Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Works for me Wednesday

I know I should link or something for this WFMW, but I don't know how. If you can help, please email or comment with the info.

Meal Planning

I took the time about 5 years ago to plan out a menu. I enjoy cooking, but I hate to decide what's for dinner. I also like a lot of variety. I found, however, that I was making the same old thing and throwing away perfectly decent food gone bad then running to the store for two more ingredients. EVERY. DAY.

This involves some serious investment of time, but it will last forever. I am one of the pickiest eaters you will find, so I think if you put your mind to it, you'll do even better than me. The primary purpose of this is to plan meals, but it will help greatly with your shopping list and grocery budget.

I got out my recipes and cookbooks, and a spiral notebook and scissors. I made a list of all the entrees I like and will actually make. Then I made a list of all the vegetables/side dishes I like and will actually make (MUCH shorter list). I then cut out each item for moving around. I decided I would plan for 6 nights a week, to accomodate date night.

Here is where the work comes in. You'll have to set your priorities. I planned to have chicken at least twice a week, red sauce no more than once a week, pasta no more than twice a week, and no particular meat two days in a row. You may want to have vegetarian, or fish a certain number of times a week. Just won't fly at my house. I also planned for stew after roast, and dishes requiring boned chicken after preparing a roasted chicken or turkey. Once I got all those ducks in a row I had TWO WHOLE MONTHS of 6 nights/wk, no entree doubled! This was a joy, because having something once every two months is not too often. Plus, as I find new recipes I can either replace something I'm tired of, or add to the end and work up to THREE MONTHS!

Next I matched the veggies/side dishes, first of all the things that MUST go together like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. This involves more moving of pieces of paper, as I didn't want potatoes too often, or cheese every day. (o.k., I LIKE cheese everyday, but it doesn't like me!) I made sure I had a green veggie or salad every meal and increased our intake of these items DRASTICALLY.

Next, I make the shopping list, making sure that I check for EVERY ingredient in my recipes. I may buy meat on sale and freeze it, or canned goods on special, but no more buying fresh produce that isn't in the plan and then throwing away not-so-fresh produce that I neglected to cook. I really save SO MUCH MONEY this way. Now you may be thinking, "GEE, she's so ORGANIZED!" To which I reply, "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" I just LOVE me a plan. I am NOT so organized, which is why this was so necessary. Organized people do this innately. I had to work on it. Now just sit back and let the plan work for you.

This plan shops every other week, so the flexibility lies in that you can eat any of the meals within that two weeks, because you already have all the ingredients for each meal. It can also get backed up because of unexpected events, so your plan will probably last longer than you originally think.

The very best, serendipitous (is that even a word?) part of this plan is what has happened with my kids. I have taught all three of them - ages then: boy 12, girls 15 and 18 - how to cook ALL of these entrees. "WHAT?!?" It's true! As I was finishing up my M.Ed., all my classes were at night and my husband was less than involved in food preparation. I offered to pay them $5 per meal (only one person per meal) to make dinner according to the plan. They had to defrost, if necessary, and begin preparation in time for dinner to be at a decent hour. This was much less expensive than them eating fast food and so much better for them. Our finances had been so low for so long that they had forgotten the meaning of the word allowance. I actually had them arguing over who got to cook, and I came home from class to a plate, left warming for me in the oven or microwave. What's not to love? They learned how to follow a recipe, planning ahead, and the mystery of getting all the parts of a dinner to come out at the same time. They tried more things because they cooked them. From time to time we go off the plan, but we always come back to it eagerly.

click to see here

This is a page of my plan (it's like the velveteen meal plan!). If you run into any problems, just ask me. I LOVE a plan!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Seventeen?

Seventeen things you might not know about me

Ok, I know this was a Thursday Thirteen, but I couldn't blast my daughter's behind away from the computer before now. So here goes.

1. If I could have any gift/skill in the world...the ability to dance. I watch all dance movies - awful acting and all- and dream that I can actually put the lower half of my body into some kind of synchronization with the top half.

2. I actually took a hip hop dance class a couple of years ago. If you've ever seen me in person, please tone the guffaws down to a mild chortle. It was me and 3 girls from a high school drill team and a girl in junior high. Wow. With mirrors everywhere.
3. I think I'm thinner and more attractive than I really am. This is why photographs are so unwelcome and so shocking. Unfortunately, when I was MUCH thinner and more attractive, I didn't have a clue.

4. I was plagued by nightmares as a child and couldn't watch any t.v. show or movie that was even slightly scary. This includes "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" with Don Knotts. Ok, stop guffawing, I can hear you. When I got older I learned to change my dreams when they started to turn dark and now I almost never have any trouble at all. Even after watching really dark, psychological movies. I still don't do the whole Freddy Krueger, Halloween, SawIII thing, though.

5. As outgoing as I am - I can literally carry on a balanced, two-way conversation with virtually anyone - I often agonize over my own foolishness and/or foot-in-mouth disease on my way home.

6. I don't consider myself maternal in the slightest. I always wanted children, but the actual raising of them has been quite a challenge. It's not their fault, just how it is. I actually do better with teenagers, even in jr. high, than with toddlers through elementary. I know. Weird, huh?

7. I have an uncanny memory for faces, and I'm pretty good with names, too. If I tell you your face is familiar, I will eventually figure out where I met you before. In another state. 22 years ago.

8. I have a nearly all-consuming desire to be on stage. Except I don't do skits. They're not cool.

9. I have a minister's license and I am third generation in the ministry. I don't preach, but I do teach, counsel, sing, and write.

10. My most difficult birthday was my 30th, because I had not finished my degree and I was disappointed in myself. By 40 I had my B.A. and was working on my M.Ed. Much better.

11. I still feel that the bigness of my life is ahead of me. I hope I'm not wrong about this because I believe there is bigness in me. At this point there is definitely bigness to me.

12. I took an English horseback riding class in college and it was one of the most fun things I have ever done. One of these days I'm getting a horse and I don't care if it harelips the Devil! What exactly does that phrase mean?

13. I don't think I am creative. I'm really good at following a pattern, and that is not the same thing.

14. Did I mention that I'm weird. Oh, you already knew that. What I didn't realize growing up and trying desperately to hide my weirdness, was that it was like trying to hide a fart. Particularly if one is lactose intolerant. I have found, however, that weirdness seems to be "in" these days and I enjoy a certain degree of coolness to my own bewilderment.

15. I carry Play-Doh with me at all times, because when I get stressed out I like to smell it. Please refer to the above item.

16. When I was in college, different school, I slid down the bannister of the music bldg. in a dress. Unfortunately, the young man at the bottom neglected to catch me and I broke my foot.

17. I had a black belt in dating before I married 23 years ago. I did mention that I was much thinner and more attractive then, didn't I?

O.k. that's certainly more than anyone really needed to know. I'm going to bed now. Feel free to spread the love.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sweet, sweet connection

I'm cookin' with gas, now!

Actually, I'm not cooking at all, my sweet daughter is. I'm merely sitting on the floor of my new apartment...BLOGGING! Yes friends, I finally have internet. No couch, no desk, no table, no box springs, no bedframe, no lamps. I do have a small t.v., a computer with INTERNET!, an air mattress for Andrea and a queen mattress for me. Oh, find of finds - we happened upon a not-so-gently used chair and coffee table at the DUMPSTER! Now we can have High Tea with the Queen! She gets the chair of course.

I spent my Saturday partaking of various forms of chocolate. Dicey business for a diabetic, but I persevered. Actually my boss' women's group put together a Chocolate Boutique women's day and she invited Andrea and me. It was a treat, not just because of the chocolate (MMMMM!), but because a day on the floor watching our 4 t.v. stations didn't hold much appeal. Now this wasn't just about eating, but also about how God's love is extravagant, and necessary, just like chocolate. You can get the details of how to do your own C.B. at www.group.com and enjoy!

I hardly know what to blog about since I've been so out of touch. I want you to know you may tag me for any meme you'd like and I'll be sure to respond. No word yet on a job for Doug.

I'm doing pretty well, considering... Considering my van started smoking last Wednesday and he had to make a mad dash up here to replace a hose that went to the coolant, pump, valve thingy. I know it may not seem cost effective to drive that round trip, but imagine the cost of limping one's van into an unknown repair shop and saying, "Um, I think it's broke. Can you fix it?"

I snickered feverishly at In the Midst of It's post today. Dangerous in an office setting. I'm sure you all did, too, because I think the only ones who read my blog are related to her. OOH! If you'll notice, I just created my very first link or two. You may gaze in wonder. You may also notice (please concur) that I've gotten my funny back on. Apparently it was attached to personal internet service. Who'da thunk it? It's a good thing, too, because all that whining was gettin' on my last nerve. I must say, however, that Monday is the saddest day of the week because my MomTime buddies are playing without me. You know who you are!

I'll sign off before this officially becomes the longest post evah. I'll be back. Soon.