The Dinner Dash

So - I'm always telling DH that this week I'll be getting my act together. (You may already have guessed that such a thing has just not happened yet.) I've discussed our tight budget in an earlier post titled Eco-Whatever so you may know already that the military income isn't exactly lavish. This means that I cut a lot of corners grocery-wise. I should also mention that I get bored easily, so I can't stand to make the same meals over and over again, (with a few notable exceptions, like spaghetti & DH's fave pork chops.)

One thing I do have a handle on is dinner. I've got lots of cookbooks and a subscription to Rachael Ray mag, as well as a few online resources that I'd like to share with you.

Uno: Menus 4 Moms sends out a weekly e-mail with a five-day dinner plan including recipes and shopping list. Started by Mary Ann Kelley, a home-schooling mom who thought there might just be other women out there who could use a little time-management help, it's really a great resource. Though I don't always follow to the letter, I never fail to include at least one meal idea into my week, and her tips for stretching those meals (like chopping twice the number of onions you need and freezing the unused portion for later use) are invaluable.
What makes this service so great? It's free! Also - it's got a specific bent toward the budget-minded. Thanks Mary Ann! (and the other ladies, too!)

Dos: Menu Planning Central is another meal planning service. This is a paid service, but it is absolutely worth the $19.97/month fee. Created by Christine Steendahl known as "The Menu Mom", it's an all-inclusive service, and that means that not only do you receive four weeks of menus, recipes and shopping lists, but you can choose which kind of meals you prefer. With options like Family-Friendly, Vegetarian, and Healthy you'd be hard-pressed not to find something to satisfy even the pickiest eaters! There's even an place to customize your menu called "My Menu Maker."
What makes this service so great? The bonuses! The site is packed with member benefits like seasonal tips, e-books & party planners.

Tres: Let's Dish is an experience, to say the least! You sign up online, (and quick, honey - 'cause the sessions fill up fast) go to the store and pre-make up to twelve dinners meant to be frozen (or refrigerated) until you need them. The prep is already done for you, (veggies pre-chopped, chicken already shredded - that kind of thing) so all you have to do is meal assembly. Think about how much time and money you'll save if you don't have to shop for groceries or do your own prep. Here's the lowdown on price for the store closest to me: 12 Dishes=$235. That's $19.58 per dish, or at 6 servings each, $3.26 per serving. Best of all? No clean-up! You even have the option to pick up some ready-made dishes for those lazy, err - busy types. With dinners like Raspberry Chicken with Mango Rice, Shrimp Fajitas, Manicotti with Homemade Tomato Sauce, and BBQ Chicken Pizza - I promise that you'll love the meals you bring home.
What makes this service so great? It's really, really fun! I took a friend along and we had such a blast we immediately signed up for another session. You can make a girl's night out of it by booking a private session for you and your ladies - and Let's Dish even provides the coffee and cookies!

So now you've got some of my secrets. I'll add just one more, the recipe for the pork chops DH loves so much.

4 - 6 pork chops (bone in or out is up to you!) rinsed and dried with paper towel
2 tbs olive oil
Worcestershire Sauce
McCormick Grill-Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning (or similar)
2 cloves minced garlic (optional)
14.5 oz low-sodium chicken broth

"To taste" rub worcestershire sauce into chops, followed by grill seasoning. Allow to sit for five minutes or so. Warm large pan over med-high heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot, add seasoned chops to pan. Sear on both sides, approximately 3 minutes per side. Add garlic to pan, allow to cook (but not burn!) for about one minute, then add chicken broth to pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for 20 - 30 minutes. Serve, ladle broth over chops. (Excellent over roasted or mashed potatoes, too!)

Tip: I prefer to use the boxed broth, because if I happen to have extra thick chops I can add more broth, enough to come halfway up the side of the chop.
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