Monday, July 13, 2009

Closing Down the Zoo--Target Area One

One of the first things I realized when I decided to take a week of rest/contemplation from our busy summer life was that a huge area where I was facing frustration and time loss was in the FOOD arena. My kids seem to eat all day long and when you are trying to buy on sales and on a budget and are on a crazy summer schedule of frequent activity, this can be taxing. I realized that I spend way too much time shopping, cooking, searching for snacks, etc. In the summer, it's all too easy to get off of the menu planning due to endless picnics and get-togethers and I was feeling the strain of my lack of planning.

The more kids that join our family, the more organized we have to become to make things run smoothly instead of exploding into chaos. So, I came to the conclusion, which I believe is insight from God into my situation, that I need to be extremely proactive about food and work to organize my meal planning even more so that I can shop even less and buy in bulk more.

My first step was to create a Master List of meals we commonly enjoy. I had already started on this last year and had it in my home management binder and I merely added to it and typed it up. I got this idea from Marcy, a sweet friend in MN who has 4 children and obviously knows that organization is key to keeping them all fed!

My next step was to organize the meals under categories like: Mexican food, Italian food, Soups, Salads, Chicken meals, Casseroles, etc.

My third step was to assign meals to different days of the month (saving one meal a week as a free night where we can eat out, go to a picnic, or eat leftovers) and plan out two months worth of meals. Because of my Categories List of meals I was able to vary the meals greatly. A mexican meal one night, chicken the next, sandwich meal the next, etc. so that we have about 25 different suppers in a month's time. We eat a lot of rice and beans and meatless meals as well as plenty of simple meals like homemade pizza, spaghetti with tomato sauce, grilled cheese and tomato soup, etc.

The fourth step is creating a shopping list. I made a list of every ingredient I will need for every meal on my list for the next few weeks. My goal is to shop every two weeks for now and work up to shopping once a month with quick weekly produce and milk runs. As time goes on, monthly menu planning and shopping should become easier and easier as I get the hang of it and have previous months' lists to consult.

The fifth step will be to shop for all of these items, which will be an adventure! The sales haven't been very good at our local grocery stores lately and the prices are astounding! I will definitely bulk shop in the town 30 miles away where I can at least hit a Walmart for some much-cheaper prices. But even that Walmart is more pricey than the Walmarts in the midwest. Food here is just expensive! I calculated the other day that Alathia and Jeremiah, together, eat $220 worth of food each month! And that was without adding in milk and juice they drink. They typically eat very cheap snacks like hardboiled eggs, apples, crackers I got on sale, homemade bread, etc. but it still costs money! Justus eats about $60 worth of food in a month, this is not including formula. Doing the math really helped me to see why my grocery budget is always over-extended!

The sixth step is to take as many shortcuts as I can in my cooking. I already bulk cook meats and beans and chop and freeze diced onions for cooking, etc. but I need to do this even more to stay ahead of the game. I'm going to ask my hubby to help me reorganize the pantry so we can put our deep freeze (which is currently in our storage shed) in it and fill it up with breads, frozen vegetables, etc.

The seventh step is to do once or twice monthly baking days where I bake items that my family enjoys and freeze them for handy snacks.

I will share on my blog how things are going in late August after I have had a couple of months to try this out. My hope is that by buying some things in bulk, and planning ahead more I will be able to stay out of the stores, thus saving me time, and perhaps even money. I will also evaluate whether or not our current grocery budget is enough. With Justus eating more solids and growing like a weed we may need to up our weekly amount as we've had to do with our other kids when they turned one.

I am indebted to many wise women for their inspiration in menu planning. There are some GREAT blogs out there that deal with the subject. Check out some of these blogs (listed in my sidebar blog roll) for some excellent tips.


Passionate Homemaking

The Happy Housewife

Tomorrow I will share my Master List of Meals we typically make...
Wednesday I will share other ways I plan to simplify life in this hard season of rearing little ones....


The Three 22nds said...

Do you find that if you have more food around that your family eats more?

If I have snacks that the kids like they are more likely to ask me for them and claim to be hungry even if they really aren't.

Therefore, I try really hard to minimize snacks. For myself too, I find that the more food I have in the freezer etc and the more "easy fix" stuff I have, the more I eat.

Tim & Cassie said...

Do your kids get enough fatty foods to help their little brains develop? Kid's brains are mostly made of fat and if they don't get enough they will keep eating until their body gets all the nutrients (including oils and fats) it needs. There's something to be said for hot dogs and french fries (but not all the time).

Lesley said...

That lunch looks really yummy! You've got some great ideas here. I usually can't seem to do menu planning beyond five meals or so at a time. I'm close to all the stores though, including a Walmart and so it's not too big of a deal for me to run out and pick things up a few times a week. However, I do envy your organization and stocking up abilities and may have to work more on doing that, especially this fall after the craziness of summer is over.

Thanks for your insightful e-mail by the way and I will respond soon! :-)

the momma said...

I REALLY struggle with food (in more ways than 1 - but that's beside the point...)
My kids want to eat every 2 hours. Part of me says - well, that really is the healthier way to eat...
The other part of me says - enough already; drink some water. leave me alone......

that was the one nice thing about the guys going on vacation without us; meals & snacks were so easy & quick.
One avocado, a spoonful of salsa (that didn't have to be made fresh every single time - like the salsa snob likes it :-) and a handful of chips & viola - a meal

I'm anxious to hear how all of your planning works for your family; I've been pretty slack in my planning since - well - since Josiah was born, I think.....

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