Here’s another snap-shot of the bigger picture of our “what-works-for-us” routines. Today, Imma get chatty about grocery shopping and menu planning.
Grain of salt, please. This is not a soap box, this is the sharing circle. And today I have the speaking stick and I want to talk about lists.
(This is where I start singing and dancing. It happens in real life all. the. time.)
On an ongoing basis …
I make lists. Usually of the groceries we’re out of, the recipes I plan to make for the next week or two, the events we have going on or the dinners we already plan to eat away from home and the some-what daily list of the things I need to, or want to, accomplish in any given day.
Where we live we have access to some great grocery options. Aldi and Meijer are the stores I shop the most. On the weekend I look at the ad’s online for each store and build my menu plan off of what’s on sale. The front and very back page of these circulars are called their “loss leaders” which means the store generally looses money on the “sale” but gets you in the door to buy everything else. So I know those items are going to be the cheapest. If something we use a lot of is on sale, I buy more than I need for the week and stick it in the freezer. This happens with meat usually.
I always go to Aldi first and whatever I can’t find or get there – I buy at Meijer with anything else that I planned on getting from their ad as well.
We have favorite meals that I try to rotate in regularly so I can stay in the good graces of my children if I flop more than once during the week. Right now I know that we have busy evenings with soccer practice and youth group so I plan my menu based on being able to make something quick, in the crock pot, or pull it from the freezer on the days I know we’ll be here, there, and every where. On the rare evenings we have time to sit at the table and do more than eat and go, I love trying new things or having friends or family over.
After I shop for our groceries, I chop. I call it the Shop and Chop day of the weekend. I’m basically a sous chef for myself. I wash and prep my veggies for the week, anything I can – I make ahead (or double so I can freeze). This means I make pancakes, cookies or bars, freezable dinners, and lunch items or breakfast items in one huge push so the rest of the week is fairly easy.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. And I get tired. And usually at the end of that day I want to crawl in blanket with a glass of wine and watch hours of tv. But I do have time during the week as well to bake and cook. I have time on busy days to prep dinner if I didn’t get to it on the weekend. There’s always something else to make or do or fix. We might run out of baked goods for lunches on Thursday so I make more on Friday.
Um, you guys. It’s not that easy to get into this habit. 11 years of being a stay at home mom who contracts creative talents outside of the home has taught me this one thing: if it’s working for you, don’t change it. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart if you are not. Don’t try to be Rachel Ray if you are not. Don’t try to be your favorite blogger in the kitchen or your closet with their awesome photos and target themed baskets if you are not. Take what you can from whatever source inspires you and implement the small things. Or don’t! You do you, you’re good at that.
Onward: Now that I’m in the habit of running my kitchen like this, it has made a huge difference in our evenings and my ability to function past 4pm. I post our dinner menu plan on our chalkboard wall every week (and the full one on the fridge for me) and it’s been one of Jessica’s go-to check points for her week.
Turns out I gave birth to someone who needs structure and expectations. She needs a goal in order to accomplish things and when she has to worry about what might be for dinner (if she’ll like it or if I’ve even thought ahead that far yet) she freaks out. I mean it. She flips a lid. This is oddly one of the ways I love her every week – planning not only our dinners but I plan Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, and Dinner every day. She can check in and if I’m not around to help or guide she can help herself. This has saved us in the mornings when she’s tired or not feeling like herself (read, hormones. Also, 11) and after school when she has a lot on her mind and is unwinding from her day. Not having to think about what she’s hungry for and having to ask or make it for herself is a small way I can help her transition from school to home.
And yes, you lovely little freaks: I do plan out our Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks and Dinners for every day of the week for a rotating 7 day basis. Say it with me: WHO IS SHE?!
Here’s what I write in my notebook – one page will be the weekly menu plan while the opposite page is my grocery list:
L: Home lunch (mini pancakes, carrots, strawberries, cookie)
S: Chips and Salsa/apple slices
D: Taco salad and quinoa
B: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
L: Home lunch (muffin, protein and cheese, apple, granola bar)
S: Rice krispie treat/banana
D: Curry with rice, green salad
B: Breakfast burritos/yogurt parfait
L: Hot lunch
S: Carrots/sugar snaps and dips
D: Roast chicken with sweet potato fries
And so on … While the opposite side of my notebook will read like this:
whole roasting chicken
Rice krispie treats
Ham chowder for freezer
cinnamon sugar bread
What did I miss? I feel like I’m telling on myself just a little bit because this sounds like a tried and true formula and although it’s what works for us, this is a system designed solely based on the way I think. I’m a little bit forgetful. Ask the kids how many times we end up using kleenex because although I noticed we were low on toilet paper – that’s the one thing I routinely forget at the grocery store EVERY TIME. But I buy Rice Vinegar almost every trip.
I read recently that you should have a dinner emergency fund in your house – which basically means always have a box of pasta and can of sauce in your pantry because there will be the night that nothing got done and you still have to feed people or you hired a sitter for the night on a whim and expecting them to make your planned pork loin with sides is asking just a little too much. I don’t eat pasta but we have it in the house for these reasons, I’m never out of lettuce or rice, coconut milk, the oils I cook with, eggs or butter.
ONE MORE THING: We’re members at Costco so we buy a few things (in bulk) a few times a year. Like the oils I cook with 😉 and the wine we drink. I love some of their meats, cheeses, and frozen food options. And I always buy flowers.
There’ve been stints in the last (almost) 12 years where I’ve worked full time outside of my home and having a dinner menu plan has made that possible. I know it’s the cliche thing to say that being “just a mom” isn’t a job and sure, I’ve claimed it and struggled with it for years but you know what? I love this job. And I’m good at it.
I don’t get paid to plan meals and custom make them to our families needs, no one calls me a chef.
I don’t get paid to clean our house and do our laundry so our family has what they need to live outside of the walls of our home, no one calls me a maid.
I don’t get paid to grocery shop or shop for clothes or shoes or to keep my home stocked with the necessities, no one calls me their personal assistant.
I don’t get paid to balance a budget or pay accounts payable or be the operating accountant for our several goals, dreams, and responsibilities, no one calls me their CPA.
I don’t get paid to decorate and renovate our spaces, no one calls me their designer.
I don’t get paid to mow our lawn or keep our flower beds weed free or to plant, consider and keep a garden, no one calls me their landscaper.
I don’t get paid to plan our social life or dinner events, or to host our parties or beautiful evenings under the stars, no one calls me their events planner.
I don’t get paid to do a lot of things and I’m not called a lot of titles: I get paid to take photographs, to write. I call myself an artist and a writer.
My family calls me Jodi, my children get to call me mom.
Somehow it all works out, and I love my life. Lists and all.