Friday, July 3, 2009

Advance Prep and Flexibility

I was asked by our company a couple of times, in reference to getting supper made, "How did you do this?" Considering we were busy all day taking care of kids or going places, it was a very valid question!

The key for me is being prepared. I have watched 6 small children on many occasions before and I know that there is no time for cooking with that many kids in the house! So, I made sure that cooking wasn't something I would have to do when company was here. What I did:

*Planned simple meals

*Took shortcuts like buying french bread from the grocery bakery instead of making homemade

*Froze rolls and sandwich bread so we'd have plenty on hand

*Made a lasagna and a chicken/brocolli/rice casserole a few days before they came

*Washed lettuce and had it ready to go from the ziploc bag to the bowl for salad

*Made a big batch of brownies all at once before they came (1 pan was dessert the first night, 1 pan was part of our contribution to the church potluck the next night)
*Made the Black Bean Salsa for the potluck earlier in the day when the kids were busy/sleeping

*Had lunchmeat and sliced cheese on hand for sandwiches

*Served ice-cream bars for dessert one night so I wouldn't have to make anything (it was nice that they just happened to be on sale this week too!)

*Had sloppy joe meat ready to put on buns for lunch

*Shopped in advance for all the meals
*Cleaned in advance as much as possible so I didn't have to do it all the day or two before they arrived

I've always loved to plan ahead and organize. Yep, I'm the kid who packed for church camp like 3 weeks in advance, made lists, had all the little travel bottles, etc. I still do that for big trips! Being prepared is such a lifesaver in so many aspects of motherhood. The more kids I have, the more prepared I need to be. With any future pregnancies my goal is to have a huge freezer full of food before I hit Week 7 when the misery of all-day sickness hits. I've already told my husband that we should take about $400 and hit Wal-Mart and fill up our chest freezer with easy-to-make meals since we know from much experience that I won't want to cook for a few months and now there are lots of hungry mouths to feed! With each baby I have had, I have made up about 20 meals before the baby's birth and froze them. This made those first few months a breeze with a new baby! Most moms use diaper bags, right? Diaper bags are just one small way of being prepared for the inevitable!

When you talk to moms of lots of children, who are a wealth of information and inspiration, I might add, it is clear that preparation and organization are very key to their surviving and having a peaceful life. That's not to say that their house is perfect or they never need to be flexible, but it is to say that most of them have learned to manage their lives instead of living in constant chaos. The women I know with the most children end up doing more of the once-a-month cooking or the once-a-month shopping or the monthly menu plan instead of the weekly. They are experts at stocking up clothing in the next-size up for their children and stashing gifts away in advance to be prepared for birthdays and holidays. They often freeze things ahead, have a large pantry, buy in bulk, and cook in bulk. They plan a month or two at a time with lesson planning for homeschooling (or even a year at a time!) and they often prepare for the next day the night before by laying out clothing or putting breakfast food on the table, etc. They have all kinds of crockpot recipes so that a hot meal is ready in the crockpot after church or after a long day.

Advance prep will be your best friend when it comes to managing a household of kids or having company. Of course you have to remember that flexibility should go hand-in-hand with that too. I may look at my Master Packing List a hundred times and we still might run out of diapers on vacation and need a midnight run to Wal-Mart or the kids may lose every pair of shoes we brought them even if we brought extra. When this happens, you have to roll with the punches and just learn to be flexible. It didn't kill Jeremiah to wear his sister's pajamas from the dirty clothes bag when he wet through every extra outfit of his on one vacation. We did survive when my very-organized Mom forgot the diapers on a camping trip when my little brother was only 1 and she was taking 6 kids (my cousins and I) camping at the lake by herself. And though I shopped for all the food in advance, I still made a quick store trip when it turned out that the cream cheese I had frozen was such a nasty consistency we couldn't use it on our bagels and needed some fresh cream cheese. So, while preparation will help you a lot, don't put all of your hope in it or you will be disappointed! Life will always contain many surprises and frustrations but if you are prepared you will face a lot less of them than if you aren't prepared!

What are some tips for becoming more prepared? If you are totally new to being prepared, I suggest trying some of these ideas and incorporating them bit by bit (not all at once) into your life:

*Rising early to have time with God and prepare for the day

*Using a daily list (whether in your head or on paper), a home management binder, Daily Docket, or schedule to map out your day and write down things that need to be done
*Make supper in the morning so when the "pit hour" comes and all the kids are crying you can just heat it up!

*Making a Master List of your family's favorite 50 meals that you can consult when you need menu-planning ideas

*Getting into the habit of making a weekly menu-plan and shopping once a week or less

*Making up a Master Packing List to look over when you are packing for trips so you don't forget those important items for each person in the family

*Making a Master Grocery List as my friend Heather did to help avoid forgetting items on shopping trips

*Having a weekly "stock-the-diaper-bag" routine where you make sure there are a few outfits, a few diapers and some wipes, and some toys, etc. It's no use taking a diaper bag if it's not stocked!

*Making a weekly schedule or routine for activities you can do with your child (playdough one day, painting the next, etc.)

*Setting out the cups/bowls/cereal/bread the night before so breakfast goes smoothly

*When chicken goes on sale, cook 4-6# of it in a crockpot or in a roasting pan in the oven. Cool it, chop or shred it, and freeze it for a handy addition to meals when you are cooking. Do the same for cooking hamburger, dried beans, etc.

*Do a Baking Day to prep snacks and breads for your family so they are easily accesible.

*Buying a freezer chest that you can use to buy ahead when things go on sale.

*Having an emergency kit in the car, first aid kit in the house, and fire extinguisher handy.

*Pack a Park-Kit for the trunk of your car. Going to the park all the time in the summer? Don't want to fuss with packing snacks and drinks every time? Fill an empty diaper box with crackers, bottled water, wipes, band-aids, sunscreen, sun hats, a blanket, sunglasses, kleenex, sand toys, etc. and then you will have it handy if you need it. Of course you will have to restock it now and then though!

*Have a few outfits that are older or faded that you were going to toss or give to the thrift store? Stash one outfit per person in your trunk of your car. Then, when you are at a picnic and your kid wets on you or you discover you forgot to stock the diaper bag, you won't have to drive home! Just remember to put them back in the trunk of the car after you wash them.

*Back up all of your photos and home videos on CDs/DVDs/Memory card, etc. and keep them in a fireproof box with your important documents.

*Make a Travel Bag and fill with activities that your kids can do on long car trips.
*Pack separate bags for each day for a vacation. I love this idea I found online a while back! Instead of having 5 separate suitcases which Dad has to haul into the tent/hotel every day, pack an outfit for each person in one brown bag or tote bag, labeled DAY ONE. Then you just have to bring in blankets, diapers, the bathroom bag, and the DAY ONE bag. We do this now on some vacations/trips and it's so nice to have everyone's swimsuit handy in the swim bag when you want to go to the lake or pool or a church bag fully stocked with church outfits.

*Make a gift stash and add to it as you find great new stuff for cheap at yard sales, or on clearance. Then you can "shop at home" for someone when you want to bless someone who is having a hard day or give someone a birthday surprise.

I'd LOVE to hear your ideas for being prepared since this list is just a starting point!

And have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July everyone!


the momma said...

great ideas!!
I have a thought to add to your 'spend $400 & stock the freezer' idea: when you eat out of the freezer - 'buy' it from yourself (take the $ out of your grocery envelope & put it in a different envelope) when your freezer is empty - your envelope will be full & you've got your $400 back (roughly)

Amy @ Finer Things said...

Excellent post with great ideas. We have the big freezer, meals made ahead, etc. but I am always scrambling at ballgame time... need to have a bag ready to go!

Momma Bear said...

I'm hanging on by a thread these days for various reasons so this post is very encouraging to me. thanks.

Brianna @ Heart(h) Management said...

What an absolutely fabulous post! Crystal Paine shared the link to your post on Facebook and I'm so very glad she did.

I'm NOT a naturally organized person, but the Lord has been teaching me to be a more orderly sort of wife, mom and homemaker.

We show His character and display His glory when we emulate Him with order!

Kristin said...

I'm like you. I am totally a list person and I always start packing for trips way in advance!

We're leaving for an 8 day camping trip tomorrow, and I made out my Master List a few weeks ago. We'll be using my parents' old pop-up camper so it's nice that I've been able to pack things in the cupboards instead of dragging along tons of extra bags, boxes, etc.

I thought your list of ideas for being prepared were really good and very comprehensive. I have nothing to add! :-)

The Three 22nds said...

This made me laugh! (in a good way:)

I am a total listmaker for big things (trips, daily goals) etc. But when it comes to small things - not so much.

I carried a diaper bag for about 1 week with baby number one. That is it.

We usually have an odd assortment of clothes in our van.

I stash a diaper in my purse.

We live life on the edge :)

A Loved Wife said...

Wonderful ideas! I'm a very scatterbrained and disorganized person and new to staying at home,so the Lord is really working in me on those issues, so this post is exactly what I need right now!! Thanks for sharing these!

God bless!

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