Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Organized Mom Series: Part 3 ~ Meal Planning

Find Part 1 ~ Maximize Your Mornings {here}
 and Part 2 ~ Schedules {here}

This one may seem like a pain in the tush, but it makes life much easier!
I may be an organization-nerd, but it does have its rewards.  This is one of them.  I've long been a menu planner of some sort.  It was rather crude for many years, but worked fine while my family was smaller. Feeding a family of six, however, requires some organization in order to avoid fast food outings and frozen pizzas.  Trying to provide healthy food also requires planning.  Feeding a family of 6 healthy food?  Well, you get the picture.

"She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."  Proverbs 31: 15-17

I mentioned in the first two posts of this series (about mornings and schedules) that I plan time for planning.  That may sound funny - but our days, homeschooling and meals all require a bit of planning in order for things to run smoothly.  I spend five minutes each morning planning my day.  Since we have schedules in place, its quick and only requires me to think about things outside of our normal routine and things on my (never-ending) to-do list. 

I also spend about an hour each week planning meals. 

There are many blogs that discuss in great detail how and why to plan meals.  Check out my Homemaking Help tab at the top for some good links. 

I'm sure you will be shocked to learn I use a *binder* for meal planning!  {I warned you about the binders}
I keep my most-used recipes in the binder along with weekly meal plan sheets - which are just 'worksheets' I created on the computer that lists each day, a space for the meals (and page # from a cookbook when necessary) as well as a separate column for prep work needed.  So, if I'm making something on Tuesday that requires meat to be thawed, I add "thaw meat" in the "prep" box for Monday.  That way when Tuesday at 5pm rolls around, I don't have to waste time thawing meat or thinking up Plan B!  Because many of the soaked grain foods I make require several days to prepare (when you count making yogurt, soaking the grains and then actually cooking the food), this prep column is a huge 'think-saver' for me! :)
This is the food prep I do in the mornings while preparing/cleaning up breakfast.  I also *try* to prep lunch and snacks then as well.  I've found it saves time, keeps clean-up throughout the day to a minimum and just generally makes the day run smoother. 

The menu isn't set in stone - I frequently move things around based on time, mood, etc.  But, if its planned, I know I have all the necessary ingredients on hand and conveniently, I don't have to think as much.  Which you may have noticed is the driving force for me!  :) {I'm pretty sure that babies suck brain cells - and do so at an increasing rate the further down the birth order they are, so after 5 babies & turning 40 in December, my brain cells are in short supply!!}  It also makes it simple for Ed on the weekends to jump in and help out with meals.  Most Saturdays, he makes breakfast for the kids - 'cause he's dreamy and amazing like that - and our meal plan makes it easy for him to know what to prepare.

As I'm scheduling, I keep my calendar handy and consider our schedule for each day.  We generally go to the 8:30 service at church on Sunday mornings, so Sunday breakfasts are fast & simple.  Tuesdays this fall we won't be home for dinners, due to kids' activities, so I will be planning take-along meals (using Easy Lunch Boxes! These babies are a homeschooler's dream, cause I don't know very many homeschoolers that spend all day at home! Go figure.).  If we are entertaining or going to someone else's house for dinner - that is reflected on my plan.  And you can bet, I schedule snacky lunches!!  I also plan to use left overs.  Once the plan is in place, making a grocery list is a breeze!  {The shopping, on the other hand ... well ... that's a whole 'nother story ...}
All of this planning takes about an hour.  But it saves me much more than that throughout the week by not having to think about what to do for every.single.meal, by streamlining food prep, not spending more time or money than necessary at the store, and by not hitting the drive thru more often than necessary. 

{Funny just how often Chic Fil A is necessary}  

I've found planning a week at a time works best for me - and my meal plan runs from Thursday to Wednesday (because Wednesday is my grocery shopping day). I know some moms that like to plan two weeks at a time or even a month at a time. There are lots of moms who cook once a month and use food from the freezer for meals.  There are whole cookbooks, websites and blogs devoted to that idea!  Some moms double everything they make and freeze the extra for another meal.  Its not double the work, because you are already cooking.  The important thing is finding a streamlined process that makes feeding your family

Choose a plan and see if it doesn't save you lots of time and energy!  {And by energy, I mean the kind that requires your noggin}


Stacey Webster said...

My shopping day is Monday (go figure)...but it always seems by Friday, I don't want what I've bought/planned to eat....any suggestions for that?
And our house hates left-overs, we are gonna have to change that! Mommy is tired! :)
Thanks for the other tips--I like the "prep" idea, I am usually like darn it, the chicken is frozen---let's go get something.

Angela @ The Sustala (7-1=) Six said...

Stace -
My only suggestions would be to plan a few days at a time (and either try to anticipate what you'll want/need from the store - or shop more often...which may actually work really well in Brunei!) - or suck it up and eat it anyway ;)
As for left overs...maybe try making them into something else? Here are some ideas: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/08/27/top-7-things-to-do-with-leftover-food-scraps/

Exum Family said...

All of these posts are kicks in the pants to me - things that I know I need to be doing but haven't sat down to "get 'er done!" I'm a major homemade food girl. I make nearly everything from scratch - yes, bread and yogurt too. Some of those things I have worked into my schedule in a way that i don't have to think about it much, but it could be a lot better. I know that meal planning will save money and time. I sort of do it, but not in the way you suggest. Oh! Lord help me!

Angela @ The Sustala (7-1=) Six said...

Adrienne, You are too sweet and so funny! I am a huge believer is game-changers. By that, I mean, new babies, moves, big life changes are grounds for just doing the nitty gritty. Your kiddos are obviously well adored and that is 9/10 of the job! I'm glad the posts have been helpful. I'm always amazed that God can use me (with all my junk!!)! :) Hope you are doing well!!