The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “leftovers”

Tip of the week: Saving Time, Freezing Meals

freezer before&AFTER

My freezer is key to getting meals on the table – I routinely try to cook twice as much as my family needs so I can freeze the rest. It doesn’t usually take any time to double a recipe, and then all I have to do is go to my freezer, pull out a meal to thaw, and then dinner is ready. Well, in theory. In practice, my freezer became the place where meals went to die. It was such a mess that I couldn’t find anything, and it got to be too much work to dig around in there to try to find something edible.

Pinterest came to my rescue! I saw a beautifully organized freezer on Pinterest and decided that was what I needed to make my freezer work for me, instead of against me. I started by removing all the food, throwing away anything too old or scary looking. Then, re-organized my frozen food into neat baskets with laminated labels. Laminating the lables might have been a little over the top, but I was on a roll!

I also added a dry erase board on the front of the freezer, so now I know what’s in there without even opening the door. Before I go grocery shopping, I take a picture of the dry erase board so if I see frozen veggies or meat on sale, I know how much I already have in stock. When I cleaned out my freezer I had about two dozen bags of peas – hopefully, I’ve solved that problem for the future!

I also keep a Sharpie marker on top of the freezer so I can remember to label and date all meals I put in the freezer. I have a terrible habit of putting unlabeled meals in the freezer and thinking that I will remember what they are. Since I don’t have to search for a marker anymore, hopefully there will be no more “freezer surprise” meals for my family!


Holli Seabury, CEO

McMillen Center for Health Education

Tip of the Week: Top 10 Grocery Shopping Tips


This Week’s Featured Recipe

Grocery Shopping

Planning is the key to quick, easy and economical grocery shopping.  Check out our ten tips to help make your shopping painless.

1.  Plan meals and snacks a week in advance and write them down.  Create or download a form that makes sense to you. There are phone apps for this as well.

2.  Set aside one-half hour to write it all down; gather your family calendar (and the school’s lunch calendar) to determine who will be eating which meals.  This half-hour will shrink to about 7 minutes in no time as you re-cycle your best days.

3.  Be realistic; if no one likes Brussels Sprouts, don’t plan them into your menus.

4. Check your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards for inventory.  Any foods that need to be used up?  Any foods that no one has any intention of eating?  Plan to use up the odds and ends or donate or discard the “bad” purchases.

5. Don’t hesitate to make planned-overs (they taste so much better than leftovers). That roast chicken on Sunday not only becomes a sandwich on Monday but chicken noodle soup on Tuesday.

6.  There’s great convenience in single serving items for lunches but you are paying more for the package than the food.  Buy a large bag and have one of the kids count out portions into reusable containers.

7. For fresh produce, consider their shelf-life.  Use highly perishable fruits and veggies early in the week and keep those that have a longer shelf life for days 6 and 7.

8. Frozen fruits and vegetables can easily round out that end-of-the-week meal.

9. Make sure you have storage containers and supplies.  Those two pounds of hamburger in the freezer will be harder to use quickly than the 1/2 pound packages you created (and labeled and dated!).

10. Encourage the whole family to participate.  You can educate everyone about budgeting, time management, cooking and, of course, good nutrition. Dole out questions, tasks and responsibilities appropriate for your age child.

We promise, careful planning will make feeding your family a real joy!


Marcia Crawford, MS, RDN

Tip of the Week: Easter Egg Hunt


For as long as I can remember, we have gone to my aunt’s house for Easter. We almost always have ham and roast beef. There are a whole bunch of people in our families with birthdays around Easter, so we always have birthday cake to celebrate. There are usually about 30 of us, so it’s a full house. After dinner, we’ve always done a very competitive Easter Egg hunt. The adults and kids that have graduated from high school stuff plastic eggs with candy, dollar bills, and change. We usually stuff around 300 eggs. The kids in high school and younger look for the eggs hidden around the house.

One year, my older cousins decided to stuff the plastic eggs with left-over food. We were all in high school and my brother and cousin stuffed some of the eggs with leftover roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. Luckily, only a couple of kids actually found them. They had hidden them up high, where only the tall, high school kids could reach them. Boy, were our parents were mad! But, every year, we joke about that prank!

Camy Rodenbeck 2012

Camy Rodenbeck, Health Educator

Tip of the Week: Together, We Eat Better


This Week’s Featured Recipe

Recently, I took my kids and some friends to Pokagon to go tobogganing. While playing outside, I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I was surprised to find myself dizzy from carrying/dragging the sled, climbing the hill and then the stairs. I’ve always been comfortable with who I am but that changed this weekend. It’s past time to admit I’m out of shape.  I have made a resolution to start paying a lot more attention to what I’m eating and how much I’m really on the move.

I’ve known I should be doing more for a long time, but I just ignored it. Please don’t worry that I’m about to update you weekly on my progress and diet; I’m not. The Family Table is supposed to be about practical ideas for our families’ health. And, I eat with my family almost every night of the week, and weekends, too. Eating together at the table is hugely beneficial.

No matter if you’re eating together at 9 a.m., noon or 7 p.m., the benefits of better responses to peer pressure, later onset of sexual activity and lower abuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as the obvious nutritional benefits don’t change. But, honestly, what you put on the table matters. We eat fruit and vegetables. We’re about to start eating a whole lot more of them.

The Family Table tagline for this year is Together, We Eat Better. So, as I am making changes to become more aware of my calorie intake and exercise habits, my husband is doing the same. Research says when you make a commitment to work out with a friend and have someone to keep you accountable, you’ll have more success. We’re going to try it.

Below is a list of some free apps, websites and suggestions for ideas that I’ve incorporated into my new plans. If you have some others, please feel free to share them on our Facebook page or Family Table blog.

My Fitness Pal – A calorie and exercise counter. I love that you can scan the UPC code on the package and it will upload the nutritional information for you.

Fitness Blender – YouTube-based videos for every stage of fitness. They also have a great segment on grocery shopping.

Active Healthy Families – A video series on making better nutritional choices, like A Meal in Less Time Than It Takes to Go Through the Drive Thru.

Fort4Fitness – and their 1 Year 1 Change program – numerous tips and local resources to making a healthy commitment.

IN Shape Indiana – Resources to eat better, move more and avoid tobacco.

Frances Brooks Casual 2012

Frances Brooks,Director of Operations & Marketing, wife and mom of 2

Tip of the Week: Accessorizing an Entree

One of the ways I get dinner on the table is to, shall we say, accessorize a previous night’s meal—that sounds way better than “leftovers”, doesn’t it? One of my favorites is Crockpot Chicken Salsa; only 3 ingredients, and unbelievably delicious!  I cook a double batch of the chicken on Sunday, and serve it over rice.  Later in the week, I will serve the chicken in hard tacos, with cheese and lettuce.  

For another meal, I will add a can of black beans and some corn to the chicken, roll it all in soft tacos, and put it in the oven to melt some cheese on top.  I’ve also served it in sandwiches and on top of salad greens as a main course salad.   As long as I throw one or two other meals in during the week, my family doesn’t seem to notice that I’m using Sunday’s chicken again.   I can get two or three meals from my Sunday batch and usually still have enough left over to freeze for an emergency meal.  Putting a family meal on the table doesn’t mean we all have to be nightly gourmet chefs – cooking a big batch of a main course on the weekend and “accessorizing” it during the week can work too!

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

One package (about 1.5 lbs) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (thighs are cheaper), one large (24 oz) jar of salsa, one envelope of taco seasoning. 

Put all ingredients in the crockpot, cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8+ hours.  Shred the chicken with a fork before serving. 

– Holli, CEO and mom of 7

Tip of the Week: Leftovers Improve with Dessert

The family table has always been a priority at our house, but finding time to prepare the meal is a challenge, especially when you have carpool to Scouts, band, dance class, or (fill in the blank.) So I prepare a large amount when I can, counting on the leftovers to get me by on a busy night. My children aren’t picky eaters, but they do get bored with the same recipes, and especially with leftovers.

My solution is to make a really cool dessert. I think they eat the meal without paying much attention to it in anticipation of the dessert. I made a large pot roast last week and knew it would serve a couple meals. I printed the strawberry mousse recipe found on a link in last week’s Family Table Tip of the Week. It is so easy that older grade school kids could prepare it on their own, and best of all, it tasted great! Light and refreshing after the heavier pot roast.

Do you have any tips for making leftovers a more appealing dinner for your Family Table?

– Laura, Sr. Director of Finance & Operations, wife and mom of 4

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