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5 Tips For Easy Meal Planning

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I’m a big fan of meal planning. I’ve been able to cut our monthly grocery bill in half by dedicated meal planning. I do my meal planning every week now. I toyed with doing it monthly but for some reason it was harder to stick to so I went back to weekly. 

1. Make a list. Or two. I have a list of our family favorite meals and a second list of meals that I want to try out. I generally attempt to include one new meal every week. Some of our current family favorite dinners started out on the new dinner list. 

2. Know what you have. I don’t overbuy as a general rule so it’s easier to know what I have on hand in the pantries, fridges, and freezers. When I start my weekly meal plan I check to see what I have first and choose dinners that use those ingredients if I can. 

3. Be flexible. I usually don’t assign dinners to specific nights. I’m a rebel and if I see that I’m scheduled to make spaghetti on Thursday then I automatically want pizza. Ha! So I just choose the meals in no specific order. The only exception would be nights that I need to use my crockpot because of sports or activities. 

4. Keep easy dinners on hand. I always keep the ingredients for a couple of easy, fast dinners on hand for those nights that just go wrong and the meal plan flies out the window. 

5. Use a recipe app. I use a free app called OrganizEat and it’s amazing. I have all my dinner recipes organized into categories and I reference this app when I do my meal plan. It literally takes me 10 minutes to do my weekly meal plan. 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore or a pain. It can be so easy and extremely helpful, especially if you’re on a tight budget like we always seem to be. The kids are happy because their favorite dinners make it into the meal plan and Matt is happy because we’re not spending money eating out. 

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Ultimate Baked Chicken Taco Nachos

My kids love anything remotely Mexican for dinner in this house. They are always asking for nachos and I finally made some delicious ones awhile back. Tyler had a big group of friends over and they were looking for something to nosh on while they watched a basketball game. I had all the ingredients on hand so I tossed together a big pan of Chicken Taco Nachos. They were so good! 

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Ingredients:
1 bag tortilla chips
2-3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 packet taco seasoning
1 bottle taco sauce
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Black olives, chopped tomatoes, sour cream for topping

Directions:
1. Line a baking dish with foil sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Spread out tortilla chips on foil.
3. In small bowl, combine cooked chicken with taco seasoning and 3 Tbsp water. Add 2 Tbsp taco sauce and mix well.
4. Spoon chicken mixture over top of tortilla chips.
5. Spread black beans on top of chicken.
6. Cover with shredded cheese.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
8. Serve with sour cream, tomatoes, olives, and more taco sauce.

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The guys devoured this. I had to make a second pan for everyone else because the first pan was gone so fast. I will definitely be making this one again- it’ll be great in the summer time!

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Easy Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas

I am always searching for new ideas for fast weeknight dinners that my kids will eat without whining and this one is a winner for sure! I literally threw this together with leftover taco chicken and ingredients I had in the pantry and fridge. And the kids ate it without complaint and even asked for seconds! That’s a win, y’all. 

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Ingredients:
3-4 chicken breasts
1 pkt taco seasoning
8oz shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 pkg flour tortillas
Toppings: Sour Cream, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo

Directions:
1. Cook chicken breasts in crockpot with 4 cups of water on High for 4 hours.
2. Shred chicken; in large bowl combine chicken, taco seasoning, 1/4 cup water, and shredded cheese.
3. Lightly butter one side of 2 tortillas.
4. Lay buttered side down in heated skillet, top with enough chicken mixture to cover, and lay non-buttered side of second tortilla down on top of chicken mix.
5. Cook and flip until both sides are crispy and browned.
6. Serve with toppings of choice.

I used my grilled cheese maker to brown the tortillas because I’m lazy and it was super fast on a busy night. It took maybe 5 minutes to make these in the grilled cheese maker. I really love that thing. It’s probably the most used small appliance in my kitchen after the coffee maker. Because let’s be real. Coffee=life in this house. I will definitely be making this again!

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Easy Family Favorite Baked Spaghetti

One thing I can always count on in this family is if I make pasta, everyone is happy. Seriously. Every person in this house will eat seconds (and thirds) of any kind of pasta with any meat and any sauce. I really should just make pasta every single night. Unfortunately I like more variety in my diet than my kids do. This baked spaghetti recipe was more of a hodge podge of ingredients that I had on hand just tossed together but it turned out amazing. In fact, I loved it even more than my original baked spaghetti recipe that I’ve been making for over a decade!

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Ingredients:
1 box of spaghetti noodles, cooked
1 lb ground beef
1 jar (26-30 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 jar (16oz) Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup diced green peppers
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Brown the ground beef in large pan with diced green peppers and onions; drain.
2. Add spaghetti sauce to ground beef mixture and combine.
3. Combine cooked spaghetti noodles and alfredo sauce until well coated and pour in bottom of 13×9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
4. Pour sliced mushrooms over top.
5. Cover with spaghetti sauce mixture.
6. Top with mozzarella cheese. Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
7. Cover pan with foil.
8. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

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I’ve never made Baked Spaghetti with Alfredo sauce before and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. It was delicious! The kids raved about it. One of the most common complaints about my normal baked spaghetti recipe was that it was a little too dry. Adding the Alfredo sauce gave it just enough moisture to make it perfect. I cannot wait to make this again!

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Delicious & Decadent S’mores Brownies

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I posted this picture on Instagram on Super Bowl Sunday and got a whole lot of requests for the recipe. I literally threw this dessert together last minute when we had more people than expected show up and needed more food! And it turned out so amazing!

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Ingredients:
1 box Brownie mix + ingredients on box
2 sleeves honey graham crackers, broken in half
1 package milk chocolate chips
1 bag large marshmallows

Directions:
1. Prepare brownie mix as directed on box.
2. Pour 3/4 of prepared brownie mix into 13×9 baking pan sprayed with cooking spray.
3. Place graham crackers on top of brownie mixture, breaking as necessary to fit.
4. Pour chocolate chips over graham crackers.
5. Top with marshmallows.
6. Pour remaining brownie mix over top. 
7. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 
8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. 

I think this was the most popular dish at the Super Bowl party! The brownie mixed with the graham crackers plus the gooey melted chocolate and the crispy marshmallow topping was decadent. I cannot wait to have a reason to make this again. Because you need a reason. Or you’ll find yourself hiding in the pantry shoveling it into your mouth with both hands. I assume. Not that it happened here or anything…ahem. 

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