The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning: Homemaking Series, Pt. 6

In this final post in the Homemaking for Real People Series, I am getting really, really real! I am going to admit that I don’t like meal planning. But I still find it absolutely indispensable to the general health and happiness of my family, not to mention the maintenance of our budget. I also have to admit that I actually am not a big fan of cooking. Eating, yes. Cooking, not so much. It’s not that I can’t cook. I am actually a pretty good cook! I just don’t love it. I know some people who go bake or whip up a new recipe for the pure enjoyment of it. I don’t. I cook because I like to eat, and, as a matter of fact, so does my family! Since we believe that whole, natural foods are the healthiest way to fuel our bodies, we also like to eat food made from real ingredients. And having food allergies and sensitivities makes it even more necessary that I do a decent amount of cooking on a daily basis.

In order to manage all this cooking, I have to have a meal plan. But how does a reluctant cook go about doing this?

Enter, the Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning:

Step 1: Make a Master Meal List

Make a master meal list of 20-30 meals that are simple family favorites that you can rotate again and again. For a lot of people, this means just dinners because they have about the same things for breakfast and lunch, like toast or cereal, and sandwiches or salad. Our family, however, doesn’t eat cereal except as an occasional snack, and since we have a wheat allergy, bread for sandwiches is a real pain. I also like a lot of variety, so I do actually have lists of our favorites for breakfast and lunch, as well. Your master meal list is something you can always fall back on when you are lacking creativity or just need a default for meal planning. Obviously, it is good to try new recipes, too, but it sure is handy to know you have this list of meals everyone will enjoy when you just need to hit the easy button.

Step 2: Find Your Style

This part takes some trial and error, in my experience, but once you find your groove, you’ll be set! Some people like to have a monthly meal plan, others plan weekly. I’m a weekly gal, thought sometimes I do plan for up to two weeks at a time. You may prefer to have a paper plan that you post in your kitchen, or a digital meal plan system like Plan to Eat. I actually put my meal plan right in my Happy Planner along with all my other weekly to-do’s so I can see everything all in one spot. There are myriad meal planning calendar printable online, so I encourage you to try out a few different styles until you find your sweet spot.

Step 3: Look at Your Calendar

Before you start writing out your actual meal plan, you need to consider what you have going on in your week. Knowing how much time you are going to have for meal prep each day helps you choose what to make. For example, I know if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I either need to plan to have leftovers for dinner or make a slow cooker meal that will cook itself while we are out. Also, consider the season and weather when choosing meals. If it’s going to 90 degrees and humid, you probably aren’t going to want to plan a lot of baking or roasting if you can help it.

Step 4: Make Your Meal Plan

Once you’ve got all the preliminaries done, all there is left to do is plug in meals from your master list (or maybe a few new recipes from a Pinterest board)! I like to write down breakfast, lunch and dinner in that order. For breakfast and lunch, I don’t have as many choices to rotate, so that goes pretty quickly. We like to try more new things for dinner, so sometimes it take me a bit longer. As I go, I have my grocery list alongside me, so I can write down any ingredients that we need for the coming week as I go. I also try and write in any prep-work that may need done ahead of time in my planner. If we are going to have soaked baked oatmeal on Sunday morning, for instance, I write down that I need to get the oats soaking while I’m making dinner Saturday evening.

Step 5: Follow Your Plan

So, you’ve gone to all the work of making a meal plan. Now you need to put it in a place where you will see it and do your best to follow the plan! I know there are times when plans change and meals will get switched or left out all together. I am fine with this as it is MY plan, after all. I have the freedom to change it as needed. But I also know that if I don’t take care, produce purchased for a specific meal may spoil, or meat may not get thawed in time, etc. If I want to be wise with my time and money, it helps to stick to the plan. And, yes, I do build leftovers into my meal plan as much as possible! It is frugal and time-saving, and even my kids have no problems with eating leftovers (most of the time).

Step 6: Have a Good Attitude

Okay, maybe this should have been first…and it certainly isn’t reserved just for meal planning and cooking! Having a good attitude and thinking positive about your role as cook and meal planner for your family will go a long way toward making it a more enjoyable experience. I know that I am always proud when I put a healthy, hot meal on the table for my family. It is satisfying to know that this is one way I can serve and bless my husband and children, and it really is not all that much trouble after all. Even on a frugal budget, we can enjoy good meals when I plan well and execute that plan. And so can you! So, go ahead. Make a meal plan and go cook something wholesome and delicious!

That wraps up our Homemaking for Real People blog series! I’ve enjoyed sharing a little more in depth on how we run our home, and I would love to hear what you’ve thought of the series! Would you like me to write more on topics of homemaking, planning, or routines? Leave me a comment below. I’m all ears!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Pt. 5

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Part 5

Welcome back to the Homemaking For Real People series! We’ve made it to week 5 already, and today I’m talking about laundry. Yes, I know it is not the most glamorous or exciting part of our homemaking duties, but it is still important. And since it seems to be an area in which a lot of people struggle, I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me keep the dreaded “laundry monster” at bay in our home.

Have a Routine:

I’ve said it before in this series, but it bears repeating. Having a predictable routine for your housekeeping tasks will help you stay on top of everything, and laundry is no exception. In fact, in our house, even if there is not a set schedule or day for any other task, there is a schedule for laundry. No matter what else I have going on during laundry day, I try to make no excuses and just get it going. Since my husband and I got married nearly 14 years ago (say what?!) we have done laundry primarily on Friday and/or Saturday. This way I always know we have clean clothes for church and the coming work week. It just makes sense for us. As a young couple, we could generally do all of our laundry in 2-3 loads each week, making it pretty easy to get done in one day. Now that we have kids, I usually have a few more loads than that to do, but I still have specific days for washing clothing, towels, bedding and doing hand washing, when needed.

Fold and Put Away, Right Away:

I know that this is where a lot of people get tripped up, but believe me, friend. You will be able to stay on top of the laundry pile so much better if you just buck up and fold, hang and put away that clean laundry right away. Now, let me say this: in our house that doesn’t always happen exactly while the clothes are still hot from the dryer. It does, however, happen on the day the clothes are washed. I will frequently do 3 loads of clothes in a day, bringing them all to our bedroom and piling them on the bed. I hang things that will wring easily right away, but I will often wait until all the clothes I’m washing that day are done before starting to sort, fold and put away. But it always all get put away before anyone goes to bed at night. It is just part of the job, so I have disciplined myself to do it. My husband usually helps, but if he is busy, I don’t mind doing it all myself. I know there are seasons when this can seem overwhelming, but sometimes we have to stop making excuses and just do the work.

Train Your Kids to Help:

This is another things I’ve said before but will say again. Teach your children to help with the laundry. My son has been doing his own laundry since he was around 6 years old. Every week he has this on his chore chart. It is not his favorite thing to do, but he know how to do it and will not be bringing his clothes home for me to wash on his college breaks! Ha! Also, my daughter is learning how to sort the dirty clothes into colored piles and to help sort the clean ones into the correct family member’s pile. She can match up socks and fold wash cloths. Anything you can teach your children to do to help out, even if it takes more time in the beginning, will pay off in the end, I promise!

Don’t Buy Too Many Clothes:

Seriously. Capsule wardrobes, minimal amounts of clothing for each family member for each season, will help you. The fewer clothes you have to wear, the fewer clothes you have to wash! Also, if you don’t need to buy a lot of hand-wash or dry-clean only items, you will save yourself the time and money of needing to take special care of so many clothes. Buy permanent press or non-wrinkle dress clothes when possible to cut down on the need to iron.

Bonus tip:

Another way to cut down on laundry is to re-wear barely worn clothes. I’m obviously not talking about sweaty t-shirts or muddy jeans. But often we wear clothes lightly enough that they are fine for a second go round before hitting the wash. Teach your family members to hang up clothes that have only been worn for short periods and are still clean, instead of automatically tossing everything in the hamper. Dress clothes and jeans especially fall into this category.

It’s pretty no-nonsense and simple, but those are the things we do here to keep the laundry from getting out of control Do you have any other tips or tricks you use to keep from swimming in unfinished laundry? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.

Bathroom Dream Board

Today I was supposed to be able to come here and announce that we had closed on our house in Illinois and also closed that chapter of our lives. In a strange and sudden turn of events, however, that sale completely fell through in less than 24 before we were supposed to close. This means that we also have lost the contract on the house here in Tennessee that we were going to buy. It also means that we have to put the old house back on the market AGAIN and wait for someone who can actually follow through and buy it! To say we are disappointed and confused would be an understatement. It has been a rough day, let me tell ya!

But we are trusting God to take care of us in spite of some financial complications due to this development. And we believe that He has a purpose even in the hard things. So, we will move on and see what He does! Last week I shared some of my inspiration as I was planning the updates on the kitchen and dining area in the would-have-been new house. I had planned to tell you all about the bathroom re-do today. When we got the bad news, I thought at first I would just delete this whole post. But then I decided to go ahead and share my inspiration photos anyway. After all, we won’t be in a rental forever, and I am sure we will have to do some updates whenever and wherever we do buy! I still love these looks, and I still think it is fun to make plans and dream, even if you don’t have a definite end goal in sight. So…without further ado…

Here are a few photos of the looks I like for the bathrooms. Some of these are inspirations for color scheme, others for elements like storage and decor. If you want to see more of my inspiration and the other boards I have for other rooms in our “someday” house, check out my Pinterest boards!

Blesser House Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Makeover
Best Paint Colors for Small Space Decorating
Small Master Bathroom Decor on a Budget
A Builder Grade Bathroom Transformation
Master Bathroom After from 320 Sycamore
Bower Power Blog Office Bathroom Reveal

Simple Soothing Chamomile and Calendula Salve

Simple Soothing Chamomile and Calendula Salve

This time of year we tend to have lots of dry, cracked skin. My son’s skin was super sensitive when he was an infant, and most ointments made his eczema and dry skin worse instead of better. Finally, I found a soothing salve that worked and actually helped heal his skin instead of irritating it more. The problem was, it cost around $11 for a tiny tin of the salve. And whenever I ran out, I either had to drive 20 miles to get more or order some on Amazon and pay even more for shipping. (This was before the wonder that is Amazon Prime!) So, instead, I decided to try my hand at making my own salve so that I could always have it on hand. 

Chamomile and calendula flowers are both known as amazing powerhouse herbs. They have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making them excellent additions to ointments to promote healing and reduce swelling and irritation. This is my simple recipe for a super soothing herbal salve that works great for eczema, cuts and scrapes, insect bites, burns, chapped lips and dry skin. 

Chamomile and Calendula Salve

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place the dried flowers and petals in a pint mason jar, then cover with the oil.
  2. Let the oil and flowers sit at room temperature for 4 weeks to infuse, shaking daily.
  3. Quick Method: place the jar on a wash cloth in a slow cooker. Fill slow cooker with a couple of inches of water and close the lid. Heat on low for between 2-6 hours.
  4. Once the oil is infused, strain it into a clean jar using a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
  5. In a double boiler, slowly heat the beeswax until fully melted.
  6. Pour melted beeswax into infused oil and mix gently.
  7. Let cool and use on all your dry, chapped skin as needed!