Whew! Last week was a hectic and overwhelming one. Some people thrive on activity, and I have to admit that I am not one of them. I prefer a lot of space to my days. But as my children grow, they have more things to do outside the home, and I have more commitments of my own. This fall has presented an entirely new level of complexity as we've piled on an all-day homeschool enrichment class for Elisabeth, swimming, CGS for both children, a real class (entailing lots of reading and actual homework!) for me, and a long and varied list of volunteer commitments.


{the beginnings of roasted vegetable soup}

With all this going on, I'm finding my reliable home rituals to be all the more important -- and soothing. One of these is the meal planning so many of you asked about. It's so simple that I'm almost embarrassed to share it with you, but here goes.

I do a once-a-month meal plan. I started this when Elisabeth was four and James was a little baby. We had some class that was in the late afternoon, and I knew those days (Tuesdays at that time) needed to be crock pot days. I sat down to make a week's meal plan, and realized that I had (at that time) four favorite crock pot recipes, or a month's worth. So I made a sheet of paper with the days of the week written across the top, and plugged those four crock pot recipes into each of four weeks of Tuesdays. Then I thought, "I could fill this out pretty easily." So I put things my husband could make onto my teaching days. And so on. Pretty soon, I had planned for a whole month's worth of meals. I've been doing it every month since then.


{two different angles of the same thing -- sorry, that's all the relevent pictures I had for tonight!}

I've been a subscriber to Everyday Food since the first issue. I have a low cupboard on the backside of our kitchen island that I store my back issues in. (I am a back issue saver. I know they say not to do that; it wastes space; bla bla bla, but it's just what I do.) So now when I do my meal plan, I pull out my entire stack of back issues for the given month. Many (though not all) of the recipes use seasonal ingredients, so that's been helpful to me. I make notes in the pages of my magazines about what we've tried, what we liked, what worked, what didn't. I use other sources for recipes, too, but Everyday Food is really my staple recipe source.


Since a lot of what goes on in our home is repeating -- every Monday I teach cello lessons, two nights a week my husband is home late, once a month I have a church council meeting in the evening, etc. -- I can easily determine what to make based on our schedule. Another thing I have added to my meal planning sheet is a list of various "types" of meal -- beef, chicken, fish, pork, and vegetarian -- that I can cross off so I don't repeat something in a week (like chicken three nights in a row or something!). We used to eat more meat, but now a little more than half of the meals I make are vegetarian, so that's a little less important than it used to be. (We used to be a strictly vegetarian family, and gradually added meat back into our diet the year before James was born. Now we've reduced it a lot and feel really good about that choice.)

Anyway, I find that planning for a whole month doesn't really take very long -- in the end, it probably saves me time over planning once a week or more -- I usually spend about an hour doing it. We shop once a week or as necessary. It takes setting aside the time and having the right tools on hand (the recipe sources, the family calendar, a meal planning sheet, and a pencil!), and a little bit of discipline to actually follow though and finish, but I now find it just as nourishing to have this little ritual in place as the food itself is to my family.

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And for you: a copy of my meal planning sheet. I hope that my little ritual proves helpful to you. 

Love, Grace

Oh! Also, I've updated my much-neglected reading list up there to the right. You'll find lots of great autumn reading there!