A Three-Week Meal Plan

 

Last week Justine shared with you how she does meal planning for her family. I use a similar strategy for my family of four. If you are new to meal planning or starting as a new years’ resolution, we have just the thing for you, a sample three-week meal plan. It includes ideas for meals and snacks as well as links to recipes!

Our sample is a place to start and can be adapted for your family’s needs based on what they like, how many snacks they need each day, and family activities. When creating a meal plan, here are some tips to keep in mind:

 

  • Plan for leftovers – To help keep food costs low and reduce food waste, make leftovers a part of your meal plan. You will see in the sample meal plan that we planned to have leftovers from supper the next day for lunch occasionally. Depending on the size of your family, you may need to increase the size of the recipe if you want to have leftovers to use at another meal.
  • Prepare extra – To maximize the benefit of your time in the kitchen, plan recipes that use similar ingredients so you can cook extra of an ingredient to use in a recipe another day. For example, if you make Chicken Alfredo Pasta one night, cook extra chicken to use in Chicken Club Salad the next day for lunch. This will also help with food costs and food waste. For food safety purposes, you should use extra cooked meat in a recipe within a day or two of it being cooked.
  • Keep variety in mind – Even though we recommend using leftovers and preparing extra ingredients to use in multiple recipes, it’s also a good idea to include variety in your menu plans. This helps keep meals exciting and makes sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals. Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables. Try different kinds of protein like beef, chicken, or fish and non-meat sources like eggs, beans and nuts. Use different grains like whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
  • Plan the fruits and vegetables – Many times the main meal is planned, which is often a source of protein, but not the side dishes. Be sure to plan what fruits and vegetables will be a part of the meals and snacks. This helps to be sure they are included in meals and snacks and are part of your shopping list. Use different kinds of fruits and vegetables including fresh, canned, frozen, and dried.

 

Meal planning may take a little time when you first get started, but it saves time when it comes to getting a meal on the table. No extra tips to the grocery store and stressing about what you are going to have for supper.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Did you say hop like a frog?

 

School will soon be out for winter break and the kids will be home for a couple of weeks. Schedules might be busy with holiday activities for a few days but then you might need something to keep the kids active. If there’s snow, sledding and building a snowman are always fun. However, if you need some indoor activities, here are a few to try.

1. Speed-read
Choose a book with a word that will be repeated often (“green,” for instance, if you’re
reading Green Eggs and Ham) and have your child stand up or sit down each time she hears it.

2. Animal charades
Write the names of various animals on slips of paper and drop them into a bowl. Take turns choosing a slip and acting out the animal until someone guesses correctly. Try it with no sounds
for an added challenge.

3. Animal Races
Use the slips of paper to decide on the moves for a race. For example, the first time down and back, the kids need to hop like a frog. Then run on all fours like a dog. And finish by crawling on the ground like a lizard!

4. Catch with a catch
Have each player toss a beach ball into the air and try to touch his nose or high-five the other players before the balls drop. Make the challenges harder as you go along.

5. Dance Party
Turn on the music and have a dance party. Or start and stop the music, having the kids freeze when the music stops.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Don’t like Leftovers? Eat Planned-overs

Last week Christine gave four tips for saving money on holiday groceries. She mentioned that during the holidays stores will occasionally have deep discounts on items like turkeys or hams. This is a good time to include planned-overs in your weekly menu to save money. During the busy holiday season, it can also save you time in the kitchen.

Planned-overs are leftovers you plan into your weekly menu. When you have a day off or an evening free, you can make an entire extra meal such as a casserole or prepare extra ingredients that can be included in recipes later in the week. Let’s imagine we bought an extra ham during a great holiday sale. Below is a sample menu that uses the ham we got on sale and includes some planned-over shortcuts to use throughout the week.

Sunday Ham and Easy Roasted Veggies (cut up the ham to use Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday)

Monday It’s a Meal Strata (cut up extra vegetables to use for Tuesday and Wednesday) 

Tuesday Mama’s Pizza Boats

Wednesday Whole Meal Salad

Thursday Ham and Brown Rice (make extra rice for Saturday)

Friday Slower Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup

Saturday Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Prepared dishes and cooked ingredients will only last four days in the refrigerator. If you won’t be able to use them within four days, freeze them to use at a later date.

For more dinner menu ideas using planned-overs, check out our How to Use Planned-overs video.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Company is Coming!

“Company is coming, what are we going to eat?”  There are many online recipe sources, but I always come back to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.  Here is a menu with a few of my favorite recipes for entertaining.

Breakfast or Brunch

I substitute sweet potato for all or part of the white potato and make them with whole wheat flour tortillas. I make a double or triple batch, wrap them individually in foil or parchment paper, and stack in the slow cooker to keep warm.

The strawberries, kiwi and banana look festive for the holidays. They are best when partially thawed which takes at least 30 minutes.  

I add ½-cup mini chocolate chips as an optional ingredient.  

 

Appetizers

For holiday entertaining I make the Fruit Salsa with frozen strawberries, Granny Smith apple, and substitute 1 cup drained, crushed canned pineapple for the peach. It is beautiful in a clear glass bowl surrounded by the cinnamon chips.

Heat the bean dip in the microwave or put it in a small snack size slow cooker. Serve with raw vegetables or homemade Baked Tortilla Chips.

 

Dinner and Sides

A family favorite! I roast the vegetables on a separate baking sheet and increase the quantity and variety.

This is a simple and delicious side dish that goes with just about anything.

I use apples, fresh or frozen strawberries, bananas, drained canned pineapple chunks, and whatever other fresh, frozen or drained canned fruit I have on hand.  I suggest using a red gelatin in the sauce and serving it in a clear glass bowl. It will look beautiful on the holiday table.  

 

Dessert

This pie is easier to make and has less fat, sugar and calories than regular pumpkin pie but tastes great.

 

I hope you will try some of the recipes that I use when ‘company is coming’ and explore the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site for your own favorites.  

Written by Renee Sweers, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Sweet Potato Fries Comparison

Sweet potato fries are a current favorite of mine. Really, they’ve been a favorite of mine for a couple of years! I order them when eating out and I make them at home. Sometimes I make them homemade and other times I bake a bag of frozen fries from the store. I was curious what the difference in nutrition and cost would be between these, so I did a little research and here is what I found.

  Serving Size* Cost/serving Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Homemade 2/3 cup $0.32 120 2.5 110>
Frozen
(National Brand)
1 cup $0.50 150 7> 190
Restaurant
(Nationwide Chain)**
1 cup $1.49 400 20 1020

*Serving sizes vary up to a 1/3 cup.
**Nutrition information from restaurant website.

I make the homemade fries using our recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. The serving size is a bit smaller but since they are baked and you can control the amount of salt added, they provide the best nutrition. My homemade fries are lower in fat and sodium than the restaurant and frozen options. The frozen fries do pretty well for nutrition though, if they are baked. They are higher in fat and sodium but still pretty reasonable. The fries from the restaurant are the most expensive and highest in calories, fat, and sodium. They are likely deep fat fried which would increase the fat and calories. And heavy on the salt. The restaurant’s nutrition information did not provide the amount of Vitamin A in the sweet potato fries but all three kinds would provide a good dose of Vitamin A. Therefore, if you want to eat fries when eating out, you might go for the sweet potato fries to boost the nutrition of the fries. Like with so many food choices, making sweet potato fries at home is going to be the least expensive and the most nutritious.

 

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Flavors of Fall Zipped up in a Bag

pumpkin puddingWhen my girls were young we often made Pumpkin Pudding for a fall dinner dessert. Pudding is inexpensive and also light and not overly filling. The Pumpkin Pudding recipe includes a full can of pumpkin, so you are also getting the added fiber and Vitamin A pumpkin is known for. With the pumpkin pie spice seasoning added, it tastes like pumpkin pie!

For a fun activity with young children, try making Pumpkin Pudding in a zip top bag!

  1. Add the pudding mix and seasoning into a one-gallon zip top bag.
  2. Then add the pumpkin and milk and close the top.
  3. Be sure to get bags with a good seal. Freezer bags work well for this activity.
  4. Pass the bag to the children so they can knead and mix the ingredients together by squeezing the bag with their hands. They will enjoy the fun of watching the ingredients blend together and become thicker as the pudding sets up.
  5. When it’s mixed and thickened, cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and squeeze the pudding into bowls.

Written by Jill Weber, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

I bet you’re wondering what the big surprise is in our Chocolate Surprise Chocolate surprise cupcakeCupcakes, right? Drum roll, please. It’s a can of pumpkin and apple juice. Instead of adding oil to the cake mix, we use pumpkin and apple juice. The pumpkin increases the nutritional content by adding a good dose of vitamin A but it does not make the cupcakes taste like pumpkin. Sneaky, huh?

Last week my co-worker Holly shared our recipe for Pumpkin Apple Cake. Our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes are a variation of that using a chocolate cake mix. One cake mix makes 24 cupcakes so if they won’t be eaten within four days, they freeze well in a freezer bag or other airtight container. These would be good for a birthday, bake sale, or when you just need a little chocolate!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Salad…it’s not just a side dish

Chicken Club Salad The topic for the blog today is about having salads for a meal when it is hot. When we planned our blog topics a few weeks ago, we were anticipating we would be experiencing hot weather here in Iowa and across much of the US at this time. However, I have to smile because we are currently experiencing below average temperatures here in the Midwest, in the upper 70’ s and lower 80’s. It’s beautiful! It’s still a great time to enjoy a salad as a meal with all the great produce that is in season and be able to spend more time outdoors.

To make a salad a meal, I would recommend including a source of protein, such as some meat, poultry, beans, or eggs. The protein makes the salad more filling. A couple of weeks ago Justine shared the recipe for our Chicken BLT Salads. Some other salads that would be great as a meal are Whole Meal Salad, Chicken Club Salad, or Confetti Rice and Bean Salad. Pair the salads with a whole grain roll or some fruit and a cup of milk for a balanced meal.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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The Real Cost of Condiments

By Kelly Verburgt, Nutrition Program Student Assistantyellow mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayo

From burgers at barbecues to hot dogs at baseball games, condiments are a summer necessity. With so many to choose from and different sized bottles, which will give you the most bang for your buck? Check out some of the most popular options below and see which condiments you should choose this summer.

Ketchup

Ketchup is a classic that is useful for more than just hot dogs and burgers. From meatloaf to “yum yum” sauce at hibachi restaurants, ketchup can be quite versatile and used in many recipes. At only $0.09 per ounce and $2.99 for a big 32-ounce bottle, ketchup is certainly low cost.

Mustard

Whether you love it or hate it, we have all tried this tangy yellow sauce. At only $1.99 for a 14-ounce bottle, and $0.14 per ounce, this is a cheap addition to any barbecue. Like ketchup, mustard can be spiced up and turned into all sorts of things like dressings or sauces. Try using it in the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Deviled Eggs recipe!

Hot sauce

For those of you who like to add a kick to your food, hot sauce is probably your go-to. Per ounce, hot sauce is the most expensive condiment at $0.22 per ounce, and $1.29 for a 6-ounce bottle. If you only use it now and then, hot sauce can be a great condiment to have on hand. However, if you put it on everything, it can get expensive. Try cooking with red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, they add spice for less money!

BBQ sauce

This condiment is sweet and delicious and can be the perfect dip for just about any type of meat. Ringing in at $2.69 for an 18-ounce bottle, this sauce is only $0.15 per ounce. It can be high in calories, so use it in moderation. It is delicious on our Shredded Pork Sandwich or Chicken Tenders.

Ranch

Ranch salad dressing is a favorite among children, what they dip in it seems limitless! At $2.99 for a 16-ounce bottle, ranch comes in at $0.19 per ounce. It is one of the more expensive condiments, but if it gets you and your family to eat vegetables, it is totally worth it. Try setting out a vegetable platter with ranch at your next barbecue and watch it disappear. Ranch salad dressing can be quite high in fat and calories so model appropriate portion sizes (1-2 tablespoons). Remember, there are reduced fat versions available.

Condiment Total Cost Ounces Cost/Ounce
Ketchup $2.99 32 $0.09
Mustard $1.99 14 $0.14
Hot Sauce $1.29 6 $0.22
BBQ $2.69 18 $0.15
Ranch $2.99 16 $0.19

Now that you are an expert on condiments, you can make an informed decision at the grocery store on what fits your family best. Wishing you tasty and fun barbeques this summer!

 

 

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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