Monday, December 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: December 5th, 2011

Salt and Pepper Chicken: As Easy as it Gets!
The plan this week is to keep things as easy as possible. I'll also be holding a freezer cooking session on Tuesday to start re-loading my nearly empty freezer with holiday goodies.
  • Monday: Marinated Flank Steak (broiled unless the weather is nice enough to operate the grill in the dark), brown rice pilaf, steamed asparagus
  • Tuesday: Pizza night (sliced apples, steamed vegetables)
  • Wednesday: Salt and Pepper Chicken, Spinach Rice Stuffing (using rice from Monday night), steamed green beans
  • Thursday: Creamy Enchilada Casserole, steamed broccoli
  • Friday: Dinner Out
  • Saturday: Leftovers (Parents out)
  • Sunday: Pot Roast over mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables
  • Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, steamed vegetables
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Menu Plan Tuesday: November 29th

It's taken over a month, but my freezer is almost cleared out. This is good news, because I have already scheduled 4 freezer cooking sessions for December to prepare a bunch of holiday treats!

This week's plan:

  • Monday: Lasagna (using Lasagna sauce that I quickly made last week before leaving town to use up my fresh produce. Find more ideas for using up perishables before leaving town here!)
  • Tuesday: Soy Glazed Salmon (salmon from the freezer), Sesame Baby Bok Choy, steamed broccoli, and soba noodles
  • Wednesday: Sauerbraten over Mashed Potatoes (I'll admit it--I use a Knorr package seasoning for this recipe. I add onions, peas, and sour cream for my own version, the stew meat is from the freezer.)
  • Thursday: Black-Eyed Pea Hambone Soup (from the freezer) with cornbread and steamed green beans
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Marinated Flank Steak (from the freezer), Brown Rice Pilaf, Steamed Vegetables
  • Sunday: Baked Chicken Tenders (coating from the freezer), Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Steamed Vegetables
  • Monday: Leftovers... or Spaghetti and Meatballs (from Trader Joe)
Even thought I'm not trying to, I will add to the freezer this week even while I am clearing it out;
I should have a few pieces of Lasagna left over to freeze for quick lunches--if I manage to freeze it before someone eats it, that is. I'll also freeze some leftover mashed sweet potatoes so that I can make Sweet Potato Biscuits.

Note that none of this menu includes turkey! We were out of town for Thanksgiving, and I wasn't able to bring any leftover turkey home. My relatives did feed some to this 6-foot alligator in the back yard, though. (From a distance!)

I haven't decided whether to make a turkey this holiday season or not. Is it worth it or not?

Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Holiday Prep: Freezer Cooking

I have made a lot of progress clearing out my freezer in the past few weeks--I even found some scones that I froze back in April--still delicious!

Now that I have all of this free space, I am ready for some freezer cooking sessions to help prepare for the holiday season. My friends and I have picked some kid-free mornings throughout the month to focus on bulk food prep:

  • Dec 1: Cheese Bites (80 or so; easy to mix up, tedious to roll, so we do it together while talking!) I'll try to post this recipe, very easy and good.
  • Dec 6: Lasagna Sauce, and Sauce/mini meatballs for Baked Ziti. The recipes call for similar ingredients, and we'll freeze the sauce/meatballs, then defrost when it's time to assemble the dish. I'll probably serve my Baked Ziti for a family get together during the holidays.
  • Dec 13th: Marinated Meats and Fish. Probably some Marinated Flank Steak and Marinated Salmon, possibly some Baked Chicken Tenders coating or other chicken marinades. Anything that will be simple to defrost and/or cook up during the busy season!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: November 7th, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Roasted Chicken with Spinach Rice Stuffing

I fell off the meal planning wagon last week, but fotunately I had a semblance of a plan in my head!

Here's the plan for this week:

  • Monday: Creamy Enchilada Casserole, steamed green beans, fresh fruit
  • Tuesday: Turkey Chili topped with shredded cheddar and sour cream, homemeade Skillet Cornbread, steamed broccoli
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Dinner Out
  • Friday: Dinner out (kids to grandparents')
  • Saturday: Cashew Chicken Curry Stir Fry (from the freezer) with vegetables over steamed brown rice
  • Sunday: Apple Sausage Risotto with steamed asparagus and baked sweet potatoes
  • Monday: Leftovers (or something very simple, such as Bean and Cheese Quesadillas from the freezer)

I also need to get back on track with my Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner plans. I need to make some fresh Bean and Cheese Quesadillas for the freezer, and I'm also hoping to bake an Apple Cake this week (recipe to come). I haven't decided yet how else to use my newly available freezer space, but I will definitely be restocking as the holidays approach!

Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 24th, 2011

It took a lot of preseverance, including willingness to grill the Sweet Asian Chicken (pictured above) in the rain, but I stuck to my plans and fed my family nearly every night last week. (They got takeout one night.)

Here's the plan for this week:

  • Monday: Leftovers--we have lots of Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs to still enjoy! With leftover steamed broccoli
  • Tuesday: Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans--and it better not start raining while I'm cooking the chicken on the grill!
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner sliding from last week: Eggs, sausage, bacon, mini whole wheat bagels, fresh cut fruit, steamed asparagus
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: (Parents out) Hotdogs on whole wheat buns with steamed vegetables and fresh cut fruit
  • Saturday: Soup (Minestrone from the freezer) with Grilled Cheese, fresh cut fruit
  • Sunday: Beef Stew with peas served over egg noodles, salad
  • Monday: Halloween! Bean and Cheese Quesadillas (from the freezer) with steamed vegetables, fresh cut fruit
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Sweet Asian Chicken Marinade

From the Cookbook Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family.

This is our favorite chicken marinade from this cookbook so far. Prepare it in bulk so that with this recipe you will have 3 meals of chicken prepared--one for dinner tonight, and two for your freezer! To test the recipe, or to just make a single meal, divide the ingredient measures by 3.

  • 6 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup tamari/soy sauce
  • 1/4 lime juice or juice of 1 fresh lime (I recommend fresh lime if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic--about 25 cloves (I recommend fresh--process in a food processor to reduce prep time)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste, more if you prefer spicy)
  • 3 freezer containers or freezer bags--I find if I use smaller chicken breasts I can fit this meal in a quart-size bag.
1. Divide chicken between 3 freezer containers.
2. Combine sugar, tamari, lime juice, and curry powder in a pourable mixing bowl, whisk to combine. 3. Divide and pour marinade evenly into 3 freezer containers.
4. Add 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to each container. Mix chicken, marinade, garlic, and flakes, then freeze until needed or marinate for a minimum of 6-8 hours.

To cook: First defrost chicken fully in refrigerator.

To grill (recommended): cook chicken over medium low heat, turning every 5 minutes and basting with extra marinade. Stop basting at least 5 minutes before removing from grill. Cook until center temp of chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Cover cooked chicken with foil, let stand for 5 minutes. Slice chicken into 1/2 inch strips against the grain.

On the Stove: Slice into 1/2 strips against the grain, then stir fry in a wok or large pan over med-high heat with oil such as peanut oil, until pieces are no longer pink in the center.

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: Pumpkin Puree

While assembling and baking Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs, I hacked my 4 garden pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds, and baked them for over an hour, then pureed them, ending up with 8 cups of puree, just what I need to make lots of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins! (I ate the extra puree... delicious!)

While making dinner on Thursday I assembled a dozen extra Bean and Cheese Quesadillas, and froze them--7 are left, which is enough for 2 meals when combined with other things.

This week I want to use my pumpkin puree to bake mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, and then store them in the freezer until I have the Kindergarten classroom parents over for morning coffee. I'll bake some Whole Wheat Banana Bread as we get closer to the event, too.

As for Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner, this week is another intense one, so I'll be whittling down the freezer supply a bit more rather than making plans to add to it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 17th, 2011

Whole Wheat Couscous with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

I'm continuing to lean on my freezer stash this week! My aim is to use the oldest items, as well as the items taking up the most space this week.
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: The Payoffs

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

I didn't do much freezer cooking the week before last because, well, my freezer was full. For a while you took your life in your hands every time you opened the freezer door, because some rock-solid frozen food item was liable to come flying out at you.

Last week, I went away for a weekend, and when I returned, I started working outside the home for the first time in seven years. Needless to say, it was an intensely crazy week! I didn't even make  a meal plan. We did eat take-out on a few occasions (okay, really FOUR), and I leaned heavily on my freezer stash to provide the rest of our meals and food needs.

For instance, over the past few weeks I baked a batch Chocolate Chip Cookies twice, and I went ahead a froze a pan's worth of cookie dough each time.

The Payoff: I had committed to bake dessert for a teacher luncheon at the kids' school, and when it came time to bake, I was feeling exhausted. Instead of making cupcakes like I had planned, I popped the frozen dough into the oven and had 3 dozen cookies ready to go in less than half an hour--and the only dishes to clean were the storage containers from the freezer and the cookie pans and spatula!

I also leaned on my stash to help feed the family when I took a trip with my mom and sisters, and left my non-cooking husband and kids to fend for themselves. The freezer food came in quite handy. I used the frozen topping and chicken to make a large batch of Baked Chicken Tenders before I left town, and also made a list of foods available that they should eat, including a large quantity of leftover pot roast, frozen pre-sliced mini bagels, bread and cheese for grilled cheese, fresh melon and apples, and an assortment of frozen vegetables.

The Payoff: They did eat out a few times, but the rest of the time they were able to put together simple meals at home using what was on hand. Making a clear list of what should be eaten was helpful because my husband would have otherwise not been sure what was okay to eat (all those packages in the freezer start to look the same after a while!)

When I got home, I jumped right into my new job, which included some long days teaching a training class. I was so caught up in the adjustment that I didn't have any brain power leftover to even think about a meal plan--or to make dinner on some nights. We ate some carry-out meals, and on days when I could focus I used these items from the freezer for various meals:

Lots of free space!

 Now that things are settling into The New Normal--and I have some newly cleared space in the freezer, I need to get back on track with my menu planning and continue whittling down my current freezer stock to make room for my favorite fall meals, such as Mom's Chili, and for holiday baking, which is coming up just around the corner!

I also want to continue refreshing my freezer stock. I need to keep things simple this week, so I am only going to plan two freezer cooking projects:

1. I need to restock our supply of frozen Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. These are so quick to prepare into a protien-rich, nutritious dinner on crazy evenings--I serve them with salsa, sour cream, steamed vegetables from the freezer, and some fresh fruit. I just need to assemble a bunch of them so that I can grab them when I need them, for quick meals or for snacks.

2. I want to get my 4 homegrown pumpkins baked and pureed for some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (my version of this recipe to come). My plan will be to serve some of the pumpkin as a side dish for dinner one night, then to puree and freeze the rest.

First I will have to figure out how to harvest this one.

Maybe I can saw it in half to extract it from the trellis it sneakily grew inside? Hmmm...

I hope to continue this pattern of using dinner prep time to maintain my freezer stash. It's working for me!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: October 3rd, 2011

My Favorite Pot Roast

I'll be taking it easy this week. The freezer is full from my Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner strategies, and I am heading out of town for a girls' trip this weekend! I need to think ahead a bit more than usual, because next week is one crazy week.
  • Monday: Leftovers (Lemon Chicken, Carrot Orzo, salad) with steamed broccoli and fresh cantalope
  • Tuesday: My Favorite Pot Roast, served over egg noodles with roasted carrots, and fresh fruit
  • Wednesday: Soy Glazed Salmon, Brown Rice Pilaf, Sesame Baby Spinach
  • Thursday: Soup (various, from the freezer) with Grilled Cheese, steamed vegetables, and fresh fruit
  • Friday: Dinner out
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Dinner out
  • Monday: Leftovers or something simple
  • Tuesday: Not sure but we might have company
  • Wednesday: Something from the freezer
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: The Freezer is Full!

The Freezer is officially full. SO full that we need to eat some ice cream to make some room for the coffee beans again, so it isn't all bad news!

I made 3 batches of Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs, served one for dinner, and froze the other two. I also made a pot of Black Bean Hambone Soup, and ended up with 3 packages to freeze (2 large servings each). I made Whole Wheat Banana Bread into muffins for my daughter to take to school for her class's snack, and I managed to freeze another 16 Chocolate Chip Cookies when I was baking for a potluck last week.

I was supposed to also make up additional Bean and Cheese Quesadillas when I put them together last week, but I ran out of time (and space in the freezer).

This week the only food I plan to freeze is any meat leftovers and gravy/glaze from my Pot Roast, which I been using to flavor Minestrone Soup--a little goes a long way! I'm going to take a much-needed break from cooking... and from my family for a long weekend away. :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Organization Project: Craft Supplies

I have a major organization project that has been hanging over my head the past few weeks while I've been doing other things, such as preparing for our yard sale.

My daughter loves to make crafts, and loves to make a mess doing it. When she asks if she can paint and I say no, she'll go ask her dad, and he'll say, "Sure," and she'll go and do it herself. Same with playdough, glueing, cutting, you name it. Fortunately, she's reasonably neat:

We've been storing our craft supplies in the buffet cabinet in the dining room, and all crafts are supposed to be done in the dining room (we don't have a separate breakfast table, our house is on the smaller side). Since my daughter's birthday in August, the crafting situation has gotten a little out of control. Not everything is fitting in the cabinets, and what's worse, all the fun new craft supplies are mixing in with the broken crayons, dry markers, and empty glue sticks. My procrastination on the project has just given it time to get worse and worse!

Today, time was running out before I host a family get-together tomorrow. I just didn't have time to go through all the supplies, sort them, and get rid of the dried yucky playdough and the markers that don't work anymore.

My friend recently gave us gifts inside two reusable shopping bags from Ikea:

The best thing about these bags is that one of them zips closed. I decided to use the zipping bag to store all the nice fresh craft supplies that aren't fitting in the cabinet. The black and white bag would hold the completed projects (mostly paintings, but a few 3-dimensional endeavors as well. (The interior of the cabinet will have to wait for another day, as well as a plan for storing completed works, which are in several locations throughout the house currently...) The rest of the items were either put away, recycled, or trashed.

My other organization tool was a basket that I originally bought to store items on top of our refrigerator. It was just a bit too tall to fit between the fridge and the cabinet, so I had to put it aside. I decided to use it to store my daughter's current craft project: a princess storybook.

It fits underneath the buffet, and now I have a place to quickly pitch all the supplies and bits of paper that she is using for the project when it is time for dinner and I want to clear the table. There's even extra space for all the new things she thinks of to add to the book next time she works on it!

Now I have a functional dining room, just in time for tomorrow's gathering, and I have all of the craft supplies corralled in two bags so that when I do have time I can get everything sorted and restocked.

Narrowing this project down to the very simple step of clearing the area helped me overcome my procrastination and make some small progress on the project. I handled the mess while still giving my daughter access to her current project!

Linked to 52 Weeks of Organizing at!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: September 26th, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Last week did not work out much as planned, thanks to yard sale preparation and other distractions. I did manage to do some of my freezer cooking while making dinner (see last's weeks results here), and I hope to slide a number of last week's entrees to this week.
Find more meal planning inspiration at!

Menu Plan for October Birthday Get-together

We have 3 family members with birthdays in the first 4 days of October, and I am hosting a family get-together to celebrate this Saturday! Here's what I'm planning to serve:


This Week: make pesto and freeze, make dressing and refrigerate, grocery shop

The Day Before: Cut chicken breasts, bake and frost cupcakes, make green salad, cut fruit for fruit salad

The Day of: Cook Chicken and Carrot Orzo beforehand, and keep warm in chafing dishes. I'll triple the chicken recipe and double the orzo recipe as we are expecting 13-15 people total. Set up extra table, serve meal buffet-style.

I'm hoping that by keeping the menu simple and doing as much as possible before the get-together we'll have a relaxing gathering!

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: Ziti Sauce and Meatballs

I didn't get to the store for the chicken, but I managed to double the sauce and meatballs for Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs and added it to my freezer stash. Now all I have to do is boil the pasta and combine with the sauce and cheeses! These meatballs are extra-special because I added cooked, finely chopped, unpeeled eggplant to the ground beef mixture. The meatballs aren't as sturdy as usually (some of them dissolved into the sauce) but my kids liked them just the same so I was pleased.

Freezing just the sauce saves space in the freezer. I have also frozen my lasagna sauce in the past successfully. Something to consider if your freezer space is limited.

We won't eat them for dinner, but I did manage to freeze 16 balls of cookie dough for The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever.

I also started experimenting with freezing sandwiches for school lunches; I was inspired by this post on bulk lunch prep from Sara's Deals. I had some leftover whole wheat potato rolls that I combined with ham slices (no condiments) to make 7 little sandwiches for the week. Now we can pull them out as needed to expedite the lunch process a bit. I'll also be loading up little containers with cottage cheese, peas and corn, and cantalope chunks this week.

In addition I hope to get the Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs marinating finally this week, as well as preparing Bean and Cheese Quesadillas for a potluck dinner, and make up Whole Wheat Banana Bread into mini muffins to send to school for kindergarten snack.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

With a few simple tips, techniques, and secret ingredients, you can make the most amazing chocolate chip cookies ever created. They will ruin your taste for store bought cookies, and your friend will request them from her deathbed when no other food is appealing to her (true story!).

This recipe is based on the standard Nestle chocolate chip recipe (on the back of the bag), but I've made a few modifications and included techniques to make the cookies turn out extra-delicious, for instance, using different chocolate chips!

  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or less)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 12 oz bag of Guitard semi-sweet chocolate chips
Several hours before you begin, pull your butter and eggs out of the refrigerator to allow them to get closer to room temperature. Your butter should still be firm, but malleable. The eggs should be as close to room temperature as possible. You'll have to experiment and see how far in advance to set these items out in your kitchen depending on the temperature of your home.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine flours, baking soda and salt. I measure the flours precisely by leveling my measuring cup with a knife, and use the knife to combine the ingredients before adding them to the cookie batter. The whole wheat flour is the first secret ingredient--not only does it add a nice texture to the cookies, but is also adds the illusion of these cookies being 'nutritious'. (They're not.)

Preheat your oven to 365 degrees. (Most recipes call for 375 degrees, but I find that is too high a temperature for my oven. Your oven may be different.)

In your stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Next, break one egg in a separate bowl, remove any shells and beat lightly. Add the egg to the butter mixture and (very important) beat until the egg is very well blended. Add the second egg the same way and beat thoroughly until blended. The batter should have a 'fluffy' look at this point if a) the ingredients were at room temperature and b) the eggs were sufficiently beaten. These techniques will give your cookies a light, airy texture. Add the vanilla.

Next it is time to add the flour mixture. The goal is to combine the flour mixture thoroughly without overmixing the cookie batter, as that will make the texture of the cookies tougher. I use a 1/4 cup scoop to add flour steadly to the mixer, then tip the bowl over the mixer to add the final amount. As soon as the flour is almost blended, turn the mixer off. Don't overmix!

It's time for the second secret ingredient, which is the bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. You could use other brands, but none of them will be as wonderful as the Guitard semi-sweet chocolate chips. After many years of research, I have concluded that these are the best tasting chocolate chips on Earth. They're not very impressive when eaten raw, but when added to baked goods such as these cookies, or
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, they are wonderful.

Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter, mixing until they are barely distributed in the cookie batter, then turn the mixer off right away--don't overmix!

It's time to spoon the cookie dough onto cookie sheets. I use my Pampered Chef medium (?) scoop for this task. I treat the dough very carefully and avoid packing it into the scoop to conserve the air bubbles I've made in the batter. Pressing the dough tightly into the scoop will result in dense, tough cookies. If you don't have a handy scoop, you can use two spoons (one to scoop, one to scrape). Place the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart.

Bake for 6 minutes, then rotate your cookie sheets for even baking (rotate one sheet 180 degrees, and if you are baking two sheets at once, rotate them both and then switch their locations top to bottom). Bake an additional 3-5 minutes. I like to pull mine out when they look like they are almost done in the middle.

While you are waiting for the cookies to bake, scoop out 12-16 on a separate cookie sheet to freeze for another day. It doesn't matter how far apart these are on the sheet, because they aren't going to spread out in the freezer. I like to freeze 16 cookies because that is how many fit on my cookie sheet. After they are frozen on the cookie sheet (in this case, my toaster oven tray), I'll transfer them to a plastic storage container. In the future when I'm ready to bake them, I'll simply place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. They may take a few extra minutes to bake when they are frozen. This also reduces the amount of cookies available for inhalation on the day you bake the main batch.

Let the cookies cool for several minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack with a spatula. The recipe makes 5 dozen cookies total.

Try not to moan while eating them. It's a bad example for the kids!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Organizing Project: Yard Sale Prep

There's nothing like a neighborhood garage sale to bring my organizing projects to the forefront! I know that if I can get myself together and put in a little effort, I'll be rewarded with a less-cluttered house come next week, which will make it easier to find a place for all the items that we decide to keep. Items that we don't need anymore will be connected with people who need them enough to pay for them (hopefully), and items that no one wants will be donated, where it will be put to good use--if a use can be found.

And hopefully none of the sale items will reappear inside the house somewhere. Oh, and hopefully none of the stuff from my neighbor's sales will end up at our house, lovely items that they are. (Gee, I wonder who might be the culprit of such activities? If it isn't me, it must be one of my dear family members. I might have to lock the house and subject everyone to a search before they are allowed back inside!)

Here is my plan to get ready for the Big Day:

In the week leading up to the sale:

1. Designate a Yard Sale Spot. For me, this will be the table in the basement. It could be any area in your home or garage where you can put all of the items that you are planning on selling in the sale. This is where I will collect everything together for the sale so that I can price items and get things organized by category, etc.

2. Purge. I'll grab some boxes and then move through the house collecting items for the sale. I'm going to use last year's checklist to be sure and hit all the hotspots in my house:
    • My closet and drawers
    • Daughter's closet and drawers
    • Son's closet and drawers
    • Linen Closet
    • Large kitchen cabinet 
    • Pantry
    • Buffet in dining room (aka Craft Storage)
    • Toy Cabinets, DVD Cabinet
    • Basement Play Room
    • Garage
    • Storage Room
3. Get the family involved. I'll do most of the purging, but I'll encourage the kids to pick some items from the sale (and promise them the money) and I'll beg my husband to find a few things to part with. (I already have a few things in mind!) Another project for the family may be to make signs for the big day.

4. Sort. Before I start pricing items, I want to get things sorted into categories so that I can get a better idea of what I have and what is the best way to price things. If I have a lot of smaller items, I might put them all in a box with a sign that says '25 cents' or similar. Sorting before pricing avoids the situation of pricing two like items the same, or pricing a higher quality item lower than a lower quality item.

5. Price. I use stickers, some of which are blank, some have pre-printed prices on them. Many people like to haggle at yard sales in our area, so I think of prices as a starting point. If I have a lot of small, low price items, I might pile them in a box and put a sign on it that says '$1 each' or similar.

6. Get Change. I'll make a point to go to the bank and get a roll of quarters and a large number of $1 bills, probably about $50 worth of change total.

The day before the sale:

7. Advertise. This is a neighborhood yard sale, so several neighbors are taking care of this step for me. Ordinarily I would post an advertisement on Craigslist.

8. Set-up and Transfer. The day before the sale I'll start set up tables in the garage and transfer everything to that location. (I don't want to do this until the day before the sale because it's rainy here this week and I would rather park my car in the garage as long as possible!)

9. Extension Cord and 'Broken' signs. It's a good idea to have an extension cord set up for the sale so that people can test items with electrical components. For items that don't work well (such as my old Oster stand mixer) or that no longer work, I include a sign stating that fact. You would be surprised at what people are willing to buy even when it doesn't work! I guess they might fix the item, or use it for parts for another item.

The day of the sale:

10. Open Early. Be prepared for the first shoppers to arrive even before your advertised opening time. I typically have shoppers looking at items while we carefully carry tables out of the garage to the driveway (which is why I like to set everything up the day before!)

11.Hang Signs. Post signs at nearby intersections to direct local drivers to your sale. I typically end up doing this after the Early Bird rush is over.

Linked to Top 10 Tuesday and WFMW!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: September 19th, 2011

Last week's Marinated Flank Steak, Shallot Green Beans, and brown rice pilaf
I'm really looking forward to fall weather, which has come a little early in our area this year! Fall weather means fall recipes! I'm also looking forward to working in a bit more freezer cooking while making dinner, which went well last week.
I also hope to use up some frozen bananas by making Whole Wheat Banana Bread in muffin form, which I'll freeze and use for snack for my daughter's classroom.

Find more meal planning inspiration at!

    Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: This Week's Report

    It looks meager, but this photo shows preparation for 4 meals: two Marinated Flank Steaks as well as the toppings for two meals worth of Baked Chicken Tenders. I also made a double batch of Sweet Potato Biscuits this week, and added ham to them, but none of them actually made it into the photo OR the freezer. They were eaten for breakfast, lunch, and snack throughout the week.

    It was so easy to just double or triple the recipes that I was already making for dinner, and then freeze the extras. This week I am planning to do the same thing by doubling the sauce and meatballs for Baked Ziti (baking one, freezing the other ingredients) and tripling the Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs this weekend.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    It's Barely a Recipe: Shallot Green Beans

    My grandmother served Green Beans with Shallots and Hazelnuts for Easter dinner earlier this year, and they were delicious! I adjusted the recipe to make it into an easy weeknight side dish. I make it in small amounts because my kids will only eat green beans with nothing on them. :)

    • Steamed Green Beans (1/2 pound)
    • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
    • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
    • optional: raw or toasted nuts, such as sliced almonds
    Cook or steam your green beans as you normally would--I typically use frozen Hericot Verts from Trader Joe's.

    While the green beans are cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Add sliced shallots, stirring often to separate pieces. Watch them carefully, as they get brown and crisp up quickly.

    Add warm green beans to pan, stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Marinated Flank Steak, Shallot Green Beans, Brown Rice Pilaf

    Linked to URS!