Monday, April 7, 2014

Operation Organization: The Meal Planning

Two Saturdays ago I was unloading groceries at 6:00 pm and thought to myself, "I've gotta make a change here." As an increasingly busy homeschooling mama to four, my Saturdays have gone from busy to crazy to downright insane in the last year or so. I used to have my weekdays to run errands, plan meals, do the grocery shopping, and clean the toilets. Even with one and then three babies in tow, I was generally able to manage the household chores and errands between Monday and Friday, with the occasional there is no way I am hauling the kids with me trips saved for Saturday mornings.

People, those days are long gone. In the last couple of years I went from three to four kids, and from homeschooling one child to homeschooling three. During the week I have almost no time for anything but teaching the kids, getting them to and from their activities, and throwing dinner (sometimes literally) onto the table at 6:30. Everything I used to do throughout the week has made its way to Saturday. Saturday has, in turn, made its way to a nightmare.

I narrowed down the nightmare to three main areas of things I need to manage: meal planning and grocery shopping, household cleaning, and homeschool preparation. I've decided to attack them one by one, and I've decided to start with mean planning.

I currently spend at least three hours every Saturday with meal planning and grocery shopping. First I haul out the dog-eared manila folder of recipes that I've been meaning to organize into a better system for the last six years or so. I flip through it and pick out the meals we'll have for the week, jotting down all the grocery items I'll need. Tick, tock, tick tock, tick tock. Oh, I think I'll have another cup of coffee, I think with a big sigh. Then I peruse the pantry, fridge, and freezer, checking to see all that needs to be replenished and adding it to my list. A few more sips of coffee, a little bit of daydreaming, a few interruptions from the kids. Tick tock, tick tock. Then I take my list and climb into the car to fight both Saturday road traffic and Saturday grocery store traffic (my own private hell), purchase everything that I need (often at more than one store in order to stretch the grocery budget), load it all into the trunk, and head home through Saturday traffic. Tick tock, tick tock. Then I need to unload it all from the car, drag it in to the kitchen, and put it all away. It's about this time every week, as I glance at the mid-afternoon clock and realize I only have accomplished one of the many items on my to do list, that I wearily shake my head and say to myself, "Something has got to change."

It occurred to me that if I only did this once per month, rather than every week, I would save myself three hours and a migraine every Saturday. Honestly, most of you are probably already doing this, but for some reason I have never transitioned to consolidating this giant task into one big event rather than many, many little ones.

That is about to change! I love me a big organizational project. Check back later this week for how I am getting my meal planning in gear!

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