Random Saturday

Bad night for sleep. First, Katie came into our room because she was scared. Bill had her sleep on the floor next to him. Then Jenny brought Mary in because Mary was scared. I pulled Mary into the bed. Jenny went back to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep, so she checked on Katie (in the top bunk) and freaked out when she saw the bed was empty. She came back to our room, so we put her on the floor next to me. She was shivering with fright, and asked where the dog was. I assured her that Greta was in her usual spot in the corner, on guard against all bad guys. I got into bed and lay on my right side facing out, Mary to my back, Jenny just under me.

I heard a noise, so I opened my eyes. Jenny was standing right in front of me, and it startled me, so I yelped. Bill, fast asleep, heard my cry of alarm, so he abruptly sat up, yelling, “HOO? WHA? HUH?” This scared the daylights out of Jenny, who screamed and jumped into my arms.

This is one of those scenes in a movie that you think is silly because it wouldn’t really happen. And then it does.

The three of us haven’t gotten much sleep since 4 am.

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As soon as Bill gets back from his bike ride, I’m heading out to the store to buy the last few things I need for my month of meals. I have 2 more dishes to prep and the sauce for some meatballs to make, which means I’ve completed 27 1/2 meals. I’m pretty pleased with myself, although I admit to being a geek when I make a batch of chili and get excited that the huge amount is enough for two meals so I’ve already made a meal for October!!

It’s a good thing I’ll be done today, because my meal plan begins tomorrow. I’m not done blogging about it…I just need more time. Still flying by the seat of my shorts.

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There are some really really wonderful people in the world, and my family is fortunate enough to benefit from their generosity. Time share/condo owners have donated off season beach rentals to a program called Warrior Vacations. Next week(end), we will be staying for free on Amelia Island in Florida for 4 nights. We are all looking forward to this time away, although I have predicted at least two crises from Bill’s work to interrupt things. Bill had yesterday off, and there were two crises just for yesterday. The holiday weekend is still young. Who knows how many more there may be?

I had planned my meals as easy to take along for the trip, but now I’m doubting that we’ll have a full kitchen there. If we do, I’ll probably hit a local grocery store for some easy foods. This means that my September month of meals should last me through the first week of October. Cool.

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Except for one child who needs to finish a novel for Religion and one child who needs to take a math test, we have finished three full weeks of school. Due to visitors and other distractions, it took us 3 weeks to do the first week, but we’ve been on track for the second two weeks. I’m pretty happy about this. I’ve arranged the school year in groups of 3 to 5 weeks followed by a catch-up week…or a week off if we’ve stayed on track. Next week will be gloriously light. I will have the kids bring some reading along, but other than that, we can have a guilt-free vacation.

Should be lovely.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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…