When I first announced that I wanted to plan out my menus for an entire year many thought me totally NUTS! My thought was you plan a menu every week, so why not collect all 52 menus and end up with your menus planned for the next year. The benefits of having a meal plan are numerous. These posts are about the menus I planned and how I did them.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Of course it is a long way from the fourth week of the year, but I finally had time to sit down and pull out my menus for week #4.  The big bulk buy for the week was a vacuum packed boneless pork loin from Sam’s Club.

When I first started cutting up pork loins for my family I did so per the instructions given me by a meat cutter at Sam’s. He had explained to me that the cuts I will explain are basically all the same meat, just cut differently and sold at hugely different prices.  He also suggested to me a book that explains how to save money on other meats by doing similar cutting or substitution on all sorts of meats.  That book was Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$ by John Smith, you can read my review on the book here.   Now the slicing instructions are right on the pork loin wrapper on how to do it. 

However, if your store doesn’t supply the instructions here is how I cut one.

I buy the large, approximately 10# boneless pork loin that is in one of the vacuum packages. 

I first open one end and drain all the liquid that I can to help minimize the mess while I am cutting it up.

Generally these are larger than my cutting mat so I rest the part that doesn’t fit on the mat on a plate or platter until I can advance it to the cutting mat as I make progress with it. 

The tools of my trade are a very sharp large knife, a good pair of kitchen shears, and four plates.

As I cut I leave all fat on the meat to help prevent the meat being too dry when it is cooked. It can be trimmed off later if need be.

Starting on one end of the pork line I trim off the tapered end until I have a flat area that would be one side of a boneless pork chop.  The part I trim off I cut into small cubes to use in pork stir fry, chili, casseroles and similar dishes that would require diced pork.   OR I put them on a plate to be ground up for recipes that use ground pork or to make homemade sausage.  I use the kitchen shears to quickly cut the meat into the size cubes I want to work with. This is plate #1.

Plate #2 is for boneless pork chops/pork steaks.  These are simply slices of the loin in the desired thicknesses for these products.  I do a variety of thicknesses depending on the menu for the week.  Everything from Basic Fried Pork Chops to thicker ones to stuff or grill.

The middle of the loin I cut into the proper size for roasting or otherwise preparing a pork loin dinner.  Plate #3

Moving on down the loin I cut several thick slices, that I then use the kitchen shears to cut into strips.  These are either boneless pork ribs or pork fajita meat.  Plate #4.

The remaining bits are cut up and added to plate #1.

How much of what type of cut you create is up to you.  If you are planning on several meals in the future that would call for browned  pork cubes.  Then cut more of those up, brown now and then preserve in your preferred manner for speedy food preparation in the weeks to come.  You can either can or freeze them. The same goes for if your recipes call for browned ground pork.

I personally often cut two small pork loins from one large loin for two different ways of cooking it on different weeks.   Or I may choose to ground half the meat to have ground pork on hand, either browned and canned, or frozen raw for meatloaves in the future.

Once all of it is cut up I either vacuum pack it for freezing or can it per the Ball Blue Book canning instructions. I can a lot because I have limited freezer space, plus we tend to have several power outages in a year and I prefer to have my meat dollar better protected.  Unless I am cutting it up to use that day, of course.

So now on to the menus for the week.


Greek Yogurt either with the fruit cooked in or topped with:


            Grape-nuts or other cereals

            Fresh Fruit bits

            Dried Fruit

Cold cereal choices

            Rice Krispies

            Corn Flakes


Hot cereal choices

            Cream of Rice


            Multi-grain cereal 


            Orange Juice

            Grape Juice





            Dried Mango

            Dried Blueberries



My son and I love Greek Yogurt to the extent it was starting to bust our grocery budget with the amount we were purchasing each week, even using coupons.  So I decided to try my hand at making my own yogurt. 

I may never purchase grocery store yogurt again!  I used my dehydrator to make it and it was so super easy.  Even more important it was delicious, coming out the perfect thickness we love! You can read the step by step instructions, complete with photos here.

The flavor opportunities are endless, unlike purchasing it at the grocery from their limited variety.  We did find we prefer using preserves or marmalade to using jam or jelly for that type of flavoring.

I do now make a lot of plain yogurt to use in so many, many recipes. 


Fish Tacos, after the fish sticks are served later in the week

Leftovers of any sort

Sandwich ingredients

            Fish Sandwiches a La Mickey Dee’s after the fish sticks are served

            Shaved turkey breast—see comments


            Toasted Cream Cheese Sandwiches on Raisin Bread

            Baby Spinach




            Chipotle Yogurt Dressing


We love fish sticks, so you will often see them popping up in my menus.  They are scheduled for dinner one night this week, but I will cook extra when I do so we can have fish tacos or fish sandwiches for lunches.  As long as you do it in short bursts 15-30 seconds you can re-heat fish sticks for these foods in a microwave and have a quick lunch.

I discovered years ago that purchasing a turkey breast or boneless ham and asking the meat cutter to shave it for me was far less expensive than purchasing lunch meats.  I also own a meat slicer so sometimes I will purchase large ones of these to use for the bulk item of the week.  This week I just purchased a small one for use in lunches and breakfast burritos.
The Cinnamon Raisin Bread Cream Cheese Sandwiches are your standard grill cheese sandwich made with those ingredients.  It is a very nice change of pace.


Cole Slaw

Blonde Brownies




The pulled pork recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I saw on Pioneer Woman.  We enjoy pork loin cooked this way as a main dish or on sandwiches, in wraps, or in burritos.


Jarred Salad




Canned or frozen leftover Moo Gurgle from the week before makes this a quick and easy meal to throw together on busy nights.


Fruit Salad




Leftover desserts


The burritos can be filled with any variety of leftover meats you have from this week and last.  We particularly like putting in the pulled pork from night #1 this week or the shaved turkey that I purchased for sandwiches.

You don’t have to follow a recipe for fruit salad, any mixture of fruit you like will be a refreshing lift from the burritos.  I personally eat extra fruit salad on this night rather than a sweet dessert.


Fried Potatoes

Cole Slaw

Peas and Pine Nuts

Pineapple Upside Down cake




Definitely a heavy on the calories meal, but oh so good.  These Butter Fried Pork Chops are different from the Basic Fried Chops, but just barely. Peas and Pine nuts is exactly what it says.  I use either fresh, frozen or canned peas and prepare them in my normal manner, only I toss in a handful of pine nuts that are either plain or toasted.  It’s simply a twist on peas and pearl onions, without the onions because my ds does not care for onions.


Jarred Salad

Pineapple Upside Down Cake





To make the chicken and dumplings I used home canned chicken from Week #2: Chicken Leg Quarters.  The salad and cake were of course leftovers from earlier in the week.


Fruit Salad





The original recipe I use for the chowder calls for bacon pieces in it, however, for the pork loin week I browned up small bits of the trimmed pork from plate #1 to season the soup.  I also used all pepper jack cheese to make it a spicer soup.

The refrigerator nut cookies were my dad’s favorite cookie.  He would have me make up a triple or quadruple batch of them the day I mixed them up and freeze additional rolls of them for future treats.

This is when I learned that I could do this with any cookie dough for fast slice and bake cookies on hand at all times.  Doing so saved me many a headache when my kids were in school and I was informed at a late time that the kids needed cookies to take to some meeting or another as they were growing up.


Fish Sticks

Macaroni and cheese

Peas and Pine Nuts

Leftover jarred salad or Cole Slaw


Any leftover pulled pork can either be canned per the instructions for cooked meats in the Ball Blue Book canning cookbook, or frozen for future meals.

The other leftovers can be used for lunches for this week or next.  I believe you could freeze the leftover corn chowder, but I’ve never personally done it, because we consume the leftovers quickly for lunches.  

In fact most of the meals in this week would reappear in one of our lunches later in the week/next week because they all re-heat well and give us a large variety of lunch foods to stave off lunch boredom that could lead to visiting a fast food joint and wrecking your budget.


Yogurt with any variety of toppings or plain


Fruit salad

Blonde Brownies

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


So there you have it Week #4, using foods you have previously stored in conjunction with your purchase of a single large pork loin that you cook for this week’s meals and for future meals.

You now basically have a month’s worth of meals you could use each month for a year, or you can continue to come back as I slowly at 52 different meal plans over the future weeks/months.   I am making a serious effort to work on my blogs more, but life happens here on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch and the New Life on the Ranch can be both fun and a lot of work.  Please be patient with me all 52 are coming, eventually.

Jan who is sorry the 52 weeks are so slow in coming in OK





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