We started homeschooling again on Monday, this week. I know that many people who start in September wait until after Labor Day, starting on a Tuesday, but I couldn’t handle that. I start things on Mondays, not Tuesdays. Today was our first day of homeschooling co-op. It went well, but I am wiped out and a little freaked out over just how much school work these five school aged kids of mine have to do, and the fact that it’s up to me to make sure it all gets done. I have to pour most of my mental energy into this task, so there’s not much left for anything else, like planning meals.
Meal planning for me is not an easy task. Nor am I a natural cook, one who looks in her pantry at what’s available and throws something together that is both creative and delicious. A plan is necessary. I had to come up with something easy-ish to fall back on, something to take the stress out of making my weekly meal plan and executing it. It’s not fancy. (Sorry, no Pinterest worthy images here!) In the past I have planned roughly one week of meals at whatever point we run out of them, and then gone grocery shopping for the week’s provisions. I have a master grocery shopping list with most things that I purchase regularly, so I can just circle what I need. I have also relied on a master list of favorite meals in the past. For some reason that list has stopped working for me. I need even more structure. I came up with themed weekdays, with an idea list for each Monday through Friday. Monday is for chicken, Tuesday is black beans, Wednesday is ground beef, Thursday is pinto beans, and Friday is just meatless and a place where I throw some of our vegetarian staple meals. The recipes might vary, but the spine of the meal doesn’t. Weekends are more flexible and open to being filled with meals that might end up being shifted from a weekday, for trying new recipes, or for special meals. I plan to make and laminate a fancy spreadsheet including all the different ideas for each day so I can keep it hanging on the fridge, but I haven’t yet. For this post, the best I have is photographs of my messy Mama’s Notebook page where I scratched out the bones of my plan, still a work in progress and being added to as I think of other meals. Following that photo is one of a real week’s plan all filled in. Each week I look to the master list and make my plan before going shopping.
I am planning breakfast and lunch as well. I find that having a breakfast plan in place works well for us. It keeps me from having kids upset because we’re having oatmeal for the fourth day in a row. They know it’s only twice a week, and even if they hate it they can look forward to other days and just try to choke it down in the meantime. If I am struck with some sort of fancy breakfast inspiration, of course I will deviate from the plan, but I really like not having to think, especially on school days. I also prefer not to leave breakfast open to nine people making whatever they are in the mood for that day. That type of breakfast scene tends to drag out for too long. On weekdays we can’t spend ages on breakfast. As far as planning lunch goes, I need to always do it because if I don’t, I end up forgetting to feed my people.
Lastly, I have moved from shopping when we run out of food and I absolutely have to go, to having a regular shopping day each week. Keats has orchestra on the same day each week and it happens to be near the stores where I shop and is also on a convenient day and time. So after I drop him off, I shop with my little ones in tow. I used to always avoid shopping with them by going during the evening or on the weekend, but I find that having a regular shopping day and time alleviates more stress than bringing four kids along causes.
Being married to Jonny, the “free spirit,” for almost seventeen years has forced me to bury any type A tendencies I might have, but sometimes they make an appearance and I find myself feeling very soothed by a little structure and order. The routine helps me to function more efficiently and effectively which is just going to be necessary for me to keep up this crazy gig we’ve got going here.