Monday, October 19, 2015

Flying by the seat of my (yoga) pants

menu
Most people who know me would say they think I'm uber-organized. Which is not true. Uber-organized people are those who get the payoff from the process of organizing - they organize for the sake of organizing.

I'd much rather be messy and undisciplined and not have to think about it. But Cub Sweetheart happens to be an engineer and that would never, ever, ever work for him - to live with someone who completely flies by the seat of her pants. He'd possibly run away fast.  Or he'd be honorable and stick around, but he'd still want to leave and that might be worse to live with. Kind of a male version of that verse 'better to live on the corner of the roof than with a nagging wife.' (Not sure of reference - somewhere in Proverbs.)

Years ago, before we had a built-in dishwasher, we had one of those that you pulled up to the sink and hooked up the hoses and let it run at night. But it scared me - I was afraid it would fall over, or the hoses would come unhooked and flood our home, but the bigger truth is I just didn't want to deal with dishes at night. Every night I'd leave the sink full of soapy water and good intentions. The next morning he'd wake up to a sink full of cold, nasty water and dirty dishes. I have never looked good enough in the morning to get away with starting his day that way.

When he finally asked me how I felt about actually washing those dishes, either by hand, or by loading them in the dishwasher and running it, I realized I possibly needed to up my homemaking game. It became clear to me pretty fast that an empty sink in the morning was a much nicer way to start my day. And his.

So I started looking around, paying attention to what else could use some improvement. Like hanging up clothes, like doing laundry before everyone in the family was wearing their last pair of clean underwear, like setting aside some money all year-long so when Christmas showed up on the calendar we could buy gifts and groceries. I started reading nerdy books on homemaking, budgeting, organizing your home. I began to change,  or grow up - however you want to put it.
We've moved a lot, so many of my friends never knew the unorganized, domestic disaster version of me, but I remember her well, and I know she's the real me - lurking inside. Most days she's sitting on my shoulder, like an evil female Jiminy Cricket, telling me I don't need to make the bed, swish a toilet, check when the insurance bill is due, or figure out what we're eating for supper before 6 pm. She says I can knit all day, or play on the computer, or plan, plan, plan but never do. And I like her voice so much that it's a constant pull to tell her to shush and push on.

There's also a part of me that tends to go overboard (thank you family for the last 100 years who has a strong OCD gene running through you). When I decide to do something, almost anything, I overdo. I buy too much yarn, too many books, make too many spreadsheets, and then I fail miserably by not keeping up what was an impossible system to begin with.
I've tried to do menu planning for the past 30 years or so. I figure that gives me the first five of our marriage when I planned about five minutes before I started cooking, which was likely an hour after everyone was starving. My planning had too many choices, too many recipes clipped that were too complicated to begin with. Back in the day when we had three more mouths to feed, sitting around the table, I figured it out and we got fed. Now that we're retired I've been leaning too hard on - at the last minute - Cub Sweetheart looking at me and saying, 'I'm thinking there's  no plan for dinner?" And he was right.

So in an effort to give us both some room to breathe, and also actually eat at home most nights, I had a startling thought. How about if I plan for about 5 - 7 meals a week, but NOT over plan - NOT assign them a specific day of the week, so when life happens and things have to switch up a bit, I can still put a meal on the table.

I went to Pinterest and found THIS planner, by The Ordinary Life of JannyBean. It's radically different in that it doesn't have that little column - Sunday - Saturday - running down one side of the page. Rather it has the numbers 1 - 7. There is also an option on her website for 5 meals, and since most Americans now go out to eat at least once a week that might work for you better. Menu planning has gotten SO much simpler, and it's actually working. I sit down on Sunday, look at a sheet of paper I have with meals we like listed on it, or I go to a few websites:

Mel's Kitchen Cafe is great - easy, family friendly and yummy.

All Recipes will help you find ANY recipe you're looking for. It makes me wonder why I own cookbooks at all, honestly. They're easy to print out too.

If you're entertaining and want to up your game a bit, Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer is great for that. She's got menus, recipes, table settings and encouragement that you can have people over and not break a sweat. Even if the food doesn't turn out perfect.

I take a look in our freezer and pantry  to see what we have on hand. Then I take my little planner piece of paper, by  JannyBean and write down about 5 - 6 meals, with no days assigned and write down on the grocery side what we need to pick up at the grocery store on Monday.

And God love him, Cub Sweetheart takes my grocery list and shops for us every Monday. I know - I'm blessed. But the truth is I did it for the first 32 years and am a bit over it. He's actually better at it, and he gets to buy chocolate that wasn't on the list, rolls of sausage that they put out starting in November, and a few other items, now and then, when he's hungry for something I didn't think of.

I put the filled out planner page on the front of our fridge, and every morning I look and see what our options are. I decide what sounds good or will work best that night, and either throw something in the crock pot, or take something out of the freezer to thaw. This has worked so well for us! I purposely cook one meal with enough for leftovers, and sometimes we go out one night of the week. Or we don't and go out for a nicer dinner the next week. Keeping it honest, leftovers night is my favorite. Didn't have to cook and didn't have to pay.
Here's what we're eating this week, in no assigned order of course, in case you're looking for ideas:

Chicken stir fry with veggies
Blackened tilapia*, pea salad and roast potatoes
Potato soup and cornbread
Hamburgers on grill, deviled eggs, baked beans
Pizza and salad (frozen, not homemade)
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts (we love them!)
Leftovers from the meatloaf, likely in sandwich form with gravy

No going out this week because we went out for Saturday breakfast.

*I have learned to bake fish the night before trash day and never before company is coming. And to turn on the oil burner. And never before a house showing. No matter what, it makes the house smell less than wonderful. We still try to eat it at least once a week.

So this plan is working for us, we're spending less on groceries, and we're spending a whale less on eating out.

We haven't lost weight yet, but that's a thought - if we did we'd both literally have more room to breathe when we put on our pants in the morning.... and that's what I'm really after - some room to breathe.

Blessings,
Bev

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