Chapter 54

If midlife dreams came true, oh, wouldn't that be nice...

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7 Steps to Easier Meal Planning

“Hungry again?  I fed you yesterday!” say wives and moms just about every day.

I’m not one of those people who can whip something together at the last minute.  I need to have thought about this, even briefly, and have some sort of plan in my head.

The other day was Easter Sunday.  On Easter we have ham.  Just like on Thanksgiving we have turkey with grammy’s stuffing, Christmas has to be ham, and St. Patrick’s Day is bourbon-glazed corned beef.  ST. PATRICK’S DAY IS SO A HOLIDAY!!!!  At least in THIS house it is.   My children have gotten used to having certain types of food on certain holidays, and if I dare change it up, I throw off their entire existence.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being locked into something without an exit.  I NEED OPTIONS!  Which is probably why I have always found meal planning difficult.  How do I know if I’m going to want tacos on Tuesday?  Maybe I’ll just be a rebel and make them on Thursday.  MAYBE I WON’T MAKE  THEM AT ALL.  That will show them!  (Who “they” are, I haven’t a clue, but trust me, they’re out there and they stick to strict meal plans).

But let’s face it – sometimes we need structure.  And, truth be known,  we actually eat way healthier and spend way less when I meal plan. So at some point I realized I needed to be more like my sister, who is pretty much the most organized person on the planet.  Here are some things I do that make this task easier for me to handle – maybe some of it will help you too!

Onto the Plan!

  1. First thing I generally do is take stock of what I have on hand:  produce that needs to be used up, dairy products on the verge of eviction, and anything in the freezer that looks like it’s “use it or lose it” time.
  2. Every so often some of these items will come together in the type of harmony known as a ‘lightning bolt”. Let’s see – we have Mexican cheese and tortillas almost at their expiration dates, throw a little chicken in there and we have chicken quesadillas – quick & easy.  I always tend to have pantry items in the house such as yellow rice, black & refried beans, and corn meal, so I can round out the meal.  Put that on the Meal List for the week.  ONE DOWN.
  3. I then poll whoever is available.  Any requests?  If it’s my husband, well, I’m usually shit out of luck.  “Everything you cook is great, honey!  I’ll eat anything.”  <—Yeah, I already know that.  Not helpful.   If one of my daughters will be around for a meal or two, then they usually have suggestions.  SUGGESTIONS HELP, PEOPLE.  Just sayin’.

    7 Steps to Easier Meal Planning

    My sophisticated way of marking recipes I like or want to try

  4. Next, I pull out my favorite cookbook(s). I have a lot of cookbooks.  The one I use the most, however, is the binder I’ve created myself from recipes I’ve printed out from the internet and recipes garnered from family & friends.  It’s divided by type of food:  appetizer, salad, soup, chicken, beef, dessert, etc., and genre, such as Mexican & Italian.  That’s just to make things hard to find.  (Hey!  I never said I was organized!)   I’m fortunate in that if I cook it, my family will eat it.  We LOVE to try new things.  Usually when I cook something for the first time, I’ll write notes on the recipe, such as “needs more flavor, try adding more basil & parmesan”, or “absolute perfection, don’t change a thing!”.   If something is a dud, it doesn’t make the binder 😉  As I peruse the binder & cookbooks, I think about the week ahead – is it going to be especially busy?  Late nights?  Easier, with time to cook some more involved meals that may require more prep?
  5. Now comes the hard part.  Does any of this look appetizing to me?  What about feasible, given the time and plans for the week?  If the answer is YES, then that recipe gets put on the meal list and the recipe is either removed from the binder in it’s page protector, or the cookbook name & page number is written next to the recipe name on the list.  Why?  Because I’m OLD and I will forget where I found this about 7.4 seconds after I write it down.  I usually use a scrap piece of paper, but if you want to get fancy, there are plenty of free printables available on the web, such as the one below, found here.Sample Easier Meal Planning Sheet.png
  6. I do this until I get about 5 or 6 meals on the list.  Then I take stock of what I have on hand, and what I need.  The “needs” get transferred to the shopping list, along with Angry Orchard, which is my current obsession.  Why?  Because after all this, I DESERVE IT.
  7. Finally, it’s time to shop.  Don’t forget the coupons!  (I always forget them.  But I don’t want you to.)  Also, if you are in NY, you can’t buy alcohol before 8 am, so you may have to do a separate Angry Orchard run.  Don’t ask me how I know this, my insomnia and gym schedule will be the subject of posts further on down the road.  I DID mention I was in menopause, right??

How do you handle meals, especially weeknight dinners?7 Steps to Easier Meal Planning


What does Spring mean to you?

As I sat in my home office with the windows open this beautiful spring week, I have had the pleasure of listening to the squeals and laughter of the playing kids across the street as they embrace the warm sunshine on their winter-weary bodies and the freedom from books and structure for a week.  Spring to them means Spring Break.  Little kids enjoy the time off from school, with later bedtimes, playing outside, or possibly going on an adventure with the family if all are so fortunate. College age kids indulge in escapades with their friends, making memories that will be told as “hold my beer” stories for many years to come. Young working parents stress over childcare options while their children are out of school – do they dig into vacation time now, find a trusted caregiver that will watch their precious cargo without skipping the mortgage payment this month, or just say the hell with it and take off for someplace that will create lifelong memories for the whole family?

All those days are in the past for me now. Spring still continues to excite me, although I still wish I had the luxury of having time off work. However, when I work from home I get to see the daylight. The budding trees. I allow myself to take a lunch break and sit outside, surveying the garden and trying to come up with an easy, low-maintenance plan (Anyone have one? I’m all ears!). I get to play music and work easily, comfortable in my own environment. Anyone who thinks people who telecommute don’t work much have it all wrong. If anything, we work more!  It’s always there.  In your face.  The guilt of not taking care of it can weigh you down like a lead balloon. Also, we are comfortable. Comfortable, happy people tend to do more.  It’s a proven fact.  Happier workplaces are more productive ones.  I’m happy at home.  I like my work.  And it’s easier to get more done from home then at the office, where I am interrupted every 10 minutes for one thing or another.  At the end of the day, I have to make a conscious effort to shut down my work laptop and close my office door in order to separate work from home.  It IS a lot easier when the weather is nice 😉

Can you believe this kitchen LOST an ugliest kitchen contest? #cantmakethisup

This year, spring is signalling a change in our home – also known as “shit’s getting done”!   The kitchen project, stalled for an obscene amount of years due to crazy serious circumstances that were certainly beyond MY control, has finally started chugging along again.  “Kitchen project” means different things to different people.  Here’s what it means to us:  replace what was gutted out in the fall of 2007.  Like put up some walls.  Lay a floor.  Put in a walk-in pantry.  Maybe some cabinets or 20.  Plus other things that encroach on parts of the house adjacent to the kitchen that were demoed and need to be resurrected.   I have drooled over many posts from people who have had their kitchens remodeled over the years.  I have seen complaints about the dust, the inconvenience, the annoyance…”how long must this go on?” – and then poof! they have a fully functioning, completely done kitchen anywhere from 6-26 weeks.  Mine has been like this for approximately 492 weeks.  Give or take.  So all you lucky ducks out there, please take great joy the realization that this is a very BIG DEAL to me.   Realistically, it will probably take another 2 years before it’s done.  That’s another 104 weeks for all you math whizzes out there.  When it is finally done, we will be having the biggest freaking party this town has EVER seen.  After that we will sleep for 6 months.  And then we will sell the damn house and be done with it!

Here in Chapter 54-land, we don’t hire contractors.  We Do It Ourselves.  Thankfully, my husband has hands of gold and holds a city license to do things, so he is more than qualified.  And seriously…there’s nothing hotter than seeing a guy in work boots and Levis with power tools doing a labor of love!   I love everything about this.  My Pinterest boards are on overdrive.  I want to hear your Do it Yourself stories!   See pictures!  Get recommendations!   Especially on gorgeous yet affordable cabinetry.  Has anyone used Costco’s ready-to-assemble cabinets by All Wood?  How about their semi-custom line?  There are many other “discount” cabinet outlets out there.  Please share your kitchen remodel stories!

Spring.  New beginnings.  My heart just sings.   Enjoy the season!



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