Home Ec 101 has been around a long time, almost 12 years. I have shared many weekly meal plans, but the ones on the site are by no means the only ones I’ve made. When you’re feeding more than a trio, not having a plan can become expensive or a rut quickly. With now seven members in our household, most of whom are adult-sized, firmer plans are needed as we also enjoy luxuries like clothing and utilities, go figure.
So what to do when you have had an on-going case of I-don’t-want-to-think-about-food-anymore or I’m-tired-of-making-decisions-for-people-who-don’t-seem-to-care?
The Problem: Unspoken Expectations
Each week, when I sat down to meal plan, I would ask, “What would you like for dinner this week?” The responses, to me, felt ludicrous. But really were they? What do teenagers and a non-cook know about time, effort, and budget, if they don’t have the experience to draw from? How do they know that feeding
bottom-less pits, teenagers means not choosing shrimp or steak as main courses? When they sit down to a finished product, do they know that a meal had many steps and took a lot of effort? Not unless they were actively involved, and even then kids aren’t always known for their effective time-management skills.
As much as we would like them to be able to, no one can access the information in our heads. No one wants to volunteer ideas when they are likely to get rejected. And it’s far too easy for resentment to build when needs aren’t met. It’s really easy to interpret the lack of suggestions as “They don’t want to help” or the rejection of an idea as, “Mom doesn’t like anything I say.” Who wants that interaction on a weekly basis?
Solution: Make it easier to be helpful
For us, the solution was to get the information out of my head and into a format that made sense for those whose help I want. I mentioned it on Instagram if you want a peek.
I decided to keep the project fairly simple, as I’m just not a craft-oriented person and never will be. I went to Walmart and bought: a single hole punch, a couple packs of multi-colored index cards, and a book ring. I can usually find my favorite pens by raiding my daughter’s room. She has her own but seems to prefer mine.
Each color got its own guideline/section:
Weeknight – less than an hour of active work, using a slow cooker is fine
Weekend – more time consuming is fine
Vegetarian just to make sure those stand out, Lent is coming
I made everyone go away for a while, sat down at the table and began to brainstorm as many meals as I could think of. Since it was December, the results were most of which are suitable for winter planning (not a salad in sight), but a more than respectable 45 – 50 meal ideas.
On the back of each card, I began to put the ingredients we were most likely to need in a weekly shopping trip and side dishes that go well. After cooking for a family for more than 13 years (my oldest is 15), I’ve got stocking our pantry and spice rack down. Those of you still in the building phase may want to include a link to the recipe or write the full list of ingredients. I wouldn’t do this all at once, it’s far too much busy-work.
There’s room on the cards for us to add more notes, things like dollar signs to indicate its general cost or maybe a star rating system so we know what the big hits (and misses) are.
Now, when I sit down to plan for the week and make the grocery list, when I get stuck or am not in the mood, I can grab a passer-by and say something like, “I need a meal for Saturday, please pick from the weekday or weekend section,” or “You’re helping with dinner on Thursday, please pick something from the weekday section that you would like to cook.”
The beauty of this system is that it’s not fixed. If we have something too often, I can pull it from the rotation for a while and it’s unlikely anyone else will notice. If I find a recipe to add, that’s as simple as filling out a new card and adding to the appropriate section.
I will likely be deleting this in a few weeks as it doesn’t add to the above topic of menu planning and won’t matter to many.
The last few years have been seasons of change, divorce, death, grief, recovery, love, marriage, a new baby and all of that on top of the usual tumult of children growing up. I am not the same person I was when I started this site. Then again, I hope none of us are after twelve years. I was in my twenties and pretty sheltered when I wrote some of those opinionated early posts. I knew about being broke, from my early adulthood. I also knew that I had learned a lot through trial and error and I wanted to share.
I think a lot of the advice on this site is accurate and I think a lot of it can be helpful.
That said, there have been a lot of times over the past five years where I’ve looked at it and thought about deleting it all saying it doesn’t matter. I’ve made quite a few attempts at starting over and each time when that stalled out, I again thought about just deleting.
I’m glad I didn’t.
A few months ago I had an offer to buy the website. After some thought, I turned it down and I’ve been ruminating on whether or not that was the right choice when I have these thoughts and feelings and when financially it would have been a smart move. I’m glad I waited, partly because the baby’s reflux is finally under better control and I’m getting more sleep and able to make more rational. less negative decisions and partly because I needed to come to terms with these feelings.
I don’t know that I’ll be able to get into a routine of updating the site quite as regularly as I once did. I don’t want to set that expectation. My day job takes a lot from me and since that feeds the family, it will come first. I do think that I am finding, after so long, the perspective of how to begin again.
Thank you for reading. I wish you and yours all the best in 2019.