Meal Planning Monday ~ Special Orders Don’t Upset Us!

This week’s post is by Sherry Nehl, a fellow member of the Facebook recipe group and Leah and I belong to.  I’ve asked her to share how she overcomes the challenge of having several people in her family on special or restricted diets.

            This is my very first post and I’m grateful to Christine for allowing me the opportunity.  I’ve always loved being in the kitchen and cooking for my family and friends.  As our family has grown, our needs have become more and more diverse.  Within our family of six, you’ll find a peanut allergy, a vegetarian, and an amateur vegan.

            Here is what works for us.  I clean out our refrigerator and pantry on Fridays, and then make the shopping list and menu plan for the following week.  Any fruits that are past their prime go into snack-sized freezer bags for smoothies and veggies go into a large freezer bag to make vegetable stock.

            Saturdays are my shopping day.  I like to set out breakfast and leave before anyone wakes up!  I usually go to Aldi, Sam’s Club, and Kroger every 2-3 weeks.  During the summer I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market first (and, to be honest, every garage sale I pass).  I keep a cooler in my trunk since I make multiple stops.

            Sundays are for meal prep, which saves me time during the rest of the week.  I usually peel and mince three whole heads of garlic to keep in the fridge for the next few weeks.  I wash the veggies and fruits in a vinegar/salt solution and let them dry thoroughly.  For this meal plan, I make up the BBQ rub, BBQ sauce, a big batch of spaghetti sauces (vegan and meat-based, but store-bought is also fine) and assemble and freeze the lasagnas in loaf pans.  On the days when I have chicken scheduled, our vegetarians will omit it and eat just the side dishes.  Here’s our plan for this week.

Monday ~ Spaghetti with Meat Sauce or Vegan Bolognese (see recipe below), served with rolls and green salad.

Tuesday ~ Lemon Roasted Chicken, Pesto Pasta Salad (see recipe below), and Oven Roasted Corn.

Wednesday ~ Pulled chicken sandwiches with, black beans, rice, corn, and caramelized onion (aka BBRC).

Thursday ~ Meat Lasagna and Vegan, Gluten-Free Lasagna with rolls and green salad.

Friday ~  BBQ drumsticks, cheese quesadillas, and leftover BBRC.

Sherry Nehl is a brand-new blogger and full-time mother of four boys.  She loves to entertain, bake delicious desserts, and trade recipes with friends.


Pesto Pasta Salad

  • One box of bow-tie pasta
  • One jar of pesto sauce (or homemade)
  • One pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • One (8-oz) container of Sun-dried Tomato Feta Cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions and rinse well with cool water.  Add pesto and toss.  Add tomatoes and feta and serve.  For vegans, omit the feta.


Vegan Bolognese Sauce/Meat & Veggie Sauce

This will make enough sauce for 8 dinners total (4 vegan, 4 meat-based) and freezes beautifully.  You can easily omit the mushrooms and double the meat, or vice versa.  If there aren’t any good coupon match-ups for canned tomatoes, I buy the restaurant-sized cans of crushed tomatoes at Sam’s Club for less than $3.00.

  • 102 oz. of crushed tomatoes
  • 4-6 oz. of tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of red wine or vegetable stock.
  • 4 yellow or white onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 packages (8-10 links) of hot or sweet Italian sausage
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 16 oz. of mushrooms (any variety, Port0bello are recommended)
  • One large bunch of parsley, washed and minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of dried basil and oregano (can substitute fresh)
  • 4 T. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  In a food processor, chop onion, carrot, and celery until fine.  Add to hot skillet and cook until onions are starting to turn golden brown.  Add a splash of red wine or stock as needed to deglaze the pan.  Turn heat to medium and add garlic.  Cook until fragrant, continuing to deglaze the pan as necessary.  Turn off fire and remove pan from heat.  Remove vegetable mixture from pan and set aside.

Heat skillet to medium-high again.  Add mushrooms and bell peppers, continuing to deglaze when necessary.  Cook until the mushrooms have released their moisture, and that moisture has been cooked off.

Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 cups of water.  Slice open the sausages and remove from their casings.  Crumble meat as it cooks until the sausage is no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

With skillet and Dutch oven both over medium heat, divide onion/carrot/celery mixture into pans.  Add equal amount of tomato paste to both pans and stir into the vegetables.  Once combined, add mushrooms mix back into skillet and cooked sausage back into Dutch oven.  Add crushed or diced tomatoes, dividing equally and bring to a slow simmer.  Reduce heat to low and add all of the herbs and spices, dividing equally.  Simmer for 30-60 minutes and serve or freeze.

For pasta, top with parmesan cheese.