Thursday, October 12, 2017

Simple Menu Planning

This is just a quick rundown of the very successful meal-planning system I have used for years to feed my large family (7 kids ages infant to now grown).

1. I don't plan breakfasts or lunches. They are the same simple options. My great grandparents ate oatmeal every single morning. Every morning. I am not remotely sorry my kids can choose between cereal, eggs and toast, or oatmeal--and any kind of fruit we have. Once a month I may buy graham crackers and/or yogurt (they love graham crackers and milk). On Saturdays when Dad is home I sometimes do pancakes or waffles or breakfast burritos or coffee cake.

Lunches are either 1) leftovers from our dinners (if they don't want it, then they're not hungry), 2) PBJ or PBH with carrots and/or apples or whatever other fruit I have, or 3) bean and rice burritos with cheese and sour cream--I always keep refried beans, a batch of spanish rice, and tortillas on hand. If my kids don't want it, they are not hungry. My five year old won't touch a bean burrito one day, but on another he will eat 4. I'm not remotely concerned about lack of variety. My children have never known true hunger and they are over-fed privileged middle-class Americans. I am teaching them to simplify.

So, I essentially plan for dinners only. My grocery list keeps me stocked on cereal, milk, bread, eggs, oatmeal, fruit, PB, jelly, tortillas, beans, and rice. Then I write my weekly dinner menu, then write the rest of the grocery list from that.

Sundays: Leftovers
Mondays: Pasta night
Tuesday: Sandwich night
Wednesday Mexican night
Thursday: Soup night
Friday: Pizza night
Saturday: Wild card night (like fish or meatloaf or...)

I have a master list of meals in each category. They are meals I can make without a recipe or with a familiar one. They are ones I know my family will eat, within reason. Sometimes I see a fun recipe come up on Facebook--I may throw that on a weekly menu to try it. If we love it, I keep it on my master list.  Here is my list:


  • Spaghetti with marinara (optional add in grated squash, zuchini, eggplant, carrots, chopped spinach, ground turkey or beef, italian sausage, or make meatballs
  • Fettucine Alfredo (options include with chicken, shrimp, smoked sausage, ham or bacon, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zuchini, squash--I change it up)
  • Tuna casserole
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Lasagna
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Stir-fry with lo-mein noodles or other asian noodle dish
  • Ravioli or Tortellini with sauce
  • Baked pasta--like shells or ziti or rotini--add in veggies or meat and change up the sauce
**I usually heat up a loaf of italian bread and maybe throw together a spinach salad or a caesar salad kit.


  • Chili (vegetarian or with meat)
  • Beef Barley
  • Chicken & Rice or Chicken Noodle
  • Potato Broccoli Cheese
  • Baked Potato
  • Wedding Soup
  • Minestrone (add in meatballs or tortellini or italian sausage or...)
  • Navy Bean soup with ham
  • Split Pea soup
  • Clam Chowder or other seafood bisque
  • Tomato Soup

**I usually have biscuits, bread, rolls, or cornbread to go with soup.Grilled cheese goes with the tomato soup of course (my fam loves it when I throw sausage patties in the grilled cheese). Sometimes just cheese and crackers. Sometimes a $2 caesar salad kit.

  • Meatball Subs
  • Philly Cheesesteaks
  • Reuben Sandwiches
  • Bratwurst or Polish Sausage
  • Hot Dogs
  • Cheeseburgers/Patty Melts
  • Tuna/Tuna Melt
  • Fried fish
  • Fried or broiled chicken (add in pesto and provolone or BLT)
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Barbecued beef or chicken
  • Cold cuts
**I usually serve a bag of frozen french fries, onion rings, or some chips, or I make roast potatoes, and cook some kind of veggie like canned green beans, frozen peas or corn, and maybe serve some fruit.

  • Burritos or Soft Tacos (if I can find green chiles, I make a batch to smother). Served with refried beans, spanish rice. Filling is usually ground turkey. 
  • Shrimp tacos
  • Fish Tacos
  • Chicken or Steak Fajitas
  • Enchiladas (or enchilada "lasagna")
  • Nachos
  • Mexican "pizzas" (tortillas layered and stacked with beans and fillings then baked and cut into wedges)
  • Tostadas
  • Homemade pizza
  • Stromboli
  • Calzones
  • Pizza made on french bread or ciabatta
  • Frozen or take-out pizza (rare, but a treat)
  • Baked fish with lemon pepper, usually served with brown rice risotto and veggie, or baked or roasted potatoes
  • Baked salmon or salmon patties, again with rice and veggie
  • Fried fish
  • Beef Stew
  • Pot roast
  • Chicken Fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Meat loaf with baked or mashed potatoes
  • Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes 
  • Stir fry with beef, chicken, or shrimp and veggies,
  • Fried chicken or chicken tenders/nuggets, mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Chicken pot pie
  • BBQ chicken
  • Hot wings
  • Chicken noodles with Mashed potatoes (southeastern ohio fave)
  • Roast smoked sausage, potatoes and cabbage
  • Jambalaya or gumbo (chicken, shrimp, sausage or any combo)
  • Roast turkey
  • Baked herbed chicken and rice
  • Quiche (usually spinach and bacon and/or ham and broccoli)

There you have it! My master list for meal planning. Email or comment if you need recipes. My recipes are simple and not labor intensive for the most part!

Happy planning!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

On Removing the Pledge of Allegiance from our Schools...

Yesterday, a hoax article (that appeared to come from AP and ABC news) circled FB that announced "Obama Signs Executive Order to Ban Pledge of Allegiance in Schools." According to the fake article, Obama did this because it is not "freedom" to make all students claim loyalty to the Christian God.

Before I checked if it was a hoax, I pondered this action. What would it mean for America if a President did in fact make this decision?

I homeschool, so why would I even care, you may ask? I care because I believe in freedom.

If our govenment wants to make a change at some point, I would prefer they just adjust the wording and kept the patriotic spirit for American Citizens--but maybe there is too much history with this pledge to simply alter it. Could you say it without having to ponder the missing words?

But I would say I would have to agree with this action. Our CHRISTIAN founding fathers agreed that there needed to be a separation of church and state. Schools are "state." Children cannot be forced to recite anything that alludes their loyalty to a God they do not choose.

America is great because we are FREE to choose our religion. Forcing all children to say a pledge that includes the God of Christianity is not religious freedom, and I want my religious freedom the same as the next person. I also want my parental freedom, which means being able to educate my children without having to worry that someone will tell them what religion they must accept or adhere to. I don't want my child forced to speak words of loyalty to ANY God or religion.

I don't tell my own children what they have to believe (that would not be freedom). I tell them they have to make their own choice. They have to find their faith or beliefs for themselves. It is my job to present things, to teach them to THINK. To teach them to SEEK. To teach them to LEARN. To teach them to listen to their own hearts and find their own purpose.
That's not the same as giving my own children the freedom to make other types of choices, like stealing, or bullying, or murder, or drugs. They have that freedom, but as a mama, as long as they live under my roof... ... they will have no choice but to be decent human beings who are kind and generous, loving, accepting, non-judgmental, and wise. As an American, they will have no choice but to obey our laws or be punished. We have laws to protect our safety and our possessions--or we really would crumble (you could argue those are Christian laws... but we will just agree that we need governed on a basic sense of decency to survive at all). Even removing speed limits and traffic lights would be disastrous to our society! As humans, we have learned the important aspects of a successful society.

I just read the story of the Mayflower to my boys this morning. Why did the Pilgrims come here? Because they wanted religious freedom. That was the dream. I would hope it still is. America is only America because it is a melting pot for all people who want to be free. I am glad our founding fathers were moral, principled Christians. That got us off to a good constitutional start . But even they understood we all needed to be able to be FREE in what we choose to believe.

I am a Christian. My closest friends may tell you I am one of the fiercest Christians they know--especially after coming face to face with death a few times. I had to get the issue of God and faith sorted out. If you ask me, I will be very frank with you about what I believe (and, sorry, some of you have gotten an earful from me without asking--but only if I love you the most!). I believe God designed us with free will and the ability to make our own choices. Therefore, it is not "God-like" or "Christian" to force anyone to choose to believe in God. As a matter of fact, last I checked, Christians are called to live in peace with others, and be charitable, loving, kind and non-judgmental towards all.

If you feel "called" or inspired called to stand up and preach the Gospel, or speak out on anything--any other religion or issue at all, then by all means do it. You have that freedom, and we have the freedom to listen or not listen and choose whether or not to believe you. How could America be so great if we were not so filled with diversity, and color, and options? There is such depth and possibility! No matter what you believe, your beliefs are only enhanced by the contrast of the others around you! My faith is only strengthened by the contrast and contradictions of others around me. The more your beliefs are challenged, the more strongly you can form them.  You can compare! Think! Reason! Learn! Expand your mind! Know! We are so blessed to have such freedom in America!

As for the pledge being removed from schools, what do I think? No matter what happens, I would hope American schools will always teach children to be patriotic citizens, proud of our great country, and inspire each one to contribute according to his/her strengths. We as parents must teach our children to be patriotic, loyal and helpful to our country however they feel called to do so. 

And don't forget, the greater burden is on the parents, not the schools. Schools have the burden of teaching reading, math, and science. Parents are the ones responsible for raising decent, loving, generous human beings who contribute to society.

If this "Order" is ever signed for real, some Christians will be appalled that I don't oppose it. It is not my calling to get up on a soap box about making America a completely Christian country. Apparently, I am called to step up on a soap box about being thankful for freedom in America. I am thankful to be able to be Catholic (my choice), which is the very religion our founding fathers were escaping when they founded this country.

I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States of America
One nation
Under God 
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Parting thoughts:

What part of "Liberty for all" do you not understand?

And whether we say "Under God" or not. If God really does exist, we are "under Him" no matter what. If God created us, He didn't need permission to create us. He wouldn't need permission to help us, or to destroy us (or the whole world for that matter--just ask Noah). It's my business if I want to believe in a God like that, and your business if you don't. 

I want to be a person who loves. Who is kind. Who is giving, empathetic, and understanding. I want to be someone who encourages love and unity to keep America strong, appreciating each person's unique spirit, strengths, and purpose. This is the type of person my God tells me to be.