Thursday, September 20, 2012

Planning Meals with Leftovers in Mind

I enjoy meal planning. I like to have a plan for grocery shopping and an idea of what I am going to make during the week.

I have found meal planning as a stay at home (most of the time) mom much different then meal planning for when I was working. When I was working full time, I would plan a meal for each night. I wasn't a big fan of taking leftovers for lunch unless it was a meal I really loved, so I would pretty much just make what we needed for that one dinner. I also didn't have children running around like wild banshees in the kitchen when I was working.... that definitely makes cooking dinner a new and exciting experience!

Now that I am home, I find that the time I have for cooking is difficult to plan. I can not plan ahead for temper tantrums, fussy babies, and general mommy grumpiness. Grumpiness happens. Some nights I have more time to cook than others. Also, since we are home I find myself wanting leftovers for lunch.  It is so simple to reheat leftovers and feel like you have had a satisfying mid-day meal... versus trying to create a meal or just snacking. So my new tactic for meal planning is.....

mmmm leftovers....

Plan for 2 LARGE meals a week and 3 regular dinners.

For example:

Sunday I made one of our favorites, spaghetti squash with meat sauce. I made a lot. I cooked 2 large squashes and 2 lbs of beef in the sauce. There was room in the oven, so I also quartered new potatoes and roasted a tray of them along with the squash.

Monday I made Beef and Mushroom stew in the Crockpot and served it over the new potatoes cooked the day before. I doubled my recipe: 3 lbs of beef and 2 lbs of mushrooms.

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Real meal!

Thursday - Real meal!

Friday - Leftovers or Costco food :)

Saturday - Real meal!

With all this delicious food cooked early in the week, we have plenty for lunches - for both the girls and I and for David to take to work.

2011 May Freezer Meals 2
Did you know that having a well stocked freezer will help you cook delicious meals with less effort??

Here is how I keep leftovers fresh and inviting:

Pack leftovers in separate containers - no mixing!
- Spaghetti Squash in one container, meat sauce in another. That way if you want to serve the kids up some plain buttered squash, you can! You can also easily used leftover roasted potatoes as a side dish with another meal.  Just because they are leftovers doesn't mean you have to keep eating the same meal over and over.

Don't be afraid of the buffet style dinner.
- I am not a big fan of everyone eating something different for dinner, but there is nothing wrong with a good ol' fashioned leftover night. Serving up a variety of leftovers for dinner on a night that you don't have time to cook is much healthier than ordering pizza.

Know what you like to eat as leftovers.
- I do not like to eat leftover chicken. I just don't. So, when we have chicken for dinner, I make enough for just that meal and maybe for David's lunch so that I don't have to feel guilty about not eating leftover chicken.  However, I love leftover chili... every time I make chili, I make lots. Know what you like, and make that!

Tried and True Recipes are best.
- Don't big-batch a brand new recipe...Just don't do it. If you are trying out a new recipe, great! But, don't spend extra money doubling it if you are not sure it is going to go well and everyone is going to like it.

Change up the Menu.
- I try to do different BIG meals every other week so that we don't feel that we are ALWAYS eating the same foods. I also try to see what is in season and on sale when planning so that I can get the most for my money.

Grain-Free Turkey Meatballs

This is working well for us, and I am really enjoying the versatility of my leftovers. I also like having lots of easy options for my kids' lunches.

How has your meal planning evolved over the years?


  1. I very much enjoyed our left-over spaghetti squash and meat sauce yesterday - very good and very filling ;-) Thanks for a fun morning LU

  2. Beef and mushroom stew sounds delicious...and we just bought a new crockpot! Can you send or post the recipe?


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