more and more one dish meals to try to help me stick to my plan. My biggest obstacle is deciding that I don’t want to eat what’s on the menu. Like you and the pork chops, I often cook something because my husband or kids will like it, so I end up moving slow prepping it, eating a few bites, and then having to clean up. We live overseas thus we need to cook almost everything from scratch and don’t have a dishwasher, so I feel like dinner is a HUGE part of my day.

    • 8.1
      Laura says

      Yes I definitely know that feeling especially with my husband loving meat so much and me well not so much. I’m thankful he appreciates it though ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 9
    Jessie G says

    I know Ihave to intentionally look at our weekly calendar and specifically plan “easy” meals on days that I know by 4pm I will be in no mood to “cook”.. in order to avoid the lure of take out or drive thru. These are great tips.

    Also I wanted to be sure I am backlinking correctly–for weeks now I have been back linking to the general Meal Plan monday link of mostly so new readers can get the gist of meal plan monday and see other weeks..but today when I tried that as normal it said there was no back link in my post…so do we need to be linking directly to each weekly post instead then? Thanks for hosting MPM for us!

    • 9.1
      Laura says

      Hi Jessie, no that should definitely be enough. As long as you have a link to somewhere in your post it should be fine. Not sure why today was different. Sorry for the frustration ๐Ÿ™

  10. 10
    Free 2 Be Frugal says

    Hey, I see you’re making cheeseburger pasta this week! I had it last week and it was very yummy. The whole family dug it, even the picky 6 year old.


  11. 11
    Tammy says

    Yes, I agree. You rock, Laura! ๐Ÿ™‚ I did spend at least $30 less the first week that I menu planned over a year ago. Now, I need to work better at my plan so that I’ll shop the sales instead of shopping for what I want to cook that week because I’ve been spending more again with illnesses, etc.
    I did some meal prep this weekend: made a chicken pot pie (using refrigerated pie crusts & leftover chicken), cooked 3 lbs. of ground turkey, lean beef, & ground chuck, and placed those into baggies and into the freezer for spaghetti, sloppy joes, Johnny Marzetti, chili, etc. for a later date. Then, while I baked my Italian pork chops last night, I placed my roast, carrots, potatoes, and onion with seasoning into my crockpot and placed that into the fridge until this morning.
    I do try to plan easy meals for PMS week because I know I will be more tired & cranky. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jan. 8, 2012 โ€“ Salad & cruditรฉs served
    Sack Lunches for my son at school โ€“ M โ€“ Snowman face turkey sandwich, string cheese, fruit strip, animal crackers, pretzels, T โ€“ Spaghettios & meatballs, etc. , W โ€“ pizza, etc., Th โ€“ mac & cheese, etc. F โ€“ boiled eggs, string cheese, marshmallow snowman, pretzels
    S โ€“ Italian pork chops, green beans, corn, tomato & cucumber salad, rolls, pumpkin pie
    M โ€“ Roast, carrots, potatoes, onion
    T โ€“ Red beans & rice or spaghetti
    W โ€“ French dip sandwiches (using leftover roast)
    Th โ€“ takeout or out
    F โ€“ Spaghetti, garlic rolls or Sloppy joes, mac & cheese, bread or stuffed bell peppers
    S โ€“ out

    • 11.1
      Laura says

      Thanks for sharing your menu plan, love the multitasking idea!

  12. 12
    Susan says

    Laura, this was my biggest stumbling block with menu planning! I generally am quite happy with just knowing what I need to go in and make, but every once in a while I look at that plan and think, Eh….

    Part of my solution is to have an emergency backup plan. I always have some (gluten-free) pasta and a jar of sauce in the pantry, or some eggs and hash browns, or something else that is easy to throw together. The thing that made the biggest difference, though, was changing my attitude toward eating out. While I do like the someone else cleans up part, in general, it is so much more time-consuming to eat out, you don’t get exactly what you want (restaurants don’t serve enough vegetables for me, generally, and too many of them use icky celery, :)), and it just doesn’t seem worth the time to me unless I am going out with friends. Social events are worth the time, tired Tuesday evenings are not, to me anyway. Also, now that my kids are older and eating off the adult menu, it is so darned expensive!

    I think it is funny that you don’t like the standing in front of the stove part–one of my favorite throw something together so we don’t go out meals is risotto. Yes, you have to stand there and stir, but I find it very calming. You have to open a bottle of wine to make it anyway, so I pour myself a small glass, sip, stir and relax. Sometimes I will think my way through a problem, sometimes I will convince one of my kids to chat with me, sometimes I will just zone out a bit. We probably have risotto once a week. Everyone is so different, huh?

    • 12.1
      Jamie @ The Bullock 5 says

      LOL at your wine comment while stirring the ritsotto… Do you serve it alone, with a sauce? I have never made it as the meal, only as a side… would love to know how you do yours?

      • Susan says

        Sometimes I do it alone as a one dish meal, sometimes as a side. Usually alone, with maybe an extra veggie on the side. It doesn’t really need a sauce, it is a pretty saucy dish. If it doesn’t seem saucy, I figure I have either cooked it too long, or it needs more broth (either way, I add a bit more). I don’t do dairy, so I add nutritional yeast at the end instead of the parmesan cheese, and that makes a nice sauce with the broth.

    • 12.2
      Laura says

      I don’t always mind standing at the stove but for whatever reason that day I was just totally bothered by it ๐Ÿ™‚

      Great backup plan you got there!

  13. 13
    Erin says

    Really enjoyed viewing everyones entries over the last few months and have decided to do this at my house. As a newbie, I put aside 2 hours on the day after my shopping, to prep the meat/veggies for the week. I bought 10 pounds of chicken breasts on sale, and took the time to poach a few and shred them, pound a few thin and slice for tenders and then seperated the remaining to be determined. Huge difference it made. Although we won’t eat chicken all week, if I do this with whatever meat is on sale, I should have a nice selection to help with meal planning in the next month.
    Thank you for all the info.

    • 13.1
      Laura says

      That’s awesome!

  14. 14
    Dianna says

    This is my first time to link up with my new blog. I love going over your site as well as all the other bloggers that post and link up. I am still new to menu planning and at first I was trying to over think it all. Then I decided that week nights would only be dishes that could be prepped and cooked in 30 minutes or so. I am not a great cook, but can cook simple dishes very well.

    As for your menu plan stumbling block. I will cook for the freezer a couple of dishes so that on those nights that I really don’t want to cook, it is ready to just pull out. A life saver some times.

    Thanks for the work you do on your site.

  15. 15
    Julie says

    Thanks for posting this Laura! I’ve been trying to menu plan for a while, but it never works. I work outside the home, so we are up at 5:15am and do not get home until almost 5:45pm every night. We have a 19 month old daughter and a second one on the way. So when we get home, we are tired, hungry and cranky. I’m going on mat leave soon, so will be able to plan and actually be home to cook the meals. I guess my answer is to cook meals in advance and use my slow cooker.

    Any advice?


    • 15.1
      Jamie @ The Bullock 5 says

      I got really organized with my cooking as I had more children. By the time #3 was delivered I had a good stash of freezer meals I could pop in the oven without much worry. Now it probably wasn’t the best that I live in the deep south and I had summer babies. LOL… but it did get me thru! My favorite freezer meals that I would prepare 3-4 of at one time were… Shepard’s Pie, chicken pot pie, chili, lasgana. I still make these dishes but I don’t stock up my freezer as much. Now I might double up when I make them… my youngest is now almost 5 so I have my hands free-er… if that is a word LOL. I still keep a fairly simple menu for the week nights. Good luck on your menu planning. I have many recipes on my blog

      • Julie says

        Thanks Jamie! Am heading to your blog now! I love checking out new recipes and ideas – whatever can make my life easier! (Tonight I had planned on having my mother-in-law’s frozen lasagna – Christmas present!!, but we had to pick up our car from the shop and ended up eating Taco Bell!!! Guess that’ll be tomorrow’s supper!!)

    • 15.2
      Laura says

      It’s hard to use a slow cooker when gone for that many hours a day so that can be tough however my sister is in the same boat as you and finds doing most of her cooking on Sunday for the week really helps a lot. She has a 3 and 1 year old.

      • Julie says

        I agree – I love my slow cooker, but we are often gone for more than 10 hours, which equals NOT GOOD! I’m slowly (like, REALLY slowly) trying to get into the menu planning thing. I figure if I can do stuff on the weekend AND use my slow cooker, then I can do double-duty, or something like that! Thanks for all the inspiration Laura! I can’t remember how I found you exactly, but I LOVE IT!!!

  16. 16
    Janet says

    Those taco pork chops look great and your solution to not wanting to cook was perfect. I had a night this week when I really didn’t want what was on the menu and didn’t feel like cooking. Thankfully my desire to not eat out was stronger than my desire to just go pick something up. In the end I whipped up some spaghetti which is my favorite fall back meal.

    • 16.1
      Laura says

      Always a good idea to have a fall back meal!

  17. 17
    Beth says

    those pork chops sound great!!!

  18. 18
    Christina says

    I’M STARTING TODAY! Haha. New to menu planning and I’m starting today. This was a great day to start with that awesome post that told me exactly what not to do right off the bat! Wish me luck!

    • 18.1
      Laura says

      Good luck Christina! Hang in there, the beginning can be tricky until you get the hang of it. But it is so worth it. I would be so lost without my plan now. Let me know if you get stuck and if I can help in any way.

  19. 19
    Trish @ Finances With Funk says

    I totally agree. I love cooking but running two businesses with four kids get’s me to the end of my day at times even with the meal I already had planned and makes me want to throw the thing out the window.

    Always having a back up (super quick easy) is a great plan. I swear by that one. I always have a “fast food replacement” in the pantry or freezer for those days.

  20. 20
    Sinea says

    Love these recipes. When I make ham at Christmas, the glaze I use is simply brown sugar mixed with prepared mustard. It tastes great. And the sticky chicken recipe is perfect for kids!

  21. 21
    Sheila says

    I am still on the learning curve when it comes to menu planning. But I did see the benefit of having one when I prepared a couple of meals for a weekend trip. I prepared the dishes two days in advance and froze them. We stayed in a cabin for the weekend trip and it had a microwave that we were able to use. So I tossed the frozen dish in there, heated it up, and we had a filling lunch or dinner like it was just cooked minutes ago. Beats spending dollars on take out or restaurant food in a tourist area.

  22. 22
    Janet @ Ordinary Mom says

    So true. What I do to make supper time less stressful is precut all my veggies when I get home from the grocery store. I store them all in the glass Anchor Hocking containers with lids and everything stays fresh for the week. That way when I have to start cooking, I don’t have a lot of prep work.

    I created a free printable for my menu planning/grocery list. I have only been menu planning a few months but already love how little we grab take out and how I can tell we are saving money.

    • 22.1
      Laura says

      Thanks for sharing your link Janet!

  23. 23
    Amy says

    Thanks for hosting. I love checking out what everyone else is eating.

  24. 24
    [email protected] says

    The taco pork chops look amazing… I only have one way of cooking pork that I actually like, so we don’t have pork often. I am definitely going to have to try those!

  25. 25
    Emily @ Random Recycling says

    When we are too tired to cook, I usually make omelets. It’s healthy and a good way to use up leftover veggies or ham.

    • 25.1
      Laura says

      Oh I love omelets. My husband makes them for me even though he’s never had one himself. He’s allergic to eggs!

  26. 26
    Gaby @ Tmuffin says

    Freezer meals are great, but sometimes I forget to thaw them in time. When it comes to menu planning, if I keep it too simple, I get bored. I need to add in some fun recipes from time to time. When I have a complex week ahead of me, I try to cook as much as possible when I’m in the mood. So I’ll prep as much as I can, pre-cook as much as I can, or cook and freeze a whole meal. But just having a meal written out on my menu plan calendar usually helps me stick with it.

  27. 27
    Ginny says

    One of the reasons I like to plan my main dishes for a month at a time is exactly this. When I’m having a bad day, I can move something around, choosing an easier dish to make. Side dishes are easy – salad of some sort (sometimes just canned fruit), bread (often), and vegetable. Works for me!

  28. 28
    Gina says

    One of the ways I stick to the meal plan when I’m too tired to cook is using my slow cooker a lot. It’s a lot easier to “cook” at 9 in the morning, then I can still be exhausted and feel good that I’m feeding everyone.

    • 28.1
      Laura says

      I couldn’t agree more Gina!

  29. 29
    Caroline @Southern Mom Says says

    This past week having my menu planned was such a lifesaver! This is my second week to link up. I’m trying very hard to make this a habit every week and can definitely see the benefits already!

  30. 30
    Shirls says

    I used to do very elaborate menu plans then totally ignore them. In our house I have to cook two meals for one as I am a vegetarian and my husband isn’t. So last week I kept it really simple for him and put in just the meat he was going to get and a veggie recipe I fancied. Worked a treat.
    So it was from you I found the myfitnessday site. I couldn’t remember but gosh thanks so much – best I’ve come across ever. I love that I can actually find South African foods in the database.

  31. 31
    Sheri says

    I truly appreciate all of your efforts, and the information provided on your site. I find myself in a different place in my life, with no children to cook for daily, and now my husband is on the road for 2 wks at a time. I LOVE to cook, but not for one, so I would like to cook in batches, and designate a day for “freezer meals”, however, I am uncertain of the parameters of what may or may not work well. My ideal is to make larger batches of recipes, and then freeze them in individual meal sizes for myself, for a later date. I have a vaccum sealer, and I can from my garden, but truly have never frozen “prepared” meals. Would love any input and help!

    • 31.1
      Laura says

      That’s exactly what I’d do Sheri. Make a meal and then freeze in individual portions. Also have you seen the Taste of Home magazine called Cooking for One or Two? That might help too.


      • Sheri says

        Thank you Laura! Are there any do’s and dont’s about the actual freezing process? Plastic containers, baggies…Do I need to vaccum seal everything? What’s the best way to freeze muffins and breads (all in one bag, separate bags)? Can I freeze cheese(s)? See what I mean about being a novice with this? I appreciate your help!

        • Laura says

          Both work well as long as they are sealed tightly. I would only vacuum seal if you don’t plan on eating it within a month. Muffins and breads freeze really well…I would use separate bags, yes. Yes you can freeze cheese. No problem about the questions, I don’t mind at all. Good luck!

  32. 32
    Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut says

    One of my new year resolutions is to have a meal plan for each week…even though I am not yet married. Good practice right? I had no idea there was a link up like this until I saw it on another blog I follow. I am in awe of the amount of disciplined individuals out there who plan their meals each week. Kudos to everyone here and thanks for having a link-up…you may see me here in the near future! ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. 33
    Sela says

    Love the YOYO ๐Ÿ™‚ My hubs has been calling that FFYS -Fend For YourSelf, but I like YOYO much better. AND thanks for the simple meal/backup meal reminder. I am 35 weeks pregnant and a lot of nights these days, I’m just too tired…


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