Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meal Planning

Susan recently posted on meal planning, which reminded me that I have wanted to do the same. When the baby was born I enjoyed several weeks of visiting family and no need to figure out dinner. Then we got back from vacation and I felt I was suddenly thrust into everyday life with no real warning.

I was expected to care for two pre-schoolers and a newborn, keep the house in an acceptable state, feed everyone, and also help with book-keeping for our business? This was certainly unreasonable. Nevermind that I was very excited to welcome our third baby into this world, and still plan on having more children. How does a mother do it? Nobody gave me the book. Thankfully Charlie was very understanding, and totally happy with my traditional (very healthy) meal stand-in: quesadillas and popcorn.

Enter my blessed sister-in-law Kelli, mother of four. She was a great encouragement over the first couple of months (and continues to be). She told me how much easier things get once you start planning almost everything and referred me to this free download: Simplifying Your Domestic Church. Chapter 6 on Menu Planning is what helped me.

Christy's Thoughts Before Menu Planning:

"Arrg, it's 4:30 and I have to make dinner, again."
"What can I make with the ingredients on hand? Huh, I'm guessing I can't make anything palatable with bananas and garlic."
"Okay, everyone is down for naps and I think I can sit down for a while...oh wait, I have to make dinner."
"Maybe someone will call and invite us out."
"Maybe Charlie will suggest pizza."
"Maybe nobody will be hungry for dinner."
"Maybe they won't mind quesadillas and popcorn one more time."

It was a general state of dread every afternoon. Because, to top it all off, and you may not have guessed this, I am not a good cook. I mean, I am not a "natural" cook. I need everything written down for me with exact measurements. I am not a girl who can saunter into the kitchen and whip up a meal in 30 minutes. Not even with Rachel Rae's help.

Enter my lifesaving menu plan. It took an hour or two the first time I planned it all out, but my life has changed.

Christy's Thoughts After Menu Planning:
"What's on the schedule for dinner tomorrow? Pulled-pork sandwiches? Oh, I can defrost that meat tonight!"
"Oh, I'm making chicken pot pie tonight. The boys are playing great this morning, I'll just make the filling now."
"Yay, it's leftover night. I can just whip this up into something a wee bit different and add a salad. Voila! Dinner is ready."

A few random "meal plan" related thoughts:
- If I have a dish that requires cooked chicken, I can cook the chicken in the crock pot. I just need at least half a cup of liquid (like broth) and for chicken that normally takes 30-40 minutes in the oven, it's about 6-8 hours on low, 4-6 hours on high.
- I plan theme nights during the week: Mexican, Italian, Cook's choice, crock pot night, etc.
- I have been planning one leftover night, and one leftover lunch - and everything gets eaten. No waste! yay!
- One night is still my old standby - yup, quesadillas and popcorn.
- I feel so free.

Now I just have to get the rest of the house all figured out.

4 comments:

Kelli said...

You inspire me! I love the brilliance of this plan and the freedom it offers. Someday in the future I pray that I will need this advice, please perfect the process and remember it all to tell me in the future. Deal?

joysnatcher said...

I'll make all the mistakes and then pass on the non-mistakes to you! I'm so glad you're reading...ahem, where's your blog? I'm dying to see a South Africa themed adventure.

Anonymous said...

Oh Gosh you have made me laugh!!! Ok...now more supposed wisdom from the life experiences of Susan. When cooking your crock-pot chicken put extra pieces of chicken on the sides of the whole bird. You can shred those down the next day and make enchilada's. When browning ground beef for tacos cook another batch and do sloppy joe's. One last one...when cooking pasta boil extra and make a casserole like spaghetti pie for the next night. I could go and on...sorry. 16 years of experience shouldn't go to waste. Good Luck!! Susan aka 102 Cardinal

joysnatcher said...

Susan, you're a wealth of knowledge! Thanks for your tips. Keep 'em coming.

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