Saturday, January 7, 2012

Exciting Friday!

Well, exciting for me.  I am so happy to say that I have met most of my goals for my list of tasks to complete before Monday.  You see, our schedule around here has been so crazy that I decided that Jan. 9 would be the actual start of my new year.

I have been battling some kind of wicked bugs (yes plural) the past few weeks.  Kind of like having a head cold, flu and stomach bug all in one.  It has made me extremely worn down, all the holiday cooking didn't help with my energy level either.  But, to give an update on what all is happening, here we go.

I cleaned out and defrosted my freezer just before Christmas and created an inventory list showing what I have in there.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually do have and the variety as well.  I caught a sale, not a great "stock up while you can" price, but better than normal so I bought a few chicken breast for the freezer.  Since I already had a few in the freezer (along with a whole chicken, several packages of parts and some ground turkey) I decided to cook up some of the breast in the crock pot, packaging them for the freezer to have meat already cooked for the recipes that call for cooked chicken.  I found a package of marinade for Lula Chicken so mixed it up and put a couple of the breast in a resealable bag with the marinade. In order to keep up with my resolution to stay organized, I then put that inside another bag and placed the empty envelope between the two bags so I know what it is marinaded with.  Yes, I know I am genius, no one on earth has ever thought of this. (hope you see the sarcasm intended.  Also, in the freezer, are the pies and cheesecakes that were not even touched from the holiday meals.
Now, I know what I have.  Oh, and when I inventoried, I noted what each shelf holds so I can find it quicker.

As I posted earlier, I also cleaned out my pantry.
From this over stuffed chaotic mess. Which was actually worse than this, just too embarrassed to show the actual before shot.
To this. I created an inventory of every product in there and how many.  Getting ready for that first bill of groceries in 2012.  The one which will be for normal food, no holiday meals, no camping trips, just every day staples.  Actually I am kind of giddy to have it all organized and find I have so much.  Funny how it looks less when it is organized.

So, the next step was to create some menu plans. Out came the recipe file, and I do mean file.
See, I did say file.  Being a little over enthusiastic when I first start a plan, and having fun with my label maker, I set up categories (bread, beef, you get the picture) breaking up some of them like desserts by type.  These are hanging files by the way and hold recipes I printed out from various web sites, mail groups, magazine pages and such.  Any way, each category holds a "keeper" folder inside that file for the recipes I try that go over big with the family.  Some I want to try sooner than later are put in the "Try Soon" file.
I have written out a calendar page listing what is planned for the week, along with the recipes (in order).  Now, as I posted earlier, my first attempt was not planned well.  Too much chicken, not enough beef.  Also, I  didn't pay enough attention to the ingredients, amount of prep time or cooking techniques so there were an awful lot of recipes that would not make it around here.  So, I scraped the whole plan and started over.  Over all, the second, more thought through, menu plans were much better.  I did go back and tweak them a little when I noticed that I was having three days of Mexican flavors in a row or three days of pasta.  Which by the way, pasta does not go over well in this house.  Makes it kind of hard to be cheap when they don't like pasta or rice, but I throw it in anyway.  Back on topic, before I knew it, I had a full 8 weeks of menu plans written out, not even making a dent in my recipe file.  The next step was to write out a shopping list for the first two weeks.  I then compared it to the inventories of what I have on hand and only have a very small shopping list. Which is great because there are a lot of household items I am out of.  I will be posting my menu plans each Monday linking up with I'm An Organizing Junkie's blog for Meal Plan Monday. Each Monday hundreds of bloggers link up with her site posting their menu plan for the week.  It is quite fascinating to see what other people are having around the world.  I will also post links to anything menu related I find out there.

In keeping with this organizational goal, I will be creating an budget spread sheet so I can see where the money disappears to.  Some things of course I just don't have any power to control the cost (mortgage, car loan, insurance, utilities) for the most part.  Sure I can do little things to make sure that I am using electricity in a wise manner, shop around for the cheapest insurance, make the gas last longer, but I do have the powder to reduce the amount we spend on groceries, eating out, entertainment and such.  I had been keeping a price book (listing the cost of various products for which stores) but the prices change from week to week (even day to day at some stores) so gave that up.  My new approach is to create a spread sheet that will show exactly where the grocery budget goes.  What part is actually food because I think that while the majority of the spending is for food, I want to know exactly how much of my budget is for actual food and how much is paper goods, cleaning product, personal items or pet related.  I want all my facts in order when I discuss the money with hubby.  You see, I have a budget for each pay period for groceries and more and more of it is going for non-groceries (school lunches, gas and such).

I have joined the Pantry Challenge over at Jessica's blog Good Cheap Eats which is great site. We aren't going to starve, or just eat beans and bologna, but I am going to use up what I have already bought first.  My mother always accuses me of having enough food to feed an army on hand, so it should feed us three well.  This plan should also help me to be able to take advantage of the weekly specials and loss leaders better.

To help with my resolve (notice I didn't say resolution) for healthier eating, I am also doing a real food challenge.
You can read more at the Real Food site. Going strictly by Lisa's definitions of "real food" may be a little extreme for this family, but I hope to ease us in to it.  To help us get started there are mini challenges at the site, I am starting the 10-Day challenge on Monday.  Basically it cuts out the majority of all processed foods or products having you used whole foods for the meal.  I am a bit lazy in the kitchen at times, using my busy schedule with the grand baby as an excuse for not being able to put a proper or decent evening meal on the table.  I also use it as an excuse to run out and get fast food from my lunch.  I am actually going to experiment and each time I really (just die if I can't) want to go drive thru, am going to put the amount I would have spent in a jar for savings.  Am also going to jar up all my coupon savings and any cash left in the budget each time as well.  I am hoping to have saved enough this month to get at least half the amount I need for a new bed for my daughter Miss Zebra.  That is a whole other story for another time.

It is late, so I am headed to a warm bath and my bed.  Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment. Come back again soon.

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