Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meal Planning

I like to think I'm organized. I had a bit of a crisis about that the other morning but it seems like just a few hours later I can have a different view! I use the folder system for papers/bills and get the laundry done before we have worn our last pair of socks or underwear. But, I still struggle with keeping everything together. Some things don't get done...or done as soon as or as often as I would like. But, generally I'm able to find something when asked...and I do work out often...and we do eat good meals...and the papers are together for taxes and our house doesn't have a thick layer of dust on most surfaces.

A friend of mine has a blog about her quest to get organized.....In Pursuit of an Organized Life. She's in a different life stage now than I an with little daughters...and she really is my sister's friend having grown up across the street from my sister when I was no longer living there. But she's still MY friend too and has become a nice grown up!

Often we think other people have it easier. Ah...her kids are little. How nice that was not to have hours of homework being juggled with music practice and swim practice. But all stages are both fun/rewarding and challenging. Since I have one child and work part time I have had people think that makes things easy. And, I admit, it does, in some ways. But there's a flip side to everything. Working part time makes me think I can do it all, so sometimes I get a bit overloaded as well. Whatever stage we're in, it seems like we can improve things with a bit of organization.

In her blog, mentioned above, she talks about rotating the same meals throughout the year. My friend in a past life did just that. She had the same grocery list that she laminated and used every month of the year. She also lived in a St. Paul suburb, so maybe it's in the water there! Anyway, she would rotate through the same menu but added one cooking day every month to put things in the freezer. On the cooking day she would usually make large batches of just a couple chili or be able to pull out. During the month she would often run to the grocery store in between her major run to grab some perishables, but she really kept to her routine month after month for the years I worked with her.

I do plan ahead with making meals, as I have mentioned in previous posts. I do this different ways...sometimes grabbing some cards or thumbing through cookbooks until I find 20-30 recipes and have those all on deck. Then I go through and choose 4 for each week or so. The problem for me is that having any more than 4 meals planned doesn't allow me enough flexibility for grabbing something that looks good in the store, so i try to keep it to 4 or so. The other end of balancing this is that I don't want to buy too much and have more than we can eat/freeze. It's a juggle, for sure.

This week I made the kohlrabi bake from yesterday's post. I'm hoping to make some Kung Pao chicken and Thai tofu pizza (recipes to follow). I have on reserve some Trader Joe's items for the end of the week, since I'm never sure of what will happen then. I don't want to ruin the element of blogging surprise!

In the pantry I like to have canned olives, roasted red peppers, broth, canned and dried beans, and pasta. In the refrigerator/freezer I keep some Trader Joe's chicken apple sausage, peas, cheddar and Parmesan cheese (feta sometimes too), chicken breasts, and soy chorizo. We really do try to eat very little processed items, but I do buy a few things for those nights when needed; they have saved the evening many times. The pictured items are two things I have in my freezer that are non-local processed items that will save the day at some point in the near future. I have fresher items stocked to save the day as well...but just wanted to show that it doesn't have to be all or nothing when it comes to processed items!

We don't use many mixes preferring to make things from scratch. I just don't think it's that hard to put the dry ingredients together for cakes or pancakes or brownies. That being said, I did buy some ready to pour in the pan brownies from Trader Joe's since those desserts for high school swimming spaghetti dinners may not get made ahead of time every time.

The laundry is done for the moment..the bathrooms are clean and the floors are scrubbed, the meals are either fully or partially prepared (sometimes I just chop the ingredients and stick in containers in the fridge for easy assembly), the dessert for the spaghetti dinner is made, I have had some awesome workouts the last couple days so if that doesn't happen in the next day I won't be too crabby, the dog has had some good walks, the dog poops are picked up, fruit is chopped and the rinds discarded, the garbage is out, the groupons are printed...I'm ready!

Oh yea...and the blog post is ready to go!
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