Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Consider What Doesn't Simplify Your Life

Making gingerbread houses are category 2 for me.

Simplifying your life can be complicated. And most of the time requires you to be intentional about it. Pantries don't just organize themselves. Clutter doesn't just disappear. Unfortunately.

Here's a short list of how to think through what you need to simplify and what you can't simplify:

1. It simplifies my life. These are things that are easy to implement and solve a problem. Putting all your markers in a plastic bin. A hook at child height on the wall for coats. Having a system to organize the paperwork cluttering your home. Organizing your pantry.  

2. It doesn't simplify my life, but. Things in this category are either things you have to do or it's worth it to do. Laundry and dishes are a necessary evils. And while those acts in and of themselves don't simplify your life, they do in the long run. Because running out of clothes certainly doesn't keep your life simple. An example of "it doesn't simplify my life, but it's worth it" is the fish in my girl's bedroom. I change the water because the girls aren't old enough. The fish doesn't make my life simple - it complicates it. But, it's worth having it because of what it teaches my girls and how much they love it. Other examples may be a Christmas tree. So much work getting one, decorating it, keeping it watered, and cleaning up after it. But that wonderful piney smell may just be worth it to you. My kids are sometimes in this category. Perhaps a puppy would be. Or maybe just putting laundry away.

3. It doesn't simplify my life, therefore. Either get rid of it or don't do it. If it's not something that's worth the work or necessary, it's in this category. Facebook for many fits in this category. It wastes time, therefore get off of it.Trying to be crafty, when you're not. Having 25 coffee mugs in your stuffed cabinet.


It's almost the New Year. Now is a great time to consider these three categories and see if you need to be proactive and intentional about anything in your life. I am taking my own advice and here's my realization:

This blog has moved into the 3rd category for me. I have realized that I don't find joy anymore in writing blog posts. It's become work, therefore I'm cutting back. Not stopping. If something comes to me or I hear of a great organizing tip I may blog about it.

So, while the site isn't going to shut down, I'm devoting my spare time (what little I have) to things that give me life and simplify my life. Which these days happens to be these sweet little girls:




Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2012 is filled with things that give you a simple and fulfilling life!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ten in Ten on the Tenth


It's the most wonderful time of the year! I love Christmas, so here are 10 things related to Christmas that you may be able to do in 10 minutes.

1. Gather all your wrapping paper together. Take inventory on what you need to buy, if anything.
2. Water the Christmas tree.
3. Check your calendar to see if you need to find a sitter for any of the events (if you have kids, of course. Or maybe if you have a puppy - they are like kids).
4. Order Christmas cards online if you are planning on it.
5. Stop. And have a cup of hot tea.
6. Listen to Christmas music while doing number 5.
7. Put on your calendar the days you will wrap presents, so you're not up at 1am Christmas morning doing it.
8. If you are doing cards the old fashioned way (no computer!), write as many as you can in 10 minutes.
9. If you are sending cards out this year, go make a list (on the computer) of who you sent them to so you don't forget anyone next year.
10. Focus on the meaning of Christmas. Not the stuff. Not the busyness. Take 10 minutes to be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pinterest - Simplifies Your Life Or Not So Much?


Our life these days is full of technology. Some is great and simplifies our life. Some sucks life from you. And some does both. I put Pinterest in this last category for me. I love that I can see what my friends enjoy. The relational aspect of Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook is wonderful. I get to see who's having a baby. Who's buying a new house. And who's favorite sports team is winning.

Don't get me wrong, I love social media, I do. I have a Twitter account. A facebook account. And recently - Pinterest. I have a love-hate relationship with this one. Here's why.

Here's what I love. I love pinning recipes I can try. I love the organization tips and ideas that float in cyber world. I love that I can see what my friends enjoy. I feel like I know them better for it.

Here's what I hate. And I know what you people will think it is - I WASTE TIME!! Well, that's not true. I'm not on Pinterest enough to waste time. But, I know that's an issue with some. They sit at the computer thinking they will just be on it for a minute...until they get off the computer and realize they have been on it way too long and no longer have the time to do the something else they were supposed to be doing. But that's not me. Here's me:

It makes me covet. I see the beautiful room and want it. I see that delicious greek feta dip and want to eat it. Now. At all costs. I see the cute DIY items and wish I were crafty.

I end up being discontent because of it. So, this post is dedicated to those who are on Pinterest. Check yourself. Organizing the things you love is fine. But, finding yourself unhappy, discontented, or resentful is not. That's not any way to live life...even if it is organized.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bulk Cooking Books and Blogs


For those of you who are feeling iffy about getting started with bulk cooking due to recipe fears, this post is for you! I've listed some books on cooking in bulk as well as some blogs.
 
Books: My first advice - go to the library. I can recommend good books that I love, but you probably have different tastes. So, take this list and check them out at the library first. Then if you love lots of the recipes, buy the book. Here's a list of some books (not an exhaustive list, of course):

1. Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough - I own this book and use a few recipes out of it, but not many. I personally wouldn't recommend it.

2. Make-A-Mix by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, Madeline Westover - I just ordered this book and am eager to read it. I haven't looked through it before, but it got rave reviews on amazon.com which is why I felt comfortable buying it without checking it out first.

3. Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik - I love this book. My favorite thus far.

4. Once-A-Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson - got mixed reviews on amazon.com. While I haven't personally looked through it, I wouldn't buy it.

5. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Easy Freezer Meals by Cheri Sicard - haven't looked through it, but it gets great reviews on amazon.com.

6. The Everything Freezer Meals Cookbook by Candace Anderson with Nicole Cormier - While I haven't looked through this one, I would check it out from the library before I buy it.

7. Don't Panic, More Dinner's in the Freezer : A Second Helping of Tasty Meals You Can Make Ahead -  Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, Bonnie Garcia - got mixed reviews on amazon.com so definitely check this out from the library before buying.

8. You've Got It Made : Deliciously Easy Meals to Make Now and Bake Later by Diane Phillips - again, mixed reviews on amazon.com - so be sure to find this at your library before purchasing.

Blogs:
There are some great ones...but here's my caveat - If you're like me and get overwhelmed with blogs, skip them. It's not necessary to read blogs in order to bulk cook. Personally, I get intimidated when I read how crazy some people get with bulk cooking...and I bulk cook! So, if you read these blogs and find yourself being hard on yourself for not doing it right or enough, stop reading them! That said, here are some blogs that I do enjoy reading and get great ideas from:

1. Crockpot Cooking: www.skinnycrockpot.com/
Break out that crock pot - it's a great way to cook with minimal effort and cost.This blog has healthier for you options than the traditional fat heavy crockpot meals.

2. Bulk Cooking: www.onceamonthmom.com/
I love this site. You can choose from vegetarian menus, whole food menus, traditional menus, gluten/dairy free menus, etc. It's well organized, but a bit on the overwhelming side. The upside to this site is that not only does it give you a list of great meals you can freeze, but you can also print out a grocery list. 

3. Bulk Cooking and Saving Money: www.moneysavingmom.com
This is one of my all time favorite blogs. Ever. She posts her weekly menus (great for ideas), freezer cooks and posts the recipe and outcome, and also gives links to coupons you can print, DIY ideas, and other great money saving tips...hence the name, moneysavingmom.

4. Bulk Cooking and Natural Living: www.mamaandbabylove.blogspot.com/
This site is wonderful for those who are a bit more food conscious. Her Real Food tab on her blog is my favorite and she has great recipes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bulk Cooking - Freezing and Thawing



Q: What kinds of food can be frozen?
A: Walk through the frozen foods isle in the grocery store and you'll know what freezes well. This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you'll see things in the frozen isle that actually don't freeze well. The manufacturer's usually put something in them to make them more stable. Things that DON'T freeze well are potatoes (twice baked ones are an exception), some egg casseroles (again, depends on the recipe), and sour cream tends to separate so you have to be careful which recipes you use. My general rule is: try it. If it doesn't freeze well, then just make a note of it on the recipe.

Q: Which foods should I cook before freezing versus cooking after freezing?
A: I tend to cook almost everything before I freeze it. I'm still in new momma mode (AKA can't remember anything), so I may be forgetting - but I can't think of a time where I've left meat raw. I always cook it. However, if you are assembling ingredients, don't cook it. For example, if I'm making an all meat dish such as meat balls, hamburgers, chicken parmesan, etc. I cook it before I freeze it. If I'm making a dish that has multiple ingredients, like chicken tetrazzini, I use cooked chicken, cooked pasta, and all other ingredients and just put them together in a freezer bag. When I'm ready to cook it, I thaw it and put it in a glass dish and bake. That is the 1st time it's been baked. Anything with batter, go ahead and cook it before freezing. Anything with eggs, cook beforehand.

Q: Should I thaw the food before cooking it?
A: You don't have to, but shoot to thaw. It’s cheaper because you’re not keeping your oven on for longer than necessary (this is where meal planning is especially helpful - otherwise you won’t remember or know to pull something out to thaw). Sometimes I forget to take out a meal beforehand. I still cook it from frozen and it most of the time turns out fine. Occasionally I cook things from frozen that get dried out because they cooked too long. So, shoot to thaw items before cooking, but don't stress out if you forgot.


Q: What's the best way to thaw food?
A: For legal reasons, I should probably tell you to always thaw food (especially meat) in the refrigerator over night. But, I almost never do that. I've always thawed foods on my counter and never had a problem. If you take it out in the morning, it will be room temperature by the time you cook it (which is dangerous), so be sure to keep an eye on it and when it's thawed, but it in the fridge until you put it in the oven.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

FAQ on Bulk Cooking


I've talked about bulk cooking before. That post is the snap shot version - a quick how to. This one will be the unabridged one. I'll do this Q and A style.

Q: What kind of supplies do I need to cook in bulk?

A: Be sure to have on hand the following: large mixing bowls, stock pot, aluminum foil, disposable aluminum pans, freezer bags, permanent marker, and a cookie sheet (I put my freezer bags on cookie sheets to freeze things flat so I can then stack them up). An electric skillet with sides is also great to cook large batches of meat or veggies.

Q: Does it matter which friend I cook with? 

A: Yes! You want to be sure you are compatible with your friend. Do you guys like similar foods? I'm not a big fan of casseroles, so it'd be difficult to bulk cook with someone who wanted a lot of casseroles. Some of this can be flexible. I don't eat beef or pork, but I cook with someone who does. I just substitute any beef for turkey. What about health convictions? If your cooking buddy eats only organic foods and you do not, it won't work well. You want to cook with someone who shops similar to you. However, if your friend wants to use whole wheat flour and you want to use white flour, it's easy to compromise by using half and half. Another thing to take into consideration is style of cooking. Does your friend like to chit chat while she cooks or focus more on cooking? Does your friend have to stick to the recipe while you enjoy estimating ingredient amounts? Issues like all those above may turn out to be frustrating for one or both of you. Be sure to talk about things like that beforehand.  Do you have a similar budget? One of the benefits of bulk cooking is that it's cheaper. But, if your cooking buddy doesn't have the same goal of cheap food, your budget will suffer. If you're not sure of cooking compatibility, have a trial cooking day. That way, you can both see if it'll be a good fit.

Q: How often should I bulk cook? 

A: This one depends on many factors. How big is your family? Bulk cooking is not just for large families! If you have a larger family, bulk cooking more than once a month may make sense. If you're just cooking for you, once a month may be over kill. How much freezer space do you have? This is really the most critical issue. You can only cook for how much space you have. How much time do you have? When I say "how much time do you have?" I mean short term. Because bulk cooking in the long run, will actually save you time. So for those who work full time, you may not be willing to give up one Saturday morning a month to bulk cook. But, perhaps once a quarter works better. Keep in mind that bulk cooking is beneficial even if you only do it once a year!

Q: How can I bulk cook with limited space?

A: Those of you who are limited on space can still do several things that can maximize your time, energy, and wallet. For starters, go through your freezer. Here’s the how to.  That will most likely give you some space you didn’t think you had. One of the biggest things you can do that will not take up any added space is to cook your food before freezing it. For example, if you buy some chicken - don’t put it raw in the freezer. Go ahead and see what you need for that week or month and cook it. Planned for bbq chicken sandwiches? Cook and shred the chicken, add some bbq sauce and sauteed onions and put it in a bag. Place it flat so it saves space and you can stack other things on top. Have some ground beef that was on sale? Go ahead and cook it. It was going in there anyway, so make it less work for you in the future. Another idea is a freezer co-op of sorts. If you have a friend who lives close by who has an extra freezer, ask if you can "rent" some of the space. Payment can be in the form of food! Get more space. Another option is to get a small freezer. Be creative in where you could keep it...laundry room, garage, even some sheds have power. Prep meals in advance. You may not be able to freeze many meals, but you can still shave some time off of your nightly cooking by prepping your meals beforehand. Cut up all the veggies for the week so you don't have to do that every night. Go ahead and cook the meats that you need for the week and keep them in the fridge ready to be reheated. While this isn't really considered bulk cooking, it will save you time. Think outside of the freezer meal box! You can bulk cook things that don't need to be frozen...think granola, oatmeal packets, baking mixes, and dried bean soups (recipes for these things to come!)

Q: I don't have several hours (energy, desire, family to cook for, etc) to bulk cook. Any other tips that can help me?

A: You can still freezer cook by doubling your recipes that you are making for your meal. Making lasagna tonight? Make two and freeze one. Always make two batches. Always. Even if you’re just cooking meat. Double it and freeze half. Also, if you have freezer space, buy meat in family size portions if they are cheaper than the smaller portions (and they usually are unless the smaller ones happen to be on sale). When you get home from the store, go ahead and separate your meat into one (1) serving portions and place in a freezer bag. You can even add sauce for it to marinate in, saving you both time and money. Another tip is to freeze left overs. Making chicken for dinner tonight, but didn't eat it all? Put the rest in a bag and pop it in the freezer. Now you have chicken ready to use. Cook once, eat twice. What I mean by that is to plan two or more meals using the same ingredients, but different meals. Suppose you are making pasta primavera one night. Plan to have pasta salad the next. That way, you can go ahead and cook all the pasta the same night - cutting down on cooking time since it takes no more time to make a double portion of pasta as it does a single one. Make left overs for lunch. You can eat those that same week or put them in small containers and freeze them. 




I'll be blogging about recipes and shopping next...so come back! 

Ten in Ten on the Tenth

http://chrismaddencartoons.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/kitchen-gadgets-so-many-cjmadden.jpg?w=430&h=595

I've been working on meal planning posts, bulk cooking posts, and grocery shopping posts lately. So, to keep in the same vein, here are 10 things you can do in 10 minutes that relate to kitchen management.

  1. Wash the refrigerator door.
  2. Clean the front of your kitchen appliances.
  3. Go through your fridge and toss any food that's gone bad. 
  4. Go through your condiments and toss any that are expired past your comfort or that you will never eat.
  5. Pick out a new recipe that you would like to try and make a grocery shopping list to get the ingredients.
  6. Go through your spices and toss the ones that are no longer usable. 
  7. Wash your utensil drawer.
  8. Go through your mugs and decide which ones you can part with.
  9. Go through your cooking utensils to weed out the ones you never use. How many spatulas do you really need?
  10. Take a look at all your pots and pans. Toss any that are no longer safe to cook with (any coated ones where the surface is scratched).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Meal Planning, Part 5 - How To in Eight Steps


Finally! We are done with the setting up the systems and now onto the method. Love this part. No really, that's not sarcasm that just didn't come through the screen. I really do love this part! I love food, so I love to plan what I'm eating each month.

1. Carve out some time. Preferably with your spouse, roommate, kids, significant other, etc. It really is helpful to have their input. And it's easier to think of meals with someone else. And more fun. Meal planning doesn't take that long, but plan about 30 minutes.

2. See what you currently have. Look in your fridge to see what perishables you need to use up. Also take a look in your freezer to see what you have on hand that you need to use, what meals you already have in there, etc.

3. Budget and Balanced. This means to keep in mind how much money you may spend on a meal as well as how much time you will spend making the meal. This is where you get your calendar out and see which evenings you will be eating out or which ones you will need something really quick and easy. Go ahead and fill those dates in. 

* Writing in which evenings are planned to go out to eat will do wonders for your budget! If you have kids, think about which restaurants have a "kids eat free" night and try to plan that restaurant on that night. This month I've planned a night out to McAlisters on a Tuesday because we can feed (and bring home left overs) our family of 6 for $14.

* If you decide to forgo a planned meal one evening and go out unplanned...you can still save money - just mark off one of the more expensive meals that you've already planned, instead of a cheap one. For example. If you really want to go out to dinner, but you have planned spaghetti - feel the freedom to go out to dinner. But, don't mark off the spaghetti. Mark off a more expensive meal, like the steak.

* If you notice that one week is particularly expensive, try to plan cheaper meals the next. 

* I'm working on a post on how to meal plan on a tight budget, so stay tuned!

4. Get out your recipes. This is your chance to try new ones that you've wanted to try! Putting it in writing and buying the ingredients will get you motivated to actually make new things.

* If you are busy, try to add only one (1) new recipe per week and that's max. Maybe even one new recipe every other week. You don't want to set yourself up for failure.

* If you are new to cooking or if cooking is not intuitive to you, then you'll probably need to use more recipes.

* Keep in mind those perishables from step number 2 that you need to use and find recipes that include them. Check out www.supercook.com if you need some inspiration using what you have.

* I will be doing a post dedicated just to recipes, so come back!


5. R and Star System. This is a system I use to keep my menu organized at a glance.

* If I write a meal down that is from a recipe, I put at R with a circle around it. I either write the name of the cook book and page number with it or pull the plastic sheet protected recipe out of one of my notebooks and hang that near my menu.

* When I plan a meal that is in my freezer, I write a star beside that food.

For example, say I am planning on roasted chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans. If I have the chicken frozen, I star it. Then when I am making my shopping list, I know I don't need to buy the chicken. If I'm using a recipe for the green beans, I put the circled R beside it.  

6. Be flexible! Don't be chained to your plan. Just because you said you were going to have loaded baked potatoes on Friday, November 4, 2011 doesn't mean you actually have to!! This is a key advantage of planning monthly.  Writing down what meals you have on what day is a guideline. Things happen. Your kids' soccer practice runs late that evening and you no longer have the time for the planned lasagna. Just do the breakfast that was planned next week (assuming you have all the ingredients!).

* If you're planning monthly, don't write specific fruits and veggies for the whole month, unless it's something that you'd be willing to spend full price on (since you don't know if it will be on sale) or if it's something that really works well with the meal (I can't seem to have any kind of Chinese inspired dish without snow peas, so I write snow peas even when I know that they will probably not be on sale the week I need them). When you grocery shop for the week, just count how many veggies you need and how many fruits you need and you can still shop what's on sale.

7. Plan in left over nights. Keep in mind that left overs don't always mean creating a different and exciting meal from what's left over from other meals. I kind of want to highlight, bold, and underline this point...which may be over kill. But this point took me a while to get, so it's important to me to free up all those non-creative meal makers out there. The purpose of left overs is to clean out your fridge without wasting food - not to make a meal impressive enough for guests.

* This is ALWAYS our Sunday lunch. We get back from church too late to actually cook anything and we don't want to spend the money (or deal with a fussy baby who needs to take her nap) to go out to lunch. So we come home, pull everything out of the fridge that's not been accounted for in other meals and we have a smorgasbord. I organize the left overs by food type and tell the kids they can pick X amount of food from each group (i.e. they get to choose 1 carb, 2 veggies, 1 fruit, 1 protein, etc).

* I typically plan for 2 left over nights every week. But, plan for less if you don't love left overs or if you have teenage boys (yes, yes...I know. There are lots of girls who eat more than boys. Just some humor for those of you who have been able to pay attention through all of this post - it's long!).

8. Keep it simple. An easy way to plan is to assign a meal type to each weekly night. For example, Mondays are meatless, Tuesdays are salad with a protein, Wednesdays are breakfasts, Thursdays are a type of pasta, etc. And remember that just because you assign a meal to a particular night doesn't mean you actually have to eat it that night. It's just for planning purposes. If it's Meatless Monday and you crave meat, go ahead and make the carnivorous meal that was planned for another night. Then you can save your meatless meal for another time.


This concludes my series on meal planning. I hope some of it has been helpful! I will be continuing to answer more food questions on bulk cooking, meal planning on a budget, recipes, and shopping.


Previous posts in this series: 
Meal Planning, Part 1 - Why?
Meal Planning, Part 2 - Self-Assessment
Meal Planning, Part 3 - Implement a System 
Meal Planning, Part 4 - Where to Stay Organized 

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Meal Planning, Part 4 - Where to Stay Organized?

    Okay, so I've covered why you should meal plan. I've talked about assessing what your needs are. And I've gone over what systems you will need to have in place.

    This next part of meal planning is the one that might cost you some money, depending on which option you choose. This will help you determine where you will stay organized.
    1. Digital - the computer
      1. There are many ways to organize on the computer. Microsoft Office programs (Word or Excel), Google docs, online calendar, online meal planning software (you usually have to buy this), or probably "there's an app for that". If you are tech savvy, you'll probably be drawn to go this route.
      2.  Pros:
                                                                   i.      Easy to link online recipes to the menu.
                                                                 ii.      You know exactly what meals you had last month, the month before, and the month before that (so you won’t keep serving your family the same meals).
                                                                iii.      Easy to create next month’s menu since you can cut and paste.
                                                               iv.      You will eventually get to the point where you no longer have to plan meals since you’ll have it on file from the last year.
                                                                 v.      Doesn’t waste paper.
                                                               vi.      Easy to create a shopping list based on the meals and that list can be saved and reused.
      1. Cons
                                                                   i.      Not in an easy-to-see place since you have to get on your computer, ipad, smart phone or other digital device to see the menu.
                                                                 ii.      Linking on-line recipes to the meals is great if you have a computer/ipad, etc in the kitchen - but useless if not. You'd have to print out the recipe anyway.
    1. Paper
      1. Those who have a planner may want to write their meals in there. Another paper option is a notebook created just for menus. Print out 12 monthly calendar sheets and put them in the notebook. You can put tab dividers in if that's helpful. Then you can put your recipes that you need that month in with the menu or just write a note as to where they are. Or it can be as simple as a piece of paper with the meals written down put on your fridge. If you want to go paper, it may take a few things to see what works for you.                                                                                                                                                **TIP***If you create a notebook, be sure to put the menus in plastic sheet protectors so that you can mark off the meals you've had with a wet-erase marker without having to mess up the menu - that way you can use them again.                                                                         This is my method for my lunches and breakfasts (see picture)
    I crossed out the snacks as a reminder to my girls that snacks are off the table (pardon the pun) until they start eating their meals better!
    b.      Pros:
                                                                   i.      You know what you cooked when so you don’t repeat meals too often.
                                                                 ii.      You can take notes easily on what to change or do differently next time.
                                                                iii.      You can keep your meals, repeat them, and eventually not have to plan meals anymore.
                                                               iv.      You can keep a shopping list in the binder for the menus, so you don’t have to recreate them.
    c.      Cons:
                                                                   i.      Depending on where it is, you can't see it at a glance.
                                                                 ii.      If you do a weekly menu, this is a lot of paper - not great for the environment and could be a lot to keep up with and keep organized.
                                                                iii.      It takes money (most likely) and time to create it well.
                                                               iv.      Takes up space on a counter or desk.
    3.      Whiteboard
    a.      This is my method for my dinners. I have a dry erase board on the side of my fridge. Read about why it's not on the front. Here's a picture:

    b.      Pros:
                                                                   i.      Doesn’t waste paper.
                                                                 ii.      Easy to see at a glance.
                                                                iii.      User-friendly for husbands (or roommates, kids, etc).
                                                               iv.      Easy to erase or alter.
    c.      Cons:
                                                                   i.      You don’t know what you had on the menu last month, so you may tend to repeat the same meals.  
                                                                 ii.      You have to hang it or tape it on something.
                                                                iii.      Costs money.


    Next post - The actual "how to" -  Come back tomorrow to find out about how to actually sit down and plan!


    Previous posts in this series: 
    Meal Planning, Part 1 - Why?
    Meal Planning, Part 2 - Self-Assessment
    Meal Planning, Part 3 - Implement a System 

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      Meal Planning, Part 3 - How To Implement a System

      This post is on implementing a meal planning system. Not the actual details of meal planning...that post is coming soon. But before you can put the meat on, you have to have the bones (anyone catch my food humor?!).
        
      1. Recipes. You have to have recipes that are organized. Here's a post I wrote about organizing recipes. If you don't have your recipes organized, meal planning could get overwhelming. So, the first system you should have under control is your recipes.



      2. Which meals? Do you want to plan meals for just dinner? Or add in breakfast and lunch? For years, I just did dinners. While I didn't plan for breakfasts and lunches, I did have a list of meals up where I could see them so I could quickly choose one where I had all the ingredients.


      Until I did a self-assessment and realized I was needing to be more organized for breakfasts and lunches. I still keep my list of meal ideas up, but now I plan out my breakfasts and lunches and hang it on my fridge.

      3. How often? Some people like to plan on a weekly basis, some bi-weekly, others monthly. I highly recommend monthly planning. Here's why I do it: I don't want to have to plan every week. My life is full enough - I don't have the time to plan meals every week. Monthly planning is great because it helps me save money. If I know I will need chicken for 3 meals, I can be sure to get all the chicken in one grocery stop when it's on sale. It also gives me more flexibility. There have been many times where it's week one of the month and something perishable will go on sale at the grocery store that I have listed the last week of the month. I just swap the meal dates. Or if I've had a particularly difficult day I pick a meal that's easy to make.  

      Now, the criticism for monthly meal planning is that you won't be able to shop the grocery store sales because you don't know what's on sale. Not true. More about this point later. Just know that is not an issue when monthly meal planning. 

      So, choose what works for you. And before I end this post, let me give you a great tip that relates to life in general:

      ******Just because something worked for you six months ago, doesn't mean it will for you now. Feel the freedom to change your systems if they are not working for you or if you think something else will work better.******


      Next post - Where to Stay Organized. Come back tomorrow to find out some options for storing your meal plans!

      Previous posts in this series: 
      Meal Planning, Part 1 - Why?
      Meal Planning, Part 2 - Self-Assessment

      Tuesday, November 1, 2011

      Meal Planning, Part 2 - Self Assessment


      Self-assessment sounds kind of drab. And many people skip this step when organizing because it's not the fun part. Resist the urge to skip this step! Chances are, if you skip it - your organization system(s) will not work as well as they could. This is one of the reasons so many people get frustrated with organization, don't even try to organize, or just give up on any effort they've made. 

      So, think through the following list as it relates to what you are currently doing for meals:
      1. Variety of meals
      2. Health of meals
      3. Cost of meals  
      4. Time in preparing meals  
      5. Anxiety level surrounding food (which meal causes most anxiety - breakfast, lunch,dinner?)  
      6. Picky eaters (kids, spouse, self)  
      7. Meal times (do you eat when you want?)  
      8. Eating out / junk food / convenience food / frozen meals too often?  
      9. Do you know how to cook from scratch?  
      10. Anxiety over your stocked goods (running out of staples)?
      Now, ask the following questions as it relates to the categories above:
      1. What’s working?  
      2. What’s not working? Do you know why?  
      3. I get frustrated when __________.
      Once you can pin point where you need the help, you can come up with a system to help. This step will help you filter through all the information I will be giving in my next several posts. 

      Every great CEO has a reason behind all they do. You are the CEO of your home and kitchen, so be sure you know what problems you're trying to solve before you take action.

      Tomorrow I'll get into the how to part of meal planning - that's the best part! So, be sure to come back and check it out! 

      Previous posts in this series: Why Meal Plan?

        Monday, October 31, 2011

        Meal Planning, Part 1 - Why?


        Welcome to my longest series-to-be: meal planning, meal shopping, and bulk cooking. Thank you to all my readers who have asked great questions to be included in this series. I will get to all of them!

        To begin, let's talk about meal planning. Many of the 7 billion people out there don't meal plan (well, to be fair...some of those are kids). If you are one of those people, this post is for you. If you already meal plan, this post will affirm your effort!

        Why plan for our meals? Here's the answer:

        • Financial - You end up spending less money on things because you have a plan. There is less food wasted because you have a plan for all of it. And you can buy in bulk, which tends to be cheaper. If you know you'll need 4 onions this month, buy a whole bag instead of them individually. And no last minute trips to a restaurant or ordering take out. 
        •  Time - You're not frantically running around 30 minutes before dinner is supposed to be ready trying to figure out what you can make. You also grocery shop less frequently when you have a plan.
        • Energy - Similar to time, if you plan your meals - you can save some energy by not running around stressing out about what to cook. You think all day - this will save you from having to think about dinner. 
        •  Your waist - We've all been there. Nothing planned and/or nothing in the house to eat...so what do we reach for? Some kind of unhealthy, processed, convenience food or take out (which is usually not fresh, highly processed, high calorie, the list could go on). 
        • Emotional stability - This one is for all the moms out there who are cooking 3 meals a day for more than one person. Sometimes that's great and other times it's stressful and hard. It's generally the later if you don't have a plan. When your kids ask "what's for breakfast (insert lunch and dinner)?", you will have an answer or they will just stop asking because they can read it themselves. 

        So now that we have the why down, stay tuned for the next step tomorrow...