Tag Archives: menu planning

Back to School Refresher

Hi all,

Sorry to have gone on hiatus again. Summer has been crazy around here. Lots of travel, lots of home repairs, lots of cleaning from said home repairs…. My oldest started school this year, and I’ve honestly been looking forward to an enforced schedule to regulate our days.

Many people feel like this time of year is almost like a New Year’s, a time for resetting and making goals. Hopefully, you are trying to get into a groove with menu planning, eating healthy, etc. Here are a few tips that have been helping me lately.

1. Find something you WANT to cook. We all need lots of quick meals in our arsenal. But, I think it is a good idea to find something that you really want to cook/make that maybe takes more time. For example, I recently grew my own sourdough starter. I’ve used it to make bread, waffles, pancakes, and pizza crust. Does it take time? A little, but actually not that much active time. The key was I WANTED to make it. So I didn’t mind the time. Think outside the box: homemade nut butters, jam, curing/smoking meat, bread, sauerkraut. Maybe it is taking time to stock your freezer with items. But think of something you’d be willing to spend time cooking. I bet you’ll find the time.

Sourdough Bread

2. Think through all the food you need when making your grocery shopping lists. Most kids need to take a snack to school. Maybe you’d have a better day if you took a snack with you to work. Make sure you have accounted for these in your shopping. If you don’t buy healthy snacks, they won’t magically make it into bags. It seems like a no brainer, but it’s important to think about it. One box of crackers and one package of string cheese isn’t going to keep you all going for a week.

3. Try to eliminate decision making. Planning a menu can be a lot of work. Try to streamline or simplify where you can. We always eat breakfast for dinner on Wednesdays. Tuesday is leftover night. Maybe every Tuesday can be taco tuesday. Pizza Fridays. Meatless Monday. These systems either remove or simplify the decisions when planning your menu. Help yourself out!

4. Pick one day for a fancy dinner. Our family recently started having a more formal dinner on Sundays. We sit at our nicer table, use a tablecloth, kids get real dishes, use cloth napkins, etc. We are hoping to break out candlesticks. I try to make sure food makes it into serving dishes rather than putting pans on the table. I often try to have a special drink. Taking this time to enjoy food as a family has been great for our relationships. My kids love it and are SLOWLY improving in table manners. And even if the dinner isn’t super complicated, it feels fancy because of our surroundings. Try it!

Hope these three tips help you as you go back to school. I’ve got some fun recipes coming soon!

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Put Your Best Fork Forward!

It’s March which means it is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme:


I love the idea of putting your best fork forward. It means doing what is best for yourself, every day. Make choices that count, make you feel good, and help you become the person you want to be. Here are 3 tips for putting your best fork forward this month and any time.

1) Plan ahead. Good nutrition and health doesn’t just happen. Make a menu, write a grocery list, prep veggies ahead of time, join a gym, buy workout equipment, etc. Think through what it takes to eat and feel the way you want, then take steps to doing that. Set yourself up to succeed.

2) Move on from a set back. Did today get the better of you? Not feeling like exercising this morning? A party at work led you in the path of a bunch of sweets? It is OK. I repeat, it is OK. But move on. Don’t let one side step from your plan turn into a complete new path. Step back on track with you next choices and move on.

3) Start your day out right. Try to start you day with a good for you breakfast or exercise. A good choice first thing in the morning can really help set the tone for your day. I’ll admit, I don’t LOVE exercising. It’s work, guys! But, I do love how I feel the rest of the day when I do exercise and get myself going on the right foot.

And in that mindset, here’s a delicious smoothie I tried this morning that helped set me up for success today.

Berry-Beet Smoothie (Serves 3-4)

Berry Beet Smoothie

¼ cup orange juice
1 cup plain or vanilla fat free Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries
1 medium raw beet, peeled chopped into chunks
1 bunch beet greens, large stems removed
1 banana, frozen
Water or skim milk, as needed

1. Layer ingredients in order in a blender. Start blender on low, then gradually increase speed as needed to get smooth consistency. Leave blender on each setting at least 30 seconds. Add water or skim milk if needed to thin out the smoothie. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 158
Protein: 12 gm
Fat: 1 gm
Saturated Fat: less than 1 gm
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Carbohydrates: 28 gm
Fiber: 5 gm
Sodium: 114 mg

Recipe Notes: I just squeezed a fresh orange and pulled some of the pulp in too. Bottled orange juice would be fine. I used plain yogurt. It tasted fine to me, but the kiddos around me were a little less thrilled. The vanilla yogurt with its extra sweetness would have helped them. I just used the greens from my bunch of beets, then roasted the extra beets up for my lunch. You might not need extra liquid; it will depend on how thick your yogurt is and how strong your blender is.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Food Safety and Leftovers

Leftover night

I mentioned in a previous menu planning post that Tuesday night is leftover night at our house. I love it. I don’t have to think about what to eat or have to cook one night a week. It keeps my fridge cleared out and has helped with my food budget. As a family, we call it our “best of” night, since we get to eat a little bit of the best of what we ate in the previous days.

Whether you eat leftovers like we do or if you re-purpose your leftovers into something else, food safety with leftovers is important. We all know to be careful handling raw meat and eggs, to keep dairy cold, and to cook meat to the proper temperature. But the traditional “there’s no mold and it doesn’t smell yet” test really isn’t good enough when it comes to leftovers. Here are a few food safety guidelines for leftovers.

-Leftovers can keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 to 4 months in the freezer. Frozen leftovers can last longer but will suffer in quality after that amount of time.

-Wrap your leftovers well. Don’t just put the whole pizza box in the fridge. You want airtight containers to prevent moisture and bacteria from spreading around.

-Cool your leftovers quickly. Don’t let your food sit out on the table or the counter for a long time. Prepare it for the fridge or freezer as quickly as possible. Use small enough containers that foods will cool rapidly.

-Reheat your leftovers properly to at least 165 degrees F. Soups or sauces should be brought to a boil. Reheat leftovers as quickly as possible, which may mean safely thawing them first if they are frozen.

For more information on leftover food safety, visit the USDA website.

What are your favorite leftovers or uses for repurposing them? I’d love to hear in the comments section.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


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Back to School: Comfort Foods


I read this fascinating article by Mark Bittman talking about comfort foods.  For each of us, our comfort foods are different.  Eating Kraft Mac and Cheese makes me feel like I’m home, while my husband would rather go hungry.  One of my college roommates loved macaroni cooked in homemade tomato juice (think spaghetios without ketchup) which I avoided like the plague.

But as Bittman points out:  it doesn’t matter what your comfort food is.  Just think about what little changes make it a slightly healthier choice.  Even burgers and fries are likely better for you if you make them at home.  Swap your canned vegetables for frozen.  Upgrade to a whole grain pasta or brown rice.

Comfort foods are important meals for your family.  They make meal time a happy, hopefully battle-free zone.  Also, they shouldn’t be stressful for you to make.  These are the recipes that you no longer look at, you can just make it from off the top of your head.

So, as school is getting back in session and your lives are getting much busier, remember to occasionally go back to those comfort foods.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!


Filed under Nutrition

Back to School: Menu planning


Back to school season feels a bit like New Year’s.  Time to make goals/resolutions.  Time to get back to a regular routine and schedule.  I hope menu planning is on everyone’s list of goals for this upcoming school year.

I know that menu planning seems like a time-consuming, painful task.  I do my planning on Tuesday nights, and I kind of dread that time.  But I do know that it saves me time and money in the long run.  Here are some tips to make menu planning easier and more useful.

– Have pre-set dinner nights.  At our house, Wednesday is breakfast for dinner, and Tuesday is leftover night.  It is incredibly nice to have two nights I don’t have to think of an idea for dinner.

– Look at your calendar while planning.  Don’t plan to make a lasagna from scratch the same night that you have 3 places to be.  Planning quick dinners for nights with full schedules will save you headaches and fast-food runs.

-Don’t plan too much at one time.  I think one week is plenty of time to plan at one time.  Fresh produce won’t last too much longer than that.  Plan less time and you’ll be running to the store frequently.  But plan the amount of time that works well for you.

– Have contingency meals.  I try to plan an all or mostly pantry or freezer meal at least once a week.  (Example:  Spaghetti with meat sauce and steamed veggies where the meat sauce and veggies are waiting in the freezer.)  Then, if something comes up, food isn’t going bad.  I can even move that meal to next week, making one less meal to plan!

– Involve your family.  Ask your spouse and kids what they want to eat this upcoming week.  If they picked it, you might curtail mealtime battles by reminding your child that he/she requested that meal.

– Post your menu somewhere visible.  This will remind you what in the morning what is ahead for the day and help prevent the “what’s for dinner” questions from hounding you.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, as my menu board above illustrates.

Hope this helps and happy menu planning!  Please share any other tricks you found to help in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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