Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meal Planning

Recently a friend asked me if I planned meals and I was happy to enthusiastically tell her I did. I relayed this story to her:

I was sitting at the counter one evening either working painfully slowly or lamenting about working on it or procrastinating altogether about my meal planning when it occurred to me that this should not be an issue in my life. I have been cooking/baking/providing meals every day for 18+ years. Sitting here with this kind of attitude wasn't doing me any good. That thought cut all my excuses to the quick and I decided to put a stop to it once and for all. 

So here are the tools I use and how I meal plan.

First off, figure out what to have for supper tonight. Make sure that is taken care of. I mean, stop reading this right now and go figure it out if you have to. This idea is from FlyLady.

Second, print off the Dinner Menu from Paperworks or assemble some writing material for planning for about a month.

Third, look at your activity calendar. Its important to note what days you might need specific meals or types of meals. Since Thursday is both basketball practice and speech, having Parmesan Chicken Strips that I hand bread isn't going to work. I want a casserole that can be ready to go or reheated once the late stragglers come in. 

Fourth, start writing in meals. Write specifically and as much as you need. Don't think you will remember where that recipe is located when you get to it two weeks later- example: honey glazed pork chops/Nourished app, etc. Go about it any way you want but write it out and do it fast. Fill in as many meals as you can right then. Later you can fill in the blanks. Don't over think it. You can do this!

My rating system: a star means definitely make again, a bullet points means maybe, an x means never again (and I get rid of the recipe)

Fifth, assemble your shopping list. Use whatever you want for that. On a very rare occasion do I write out my shopping list. When I do, its because I'm planning something bigger, like family coming for an extended stay with many meals or my brain just isn't clicking and I've got to write it out. However, I always use ZipList for my final go to the store list.

I'm quite excited about ZipList! 
It's an app that functions as a recipe box and a grocery list maker (You can also add other lists, too.) so you have it with you always.
It's a recipe clipper that you can tag and organize. This is an online function in which it will capture the recipe on the webpage you are on, make the ingredient list for you and allows you to decide what you need to purchase.
These two functions sync between each other.

Confused? Don't be. Go to, create an account and add the recipe clipper to your toolbar (like the Pin It button for Pinterest). Also download the free app to your smartphone and get those synced. Now visit a webpage with a recipe you want to make. Hit the Recipe Clipper button and a box should pop up with the recipe in it and usually (but not always) a picture. From there you can tag the recipe- chicken, oven baked, etc.- whatever tags you want to use. Or add the recipe to the calendar feature it has if you want.) Or add ingredients to your shopping list. It will split out what you might need and what you might already have but no matter you can add what you need from whichever list.
Clipping the recipe allows a couple of things to happen more easily. You have not only the ingredient list/shopping list with you, you also have the recipe with you. I've found this to be handy on several occasions when traveling or when I need refreshing with how that recipe is made. Also, with the tags you can pull up, say, only crock-pot recipes for better meal planning. 

Sixth, go shopping. Sometimes I will shop for only a week's worth of meals at a time, sometimes I will shop for meals for everything I have planned. (I almost never plan an entire month at a time.) I generally go to the grocery store once a week because of fresh produce since that is always gone first and I only have so much fridge space for it.

This isn't a post on how to save money on groceries. It's how to plan for feeding yourself or your family every day and not let it stress you. Sort of like my training plans where I don't want to think, I just want to run and get it done, it's the same with meals. I can't let it consume more of my time and energy then it should. 

A few last tips

  • Make sure to plan "normal food" at least once a week. "Normal food" is Ben's way of saying "Please make regular spaghetti and not only Mexican Beef with Spaghetti Squash." My kids are good sports and I think stretching their taste buds is a good thing but I have more willing kids when I keep "normal food" in regular rotation.
  • Clean out your fridge. Starting with the condiments and only one shelf at a time, take them all out. First check the expiration date. Toss if it's past. {gross} Wipe the shelf out and put the rest back. Keep the jellies together, the salad dressings together, etc. Do the same for the main compartment. Unless it's a leftover that you will eat for lunch or that is supper tonight- toss it! Wipe the shelf off and move on. Top to bottom. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see what you can get done. 
  • Do the same for your freezer. Wrap properly and label it well. Toss unkept/unmarked/freezer burned/suspicious looking items. I did this last week and it took me less than a half hour total even though I split up the fridge and freezer work into two separate times. 
  • Make a list of what is in your freezer and meal plan off of those items. If you know what you have then you'll use it. It's also budget friendly.
  • Do the same for your pantry/cabinet items sometime. (Do fridge/freezer first)
  • "It's leftover night, honey. What do you want? We've got steak, chicken, pasta…" The Incredibles movie is maybe my favorite Pixar movie. Leftovers. First off, make sure you leave a meal for them- maybe Sunday night or Saturday lunch or even lunch the next day. Then make the leftovers consumer friendly. Store them properly. In containers. With lids. And labels. Eat them (within a week or less) or toss them. Nothing gets pushed to the back of the fridge without you knowing it. Plan for them. Make a giant pot roast for a meal then shred the meat for something else you plan to eat in the next day or so or freeze it (add it to the freezer list).  
I'm obviously a list/planner girl. I really can't imagine how some function without either. Even so, I have to let that not overrun me. The point isn't the planning and the lists. The point is caring for my family. You can do this!

Alrighty, I'm wordy and bossy today. I don't mean to be. Now it's your turn. What works for meal planning for you? And, what are you eating tonight?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lucy In Da House

It's been a long while since I updated you on Lucy. So in honor of her turning two at the end of this month, here's what she's been up to lately.

She is in the house a lot this winter. It has been so cold and last week when school was cancelled because of the bitter temps, she spent her days inside.

She keeps herself occupied licking everything- the floor, chairs, the open dishwasher, something in the mudroom closet. Lick, lick, lick.

We have toys for her- chicken flavored, bacon flavored, different textures- all that. She gets them all out of her tub where we keep them and keeps them in one big pile where she can chew on them as she chooses. Every night we I pick them up. Every morning she pulls them out. I'm going to try to train her to put them away. Any tips?

She loves with a capital L Nerf darts. If those are laying about, which they are, they are everywhere- I even found one in my kitchen utensil crock- she snatches them faster than a Kong filled with peanut butter, cheese and bacon! About a dozen bullets have met their fate in the jaws of Lucy. She's not really sorry either. Just look at her. She's more sorry she got caught.

She also loves things with squeakers in them. If you want to keep her occupied and have a big mess, give her a stuffed anything with a squeaker hidden inside. Consequently, we no longer buy her these kinds of toys.

The kids have learned that a warm day means its a poop-scooping day. 

But if you want to love her, rub her belly and try to take a selfie with her. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Paperworks Months and Weeks

Sorry I totally disappeared on you for a couple of days. I didn't mean to but it happens. 

Last time we met, I shared with you the planning system, Paperworks, I use by Emily at JDC. Starting today, I'll show you how I use it.

Right off, I print the monthly calendar. I pull up the family icalendar and jot down general things. No times unless its something very specific I should remember. I need the activity of writing to help me feel in touch with the month. (A total aside note: Writing was one way I helped my students learn their music. I told them I wanted as many senses involved as possible. If I could have made their music scratch and sniff, I would have.) It may look like overkill to have a digital calendar and a paper calendar and for some it is but this is what works for me.

Then I print out the weekly calendar. This is where I plan out more details. Basketball practice at 6. Overnight kids on Tuesday. Clean out fridge on Wednesday. 5 miles on Monday. It all gets put down here. I use the bottom portion for notes and goals. Sure, I've got this in my Wunderlist app (the productivity app I'm currently using, free version) but it helps me breakdown my week. 

I love the Wunderlist app because it's where I collect my thoughts and to-do's and always have it with me. However because of that very reason, it tends to collect my to-do's and gets very overwhelming. The paper week by week, keeps me focused. I don't have to look from this thing to that thing and get distracted (as much). Tuesday is a 4 mile tempo run and in the kitchen I need to wipe down the cabinets. I want simple and clean and get it done kind of mentality. (This is also why I like training plans and house-cleaning plans. More on those pending another post.)

I try to get my planning done on Sunday. It feels right to do it then. Then they go in a 3-ring binder which I can grab and cross off when completed. When the week is done, I transfer anything I need to and then throw it away. (There is a day planner page in the new planning system but I won't be using it.) There is plenty I don't write in. I don't write in personal Bible study time. I don't write in "read 15 minutes to the boys". I can't write it all in; it would feel to stifled and regimented. 

It would be very easy to focus just on the to-dos and the cross-it-offs and the like. That's my kind of personality. It takes work for me to balance it all out. I was directed somehow to this post by Ashley Ann about how she makes it all work out. She would first tell you it doesn't always all work out. (And my friends, I think we need to comes to terms with that. For real. There will be some unchecked tasks.) After I read her four goals for each week, I have started trying to incorporate them into each week. In case you don't hop over to her post, here is what she says: "Each week I give myself one goal in the following areas: Home Organization, Project completion, Something for Someone else, Each Kid." Ashley Ann from Under the Sycamore blog

 I'm an extremist and I'll go uber-tight or completely lacksadaisical. I need to infuse grace into this Martha mentality of mine, be it Martha of the Martha and Mary duo or Martha Stewart. At the same time, I don't think Jesus for once dismissed Martha's work. She just happened to miss the mark in one particular instance (that gets recorded for all time in Scripture). It's just that when Jesus happens to be reclining at your home and your sis is soaking Him all up, you can't exactly get Jesus to bend to your will because you tattled on her. This may be earth-shaking news only to me but people are people, not projects. 

I'm all over the place it seems but I'm still in process of figuring it out. Does this make sense to anyone else? I'd love to here from you. What encouragement do you have for me, for us? What's working for you? Here's how Emily uses portions of her Paperworks.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Paper Planner

Hi there! Happy New Year! 


Okay, so it's the 9th. It looks like I did write something last week. But I didn't wish you a Happy New Year.

My brain is in a fog. It has been something crazy cold here so the kids have had school cancelled one day and a late start another day and a regular scheduled early out day. I can handle my kids being home, its the routine thing that has swung me for a loop. There has been no routine. I think things should settle back down now. Unless we get more snow.

Now the main point of today's post is hopefully going to evolve into a series of what I use to keep me on top of things. I'd call it an organization series but that sounds so formal. I'm gonna share with you what I use and you can pull from it and use what you like. How does that sound?

I'm going to start with my paper organizer. I really like Emily's, from Jones Design Company, Paperworks. She has had a monthly paper subscription and has re-vamped it for 2014. It's a sharp product and I get excited to see the new design for each month. 

I think that is a major key to finding something you like and sticking with it. You've had plenty of experience with organization tools. If you're unmotivated to use it because it looks worn and tattered by month four, you might be less likely to use it. If you get through two months and find that it is a whole lot of extra, then you're not going to use it. Or if you can't stand looking at the same thing for twelve months, you are going to ignore it all together. I could talk myself out of that last one, telling myself to suck it up, but why? Emily's designs energize the start of each month which is a great motivator especially when the months can whir by so fast.

Paperworks is offered in two formats, each a monthly subscription. There is the digital  which is print your own and the print + digital, which a set is printed and mailed to you plus digital for your own printing. For just a couple more days, the Paperworks digital will be on sale so head over and take a look.

In the next posts, I'll share what I use to help me clean and to manage meals. I hope you are encouraged in them. I think we can all use more encouragement to keep doing what we're doing and new tricks to make it less complicated. I'll also try to include some actual pictures instead of all links.

I should also let you know that this is what I use. I'm not getting paid and wasn't asked to share my opinion with you by Emily. This is my own deal. Let me know what works for you.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Starting Anew

I felt my heart needed a good cleansing with my last post. It's not bad to wrestle with tough things. I think that's another lie of this world: either we shouldn't wrestle or that we should feel ashamed because we do wrestle. 

But our wrestling should lead us back to God because only He can truly answer our struggles. If we're going to fall, fall into Him. This is what Ann Voskamp shared a few days ago, right when I was at my lowest.

After reading that I encourage you to spend some time reading this next one by her about starting out new. 

I hope you'll read through her thoughts. They take time to chew and swallow and you'll want to go faster but don't. 

New Year's Blessings, friends.