I am a process person. I gravitate toward maximizing efficiency, systematic approaches and organization in general. I wrote about this after Leighton was born clearly with more energy than I have now and continue to seek out methods for optimizing the management of our happy little home.
It is readily apparent to me that disorganization costs money. If I misplace something I need, then I have to buy it again. If the magazine subscription lapses, then it costs triple on the newsstand. If I forget to get gas before going into the city, then it costs me an extra few bucks to get home. Every time I lose the radio key to Leighton's school, they charge me twenty dollars. When the house is a mess, things get lost or broken and need to be replaced. This list is ostensibly endless.
Food is a HUGE offender. If I don't have food on hand in the morning for dinner that night, I might just order in or buy the super-expensive prepared foods at the deli. If I don't have time to take inventory and make a decent grocery list, then I wind up with moldy bread and ten extra rotten bananas a week later. If I don't have Leighton's snacks stocked at home, then she eats overpriced crap at the zoo, or store or museum or music class or wherever we are. If we're out of coffee, then Starbucks gets incredibly lucky. You get the picture.
We have managed this to some degree with meal planning while sticking to a budget. However, it was much easier when we ordered from Peapod - you can order late at night, the food is delivered and you can manage your lists with ease. However, we now live up the street from a wonderful grocery store (minus the Lulu Lemon contingent) and Peapod comes less frequently to this new house. So, I routinely forget to place my Peapod order and need to run to Sunset foods with increasing regularity.
As a way to combat this mental foolishness, I have devised a better meal planning system that will work for me, as well as Ryan, my parents, a nanny or anyone else that steps in to help us with a new baby coming. The cornerstone of my optimized meal plan (index cards) is as old-fashioned as it is reliable and I can't wait to put it to the test starting monday.
The current and soon to be outdated system is as follows:
Breakfasts, lunches and snacks are based off of an aggregate of weekly items - milk, juice, eggs, bread, chicken sausage, fruits veggies, mish-mash, crackers, lunch meat, cheese, yogurt etc. that we know we need - reduced to a weekly shopping list on yet another spread sheet.
We also have twenty one dinner meals planned and rotate seven for any given week. The ingredients and shopping list are included in the spread sheet and once we pick our seven, we shop off of said spread sheet.
This plan worked great when we were able to better manage our grocery shopping. It's just not working so well now that we make several trips each week and often run out to pick up dinner fixings at the last minute.
The solution ... index cards.
I will print the weekly shopping list for breakfasts, lunches and snacks and make sure we're stocked every sunday with those staples. That list will live on the fancy schmancy wall organizer in the kitchen, right next to the white board that holds the "All Out Of" check list for unexpected items.
I will reduce each dinner to an index card with the meal on one side and the shopping list of ingredients on the other. That way, if we need to run out for a meal or two at a time, very little thought or lead time is required. These cards will also reside in the organizer for ease in grabbing them on the way to the store.
This has to work. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board. We'll see how it goes and I'll keep you posted along the way.
Over the next three weeks, I'll decide whether my index card system flies or flops. I'm happy to share twenty-one days of meals with you, as well. In the interim, please feel free to post any tips or tricks you have for managing the ongoing task of feeding your family.