Friday, October 31, 2014

My Menu Plan is Completed!

*sweet sigh of relief* I finished up November's Menu Plan yesterday and this afternoon I put it all on my calendar. Feels soooo good to have it finished!! I'm about 11 weeks along, so I'm starting to come out of the first trimester blahness and I'm determined to stick to my menu plan....yupp. Thats the plan. :)

I have a master basic menu plan in my Home Management Book that is fairly simple and budget friendly. I know that I will probably still have days of tiredness and not feeling well, so I went even simpler for this month. I chose about 15 super easy meals and we are doing them each twice.

Once I had my dinner meals figured out, I then wrote down some super simple lunch ideas, along with breakfasts, snacks and a couple desserts. We rarely do desserts, but I like to have stuff in the house in case we want something fun one day.

November is quite the busy month for us. We have two birthdays now - our oldest is turning 10 on the 16th and our youngest is turning 1 on the 3rd. This year we are having a joint family birthday get together for them on the 8th. We have the tradition that the birthday person gets to choose their birthday meals....within reason and with mama's approval. :) Sophie, the youngest, won't care one bit, so I won't have to worry about that this year. And Abby, our oldest, has known for weeks what she wants to have. :) We have a church potluck, company one Sunday, Thanksgiving, and we are taking a three day vacation. We don't normally have this many extra activities going on, so it made it more interesting planning for this month. :)

I like to swap it up in how I go about planning my monthly menu. Sometimes I'll just copy the previous months menu, adjusting as needed for days and events. Sometimes I'll make my calendar up, take out my Home Management Book and start filling in days. And this time I wrote the dates on a lined piece of paper (1-30), the abbreviation of the day of the week next to that, took my list of super simple meals and started with the days that had events going on, then went on from there adding in meals that were good for those days. It was good I did it this way this time, because I forgot a couple of events and had to scribble out, rewrite, add notes, and fix. :)

My Tools
Someone from our church gave us a number of those big desk calendars and I use those to make my monthly menu. Works great!! I also have a ruler, a highlighter, sharpies, a pen, my hole punch, and this time I also used sticky notes.

I like to use different colors, so fun sharpies are a must. :) I used the orange sticky notes on the calendar to add on little notes to the days I needed more info on. The green up top are my breakfast ideas for the month, the orange up top are my lunch ideas, and the pink are my snack and dessert options for this month. I haven't done the sticky note thing yet, but I like the extra colors. :D 

I know not everyone does well with planning for a month and I've done it many different ways. Right now this way works really, really well for us. (And now that I've said it, it probably won't work anymore. hehe) If I don't have a menu plan, chaos would reign and I would end up spending a TON of money. I've always loved making lists and planning, so it comes a little easier to me than some. Its still taken me work to get really good at it. And its something I'll need to change up and learn how to get even better at as our needs change and our family grows. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Planning - Its A Must

I've always loved making lists. Always. It was such a good thing though for our wedding. Planning a wedding is right up a list makers alley! I loved that!! We paid for our own wedding, so planning was very important. And I loved every second of it. :) Now, having been blessed with a largerish family, its a very good thing to know how to plan and make lists.

Even a simple thing like going to the grocery store takes planning. I know that I need to start getting everyone ready at least 20 minutes before I want to be walking out the door. 30 minutes is better, but I'm not always on my game and get a late start. oops.

For longer trips I need an hour. If I'll need a meal or snack while out, I need to make that ahead of time, know how I'm going to serve it on the go, have cups of water ready, the diaper bag stocked.....then there is just the actual getting ready. Everyone have clothes on that are good to be worn in public (matching, not huge stains or holes, fits correctly), clean faces and hands, hair done (I have four girls so far and right now it takes me about 6-12 minutes to do their hair, depending on the hair style), socks and shoes found and then put on. And then I have to get ready too.

If we are having a busy weekend, I need to think through each days meals and know exactly what I will be doing for every meal. I think ahead to Sunday and if I'll need meat thawed, I make sure its in the fridge to thaw days before so that its ready for me to cook when I'm ready. I figure out if I need to get anything from the store so that I don't have to go Saturday evening when we are trying to finish preparing for the LORD's Day. We live about 30 minutes from the church so we just pack for the day and stay there. It works really well. But I have to do the packing. So if its a busy weekend, I need to do some of the packing ahead of time and get start making the list for Sunday.

No matter whats going on, planning is very, very important for a large or largerish family like us. If you don't plan, it can be stressful. It will usually cost more money. You will probably be late or maybe on time, but not in the best mood.

The LORD gives us many verses about planning and being ready. Our favorite verse is Proverbs 6:6 - 'Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.' Even teeny, tiny ants prepare. They know winter is coming and they work to have food. We should be like that! Working hard. Planning. Preparing. Know what is coming up. I don't mean telling the future, just knowing what events will be happening and being prepared for them.

I've gotten better and better at it over the years. When we were first married and had no kids, we would be late for Sunday School quite often. I still can't believe that. Then we had one child and I had to be more prepared. I can remember several Sunday's being late because I had to nurse the baby and I still had to get ready to go. Instead of preparing stuff the night before and getting up earlier so that I was ready to go when it was time for Baby to nurse, I just took it as it came. I didn't plan. I finally figured it out thankfully!

Then the LORD gave us several more kids in a row. I had to really figure it out. Quick! My husband was a pastor by this time, so we HAD to be out the door at a certain time. No ifs, ands, or buts. We only had one car, so if I was running really late for some reason, I had to stay home. I think that only happened a few times during a first trimester when I was sick and needing to run to the bathroom. :)

Our week revolves around Sunday. Mostly because my husband is the pastor of our church, but also because we think that the LORD's Day should be front and center. We want to teach our kids that going to church comes first, before anything else. We often have to forego family activities because they happen on Saturday and most of the family lives 1.5 hours away. *Sometimes* we do things on Saturday's with them, but its not often at all. We wouldn't get home until later in the day and we still needed to do our normal house stuff, as well as getting ready for Sunday. Thats a choice we have made. And sometimes its hard to stick by it. I feel like we miss out on a lot. But then Sunday comes, we are well rested, well prepared and we are so blessed. That makes it all worth it. I'm not saying you shouldn't do stuff on Saturday's, just be prepared. If you can handle it, great!! It just doesn't work for our family.

If you're not good at planning, I encourage you to work on it. Its very rewarding! It takes quite a bit of work at first, but once you have it makes life sooooo super easy!.....or maybe easier. :) If you are good at planning, keep it up!!! If you're just starting down the road of planning, don't give up. Find resources that suit your needs and help you. Rely on your husband's wisdom and ask him for advice when things seem to get really rough or when you get in a rut.

Be like the ant. Work. Plan. Be prepared.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Making the Effort

Do you struggle with getting to church on time? Or even just getting out the door at the time you want? Do you struggle with being prepared? Having Sunday morning go smoothly?

I do.

Some weeks it goes so smoothly. We all have good attitudes. The van is loaded by a good time. No one is missing anything. The kids are all buckled in the van several minutes before its time to leave, allowing me to finish gathering up the last few items, turning off lights, doing a quick clean up of the kitchen getting those last couple of food items in the fridge that were missed. Its just awesome.

And then there are those other Sunday's. The ones I try to block from my memory. The ones that happen too often. The ones that make me glad no one is around to see. There is chaos. Everyone (read, me) has a bad attitude. There is complaining. A missing shoe. The van doesn't get loaded until the time we are supposed to be pulling out the driveway.

But there are also those other Sunday's that....honestly....I'd rather just stay home. *hangs head in shame* Yes. I feel that way. This past Sunday was one of those Sunday's.

Saturday's, from about 4pm till late, is spent getting ready for Sunday. Laying out clothes, finding shoes, preparing food, packing the diaper bag, getting everyone bathed, doing a little extra cleaning so the house is in good shape.....but this last Saturday it didn't happen. I'm about 9 weeks along with our sweet Blessing #6 and I felt sooo sick. It was terrible. I just wanted to lay in bed. Maybe have a pity party for a while. And sleep. I wanted sleep so bad. I laid out clothes, started packing extra clothes, made my list....and that was about as far as I got.

We live about 30 minutes from church, so we stay there all day. Which means we take our pillows, blankets to make beds on the nursery floor, our lunch, snacks, extra clothes, and other junk, I mean stuff! I told my husband that I just needed to go to bed, that hopefully I would sleep good and be able to finish up in the morning. Otherwise he could leave at 9am by himself and we would follow as soon as we could. I could tell he wasn't happy about that, but he also knew how sick I was feeling. I started getting for bed and realized I was being selfish. That I was kinda hoping I would end up just needing to stay home. I needed to change my heart attitude and make the decision that I was going to be ready on time. No if's, and's, or but's about it.

And I did it! I was up at 7:15, grabbed a quick shower and by 7:40 was dressed and mostly ready for the day. I made the kids their usual Sunday Morning Breakfast - scrambled eggs. Its quick, fast, easy clean up, and full of protein to help them make it through the morning. While they were eating, I started collecting pillows, blankets, food and such. After they were done, I sent the older kids to dress while I dressed the younger ones and got them ready to walk out the door. At 8:30ish, I was loading the van up. At 8:45 I (almost) always start assigning small chores - put these clothes in the dirty basket, put those books away, feed and water the dog and put him up, straighten that chair.....just little things to make the house look neater when we come! it keep the kids busy and out of trouble. :)

We were pulling out of the driveway at our usual 9:03. I have no idea. That just always ends up being the time we actually leave. Weird, I know. :)

When I make the effort to have a good attitude, the LORD blesses me. When I make the effort to be prepared for the LORD's Day, I always leave feeling grateful and blessed. When I make the effort to be pleasant, the kids enjoy church more and are generally more well behaved (not always though).

I'd encourage you to really look at your Sunday mornings. Do you need to do more work Saturday to be more prepared and have the morning to be more smooth? Ask your husband how he feels Sunday mornings go. Does he want to see something different happen? Have a short time of Family Worship to prepare for Worshipping at church? Make a list of things that you/he want to see happen or be different about Sunday mornings, then brainstorm how to make that happen.

The LORD will bless you for making the effort to be ready to worship Him.