Up to the Dates

Having (almost) an entire week of meal planning experience under my belt, I can say with confidence that …

… It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.*

Well, maybe “the worst of times” is a bit harsh. Monday, when I was stuck in my kitchen trying to get through an incredibly optimistic prepping schedule, I was wondering what in the world I was thinking. I got tired and I started making mistakes, which was frustrating. I don’t like to follow plans or recipes, but I expect everything to turn out perfectly anyway.

Mac and cheese with bonus serving for Abby.  We didn’t end up eating it as planned. 

But on Tuesday, when we were sitting down to Mexican-style Pizza (a la Taco Bell in the ’80s. Man, I loved those things) with minimal fuss, I rather felt like a genius.

Nothing went exactly as planned — meals I thought would last for one night stretched to two, recipes I thought would taste great in my head tasted terrible in real life (looking at you, Marinated Zucchini Salad), we inherited some soup (thanks, Joni!), and I have a mac and cheese in the freezer we were supposed to eat Thursday night but didn’t end up needing.

And I broke my favorite pie plate — one I got as a wedding present 21 years ago — trying to make a loaf of artisan bread. Apparently you’re not supposed to preheat a stoneware dish in the oven and then pour boiling water in it. (Uh, seems obvious in hindsight, but I was truly shocked at the time.)

Nooooooooo!

But some things came pretty close — I was able to make a fresh loaf of bread on a weeknight because I already had the dough in the fridge, meals came together quickly because the prep was already done, and it was nice not to have to think about what we were going to have for dinner.

I also learned my girls are crazy for cornbread. Who knew?

I’m a genius!

And food waste, which was the whole point of this experiment, has been greatly reduced. Like, surprisingly reduced. We’ll polish off leftovers for lunch today and then we can start on the next round.

I should have kept track of what I spent on groceries vs. how many meals the four of us ate. I have a feeling it was cheaper to have a plan, but I can’t prove it.

So yes, there will be a Week Two. Theme: Planning Around My Pantry. (All caps so you know it’s legit.) Thanks to your quinoa suggestions, I’m looking forward to one less jar in the cupboard by next Friday. 😉 I’ll let you know how I end up using it.

*Apologies to Charles Dickens. Also, fun fact, he got paid by the word, that’s why his books are so huge.

*

We’ve still not thawed out from the last snowstorm — wait, maybe the last two, I’ve kind of lost track — and things are really iced up and freezing over here. Thursday we had a low of 1ºF, which was a record. I think the high was 14ºF. I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to be warm. Anyway, all of that is just to say that school was two hours late Wednesday morning because of treacherous road conditions and, as I was taking the girls to school, I had some time on my hands to tackle another project on the ol’ third quarter list.

So I took one of Eric’s ratty t-shirts and made it into hankies.

Gathering my meager, I mean minimalist, sewing supplies.

I’ve only been meaning to do that since April, no biggie. And get this — I even ironed the t-shirt before I cut it so the edges would be nice and straight.

I know. I surprised even myself with that move.

I made smaller-sized squares — some were 4×4 and some were 5×5, Math is hard — because I wanted “single use” tissues, basically, as the girls are weird about using hankies more than once. I placed the squares in a half-gallon jar (not real happy with how that looks, but I don’t know that I care enough to change it) and then demonstrated with my own runny nose: You take a square, you blow your nose, and you put it directly into the washing machine!

The girls looked at me like I’d lost my mind. So, as usual. But I tell you this: That ratty t-shirt makes a nice soft cloth. My nose is certainly happier. And you can get a surprising number of hankies out of one large shirt.

Also: The entire ordeal took less than 20 minutes. Made me slightly embarrassed that I’d put it off for so long, as easy as it was.

First cut!

No sewing necessary!

Filling my jar.

I’ll feel like I really succeeded with this project when I see the girls or Eric grab one, though.

P.S. In case you missed it, or just need a reminder, Jennifer wrote a great guest post about making reusable items like this HERE and HERE.

Next up: We’re supposed to get MORE snow and ice this weekend, so I’ll probably be bored enough to zero waste my hallway pantry. 😉

 


8 Responses to Up to the Dates

  1. Bravo on the hankies!

    I’m curious to see how your meal planning efforts go in the upcoming weeks. I always find it hard to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of planning enough, but not too much, because unexpected things do come up and that’s when we often end up not eating stuff we planned to eat. But if I leave too many gaps in the plan, then of course there comes a day when there’s nothing to eat and we end up doing something rash (like getting takeout).

    I don’t know how this would work for a family of 4, but currently for us I only plan to cook every other day, and we always eat every meal twice in a row (i.e. every other day we eat leftovers of the previous day). This has worked well reducing the number of meals I have to think of each week, and the amount of cooking I do, without requiring big batch prep in advance. Of course it only works because we are also happy to eat leftovers.

    • This week, I’ve decided to have meals planned, but not assigned to any particular day. I’m hoping that gives us more flexibility but has the same effect of eliminating food waste.

      We’re also big fans of leftovers — luckily, no one in our family is very picky.

  2. I have the same problem with menu planning. I tried it last week, LOVED it, but had to make a bunch of adjustments. One meal ended up being twice as large as I expected, so we ate it twice, so a meal got pushed back, and we’re going to my mom’s, and friends coming over are allergic so I have to change the plan… But I’m totally doing it again next week!

    I just had a brainstorm while I was reading what you wrote. What if I had something stashed in the freezer (chili? lasagna?) that I could defrost/cook/reheat last minute, and leave a night free in case of life craziness? I’ll try it as soon as my freezer has enough room for that sort of thing.

    Congrats on the hankies!

    • I’m a big fan of having something in the freezer to thaw for later! I read somewhere once, long ago, that if you can find it in the freezer case at the store, you can freeze it at home. Changed my life. 😉

  3. I have lots of man sized hankies. Many are vintage – picked up in junk shops still in their boxes (I draw the line at ones someone else has used!!). Some are beautifullly soft cotton lawn.
    And if I get a cold my nose is nowhere near as sore using fabric hankies as when I use tissues.

  4. I have a bag of old hankies from my grandmother, aunts, mother. So much softer than paper tissues, especially for a heavy cold when you are nose blowing 50 times a day!

  5. Pingback: Random thoughts and feelings | The Simple Year

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