Organization Day 7: Menu Planning and Grocery Lists

apple dumplings

Welcome to the next article in my new series on Organization.  In the last article I showed you how to incorporate Zonal Cleaning into your daily schedules and routines.  Today we’ll look at a very important and potentially time-consuming job~ Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping. I say ‘potentially time consuming’ because if you are not organized and structured in this area of managing your home, you can end up spending much more money on things that you don’t need and won’t end up using. By planning your meals and therefore your grocery shopping lists you won’t find yourself buying ingredients on a whim or wasting time thinking about what you should get ‘this time’. It will also save you fuel because you won’t have to run back to the grocery store or market because you forgot something.

If you missed the previous post follow this link to it https://fordragonfliesandme.com/2013/11/20/organization-day-6-zonal-cleaning/

Menus & Grocery lists

I decided to spend one day with the help of my children to design our weekly menus for a year.  That may sound a bit scary but not really… you see I didn’t make 52 separate menus. I designed two groups of menus according to the seasons. Spring & Summer’s menus focus on the fresh produce we’re growing and that’s available. The second is Fall & Winter which features what we’ve canned, frozen and what’s in the root cellar along with what we’re still growing in the fall garden and winter hoop house. I created eight weeks of menus for each group. This allows me to rotate over two months. I keep that weeks menu on the fridge so we don’t have to think about meal prep, especially during our busy gardening and canning season. Having a menu helps in grocery shopping and meal prep every morning.

Cooking is not my favorite thing to do, but I have five growing boys that need to eat.  My daughter Taylor’s the one who loves being in the kitchen. It’s funny though… baking is her favorite thing to do, that is my least favorite; she likes to cook and I don’t mind, especially with garden fresh goodies; she doesn’t mind canning and I absolutely love it; and we’re both OK with yeast baking stuff~ although I will say, I like that a bit more than her.  But neither one of us can make a pie crust to save our lives~ honestly, we just have never been able to master that!

Taylor would be happy to sit in a rocking chair with a pile of cookbooks and cooking mag’s where I would be there with my gardening ones! We balance each other out I guess…

Anyway, lets look into organizing your life with Menu Planning and Grocery Lists.

Menu Planning

I love anything that will simplify my life in the everyday stuff that needs to be done like preparing meals for my family. Remember my P.M.S.? I’d much rather take a few hours sitting down with my favorite cookbooks to compile a couple of months worth of menus eliminating the question “What’s for supper tonight?”  Taylor and I do run out of ideas and our meals can quickly fall into a rut of the same stuff over and over again! The ‘what’s for supper’ question can quickly become spaghetti all too often without menus! I’m sure many of us can relate to that! So I thought it would be nice to share a few tips in menu planning.

*First take 1-3 of your favorite cookbooks and 2 blank monthly calendars and a PENCIL! Don’t take more than this, you’ll get side tracked!

*Be sure you take into consideration what days off children might have from school, scheduled extra curricular activities, each family members day’s off from work. Don’t plan a favorite meal for someone when they won’t even be home for it!

*I only include breakfast and supper on the menus because most of the children are at school and/or work.

DPP_0010

*Before you go into the cookbooks, fill in a few of the day’s with some meals that you know each family member enjoys. Think about the groceries each meal will take beforehand. Fill in one breakfast, lunch and supper for each family member with their favorite thing over the two weeks of menus- don’t duplicate any meal and don’t include any deserts… YET.

*Now that you have several of the days and meals filled in decide if your family wants to have a ‘night out’ meal… jot that in the appropriate box.

*Next, decide how often you want to have desert with meals… fill in accordingly.

*Now go to the cookbooks. I encourage you to try a new recipe once a week. This will be fun and will help you and your family find new favorites. It’ll also help you from getting in a rut of the same old thing.

Some extra tips when planning your menu:
*Do you have a garden? Do you shop primarily at the Farmers Market during the season? Do you have any of your own live stock that you raise? Do you have your own chickens for eggs? These should all play a factor in your menu planning.

*Take into consideration what season you’re in. Spring will hold more salads if you have a garden; summer will be the mother load of produce and will eliminate much grocery shopping for fresh produce, so incorporate meals that save you from buying ‘stuff’; fall will give you more root crops and squashes as well as it being butcher time- plan according to what you have available and growing.

*Have your family members help create the menu. This can be a fun family activity and sharing time of who liked and didn’t like what!

*You now have two whole months planned out and it was so much fun and so easy. If you feel adventurous try doing another month and plan it out seasonally.

*Be sure to jot down what the cookbook and the page number for the recipe on the calendar. I recommend using abbreviations for cookbooks. For example I would put LS for my cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats & Treats. If you don’t think you’ll remember them, jot down a legend on the back of the calendar.

Include this job in your control journal in one of your desk day jobs.

DPP_0003

Grocery Lists

Grocery lists are really not complicated and won’t take up too much time when you have your menus to work off of. Here are some tips!

*I recommend keeping a magnetic note pad or grocery list right on the front or side of your fridge! Each time you run out of something jot it down or tick it off the pre-made list.

Google ‘grocery list’ and you’ll find oodles of styles to download. Keep a master in your control journal and make a copy for each week, unless you have a pre-printed note pad. Here are a few sites to try:

http://www.workingmom.com/grocerylist.htm
http://www.practicalspreadsheets.com/Grocery-List-Template.html
www.home-organization-online.com/free-printable-grocery-list.html
www.freeprintablegrocerylist.com

DPP_0007

*You’ll need to go over your menu for the next week and shop accordingly.

*As I mentioned you can save a lot of money when you grow your own or at least eat seasonally. But if that’s not an option for you shop the farmers market which is the next best thing. There are many winter farmers market as well that you can shop and support and still eat seasonally with root crops, storage crops and fresh greens.

*Stick to the list when you go to the grocery store. I’m sure most of you shop at several stores for different items.  Have a list for each store and coupons/ ad’s to go with each.

*I always make sure I have my grocery list, coupons and shopper bags ready to go.

*If you have empties to return, be sure they’re ready to go and in the trunk.

*Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry… you WILL buy things you normally don’t because ‘they look good’ at the time!

Here is a sample of my monthly menu.  Sorry if you can’t make out my ‘printing’ 😉 and abbreviations.
I hope this gives you some great ideas on how to incorporate menu planning and grocery lists into organizing your life!
Happy Day,
Jean

DPP_0004DPP_0005

Garden Open House: Plus my homemade ranch dressing and fresh garden tea recipes

DPP_0054

It’s been a secret dream of mine… to have a garden open house that is.

We moved into our farmhouse seven years ago. It was an abandoned foreclosed home with most of the windows busted out and an interior that said a lot about the previous owners- nothing good! We looked at the house for the first time in the middle of winter, little did I know there wouldn’t be a garden to find.

DPP_0005
As for trees and shrubs, there was one very large and beautiful maple tree and an apple tree in the back yard, a nice hedge of antique hyrangeas on the side of the house and a couple lilac bushes. Not bad for some, but not near what my heart desired.

Breakfast Patio8 emailver

I’ve shared the creation of all the gardens here in my blogs except the patio. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the first two years labor. It was a big job and being busy with the other things in our life, it ended up taking three years… we finished just last month!

DPP_0002

Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now...

Peonies and Russian sage blooming in my gardens right now…

Over the years my garden’s have evolved as have I… my likes and my tastes have grown and are depicted in my cottage style gardens. I love simply being in them… breathing the aromas that surround me… listening to the wind whisper through the leaves… watching the hummingbirds busily work. My gardens are simply my sanctuary.

DPP_0050

So, an open house… now that will be an undertaking I’m sure. I’ve read about and attended several… and secretly dreamed, “Some day… some day I can share my gardens…”

Bistro_garden_email_version

DPP_0002

So when will I say that the time has arrived? I don’t know… so I think I’ll just create a plan of action right here with all of you and maybe a Pinterest board of my dreams, LOL- you can follow me there too at For Dragonflies And Me @ Pinterest.

Lets start with the INVITATION… garden themed of course. I plan on using vintage prints of botanicals with some pretty ribbons. You’ll need to decide who you are planning to invite: will it be just close friends and family? neighbors? What about your Facebook, Twitter, Blog followers and whatever other social media sites/groups you may be involved with? You can send out a formal invitation using snail mail and/or via email/FB/Twitter, etc.
Host A Cookie Exchange Luncheon, Making The Invitation and Some Yummy Cookie Recipes!

Have a Guest Book ready for the guests to sign. I plan on using a pretty garden style notebook/journal like this one.
[caption id="attachment_1649" align="alignnone" width="225"]Garden themed journal can be used as a guest book

A ‘Thank You Gift’ is a special touch that your guests will appreciate. I make blank stationary photo-greeting cards with many of my photographs to sell at market. These are a useful and beautiful gift that your guest will appreciate.
DPP_0003

When you’re guests arrive, have a cute chalk board set up on an easel to ‘Welcome’ and direct them.
[caption id="attachment_1647" align="alignnone" width="180"]Photo credit to Mary Jane's Farm Photo credit to Mary Jane’s Farm

Creating the MENU is next and the time of year should determine what will be on it. If you have your own garden, try to use things that you’ve grown. This is the menu and photo’s from one of my recent get-to-gethers.
~Watermelon bowl with mixed fruit served on a green Depression glass cake plate.
DPP_0004
~Artisan goat cheese served in antique tea cups with garden themed spreaders served on platter with several varieties of crackers on an elevated platter.
DPP_0006
~Fresh garden salad served on pretty platter with dressings served in mini cream pitchers and matching bowl served on a platter as well.
DPP_0005
~Fresh home made Garden Tea served in my bee hive drink jug
DPP_0009

I made tags stating the flavors of each dressing and goat cheese and attatched it to the handle of cups and pitchers.
DPP_0007

Put utensils separately in Terra cotta pots along with napkins in a slightly larger one. Place all these in a fabric lined long handled basket along with throw away trays.
DPP_0002

The Table should be as special as the menu…
~Use a quilt for the table cloth. If you plan on having several small tables, use a mix of cute sheets or table clothes overlaid with pretty linens. This is one of my favorite quilts to use. It can be used for spring, summer or fall!
DPP_0001

A pretty centerpiece is the final touch for the table…and don’t forget candles. Here I’ve placed two scented jar candles in Terra cotta pots to go along with the theme.
DPP_0003

~Bouquets should be made with whatever is blooming in your gardens…
Peonies in blue mason jars are beautiful and such an elegant contrast
DPP_0005
Hosta leaves are timeless and will last for weeks in the vase…mix different varieties of height and colors for interest.
DPP_0008
~Having a few welcoming area’s for guests to sit and visit is always a nice touch…
DPP_0001
Room for two in the grill station.
DPP_0005
Three old metal chairs around a cozy fire bowl in the patio
DPP_0003
Our patio table complete with a high chair 😉
DPP_0008
Neil built this swing frame beside our fire pit. It’s more child friendly than adult… Seating for six around the fire…very cozy in our over sized chairs. I typically use cute sheets or table clothes as seat covers.

Here are my home made Ranch Dressing and Garden Tea Recipes… enjoy friends

Ranch Dressing
2 cups Mayonnaise DO NOT exchange for Miracle Whip or Salad Dressing!!!!
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp. dry parsley or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped finely
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

Combine mayo and milk; whisk together until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and refridgerate for at least an hour so flavors can blend.
*Note: It will thicken, but if you want it a bit thicker add 1 Tbsp. of mayo at a time until desired consistency; if too thick do the same, but with milk.

Fresh Garden Tea Concentrate
8 cups water
4 cups raw organic sugar
6 cups tea leaves
mint tea

Bring water and sugar to a hard boil for 5 minutes; add tea leaves and remove from heat. Cover and let steep 5 to 8 hours.

TO MAKE: combine 1 part tea concentrate to 2 parts cold water.
You can freeze the concentrate for up to a year, so if you have lots of tea growing, you can enjoy this all year long.

So, now we have a plan of action… just need to get all the projects done!
This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden... follow the link for an easy how-to!
Happy Day,
Jean