Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy New Year! Better Known As: Back to School!

For those of us with school aged children, right now we're either feeling elation or depression that school is about to start. Or maybe a mixture of both. I always struggle with both feelings, since we have a great time all together in the summer and it's hard to be alone when they leave. However, I can't say it's not going to be nice to have a few hours a day where I don't have to listen to the Angry Birds theme song. School starts for us Monday, and here's a quick recap: we've been making rock collections, going to the zoo, going to see the "Up" house in Herriman, chasing a puppy, and generally laying around.

When it gets time to send my children back to school, I find myself in the midst of preparations of Herculean proportions to bring order back into the chaos that summer inevitably falls into. I make detailed checklists of morning, after school, and bedtime routines so people know what to do when (I have yet to have a year where my checklists actually improve the morning rush), clean off the backpack/coat hangers, haul in boxes and boxes of food from Costco as though "The Big One" is coming over the horizon, and take stock of large and small things in a feeble attempt to make the morning rush and afternoon free-for-all easier. Ha. At least I'll get an "A" for effort.

This morning I made crepes for my daughter who was going to her first day of middle school, and I thought I would just make a few for her and do the rest of the batter later, because I was for sure going back to bed after she left. But the gluten free flour tends to thicken the batter as it sits, so I ended up making up the rest of them, and then another batch on top of that, and put them in the freezer for a quick on-the-go breakfast option for me or the kids. (Tip: I put paper towels in between each crepe so I can just pull out as many as I need without defrosting the whole batch. 20-30 seconds in the microwave should defrost them.) I thought this was a clever time saver, if I do say so myself. I've also learned that the best way for me to utilize big meat purchases from Costco is to break them up into dinner-sized portions, wrap them in foil, and label with the ever-present Sharpie.
Usually I make up a weekly meal plan right before I go to the grocery store, taking stock as I make the list. This year I decided to try something new. I divided the days into meal types, and then listed five or six meals for each day that could fit with my schedule and my plan. For example, Monday I always do a dinner with rice as the side dish. Tuesday is Mexican-ish, Thursday is Breakfast for Dinner, Friday we usually go out so the kids make their own dinners. I wrote down what the evening activities are on each day, so I can keep in mind if I need something everyone can eat at different times, or if we have time to sit and relax. In my Excel sheet I used cute colors and fonts, and since I just barely figured out how to use Scribd, hopefully you'll be able to get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Weekly Meal Plan

Basically, my idea was that as long as I knew what options I had for each night, I have a little more flexibility and can still roll with the punches. Then when I do my grocery shopping, I have a little more of the big picture so I can shop for sales on things I use all the time, plus staples for the week. Maybe this will help some of you out this fall if you're struggling getting back into the groove of making dinner. Conversely, some of you may be suffering from convulsions looking at my detailed spreadsheet. That's ok, too. How do you get ready for the fall rush? Do you have any special gluten free traditions or shortcuts that make your heart rate slow down? Please share in the comments box if you do!

Happy eating (and reading, and writing, and arithmeticing...)!

1 comment:

  1. Well, this is what I have set up, though I don't always do it. Things do go much better when I do.

    I try to do one beef day, one chicken day, one pork day and one fish day, then the other days vegetarian (it's how we do "eating meat sparingly"). I have a spread sheet with lists of each type of meal that my family likes. When we find a new meal we like I add it to the list. It makes it so much easier, because before I had that, I'd sit down to make a list and couldn't think of a single thing we like to eat! I make up a meal plan for the week based on what we have going on each day. When we're all getting home late, that's a crock-pot night, etc. Similar to what you do with your plan. I only do a plan for dinners, then keep supplies around for breakfast and lunch.

    For my daughter who is in an early, early-morning seminary class (as opposed to the late early-morning class) and has to be out the door by 5:40, I make up muffins and hard-boiled eggs ahead of time, and she has a muffin, an egg and some fruit with a glass of milk. Quick, easy and out the door. I have the kids make their lunches the night before unless they're taking leftovers in a thermos.

    For our family, doing everything we possibly can the night before makes the mornings so much nicer. When we put things off to the morning, it's a madhouse.

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