Anyway, so now the kitchen is always clean, or about 2 minutes away from being clean. As a result, we are spending far less money on going out to eat mediocre food. Because let's face it, most kid-friendly restaurants aren't that good. Though all of that being said, I will still go out, and I will still enjoy it. I just want to be more selective. You have to eat to live. But you have to eat everyday, and, for me, I figure we might as well like what we eat.
Back to the crock pot. It does require planning. I've always been a bit of a meal planner. I used to do a month at a time, as Hub only gets paid once a month. I have gotten much better at budgeting, and we no longer feast weeks 1-3 and scrounge during week 4. Point is, I like planning out our meals. I only plan one week at a time now, though. I find I am much better at sticking to it.
How do I meal plan? I start by looking at the calendar for next week. Monday nights we are gone from 3:45-6:45. I almost always use the crock pot on Mondays, or make something like tacos before we leave. Then when we get home, I just heat up the meat and we just assemble them. Tuesday is errand day, which means grocery day. Tuesdays I like to cook with a lot of fresh veggies, while they are still fresh. So I plan accordingly--grilled chicken salad, stir-fry, etc. You get the picture. I look at the week, and I plan dinner from there.
I also plan breakfast and lunch as well. Again, this really goes back to the monthly paycheck, so I have to be aware of the food situation. The breakfast and lunch plans are more loose, as I don't really care which day we eat each of the meals. I just know that I have all those foods in the house. Monday might say mac & cheese, but if we want to eat Thursday's planned pb&js on Monday, we will. We can have mac & cheese another day.
I'm the wife and mom around here. In our home, this makes me not only the cook, but the nutritionist as well. I want to provide healthy meals for our family. Not everything I make is 100% healthy. But at least I know what we're eating. I know how much fat, salt, dye, corn syrup, and chemicals we're putting into our bodies. Yes, sometimes we are going to eat Oreos, and we are going to like them. But, you can't tell me that an elf makes a better chocolate chip cookie than I do.
Oh yeah, all this meal planning saves you money too!
Okay, I am stepping down off my box now. Here's today's crock pot recipe:
Cuban Black Beans and Rice (Thanks to Betty Crocker for this one. We can't all be gourmets!)
1 lb. dried black beans (2 cups), sorted (you're looking for little stones or funky shriveled beans), rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (minced is fine)
2 bay leaves
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
5 c. water
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
4 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. finely chopped jalapeno (I don't have a fresh one, so I am using a few sliced pickled ones)
1 tsp. salt
3 c. hot rice for serving
Mix everything but the rice in your crock pot. Cover and cook on high 6-8 hours until beans are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaves. Serve over rice.
Estimated cost of this whole meal is about $4. (6 servings)
My kids eyed this with great suspicion. Hub and I thought it was tasty. I ended up freezing the rest to mash up and mix into enchiladas or taco pie. I will hide them under cheese so the kids won't complain as much. They just don't know what's good sometimes.