- I got the front porch freshened up. This is a great first week activity for me because it takes almost no time at all and makes me feel all successful and productive. We can do it!
- I made my lists. This is also easy for me since it is on the computer and saved as a template. All I had to do was update who I shop for - luckily the list keeps getting smaller as more and more of us go to a "kids only" gift-giving plan. I have lists of goodies to make and meals to freeze that I reuse every year.
- Deep clean the living room. We converted our formal living room into a home office, so I do that room. Honestly, I think that's a lot harder to deep clean than a living room that doesn't get used much, but I will give it a go. I figure if I make a half-hearted attempt every year, it's still better than it was.
- This is the week that we start making an extra meal for the freezer. I used to skip this step until I realized how awesome it is when meal planning for early December and you realize that there are several meals that only need thawing and maybe a salad. Phew! Much better on your beltline and bottom line than going out to eat because you are just too tired/busy to cook. I'm going to see if I can post a freezer-friendly recipe each week for you (see below).
- This week we are instructed to buy extra sugar, flour, etc. for holiday baking. I usually don't do this on this exact week, but start to keep an eye out for sales on these items and stock up.
- We start building gift ideas and planning menus this week. The only menu I'm really responsible for is Christmas Day. We used to have a crowd and do pot-luck, but now we are down to ten of us. For the last several years I have enjoyed searching Epicurious, Food Network, No Fear Entertaining, and other sites for menu ideas.
- This is also the time when we are supposed to order holiday cards, buy stamps, and get that family photo taken. As much as I love receiving photo cards of my friends' kids, I have boycotted sending cards for the last few years. The stress reduction is huge, the budget cut is welcome, and I can let go of the green guilt over all that paper. Plus, virtually everyone I would send to is either on facebook or we email regularly.
Freezer Friendly Meal of the Week - Bren's Meatloaf
This is a meatloaf recipe that my friend's husband, Bren, used to make. It freezes perfectly! When ground beef is on sale, I buy at least double, sometimes triple, and make a big batch. It's a wonderful, comforting meal for a family in crisis and all the kids I know will eat it. It's best with mashed potatoes (which don't freeze well) but a package of quick cooking flavored rice will do in a pinch. I also add a tossed salad and sometimes crescent rolls (especially for other people). I double this for my family of 5 (that includes 2 teenage boys!), which leaves us with some nice leftovers for sandwiches.
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 C milk
- 1/2 C Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 1/4 C ketchup
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
To freeze: after mixing in ground beef, store in freezer safe container. Put topping in smaller storage bag or container. Once the meatloaf mix is frozen, I put the topping bag inside the container so I always have both together. I have never tried freezing it after it's cooked - there's never any left!