Meal Planning at My House – Justine

Meal planning can look different in every home. In my home, meal planning is flexible. I like to keep it flexible because, with a family of five, things can change very quickly. Today I will share the process I use to plan supper meals at my home.

The first thing I do is choose our main dishes for one week. I usually choose four or five main dishes because I like to double recipes and serve leftovers two or three times per week. Next, I choose side dishes. I usually do not want to cook both main dishes and side dishes, so I keep it simple with sides. I buy a variety of canned, fresh, and frozen fruits and vegetables for sides. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are especially important for our family because they store well and they are quick and easy to prepare.

I do not assign specific meals to days of the week. I just post the list of meals I have available on the refrigerator and then make the meal that will be best for my family on a particular day. For example, I tend to go grocery shopping on Friday or Saturday, so I will cook larger meals over the weekend that can be saved for leftovers on a busy night later in the week.

This past weekend, I cooked a pork roast in the slow cooker. So far, we have had two meals from the pork and I think we can get two more. Even though our main dishes will be similar for these meals, I can use the fruits and vegetables I have on hand to change things up a little. This flexible approach to meal planning works well for my family. Stay tuned next week for the approach that works best for Jody and her family.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Zucchini Hummus Wrap

Our August recipe of the month is Zucchini Hummus Wrap. Zucchini are cut into rounds, sautéed, and then combined in a tortilla with hummus, sliced cheese, and sliced vegetables.

These wraps make a delicious meal that fits in your hand. I think this recipe is perfect for August for three reasons:

  1. Zucchini – zucchini are in season and plentiful in August. My family and I love zucchini bread and muffins, but I like to use zucchini in other ways too.
  2. Time – I do not like to spend much time cooking in the summer because my family and I would rather be outside. This recipe comes together quickly, so it is a great August meal for my family.
  3. Temperature – August is hot, so I try to use the oven as little as possible to avoid heating up the house. You only need to sauté the zucchini rounds for about 6 minutes for this recipe, so the heat from the stovetop is minimal.

Before you try this recipe, there are a couple of things that I think are important to know. The first is to choose small sized zucchini for this recipe because they will fit better in your tortilla when it is time to wrap it up. Save your larger zucchini to shred for Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins. The second is to eat these right away. They taste best when served right after the zucchini are sautéed and they do not store well. Use some of your August zucchini and try our Zucchini Hummus Wraps this month.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Corn on the Cob

This week we have one more new produce video to share with you – corn on the cob. This is perfect timing here in Iowa because corn on the cob is delicious right now.

Our new video gives some tips on preparing fresh corn on the cob. Start by shucking the corn, which is removing the husks that surround the ears of corn. Then scrub the ears of corn under running water.

Cook the corn right on the cob by boiling, grilling, or microwaving it. I usually put our ears of corn in a microwave safe 9-inch by 13-inch pan, add about 1/3 cup of water, cover with plastic wrap, and cook for two minutes per ear of corn.

However, this year, my daughter’s two front teeth are very loose, so she is having a hard time eating corn on the cob. This is where the preparation method shown in the video comes in handy for me. I use a paring knife to cut the kernels off the ear of corn. Then, I cook the cut kernels following the same steps for microwaving a whole ear of corn. This method is also useful if you want to use fresh corn in place of canned or frozen in a recipe like our Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.

Check out the video and enjoy your corn on the cob this summer!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Frozen Pudding Sandwiches

It is July and it is hot! This is the perfect time for our July recipe of the month – Frozen Pudding
Sandwiches. These treats are sure to cool you down on a hot summer day.

Frozen Pudding Sandwiches are like ice cream sandwiches only made with pudding. You simply stir an
instant pudding mix with milk and peanut butter to make a thick, creamy filling that goes in between
two graham cracker squares. Freeze them for about three hours and then they are good to go. They
make a great snack or dessert on a hot day (or any day).

I have made this recipe with both chocolate and vanilla pudding mixes and people like them either way.
However, peanut butter lovers often prefer the vanilla pudding mix and chocolate lovers prefer the
chocolate pudding mix. Also, if you would like to make these, but peanut allergy is a concern, you can
substitute sunbutter or another nut butter.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Pantry Picks – Whole Wheat Bread

We are excited to announce a new feature on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. called Pantry Picks. Pantry Picks
provide tips on nutrition, storage, and preparation for foods that you might commonly find in your
pantry or cupboard. Each week this month, we are going to look at a different Pantry Pick. We hope you
learn some new ways to use these staple foods.

Today, I am going to introduce you to our first Pantry Pick – whole wheat bread. You can almost always
find a loaf of whole wheat bread in my pantry. Find out why I like whole wheat bread on my post from
last week. We usually use whole wheat bread for sandwiches and toast. If you or your family prefer
another type of bread for sandwiches and toast, fear not!. Here are some other great uses for whole
wheat bread:

Make sure to check out our new Pantry Picks section on our website for more information about whole
wheat bread. Next week Jody will be sharing about tortillas.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Croutons

Our June recipe of the month is homemade croutons. If you enjoy store-bought croutons on your salad, on your soup, or for a quick snack, you are going to love these. When I make these, my children, my husband, and even my mom devour them – there are never any leftovers.

The thing I like about homemade croutons is that they are made with whole wheat bread. Using whole wheat bread is important to me because it has more nutrients than wheat bread or white bread. In particular, it has more fiber, which is something we all need to get more of. Fiber helps protect against chronic diseases and it helps keep our digestive system healthy.

If you are like my children, you will just eat these croutons on their own. But, if you are like me, you will want some recipes to use along with your croutons. My favorite recipe to top with these croutons is Autumn Soup. I also like croutons on a salad, such as Whole Meal Salad. Regardless of how you serve your croutons, I hope you try this recipe soon.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Crispy Baked Chicken

Our May recipe of the month is Crispy Baked Chicken and it is a popular one.  Boneless, skinless chicken is coated in crushed cornflakes and baked. Serve this tasty chicken with a fruit and a vegetable and you have a complete meal.  Many people I have talked to about this recipe like to season the crushed cornflakes beyond the garlic powder. Some suggestions I have received include basil, Italian seasoning, chili powder, lemon pepper, and oregano.  If you have a favorite herb or spice give it a try!

Recently, we have been talking a lot about unit pricing on the blog.  This recipe is a great chance to use your unit pricing skills when buying the chicken.  The recipe calls for 1 ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken. This can take several forms, so lets look at the unit price below to see what is the best buy.

Breasts Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$5.90

1.69 pounds

$3.49 per pound

Thighs Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$3.83

1.54 pounds

$2.49 per pound

Tenders Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$5.62

1.28 pounds

$4.39 per pound

In this case, the chicken thighs were the best buy.  Remember, prices will change from week to week, so make sure to double check the unit price before you buy.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Children and Fish

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I rarely ate fish growing up. However, fish is a favorite of my children. We usually eat it for dinner once a week.

You may be wondering if I am worried about my children being exposed to mercury in the fish I feed them. The answer is no because I choose fish that the EPA and FDA have designated safe to eat including cod, pollock, salmon, and tilapia. This chart has great advice on the appropriate types and amounts of fish for children and pregnant women. It is safe for children ages 2 years and older to eat one or two servings of fish per week. Eating fish may even have lifelong health benefits. These include brain function and prevention of chronic disease.

Adding fish, or any food, to the menu at home can be tricky. Family members of all ages may not be comfortable with new foods. Here are some of the things I try:

  • Stick with it for the long haul. The more they see the food, the more likely they are to try it (and like it). It may take weeks, months, or years, but they will eventually try it.
  • Serve it with other things they like. Favorite side dishes can make a new food more appealing. * Serve it as part of a mixed dish. Our Fish and Noodle Skillet is a great way to include fish with other tasty foods your family members may like.

Try adding fish to your weekly menu. Let us know how it goes!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Unit Pricing – Canned Versus Frozen

I am going to focus today on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.  I buy these at every trip to the grocery store because:

  1. They are quick and easy to prepare.  I can open a can, drain, heat (for vegetables), and serve.  Or, I can thaw and serve frozen fruits and vegetables.
  2. My family loves them.  I am lucky because my family will eat up canned and frozen fruits and vegetables every time I serve them.
  3. They are nutritious.  They have vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  I try to buy canned fruits packed in juice and unsweetened frozen fruit to reduce added sugars.  I also rinse canned vegetables and buy frozen vegetables without sauces to reduce added sodium.

So, how do I use unit pricing to get the best buy on these fruits and vegetables?  I divide the price by the ounce weight of the package. Here are some recent prices I found at a local grocery store.

Canned Frozen
Peaches Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$1.12

15 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

$2.36

16 ounces

$0.15 per ounce

Pineapple Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$1.48

20 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

$2.36

16 ounces

$0.15 per ounce

Carrots Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$0.82

14.5 ounces

$0.06 per ounce

$0.84

12 ounces

$0.07 per ounce

Corn Price

Package Size

Unit Price

$0.72

15 ounces

$0.05 per ounce

$1.94

32 ounces

$0.06 per ounce

All of these items are inexpensive per ounce, but canned costs a little less than frozen.  Prices will vary from week to week and sometimes I need canned or frozen for a particular recipe, so my grocery cart looks different each week.  We have had fun with unit pricing and we hope you have too. Let us know about your adventures with unit pricing!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Broiled Salmon

Fish is not a food that I ate very much growing up, so I did not really know how to cook it when I was on my own. For several years, I did not even try to cook it. I kept hearing about the health benefits of eating fish, so I decided to give it a try.

After a few failed attempts, I found a way to bake fish that my (then new) husband and I both liked. I baked fish that same way for about 10 years until Christine introduced me to our April recipe of the month – Broiled Salmon. Now I broil salmon, and other types of fish, regularly. Here is why:

  • We love the flavor that the lemon adds to the fish.
  • It is easy to make with just a few ingredients.
  • It is quick to make. With this recipe, I can pull together a full meal in 15-20 minutes!
  • My family gets the health benefits from the fish.

If you are considering adding fish to your menu, I hope you give this recipe a try.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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