Why Menu Plan?

Making meals is one of the most important aspects of homemaking. It can also be one of the most stressful when you come at it unprepared. Meal preparation can actually be a very pleasant time of day if we take a little time to plan for it. There are several benefits to menu planning that I want to share with you today.

Wood Tones by LN by ekhum, on Pix-O-Sphere

Here are 3 simple reasons to menu plan:

  1. It saves time -- yes, initially you need to put some time in to menu plan, but in the long run, it saves you those minutes each day you are deciding what to cook as you aimlessly look through your cupboards and freezer. You can save these precious minutes by setting aside a block of time to plan this. Typically, your first menu planning session will be the longest. Once you've completed that first part, the rest quickly follows. In addition, knowing what you're making saves on trips to the grocery store because you have everything you need already.
  2. It saves money -- when you know what you're going to need for the week (or month), you can jot down a grocery list and get everything you need in one trip. Having a list helps you avoid impulsive buying or forgetting things you find you need later. It also saves on gas because you are not making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week to get forgotten items.Finally, it prevents you from ordering take-out because you forgot to pull something from the freezer or your fed up with trying to decide what to make.
  3. It saves stress -- Knowing what meals you are making the family each day is a huge stress reliever. I mean huge. When I menu plan, it literally brings a smile to my face knowing I don't have to "worry" about what to make for dinner because it's already decided. As a matter of fact, I can begin some preparations in the morning as a result. A little planning goes a long way, friends. :)

Most of you know this--this is not new information. So why are we holding out? Perhaps we don't want to set aside a block of time just to menu plan. Friend, let me tell you: it's worth it. Relieving the stress alone is worth it. Having a plan helps for a smooth running home, and menu planning is part of "the plan".

List Plan It has some pretty great resources to help you plan out your menus from 1 week to 1 month, broken down by meal, food category, and also includes lists for shopping and kitchen organization. They also have hundreds of other lists to help you literally put your home in order. It's list heaven for people like me! Having 5 children causes me to be very forgetful, so I need a place to jot down ideas, thoughts, planning items, to do's, and anything else that comes to mind that I risk forgetting!

And in case you were unaware, I have a HOMEmakers Challenge every week and this week we are focusing on making a menu. Please feel free to join in! We will link up on Thursday.

Question: Have you ever tried menu planning in the past? If so, what was most challenging about it?

{Coming May 1st to the HOMEMakers Challenge: 31 Days to Clean, hosted by Joyful Mothering. Check out a giveaway Sarah Mae is hosting right now!}

If you are new to Joyful Mothering, please feel free to jump in and join us! You can also subscribe by RSS or email so you will not miss a post!

{Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you click and purchase an item, I will receive a small percentage, at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure policy. I have, and will only recommend products that I personally use or those that I see as bringing further value to you, my reader.}

The Foundation Of My Schedule

I've known it for several years now. After having 3+ children, the most important foundation for a smooth running day is rising early, before my children. I am able to wake up, spend time in God's word, and enjoy my morning coffee while it's hot. (I can't tell you how many cups of coffee have gone forgotten!) obx sunrise by jonimcp, on Pix-O-Sphere

Last summer I joined up with the #HelloMornings group on Twitter. It was so awesome! I was able to get up just about every morning and prepare for my day. Then I had a baby. It is now seven months later, and I have been struggling with Hello Mornings ever since. Until this week. God has given me a gift by allowing my baby to sleep through the night 3 times this week. This has enabled me to sleep and rise early. Which is ironic since this was my challenge for this week.

Here's how my mornings went this week:

Monday {Day 1} - This morning I woke up at 5:45am. I almost didn't, but because I knew I had to "answer" this week to the Homemakers Challenge, I got up. {amazing, huh?} I read my Bible {Blogging Through the Gospels} and did a little journaling. I checked in with Hello Mornings on Twitter (#hellomornings). What an encouragement, let me tell you! I was also able to read a bit of One Thousand Gifts, get dressed, brush my hair, and put on some Burt's Bees lotion because the fragrance makes me smile. :) The hardest part was getting out of bed--a mere 5 minute battle.

Tuesday {Day 2} - I was again tempted to sleep in. I gather this will be a daily temptation. I have to admit, this challenge has been my accountability to get me out of bed. I am so glad--I may have to make this a more permanent solution, hmmm? I read two chapters in the Gospel of Matthew, paying particular attention to Matthew 3:10. Bottom line? I want to be producing fruit, so I must be sure my roots are planted deep in Christ, and not shallow self.

Wednesday {Day 3} - Was able to get up about 15 minutes earlier (so about 5:30am). I cannot tell you the difference this makes on my entire day. I am more motivated and "ready to go" when the children wake up and I just keep going. I'm not dragging my feet and then feeling guilty the rest of the day as a result. It is so worth the tiny amount of discomfort (the first 5-10 minutes of getting out of bed) to redeem the entire day.

Thursday {Day 4} - *Sigh* OK, today was a FAIL. But, I did get up at 5:30am (with the baby)and turned the computer on to "check in" via Twitter. I didn't set the coffee last night. I didn't set the coffee last night. So because it wasn't readily available for my groggy self, I went back to bed. But, I won't make that mistake again and I'm moving on!

All in all, this week has been much more productive as a result of my getting up early. The Homemakers Challenge helped get me out of bed. Each morning I have been tempted to stay in bed, but knowing I was doing this challenge made me get up. :)

What part of your schedule did you work to implement this week?

If you're new, or didn't join the HOMEmakers Challenge this week, share with us what you would like to see implemented from your schedule to help with smooth running days.

You can now link up on today's post. I am moving the linky to Thursdays post so it is easier for you to link up. The challenges will still be posted on Fridays. :)

If you are new to Joyful Mothering, please feel free to jump in and join us! You can also subscribe by RSS or email so you will not miss a post!

{Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you click and purchase an item, I will receive a small percentage, at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure policy. I have, and will only recommend products that I personally use or those that I see as bringing further value to you, my reader.}

Link Up Below!

My Purpose As A Homemaker

breakfastnook by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere

I look around my home and recognize a great need for order (no, that is not my house in the above picture, lol). My house is not cluttered (I am so anti-clutter). I would consider it to be a bit unorganized and just plain messy. Granted, I have 5 children and I don't expect my house to look like a museum. It ought to look lived in, but it should be orderly.

In addition, meal times are chaotic and often left "unfinished". Dishes left undone, table not completely cleared, floor not swept.

First, I want to clearly define what a homemaker is: A homemaker is a person who manages the household of her own family. (dictionary.com)

A household is defined as the people of a house collectively (dictionary.com)

The Bible defines our role as homemakers in a couple of places [that I found]: [to set] about her work vigorously (Proverbs 31:17) ...to be busy at home (Titus 2:5) (NIV)

Defining exactly what we are to do helps clarify our purpose. So not only does a homemaker care for the house, but for the family. Yes, that opens several more doors of possibilities (and responsibilities), doesn't it? So coupling the above definitions with the needs of my own family, here is my purpose as a homemaker:

To be attentive to the needs of my family, diligent in creating 'home', and consistent in the everyday essentials. To serve with joy, purpose, ambition and gratitude.

In a more expanded version, my purpose requires that I attend to the needs of my home and family, that I am active (intentional) about creating a home, and that I work constantly at those things that need to be done every-single-day. I intend to do these things with joy, aim, initiative, and thanksgiving.

My goals include [but are not limited to]:

to wake up before my children, to create smooth and memorable meal times, follow more closely to my schedule, and be intentional about creating an atmosphere of peace.

As these goals are met, new ones will develop. They are rather specific compared with my purpose. My purpose will generally stay the same.

Perhaps it's a bit simplistic--and that's exactly the point. I don't want anything too complex or too hard to reach for. As it stands, this will be challenge enough for me. :)

Here I will expound on my goals and the steps I will take to get there.

Goals:

To wake up before my children

This is probably one of the most important tools [for me] to running a smooth household. I have seen, consistently, what a difference this makes. It takes me some time to "wake up" and I really need to do this before the children are awake so that I am ready for them. Otherwise, I am dragging my feet, making them wait for breakfast. Apparently, one of my "famous" lines is, "Mommy can't even see straight yet." My five year old now asks me when I wake up if "my eyes are still blind".

  • continue in my HelloMornings group (#hellomornings on Twitter - for accountability)
  • shower in the mornings (to wake me up and keep me refreshed)
  • spend some time in prayer and journaling

Most of this is easy. The hard part is getting out of bed.

To create smooth and memorable meal times.

Meal times are one of my biggest challenges. Everything from being prepared with a menu, to having a tidy kitchen to work in. I tend to rush food out and leave the cleaning for "later". Later comes when it's time for the next meal. Who wants to work in a kitchen like that?! Not me! So, it's time to do something about it. Here are the steps--which are just mini-goals--to get me at this place:

  • menu plan
  • serve buffet style (everything on table), rather than serving each child individually from the stove/counter
  • Read Scripture before or after the meal (while seated at the table)
  • Have everyone take part in kitchen clean-up--dirty dishes to sink, table cleaned off, floor swept, load dishwasher
  • Do my part and clean up counters, stove, sink, etc; have kitchen and dining room ready for next meal.

During meal times I want to have fruitful conversations about life. Create memories, talk about God's goodness and pray for others in need.

Follow my schedule more closely.

Yes, I have struggled with this since day one. But when I do follow closely to my schedule, the day is bliss! I feel accomplished because I have gotten done [even some] of what I set out to do. It gives me a sense of fulfillment when I follow my schedule. So this is an important area for me. The question is, how will I accomplish this feat? I go back to my purpose and be consistent in the everyday essentials.

  • Start with the basics. Follow the schedule for meals and bed time routines.
  • Reorganize tasks to fit into the best time slots and work through them
  • Slowly add in another task -- one every 2-4 weeks -- ones that are not being accomplished, currently
  • Be consistent. Set hand to the plow.

My fear has been that life will get too redundant, so I resist the schedule. But you know what? I feel myself craving it as the days flutter by with little to show. Ann Voskamp said that fear is nothing to be afraid of--it's just the door we push through to get to the other side.

Be intentional about creating an atmosphere of peace.

This is a tough one because with 5 children, 4 of them 5 and under, there is a lot of chaos, whining, screaming, fighting...whatever. That's just life. They are in training and are learning, but in the mean time, I get stressed listening to it. In fact, I tend to react as a result. You'd think after 5 children I'd be used to it by now -- but no. Don't think you can ever get used to it. Maybe not, but I think I can train myself to stop reacting and be proactive on how to cut down on the issues.

  • keep to my schedule, which will cut down on some of this issue
  • teach peacemaking before a problem arises (Young Peacemaker is an excellent resource)
  • have "face time" with each of my children daily (1-on-1 time with each child)
  • don't allow too much free time

This will be a start. Once I put these into practice on a regular, consistent basis I can reevaluate the situation to see if further action needs to be taken.

{Don't count. I actually listed 4 goals}. By no means will I be able to tackle all these goals at once. It will be an ongoing process, probably for months before it becomes more "second nature". But now that I have a clear direction of what my purpose is and some definite needs to fill, I have plenty to do.

Homemaking is not meant to be easy. We can simplify it, but it is still a very challenging role. Resisting and trying to work against our role will only result in more challenges and frustrations. Instead, let's embrace this role so we are free to own it and live it out.

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short

The other day I was just pondering my children. I was thinking about how fast the years are going by. While I have a lot of years ahead of me with my children, have I taken care with the years that are behind me? It some ways yes, but in many ways, no. Heart Necklace by lacybekah, on Pix-O-Sphere

I wake up each morning, living each day as it comes. I go about our routines of meals and chores and lessons and sleep. I get up the next day and do it all again, and I realize, I am missing it. In living the robotic life I forget to play and enjoy the lives of these children---I don't invest as much in them as I should because I mistakenly think they will always be there. The long days cloud my mind and I wrongly think I have plenty of time.

When I stop, and I let the house run fast without me, and I, sit there in the viewing of my children, them playing, and smiling, and running, and beckoning me to join them and read them stories, and piece together puzzles, play games. But instead? I jump in with the house running fast because I have to keep up -- I have to keep going because, I reason, I don't have time to live. I have to keep up with those living.

I have been challenged by a few much more wise then me to slow down, live intentionally, and have a plan for my life. I don't want to look back and say, "Man! I wish I would've listened to those people." I'd much rather look back and say, "Wow! I'm so glad I listened to those wise people!"

Even with my blog I don't really have a "plan of action", other than the Homemaker's Challenge each week. (And in case you haven't heard, this week's challenge is along this same line. "Homemakers with a Purpose".)

Everything I do must have a purpose. Even my blogging. What purpose does it serve? My time online must be intentional for it to be fruitful and not rob me of other precious moments.

Joyful mothering requires some action. It requires living by design, not default. It begs the question, "What would God have me do today?" Obviously, He would have me care for my family and home. But the bigger question is, am I meeting the needs of nurture and spiritual growth? That is where peace and joy are found.

I've noticed I keep turning full circle back to the same conclusion. I must live with purpose; not wait to see what the day holds for me, but rather tell my days what they are going to do. Because life truly is a vapor, and God has given us a great gift. Are we using it for His glory? Am I using it for His glory?

Let us begin. I will first complete this weeks homemaker's challenge.

Are you living intentionally--with purpose? Journey with me so we can learn together.

If you are new to Joyful Mothering, consider subscribing by RSS or email so you will not miss a post!