Menu Planning

Menu Planning

Menu planning is something that helps us control our grocery budget.  If you search the internet, you will find many different ways that people “menu plan”.  The way that we have found works best for our family is to plan by the month.  I evaluate what groceries we have and then make a menu based on that.  At the end of each month I do an inventory of our pantry and freezers, pull out my cookbooks and recipe cards, and print a blank monthly calendar from Microsoft Outlook.  I simply write the meals planned with the corresponding recipe book and page number on each day.  Also, I use my crockpot A LOT so this enables us to have a healthy dinner even though I am not in the kitchen to cook it!  We do not plan breakfasts or lunches for a couple of reasons.  We have found the easiest thing for us to do for breakfast is to have pretty much the same thing everyday (cereal, oatmeal, or egg whites and cheese on whole wheat english muffin during the week and on weekends we have whole wheat pancakes).  For lunch we either have salads, leftovers, or sandwiches. 

Of course we do not have everything “in stock” that is needed for the whole month so we do make small trips to the stores to get fresh veggies, fruits, and milk.  Our aim is to make these trips once a week and sometimes we are able to stretch it to once every 2 weeks.  That is a rariety though since we eat lots of fresh fruits.  We focus on sales at the grocery stores and we also make a monthly trip to Sam’s Club to buy bulk items that are at lower prices.

On a side note, you will notice that most of my recipes are either chicken, turkey, or pork due the fact that I do not eat red meat.  Also, I try to add recipes to this page often, but always check the side bar of the blog under “Recipes” and you will find even more listed there!

Chicken Cacciatore (Crockpot recipe)
1/2 cup Italian Dressing
3lb chicken
1/4 onion (chopped)
1 cup mixed frozen peppers (red, green, yellow)
1 clove garlic (I used garlic powder)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon of thyme
1.  Mix dressing and veggies and pour on the bottom of crockpot.
2.  Lay chicken on top of veggie mixture.
3.  Pour the can of tomatoes on top.
4.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or low 4-5.  Serve over rice. YUMMMM
Spaghetti Bake.  
3 cups cooked whole wheat pasta
1 zucchini
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup of mozz cheese
ground turkey, cooked with garlic, basil, and oregano to taste



1. I made spaghetti with ground turkey over the weekend. I simply cooked ground turkey with spices and added a jar of sauce.
2. Cook whole wheat pasta, set to the side.
3. Slice zucchini and lay flat to bake. Cover with garlic powder and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 20 min.
4. Drain can of diced tomatoes and set to the side until zucchini is done.
5. Mix all ingredients (except cheese) together and put into baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 for 20 min. or until heated thru.
6. Uncover and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted.
Cranberry Pork Chops (originally apple stuffed pork chops) 

I have to say this recipe ROCKED! Not only was it super easy, it was so good I almost want to make it again tomorrow night! As always, I took a recipe and tweaked it based on what I had in the kitchen. I will put the original recipe ingredients next to my substitutes.
*4-5 boneless pork chops
*2 tablespoons butter
*2 tablespoons brown sugar
*1 tablespoon corn starch
*1/2 cup of dried cranberries (orginial called for these plus a Granny Smith apple. I didn’t have one so there was no apple in mine)
*1 cup cranberry juice (original was apple juice)
*1 teaspoon of pepper (original also called for salt, I don’t use salt in anything)
*1 tablespoon onion chopped (original called for whole onion, I don’t like onions so I cut it down in portion)
I put everything in the crockpot and cooked it on high for 4 hours. You could do low for 8 but I was short on time. The original recipe called for this to be baked instead of using the crockpot but my friend said she had done it in the crockpot and it turned out great. I am a crockpot fanatic so of course that’s how I cooked it. Everything kinda became a gravy/gel and it was amazing! As you can see we covered the chops in the sauce and even put some on the rice. Yummmmmmm!
Thanks Lindsay for the recipe!!
Turkey Spinach Burgers 

1 lb lean ground turkey
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
1.  Mix together and make into patties. 
2.  Grill and serve!
Chicken Delicious 

This is a recipe from Janice Crist that I have changed a bit to fit our family’s tastes, and yes, it’s another crockpot one!

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders (tenders will cook faster)
1/4 lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 can of Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can of Healthy Request Cream of Celery Soup
1/3 cup red or white wine (doesn’t really matter)

1.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl (whisk works best with the thick soups)
2.  Dip each piece of chicken in mixture and place in crockpot.
3.  Pour remaining mixutre over all pieces of chicken once they’re in the pot.
4.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.  Delicious served over whole grain brown rice!


Turkey Chili
 Ok, another crockpot recipe but oh do I love this one!  It looks like a lot of ingredients but they are mostly spices that we regularly have in our pantry. Walmart is a great source for inexpensive spices, most grocery stores have much higher prices.  Keep in mind everyone is different when it comes to using spices so you may want to tweek this to your own tastes.
1lb uncooked ground turkey
1 cup frozen mixed peppers, chopped
14 oz can, fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2-15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz can tomato puree
1 small can tomato paste
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Cook ground turkey and peppers in pan until meat is cooked through.  Put all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low 5 hours.


Mexi Crockpot
1 package of chicken breasts
2 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
1 small jar of salsa

1.  Lay chicken breasts in crockpot.
2.  Combine all other ingredients and pour over chicken.
3.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 4 hours.

Pork Chops and Rice (crockpot)
4 boneless pork chops
2 cans low sodium chicken and rice soup

1.  Lay pork chops in bottom of crockpot.
2.  Pour both cans of soup over chops.
3.  Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4 hours.


Chicken Picatta
4 thin chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
Olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pan)
2 lemons
1 teaspoon capers (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 small tomato (diced)
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour

1.  Heat oil over medium heat.
2.  Mix flour, salt, and pepper.  Dredge chicken in flour mixture and add to the heated oil.  Brown each side (uncovered).
3.  Add garlic to pan.  Cook until tender.
4.  Add remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat and simmer until it thickens. 
5.  Garnish with tomatoes.

Serve with pasta or mashed potatoes. 

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and in honor of the day, I made a heart shaped turkey meatloaf ( in the crockpot of course). Here is the lowfat recipe!
1 1/2 lbs lean ground turkey
2 egg whites
1/3 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil and black pepper
2 potatos finely shredded
1/2 cup red, green, or yellow peppers, chopped (I use the frozen Trader Joes pepper mix)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (optional, I use them to help solidify the loaf)
Combine all ingredients and cook in crock pot low 6-8 hours.  Top with ketchup.
Before bread crumbs each serving is 200 calories.


Southwest Chicken

1 package of chicken breast
1 can of low sodium corn, drained
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large jar of salsa
Mix 1/2 of the jar of salsa with the beans and corn.  Put mix on bottom of crockpot. Add chicken on top.  Pour remaining salsa on top of chicken.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve over rice or in heated tortillas.  Yummy!!!


Fruity Cheeseball (appetizer
2 packages cream cheese
1 cup chedder cheese
1 can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup coconut flakes
Mix all ingredients together and chill for an hour.  When you are ready to serve you roll it in additional coconut (your desired amount).  I also roll in additional chedder cheese.  Serve with your favorite crackers.
Crockpot BBQ Pork Chops
4 lean pork chops
1 1/2 cups of  ketchup
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons of vinegar
1 tablespoon of worchestershire sauce
3 teaspoons of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
salt and pepper to taste


1. Place pork chops in crockpot.
2.  Combine all ingredients(I like to use a whisk) and pour them over pork chops.
3.  Cover and cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8 hours.