It is hard to believe that the summer is almost over! School starts in 2 weeks. I am already feeling the sadness of Matthew being gone during the day. He is LESS than excited about going back. He'll be in 1st grade this year. His teacher from last year offered the option of her students staying with her for 1st grade (looping), but she and Matthew didn't seem to mesh too well, so we opted for a different teacher for 1st grade. Not that I blame her, Matthew is quite "spirited", but someone a little more motherly might be better.
Nevertheless, we made the trek to get school supplies, some new clothes and a haircut (Sarah only got a bang trim).
The school supplies list was quite manageable and I really can't complain. I am pretty grateful that my child is able to get a relatively free education in a great school - such a blessing. He does has to wear uniforms and some of his things from last year had definitely seen better days. So, a few hours of shopping and gathering and we're ready. Next week, we're moving bedtime down to 9:00 pm and the following week to 8:00 pm to get him ready. I'm sure he'll miss the sleeping to 10:00 am! I, am LESS than excited about 6:45 am wake time. Ugh!!
So, in preparation for the beginning of school and a much tighter schedule, I am also focusing back on the family meal planner. When I was a teenager, I babysat for a family in Panama City and on their refrigerator was their "month of meals." I can remember thinking that was pretty cool, but it was a completely foreign concept to me. My mom was/is a great cook, but there wasn't typically a thought out plan for our meals, unless it was a holiday. When I got married, my cooking skills were less than great. We ate a lot of grilled chicken on a tabletop grill. Brad, my husband, is a great guy...super, but his palate is quite bland. So, if I wanted to venture out a bit on a recipe I would find, it usually wouldn't be eaten. Sorry, Brad..it is the ONLY complaint I have about you.
Many years later of trying to expand my recipe collection and picking up recipes from friends along the way, I finally had a pretty good assortment of dishes that were relatively easy to cook and that my family would eat. Last fall, I decided to actually try to plan out our meals for the entire month. I am HAPPY to report it is one of the BEST things we could have done for our family. I always hated when I'd ask my family what they wanted for dinner, they would usually say, "I don't care." There are several problems with this statement. 1st - "I don't care" is not the name of the dish and it doesn't help at all. 2nd - everyone usually does really care, but they don't want to make a decision. So, how did I help tame the meal craziness at my house?
1 - We took a Family Night and with each person's input, we made a list of the things we liked to eat.
2 - I used Microsoft Word and printed out a simple, plain calendar for the month.
3 - We took the family calendar for the month and put in any special dates/events/travel on the "meal calendar."
4 - Then we started filling in the desired meals on the "meal calendar."
5 - Be sure to use a pencil. Life changes and sometimes you do have to switch things around.
6 - I typically use the last Sunday afternoon of the month to plan the meals for the upcoming month.
Our family loves tacos with fried tortillas and fresh salsa! They're good, filing, cheap and fast. It's not uncommon to have them twice in one week. So, some weeks when I know the schedule is busy, I'll write in tacos for Monday and Thursday. We have also come to love homemade pizza and spaghetti and it's usually our Friday night tradition. Saturdays and Sundays are usually something that can be grilled, cooked in a crockpot or something that is not very complicated - it's the weekend and I don't really want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also, I always leave a day for "leftovers." I try to cook enough at a meal that there's some left for lunch the next day or even possibly for dinner the following night. Lasagna is perfect for this. The remaining one or two days, I fill in with another meal from the list and try at least twice in a month to test out a new recipe. Did you notice just how fast the week filled up? It really doesn't take much kitchen time when you plan your meals and cook wisely.
Another huge benefit of having a month of meals planned is the opportunity it gives you to plan ahead on your grocery shopping. You can buy when things are on sale because you know when you'll need them during that month rather than just buying on impulse when you have to have it for that night. You'll also notice that you eat out less and this means more money savings.
I really used to think this idea was a little too over the top for me. I had a few friends that had done it and I just didn't think it would make much difference for us. But, I can promise you that it will save you SO much stress. Also, no one has to ask what's for dinner - they just look at the "meal calendar".
So, if you think it would help at your home and need some ideas for meals that are quick and appeal to the majority...here are some that we use:
Chili, Chicken (enchiladas, grilled, parmesan, pot pie, rotisserie (pick up at grocery for $4.99), smoked), Hamburgers, Japanese night (sauteed chicken/shrimp, fried rice), Lasagna, Pizza, Pork Chops, Roast, Soup, Spaghetti, Tacos.
Here's to less stress at meal time and better family time!