Sunday, July 22, 2012

23-Day Menu Plan

If you read my post just prior, you're probably laughing right now that I said "maybe I'll blog and maybe I won't" and then immediately turned around and wrote another post.  I would be shaking my head and saying "silly Karen..."  I just like to keep you guessing!

I have been in a serious menu rut for the past couple of months.  We've been eating so much chicken, I think we're growing feathers.  I haven't been menu planning as religiously as I should, so I come home, tell my family I have no idea what to make for dinner, and if we don't go out, I throw some chicken tenderloins in a pan.  This happens, oh, maybe four nights a week!!?!  At the same time, our big freezer desperately needs a defrost, and we've only been eating out of the front of it for a long, long time, so I have no idea what's in the back (if you put enough stuff in it, an upright can be almost as bad as a chest freezer).  And, we're trying to follow a pretty strict budget in the hopes of having enough saved up to buy a toy hauler and take a trip to Yellowstone next summer. 

So, yesterday I sat down with my big binder of recipe printouts and started flipping through, looking for recipes that I had the majority of ingredients for already in the house (in planning for hubby's layoff, I stocked us up really well).  By the time I was done, I had all the planning for 23 days worth of menus (only one of which involves just "throwing some chicken tenderloins in a pan").  We had the majority of the non-perishable and meat ingredients for all of these, and I was able to do a big grocery shop yesterday and fill in the blanks.  For the next few weeks, I should be able to get by with just buying bread, milk, eggs, and fresh produce each week. 

I could have kept going but I decided to stop there for now and re-evaluate in mid-August.  I've only worked 21 of these into the actual plan, keeping two in reserve for days when I'm too tired to cook or I get home late and just need something super quick.  I've tried to include a mix of meat types, as well as meatless meals one day a week.  As I build up my collection of meatless recipes even my carnivore hubby will eat, I'll probably try to up this to two meals a week, but for now one is better than none.

For home use, I've plotted these out on a monthly calendar that I downloaded here.  I love these calendars - I've been using them at work for about six months to track my grant submissions.  They're completely fillable and customizable. 

Here's the plan (I've also roughly planned out a veggie for all the meals that aren't "all in one" but I'm not putting those here - it's salad about four nights a week, with a hot veggie the other three):

  1. Buttermilk Chicken, mashed potatoes
  2. Taco Salad
  3. Stuffed Peppers
  4. Pad Thai
  5. Zucchini Bean Casserole
  6. Pork Fried Rice
  7. Pork Skewers with Pineapple Scallion Rice (found this one in a magazine years ago)
  8. Homemade pizza, salad
  9. No Crabs Allowed Cakes
  10. Aussie Chicken, pasta
  11. Impossible Veggie Pie
  12. Hamburger casserole (hubby's family's recipe)
  13. Corned Beef Cabbage Bake (remind me to blog about my riff on this one)
  14. Rotisserie Chicken, baked potatoes
  15. Shrimp Scampi over pasta (I don't have a recipe for this, but I really should write one down)
  16. Beefaroni (I have no idea where I got this recipe so I can't give credit)
  17. Wiener Wraps (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls then baked), Tater Tots
  18. Chicken Taquitos (I'll post this one when the time comes - it's a good one!)
  19. Grilled steak salad
  20. Chicken Fried Steak, mashed potatoes (saving this one for hubby's birthday dinner - it's his favorite)
  21. Buffalo Chicken Strips, oven fries
And my meals in reserve:
  1. Spaghetti and meatballs
  2. Grilled (or pan-fried) chicken tenderloins. 
So there you have it - 21 days of meal planning.  And I'm already thinking of things I can make for the next round!  I feel more organized already.

I'm a pretty lousy blogger

Two months since my last blog post?  That's no good at all.  What excuse do I have for being such a lousy blogger?  None, really.  I just don't feel like I have much to talk about lately.  Ever since I started back to work full time in January, my daily routine is exhausting.  And mundane.  It goes something like this:

  • Get up
  • Work out (at least 2 - 3 days a week, but I'm working on gradually increasing that)
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get my daughter up and let her watch a cartoon before we leave for daycare
  • Pack my lunch
  • Get dressed
  • Take daughter to daycare
  • Come home, get my stuff together, go to work
  • Work
  • Come home, make dinner
  • Put daughter to bed
  • Do dishes
  • Pack hubby's lunch
  • Give myself half an hour of "me time"
  • Go to bed

 There's not really any time in there for creativity, or experimentation, or much extra of anything.  My garden is a disaster - the weeds are bigger than the plants.  Blogging is pretty much at the bottom of the list (but I'm not sure anyone actually reads here anyway - if you do, would you just drop me a line and let me know?).  Overall, I feel like my psyche is suffering.  I'm losing ME.  And it's showing - in my marriage, the way I parent our daughter, my work, and the way I feel about myself. 

I'm gradually working on turning this around.  I've only recently added working out into my routine.  It's hard as heck to haul my butt out of bed at 5:15 (and I think I'm going to move this to 5:00 to allow for longer workout videos) and put my shoes on instead of just plunking myself down in front of the television, but I've noticed that, when I do, I'm energized for almost the whole day, with a lot less caffeine needed, and I have a much more positive outlook on things. 

Last week, after just about losing it at work over seemingly minor things, I took a day off.  My daughter still went to daycare, and I had eight hours, in the house, all to myself.  It was heavenly.  And I was so much more peaceful when I went back to work the following Monday.  So this is definitely something I'll be working into the schedule on a regular basis. 

Turned out I don't have to work full time - we were so blessed in that my husband started a new job just five weeks after he was laid off from his old one.  Unfortunately, the nature of my ability to increase my hours at work means that I won't be able to decrease them for three years.  I'm not looking to quit, so I need to figure out a way to make things work.  After being with the company nearly 11 years, I get something like seven weeks of PTO a year.  I need to focus on utilizing this as fully as possible to make sure that I'm meeting my needs, and the needs of my family, as well as doing the best job possible. 

So this is my focus.  Me.  My family.  Making things work.  Positivity.  Peace.  Calm. 
And maybe blogging will fit into that, and maybe it won't.  We'll see how it happens.