Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reinventing the "What's for Dinner?" Wheel

What can I say? I'm not easily satisfied with preparing and eating the same o', same o' dinner fare every night. I like variety. I like to use what's in season. I like to use what's on sale. is not always an effective use of my time. Definitely time to reinvent the dinner wheel yet another time. Sigh.

But this time around, the effort I put into this little project will be there for me to fall back on anytime I need a break from being overly creative or frugal in the kitchen.

This is what I did:

I went through my recipe collection and pulled out 20 different main dishes that my family will eat without a lot of complaining, that don't require a ton of effort, that contain a variety of proteins, and are fairly inexpensive to prepare. In addition to that I pulled four crockpot recipes to use for Sundays. I spread them out over a four week period of time taking into consideration that we might not want to eat something with burger in it three nights in a row. I also arranged them so that an extra chicken could be baked or grilled providing the leftovers necessary for the next night's meal of say, enchiladas. Saturdays were reserved for trying out something new.

I starting using to type my recipes in several years ago, and I love it. But that would be another whole post. Anyway by having the recipes readily available to me, I used BigOven to put them together into a menu plan by week and created a master grocery list. From there it was simple to print everything out and place it in a binder with four tabs, one for each week. The first sheet is the menu plan by day of the week, the next is the master grocery list, and then come the individual recipes. I am beginning to fill in the side dishes that would be standard to include with each meal as I follow through with this plan.

It's a no-brainer to realize that with a plan in place, I will follow it. I won't stand as perhaps many others do before the refrigerator at 4:30 p.m. and wonder why I forgot to defrost this or that. I won't have to wrack my brain for something different that we haven't tried for awhile. I will have already made those decisions in advance for my tired little brain.

And so far it's working. By making notes on each master weekly plan as I go along, I will be reminded to pull out the steak for the fajitas the night before, to start the pizza dough in the morning, or to soak my beans overnight. A welcome relief for my worn out thinker as of late.

Perhaps after I've spent some time following this plan I will be ready to head back to my old ways, but in the meantime, I will relish the fact that I know what's for dinner today, tomorrow and for the rest of the week. Yeah!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Return of the Swallows

There are some dates on the calendar that deserve annual recognition every year such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. And then there are those dates that just mean something special. As my kids would say, I'm dorky enough to get excited enough to remember every year the date on which the swallows return from the southern hemisphere to our property...March 28...give or take a few days and then later in the year the day they will depart.

March 28 represents the end of their six month absence. Every fall they mass together above the house for one last swoop and dart session catching up whatever mosquitoes or flying insects are available before they take off heading for warmer climates, all reminding me of the six months of cold and gloom to come.

Regardless that the calendar recorded the coming of spring a week earlier, spring doesn't really come for me until they make their appearance. Much to the rolling of their eyes, my children have usually been dictated to include their arrival in their nature journal as part of their homeschool studies. It is just one of those predictable phenoms of nature; their God-given instinct to migrate at the same time each and to return back to their homes six months later. They are such fascinating little birds that I've done a little research on their annual return which is celebrated the end of March in California at the San Juan Capistrano mission at which their return has been recorded for the past two hundred years.

Today I've kept my eyes trained upward hoping to catch them as the return. Perhaps they will still make their arrival later on this afternoon or perhaps it will be tomorrow or the next day. But you can be sure, they will be here. And they will make me smile.

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