Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meal Planning for the Month

I've been meal planning by the month since last January, except for this past November, December and January when I went on a self proclaimed strike for no other reason than November was my birthday month, December was busy with Christmas stuff and January I was mad at winter for failing to pay attention to the calendar and refusing to dump snow on me.

But, I digress, back to meal planning for the month. I did plan the meals for the month of February and March, fearing a mutiny from the guys in my life, and I must admit, it feels good to be back in control of the world of dinner again.

My method for meal planning is simple, but it does take me a while.

The tools I use:

  • A computer with my Excel spreadsheet of meal plans, broken out month by month

  • My calendar - I am very much a month at a glance kind of girl. I MUST be able to see the entire month, I could never use those "look at these two days at a time" type calendars. My calendar has everything on it - work stuff, home stuff, doctor stuff, after school activity stuff. It is my lifeline. And it's all handwritten. I don't know if I'll ever be able to go digital.

  • Any cook books or magazines that might have a recipe I want to try

  • My Recipe Book

  • Pen and Paper

    Once all the tools are gathered I open my calendar and make sure that I have listed the days and dates correctly in my spreadsheet. Don't laugh. I've messed up that step before and its thrown off a weeks worth of meals carefully planned around our schedules.

    These are the things I consider when planning the meals:

  • Are there days I am working late?

  • Are there days Michael is working late?

  • Do we have anything planned for any of the evenings?

  • Will the kids be with us or visiting their mom?

  • What else is going on that might impact the plan? (holidays, out of town, etc.)

  • Each of the guys gets to recommend at least one meal each month so I work that into the plan

  • Every few months one of the kids will get to pick a recipe out and help me make it. Those dinner making dates almost always happen on a weekend when we have more time.

  • I look at the months schedule in it's totality and plug in leftover nights and/or out to dinner nights as necessary.

  • What do I have in the freezer/pantry/fridge that needs to be used up?

  • Finally, I take into consideration the typical weather for the month and what fresh produce I can get.

    Taking all this information I start plugging meals into my spread sheet. I will choose a slow cooker meal for the days that we have something to do in the evening so dinner is ready when we get home. I might choose make at home pizza for a quicker dinner option if one of us is working late. The meals that take longer to prepare, lasagna for instance, I'll schedule for a weekend. I tend to plug in salads for times when I know the boys will not be home for dinner (one will eat salad, the other not so much). I also (not always successfully) try to spread out the red meat consumption as well as our Italian, Chinese and Mexican style meals. I'm sure none of us would like to eat Mexican four out of seven days in a week.

    Tip: I often go back to previous months and even to last year to see what types of meals I prepared to get inspiration.

  • If I'm using a particular recipe I'll note in my spreadsheet where the recipe is located in the notes section of that day. It could be on my computer file, in my hard copy file or in a cook book. This makes finding the recipe so much easier when the time comes to make that meal.

    After all the days are planned I create a "weekly" grocery list for each week. This list contains the fresh ingredients I know I'll need that week for our meals - meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, etc. Because each weekly list is on it's own piece of paper, I put the following week's list up on the refrigerator and everyone can add to it if there are items we run out of. This can work really well if everyone knows this is the plan.

    Once the weekly grocery list is complete, I do the mammoth grocery list. This is our once a month, blow out, big, multiple store shopping trip that usually takes a good part of a Saturday or Sunday. This is when I buy all the paper products, staples, non perishable items. I also buy bulk meat at Costcto or Sam's and Michael separates it and seals it with our food saver air sucker outer system. When I do this shopping list I go through all the recipes/menus checking to see what ingredients I already have in the house.

    Next I post the monthly menu on this handy board with a chalk pen. It's a great reference for the family and the best part is that sometimes dinner is already started when I get home!

    Finally I put the menu plan into my phone along with the weekly grocery lists.

    Menu planning can be tedious at the time you are working on it but it sure beats the midday, at work panic of "what are we going to have for dinner tonight?"

    What is Wrong With This Picture?

    You tell me...

    It's JANUARY! Flowers are not supposed to bloom in January!

    It's supposed to look like this in January!

    Oh I miss thee!

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    My Sock Basket Runneth Over

    In our laundry room I have a basket. This basket is where all the single socks go. This basket is also out of my reach so I have to stand back, aim and hope the sock makes it into the basket.

    Because the basket is out of my reach I admittedly don't match up the socks as often as I should. My husband saw socks poking out of the top of the basket and told me we should play a game called "Good Day Mate." I laughed it off and mumbled something about getting to it later in January.

    A few days later both sets of our parents and his sister came in to town to celebrate Christmas and New Years with us. Our families arrived within 30 minutes of each other and after hugs and hellos we sat down to catch up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Michael standing in the doorway. With the basket. I looked at him and shook my head - horrified that his mother would find out that I did not match up her grandson's socks! He smiled and walked into the room and announced that we were going to play a game...all of us and the game was called "Good Day Mate." He proceed to explain that he was going to put the basket of socks in the middle of the floor and we were to start matching them. At the end the person with the most matches would win a prize.

    Though they were laughing at him, the mothers and sister in law quickly jumped in and started matching the socks. The boys managed to disappear and the fathers sat off to the side watching us like we were nuts. Some of mine were the first to go. It's really easy to match up socks with patterns.

    The more difficult ones were the 300 or 400 white men/boys socks and my plethora of solid black socks. Suddenly I heard calls of "do you have any black socks with gold a toe?" and "this sock has some kind of pattern on it but a narrow band at the you have a match?" And to my shock and dismay and secret pleasure socks were being matched!

    I looked over and saw that my dad had all these white socks laid out in front of him and my father in law, who claims to be a bit color blind, was helping him match up this pile of socks. My mother in law had started a pile of white socks with holes in them and was hiding them to prevent my husband and father in law from wanting to keep them for oil changes or something (don't get me wrong, I'm all about re-purposing, but my dear husband has BAGS of rags in the garage so I was absolutely fine with this slight of hand!)

    When all was said and done we had matched up almost 150 pairs of socks. My mother asked if I just went out and bought new socks instead of matching the ones I had. I was a bit sheepish about it all and had no idea we had that many socks. I'm still not sure exactly what my mother in law thought of me, but it sure is nice to have a fabulous selection of socks again!

    The finished product. Don't let the bag fool you. The bag is 3' tall and was at least 2' filled!

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    This Could Be Bad!

    I can't find the five disks that have all our wedding pictures on them. That's why there were no more pictures posted this week. I'm sure I put them somewhere very safe. Too safe!!!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Happy Anniversary!!!

    Two years ago today I married my wonderful husband. It has been a fabulous 24 months of creating our new family of four and putting our home together. There have been vacations and home improvements and learning and laughing and a lot of loving one another. I'm the happiest I've ever been. In honor of our wedding anniversary I'll be sharing some of my favorite wedding pictures this week.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Down Days

    There is something great about a down day. After getting ready for Christmas the entire month of December, today was just a day to kick back and relax.

    I could not help but capture this great picture of the boys. They were sitting side by side laughing together as they looked at something on the computer.

    Hope your Sunday was great!

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Happy New Year!

    Well, I did it. I went an entire year without blogging at all! Hopefully 2012 will find blogging a regular part of my life.

    Every January I choose a focus word for the year. This year my word is "Comfort." I have decided I want to concentrate on making our home comfortable, giving comfort to the family and friends in my life and bringing comfort to others outside of my circle.

    So I have a word for the year and I've posted on my blog. 2012 is already off to a great start!