School is in full swing as are all the extra activities that come along with a new year. We moms can become frazzled as we try to go through each day and get all our tasks done around the house. From cook to maid to taxi driver to volunteer to friend … the list goes on and on! But I have some tips to share with you that will help you feel like you actually accomplished something meaningful in a day. Coming up with a simple plan for cooking and a simple schedule for cleaning can make all the difference in the world. Ben, my husband, always says, “If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.”
Let’s first look at cooking dinner at night. I plan a menu every week. I cook Monday through Saturday night. On Sundays, we typically eat at my parent’s house for a late family lunch. If we don’t eat there, then I will prepare a big lunch at home or we go out to eat. Going out to eat at my house is a treat. We might go out to eat twice a month "just because” or for a birthday celebration or an exciting accomplishment. Some people see cooking at home as overwhelming and impossible to achieve. Lucky for you, I’m here to share some simple tips to get you started on your menu planning.
- Cook 3 times a week for the first month if you're doing this for the first time ever. You can eventually work up to every night as you become accustomed to it.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to be making recipes from a Julia Child cookbook. Cook recipes that you know your family loves. Not every night has to be a 5 star meal. If you have hot dogs and tater tots one night, that is totally fine.
- Save the time consuming or challenging recipes for the weekend. I rarely cook a new recipe during the school week. We have a schedule to keep for bath and bed time, and Beef Wellington is not happening on a Wednesday night.
- Look at the weekly ads to see what’s on sale and make your menu according to sale items. If pork roast is on sale, buy a big portion and get two meals out of it. Use the leftovers to make lettuce wraps.
- Take into consideration the weather. You don’t want tortilla soup on an 85 degree day. (Now I totally would eat that up, but my husband would not like that. Hot weather and hot soup are not his favorite combination.)
- Go to the store only once a week. Make your menu, and then make your grocery list according to your menu. Going to the grocery store is not my favorite past time. I make sure that when I go, I’m getting everything I need for that week: breakfast, lunch and dinner for all parties involved. Sunday afternoons are my shopping days.
- Keep staples in your pantry so that at any given moment you could go to your pantry and prepare a meal. These include items such as: rice, pasta, canned beans, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, olive oil, vegetable oil, spices, jarred pasta sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and salsa.
- SAVE YOUR MENUS. I figured this out a year ago. When you are planning your menu for the week, and it feels like you are trying to rewrite the Declaration of Independence, you can go back to the 3rd week in July of 2015 and reuse that menu for that week.
- Make a breakfast menu for school mornings. I have to give credit to my brilliant husband for this one. I was so tired of asking them 15 times in the morning what they wanted for breakfast. (Ok, so maybe I asked only 5 times. But it felt like 15!) My girls together came up with their menu for school mornings. Now when they get up and stumble into the kitchen, breakfast is on the table. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are their choice.
I know what you are thinking, “Her kids aren’t involved in extracurricular activities so she’s not running around everywhere, and she has time.” Well, my oldest plays golf and takes violin lessons and my youngest does gymnastics. However, we do not let any activities interfere with our dinner time. We also limit activities in which our children participate. We schedule lessons and activities around dinner time. 6pm at our house is our sacred time. No phones, no TV, and we all sit at the table and savor those 30 minutes together as a family.
Before you start planning your menu, evaluate your schedule for that week and see what days will work best for you to cook at home and what time is most conducive to your family’s routine. Involve your family and ask what they would like to see on the menu. Just try it for 1 month and see what a difference it makes. After I shared this with the women in my life group, they reported back to me how it reduced stress for them because they had a plan. In addition, their families looked forward to the nights they cooked. Some have even lost weight, and the taste of restaurant food is not as appealing as it once was.
Now, let’s discuss cleaning. I was starting to feel like Cinderella. I would have LONG days of cleaning until the idea came to me to divide and conquer. BK (before kids) I would work all week and then spend Saturday cleaning all day. AK (after kids) my kitchen would maybe get mopped once a month (Don’t judge.). I do chores each day and spread the laundry throughout the week. Also, child labor is encouraged! Here is my cleaning schedule:
Monday- mop all hardwood or tile floors, vacuum all areas with carpet- I alternate mopping one week with washing sheets and blankets from each bed the next week.
Tuesday- Ben’s laundry and wipe down bathrooms
Wednesday- my day off…seriously, no specific tasks this day. We all need a break!
Thursday- my laundry and wipe down bathrooms
Friday- wash all towels, washcloths, etc.…
Saturday- girls’ laundry, deep clean bathrooms (that includes toilets, bathtub and showers), and dust every 2 weeks. Madeline does the deep cleaning of bathrooms and dusting.
Sunday- grocery shopping day
Remember, everything we do we do unto the Lord. This is my job and I love it. I love that my husband tells me he feels like he lives in a five star hotel. Whatever he wants is there at his disposal. Our house is our home, and I want my kids to remember all the memories we’ve made around the dinner table and for them also to remember I wasn’t walking around like a zombie frazzled all the time. I was present and made their experience at home a clean, delicious one.
Monday- Spaghetti and meatballs with green salad (every Monday night is Italian night)
Tuesday- meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and fried okra (my garden is still producing Okra!)
Wednesday- Pork chops with apples, roasted acorn squash, Stovetop stuffing and cranberry sauce
Thursday-New York strip steak, baked potato, green salad
Friday- Fried shrimp, dirty rice, and turnip greens
Saturday- chicken curry with rice
MY FAVORITE FALL RECIPE: CHICKEN AND WHITE BEAN CHILI
This is so easy, fast and has amazing flavor. What makes this soup so great are the toppings you can put on it before you eat it.
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
1 15 to 19-ounce can white navy beans, rinsed and drained
One 16-ounce jar mild salsa verde
2 14 to 14 ½ ounce cans of reduced- sodium chicken broth
Chopped green onions
In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium-high until very hot. Add the chicken and the salt. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Once chicken is done transfer the chicken to a medium bowl once it is done.
After all the chicken is cooked, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil with the garlic and onions and cook until brown, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in cumin, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and cook 1 minute. Add the beans, salsa verde, broth and browned chicken, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook the chili for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve immediately.
Do yourself a favor. Fight the frazzle with a little bit of focus.
Guest Contributor: Robin Leeah
Robin is the leader of the Wednesday morning women’s group, Frazzled to Focused. She is a stay at home mom with a passion for efficiency in day to day tasks within her home. Robin has been a TFC member for over 30 years. She and her husband, Ben, have been married for 16 years. They have two beautiful daughters, Madeline, 12, and Natalie, 7. Robin and Ben enjoy gardening together, traveling with their girls, seeing the Lord’s hand in their lives and being reminded that we are all a success in Christ.