Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Kitchen Edition

A few years ago in my younger-motherhood days, I felt like it was all "falling apart." ("It" being my home, my life, me... maybe you can relate!) I am not really a schedule-y, organized person by nature, but I like it when my life is, if that makes sense. I decided it was time to do something about my sense of "out of control-ness."

The first thing I prioritized, or "scheduled" was my morning quiet time (Bible study and prayer time). That one thing began to completely change how I approached my day and related to my children and my home.

The next thing I tackled was my kitchen life. I began to prioritize meal planning and cooking, making sure that we have a stocked pantry and refrigerator and that there is something planned for dinner. With small children at home, and now as a homeschooling family, the kitchen is the "hub" of so much activity all day, everyday at our house. I realized that by not really having a "handle" on that part of my life, a huge part of our daily life was not really being managed. Now, this post isn't about how organized my pantry or cabinets are (as I still recommend wearing protective footwear when opening one of those doors at my house!) but rather how I've sort of taken control of our "kitchen life" and prioritized the planning and running of that major part of our home.

Kitchen binder: Like any good homeschooler, I made a binder. Before I even knew what I was going to put in it. What did put in it was a zipper bag for coupons, some three-hole-punched take out menus from our favorite places to order out, and the sheets I use for my weekly meal planning (which are just some cutesy weekly calendar pages I got at a gift shop-type place one time. I'm almost out so I'm just going to make some on my computer.) I keep a few of my previous weeks' menu plans in the binder so I can flip through and see what we've had recently when I'm making my upcoming plans.

Cookbook holder: I have a clear, acrylic cookbook holder on my island, with my kitchen binder in it. I clip the week's menu plan to the front of it. I also put the cookbooks or printed recipes I'll be needing for the week in it so they'll be handy.

Meal planning: I really thought this would be a big deal before I started doing it, but it's not. It's just that: a plan. Sometimes my plan might be "frozen chicken nuggets and sauce we saved from Chik-Fil-A," or "order pizza,"--but hey, it's a plan! Having a plan and having it displayed for myself and for my kids to see has helped tremendously. I sit down each weekend, usually on Sundays, and plan the next week's meals. Like my school planning, I usually plan two weeks out, just to build in some margin for change as well as look at the "big picture." I found that as I would be flipping through recipes for the upcoming week I would find too many ideas, so I just started putting sticky-notes in the front of the binder for ideas for upcoming weeks. Now it's just a matter of checking my sticky notes and putting them in some sort of order for the coming week. Lately I've been trying to have at least one crock pot meal per week, and make sure I'm varying chicken/beef/pork/meatless to give it variety. I also plan with our calendar in mind. The crock pot days will be the day that we're going to be out or busy for most of the day or afternoon. The left-over (or "You're On Your Own- "YO-YO") nights are when we might be going in separate directions for classes or practices. I also might put a YO-YO night when I know I'm going to be busy or stressed.

Cooking Ahead (sort of!): I'm not a cooker-aheader. I don't enjoy the thought of spending an entire day cooking for the whole month, nor do I have the freezer space for that many frozen entrees. Additionally, I prefer some things to be fresh, not frozen. I realize that "once a month cooking" works for many, many people and I've actually thought about giving it a go, but I know it would frustrate me. That being said, I have been "making extra" and freezing the leftovers. We are going on vacation the last week of this month, and I know I'll be in "getting-over-vacation" mode the first week of April. So, the week we return all (or most) of our meals will be from our freezer. Oh yeah, one more "do-ahead": after dinner when I'm cleaning the kitchen, I make the coffee for the next morning and set the timer on the coffeepot. These are my versions of cooking ahead!

These are some of the things I have done which have brought order to my kitchen life. I am far from having a perfectly-organized or perpetually-clean kitchen, but now it feels "managed" and that works for me!

For more ideas, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!


Chris said...

Good Morning! I could of wrote this post about my life. I recognized the same thing when my older kids were younger and therefore have implemented many of the same things. And I am with you all the whole cooking ahead thing. I can't do the once a month cooking, but I do double up on a few dishes that freeze well. Especially now that spring is around the corner and we will be busier in the afternoon/evening. The only thing I like cooking ahead is boneless skinless chicken breast. So, this all works for me too!

Have a great Wednesday! Thanks for the nice note this morning!

Honey said...

This is wonderful and very encouraging! I am the same way about not being organized but wanted organization. :) We have just embarked on healthier eating so your ideas will be a big help!

Mom2fur said...

You know, there are a lot of things in life we can't control--traffic, taxes, etc. But when we take over what we CAN control, doesn't it just make everything else more tolerable? That's why I agree about meal planning (and you're right--'order pizza' is a plan!) and doing some cooking ahead (I'm not into OAMC either). I especially like that you give yourself 'quiet time.' I started that, too, when I was younger and I still treasure those quiet early morning hours at age 51. A cup of coffee and a little reading each day keeps you sane, LOL!

Tammy said...

This was a great post for me, Cyndi! I am not organized by nature, and for a long time, I have felt the need to begin to be just a little more with it in this, and especially to plan meals. I've been reading several other posts on meal-planning, and along with yours, I'm just about to finally jump in!
Thanks for these tips! :)

it's a Mom thing said...

I like your term, YO YO nights. That's cute and we use it often when we have leftovers to eat.

Larae said...

Great system to follow! Thanks for all of the ideas..I love that cookbook holder. Thanks for sharing! =)

Linda said...

That sounds like a great plan to me Cyndi. It's just two of us now, but I need to start getting a better variety of meals. I keep saying that, and since cooking really isn't my "thing" I'm lazy about looking for new recipes. I need to do better. These are some great ideas.

Jane said...

This post was so clear and easy to understand. I can see how I could do some of these things without having to do too much extra work. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I have started a binder, but I got sidetracked. I have got to finish it so I can have everything in one place. It sounds so helpful!