Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If You'll Plan My Meals, I Guess I'll Cook Them

Being basically confined to my house is kind of limiting the ways I can pursue Living My Best Life right now.  So far all I've done is basically spend money... so I'm not sure exactly how well that's going to work out for me in the "get my finances in order" area, but I'm hoping that the gamble will pay off.  You have to spend money to make money, right?  So I'm hoping that applies here as well.  You have to spend money to Live Your Best Life?  I'm not sure but, it seems like I may have to continue to spend some money to accomplish some of my goals, so I'll cross my fingers that as I reach some of the goals financial stability will be something that starts to improve maybe by osmosis or something like that.

Here's what I spent money on today:  Online menu planning and grocery list generating.  I'm not sure that's what it's actually called but that's what I'm calling it.  It's genius!  And it's totally made for someone like me.  I have zero organization when it comes to menu planning for my family.  The girls are so picky it's almost impossible to think of things that I would like to eat that they will eat as well unless we all have chicken patty sandwiches or chicken nuggets every night thrown in with some pizza rolls for good measure.  For the past couple of years I've had this thought: If I could plan out my menus for the week and then just shop for those ingredients, that would totally simplify my life.  I could write it on the calendar: This is what we're having today, eat it, or go hungry.  (VERY unlikely I would be able to follow through with that but that's another story).  BUT I've never taken this idea any farther than my own head.  I can't even grocery shop with meals in mind.  I get the same things every week and we eat the same things all the time and sometimes inspiration hits me (or the boyfriend) and we come up with something new from what we have in stock.  But more often than not, if the girls aren't eating their own meal (in an effort to make sure they actually EAT something) the nightly meal consists of some variation of chicken and rice (and even at that there has to be 2 separate pans for the chicken as the girls will only eat it if it's completely plain and I prefer some kind of spice to my meat.)

So back to my deal.  This handy dandy little website will (supposedly) give me a choice of like 15 or 20 meals and sides to chose from each week.  I make my choices and then it generates my menu, and my grocery lists based on each menu.  Supposedly it groups everything together based on normal layouts of grocery stores and makes it super easy for even the most unorganized cook and shopper (read: me) to get things set up each week.  You put in how many servings you want and it lays it all out for you.  The meals are supposed to be basically healthy and well-balanced, so that is a great little side bennie as well.  Again this is all hearsay at this point, based on what the site promises as I haven't actually seen the hard evidence of it but I guess in addition to all of this planning it also breaks down the nutritional information for you, right down to weight watchers points if you so desire.

I recently changed my work schedule a few months ago to where I now work strictly days whereas before I worked a variety of days, nights, and weekends.  The new schedule works out much better for me to be more available to my kids at night and can make sure they get to and from school and their various after school activities.  It has been great for that purpose, but it has really made for even more disorganized chaos for me on a nightly basis.  We have activities generally about 3 nights a week, and Olivia has 60-90 minutes of homework every night.  In addition to that I need to make sure all 3 kids get dinner, some sort of fun time, and ready for and off to bed.  Usually at this point I get everything ready for the next day: laying out outfits, packing lunches, making bottles, etc.  There just never seems like there's enough time in the day and I hate that what happens more often than not the kids end up having a quick bowl of soup, lunchmeat, or something else basically just warmed up.  I want to streamline our nights and I want my kids to have better meal options and still get everything done and have some time to ourselves each night.  Currently, I would say about 90% of what I mentioned in the nightly routine is done by me: chauffeuring, homework, getting ready for bed, packing for the next day, etc.  The boyfriend has slightly stepped up in the last few months and most nights does make something for the kids to eat for dinner, but these dinners are more often than not the aforementioned soup, chicken patty sammies, and pizza rolls.  Not only do my kids deserve better than what I'm providing for them in this area at this point, since I'm likely not going to even have that 10% of help around for much longer, I have to figure out a much better way.

Back to today's deal and step in my little journey on the way to My Best Life.  Choose preset meals for the week?  Great.  Get grocery lists and recipes printed based on my choices?  Perfect.  The site promises that every meal they show can be made simply and in less than 30 minutes.  I plan to obviously look for ones that are on the faster side to put together, especially on days that we will be rushed.  I'm definitely hoping to find some good crock pot meals and make myself better at doing things like that to make our nights easier.  If I got REALLY ambitious and organized, I could sometimes even prepare meals in advance on the weekend or something and just pop them in the oven to be cooked on that particular night a la Kate Gosselin.  (Do I aspire to be a mother like her?  No.  Do I envy her organization and commitment to healthy eating and cooking for her kids?  Yeppers.) 

Alrighty, friends.  Even with the leg injury I still have to get grocery shopping done and dinners ready for the kiddos so this is something I can start right away.  I will apparently have access to the site in a day or two so it makes the most sense to get this set up this weekend to start for next week.  I'll let you know if it's something that works out and how! 

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