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Meal Planning #3: My Beginnings

This Post is Number 3 in a 4 part series I am doing on Meal Planning

Have you missed Part 1 and 2?

Wondering why you should meal plan? Click here to read Meal Planning #1 One Way I keep my Sanity

Wondering What are the important components of meal planning? How much time does this really take?

 Read Meal Planning #2: Important Components to any Meal Plan

 

So, We have covered the basics… Here is what this looks like in reality…

When you start to Meal Plan you need to decide if you want to:

1) Plan every meal.

2) How often do you want to plan? Weekly? Monthly

 

Our First Meal Planning System:

For years I have had a relatively simple meal planning system. I only had a plan set up for dinners. Breakfast and lunch just wasn’t that important for me to plan. We were very predicable at those meals.

One day I gathered all of my cookbooks and recipe copies around me and made a list of any recipe I had tried and knew my family liked to eat for dinner. I organized the recipes by meat type (meat, poultry, vegetarian, fish…). Behind the recipe title I noted an abbreviated book title, page and the cut of meat that is in the recipe. I did this on the computer so I could easily edit.

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Because I LOVE to try new recipes I also had a list of recipes I really wanted to try. As I cooked a new recipe it either graduate to the main list or disappeared from the “Try it” List.

When I went to Meal Plan (Usually for two weeks) I made a list of dinners and as we made them I would check them off. I also put a star in front of meals that had perishables that needed to be used at the beginning of the planning period.

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This system had many benefits for me:

  1. Hubby input:

I could easily ask my husband what he would like me to add to the menu list for the next month. I would just hand him the notebook and he would look through it letting me know his fancy. Before the list I would ask what he would like to eat for dinners and I would see a blank look on his face that said “Huh? I have no idea”.

  1. Flexibility

I didn’t like the idea of having meals assigned to a day and having a whole month planned in advance. I know many people use that technique but I didn’t feel it was for me. I love to think “what am I in the mood to have this week?”.  I also wanted to take advantage of my “Try It” List on a regular basis.

  1. Meat Purchases

I do not like to buy meat at regular price. I find the costs are sometimes outrageous! This list was organized by meats and cuts. Each was noted behind the recipe.

Gotta love a good deal.
Gotta love a good deal.
  1. Easy Recipe finding:

With each Book noted with page number I didn’t spend hours trying to figure out where a recipe came from.

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I LOVE my magazines, folders of gathered recipes and cookbooks but they can easily become overwhelming

FYI This system also had some DISadvantages:

  1. Where do I put pizza? Something with two types of meat?

I usually had these kind of meals in one of the meat lists. I eventually started a casserole/ Pizza section but that made the organization a bit strange.

  1. Too many options:

Though I loved the flexibility it was also a weakness. I started the system when I had one child. Now with three children, teaching school, community activities and normal household care I found it was sometimes too many options.

  1. “What’s for Dinner?”

I still had to answer the “What’s for Dinner” question because meals were not assigned days. I had to first decide what option to get prepped for in the morning and think about meals that needed more than a couple hours of prep (like the need to thaw a ham or soak beans overnight)

This system was relatively simple to keep up with and set up. It definitely worked better than the previous chaos. However, after several years, two more children and the addition of schooling from home, these disadvantages became amplified. It was time for a change

In Meal Planning Part 4 I will share the changes to led to the new plan that we have been using for about a year now.

 I LOVE the changes. Remember the need to be flexible? It has had to be integrated several times… even when using our new plan, that I love…

Stay Tuned!

Happy Cooking,

The Frabjus Lady

Meal Planning #2: Important Components to Any Meal Planning System

Before I show you a close up look of what my meal planning systems (current and past) look like,  I thought it was important to share with you some important components to meal planning.

Why Meal Plan?… Click Here to read “Meal Planning: One way I keep my Sanity”

There are 3 VERY IMPORTANT things I tell everyone that wants to start meal planning: 

1) Be Flexible! Be aware that your first go around wont have a perfect fit. Your meal planning system will need to be tweaked to create the best fit and will change as your family changes and as you see what does and does not work.

2) I don’t recommend starting a meal planning system in conjunction with a major diet change. First create a plan that fits how you live and make adjustments as you go. The best way to set yourself up for failure is to try too many changes all at once. I understand there are medical issues that come up and force a fast change but that is usually the exception.

3) Give yourself grace and take a deep breath: When I started our newest system of meal planning I was excited about the change and then WHAM! we all got hit by the flu. No one could eat what was on the list, we ended up all eating chicken noodle soup and crackers for several days. Instead of chalking it up as a failure I just did a restart. Life Happens… give yourself grace, take a deep breath, get a long hug from someone who loves you and smile.

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The most common question I get from people is about time. How much time does it take to meal plan? 

First of all, anything worth doing takes time and effort. This is no exception. Every time I have totally revamped my Meal Planning system it has taken about 3-5 hours of sit down work (depending on the system I am using). I don’t do this in one sitting. I plan some, mull it over and think about how this will really work in reality. Then I take some more time with it.

After the system is up and running it takes me about 20-30 minutes to plan a couple weeks worth of meals and create my shopping list. This is assuming I am not integrating any new recipes or events and assuming my children don’t have a sudden crisis in the middle of the process.  This is nothing compared to the time I used to waste on multiple shopping trips and the time I would stand in front of the pantry having no idea what I was going to cook.

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I have compiled the following list of what I have found to be important components of Effective Meal Planning no matter what the system is that you choose. 

Important Components of Effectively Meal Planning

1)    Be detailed. Plan meals and snacks.

2)    List what you have in the freezer or perishable before making menu.

3)    Be Honest with yourself! You don’t have to cook complex meals, if you want to eat out or eat a ready-made meal…put it on the calendar.

4)    Don’t set your standards too high. If it is a hectic week plan easy meals… even if it is frozen pizza.

5)    Think in terms of leftovers. Can you make something else out of the leftovers?

6)    CHECK YOUR SCHEDULE:  Look at any events that might affect meal times. If you have soccer practice, rehearsals, meetings…. Schedule something that is easy or in a crock-pot. Fit the meal to the day.

7)    List all your ingredients: Make sure you have a place to list EVERY ingredient you need to eat that week, include the things you already have. After you have planned your week go through your pantry and fridge and cross off items you already have. This will allow you to put together an organized list and cut down on shopping trips.

8)    Have a running grocery list on the fridge or other family accessible area. Check this list before going shopping.

9)    Have a backup Plan: Keep an easy backup/no thawing required meal in the wings for days when the day goes sideways.

 10)  Be flexible. If you need to switch a night that is okay. I stick to my plan as written about 75% of the time. I often switch meals based on need or desire. I don’t change the calendar.

So, What does this actually look like? In Parts 3 and 4 I will share my current and past system of Meal Planning (with lots of pictures and info) and I will share some wonderful resources for you to explore.  Stay Tuned! :)

To Check out Part 1 Meal Planning: One way I keep my Sanity CLICK HERE

Happy Cooking,

The Frabjus Lady

Meal Planning #1: One way I keep my sanity

If I were to pick one thing that helps me keep to a budget and keep my sanity while raising three children and schooling from home, I would say it is Meal Planning. Due to the subject having SO much information to digest, I have decided to make it a 4 part series. Enjoy

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Why Meal Plan?

1) Menu Planning Saves you Stress, Frustration and Time

-         How many of you have found yourself staring into the pantry or fridge at 5pm “What should we eat?”. Sitting down once a week and making a menu plan eliminates the 5pm frazzled panic.

-         Yes, it takes time to setup but after the first set up it saves LOTS of time. Planning meals in advanced saves time each evening AND time shopping.

2) Helps change your meal time purpose

Nurturing versus Feeding the void

o   Meal time is a great time to nurture your families minds and bodies. I less stressed cook means a less stressed family at meal time and allows you to focus on each other.

 Research indicates that families that eat together have a stronger bond

o   Children have higher self-confidence, enhanced vocab. Skills, and score higher on academic tests

3) Make meals a family affair.

If the meal is planned then having kids (especially little ones) help is easier. This is not easy for me to do because I like to cook without little hands slowing me down, but I pick a “quick” meal for them to “help” with.

If I have them planned then I come to

4) Menu Planning Saves you Money

-         Planned, once a week shopping where you buy all the groceries you need for the week saves LOTS of time and Money.

-         Making a list helps reduce spur of the moment purchases.

-         Allows you to take advantage of sales items because you know what you will be using. A great deal is NOT a great deal if it just sits in the pantry or goes bad.

5) There is no perfect way to Meal Plan

Everyone is going to do this a little differently. Do what works for you.

What matters is that you do it and it works for your family.
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In the next couple weeks I will introduce the plans I have used in the past, the plan I am using currently, share the meal planning essentials for any meal planning system to be a success and give you some resources  to help you on your journey.

I have also been a speaker at a couple MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers groups) and talked on the topic of  Meal Planning using this series. I am a teacher at heart and love to help others learn about things that help their families. It has amazed me that so many people don’t plan out their meals and honestly don’t know where to start.

I hope this series blesses you and your family. If you have any questions please enter them below in the comments section.

And Stay tuned for part 2-4

Kevin's Quality Clothespins display

Ready, Set….Blast Off!!!

Well, here we go! Time to start our new business adventure.

Kevin’s Quality Clothespins.

Heavy Duty and Beautiful Clothespins

Made in America

Click on the clothespin below to check them out.

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 There is a lot of hard-work and love that has been put into each clothespin.

I hope you love them as much as I have come to love them.

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To check them out or PURCHASE  Click HERE 

Clothespin Adventures: Testing them out…

Because I am a teacher and love to experiment I put them to the test. I am just not the kind of person that can say something is great unless I have seen the proof. I have always been a terrible liar.

I knew from the sturdy, heavy duty feel of our clothespins they were going to do a much better job than the cheap, flimsy ones I bought from an unnamed big chain box- store.

I wanted to know:

How did Kevin’s Quality Clothespins compare to the cheap import pins that I, and most people, have been using?

Experiment 1

I have a small rug  that is the dirt barrier between my Utility room and Kitchen.  When I have washed it in the past I have just draped it half way over my clothes line to get it to hang and stay. (this of course means it takes a lot longer for it to dry). So I picked it for my experiment

First, I got the rug wet to give it a weigh that would be comparable to what it would be after a wash. (I weighed it with my kitchen scale and it was 7 1/2 pounds wet)

Then I hung it with Kevin’s Quality Clothespins (KQC pins)  with about an inch folded over the line. Two of them held it nicely and stayed put when I shook the line. Why shake the line? Well, I have three young children and the hanging laundry is going to be touched… it is inevitable.

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I then took my box-store clothespins and well… they wouldn’t open wide enough to fit over the edge of the rug to hang it on the line… sigh… See in the picture below,  it almost made it but my rug is too thick.

Holds the top but doesn't hook past the clothesline
Holds the top but doesn’t hook past the clothesline

Guess that completes experiment one… Kevin’s Quality Clothespins-1  Imports-0

On to experiment 2:

First,  I decided to hang the rug with no fold over because I actually wanted to test compare the two types of clothespins. I started with KQC pins and got it hung easily with 3.  When I reduced it to two they popped off.

 

Next,  I went to hang the rug with the box-store pins and I couldn’t get the darn thing hung without the previously attached pins popping off! Grrrr!  Okay, I didn’t let that stop me… I hung the rug with 3 of KQC pins. Then I added 6 of the box-store clothespins among them. I then removed the KQC pins and it finally stayed.

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Then one by one I pulled off the box-store clothes pins, counting to 5 between removals. This is the last picture I could take before they flew off the line.

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I touched that middle pin, they all when flying crazy and my rug was in the grass. My kids were wondering why I squealed, laughing at me. I went to pick up the mess and found the pins half off their springs… hmmm…. do I bother putting it back together…? Nope probably not.

 

So, Kevin’s Quality Clothespins were better in two ways: 1) They held the rug steadfast during the process of hanging to allow me to complete the job and 2) they held the rug with less pins

Kevin’s Quality Clothespins-3 Imported Box-store pins- 0

If I give the Imported Box-store pins any credit it would be based on their entertainment value. When they all flew off the line I laughed and my kids thought it was funny to watch me try to dodge them. I redid the experiment several times so they got to enjoy the mayhem.

 My Conclusion:

I won’t burn the cheesy imported pins but they are being relegated to the kids play box for some momentary entertainment until they break… or until they leave them on the floor and I step on them with the legos one too many times.

Come check them out. Click HERE

Our new Business Adventure

When I started this blog we had several goals. The first was to see if blogging was something I would enjoy and could continue doing on a regular basis. After several months at it and 35 posts I can say I still really enjoy it. I have had challenges along the road but I find that I keep wanting to come back to it.

The next goal is to start a primarily internet- based business featuring products that The Carpenter creates. He LOVES wood and very few things would delight him more than to make his living working with wood.

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So while I have been experimenting with blogging we have been deciding which is the best first product to springboard our business with. We decided on the clothespin. These aren’t your ordinary clothespins… I would tell you more but… nope… you’ll just have to wait and see.

We have almost completed our first production run of 175 heavy-duty clothespins and they are turning out beautifully. I am so excited and nervous at the same time. It is a big step for us but very exciting.

Check out Kevin’s Quality Clothespins HERE

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Since school is over for the summer, today began my education time. Time to educate myself on the ins and outs of making a business website instead of just a blogging site. This is a bit of a challenge, but as I keep at it I am slowly soaking in the new vocabulary.

In a couple weeks it will be my great delight to introduce our first product: Kevin’s Quality Clothespins.

Here’s to new adventures,

The Frabjus Lady

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