Monday, February 18

January's Challenge -How we did it


As I previously reported, our family has chosen to take on a challenge each month for the year. Last month's challenge was No Dining Out and we did a pretty good job. The questions I have received are:

Where do you start?
What is the best way to do this?

The first thing I did, was to take a look at Pinterest for an exciting menu board to use for our meals at home. This is actually our second menu board. The first one was just an IKEA magnetic notice board, seven heavyweight magnetic clips and it was about as exciting as it sounds. Here is our Menu Board:

 

Get everyone in the family involved


 If I had simply declared that we were just not eating out for the month of January, I know that we would not have been as successful as we were. Each time there was the temptation to "just go grab something," I would have been the sole objector and that gets really old, really fast. We sat down together and talked about the goal as a family. We brainstormed about why we should do this and how we would do this. We would save money that could be used for something fun in February, it would be healthier and everyone agreed that we needed to pick out meals together.


Pick out enough recipes for the month


There is a saying "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" and I believe it was penned in response the 4:30 pm crazy time most of us find ourselves falling into. I don't know about you but if I do not have a clear plan for dinner prior to 4:30 pm, I CANNOT for the life of me, think of what to make! I can look at my Pinterest Food Porn board and not one thing sounds good or looks interesting enough to go to the grocery store for (which is CRAZY because any other time I am salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs and immediately want to eat every single item on there ... at the same time.) I do find that if we have a clear plan for the week and all of the ingredients are stocked(you must know, I.HATE.TO. GROCERY.SHOP.... HATE it) then the    4:30 pm crazy time never comes and my Pinterest Food Porn continues to inspire daydreams of all out Gluttony. We just have 7 meals, for the week, we buy all of the fixings and each day I pick from the list, for what works for that day. The whole Sunday is Chicken Tacos, Monday is Lasagna... too structured and it feels good to be a rebel and have the Lasagna on Monday and the Chicken tacos on Friday! Also know your family.  My family will not eat leftovers but hey, leftovers happen! So I do planned leftovers. I'll make pork roast with veggies and potatoes one day and then we will have pork tenderloin sandwiches with veggies and fries another day (It's the same stuff, different name) and it works!

Have a Plan B 


Recognize that there are going to be days where fast food is more tempting than other days. You have had a long day, it's late, you are tired and the last thing you want to do is cook. Here are our quick hit meals that we either have most of the ingredients on hand or it's a quick stop at the grocery store to make them. They might take a few minutes longer than picking up the meal somewhere but they have two key advantages-- they are less expensive and usually a lot healthier! These all take 15 to 30 minutes to make.

Instead of Fast Food Burgers,


Morning Star Black Bean Patties or Grillers Prime (microwavable and not bad for being veggie burgers!)
Buns
Veggies
Oven Baked fries

**Quick hint for heating your oven FAST. Turn the broiler, on high, for 5 mins. Turn off the broiler and then turn on the bake function to 425 degrees. In two minutes, your oven will be ready to go! Seriously! We have a really old oven and it would take 30 minutes to heat up to 425 degrees plus 25 minutes to cook the fries. Ain't nobody got time for that! (only took us three years to figure it out, don't be like us.)

Instead of Deli take out,


Grilled Ham and Cheese
Tomato Soup

Instead of  Mexican take out, 


Rotisserie Chicken
Taco Seasoning
Tortillas or tostadas
Shredded Cheese
Refried Beans
Uncle Ben's Spanish Rice


Instead of Italian take out,



Meatball subs
frozen meatballs
Jar of Spaghetti sauce
Shredded Mozarella
Green Beans
Hoagie Rolls

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Instead of Asian take out,



Tyson Anytizers popcorn chicken (it's actually bites of chicken, none of those faux bites that are just a big lump of breading)
Orange Sauce
Minute Rice
Frozen Asian veggies


Be Realistic


If you usually eat out 4 times a week, and all this is too much, try using one of these tactics for one day a week or try to not eat out one week per month or one weekend per month. The point is, "If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting." It's a fact.

If there is a special occasion, restaurant night for the school, lunch plans with a friend, cut yourself some slack, it's okay. This is not an all or nothing challenge.

Do you have any other hints, quick meals, great tips to share? Please comment, we would love to hear from you!


Here are a few more great ideas for menu boards: 



This one is closest to the one I ending up making. This is a 8- 4x6 photo collage frame from Walmart. When I saw this frame in person, it was not quite big enough for us. I bought the 6- 5x7 photo frame and added two extra 5x7 frames on either end.


You can view the tutorial for this board at: Crafting Quilting Menu Board


I liked this one a lot and I did do chalkboard paint inside of our pantry door with the intention of doing something like this. Chalk is messy y'all and while I ♥ this, it's not for me.


You can find the tutorial for this one at Whipperberry.com Chalkboard Menu.


I thought this one was really cute too. We would lose the slips of paper and I don't know about you but I have NEVER had good luck with clothes pins, they always jump the hinge on me and after doing all of this work, that would make me mad and probably send me straight to Panera Bread for dinner that night.


If  this is something that would work for you, you can find the tutorial at Katie Kays Kitchen Menu Board






Another idea, incorporating the chalkboard paint and the recipe cards as place holders. If I am being completely honest, this is the one I would have made, if I had found it before I completed the other one. There are no days of the week on this one, totally our style and there are no clothes pins to malfunction, no slips of paper to lose and no chalk dust. You can find the tutorial at Falling Down House Menu Board



Here is one last one, that is very similar to my inspiration menu board. The cork board is cute and I like that they used the 8th spot to say "On the Menu." You can find the tutorial at Frugal Family Times Menu Board 

Happy Meal Planning!




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