August 03, 2010

Order of Operations: Menu

Did you know I have a food blog? Yep. You can find it if you click the "food" link in my sidebar. I keep most of my favorite recipes there.

What does that have to do with this post??? Well...

It's been so long since I have worked on my Order of Operations series, that I felt like you needed a refresher. Heck, I needed one, too.

So here was my brilliant husband's math equation formula that covers each priority/area of life - the things that must be done so we can try and 'tread water'. When our priorities are out of line, things tend towards chaos... even for those with great organizational skills.

Here's the equation:

Please - P for Priorities (God & Family)

Excuse - E for Environment (Attitude/Homemaking)

My - M for Menu (Nourishment)

Dear - D for Direction (Goals/Calendars/Deskwork)

Aunt - A for Academics (School/Work)

Sally - S for Social (Friends/Family/Media)

Bee - B for Blogging/Being You (Time for self/Hobbies)

From the original post:
All of these things working together in harmony make a complete YOU - a functioning one that blesses her family. Sometimes it seems like a juggling act keeping them all rotating seamlessly. Things get dropped when you focus on one way more than the others. I thought I would spend some time on each topic and talk about it's importance and how you can use your time more wisely in that area. If you have some tips or ideas, send them my way - I'd love to quote you.
This post is about the M for Menu. The other parts of the series which are completed are linked on the list above. Click over if you missed them!

M is for MENU... the priority of nourishment... filling the belly with food and the heart with love.

That's where we are today. I had intended yesterday to get the menu made, but we ended up making cream of wheat and toast for dinner because we forgot that it was Boy Scout night and daddy didn't have time to grill the fish we had bought. I was secretly glad that dinner was something quick. I was also hoping to get a lot of desk work done... but the baby saw to it that my computer and desk time was limited also.

Such is life... and all it's distractions.

I love this quote:

"I spent years complaining about all the interruptions that occured, keeping me from my work. Then one day I realized the interruptions WERE my work." ~ Unknown
Isn't that the truth? Each interruption is divinely ordained.

What is a mother's purpose?

In the beginning, she feeds a baby with her own body... as if by magic. God created us as the source of life and nourishment for our children. The source of help, comfort, and love for our mate. We encourage and we build up... with each smile and every seemingly trivial plate full of yummy goodness that we dish out.

We can be wasteful - unplanned, and harried... with drawers full of rotting veggies in the bottom of the refrigerator, a desk-top full of fast food receipts, and a mounting debt from eating out too much when dinner wasn't planned...

...or we can be thoughtfully prepared... and have a list of things our family likes to eat, a handfull of coupons to use at the grocery store, and a general plan for our meals to keep from wasting food and money.

The choice is up to us - and requires little more than some prayer, thought, and planning. OK, OK, and an hour or two more per week if you plan to incorporate the sales and coupons at your local grocery store.

Here's how I do it (and I'm certainly not a pro! - We just started working on this aspect of our family life harder after I began reading "The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half" by Stephanie Nelson):

1. I shop my pantry first. Usually, some time Saturday or Sunday (Monday if we are out of town for the weekend) I'll go through and make a quick inventory of what we have available to use to cook with. If there is already a bag of frozen chicken, it is likely that I'll try to figure out how to use the chicken before we go buy other meat. If some meals come to mind with what we have, I peg the recipes and find out what all we are missing and jot that down on a grocery list.

2. I sit down Sunday between church and small group (or Monday if we are out of town for the weekend) and browse through my grocery inserts, coupons, and cook books and discuss my family's desires for the week - what are they hungry for? If there's a sale on a certain item we like, I make a note of the price in my food notebook. If I have a special coupon that makes it worth me going to a different grocery store (like my 5$ off a 50$ purchase at Target), I might plan to go to that store instead of my regular grocery store.

3. I write out a rough sketch of a menu. Usually I write out breakfasts, lunches, and dinners... (I'm working on adding in snacks, too). I keep a list of favorite meals on a different page in my food notebook and refer to it if my family doesn't have any special requests and I need to fill in blanks. I have a menu section in my dayplanner and that's where I keep my menu currently. It would probably be better if it were on my refrigerator, but my fridge is not magnetic except for the sides... and the walls prevent much of it from being usable space... so I haven't been keeping it in the kitchen. I think I might print a menu out and tape it to the inside of the pantry door in the future. That would prevent me from having to go upstairs if my dayplanner is on my desk.

Here's the sample menu for this week:

Monday: cereal / Subway Lunch & grocery shop / Cream of Wheat & Toast / yogurt snack

Tuesday: yogurt & toast / OUT for lunch fast food & grocery shop / Bada Bing chicken, steamed broccoli, Mac n Cheese Casserole / homemade chocolate chip cookies snack

Wednesday: eggs, toast, turkey bacon, juice / surprise lunch out courtesy of Grandma / falafels, Lebanese cucumber & tomato salad with feta / chips and pound cake for snack

Thursday: cereal / tomato soup & grilled cheese / chicken Parmesan, parsley-pecan pesto on penne / raisins and cookies for snack

Friday: blueberry sour cream muffins, chocolate milk / chicken nachos, cokes / baked potato soup / apples and peanut-butter snack

Saturday: late breakfast - pancakes, maple syrup, bacon, eggs / early dinner OUT - Chicken Shwarma, rice pilaf, hummus, pita (pick up groceries at deli), lemon pound cake snack

Sunday: cereal / Potato Skins, salad & biscuits / Chili and Rice (small group)

4. Go through and pull any recipes I might need, check my pantry with the kids and make sure of what we do have so we don't over-buy. Make out my grocery list as I go.

5. Make sure the menu fits reality (such as: this week I am making potato skins with the leftover skins from the baked potato soup... so I have to make sure the soup comes first)... and we usually try and fit in at least one lunch out during the week and a meal or two out on the weekend with daddy. Sunday nights we do potlucks with our church small group fellowship - so I only have to make a single dish (we rotate who brings meat/side-dish/fixings and dessert). You'll want to fit your schedule in to your menu and be as real as possible. If you plan a pot roast for Sunday and you know you really won't cook it - you'll be wasting money on groceries.

6. Make a list of other ideas you had while you were working on this week's menu. Most of the time, as I'm working, I'll get other dinner ideas. I put those on another sheet so I'm ahead of the game next week. It helps with looking for sales to know what you are in the mood to eat, too. It also gives me a list to discuss with the family on Sunday the following week when I sit down to work on the menu again.

7. Get my groceries. Lately this is a cumbersome task because I've been following the Coupon Mom's advice to keep a grocery journal. I write my food list down in my spiral and the date and what store I am at... then I mark down the price/size/brand for each item. This way, I know what stores have the best price and what the sales prices are and how often they run. I haven't been doing this very long, but it really has given me some insight. It takes a LOT of extra time in the store, but if you are really trying to cut your grocery bill... it helps to be in the know.

8. THE HARDEST STEP: plan each day by looking at your menu and getting prepared to cook for that day. MAKE yourself get ready and do the prep work necessary. I know I'm much more apt to cook dinner at home if I pull the meat out at 10AM to thaw. My husband gets home between 4 and 5, so I can start cooking in the afternoon and have it ready by 5 if I get on the ball. Also, when you look at your menu plan, you can make a mental note if you need to go pick up perishables, pick produce from your outside garden and clean it, or leave out beans to soak over night. Planning a bit from day to day keeps you moving through your menu all week long with success.

So there you have it... great advice for keeping your family nourished and your pocket-book fatter. Now I'll head off to try and follow some of it myself. We have a few things to pick up at the store after we eat a greasy fast food lunch today. If I had finished my menu yesterday as I had planned, I could have picked them up when I was at the store yesterday afternoon!

See? I'm certainly not perfect. Thankfully, there's always a chance to do better tomorrow. We live and learn.

Hopefully focusing on our priorities will help us ALL to live BETTER.

PS The graphic above is from my food blog. Kitty made it:


Gwen T said...

I'm so glad you mentioned your food blog! I hadn't noticed that before.

You're totally right - preparation and purposeful planning makes this area a zillion times better.

I continually work at being better prepared and not procrastinating. I remember my oldest (when he was 2) imitating me by standing at the open fridge and saying "Ummmm...." That's bad, especially if it's 5:30 pm! :)

Cindy said...

Cool beans, Heather. I especially agree with your #8! I'm good at making the plans but when it comes down to doing the cooking. Blech. :)

Hannah Braboy said...

Your food blog is one of my favorite online spots for menu inspiration- you and the Pioneer Woman. I love menu planning!

Anonymous said...

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Sprittibee said...

Gwen : LOL. ;) Yeah, last night's recipe for Bada Bing Chicken has been on the food blog since 2005. It was DELISH! Mushrooms, sherry cooking wine, bacon and breaded chicken... mmmmm. I would eat it for breakfast if there had been any left. And that Mac and Cheese Bake - OH MY! I need to get that one on there. It is a newer one that I discovered at Thanksgiving (cousin Rachel made it). I always like cooking at home better - even with all the clean up involved. And when I cook at home, so do my kids. Morgan made us a lemon pound cake last night! I can't wait to have it for breakfast!

Cindy: Yeah, but you have to cook gluten free - no fun in that! ;) Planning has always been my strong point. Getting things done has always been my weak one. :(

Thanks Hannah - I make some of PW's stuff sometimes. Sometimes I make my own version (especially the Migas) because Texas has one over on Oklahoma on Mexican food. LOL



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