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Simpler Cooking & Meal Planning

I tend to not do a very good job at planning ahead for meals. I know some folks are really good at it and because of them, I know all about weekly menu planning. I know all about once-a-month cooking. I've thought these are good ideas but have never been able to work them into my reality. In fact, most of the time it's midafternoon before I figure out what to fix for dinner. Dan changed that this past summer.

Every Sunday he grills hamburgers for dinner. He stopped using charcoal briquets a long time ago, favoring cooking with hardwood instead. He has experimented with smoking the burgers and has gotten quite good at it. He uses mostly pecan (in the hickory family), but we also have apple, pear, and peach trees which impart a lovely flavor. This is truly frugal cooking.

Hamburgers cook pretty quickly, however, so he was always commenting on the lovely coal bed left glowing after the burgers were done. "Do you have anything else to throw on the grill?" he would ask. So I started buying or defrosting something else to throw on the grill. He worked his way up from burgers, drumsticks, and leg quarters to whole chickens, ducks, and roasts.

Pecan-smoked meatloaf

With less tender cuts of meat he'll hot smoke them on Sunday and the next day I'll finish it up in the slow cooker to tenderize it. Then, if the cooking broth doesn't become gravy, I freeze it for homemade smoke flavoring to add to soups and stews.

What's really nice is that this extra Sunday cooking gives us three or four days of a delicious, ready-to-eat main course. And that means nightly dinners are easier to plan and prepare. Win, win, win!

Care to share your ideas for simpler cooking and menu planning? I can use all the tips I can get.

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