meal planning, woot

I probably should have started a support group.  A group of people to cheer me on through the ups and downs of starting something new.

Yes, I’ve finally jumped on board the Meal Planning Train.  A summer full of millions (millions, I tell you) of minute decisions that only I could (or would) make has made me run full steam ahead back into the safe and caring arms of Routine.  <cue cozy blanket and fetal position>

Ah, Routine.  You make my heart sing.  You make everything….easier.

The first two weeks were great.  I totally get the amazonian compulsion to give five stars to something you just started using this morning.  I love it!  This is amazing!  Why didn’t I try this before! Everyone should try it!  

The next two weeks were great.  (And 21 days makes a habit, right?).  We cut our eating out expenditures into about one sixth of what it was.  Take that, Achilles.  Big pats on the back for me, by me.

I made several versions of a meal plan and decided to go with the “make one big pot of beans at the beginning of the week and then have Variations on Bean for the rest of the week”.  We had Pinto Week, Black Bean Week, and Garbanzo Week.  I did sketch in an Asian Week – but only 1/3 of the family would be satisfied at any given time.

I finally realized that paying an extra five dollars for something special at the grocery store (avocados! peaches!) is a way better deal than taking a family of six out to eat.  It sounds like a no brainer, but I ask you this – when you read about household budgeting, what is usually the first thing to take a hit?  The grocery budget.  And I bought into it.  Grocery budget is a place to cut, not a place to increase.

Apparently I am not the average grocery shopper, because if I cut my grocery budget any more, we wouldn’t have anything to eat.  I love what Renee says about grocery budgets — basically she says that it takes a lot of money to feed a family good food and it’s worth it.  My new philosophy and Devo and I are both jazzed.  Abundance.

But I digress.

After culinary success and psychological enlightenment, Weeks Five and Six weren’t so great.  And now is when I’m wishing there were people out there cheering me on because my own cheering mechanism has petered out.  <cue sound effect of mechanism petering out>

Some notes towards the long-term success of this project.

Variety is important.  I think this is where my Train began to derail.  I got sick and tired of meals that contained tortillas or chips.  Like, I’m going to hurl if you make me eat one more haystack.  (Haystacks, in case you don’t know, are a quintessential Adventist meal.  Think taco salad on a bed of chips.  Kinda.)

Grocery shop regularly and with an eye toward abundance.  And here’s where we fell off altogether.  Extra expenses this last pay period had me thinking that we could just eat out of the pantry.  Warning: This is a death knell to the Meal Plan.  You can’t cook from a Meal Plan if you don’t have the ingredients for the Planned Meal.  You can eat, but it won’t be pretty.  (Hello to the minimum of three meals my family walked away from virtually untouched this week).

30 minute meals are where it’s at.  Change my name to Rachael, I’m a 30 minute meal kinda gal.  30 minutes?  I can handle that day in and day out.  More than that?  I’ll crumble under the commitment.  Know thyself.

 

Any other meal planners out there?  (And if it’s not a success story, let’s wait until next week to hear it when I’m feeling more optimistic, okay?)

 

 

 

 

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LAME-O

I haven’t rambled on in a while and there have been so many things going on.

Amelie has learned to talk. “No” is her favorite word. We are still in that delightful stage where the word “no” is cute. She also enjoys bleating “Pappie”. Or, more accurately, “Paaaaaappppppiiiiiiiiie!” I think this is especially cute at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Speaking of 3am, Amelie has been waking up two or three times a night since we got back. This is getting very old. My good friend Edna called the other day for advice for her son–their baby has started waking up at 4:30 in the morning and not going back to sleep. So I gave my advice (the baby is old enough…if nothing else works, let the baby work it out for herself) and then decided that maybe I should take my own advice. But I haven’t gotten up the courage yet. Hopefully tonight is the night.

You know, these mid-night baby sessions bring to mind the psalmist – “I think of You on my bed at night”. But there are times when I say to God, “You know, I’d really rather be sleeping.” That sounds un-pious to say, but it’s…true.

Amelie is developing into a songbird. She can sing the Alphabet Song, and “Grey Squirrel” and “Sabbath is a Happy Day”. I’ve been trying to catch it on video, it’s so cute. When I say sing, I really mean sing. You can actually follow the tune, and she’ll often sing on pitch when we’re singing together. I’m so proud. That’s really something for an almost 16 month old!

Lia is developing into the life of the party. People come over and we can hardly get a word in edgewise, she is chatting them up at full speed. It’s hilarious!

Lia is also developing into a hairdresser. Yes, we have made that first mothering milestone of my child cutting her own hair. And some of Amelie’s hair. Luckily the chunk she cut out of her own hair was in the back and it’s not really noticeable (but it was her curls! sniff). But she cut off enough at the nape of Amelie’s neck that she just has two long curls left, one of each side of her head. Like a Hassidic Jew. I’m trying to be a cool cucumber about this, but when I see those short hairs sticking up on the top of Amelie’s head I’m just…forlorn.

On the home front, I have decided that there are not enough hours in the day. There really aren’t. I always try to reorganize myself after a vacation, and I haven’t managed to carry out very many of my new ideas yet. This and a number of other inabilities has prompted me to re-name myself. My new name is :

LAME-O.

It fits. I wear it.

The once a month shopping thing isn’t going so well. We were at costco for the first trip of the week (there is another trip scheduled for Thursday), and I told Devo that I have been TRYING to make less trips, do less shopping, use less gas and I’M FAILING COMPLETELY. He told me not to be so hard on myself.

Maybe he’s right. But I still like being LAME-O.

One new idea that worked out today was to cook lunch right after cleaning up breakfast. The morning always flies by and suddenly it’s 11:45am and my blood sugar is low, my patience is lower, and my children are clamoring about my legs. So we eat sandwiches. Again. My new theory is to cook lunch at the beginning of the day. Then no matter what sticks get stuck in the proverbial spokes, we get fed. For less than $15.

On another side of life, our senior pastor is leaving our church for another job. The big announcement was last Sabbath. And it really was a big announcement: he’s been senior pastor at our church for 14 years. That’s more than half my lifetime. So there are a lot of changes on our horizon. Transition and change.

But back to the home front: we child-proofed our loft and upstairs bonus room last week. Amelie has turned into a climber. We’re always turning around and finding her at the top of…something. We should have named her Hillary (as in, Sir Hillary, the first westerner to climb Everest). So our loft is now enclosed with a bamboo screen and the windows in the bonus room are barred with wooden picket fences. Not exactly the decor I would have chosen, but it is safe and it is comparatively cheap.

So now that the loft has been transformed into an island oasis, thanks to the bamboo, it changes the whole aspect of the room. We ended up swapping the entertainment room and the school/craft/guest room stuff. Maybe it would all feel better if I brought in a lava lamp and some fake leis. NOT.

The view from below. See the iron bars? The girl’s bodies fit through the bars, but not their heads. Odd image. Weirder things have happened.