Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time Saver #1: Dealing with Dinner

As we are getting ready for baby, a lot of things are getting "prepped."  I was talking to my sonographer about frozen meals, and she was so amazed that she was taking notes, so here is my wisdom, THUS FAR about taking care of dinner. It is the blending of three idealogies:
  • Once-a-month cooking
  • Marie Rick's "House of Order"
  • and Sandra Lee's Money Saving Meals.
 After attending Marie Rick's "House of Order" seminars, she suggested that knowing well in advance what you are going to make for dinner saves you time, energy, and most of all frustration.

Having a plan gets the decision making out of the way early in the day, and if you strategically plan your meals, you can multi-task the prep work.  After all, it's just as easy to cook 6 lbs of hamburger and onions as it is to do 2.    It also facilitates grocery shopping, and keeps you away from expensive (and often unhealthy) fast food.  If you are going to have, say, pears as your fruit for 6 of your dinners in a month, you can get a case of pears and be set for 2 -3 months.

So, with that in mind I made this grid on excel: 5 weeks of meals including a main dish, a V: = vegetable and F= fruit.  I took a poll of what dinners my family would like to see in a month, then gathered all of my recipes together and decided on 7 categories for each day of the week.  For Example: Mondays are set aside for Family Home Evening, so I do my quickest recipes then so that I can ALSO have the time to help the kids make a treat.  I dubbed it "Dump It" night - my fast recipes that I can make in under 20 minutes.

After naming each genre of the week, I pulled/copied the recipes for the month in a single binder and put them in plastic sheet protectors (knowing how sloppy my cooking can be).  I also printed out a copy of my Month O'Meals  and have it taped it to the fridge.  It was a bit harder than I thought, and it's not perfect yet, but here it is! One month of recipes. One place to look for what I need.  This way, I can take the whole binder with me when I go the grocery store and flip through a week or two of recipes to see what I'll  need. Slick! 

Part of my weekly genres include recipes from the Food Network Show, "Sandra Lee's MSV, or "money saving meals."  I tivo the show every Sunday, and have been trying out her recipes much to the delight of my family - I've never made Greek food before!  Even better, she has a "Round 2 Recipe," where you reserve some of the ingredients from your first recipe, and for a few ingredients more, comes up with another meal.  It cuts down on my prep time, and helps me to feel a little bit ahead of the 8 ball.

Lastly, freezer meals.  Once-a-Month Cooking is both a book and a technique.  Matthew and I used this in our college days when no one was home to prep dinner. We would make a list of meals from the books "Frozen Assets" and "Once-a-Month Cooking, then go grocery shopping on Friday night, leave all the cans out on the counter, and put it together on Saturday morning.

Most recipes can  be stored in a gallon sized zip lock bag.  You freeze them flat, then line them up in your freezer shelf like library books.  There are often a few "extras" that go with the meal, like chopped tomatoes/avocados on "Sopa de Maize," or Frito's,  but that is minimal work compared with having to make the whole thing.

I have, currently, about 17 meals in the freezer.  Do I follow any of these plans strictly?  Heck no. Each technique has it's merit, and by combining them, it gives me time and it gives me options.  At the end of the day, you do what works best for you and your family. 

But I can say that having a plan, and simple techniques is much better than trying to make it up every day.  I hope to be SO organized one day that I can have FOUR binders of month long recipes.  Winter, Spring, Summer (YAY GRILLING!) and Fall.  In my mind, I'll have everything plotted out by what is in season cross checked by what grocery stores usually have on sale. Cue "Dream the Impossible Dream...."

But I can't think about that now.... I'll have to think about it tomorrah... after I pull out mah freezer meal!

Time Saver #2: Bathroom Apprentice

Many of you already know that I love a clean bathroom.  I don't like actually cleaning the bathroom, but I love the effect afterwards.  As time has gone by, Matthew and I split up the stewardship of the bathrooms.  I let him choose which one he wanted to police, and then we would make sure that "our" bathroom got cleaned every Saturday. 

This way, I don't have to be the only one hollering around the house, "Pick up your towel - the maid is off duty this week!  Who tried to finger paint in the tooth paste?!!!  I see clothes on the floor here... come pick these up - THIS IS NOT A HOTEL!!!"

One Saturday though, as I was scrubbing out the toilet, it occurred to me that it was a bit unfair to have the parents scrubbing away while the kids were out there watching tv.  Frankly, it was that way just because it was easier to get them out of the way - and they didn't know how to clean the bathroom anyway.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

"Hon, how 'bout we split up the kids and make each one our apprentice for cleaning the bathroom?  Once we teach them how to do it, they'll take over the bathrooms..."  He thought it was genius.  He got the 9 yr old, and I got the 5 yr old. 

Now, we are training up our brood to properly clean the bathroom.  For the past month, we take our apprentice and show them how we do it.  Matthew and I use a technique that we learned from Jeff Campbell's dvd "Speed Cleaning."  Matthew is closer to freedom than I am, but let me tell you something - just having all of the stuff taken out of the bathroom (towels, bathmat, hand soap, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, garbage can etc.) makes it go twice as fast!  And while I'm scrubbing out the tub, my 5 yr old is wiping down the dusty base boards. 

I'm still cleaning off the majority of the surfaces, but he is right there with me.  And he loves the challenge of getting it done before Daddy and Abigail.  Especially since he is allowed to go watch tv and sit on his tat while his sister is learning the finer points of wiping down the toilet seat.

And the bathrooms?  Since employing our apprentices, they seem to have stayed - CLEANER. Well, lets just say that those two kids have a more keen interest in making sure that THEIR bathroom doesn't become a mess.... ;D  And that makes for a happier momma!

Time Saver #3: The Blitz

Or, "How to Clean an Entire Kitchen in 10 - 15 minutes."  This technique was invented by my parents.  It is based on Hitler's advancement tactic called "The Blitzkrieg."

In German, Blitzkrieg means lightning war (Blitz-Krieg). Blitzkrieg was named so because it included surprise attacks, "Lighting fast" rapid advances into enemy territory, with coordinated massive air attacks, which struck and shocked the enemy as if it was struck by lightning. The German military in WWII achieved most of its great victories with the Blitzkrieg tactic, and it's also how I clean my kitchen. Well, without Hitler, or the artillery.

  1. Everyone helps. Family, friends, guests.  No one is, as my 5 yr old says, "Sittin on their tat!"  There is a warning sent out by father, "okay, we're about to Blitz..." which means, "If you have to use the bathroom, make a phone call, tie your shoe etc. you have about one flat minute to do so.."  My mom believes that having dad lead the way was key. No one had an excuse to slack off.  If dad, who works all day, can help for 10 minutes, so can you!
  2. Once "Blitz" is called, rockin' music is selected (some of us have playlists on our ipods, and the kids can sometimes pick the music - though be careful.  We had to listen to Abigail's school musical for quite a few evenings...), and everyone gets up, clears their plate, and starts on a job; load the dishwasher, clear off a counter/stove, put away left overs, scrub/dry pots n pans, take the chairs out of the room (then put them back when the floor is dry), sweep and/or mop the floor etc.  There is a job for every skill level.  Even wiping down the appliances and cupboards makes a huge difference!
  3. If anyone who ate dinner has disappeared, anyone may call your name, "So and So is out of the room!" and in a rapid fire manner the whole family starts to count to 10.  If a body part of the missing individual does not make it into the kitchen before the family reaches 10, the remainder of the kitchen is left for that person to clean by themselves. 
  4. Try and get it done in under 10 minutes. Always try and beat your best time.
In such a short time, you have clean counters, clean floor, the dishwasher is running, the sink is scrubbed out, dinner is put away, the appliances gleam, and no one had to spend more than 10 minutes working.

This picture isn't my kitchen, but you get the idea. This is so much better to look at 10 minutes after slaving away at dinner instead of a messy counter and sink full of dishes.  Many hands make light work. It's lightening fast, and the dirt in the kitchen never knew what hit it!