Menu Planning Simplicity

This week’s Menu Planning Simplicity is focused on 2 separate times I spent in the kitchen working on not only meals for the week but also I was able to put a couple extra meals in the freezer.

Before I got started on anything I put a large pot of beans on to cook. I knew I would need them for one of my recipes. While I was at it I cooked extra beans as well so that could have them done ahead of time for the chili that I was planning on preparing that week. Any time I can coordinate my weekly menu to cook extra quantities for meals later on in the week, I do this. It saves me time and money. It does not take any more time to cook up 6 or 8 cups of dried beans as it does to cook up 2 or 3. If I serve beans twice in a week and cook them up separately then I’m working twice as much on the same job and spending twice as much on electricity to cook them. I had enough beans for a double batch of the Southwest Stew recipe I’ll share in a moment and enough to put in my freezer for chili later on in the week.

I did the same with rice after I had the beans going. I knew I would need brown rice for the next couple of meals so I got a double batch of rice cooking.

After the beans and rice were started I cut up an 8# pork roast that I had bought from Costco....

I took half of the meat and put it in my crockpot and made Orange Pork. This is similar to orange chicken but made with pork instead. The recipe does not make that glazed type orange sauce, but rather is more of a liquid sauce that goes perfect over rice. Which is how I served it. I was able to serve half of it for dinner the night I made it and put the other half in a zip lock bag and put it in the freezer for a future meal..

Crockpot Orange Chicken (or Pork)

2#’s chicken or pork meat, cut up into bite size pieces
1 cup water
3T orange juice concentrate (frozen orange juice concentrate before being made into orange juice. If you don’t have this, use 1 cup orange juice in place of the water and o.j. concentrate)
¼ cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3T soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
½ t minced ginger root
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
3T cornstarch
2T water

Put chicken or pork in crockpot. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water. Pour over chicken or pork in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. About 15 to 30 minutes before serving combine cornstarch & water and add to crockpot, stir and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve over brown rice.


After I had the orange pork going I took the rest of the pork and made a double batch of Southwest Stew. When the beans had finished cooking I mixed everything together in a large pan. Since I had my crockpot already in use I put the sw stew in my roaster oven to simmer. Also the single version of this recipe fills a 6 quart crockpot up pretty full and I was making a double batch so the roaster oven was a better option for me.

When it was done cooking I put half in the fridge for eating the next night and the other half in a zip lock bag for freezer. I served this meal over rice as well.

Southwest Stew

2 lb boneless pork cut up into cubes
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 cans diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups cooked beans of your choice (pinto, red, black, etc)
2T chili powder
2t cumin
1t salt

Combine all ingredients and put in crockpot. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

A couple days later as I was preparing dinner I again worked to save some time. I had planned on a hamburger potato casserole in the crockpot for that night’s dinner and was planning to make chili the following night.

I cooked up 5#’s of hamburger with 2 large onions all chopped up and added. I began by assembling the casserole. It was an easy recipe. Everything is put in the crockpot, stirred and then topped with a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes (the “southern” style, meaning they are little cubes). Then it is cooked and towards the end topped with cheese…

Crockpot Hamburger Potato Casserole

2lbs hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 cup cream (or half n half)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 16oz package frozen hash brown potates, “southern” style, meaning little cubes
1 to 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

In a large frying pan, cook hamburger with onion until meat is no longer pink and onion is soft. Add to crockpot. Add Rotel tomatoes, cream and salt & pepper. Top with hasbrowns. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. In the last hour, top with cheese.

After that was going I assembled my chili for the next day. I had the cooked hamburger that I added to a ziplock bag, then I added the beans (made previously, frozen, then defrosted for this recipe), and the remaining ingredients for my chili. This could have easily been frozen at this point but I knew I would be using it the next day so I just stuck the whole thing in the fridge. The next morning before I left the house for the day I poured it all into crockpot, set it on low, and headed out the door knowing dinner was all taken care of.

Crockpot Chili
2#’s hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pepper, chopped (any type: green, red, yellow)
1 cans (14oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup sliced celery
5 cups cooked beans (reserve some of the bean broth)
1T hot pepper sauce, such as the brand Tabasco
1 ½ t salt

In a large frying pan cook hamburger, onions and garlic until meat is no longer pink and onions are soft. Put in crockpot. Add remaining ingredients. Add 1 to 2 cups of the reserved bean broth. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

If you would like to make this into a freezer meal, combine all ingredients in a gallon size ziplock bag, seal, label, and freeze.



  1. All of these recipes sound excellent! I was just wondering on the Orange Pork recipe - you said to use 1/2 cup minced ginger root. That seems like an awful lot to me. Is that correct? I am definitely going to make these recipes!

    1. Yikes! Thanks for catching that Amy.. It is 1/2 teaspoon.. :) I fixed it!

      Crystal :)

  2. These recipes look great! Thanks for sharing! Jamie :)

  3. You always have the best recipes and tips - thanks again!

  4. These recipes look great!
    Did you use chili powder or any other spices in the chili?

  5. Do you already have your beans soaked overnight or do you not soak at all, it sounds like you just put them on and cook?

    1. Jennifer, I don't soak my beans. I never have unless I plan on cooking them in the crockpot or canning them. Otherwise, there really is no point in the soaking. Plus I would always forget to soak them! LOL.. or decide a change in the menu last minute.. I also always salt my beans.. another typical, no, no.. but it does not make hard beans, it makes very good tasting beans! The only thing that will cause beans not to cook is adding any kind of acid type foods (such as tomatoes) before the cooking time is done.

  6. For the orange chicken, the instructions say to put the water in at the very end with the cornstarch. Is it really 1 cup plus the 2 tablespoons? or did you mean for the 1 cup water to go in on the initial cook and the 2 T to be mixed with the cornstarch?

    1. The 2T are mixed with the cornstarch at the end to thicken the juices.

  7. I was interested in your chicken pasta IP recipe - can't seem to find it. Sounds good.

    1. Do you mean the one I mentioned in today's post? If so, it was an experimental recipe and I need to tweak it a bit.. Then I'll be sharing 🙂


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