Monday, November 2, 2009

HOMEschooling, HOMEmaking part 1

The thing about homeschooling is that, ideally, you do it at home. Which means that you (and your children) are dirtying the floors, adding to the laundry, using dishes, and generally cluttering your house all day. Pretty much
every day.

It can be a real drag.

Sure, there are seasons where mom feels all Holly Hobbie and keeping things tidy is just Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

Had I not experienced these odd, cozy stirrings myself, I'd swear they didn't exist. But they do. There really are times when nothing satisfies the soul quite as much as a stack of freshly laundered cloth diapers and the scent of Pine-Sol on the floors.

Of course, the rest of the time, we're all just trying to keep our heads above water. By necessity, school comes first. There will always be dirty dishes ... but the times when your 7 year-old longs to feel your arm around his shoulder while you re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ... sacred stuff, that.

To that end, I try to be (semi)organized in my housekeeping duties. This frees me up for my first love: educating my kids. I have a schedule for doing household tasks, the kids have a chore routine and, all things being equal, we keep the place in decent shape. I subscribe fully (and enthusiastically) to the "many hands make light work" concept, so any given day might find Atticus corralling all of the little one's board books back into the proper basket, Logan dragging the trash to the curb, Oliver and Manolin taking turns helping me load the clothes dryer, and Jo browning ground turkey at the stove.

Now, even with all of this "all for one, one for all," planned-out full-court press, no one has ever walked into my house and declared, "You homeschool? Why--this place is so spotless, I never would have known! How do you do it?"

You know what gets people's attention? No joke--it's my meal plan.

Of all things, people really dig my meal plan. Whether they've heard me mention it or have spotted a two week-menu on my fridge, people ask a lot of questions about my meal plan. So you know what? I'm going to post about it here. And that way, the next time someone wants to know more, I can just give them my blog's address. How's that for killing two birds with one stone?:-)

So here it goes. My big secret to meal planning, shared for those who want to embark on the journey to organized meal planning. Ready?

Master list.

Yep--that's it.

I started with a master list of meals that my family loves, loves, loves. I literally pulled out a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil, and started jotting down meals as they came to mind. Just entrees, mainly. A nice, long numbered list that I added to over the course of several days. Whenever I had an idea spring into my mind, I'd jot it down. When I had the chance to flip through some of my favorite cookbooks, I'd write down our favorites from them, too.

Then, I culled the list. There were a couple that, for one reason or the other, just didn't stay on the main list. A couple were so heavily "dairy-ed" that they had to be removed for the sake of our dairy-free eaters. A few others were just too pricey when adjusted to serve a crowd rather than a small-ish family. (We have a strict grocery budget.) And others were just not universally loved enough to crop up in a regular rotation. (They went onto a separate list that I'll mention in another post.)

In the end, my Master List has 46 meals. I'll share my list (with a few recipe links) here to give you an idea of what I'm talking about in case you're ready to start compiling your own:

Mary Grace's Master Meal List
  1. Bean Pilaf
  2. Lasagna
  3. Three Bean Stew
  4. Turkey Meatloaf
  5. Corn Flake Chicken
  6. Chicken and Noodles
  7. Potato & Carrot Stew
  8. Chicken and Dumplings
  9. Pot Roast
  10. Taco Soup
  11. Swedish Meatballs
  12. Spaghetti
  13. Black Bean Tortilla Stack-ups
  14. Arroz con Pollo
  15. Fried Rice
  16. Stir Fry
  17. Orzo and Chick Peas
  18. Turkey Casserole
  19. Chicken & stuffing casserole
  20. Homemade Pizza
  21. Black Beans and rice
  22. Lentil Soup
  23. Tacos
  24. Black Bean Burritos
  25. Kidney Bean & Macaroni Casserole
  26. Chili over Spaghetti
  27. White Chicken Chili
  28. Mostacelli
  29. Roast Chicken
  30. Chicken-fried chicken
  31. Chili-Spaghetti Casserole
  32. Grilled Salmon
  33. Salmon patties
  34. Mexican Veggie Pasta Bake
  35. Chicken Tortilla Soup
  36. Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches
  37. Lentils and rice
  38. Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
  39. Quesadillas
  40. Turkey Stroganoff
  41. Tuna Casserole
  42. Fried Fish (tuna, cod, whatever)
  43. Broccoli & baked potatoes with cheese
  44. Chili Dogs
  45. Boca burgers
  46. Sloppy Joes
Your homework--should you choose to accept it? Make your own master list. And meet me back here tomorrow, when I tell you what in the world to do with it. :-)


Camille said...

What a great post! I'll come back tomorrow...i love being organized and i enjoy gleaning tips from others along the way.


Benny said...

OK. I'll play along. Maybe seeing your technique in a nice visual format will work better for me than the dozens of times I've asked you about it in person. ;o)

If nothing else, I like the master list idea.


ThyHandHathProvided said...

I excited to see where this series is going:-)!

Karla @ Ramblin' Roads said...

Got my master list! I have one all neatly typed into a grid that I made a few years ago... In fact, one of winter (with soups) and one for summer (with salads). My problem is sticking to it. Well, part of the problem is Laura does at least half the cooking and she likes to do her own thing. But actually, come to think of it, that's not a real problem, is it? Also, I noticed last time I got it out that I really need to update and cull some of the meals, too. In any case, I'll definitely meet you back here tomorrow to find out what you do with your list!

Jimmie said...

I have a master list too. Wish it had 46 items!! I've got a paltry 20 different main dishes. Availability of various ingredients (meat, butter, and cheese mostly) is one of my barriers. And picky family would the the other one. SIGH...

I made my master list out of frustration with family's hatred for leftovers. I don't like to waste food (who can afford to?), and they rarely like leftovers. Big contradiction for a woman who just can't seem to cook in small portions. Finally I sat them all down and made them mark off things on a list that they would willingly eat as leftovers. That was the litmus test. If they would eat it day 2, I knew it was GOOD.

I get SOOOOO bored with the same meals over and over, but sometimes I make things just for ME (salads and bean dishes, for example).

The Hayes Zoo said...

I am trying the list thing. I go with more of a conceptual meal list though as frankly, you just never know what you're gonna get here. It's not like that box of chocolates...:)

Can't wait to see what you "DO" with it....beside feed the crowd.