Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meal Planning and Cooking with Young Children

I wasn't always an organized person. Soon after the birth of our daughter, Lily, I realized I needed to either accept the chaos, or develop methods of fighting it. I knew I couldn't provide the kind of upbringing I wanted for her unless I started to refine my methods of organization and time management.

One of the first things I worked on was meal planning. I really wanted to provide quality food for my family, and for Lily's first year we had the goal of providing her 100% organic foods (other than breastmilk). I am happy to say that we did meet that goal!

Meal planning successfully was something that took me a long time to perfect (and I still find ways to refine the system even more every week), and I made a lot of errors along the way.

Here is my current system, with some tips for what works for me:

1. On Saturday, go through the fridge and pantry, and see what needs to be used up ASAP. Make a list of these items.
2. Go through my cookbooks and my meal planning list (more on that in another post) to pick meals for the next two weeks. Incorporate ingredients in the fridge and pantry that need to be used soon.
3. Ask my husband what he needs for snacks at work for the next two weeks, and pick snacks for myself and my daughter.
4. Make my grocery list for the meals and snacks for that week. Although I plan two weeks ahead, I buy groceries once a week for freshness reasons. I tend to separate the sections of my grocery list into the following: Grocery items, produce, meat/dairy, frozen, and other. This makes shopping easier for me.
5. Go through my coupon stash to see if I have any that I can use that week.
6. On Sunday afternoon, or early morning before church, go grocery shopping.
7. Write out the meal plan and put it in a special frame in our kitchen, so I know what I've cooked and what I still have ingredients for.
8. On Wednesdays, we will sometimes go to our local farmer's market in the afternoon if we still have produce or other locally-made items to pick up.
9. Cook meals! I generally do the bulk of my prep work, or even just cook the entire dinner, during my daughter's naptime. This makes cooking way less stressful for me.

I was inspired to display our meal plan this way after reading this lovely post from Frontier Dreams!

That's about it! I have to do a little more planning for special occasions. For instance, this weekend is my husband's birthday, so I will be baking his favorite peach cobbler! I also do extra baking and cooking on most holidays, so my methods change slightly then to accommodate extra meal prep time.

I hope you enjoyed this post! What time-saving tips do you have regarding meal planning, shopping, or cooking? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Food and Me: A History

I grew up eating pretty well. My family were omnivores, and the vast majority of our meals were home-cooked, mostly from scratch, and included a lot of vegetables. For years it was my job to make the salads we had most nights with dinner. I grew to love vegetables, and I still prefer them to fruits!

Somewhere around middle school I got it into my head to become a vegetarian. I had two vegetarian friends, and I admired them a lot, so I just decided one day that I'd be one too. I think I had convinced myself that it had to do with moral reasons, but mostly I think it was a mixture of teenage rebellion and honest admiration of some beloved friends. I stayed a vegetarian for about five years, from middle school to the first few years of college.

Though I stayed very committed to the vegetarian lifestyle (and would interrogate people about things like casein and chicken broth content!), I never really learned how to cook vegetarian meals. I still do not know how to cook tofu. My mom never added a vegetarian option to most of our dinners, so I mainly subsisted on carbs and vegetables. I totally don't blame her for that I'm a mom I can only imagine how hard it would be to plan and cook two separate dinners!

Sometime in my early college years I decided to start eating meat again. I can't point to an exact reason, other than at the time I was dating a boy who'd grown up on a dairy farm, and was getting tired of all the teasing that went on (luckily it was good-natured teasing)! I think I also was at a loss to really feel any real connection to my choice of a vegetarian diet, because I hadn't chosen it out of any strong conviction as a teen.

So, for about eight years now, I've been an omnivore.

Until the past few weeks. For some reason, the thought of meat has been really grossing me out. I can't really point to a specific reason. Maybe it's the increase in the price of meat I've noticed lately. Maybe it is because we can only occasionally afford organic or sustainably farmed meat. Maybe I'm tired of worrying whether the meat is cooked through, and I'm weary of messing with a meat thermometer.

So, for now, we're eating vegetarian, and...I feel like I'm falling in love with an old friend for the first time. I have much more access to alternative "meats," interesting cookbooks, and peer support than I did as a young teenager. I really hope I can keep this up, as I feel really good physically and emotionally about this decision. I need to do more research into raising kids vegetarian, but I have a lot of optimism about the subject. Our pediatrician outright told me that her healthiest patients are being raised as vegetarians.

I hope you'll stay with me on my journey this week as I explore my relationship with food through a series of blog posts about meal planning, shopping, cooking, and more!

See you again soon!

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Moment.

"A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Inspired by Soulemama.

(for those of you in San Antonio, please check out the stage one drought restrictions before you play in the sprinklers with your kids!)

This week, I am looking forward to:

- Attending a bridal expo with my sister-in-law. I love weddings and everything to do with them, and I am honored she asked me to share these special moments with her!
- Starting preparations for my husband's birthday celebration.
- Beginning the planning stages for Lily's birthday party in July...including planning her mama-made gifts!
- Starting a series of blog posts about our shopping/cooking/eating strategies and philosophies. Please stay tuned!

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Moment

"A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Inspired by Soulemama.

This week, I am looking forward to:

- Lots of time playing outside with Lily, and hopefully a few playdates!
- Visiting our local Farmer's Market.
- Doing some much-needed cleanup in the garden.
- Seeing a ton of family over Mother's Day weekend!

What are you looking forward to this week?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crafting and Catholicism

I'm a cradle Catholic who fell away in college and recently (Divine Mercy Sunday 2010) reverted to the Church. To say the least, it has been an interesting journey! Our daughter was baptized on August 1, 2010, and our marriage was convalidated on March 16, 2011. What a difference a year makes!

As a crafty person, it didn't take me long to incorporate my Catholicism into my crafts. I had been wanting to learn to make rosaries for a long time, probably ever since I learned to make wire-wrapped jewelry. Praying the rosary has been an important part of my journey back to the Church, and I suppose you can say I have a devotion to it. I decided to take the plunge (I am shy and have mild social anxiety) and go to a meeting of our parish's Rosary Guild. I am so glad that I took that chance.

I learned to make "mission" rosaries (plastic bead, crucifix and center, with knotted twine) from a little old man who has been making them for years. I mean "little old man" in the most respectful way. It just doesn't sound the same to say "respectable and congenial male senior"! He laughed at and with me as I made many beginner mistakes, and patiently taught me each technique. When I finally finished making my very first (ugly, but at least sturdy!) rosary, he pressed it into my hands and said, "Keep it. And don't forget to pray it."

Although I don't make every Rosary Guild meeting, I have continued to make rosaries for the Guild's mission work, and also for my family and friends. Here is a rosary I made for my male cousin W's recent Confirmation:

I love wooden rosaries for men...they are so sturdy and masculine looking. I made this rosary "mission-style" meaning that there are no knots of twine between the Ave beads, making it easier to pray.

Here is a preview of another rosary I am currently working on for someone very special:

I have several other rosaries in the works, both gifts and commissions. I briefly considered opening an etsy shop, but decided I do not have the temperament for it! I can't imagine mass-producing rosaries. I really just have to wait for inspiration to hit before I can begin to craft mine. I don't mean anything against those who do make rosaries for bulk sale---thank God for those people! It just isn't me.

I look forward to sharing more of my crafts on this blog, whether they be Catholic-inspired or not! See you again soon!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My first post!

I have blogged before, but this sort of public blog is going to be new to me! I hope you enjoy my posts, and I can't wait to start following people and making new friends. I hope to post a few times a week, but I am sure there will be times when my posts are scarce. I hope you will bear with me as my blogging skills unfold.