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Easy Menu Planning | cooking uncomplicated

Menu plan for fall

simple easy homemade family menu plan

I’m always so happy when the weather gets cool again. I do love the sun, but I also love how much soup simplifies dinner.

I’m going all out this week with soup three times! We’ll see if the family revolts by the end…


Bread makes the perfect companion to soup. Check out my new free resource, all about homemade bread:


Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: muffins & simplified smoothies
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: oatmeal with a topping buffet
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: apples & cheese & popcorn
  • Tuesday: easy homemade bread with peanut butter & honey, apples
  • Wednesday: bread, cheese, & apples
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese
  • Friday: leftover cornbread, fruit & veggies

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • Monday: chicken veggie soup & garlic toasts, spinach salad
  • Tuesday: burritos & mashed butternut squash
  • Wednesday: butternut apple soup, bread, coleslaw
  • Thursday: chili & cornbread, coleslaw
  • Friday: chicken fried rice
  • Saturday: baked potatoes w/ leftover chili & cheese

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

by Tracy Grossman

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

There’s something about fall that makes me want to put on some soup and bake homemade bread. We live in the middle of Iowa, where sultry hot summers make July and August baking unreasonable endeavors. So when that crisp air starts to linger through the mornings and socks are a source of comfort (and not suffocation) for your feet, it’s time to start up the oven once again.

I did not grow up making bread, but I married a man whose mother made bread for many years. As a result, I was able to sit under her teaching and learn “from an expert” how to make delicious bread. Over the years, I have tweaked, simplified, and changed the process, but I still remember how daunting bread making seemed when I first started. I have learned a few things about making bread that I will share with you, because it changed how I view the whole thing.

Bread making is not an exact science.

We live in an era where we don’t just use measuring cups to portion ingredients, but now culinary experts have graduated us to the use of scales. Our recipes read “42 ounces of flour” or whatnot. For bread? Totally unnecessary. At the core, what you are looking for is texture. Pick simple recipes, and let go of the anxiety of perfection.

People were making scrumptious bread long before they had kitchen scales available.

Bread-baking will not take

It seems like baking bread would be a really time-intensive, complicated process, but in reality, bread is something you can start and ignore most of the day. So, even though it takes many hours to make bread, they are not hours of active participation.

Prepare for imperfection in the process

I think it’s important to mention that this process is probably not going to go perfect the first time, every time. Baking bread can be a kind of art- or maybe like riding a bike. You might have a few flops – I certainly did when I started – burning whole batches or, in the wake of that trauma, pulling them too early, leaving the middle gooey and inedible.

But over time, you will get so good at it that you will be able to make bread with your eyes closed and one toddler tied behind your back. It’s a skill like any other, and to wield it well you need to practice, fail, and practice again.

How to make homemade bread, the easy way

How to make homemade bread

Here is my wordy, step-by-step tour through the bread-baking process.


Grab your biggest bowl and mix together warm water, sugar, yeast, and flour.

  • 3 cups warm (baby-bath temperature) water
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ Tb. yeast
  • ⅓ c sugar

Yeast thrives in warm environments and eats sugar, so start by mixing the yeast with these things. At this point, you aren’t worried about getting everything mixed together into a cohesive dough, you just want to start waking the yeast up.

Then I go away and do something else for 15-20 minutes. I start a load of laundry or read to a squirrelly preschooler, maybe. During this rest, the initial gluten strands form. You are letting chemistry do the hard work here. Ultimately, taking this break will cut down on the time required to knead the bread.



When you come back, mix in salt, oil, and the remaining flour.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 – 3 cups more white flour

Salt slows down the yeast, so adding it in now (instead of at the beginning) allows the yeast a head-start.

As for the additional flour, stir and add until the dough becomes too stiff to incorporate it all by spoon. Then, turn it out onto a clean, floured counter top, kneading the dough for a few minutes until it is not super sticky, and is all one lump of dough (rather than a gooey mess).

Then leave the dough in the bowl on your counter, covered with a towel, until it is doubled in size. This takes around 1-2 hours but is highly dependent on temperature. In the summer my dough rises extremely fast; in winter it takes much longer.


When the dough has doubled, squish all of the air out of the dough. Turn it back onto the counter and divide it into two.

Grease your loaf pans, shape your dough into two loaves, and plop them into the pans.

Then put the pans back on the counter and let them rise until they are slightly smaller than loaf-sized. They will grow a tiny bit more in the oven before the high temperature kills the yeast.



Preheat oven to 375* and bake your bread for 30-40 minutes.

When they are golden brown – maybe even a bit darker than you would think, take them out.

I always tip the first one out onto the cooling rack to see if the bottom is golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. If it isn’t, I stick it back in for a few more minutes. Better to be slightly overdone than doughy in the middle.  

After it is cooled, bread stores nicely in the fridge or freezer, wrapped in foil or plastic.

Bread-making is a process as much as it is a recipe

In the end, this process (mix, rest, knead, rest, shape, bake) is the same for many bread recipes. When you are armed with the method, you can wield any bread recipe.

Start with this recipe, maybe, or any bread recipe, for that matter, and make something scrumptious for dinner tonight or breakfast in the morning. Or, if you are like us…a mid-afternoon snack straight out of the oven. Through each batch you will learn something valuable (even if all you learn is that a toddler will take a fist-full directly from the top of your fresh loaf if allowed the opportunity).

The results of learning how to bake bread well are totally worth it. There’s just nothing that beats fresh homemade bread with butter (or Nutella) on a cool fall day.


Get the free printable recipe for simple homemade bread:

Do you bake your own bread? Or did you try it after reading this?  How did it go?

Tips & reality checks from my kitchen

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life – in my kitchen. ~

round button chicken

When you prepare and serve 21 meals a week, some bloopers and also some beauties are bound to occur.

This week was no exception.

Pretty Apples

how to menu plan 

If you give a boy an apple… and a knife…

Put the boy in charge of cutting apples, and they will be “geometric.” That is, he said to himself, “Let’s see how many different shapes I can make!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that no matter what shape they were, and even if they were all the same, they’d all still be geometric.

But he had a good time and he got the job done and the evidence was quickly destroyed.


how to menu plan 

My breakfast of late: scrambled eggs, greens with a little crumbled bacon, and a small dish of yogurt with blueberries.

Complete, delicious, and enough to carry my through a full, long morning of homeschooling my brood.

Not pictured: copious amounts of coffee.

What’s your breakfast of choice?


how to menu plan 

We had beef-flavored glazed carrots for dinner the other evening – all because I am lazy. But it turned out pretty well.

I’d had to brown some ground beef in my big pan, then I added it to the meal-to-be collecting in the crockpot. When it came time to prepare a side dish, I pulled out my staple shortcut: baby carrots.

I almost grabbed another pan, but then decided the beef bits would just add some flavor and might actually be good – it was a good hunch! Not only did I have one fewer pan to wash, the big skillet was easier to clean for having some extra liquid simmer in it, and the carrots were delicious.

Try it sometime!

Real Helpful

how to menu plan 

Breakfast is such a linchpin to the rest of our day, but it’s easily overwhelming to have to begin the day by feeding all the troops. At least at our house, it can get a little crazy and chaotic. People are hungry, people are groggy, people need to get going.

I’m so excited to be able to bring you some breakfast (and lunch!) tips from Tracy Grossman, a homeschooling mom of 5 (soon to be 6!) who took breakfast pandemonium into her hands and came up with a solution – a simplified solution, no less.

She will be sharing more about what she’s learned, what has worked, and other tips so we can all tame that breakfast beast.

You’ll want to sign up so you don’t miss anything – some of these tips and tricks will be delivered only to email subscribers:

I’ve been using Tracy’s versatile muffin recipe weekly for over a month now. She has some good stuff coming your way!

Life in Photos

feeding people, educating people, managing people, loving people – see snapshots of it all on Instagram:

What we’re eating this week

simple easy homemade family menu plan

Here we are, starting a new week with a plan to eat – 3 meals every single day! It feels good to start with a plan.

Not only am I starting with a plan this week, but Saturday I was also able to make 2 dozen rolls and 4 dozen muffins, as well as our Sunday whole wheat cinnamon rolls, which will ease up not only the prep time for meals during the week, but also the mental effort required to keep everyone fed.


Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesday: simple oven pancakes
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: muffins and yogurt
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: pasta & peas, sprinkled cheese is optional + pears
  • Tuesday: peanut butter and jam on rolls + pears
  • Wednesday: muffins, string cheese, salami, pears
  • Thursday: rice with carrots & peas, topped with butter or cheese
  • Friday: leftover pizza from Thursday’s dinner

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  • Monday: skillet chicken, salad, potatoes
  • Tuesday: tuna noodle casserole, salad
  • Wednesday: butternut squash soup, salad, bread
  • Thursday: homemade pizza by the 10-year-old
  • Friday: beef & broccoli stir-fry
  • Saturday: baked potatoes w/ toppings

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!

Menu planning for hot summer days

simple easy homemade family menu plan

It’s going to be another hot week here with temps over 100 many days. I know I’m not going to feel like cooking, and so a menu plan is all the more necessary. I might still have to make dinner, but at least I don’t have to think about it.


Breakfasts This Week

  • Monday: Sunday leftovers with scrambled eggs
  • Tuesdays & Thursdays: German pancakes
  • Wednesdays & Fridays: muffins I made Saturday and put in the freezer, along with yogurt and blueberries
  • Saturday: Daddy-made pancakes
  • Sunday: whole wheat cinnamon rolls (made on Saturday)

Lunches This Week

  • Monday: chips & cheese
  • Tuesday: quick artisan bread, cheese, fruit & veggies
  • Wednesday: leftover bread from Tuesday, cheese slices, pepperoni, fruit & veggies
  • Thursday: muffins, cheese, and fruit
  • Friday: pb&j

Dinners This Week

Simplified Dinners eBook

  •  Monday: grilled chicken, salad, rice
  • Tuesday: Grandma’s tuna macaroni salad (recipe coming Thursday!)
  • Wednesday: frittata, biscuits, salad
  • Thursday: refried beans (homemade in the crockpot) & nachos, carrot salad
  • Friday: burritos (with leftover beans), salad
  • Saturday: hamburgers

Streamline menu planning, grocery shopping, and dinner cooking with Simplified Dinners!