Meal Planning Day One!

the plan

Wow. So you guys want to know how I plan my meals? Me?!! The one who is a horrible cook? Alrighty then! Now I know what to blog about all week. This should be fun. As in let’s-make-fun-of-Brenda sort of fun. Ha ha! Bring it ON!

So uh. The above is my fancy plan. Do you like how Bug added her big “H” signature? She likes to contribute. Pretty much what I do is I have this pre-created sheet of things that I buy at the grocery store and off to the bottom right I have the days of the week listed and lines to write in. Before I finish up my grocery list and head off to the store, I quickly fill out those blanks and make sure I have all the ingredients. If I don’t I add them to my list. Sometimes I start on Monday, sometimes I start with Thursday. It doesn’t really have to be a set day, I just always shop for a week’s amount of food.

I’d love to shop every day and be that kind of cook who buys the freshest seasonal ingredients to inspire the day’s meals but I just can’t make that big of a time commitment. I don’t have time to shop every day. I’d also love to only shop once a month but then we’d have lots of nice vegetables for a week and the other three weeks we’d be living off canned goods and frozen food. I like fresh vegetables every day if I can manage it. Since vegetables don’t last much longer than a week for me, I shop for a week.

the list

This is what my shopping list looks like. I created it ages ago before Bug was even born (back in the days when I had more free time, but I still think it’s worth making even if you are busy because once you make it, you can print it out until the end of time and save yourself lots of headaches). It’s not very fancy. I created it in Adobe InDesign and if any of you use that, I’d be happy to share that file with you. But it’s set up for my grocery store, which is Ralph’s, and catered to the things I buy so it probably won’t be all that helpful to you other than comparing and contrasting. Here’s a pdf for your snooping pleasure.

super mom meal plan

I made an illustrated one for you guys that asked for one but I don’t personally think it would work for me because I need those prompts to help me remember what I need to buy. But this can be a starting point. Try this out and let me know how it works.

have list, will shop

After I’ve made my list and checked it twice, I head out of the house to go shop. Whatever you do, don’t forget your list! I do that all the time and then I royally fail. Maybe you have a photographic memory but I don’t. Good thing we have another market within walking distance that I can run off to if I need a missing ingredient. But it’s more expensive than my favorite grocery store and usually swarming with beach tourists.

we didn't forget the list!

Then we shop! With the list! Bug helps me all the time. I thought the little tiny cart would be a fading novelty but, no. She insists on pushing it every single time we visit. If they are out of small carts it’s a tragedy. The small cart is actually really helpful. It keeps her going in one direction (most of the time) and we get a lot of people remarking about what a good little shopper she is. She’s mostly learned the routine and isn’t throwing in every single green product she sees anymore.

food for a week

This is what I bought this week (minus a few boxes of cookies for Toby the junk-food-aholic). No wonder I’m always broke. That’s a lot of food! I’ve tried to buy less and it never works. So this is what we consume. Sometimes I buy less meat but we were low since I have been out of town for two weeks.

This is this week’s plan:

Monday: Vegetable Pork Stir-fry and sticky rice
Tuesday: Meatballs in sour cream sauce with small red potatoes and a green salad
Wednesday: Green Enchiladas and a green salad
Thursday: *leftovers (or mac and cheese or ramen noodles with vegetables)
Friday: Roman Chicken with oven baked french fries and/or sweet potatoes and a green salad
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Lasagna and a green salad

*Thursday was going to be sausage and rice but I somehow flubbed up and forgot to buy sausage. So the list doesn’t always work perfectly but that’s okay because most of these meals will create another meal’s worth of leftovers. I like leftovers. I know some people don’t but I do. They mean less time in the kitchen and more time on my laptop!

yummy!

This is what we ate last night. It was yummy. Recipe after the jump.

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Home Sweet Home

home sweet tricycle

It’s good to be home. I could moan and complain about how I don’t have a dishwasher or a washing machine or even air conditioning and how much I’m going to miss all those lovely things during this long hot dirty summer now that I’m back to my humble apartment with horrible carpeting BUT life is not so bad, you know?

Toby is a bit of a lecturer with me. I don’t know if it is because he’s six years older than I am and much wiser or if he just likes to hear himself talk. Sometimes I think the latter, but at least he likes to talk to me, right? He has a lot of good things to say that have really helped me grow up. I must add that I am one of those people who always feels profoundly young. Not in the youthful, picture-of-health way but more in the I-was-born-yesterday-and-I-feel-like-I-have-no-clue-what’s-going-on way. And amazingly, some of his lectures sink in.

Appreciating what I have and making the best of it is one of the things Toby has taught me.

First a little history: When we first got married both of us cooked. We took turns and made a lot of cheesy quesadillas in the microwave. We had “Fend-For-Yourself Nights”. It worked and we got by. Then Toby quit his old job to become a successful and very busy photographer. We still did things jointly. Toby is a great cook so it was fun.

Many years later I decided I wanted to taste the luxury of being a freelancer too. Why does he get to stay home all day and work? I thought. Unfortunately, my business didn’t quite take off as quickly as his did. I had a lot of down time between jobs and I wasn’t making enough money to pay my half of the bills so I started doing all the cooking to make up for my lack of contribution. Toby was busy. I needed to support him this way.

Mind you, I hate cooking. I’m just no good at it. I’m not terrible. I’m just not one of those creative types who likes to invent things in the kitchen. I invent cooking disasters and channel my creativity everywhere else. I have no brain for chemistry and I have never understood the beauty of a white sauce. Sauce schmauce. If you have to eat goopy stuff, I say, go out to eat!

dishes forever

But sadly, Toby is one of those freaks who doesn’t like to eat in restaurants. He thinks about germs too much and doesn’t enjoy eating with the general public. Mostly, I think he just thinks that food tastes better at home. He might be right.

Slowly over the years I have acquired a small list of recipes that I can do well. There are about ten of them. They get us by. I read a lot of foodie blogs and I keep hoping some of their enthusiasm and creativity in the kitchen will wear off on me but they haven’t. Cooking is still a chore.

So what does Toby have to do with that? Well, he still thinks I should cook every night even if my cooking is not the greatest. I know, what a slave-driver, right? But I agree with him. Restaurants can be pricey and I don’t really need the hidden calories. I also have the luxury of staying home and not working so part of my job is to run the household and make the food. Sometimes I feel like all I do around here is make the food but it can get sort of zen-like after awhile if I psych myself up enough. It’s a process. It’s something I do because I love my family.

I’m getting so terribly far away from my point but my point is this: Toby said something a while back in one of his lectures about the housing crash (his favorite topic) that made me think. He said people can become accustomed to anything. This can be really bad like prisoners becoming accustomed to torture in concentration camps, or it can be sort of bad like working every second of the day to pay off a miserable mortgage, or it can be good like exercising regularly. It might suck in the beginning but over enough time you will learn to think of your circumstances as normal. And in the end, you might even learn to love what you have suffered for.

Now this is extremely true for me in two things: Breastfeeding and cooking every night. I am SO PROUD of those two achievements. I will sing my own praises from the mountaintops and not even care how dumb I might sound because I am so amazed at my own hard work. It’s true.

I HATED hated HATED breastfeeding. It hurt, it caused immense anxiety and it didn’t work very well. My baby didn’t even seem interested half the time, there were problems galore and I cried and cried and cried…but I did it. Toby forced me to, really. No, he didn’t hold me down and physically force me to wake up in the middle of the night to feed my child, but his opinion on these matters means a lot to me. He felt it was best for our baby, and in the end, months and months later, I finally agreed with him. And now, I’m one of those moms who would recommend it highly. I’m not going to become a Nazi lactation nurse but I will say, where there is a will there is a way. It’s just a long way sometimes.

new bugs for Bug

The same is true for cooking. I still don’t love it and I really really love just getting a cheeseburger now and then BUT I’m proud that my family eats at home every night. When I hang out with my extended family and they turn to fast food because they haven’t planned out a weekly meal, you should hear how irritating I can be because I think my own meal-planning skills are the greatest thing ever. Of course, I’m just as guilty of drowining my hunger in a bag of french fries as the next person, but I’m a solid believer in putting out the effort to think ahead and NOT getting caught in the I’m-starving-there’s-nothing-to-cook-let’s-just-go-out-to-eat trap.

Have I ranted enough?

I guess my big point about all this writing is that even though my life at home can seem like the pits compared to staying at Bethany‘s beautiful five-star resort (where I have the freedom to eat Trader Joe’s nuts all day long or spend the day painting and then hop off to the local food court for some yummy Indian food…) home is not really that bad. I do like my home. I do like working hard to keep my family fed and clean and sweaty.

Wait, that part doesn’t fit but you know what I mean. We don’t have air conditioning here but lots of people don’t. You can get used to it. Beautiful Parisian women go home to their sweaty apartments in Paris too. They probably walk their pretty bare feet over ugly carpet and they might even stick their head in the freezer just to cool off sometimes.

Anyone can become accustomed to anything. Just like I could easily become accustomed to a five-star resort and expect it. With enough hard work and willpower, I will be proud of my little life in this shabby apartment. We live at the beach, after all! I get to stay home with my daughter. We’re doing without the luxuries so that someday we can afford them debt-free. (Hopefully before we reach retirement.) I am blessed.

So when I got home I took photos of this life that is my home. I am determined to find the beauty in this life. I will take photos of my dirty carpet (and photoshop the stains out) and you will see the happiness here and not the dirt.

perusing my new book

Because it’s my home. Home sweet home.