A month of meals – Part 2

Step one in planning a month of meals is to figure out what you want to eat. Pretty basic.

Besides my usual cookbooks, I have a binder full of other recipes. Isn’t it beautiful?

Some of the recipes were handwritten by the person who gave it to me. Some of these are hole-punched and filed.

Some are printed off the computer.

Some were cut out of the newspaper and glued to printer paper.

Others were ripped from magazines.

For meal planning, I simply numbered a sheet of paper from 1 to 30 and started putting entrees next to the number. I prefer to go meatless on Fridays, so I marked 4 for that. I made sure certain favorites were included. Then I flipped through the books and recipe files for the rest. I’m planning for at least 4 recipes that I’ve never tried before.
One other resource that I had for meals was old calendars filled with menu plans. I’ve been planning meals a month at a time for over a year. I have been planning them, not executing them. There is a huge difference. My current scheme is all about setting myself up for success.
What has been my downfall in the past? Often, I knew what I wanted to make, but didn’t have the time that day to pull it off. Recently, I planned to bake boneless chicken thighs. Unfortunately, the chicken I bought was bone-in. I needed dinner in a half hour, but bone-in takes over an hour to cook. Instead, I was microwaving frozen spaghetti sauce and boiling noodles.
Often, I would forget that the dish I planned for 2 weeks away needed green onions or sour cream or something that I don’t always buy, but needs to be somewhat fresh. Dinnertime approaches and I’m missing key items.
Or I forget to pull the meat from the freezer and really don’t have time for it to thaw. Then I’m ordering pizza delivery. Or we rush to practice and swing through a drive-thru.
I’m hoping to avoid these situations more often by having meals as prepped in advance as possible, by buying all non-perishable ingredients needed at the beginning of the month, and by making now the shopping lists I’ll need for each week. If my Saturday routine has me going to the grocery store for perishables and pulling the week’s meals out of the freezer to begin thawing, I should minimize the need for emergency food. At least that’s the plan.
I decided today to take all those old calendars and put the entrees in a sortable list in a spreadsheet (it’s OK if you call me a dork). Interestingly enough, I had only 60 different entrees for over a year’s worth of eating. Now, one of them was “marinated chicken” which is not very specific – there are many different marinades. But the concept is the same. One was “salmon.” I use 2 or 3 different salmon recipes, typically. So there was some variety within those 60, but not much. I suspect that most families are the same. Family-tailored menu planning really isn’t complicated. Stick with what your family likes.
After I came up with 30 entrees, I filled them in on a blank calendar template (Sunday – Saturday columns and five rows for the weeks). Things that would take longer went on the weekends often. Easy cleanups went during the week so I won’t come home to a messy kitchen after baseball practice. I added side dishes, trying to vary things within each week. I also made out a basic schedule for breakfast and lunch, which I’ve never done before. We’ll see how the kids respond to that.
OK. That’s step one. That’s the easiest part. Next step: building the grocery list.

Local 5K

I’m very disappointed that this race will be the weekend we have booked out of town. If you are in the Savannah area, like to run 5Ks, and want to support a good cause, check it out. Proceeds are earmarked for the Warriors in Transition Unit at Ft. Stewart (my husband’s unit).

A month of meals – Part I

I do recommend, if you should ever make your own monthly meal plan, that you give yourself a few weeks to organize it. You could just jump in – as I have. But then you will find yourself on a Sunday night at a stopping point because you do not have key ingredients – like meat – and you will refuse to pay the local grocery store prices and since the cheaper options are too far away to conveniently visit on a school day, like Monday should be, you will be somewhat, but not entirely, chagrined.

Oh, and soccer practice starts tomorrow. Hooray.

Right now, of 30 meals, I have 15 (half!) as prepped as I can get them. Some, like crustless spinach quiche, can’t really be done in advance (and still taste good). Some were extremely easy to prep, like London Broil in a marinade. Others, like my beef stew, are ready to go (just make rolls).

In addition, I have another 7 in mid-prep. The meat for the chili is cooked. The corned beef for the Reuben’s is in the crock pot. The pot roast is marinading.

The remaining 8 require ingredients (8 simple items). I would have my husband stop at the store after work tomorrow, but it’s his birthday (and we have soccer practice). Perhaps he can go on Tuesday.

In the meantime, I will finish those other 7 recipes, and I have plenty of computer work to do. I’d like to make legible shopping lists for starters. And a nice looking menu. And directions for next time (like how much beef to brown, in total, and how much to leave raw, for the others recipes and what logical order to do things based on cooking time and available pots in my kitchen).

The menu is slated to begin next Sunday, so my goal is to do one last grocery trip for all the non-perishables I’ll need for the month on Friday or Saturday.

More later…

It’s what’s for dinner.

I actually don’t know what’s for dinner tonight. It’s still early.

But I DO know what’s for dinner in September. ALL September. And for breakfast and lunch, too.

Not only do I know what’s for dinner, I am in the midst of putting together all of the recipes I’ll need. And making grocery lists for all ingredients (separating them into “buy now” and “buy fresh” categories). And planning which things can be made in advance. And hopefully doing that pre-cooking or other prep work in the next few days.

When I told my husband these plans, he said that I was “crazy”…and “ambitious.” I asked which, and pointed out that “crazy” was an insult and “ambitious” was a compliment. He artfully dodged answering.

The project IS rather ambitious, and I’ve been working hard all day. My plan is to use this monthly menu three months in a row. While I’m using it, I’ll put together a winter menu to use three months in a row. Then a spring one, then a summer one. If I do this every quarter for three years, I’ll have a 12 month plan!

I do know that there are already books written with this sort of menu planning in mind, but I need to go with food my family eats. If I don’t make tacos at least 2 or 3 times a month, my oldest son will be upset. And if my kids have to face a whole month of casseroles or strange recipes, they will waste away until they resemble concentration camp survivors. I try to limit new recipes to once a week.

If I succeed, and I plan to succeed, I will not only not have to think about planning food for a month, I will surely save money on emergency dinners at the drive-through. We’ve got fall baseball and soccer and ballet starting next week and the week after. I need to get food on the table in a jiffy.

Adrenaline beats caffeine any morning

“Now that’s an ominous sign,” I told Bill as we stepped out the front door. It was 6:40 am and a full moon hovered just above the tree line.

After he pulled away, I went back in the house and headed into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I stopped dead in front of the refrigerator. Up on top, a snake perched, looking down at me.

I blinked. Do we have any plastic toy snakes, I pondered. Is it a prank of some kind? Am I seeing things?

It moved.

I screamed.

I immediately called Bill. “You have to come home! There’s a snake on top of the fridge!”

Had he been even 2 more minutes down the road, I would not have called him. But lucky me.

We tried to get a picture, but the resident 2 year old had exhausted my camera battery. And the zoom lens doesn’t reach from the other side of the kitchen.

I do not know how the thing got up there. I’m not sure I want to know.

Bill came home, captured the snake, and took it outside. What a guy.

What a day…and it’s only just beginning.

Path to perdition

I just dropped Fritz off to work on an Eagle project for Scouts.

So that he could let me know when to get him, I loaned him my cell phone.

You know what comes next, right?

First, we decide to get a “kids’ phone”. Then one phone doesn’t cut it, so he ends up with his own phone.

Then we buy a “kids’ car”. Then his own car.

Then he’s stealing our money to buy coke and we’re bailing his spoiled rotten little rear end out of jail and he refuses to hold a job and can’t pay the child support he owes on his three kids all by different women.

And all because I loaned him my cell phone.

Social Experimenting

If you or someone you know is in the military, you may be aware that a survey went out to (I believe) all members of the armed forces asking their opinions on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. In addition, 150,000 randomly selected spouses were sent a similar survey. I was one of those picked to provide feedback on the potential repeal.

Now, reasonable people agree that employers have the right to discriminate in hiring based on certain criteria. For example, a hospital may require that employees hired to be physicians actually have a medical degree and be certified by a board. A fire department may require that firefighters meet a certain physical fitness level. We WANT employers to discriminate on such a basis. Nobody wants his appendix removed by an 18 year old high school graduate. Nobody wants a firefighter with an impaired arm running into his burning house to retrieve his sleeping child.

But reasonable people may disagree on whether the military may use sexual orientation to discriminate. If they can do the job, physically and mentally, then they should be able to serve, many argue. This is the same argument for women serving in the military. The fact that these employees serve in extremely close quarters for long periods of time, go off for a year or more together away from their families, and that many of these jobs require supreme trust in each other and that lives are at stake, does not matter to some people. And that’s fine.

If repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell were merely a matter of allowing gays to serve in the military, we could restrict the discussion to civil liberties and justice. But it’s not “just” about gays serving in the military. Oh, no.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell questionnaire I received began innocuously enough. Select which things motivated my husband to serve. Would a repeal make my husband more or less likely to remain in the military. Would a repeal make me more or less likely to recommend military service to others. If there were a repeal, select the ways in which I would prefer to be educated about the changes. Select the resources I would use if I had questions or concerns about the repeal.

And then, the survey asked me about housing and how I would feel about living in a neighborhood with a gay couple. It asked me about resources, services and support systems for military families and if I would be more or less likely to use them if gay couples used them.

For those of you not in the military, I must explain a few things about military life and being a military dependent. A soldier gets a base salary. On top of that, the soldier receives special pay depending on his/her job and duty location. The soldier also receives something called BAS, which is a food allowance. Lastly, soldiers receive BAH, or a housing allowance. The BAS is a flat rate per soldier (enlisted get more than officers) and is not tied to family members. The BAH is based on rank and on marital status. The higher you are in rank, the more you get. Married soldiers get more than unmarried soldiers (you do not get more if you have children).

If a soldier lives in military housing (on or off post) he will not receive the BAH. The rent of a military house equals the BAH. Single soldiers (generally) live in single soldier housing. Married soldiers live in family housing. An unmarried soldier with children will live in family housing if the children live with him/her. Girlfriends and boyfriends of soldiers do not have the right to live in military housing. If you want to shack up, you live in civilian housing off post.

If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed, it seems that the military will be required to accept not just gay service members, but gay couples and families as well. What does that mean in the big picture?

Right now, gay marriage and/or civil unions are legal in only eight states and DC. Thirty-six states have made it illegal (thirty have it in their constitution). If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and gay service members are granted recognition of their partners as military dependents, that is the same thing as having the federal government bless gay marriage.

This is, by the way, how segregation was destroyed in America. Most of the country was not segregated. Unfortunately, the South was, and the military was as well. It took a generation, but once the military enforced integration, it paved the way for the federal government to ban segregation nationwide. That was a good thing.

Segregation is wrong. Ending racial discrimination is good.

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will give gay marriages and families federal recognition and federally funded privileges (housing, medical and life insurance, death benefits, and other services). This will completely undermine states’ efforts to protect and preserve traditional marriage, the foundation of society.

Destroying traditional marriage is not good. Therefore, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not good.

Battle Buddy

An emergency came up last evening and I had to bring home my friend’s five children for a likely overnight stay. Eleven children aged 12 and under are extremely noisy. Of course, just to make things interesting, my husband and I took them all out to the local ice cream shop.

For once, nobody asked if they were all ours.

All was fine and my friend picked up three who were still awake when she got back late last night. As we were going to bed, my husband told me I was a good friend.

“I’m not doing anything I don’t expect my friends to do for me…not that I’ve ever needed something like that…wait, I dumped our kids’ at Rachel’s house when I had a D&C…see, that’s just how we are.”

Just two nights before, I was running out to the all night grocery store to buy formula and a bottle for a breastfed baby whose mommy had to run his sister to the ER. Her husband is deployed, the friend watching her son (the same one with last night’s emergency) has a deployed husband, and my husband was deploying when I had the D&C. This is just the nature of our lives right now.

We’re more than friends. We’re battle buddies.