Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Simple Menu Planning for New Moms

Welcome to the May edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - Daily Lives cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about what we do to keep the little things from overwhelming us. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

When I was a newlywed, I loved cooking new recipes.  A small refrigerator and a leisurely schedule inspired almost daily grocery trips, where I loved to see what the different stores had to offer and how they differed from options in the US (we lived in South Africa at the time).  I hadn't gotten the knack of meal planning for more than one day at a time, though.  Randomly, I would just pick out recipes that sounded good but then by the end of the week I would have odds and ends of certain ingredients left over.  

Fast forward nearly two years, and my routine when it comes to food certainly has changed.  I no longer have time --or energy, or desire--to go to the grocery every day.  I have two little ones that need my attention and have also begun to eat solids, and they have their own dinnertime rhythm which leaves me little time in the evenings to get the kitchen grunt work done.  

So I started doing something that sounds so basic I wondered why I never did it before.  I started planning the meals I would prepare for the whole week--and it seemed like such an epiphany at the time!  I hadn't realized before that there was an entire industry based around menu planning.  And while I'm certainly not the type to have every single morsel planned and accounted for, drawing up an outline for the week's meals has really helped simplify the chaotic evenings when I'm low on brainpower anyway.  

Here are some basic steps that have helped our routine. 

1.  Take inventory.  We tend to buy our protein in bulk and freeze.  Also, a few times a month I make lots of food just to freeze.  Sometimes I forget what we have on hand so this is helpful to know what to buy, and I know how much leeway I have for nights when I'm feeling particularly frazzled (reheating chili versus making something from scratch).

2.  Choose a 'theme'.  If I'm itching to try a new recipe with some special ingredient that I don't use a lot of, I'll try to find other recipes that use it, too.  If we are sick of that ingredient by the end of the week, we add the food to our freezer-stockpile!

3.  Go-To Recipes:  I don't think I could stand the rigidity of having a 'daily special,'  but I do have go-to recipes that I make a several times a month.  The most successful staples in my repertoire are things that can be easily adaptable (soup!) or that use ingredients that I invariably have at home (pasta!)

4.  Baby lead solids:  The idea of introducing solids to my twins gave me anxiety, until I learned about baby lead weaning.   BLW really has preemptively simplified the babies' eating since I give them the same food that we are eating, instead of worrying about the purees and the teaspoons and increasing the amount per day, etc.  For the first month I didn't prepare the food for them exactly the same way as I prepared it for EJ and myself, however.  I would use the same ingredients as for our meal (broccoli, squash, etc) but would simply steam or bake them.  Now that they've gotten the hang of it I'm slowly introducing more interesting flavors and combinations.  

If you've been at this a while I'm sure this will all be old news, but maybe it will help some other new moms out there!  

How do you simplify your cooking routine?

  Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating stress relieving actions into their daily day lives. We hope you will join us next month!
  • Keeping Stress at Bay From Day to Day - Laura at Authentic Parenting sums up some of the things she does to avoid being overwhelmed.
  • How I Stay Sane! - ANonyMous @ Radical Ramblings discusses the coping mechanisms she has to stay sane when her life is chaotic and often stressful.
  • Organising - sustainablemum talks about how spending time planning ahead has given her more time for life!
  • Simple Menu Planning for New Moms - No longer a lady of leisure, new mom Mercedes at Project Procrastinot has had to rethink her cooking style in order to maximize her time in the kitchen.
  • Happy Homes/Peaceful Homes - According to Lisa at Squishable Baby, It's the things that bring us closer together as a family - that keep our home Peaceful.
  • Keeping It Simple - At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy focuses on keeping things simple so that she can spend her time enjoying her family.
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