Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Food Glorious Food...The Plan

I love food....who doesn't, eh?? As a mom I find myself spending a majority of time planning, shopping, putting away, preparing and cleaning up after FOOD! We are a family of five and four of us are BOYS!!! My Sweetie has a good sized appetite, The Boy can out eat me most nights (and I can eat!!!), BuhBuh is hit and miss still, and Little Dude eats ALL DAY LONG!!!! So, since we are snowed in today and probably froze in for another day or two I thought I'd do a little "blog series" on the different things I do as a mom to keep this family happy and fed and share what strategies I am trying this year so that as the appetites of the kids GROW, my money doesn't SHRINK!

The first thing I'm going to talk about is planning. I am a person who needs organization in order to function. Although I live in it daily, even organized chaos can drive me batty. I have learned (through failure!!) that the only way I can keep turning out meals in our kitchen and have things on hand for snacks is to have a PLAN! The days and or weeks where I don't have a plan are the weeks of extra trips to the store and lots of favors for The Sweetie to bring home take out. This is where we spend and lose precious extra dollars.

Coming up with things for dinner can be a daunting task for me. Before I do my plan I ask everyone if there is anything that they would like for dinner in the upcoming weeks. If I'm feeling stuck I will spend some time looking through my recipe box or through cook books for something new. I LOVE trying new recipes! I try to gather a list of several different ideas of things we can have for the upcoming 2 weeks.

Just before every pay day, I try to sit down with our family calendar and plan out our meals for the next couple of weeks; pay period to pay period works best for me rather than a monthly plan. I look over our calendar and see what we have coming up over the next couple of weeks and plan our evening meals accordingly. I try incorporate leftover nights into my plan as well. If kids are off of school or have a half day of school I try to have lunch items on hand also. I then jot down in pencil on the calendar what meals we will have each night. I use pencil because often times things change and I need to move things around! One thing I've learned running this family is to be flexible!!! Kids and life can be unpredictable. Take tonight for example. It's Wednesday and we always have dinner at Church on Wednesdays....but because school was canceled church is also now I need to be able to come up with something for dinner. I know that I have things on hand for a meal and I can just shift things around.

After I know what we are having and when, I spend some time planning out my grocery shopping trip. Because of where we live, the closest grocery store is 15-20 minutes away. To "run to the store" to "pick something up" takes a lot of time out of a day. Typically I will shop during the day when the bigger boys are in school. Little Dude HATES shopping, so when I can I go at night alone it is pure bliss. Shopping alone doesn't always work which is why having a shopping plan is MUST!!! Mostly my shopping plan consists of an organized shopping list. I have a pre-printed list that has items grouped into categories. I go through and highlight the items I need to make the meals that we are planning to have. There are even blank spots to fill in for the things not included on the list. This system isn't fool proof, I don't think I've ever gotten through the store with everything on my list in my cart. I always forget something!

This year I hope I can be more consistent with menu planning and grocery planning. Dinner time is so much easier when I do so. It helps me on days when it's been busy and I'm too tired to think and it makes it possible for me to try new things on days when I have extra time. I also need to make sure I plan for treats and snacks too. My Sweetie and Little Dude are grazers and The Boy and BuhBuh like to have something when they get off the bus and before bed. Planning my shopping trips helps to make them more efficient and hopefully one day I'll figure out a way to get through the store and home with EVERYTHING I need!!

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