August's Meal-Planning Made Easy: Grover's Feta and Shrimp Pasta Salad

Getting dinner on the table can be a chore. We are all busy! As you dash home from carpool to karate or dance class, or for working parents going from your office to daycare, it may be hard for some of you to know what you are cooking for dinner tonight, much less on Thursday.  Nutritionists, foodies, and budget-savvy gurus all say that meal planning can help your family save money and also to eat healthier.  

I meal-plan each week, which in turn gives me my grocery list.  I’m far from perfect and have a lot to learn from others.  Truth be told, I have searched recipes for hours, made a grocery list, forgot to get key ingredients, misplaced the list of planned meals, and then forgot that I bought zucchini to roast as a side with one of those planned meals.

Surprise! Surprise!  I later find rotten zucchini in the fridge.

Case in point. I’m not a domestic diva.  I make more mistakes in the kitchen than perhaps anyone.  Sure, I’ve put in a tablespoon in my dish when it only needed a teaspoon or vice-versa.  I’ve left out ingredients only to discover it after the meal.

“Darn, the recipe called for cheese on top.”

But, at the end of the day, the result needs to be the same. I want us to sit down as a family and eat homemade, nonprocessed meals.   It’s also very important to me that my kids try a wide variety of foods, even if Baby Diva shakes her head no or takes everything off her plate that looks remotely strange to her.  Even my son is giving me a hard time lately at the dinner table, but, regardless, we eat dinner together nightly, and I try to prepare well-balanced meals.  It’s what we do!  It’s part of our family routine.

Sometimes MiMa  joins us for dinner. 

A friend and former colleague of mine teaches a course through North Carolina State University’s Cooperative Extension Service.  The four-hour course teaches families techniques on how to make life in the kitchen easier, how to save money with your grocery shopping, and how to make food purchases that will cause you to eat healthier.  Every county in North Carolina, including the Cherokee Indian Reservation, has a Cooperative Extension Service.  It’s a great state service.
The best thing to remember is to “Plan, Shop, Fix, and Eat!” stated agent Meleah Collier, based in Whiteville, N.C.  She told me the best practice is to write out the meals you plan to make in one week, stick to your grocery list by only shopping for those ingredients needed to make the meals, and choose simple recipes with fewer ingredients for your meal planning.  When planning, remember to factor a night or two for leftover meals. Meleah suggested that with the right planning, leftover meals could be remade into new, different meals.

I’m not there yet with that tip.  If I have chili on Sunday, and there is some left over, then it’s still chili on Thursday.  I don’t have the superpower to turn chili into anything else. That takes meal planning to a whole new level for me.  Maybe one day, but I’m still mastering planning and writing meals for five of the seven days in a week.

Also, think ahead. If you can “fix” any food in advance on your meal plan, it will help save you a lot of time.  This would include chopping, browning meat, or freezing meals.

I don’t know about you, but simple recipes with fewer ingredients are a must in my kitchen on a busy weeknight.  If a recipe looks complicated, time-consuming and involves a long list of ingredients, then it’s going to be made in someone else’s kitchen, not mine.

For today’s inaugural “meal-planning made easy” post, I’m going to share a shrimp salad that is wonderful for hot weather, and EASY.  My dad, who owned restaurants before his death in 2005, sent this recipe to me in 1999, along with my new car insurance card.  He only wrote one thing in his note,  “This will be good.”  He was right.

Grover’s Feta and Shrimp Pasta Salad

1 pound shrimp, cooked and deveined
1 cup feta cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
4 green onions
2 tomatoes
1 diced cucumber
1 ½ tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp pepper
8 ounces of angel hair pasta.

Cook pasta.  Combine all ingredients.  Stir.  Add pasta.   Mix well.

Great for a hot August night.

It’s now your turn.  Link up your recipes, and/or tips.

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The link will close on August 15, 2011.   Be sure to tell your friends.  The more meals we have linked, then the easier it will be for us to meal plan.

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