Category Archives: Meals

Are you ready to go strawberry picking: tips you can't miss

Are you ready to go strawberry picking?

Strawberry season is here.  Are you ready to go strawberry picking?  If you are planning to pick your own strawberries, here are a few tips that will make your trip successful.

Strawberry Picking: Plan Ahead

Before you go picking, you’ll want to do the following things:

  • Call ahead to confirm berries are ready and to determine the picking hours.
  • Plan to go early in the morning.  If you can, go as soon as they open.  The saying “The early bird gets the worm” is true for strawberry picking.  You’ll have a better selection of strawberries, since the rows won’t be picked over.
  • Wear old clothes.  You might get a strawberry stain.  It usually comes out in the wash, but just in case…

What to Bring When Picking Your Own Strawberries

  • Water: You’ll be thirsty after picking.
  • Cash: Many small farms do not have credit card machines.
  • A change of shoes: I like to wear flip flops.  I can take them off right after picking, and they are easy to hose off when I get home.  Other pickers like to wear socks and sneakers.  Whatever you decide, just bring a change of shoes.  If you step on a berry, you won’t want to track it into your car.
  • Clean up supplies:  Baby wipes or wet face cloth in plastic bag.  You will want to clean your fingers after picking.

Picking Your Own Strawberries: Tips for Picking in the Field

Usually, only certain rows are open.  Try to pick a row that no one has picked in yet.  It will make picking much faster.

Since you pay by the pound, you’ll want to pick clean.  That means, do not pick the stems.  Pick the strawberry where the stem meets the berry.  Leave the whole stem behind, so only the green leaves stay on the berry.

Be sure to look in between the strawberry bushes.  Many people simple pick along the edges where you can easily see the berries.  By looking in between the leaves, you’ll find lots of berries.

It’s okay to eat a few strawberries while you are there.  After all, you want to know if the berries are sweet and tasty.  Just don’t overdo it. 🙂

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are referral links, which means that if you make a purchase, there is no extra cost to you, but Running A Household will receive a commission.

After you Finish Picking Strawberries

You’ll want to get the strawberries home and into the refrigerator.  I like to transfer mine into a colander, so that there a few holes to allow air in. I also cover the top of the colander loosely with plastic wrap.  This keeps anything from falling into the strawberries.

Are you ready to go strawberry picking?

Lastly, it’s important to have a strawberry huller.  This handy tool allows you to easily take the leaves off the berry.  You can certainly cut this part off with a knife, but you will take off too much of the strawberry.  With a Strawberry Huller, you will only take off the leaves, and keep the rest of the strawberry to eat.

Enjoy your strawberries!  There’s nothing quite like eating strawberries that were just picked.  🙂

Here are a few additional articles you may enjoy reading:

Summer Meal Ideas

How to host a simple cookout

Time Saving Tip: Shop Local

 

Stamp Out Hunger: Second Saturday in May

As part of your spring cleaning, you should clean out your kitchen cabinets and pantry.  Try to do this before the second Saturday in May, so that your donations are ready for the “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive on Saturday, May 14, 2016.

Tips on Cleaning Out Your Cabinets/Pantry:

  • Take one shelf at a time.
  • Toss any items that have expired.
  • Donate non-perishable items you may not use or just over-purchased
  • Incorporate remaining food on your Meal Planner to ensure it is used.

Stamp Out Hunger – How does it work?

On the second Saturday in May, the National Association of Letter Carriers holds a national food drive called “Stamp Out Hunger.”

Interested in donating?  Just leave your non-perishable items in a bag at your mailbox on Saturday, May 14, 2016.  Your letter carrier will pick it up and deliver it to a food bank, soup kitchen or shelter.  Isn’t this great?  It’s a way to donate to those in need, and have your donations picked up at your mailbox.

Examples of non-perishable items include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned soup
  • Canned meats and fish
  • Canned vegetables, fruits and juices
  • Boxed goods (such as cereal)
  • Pasta and rice

 For more information about the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive, ask your letter carrier, contact your local post office or visit Stamp Out Hunger

 Need more tips on meal preparation?  Check out our articles on:

printable grocery list by department

Grocery List by Department – Make Grocery shopping Easy and Efficient

Emergency food Supplies

Setting Up A Pantry

Dry Erase - Weekly Meals  What’s For Dinner Tonight? The Importance of Weekly Meal Planning

It’s Time to Assess Your Easter

Easter is officially over, and now it’s time to assess. Did everything go the way you planned?  What changes can you make to improve for your next holiday?  Use our Printable Party and Event Assessment Form to assess your Easter.  Even if you didn’t host, take a minute to jot down a few ideas.

Why Assessing an Event is Important

We spend so much time planning and preparing for events.  Chances are, if you hosted an event, you may host another one. By assessing your Easter, and all of the effort that went into planning the day, you can determine what worked and what didn’t work. This will make your next event more successful.

How to Assess Your Easter

Be sure to think about all of the phases of your dinner:

Planning: invitations, guests, date time

Meal: food, timing of appetizers

Set up: decorations, plates/napkins, flow of room

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Were the right people invited?  Too many people?  Not enough?
Was there enough time for guests to talk and socialize?
Were you happy with the food preparation and selections?

How did the beverages work out?  Did you have enough to serve?
Did the dessert work out well?

Assessing What Worked

Start with the positive items. Take a few minutes to think about what worked, and what you would do again next time. Here are a few examples of what really worked for our Easter dinner:

  • Adding kielbasa to the Easter menu was a huge hit. We served sliced kielbasa on an appetizer platter along with horseradish cheese. It was delicious! We also made a hot appetizer with kielbasa in barbecue sauce. It was scrumptious!
  • Starting our Easter event at 12:30. This gave us plenty of time in the morning to spend with our family and prepare food. We held our social hour from 12:30 – 1:30, and guests sat down to eat dinner at 1:30.
  • Seating guests with place cards allowed everyone to take a seat quickly. It also meant that the hostess had easy access to the kitchen, and children were seated next to an adult who could help them cut their food.

Assess your Easter

  • Bringing out the carrots and stuffing last: These dishes are tough to keep warm.  We said grace, and started to pass the meat, gravy and dinner rolls clockwise around the table.  While everyone was adding sour cream and butter to their baked potatoes, we brought out the carrots and stuffing.  They came out piping hot, and didn’t cool off too soon.
  • Asking guests to bring dessert. We followed our assessment from a previous year, and asked our guests to bring a dessert.  Since we handled the appetizers and the main course, it was so nice not to worry about dessert.  It even freed up some time on Saturday so we could handle other items, like simmering the kielbasa.

One memory we will always treasure about our 2017 Easter was reading bible stories to our children on Good Friday. They are at an age where they are curious and asking questions about God.  We had some quiet time on Friday to read from the children’s bible and are so glad we did this.

 

What Didn’t Work

Even the best plans don’t always go off without a hitch.  It’s important to identify and document the things that did not work. This will help you to improve the process for next time. Here are a few examples from our Easter:

  • Planning for warm weather: This year, the weather was unseasonably warm.  We needed to open the windows, but honestly could have turned on the air conditioner.  Guests did not feel like eating as many appetizers or drinking as much wine.  It was important to have extra ice on hand, since our guests drank lots of water. The weather even impacted the Easter egg hunt.  We’ll be sure to avoid chocolate filled eggs on hot days!
  • Having lots of desserts: For some reason we ended up with a lot of desserts.  Some guests brought two desserts, and another brought a surprise dessert.  Just glad we had enough room on our kitchen counter!  It worked out fine, and we made up a goody bags for guests to take leftovers home.

Things to Do Next Time

A lot of preparation goes into making Easter a nice day.  Do you wish you could have done something differently?  Make a note so that next time, you’ll remember what to change.  Here are a few examples from our Easter:

  • Find a way to go to church on Sunday morning.  When you host, this isn’t always possible.  However, Easter is a religious celebration, and going to church on Easter Sunday is much more meaningful.
  • Serve fewer appetizers:  Everyone enjoyed the addition of kielbasa as an appetizer, but the fruit and veggie trays were hardly touched. We will need to reconsider how much food we put out next time.  Maybe just a kielbasa and cheese tray, along with some fresh fruit would be enough.
  • Suggest alternatives to candy. The Easter bunny brought chocolate and jelly beans.  There was also an outdoor Easter egg hunt with even more candy.  Relatives brought lots of chocolate bunnies and goodies.  Instead, ask for books and non-edible treats.

It’s great to have the Easter holiday behind us so we can look forward to Spring and Summer. Overall it was a great day, and everyone enjoyed themselves.  Now that we’ve assessed everything, we can make a few tweaks so that next year is even better.  After all, if we keep doing the same thing, we can expect the same results.

Printable Party and Event Assessment Chart

Now it’s your turn to assess your day. Click on the link below and print a copy of our Party and Event Assessment Form:

Party and Event Assessment.docx

Party and Event Assessment Chart

Jot down your thoughts so that next time, your event will be a little easier. 🙂

And just to make sure you are prepared, here are the dates for Easter for the next few years:

  • April 1, 2018
  • April 21, 2019
  • April 12, 2020
  • April 4, 2021

In case you missed it, here is the article with our printable Easter planning forms:

Easter Meal Planner

Hosting Easter? A Menu Planner, Cooking Timeline and Checklist You Can’t Miss

Christmas dinner table

Planning Christmas Dinner

Are you hosting Christmas at your home this year?  If so, you’ll want to start planning for this special day.  We’re here to help, with a sample menu, guest tracker, cooking timeline and some easy steps to follow.  So let’s get planning.

Planning Your Christmas Dinner

Step 1:  Set the date, time and location.

For this example, we will invite our guests to arrive at noon on Christmas Day.  Some larger families may choose to hold this event earlier in the day as a breakfast, or later in the day as an evening meal.

Note: We know that some guests will arrive a little earlier, and some will run late. Therefore, we expect the overall arrive time between 11:45 – 12:15.

Our social hour is planned for 12:00 – 1:00.  We will plan to sit down to eat at 1:00.

Step 2:  Plan the menu.

Fill out the Christmas Dinner Menu to determine what you would like to serve.  Ours will be a meals that is simple to prepare, with pork roast, baked potatoes, stuffing, and cinnamon carrots.

Be sure to check out our Sample Christmas Dinner Menu:

Christmas Dinner - Sample Menu

Christmas Dinner – Sample Menu

We’ve also included a blank printable page so that you can fill out one for your dinner:

Christmas Dinner - Blank Menu

Christmas Dinner – Blank Menu

Step 3:  Invite Guests and track RSVPs

Use our printable guest tracker to make sure you’ve included everyone.  Be sure to keep a phone number or email address handy, in case you need to contact them.

Guest Tracker

Guest Tracker

Since this is a large event, be prepared for people to offer to bring a dish.  Lots of hands make for an easy day, so allow your guests to bring a dish.  You can ask guests to bring something from your menu, or just add the item to your planner.  We usually add their dish to our Christmas Dinner Planner, and write their name in parenthesis.

For example:  Cherry Pie (Mom)             Centerpiece (Aunt Jane)

Hint: If you are hosting a dinner, ask your guests bring an appetizer or dessert.  That way, you can save time and energy preparing appetizers and making dessert.  It will be much simpler to concentrate on the main course.

Step 4:  Clean home and set up for Christmas Day

Do as much cleaning as you can ahead of time.  It’s great if you can vacuum, dust, mop the floors, and finish your laundry earlier that week.

You’ll want to reserve the 2-3 days before Christmas to complete your grocery shopping, set the table, and make the desserts.

Step 5: Shop for supplies

Some of the non-perishable or frozen items can be purchased ahead of time.  We usually buy our pork roast 2-3 days before Christmas.

Plan to do your grocery shopping two or three days before Christmas, so that the fruit and vegetables are fresh.

Step 6: Cooking Timeline

Lastly, you will want to set up a tentative cooking schedule.  Since our Christmas dinner is extremely simple, our timeline will be very basic.  However, to ensure everything is hot, it is best to jot down a simple timeline.  Here’s our Sample Cooking Timeline:

Christmas Dinner Sample Cooking Timeline

Christmas Dinner Sample Cooking Timeline

We hope that our menus, guest tracker and cooking timeline help you host a terrific Christmas Dinner. 🙂

You may find the following articles from our website helpful:

printable grocery list by department

Grocery Shopping List by Department

place card Easter dinner

How to Make Your Own Place Cards

Pork Roast Dinner

What’s for Dinner? Pork Roast with Mushroom Gravy

Planning Thanksgiving Dinner

Are you hosting Thanksgiving at your home this year?  If so, you’ll want to start planning for this special day.  We’re here to help, with some easy steps to follow, a guest tracker and sample menu.  So let’s get planning.

What is Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving is a holiday held on the 4th Thursday in November in the United States.  It is a day to gather with family and friends and give thanks for what we have, in particular the plentiful harvest at this time of year.

Thankgsiving Dinner Table

Planning Your Thanksgiving Meal

Step 1:  Set the date, time and location.

For this example, we will invite our guests to arrive at 11:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  Some larger families may choose to hold this event later in the day or on another day over the long weekend.

Note: We know that some guests will arrive a little earlier, and some will run late. Therefore, we expect the overall arrive time between 11:30 – 12:00.

Our social hour is planned for 11:30 – 12:30.  We will plan to sit down to eat at 12:30.

Step 2:  Plan the menu.

Fill out the Thanksgiving Day Menu to determine what you would like to serve.  Ours will be a traditional meal, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and butternut squash.

Be sure to check out our Thanksgiving Dinner Planner.  You can view a sample menu below.  Just click on the link to open and print.

Thanksgiving Dinner Sample Menu

Thanksgiving Dinner – Sample Menu

We’ve also included a blank printable page so that you can fill out one for your dinner:

Thanksgiving Dinner Blank Menu Planner

Thanksgiving Dinner – Blank Menu

Step 3:  Invite Guests and track RSVPs

Use our printable guest tracker to make sure you’ve included everyone.  Be sure to keep a phone number or email address handy, in case you need to contact them.

Guest Tracker

Guest Tracker

Since this is a large event, be prepared for people to offer to bring a dish.  Lots of hands make for an easy day, so allow your guests to bring a dish.  You can ask guests to bring something from your menu, or just add the dish to your planner.  We usually add their dish to our Thanksgiving Dinner Planner, and write their name in parenthesis.

For example:  Pumpkin Pie (Mom)             Centerpiece (Aunt Jane)

Step 4:  Clean home and set up for Thanksgiving

Do as much cleaning as you can ahead of time.  It’s great if you can vacuum, dust, mop the floors, and finish your laundry earlier that week.

You’ll want to reserve the 2-3 days before Thanksgiving to complete your grocery shopping, decorate, and prepare the food.

 Step 5: Shop for supplies

Some of the non-perishable or frozen items can be purchased ahead of time.  We usually buy our fresh turkey the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Plan to do your grocery shopping two days before Thanksgiving, so that the fruit and vegetables are fresh.

We’ve included a Thanksgiving Day Grocery Shopping List to help you with this large task.  It’s organized by department to make shopping easier and more efficient.

Thanksgiving Grocery List

Thanksgiving Grocery List

Step 6: Cooking Timeline

Lastly, you will want to set up a tentative cooking schedule.  Thanksgiving dinner requires quite a bit of coordination.  You’ll want to make sure the turkey is cooked, and the mashed potatoes are hot.  Here’s our Sample Cooking Timeline:

Thanksgiving Sample Cooking Timeline

Thanksgiving Sample Cooking Timeline

We hope that our menus, guest tracker and cooking timeline help you host a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner.

You may find the following article from our website helpful:

printable grocery list by department

Grocery Shopping List by Department