Monday Meal Plan #31

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Weekend Recap

We had a pretty low-key weekend at home, with mostly nice weather. On Saturday, my husband spent a lot of time working outside on projects – re-seeding the back grass and building a fire pit were his big ones for this weekend. I spent a little time working on my own gardening projects, did a few indoor chores, and ran a couple of quick errands.

The fire pit my husband built

Yesterday, my daughter and I spent some time at a playground with friends. The weather was beautiful, and she and I both had a great time catching up with good friends.

The Week Ahead

This week, it’s back to school for my daughter, and back to work – Tuesday and Thursday – for me. It’s going to be a long week for my daughter, because she’s participating in her school’s Missoula Children’s Theater production. Essentially, this traveling theater company spends a week at the school, and the kids who participate practice the show after school every day, then put on performances on Friday evening and Saturday. My in-laws are coming up for the day on Saturday, to attend the play.

My other commitments this week include: having our septic tank pumped, getting my hair cut, grocery shopping, dropping outgrown clothes off at the children’s consignment store, and a visit from the exterminator to check the status of our mouse bait stations. A week full of non-stop excitement, huh?

In keeping with one of my goals for 2017 – find a way to hate meal planning and cooking less – I’m trying a local meals to-go place. A couple of days a week, they offer specials on family dinners. This week we’re trying the ziti with meatballs and sausage, plus salad and bread.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Shrimp stir fry w/ peanut sauce and jasmine rice
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: “Mama’s Ziti To Go” from Augie’s To Go
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Picking up pizza before my daughter’s play
  • Saturday: Post-play dinner out with my in-laws
  • Sunday: Risotto (from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking) w/ peas and asparagus

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #30

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend, and a lovely Easter, if you celebrate.

The Weekend Recap

Our family’s weekend basically started on Friday, since my daughter was off from school, and my husband’s office closed early. My daughter took a spring cupcake decorating class that afternoon, then we met my husband at the mechanic to drop off my car for some work (oil change, replace snow tires with all-seasons, inspection, and check why the A/C isn’t blowing cold air). We picked up Indian food for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, on the way home.

On Saturday, my daughter had gymnastics in the morning, followed by an egg hunt, and then a cookie decorating class (at the same place as the cupcake class). Afterwards, we returned to the mechanic to pick up my car. The good news: it passed inspection,the oil change was completed, and they think they know what’s wrong with the A/C. The bad news: the edges of the all-season tires were so worn they wouldn’t pass inspection, and the A/C fix can’t be completed for a least a week. The new summer tires will go on then, too.

We went out to brunch on Sunday, checked out some Easter festivities, then chilled out at home. I went for a nice, long walk, while my husband did some yard work. Rain (briefly) moved in late in the afternoon, so we watched the movie Sing, which the Easter Bunny brought our daughter.

The weather was great all weekend, and it was so wonderful to be outside again – walking, relaxing, and gardening. I LOVE this time of year!!

The Week Ahead

It’s school spring break week here, so my daughter and I are both home all week. We have a few things planned, including a playdate, pedicures, a program at the library, a cooking class with her Brownie troop, and an afternoon at the office with my husband (for her). I’ll add a playground trip or two, when we have some extra time to fill.

In keeping with one of my goals for 2017 – find a way to hate meal planning and cooking less – I’m trying a local meal delivery service** this week. We’ll be getting an entrée that should be enough for two dinners for my husband and me, plus a couple of salads and a soup. I’m very excited about this!!

This Week’s Meal Plan

  • Monday: “Chicken” tagine, (I requested the vegetarian version, since I strongly dislike poultry), and kale Cesar salad from Nine Miles East**
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Spicy peanut noodles from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures (This didn’t happen last week.)
  • Thursday (evening swim lesson): Leftovers
  • Friday: Sheet pan steak and veggies
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Grilled fish with roasted asparagus (Pending the grill getting cleaned in time…)

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

**The lovely people at Nine Miles East meal delivery service are offering My Upstate Life readers $10 off their first delivery (new customers in the Albany and metro Boston areas, only)! Just contact Adam (Adam@9mileseast.com), and tell him Amy from My Upstate Life sent you!**

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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Monday Meal Plan #29

Happy Monday-ish, okay, Tuesday night! I hope you had a fantastic weekend – or at least you did something better than I did…

Weekend Recap

I had my first colonoscopy on Monday. If you’re unfamiliar with the procedure, there’s a lot of “prep” involved. Essentially, you consume only clear liquids the day before, then empty your digestive tract with the help of over-the-counter medications. My procedure was scheduled at 7:30am on Monday, and I had to arrive an hour early. Because you’re sedated (thankfully!) you need someone to drive you home afterwards.

Since my husband was with me at the hospital, my parents came up to stay with our daughter and get her on the school bus Monday morning. They arrived Saturday afternoon, and had lunch with us at our house. We then spent some time walking around at a local park. For my last supper, we ordered take-out from one of my favorite local restaurants, and I got my clear liquids ready to go for Sunday.

The weather was gorgeous on Sunday, so we took our daughter to the farmers’ market for an egg hunt, then my husband took her to a playdate at a park. I headed home and went for a walk, then started my prep. The rest of Sunday I was locked in my bedroom by myself, where I caught up on a lot of reading. (I finished this book, which I really enjoyed.)

The Week Ahead

Between getting up at the crack of dawn, my procedure, then waiting for the sedation to wear off, I was pretty out-of-commission on Monday. I work Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and my daughter has a swimming lesson Thursday evening. Her spring break week starts on Friday, and we’re spending the Easter weekend at home. We’ll be going out for Easter brunch on Sunday, at a place we’ve gone several years in the past.

A chilly Easter two years ago

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Beekman 1802

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Monday Meal Plan #28

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

Late last week, my daughter got hit with a stomach bug. Although being sick is never fun, we got off pretty easy this cold-and-sickness season. In past years, she’s had a cold every few weeks, October through March. This year, she had only one or two colds early in the season, and this has been our family’s only stomach bug of the year. I haven’t been sick at all, and my husband had only one, horrendous cold. (I’m knocking furiously on wood as I type this!)

Fortunately our daughter was back to normal on Saturday, and she was able to attend a friend’s birthday party that afternoon. My husband and I took the opportunity to go out for lunch and walk around downtown Saratoga. At lunch, I had a delicious burger, and because my no added sugar month was over, I was able to enjoy it with a bun! (You can read what I learned and experienced during my month without pleasure sugar, here.) While downtown, we spent a little time in Saratoga’s fantastic, independent bookstore, where I picked up the book I’m now reading, The Lowland. That evening, I binge-watched season two of The Fabulous Beekman Boys.

The weather was sunny and warm-ish yesterday, so I went for a walk, and spent some time looking for signs of spring in our yard. While blooms are still a ways away, some bulbs are definitely sprouting! I also had some straw bales delivered for this year’s straw bale garden. I planned to only plant eight bales this year, but the farmer from whom I purchased the bales only sells them in groups of 15. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll plant veggies and herbs in all of them. If not, the extras will be used for mulch and compost.

The Week Ahead

This week, I’m working two days per week at my regular job, and potentially a third day at another job. (I was recently contacted by someone I know in the career center at a different liberal arts college in my area, and asked about filling in for someone who has gone on maternity leave. That position may or may not start this week.)

My daughter has swimming lessons Thursday evening, and my parents are arriving for a visit on Saturday. The purpose of their visit is to get my daughter on the school bus Monday morning, since I have my dreaded colonoscopy early that morning, and my husband will be accompanying me to that torture event. As a result, I’ll be fasting and “prepping” on Sunday. (I think I’d rather give up sugar again, quite frankly.)

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Turkey meatloaf from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (didn’t happen last week) and stuffing
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Pasta with tomatoes, spinach, and cheese
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Curried rice with shrimp from Real Simple Easy Delicious Meals and roasted veggies
  • Saturday: Takeout or dinner out with my parents
  • Sunday: Everyone else is on their own, since I’ll be “prepping”

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #27

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!!

Weekend Recap

I had a lazy weekend (mostly) at home. On Saturday, my daughter had a two-hour shift of selling Girl Scout cookies at a local Stewart’s shop. Unfortunately, temperatures were in the low thirties, and it alternated between snow and rain. Such dedicated girls! I stayed for a half hour at the beginning of her shift, but left when she informed me that it was time for me to go.

After my husband and I picked her up, we headed to the mechanic to pick up his car, which was in for new brakes, spark plug replacement, snow tire removal, and inspection. (Cha-ching!) On our way home, my daughter and I delivered a few orders of GS cookies to our neighbors.

Yesterday, my daughter had a GS party at our town hall, and she and I delivered the remainder of our cookie orders on the way home from that. I also did some reading, a few chores, and a lot of relaxing.

The Week Ahead

It’s the start of the spring term at the college where I work, so I’m heading back to work this week. Unlike at the college where I worked in NYC, student traffic in our office drops of dramatically this term. As a result, I’m scheduled to work only two days per week through the end of April, and possibly a few weeks into May. Most weeks – including this one – I’ll be working Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

My daughter is starting about a month of Thursday evening swimming lessons this week. Since we’ll be getting home at dinner time, I’ll be planning either slow cooker or leftovers dinners those nights.

And I’m particularly excited about next Saturday, since my no added sugar month will be over! I’m counting down the days to when I can start enjoying eating again…

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Blue Apron Review

One of my goals for 2017 is to find a way to make meal planning/cooking dinner less distasteful. I view both meal planning and cooking as necessary evils, and I almost always dread doing both of them. With my goal to at least partially overcome this in mind, I decided to give Blue Apron a try.

What is Blue Apron?

Blue Apron is an ingredient and recipe delivery service. Users select meals for their weekly delivery, and all necessary ingredients – plus illustrated, step-by-step directions – are shipped to them. (Shipping is free.) Although they still have to cook their meals, users don’t have to search for recipes or shop for the ingredients.

Blue Apron users choose either the 2-Person Plan or the Family Plan. The 2-Person Plan includes three, two-serving recipes per week, at a cost of $9.99 per serving. Family Plan users can choose to receive either two or four, four-serving recipes per week, at a cost of $8.74 per serving.

Even though my daughter rarely eats what my husband and I eat for dinner, I opted for the two-recipe Family Plan. Because I dislike cooking so much, leftovers nights are very important to me. Opting for four-serving recipes seemed like a good way to ensure that we had leftovers of each recipe.

Our Blue Apron Meals

I tried Blue Apron for three weeks, and these are the meals I chose to receive during that time period:

  • Cod and Tomato Stew with Garlic Croutons
  • Sicilian-Style Bucatini With Cesar-Style Salad
  • Shrimp Etouffee with Tomatoes and Arborio Rice (A very close second favorite meal)
  • Creamy Beef Ragu & Elicoidali Pasta (My least favorite meal)
  • Pork Chops & Miso Butter with Bok Choy & Marinated Apples (Both my and my husband’s favorite meal)
  • Salmon Piccata with Orzo & Broccoli (The salmon didn’t happen, but the orzo and broccoli were delicious)

What I Love About Blue Apron

  1. Minimizes my meal planning. Rather than having to rack my brain to come up with our weekly dinners, I simply log into my Blue Apron account, and choose from the recipe options available for each week.
  2. Fancy-ish meals. I like to keep my recipes nice and simple, to minimize the amount of time I have to spend cooking them. The Blue Apron meals are more “restaurant-style” than what I would usually make.
  3. The meals are delicious. I would describe all of the meals I received as good to very good. In fact, there was only one that I probably wouldn’t order or make again.
  4. Grocery shopping is done for me. All of the ingredients needed for each recipe are shipped directly to my doorstep each week.
  5. The recipes cards. The recipe cards are illustrated, and include clearly written, step-by-step instructions. I especially like that the ingredients are bolded within the instructions, making them easy to locate in context.
  6. Clear labeling. The ingredientpackaging is clearly labeled, and I never had to wonder what something was.
  7. Great customer service. I had a problem with the quality of the primary ingredient (salmon) in one of my meals. I sent an email about it to Blue Apron customer service and received a full credit for that meal the following day.

What I Don’t Love About Blue Apron

  1. Lack of recycling information in box. Each shipment contains a lot of packaging: every ingredient comes in a plastic bag or container, there are several plastic ice packs, and a foil liner contains everything. There’s no recycling information in the box, but it’s available online – with a little scrolling. Everything is recyclable, but not necessarily accepted by customers’ recycling providers. (For example, mine does not accept plastic bags.) Fortunately, users can request a USPS shipping label from Blue Apron to return all of the packaging to them for recycling.
  2. The fish arrives partially frozen. In all of my shipments, the fish was partially frozen when I removed it from the package. On my work days, I start cooking dinner soon after I get home, and I had to build in some time to thaw the fish before cooking it. Of course, I prefer that the fish arrive partially frozen, than warm.
  3. Cost. Is this the cheapest way to cook dinner? No. Users pay for the convenience of not having to plan and shop for their meals. I’m sure that some of the meals I make myself cost less than $8.74 per serving, but that’s probably not the case when they feature fish and/or better cuts of meat. So while I could make dinner more cheaply, Blue Apron is not particularly expensive.

Overall, I’ve been very happy with Blue Apron. Yes, I would prefer that each box contained a little genie to do the cooking for me, but short of that, it’s a great solution. Want to give it a try? Click below to save $30 on your first offer.

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Monday Meal Plan #26

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

Saturday morning, we all went to my daughter’s gymnastics class at the Y. Immediately after it ended, we got on the road to visit our good friends who live a couple of hours away from us. All four of us were in grad school in NYC at the same time during the late 1990s (gulp), and we’ve been friends ever since then. (Technically, the two husbands have been friends since they met in middle school in the 1980s…) We had lunch and dinner at their house, and spent hours talking about politics, parenting, money, and lots of other light topics, then drove home after dark. (A huge thanks to my husband who stayed awake behind the wheel, while my daughter and I dozed for much of the ride!)

Sunday was a lazy day at home for me. I read the paper, did some random chores and paperwork, played Connect Four with my daughter, and quite possibly set a new personal low for fewest steps ever recorded in a day by my FitBit.

The Week Ahead

It’s spring break week at the college where I work, so I’m off again this week. We don’t have any major commitments this week, other than a swim test for upcoming lessons for my daughter on Thursday evening, and picking my husband up at the mechanic, after he drops his car off for service on Friday evening. It’s a decent drive, so we’ll probably stop for dinner somewhere on the way home. On Saturday, I’ll be accompanying my daughter while she sells Girl Scout cookies at a local Stewart’s shop during the afternoon.

This Week’s Meal Plan

I didn’t like any of the Blue Apron options this week, so I’m on my own for meal planning and grocery shopping. Luckily, I found this cookbook I’d forgotten about, and I’m trying a few recipes.

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Lasagna with broccoli and three cheeses (from Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!)
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Quiche (from the freezer) with frozen veggies
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Dinner out on the way home from the mechanic
  • Saturday: Quinoa with mushrooms, kale, and sweet potatoes (from Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!)
  • Sunday: Salmon with rice and garlic spinach

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #25

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend! Did you remember to spring forward? It’s the only night of the year that I’m more than happy to sacrifice an hour of sleep.

Weekend Recap

It was a fairly quiet weekend at home for my family. On Saturday, my daughter attended our area’s Girl Scouts Jamboree. Each year has a theme, and this year it was the countries of the world. Each troop had a country, and at their table they had a craft or activity related to their country. My daughter’s troop had Madagascar, and they did face-painting in the style that’s common there, where it serves to protect the skin from the sun and mosquitos. While not painting faces, they visited other troops’ tables. France, where the troop served samples of chocolate mousse, proved to be particularly popular.

I spent the morning with my daughter at the Jamboree, then met my husband for a lunch date at Cantina. Selecting a meal that had no added sugar was surprisingly difficult, since their tortillas were all tainted with it. (Get the scoop on my no added sugar month here.) I ended up settling on the vegetarian burrito, without the tortilla. And I passed on the delicious pre-meal chips and salsa, which was particularly painful for me, since their chips are some of my favorites.

Yesterday, my daughter had a birthday party at a family activity place in our area. It was a bittersweet party, since the birthday girl is a very close friend, and she’s moving to Hawaii at the end of this week. It’s going to be a sad and difficult week for my girl, as she counts down to the final goodbye to her friend. It’s breaking my heart to see her so sad, especially since there’s nothing I can do to make it easier for her…

The Week Ahead

I’m off from work this week and next week, for finals and spring break weeks. (Read more about my work schedule here.) My daughter has a Brownies meeting after school today, and we’re expecting snow on Tuesday, although the anticipated accumulation amount keeps changing. I suspect my daughter will have a snow day, since the last total I saw called for 8-12 inches during the day, and another 1-3 inches overnight. She already has the day off on Friday, for a planned district professional development day. If her troop’s Girl Scout cookies order is not delayed – it’s scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, along with the snow – I told her we’d go to my office and deliver my coworkers’ cookie orders. She’s never been to my office, and has recently expressed a lot of interest in coming to work with me. This seems like a good compromise.

Next weekend, we’re taking a day trip to visit dear friends from our NYC days. They live a couple of hours away from us, and we only get to see them a few times a year. We don’t have any plans for Sunday, yet, but let’s hope the snow has already started to melt by then!

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Pasta alio e olio (from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking)
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker pot roast (This didn’t happen last week.)
  • Wednesday: Salmon piccata with orzo and broccoli (from Blue Apron)
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Pork chops & miso butter with bok choy and marinated apples (from Blue Apron)
  • Saturday: Dinner at our friends’ house
  • Sunday: Sautéed shrimp and veggies with rice

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #24

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Weekend Recap

We had a relatively quiet weekend at home. My in-laws came up from New Jersey for a visit on Saturday. They took us out to lunch at PJs, a yummy local BBQ spot, then we retreated to our house for coffee and time together. When the weather is better, we usually walk around Saratoga with them, but since Saturday’s high was 16 degrees, no one wanted to be outside for a moment more than necessary!

We didn’t have any plans for Sunday, but my husband came up with the idea to take our daughter ice skating at Empire State Plaza in Albany. It was pretty chilly on the Plaza, but my husband and daughter got some good skating in. (Since I clutch the wall for dear life and end up stiff the next day as a result, I opted to be a spectator.) After skating, we went to Druthers for a late lunch/early dinner. I love the food at Druthers, and my burger (without a bun this time for my no added sugar month), did not disappointment.

The Week Ahead

This is week ten of the winter trimester at the college where I work. Week ten is the last week of classes, and the student traffic in the career center has slowed to a near-trickle. (Who’s thinking about their resume when finals are looming??) This is also the last week I work, before having two weeks off – finals week and spring break week. I’m working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week.

This Week’s Meal Plan

What’s for dinner at your house this week??

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Monday Meal Plan #23

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

We had a really fun weekend! My daughter and I picked my husband up from work a couple of hours early on Friday, and we got right on the road to Massachusetts. Yesterday was my sweet and adorable nephew’s first birthday, and my sister and brother-in-law had his birthday party on Saturday. My parents had already arrived when we got there, so we got to catch up with everyone over dinner on Friday. My daughter and the birthday boy’s big brother get along amazingly, despite a nearly three-year age difference. Whenever we get together, the two of them immediately disappear and immerse themselves in imaginary play, Legos, and other fun stuff.

The “winter one-derland” birthday party was very cute, and I had a very nice time chatting with some of my sister’s friends. There were a handful of “bigger” kids in attendance, and they seemed to enjoy playing together both inside and out.

Yesterday morning we hung out with my family, before getting on the road home. On the way, I finally finished reading, The Case Against Sugar. It took me a long time to get into this book, but I found the last third very compelling – and frightening!

The Week Ahead

After February break last week, it’s back to work and school today. I’m working four days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This means I won’t be able to get to the grocery store until Friday, so I decided this would be a good idea to use a $40 credit I have, and give Blue Apron a try. Other than that, my in-laws are coming for a visit on Saturday.

My month-long, no-added-sugar challenge starts on Wednesday. While I think this will greatly impact what I do and don’t eat in March, it won’t have too much of an impact on our dinners, since they don’t often contain much added sugar. (Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be a whole different story, though…)

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Quiche w/ frozen veggies
  • Tuesday: Cod and tomato stew w/ garlic toasts & aioli (First Blue Apron meal!)
  • Wednesday: Sicilian-style bucatini w/ Caesar-style salad & oven-toasted croutons (Second Blue Apron meal!)
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Pork tenderloin w/ roasted sweet potatoes
  • Saturday: Vegan black bean fajita veggies w/ rice
  • Sunday: Leftovers

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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