Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Titus 2-sday won out for the name of the new weekly post - welcome to Titus 2-sday! The plan is that every Tuesday, I'll post something related to life at home...no cosmic lessons here, but maybe something helpful to another wife and mother, especially if you're just beginning this adventure!

Like most women, I learned to cooked from my mother. Cooking is one thing - planning menus is something totally different. Planning a week's worth of menus is not rocket science, but I thought I'd pass along some tips I've picked up over the years.

My Mom's number one piece of advice - more color for better nutrition. Imagine a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a roll. Okay, I love all that stuff, too, but picture it - beige, beige, beige, and beige. And oober heavy on the carbs. Mom's basic rule of thumb for meals was - a protein (brown), a starch (white or yellow), always something green, and, if you want a little extra, a fruit or additional non-starchy vegetable. Dinner might look like this...fried chicken, rice, broccoli, and fresh squash. Or, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pear salad. Following this formula, you're less likely to overload on starchy foods high in carbohydrates, and more likely to consume a healthy variety of nutrients. Plan meals with lots of color. This formula provides a good basic guideline for planning menus, but we don't follow it every single night at our house. Which leads to tip #2.

Plan menus to alternate between more expensive/less expensive meals, and between more-labor-intensive/easier-to-prepare meals. We may do the meat/starch/veggies meal three nights a week. One night a week, we'll do a pasta meal - spaghetti and salad, pasta primavera, etc. - or something like black beans and rice with greens on the side. These are easy and quick, but still meet Mom's color guideline. At least one night a week, more often if the budget is tight, we fix soup. Soup is a great meal because it's cheap and is a tasty way to use up leftovers from a meat-&-three dinner. Not infrequently, we fix breakfast for dinner - again, this is cheap and easy, although not typically the best meal nutritionally. Since we eat out very rarely, I suppose this is our equivalent of a modern family's run to McDonald's!

Finally, a thought on proportions. Perhaps because we lived in the country and had a garden every summer, my Mom was big on vegetables. Some meals, we skipped the meat and the starch altogether. Fresh green beans, sliced ripe tomatoes, yellow squash with onions, juicy canteloupe - we would stuff ourselves with produce just in from the sunshine! Many folks build meals around the meat and potatoes, giving these items most of the space on the plate. Banish the meat and starch to one corner of the plate - say, 1/3 or less - and let vegetables, fruits, and salads take over the remaining 2/3 of the plate.

What about you - any favorite menus to share?

Next week....what if your kids don't like vegetables?


tracy said...

I remember your younger sister telling me about the "colorful dinner plate = more nutrition" rule that your Mom adhered to. She was relating a story in which she had told this rule to a friend of hers who thought it was a fabulous idea. However, friend's implementation of "more color on the plate" turned out to be serving a different color of jello each night.

Ginny B said...

That is so funny u say something about the beige color, b/c of my mother says the same thing about your meal, so I try to have a colorful plate at dinner.

The Westmorelands said...

can't wait for next week's post!! :)

Jenn said...

There's a website called "A Year of Slow Cooking" that I've found helpful for locating easy meals.

Also, Ms. Camille one of my easiest and tastiest meals is to go to WalMart and grab a bag of frozen, individually-sealed tilapia and a bag of fresh green beans. Once home I take the sealed filets and put them in a bowl of warm water for 15-20 minutes to defrost. Then I remove them from the bag; salt, pepper, and oil them; and rub them with Cajun seasoning I keep stocked in my spice rack. Pop them in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. (I recommend 8 minutes unless they're particularly thick filets.) Then I steam my green beans lightly (they're so much better steamed fresh than defrosted frozen) and add the almonds. Finally I grab some oranges out of my fridge (these are always on hand). There's a colorful, restaurant-quality, completely low-fat meal in 20 minutes!

I also have a great crockpot recipe for pork carnitas that takes like 20 minutes to prepare if you want it, Mrs. Camille.