NIPs and Fudge-inas

Last night at the dinner table it was just Sheepdog, Kid C, Kid D, Kid E, and me.  The Olympics may be over, but… Let the Games Begin!  School, sports and activities are already in full swing.  Kid A was at ballet and Kid B was at soccer.  I was excited because it was the first test of the effectiveness and executability of my New and Improved Plan (NIP) to address school night meals that get all screwed up by the craziness.  Mine and the world’s in general, but mostly mine.

This year I am going to feed them all homemade (well, made in my home), healthy meals during the week!

This year no one will come home from a practice and have to eat a bowl of cereal or a Happy Meal because I forgot to save them dinner!

This year I will plan ahead!  This year I will have all the ingredients I need on hand!  This year I will take things out of the freezer in time for them to thaw!

I get so excited about the lamest things!

Let me explain this NIP… the beauty is in its simplicity.  On Sunday morning I print out a schedule for the upcoming week.  The family collaborated on a list of favorite meals, which I keep pinned to my bulletin board.  On the schedule I write down specific meals from the list for each night, Sunday through Thursday (and maybe even Friday if I’m feeling especially ambitious, but Saturday is my night off, bitches).  From that schedule I then create a grocery list of standard and meal-specific things I will need to prepare meals for the whole week.  Then I go to the store and start checking things off the list.  When I get back from the store, I post the schedule on a bulletin board inside my pantry (because I will most likely forget what I planned to make and when), where I will see it every morning and remember to take out or prepare what I need for that day.

With this kind of organization and service of regular, healthy meals, I can even get away with occasionally (or always) using cheaters and shortcut ingredients like organic frozen vegetables, prepared sauces and marinades, or meatballs not made from scratch.

My Slice-O-Matic sat, unused, in its original box for like 10 years until I finally sold it for 50 cents at a yard sale.

Last night during dinner I was patting myself on the back in reference to my NIP awesomeness.  Then Kid D rained on my parade by announcing that he would not be able to eat the “sweet potatoes” (which he hates) on his stir fry plate.  I clarified that they were actually carrots (which he loves) and he should gobble them right up.  He presumed I was lying to get him to eat something good for him, but I swore a courtroom promise.   Kid D still wasn’t convinced, so Sheepdog explained that their unfamiliar shape was due to the carrots being cut up julienne – style.  And while I embraced the parental back-up and the notion of a man who knows his way around the kitchen (or at least the Food Network), I immediately shot Sheepdog a look that silently implied, “Why do you even know that word and did you have to trade away your man parts when you were given such information?”

Kid D just said, “Well, that puts the fudge in fudge-ina!” as he finished his dinner.  I don’t really know what that means, or even if I should punish you for saying it, but I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Wrangling the Entropy Tip #4, I Excel at Excel

Each Wednesday of my vacation I am featuring a post by a noted guest writer (read: anyone in my family who responded to my pleas for them to pick up my slack – I’m on vacation for goodness’ sake!).  Last week you may recall that Sheepdog wrote an inspirational piece on DIY projects.  Today I am proud to introduce another character from my cast of crazies, the incredibly organized Sister D.

Sister D is in her early thirties, a stay-at-home mom to three kids (a 1-year old daughter, a 5-year-old son and an almost 7-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum with PDD-NOS).  She has been married to B-I-L #3 (the Trash Man) for 8 years.  They keep moving around because Trash Man keeps getting promoted, but they have thankfully stayed put in Kennesaw, GA for the past couple of years now.  I just love that they are nearby.

Sister D is the youngest of the Paarz sisters.  She is creative and smart and a perfectionist.  She is a great mom and a loving wife and a loyal friend.  When she calls to catch up with me I tell my kids to leave me alone because I am on a very important call.  She is super fit because she works out and eats well.  She constantly challenges herself with marathons and other physical activities that make my head hurt.  She likes the finer things in life and she works hard for them too.  She is currently vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which is where she intends to spend summers with her children and a Mexican nanny as soon as she can convince our dad to buy a house there.

So, without any further ado, I present Sister D and her nuggets of wisdom…

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I EXCEL AT EXCEL by honorary guest writer, Sister D

I thought for my first guest blog I’d write about my crazy oldest sister.  Oh, wait…nevermind.

I have to admit…I don’t remember learning about entropy.  I was an engineering major (for a little while, anyway), though admittedly I did attend most of my sophomore year physics classes still a little saucy from the night before.  (C’mon…Buckhead bars closed at 4 AM.  I scheduled 8 AM classes to allow for my afternoon nap.  Do the math.)  Anyway, I don’t know a whole lot about entropy, but I do know that I can get in and out of a grocery store with 3 young kids in tow in 20 minutes.  This is how I do it.

Go to your local grocery store.  If you’re lucky, you can get an aisle directory from Customer Service.  If you’re not, don’t worry…you either get to look like an idiot as you take notes every time you go into a new aisle, or you can alarm the store manager as he wonders why you’re taking pictures of the signs in each aisle.  No matter how you obtain the information, take your list of what items are in each aisle and put them in a spreadsheet that looks something like this.

Print out several copies, hang one up on your refrigerator and instruct your self/family/babysitter to write items under the appropriate aisle heading as they run out or start to run low.  I also laminated one copy of my list with all of our regular items pre-populated in the fields so I have something to cross-reference as I plan my grocery trip.

So what are you going to put on this fancy list?  If your family is like mine, they probably expect you to feed them.  Planning meals is one of my least favorite tasks, so I only did it once.  I came up with 24 meals and have sets of four meals that cycle every six weeks.  We will always have enchilada chicken the same week we have tilapia piccata, but the last time we had those meals was six weeks ago, so no one seems to notice.  I evenly distribute my chicken/fish/beef/pasta dishes so that each group of four has a good variety and leaving three nights open per week allows for a little bit of spontaneity.  I fill those spots with Daddy’s-out-of-town-so-we’re-eating-cereal, seasonal meals with finds from the farmers’ market, events we attend so they’ll feed us, or dinner out.

Meal Primary heading Secondary heading Week
Broccoli & beef pasta Beef Pasta 1
Fajitas Chicken Mexican 1
Chicken baked with stuffing Chicken 1
Italian grilled pork chops Pork 1
Enchildada chicken Chicken Mexican 2
Chicken gorgonzola Chicken 2
Tilapia piccata Fish 2
Roasted turkey breast Turkey 2
Lasagna Beef Pasta 3
Chicken stir-fry Chicken Asian 3
Chicken sausage & peppers Chicken 3
Chicken casserole Chicken 3
Chicken and veggie pasta Chicken Pasta 4
Tomato mozzarella garlic chicken Chicken 4
Lemon garlic salmon Fish 4
Turkey chili Turkey 4
Spaghetti Beef Pasta 5
Tortilla soup and tamales Chicken Mexican 5
Chicken & dumplings Chicken 5
Pork tenderloin Pork 5
Tacos Beef Mexican 6
Chicken and spinach vodka pasta Chicken Pasta 6
Chicken parmesan Chicken 6
Pepper steak Steak 6