Light Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff and meal planning

beef stroganoff

Before Oliver was born, I envisioned a lot of macaroni and cheese.

You hear stories of exhausted new parents who would survive on nothing but frozen pizza, TV dinners and the kindness of strangers (and their casseroles) for weeks. Maybe months.

When Ollie first came home, we were definitely two members of the Zombie Parents Club, and I couldn’t honestly tell you what we ate back then. I remember my parents coming by that first night with a huge family feast from Boston Market. We ate what we could (not much, given I was anxiously staring at our itty bitty baby the entire time), and reheated the leftovers for a week.

It took a little while, but we gradually got back in the kitchen. Spence and I love to cook. Before my maternity leave was up, I would look forward to Spence coming home daily for a thousand reasons . . . but especially so I could get started on dinner. It was a major stress reliever to do something “normal” after caring for an infant all day, and babying a skillet was a delicious taste of the old life.

I’ve now been back at work longer than I was out following Ollie’s birth, and I can’t pretend that being a working parent isn’t hard . . . but it’s a challenge we’re figuring out day by day, week by week. (On rough days, maybe moment by moment.) Another way life has changed?

Meal planning.

I doubted the wondrous powers of planning dinners in advance, friends. It was once a delightful challenge to come home, throw down my purse, kick off my heels and pour through the contents of our fridge and pantry until inspiration struck. If our brilliant plan took two hours to make, involving a fair amount of stirring and baking and hovering over the stove, that was A-OK. Put on a little Ingrid Michaelson, pull back your hair and get started.

Needless to say, we no longer have the time — or, more importantly, the energy — for anything complicated. I still look forward to our homemade meals, but our few precious hours as a family on weeknights are better spent out of the kitchen. I like knowing what I’m going to make ahead of time, which means we can get back and just get started.

Also? Budgeting. Babies are expensive, y’all. I knew this, I guess, but was naive to how costly the newest member of our crew would be. While we still stroll through the grocery store and grab little odds and ends when the mood strikes, I’m a pretty regimented listmaker. Meal planning goes a long way toward helping us keep our food costs low — and prevents too much food spoilage.

list

So what do I do? Nothing fancy. Maybe you even do something fancier. On Sunday afternoons, before shopping, I sit down and draft a list of dinners for the week. I don’t always follow the strict schedule (meatloaf on Monday, tacos on Tuesday), but the mix-and-match nature of the week is still okay. As long as the ingredients are on hand, we can play a little fast and loose with the timing.

Once I have an idea of what we’re making for the week, I head to the kitchen to see what we already have on hand — especially fresh ingredients — to avoid buying anything unnecessary. This is also a good way to see what we need to use up (like lettuce, a bag of carrots, some leftover grilled chicken) and amend my plan slightly to incorporate these things, as needed.

In my unscientific estimation, we save about $15 a week — $60 a month — by sticking (mostly) to my list, avoiding costly ingredients we’ll only use once and paying more attention to pantry staples we already have (the three bottles of Frank’s RedHot, for example).

We typically go out to dinner one night a week, which is a treat — and good motivation to cook at home the other evenings. Though honestly? By the time Spence and I get back with the little guy, the last thing I want to do is gather up all of our accoutrements and head back out. We don’t exactly travel light these days!

Funny how, when I was home on leave, I was desperate to get out of the house. And now that I’m gone nine hours a day, I can’t wait to come back.

So when we’re scouring the Internet and cookbooks to draft our meal plan for the week, I’m looking for quick, easy, filling and healthy-ish meals that will make enough for work lunches the next day. And if it doesn’t involve dirtying every dish in my house? Even better.

Enter this Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff, a tasty and lighter version of the creamy, heavy meal we all remember from childhood. We’re obsessed with mushrooms at the Johnson household, so we actually doubled the amount the recipe calls for. Just, you know . . . do what feels right.

And the best part? The leftovers were ri-dic-u-lous. Woo!


Light Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb. ground beef
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
1 package wide egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Instructions:

Add garlic and butter to a large pot or skillet and sauté for one to two minutes over medium heat, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the ground beef and continue to sauté until it is fully browned.

Once the beef has browned, add mushrooms and continue to sauté until they are soft. Add flour and sauté for about two minutes more.

Add beef broth to the pot and stir to dissolve the flour. Add the uncooked egg noodles. Place a lid on the pot and allow the liquid to come up to a boil. As soon as it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and allow the pot to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed (keep covered while simmering). Stir every few minutes to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Make sure the liquid is simmering the entire time. If not, increase the heat slightly.

Once the noodles are tender, stir in the sour cream. Sprinkle with fresh parsley (optional), serve hot and enjoy!

Recipe adapted slightly from Budget Bytes


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16 thoughts on “Light Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff and meal planning

  1. Pingback: Light Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff and meal planning | Petty Fashion Life

  2. That looks so yum that I would like to make that. Yes, meal planning and cooking are so hard! I have heard it doesn’t get any better until the kid(s) leave home.

  3. I love this post—you’re speaking my language! I got married a year and a half ago, and I am forever thinking about the best way to manage our meals (and budget), and what the best way will be when we have kids (if we can have kids—we haven’t started trying yet, but plan to in the near future). I was doing the weekly meal planning and list making for a while, but then I got lazy and let it go—but that pretty much means that we don’t eat as healthily, unless one of us has the energy to make a good spontaneous meal. Thanks for your practical inspiration!

  4. This looks delicious! And I have gluten-free egg noodles on hand. 🙂 I do meal-planning too but I do it the opposite way. I first evaluate what we have in the kitchen and what I can make with it, then figure out if there are any additional ingredients I need to buy. The goal is to get as many meals as possible out of what we already have and just buy a few things each week to supplement or keep up our supply of staples. It’s amazing how much you can save with just a little bit of planning!

  5. Yum! We love beef stroganoff and always make ours in the crockpot. Our version is pretty unhealthy though, so we usually just make it on cheat days. 🙂 I’ll have to try this lighter version!

    Meal planning is a GREAT idea. Unfortunately, Jerry works evenings M-F, so we don’t do much cooking here except for on the weekends when we’re both home for dinner. We (meaning I – LOL) do make strict grocery lists though and try really hard to stick to it when we shop so that we stay on track with our budget and finances. If we don’t follow the list, we usually pick out all kinds of random snacks that get tried once then sit in our cupboard… oops!

  6. I seriously could not survive without meal planning…and I don’t even have kids!! It definitely saves us money in the long run and I just feel so much better knowing what the dinner plan is for the week!

  7. I’m a working Mom with a teen / twenty something and agree that meal planning is a life saver. While I don’t follow a strict schedule, I find a framework helps streamline the planning. For example, pasta on Monday, slow cooker Tuesday, soup / sandwich Wednesday… I will add your suggestion of visiting my refrigerator and freezer first. Best wishes to you!

  8. I don’t cook very much, but when I do, I cook with Ingrid Michaelson songs! I’ll have to try this stroganoff, it looks so good. Great post!

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