Monday, January 2, 2012

Organizational Tip for 2012

The kids made it back to school today! I had a lot of days off over their Christmas break, which isn't always the norm. We enjoyed our time. .but as usual. .the time wears out its welcome. .and routine was a positive thing today! As I worked on my menu project this morning, I thought it might be kind of a fun thing to share.
Our bank offers these weekly calenders for free. I discovered a few years ago that they are JUST the thing to keep track of some weekly menu sketches. I had tried making menus years ago. .but could never really keep up with the task. Three years ago I decided one night as I was thawing out hamburger at 6:30, that enough was ENOUGH!! I had brought one of these calenders home intending to keep some notes on, when the notion struck me that they would be just perfect for menus. .and that they have been! This is the 3rd year for our weekly menus. .and I hope never to return to clueless-meal land again!!
Today, I grabbed this stack of cookbooks to work from. The big pink notebook on the bottom is our cherished volume of family recipes. This fall, I have cooked mainly from that. I also use the Gooseberry patch casserole and slow cooker books frequently. But today, I grabbed a couple books I hadn't been through in quite a while, in an attempt to vary our diet a little. It took about an hour (a little longer with distractions) and I have the majority of 6 weeks of menus planned. I call them sketches, because I don't always follow them. If I underestimate the amount of leftovers we will have. .or if we have company. .or we decide to go out (which is REALLY rare). .or what is on the menu flat doesn't sound good. .we make something else, and that recipe gets moved to an open slot in the future. I always line up our school calender first, so I know which days I work, if we have meetings to go to, or if we will be gone to ballgames (those are usually fast cooking recipes).  It doesn't really take long, once I get in the groove. I find an interesting recipe and decide which day I will have time to fix it and put it on the calender. Sometimes, I move the recipes around after writing them down, simply to avoid two chicken dishes or Mexican flavored recipes in a row. Often, I find new things to try. .or old recipes that I had forgotten about. .This morning, I found several new recipes to try on Sunday mornings that have 2 hour cooking times. .that will beat the "every man for himself" approach that we usually use Sunday noon as everyone flies through the door starving!
The other benefit of the planning is that we can enjoy different meats (AKA. .not ALWAYS hamburger), with different cultural flares during the same week! And we aren't always eating hamburger helper or tacos. .I have to say that I haven't had to open a box of hamburger helper for a LONG time. .and it used to be frequent!!
The other trick I learned last year was to add on Saturday if I needed to thaw meat for Sunday. .since sometimes I don't pick up the menu until that day. .and then discover that we were having some cut of meat that should have been thawing for a day or two!
The best thing is, that Jeremy can pick it up. .and has. .when I don't make it home on time. .and he can start fixing whatever is on the list for the day!! I've even caught the crew checking to see what was for dinner before they left in the morning!
The habit certainly takes a little extra effort during the beginning. .but I can tell you. .once you have used it for a few months. .it is hard to go without!! It has certainly simplified our lives. .and helped us to eat a better variety of foods. .also a healthy thing!! And healthy is a good thing. .especially during the season of changes brought on by the arrival of a new year!

I also came up with another resolution to work on in 2012. . 
. .Teaching the children how to do L-A-U-N-D-R-Y!! The bigger they grow. .the bigger their clothes. .the bigger the piles!!
Calgon. .Calgon anyone???


  1. I have used a menu system for years and can't even fathom how people cook without one. I made myself a cute little notebook that is strictly for menus and shopping lists. I get my kids involved as well and even let them choose some of the menu items. Tonight we had chicken fried steak, which Preston requested. I usually shop once a week to get fresh produce and dairy, so I tend to go one week at a time. I should plan ahead farther and be able to take better advantage of sales!

  2. I wish I could get into this habit and STAY in this habit, because it really does help! I would also like to get into a habit of only having to grocery shop like once a week. I go just about every day feel like I have ADHD when I shop. Can go in for $5 worth of stuff, and come out with $60.

    You inspired me...I'm going to try to sit and do a month of menus at nap time today! Thanks!

  3. Oh man, I love your washer and dryer...fancy!! You should see my washer...I think it is from 1980 or something like that!! LOL! I love your menu planning. I have had times where I did that too and you are is so much easier! I actually enjoy the part of sitting down for hours and planning what to make..but I am a foodie so that's why I like it! I haven't menu planned for a very very long time though and I really need to get back to it. Looks like you have got a great system for it! Also, good luck with the laundry teaching...your kids are so smart with all that they do with 4 H, I know they will excel at this for sure! They might try to fool you into thinking they aren't any good at laundry..hahahahahaha! I need to get my kids on track with that too. I do send them down to the basement to switch out the loads on occasion, but I think you are onto something here!! More participation!

  4. Ok, OK. .so I also need to confess. .that just cause I have the menu made, doesn't mean I have it totally made. .sometimes I neglect to LOOK at the menu until that day :-). .and occasionally. .until suppertime!! I wish I could say that I only went to the grocery store once a week. .but that is an outright LIE!! I still go several times a week. .and stock up on what's on sale plus fresh produce and dairy. Maybe I should work on that a little harder!! And Bonnie. .I LOVE the washer and dryer. .we got them last fall, and they have been worth their weight in gold!! They hold nearly an extra 1/2 a load. .and yesterday I did 6 in 1980 washer standards. .about 9. .NINE loads! EEEK!

  5. Good idea! I enjoyed reading about how you organize the meals. Now the laundry ... eh ... good luck! LOL

  6. I remember those types of calendars from the little bank my parents used to use back home. I haven't seen one of them in a long time. They would be perfect for a menu plan. I don't get too far in advance but on Sunday, I make a little note with something listed for each evening meal accounting for busy evenings and trying to get leftovers for those nights if possible. You have more people to feed so having a thawing plan is a great idea. We shop on Wednesday evenings so I can get ingredients to try new stuff later in the week and for the following weekend.
    You're prompting me to dig out the recipe books though. At the beginning of last year, I tagged tons of recipes and when I did my weekly list, I picked out one to try each week. Our fall got to crazy and I reverted to standard stuff a lot. I got a new cook book for Christmas too so I need to get browsing.
    Good luck on the laundry!!

  7. Regarding teenagers and laundry, this worked well for us. As the kids reached 7th or 8th grade (and I felt they could handle it), we tied a bigger allowance to having them do their own laundry. With the larger allowance, they also became responsible for buying their own basic clothes and toiletries. The key was that we said, "With every perk in life comes a responsibility. If you are old enough to manage this much money and take charge of buying your own clothes, you are old enough to do your own laundry." It worked like a charm for our daughter. Our son often went to school in clothes that had sat overnight in the laundry basket after being washed - clean but wrinkled. I tried not to think of what the teachers' thought of my laundry skills, but rather to concentrate on the life lessons he was learning! LOL!

  8. Hey! Thanks for the tip about the calenders and menu planning. I just normally keep plenty of staples in the house and freezer and we fix what we feel like. However that has made my daughter a little picky. I too have a three ring binder that is very old and nasty dirty. It has drips a stains all over it. I got a new one all ready to replace buy have gotten a little lazy.
    Sounds like your way more organized than I am.
    You've given hope and encouragement.
    By the way I'm lusting after your washer and drier.