Farm life, Life, Recipes

5 Steps to Planning Meals for Those Who Hate Meal Planning

I love to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients and it’s important to me to prepare good food for our family. I do it all the time. So why then, do the words, “what’s for dinner?” seem to reduce me to an incompetent mush that can not, for the life of me, recall a single recipe or meal? Anybody relate?

I work full time outside the home, with a near 3 hour commute a day, so to get home and then figure out what is for dinner is very at risk of looking like cereal or nachos every night. But here’s the deal, I hate meal planning.

At it’s root, I gristle against meal planning, feeling it far too constraining or inflexible. I mean what if I get to Tuesday and don’t feel like spaghetti? Perhaps it is some deep seeded rebellion in me that doesn’t want anything else in life to boss me around. “Take that meal plan!” I declare as we eat nachos on hump day. I only partly jest here.

But, I think I have finally found an approach that works for us. I have downloaded every kind of tool, planner, and hack, but found just a list works best. This one is from the $1 bin at Target.

I live by a gospel of grace in meal planning

Here are five steps to planning meals that have worked for me:

1. Start with your calendar. Be realistic on what you can do based on life commitments, events, etc. I know that we have guests on Saturday and one of them is a vegetarian, so I’ve planned a quinoa and veggie dish that night. We are at a concert Friday so I get a vacation day. Common sense, don’t try to prepare a high touch meal on soccer practice night, that’s a good night for crock pot. Put the cape away, save your super hero for another opportunity.

2. Give yourself a break. A healthy meal doesn’t have to be four courses and gourmet every night. Let’s be real, how many of our families really like that anyway? Quick story, when we were first married, I found and made this recipe for porcupine meatballs….yeah it tastes like what you are thinking. My husband of 2 months, in his sweetest voice says, “um, can you never make this again?” That is still a good laugh years later, but truth is, those meatballs were a pain in the back end to make, set dinner back to like 8pm and tasted awful. He would have been waaaaay happier with just plain ol spaghetti and meatballs. So bottom line is, plan what your family will eat. Be realistic. I save my complex or new recipes for the weekends when I have more time.

3. Shop for the weeks ingredients all at once. This step was forced by our move to acreage in the country, but saves us a lot of money and time. After I decide what I want to make, I get a list for the “stuff” needed to create them, then head to the store. This also is where flexibility is introduced. If I get to Wednesday and have steak salad planned but we had a client lunch out today with beef, I can make Thursday’s meal because I have everything I need on hand. It sounds so simple but it’s these little shifts and changes that make it workable for me.

4. Cut veggies once for all meals. I have discovered a great way to prep onions and veggies for the week so I’m not crying every day over my meal prep (literally). If you’re anything like me, just the thought of prep time can be enough of a climb when I am tired after work to have me dialing for delivery. Check out my onion and veggie hack that saves me so much time (coming in next post). With this prep out of the way, I can get most meals on the table quickly.

5. Have a few standbys….just in case. There will be days when you just aren’t feeling it and that’s ok. The goal of nutrition should be looked at globally. I plan a week at a time and consider the full week of nutrition, not one meal at a time….because, well that could make you crazy, but sometimes all the kids will eat is macaroni and cheese. So, again, I live by a gospel of grace in the meal planning world. An egg frittata (read a baked egg casserole that tastes like a quiche) which is filled with leftover veggies and cheese is still a very good meal with lots of health benefits. And it’s not cheating that it takes 15 minutes to make and 30 mins to bake. That’s brilliant and we need a few “emergency exit” options on the dinner planning.

I’ll share some of my emergency options for 30 minute dinners in another post. I hope these steps help you with meal planning. I know that for the first time, I am really making it work and knowing there is an idea ready is very helpful to success!

Go get ’em, you’ve got this,

Sally

Farm life, Life

Farm Lessons #4: This Farm $#@&^ Just Got Real

As much as I hate to admit it, this farm thing has been a romantic dream that I knew would be a bit of an adjustment, but not really that big of a deal, right? I mean, I did goat classes before I brought them home. I did my research, I studied. I’ve been ON farms before. I have got this, right? But life on the farm has opened my eyes to many things. And this week, this farm #$%& just got real.

You know we added 14 animals in the space of a six weeks, right? Right. Don’t judge, I’m not the type of girl that does a slow ramp up or half way work. I may need to reassess that character feature later, but I digress.

At one moment this week, standing at the sink in the kitchen, I see a goat in with the puppy. I panicked and ran out screaming. Lucky, our 6 month old, sixty pound puppy is larger than life and doesn’t know it. Mr Bean, although looking undignified all covered in puppy slobber, was fine. Phew, crisis averted.

Not much later, I was literally rescuing my top hen from this same knucklehead when she flew into his pen. On the verge of tears and feeling way in over my head, I saw the damage…most of her back feathers had been plucked by the eager puppy host. I was upset but willed no tears to come. It’s just a chicken, right? These things happen on the farm. Problem is this one is named after my grandma Dorothy. Crap, I went and got attached to the chickens. I’m not a good farm girl AND I let this happen by not paying attention. I felt like a total failure and had no idea what to do.

So, I did what every good farm girl does. I Googled it. Armed with chicken advice from the online experts, I headed to the feed store for supplies. I separated her and gave a quiet little space to come out of shock. She drank water and ate…all good signs. After a saline bath and wound spray, things are looking better.

I am pleased to tell you that Dot is doing ok and seems to be healing. Her behavior is all normal, despite her chilly backside and she seems to have resumed her place at the top of the pecking order.

I’m so relieved. I am getting farm tougher day by day, but am not ready for my first farm funeral. Not yet. I need a little more seasoning.

Farm life, Life

It’s the little things

Way to go girls… our first egg!

Starting off on a farm is hard work! I am sure I put in two miles a day just watering and feeding pets and gardens! There are days that I fall into bed after a full day of work and chores and wonder about taking on this amount of work in our fifties. But there are so many little things that make it so worth it.

The quiet as we just sit and enjoy the gorgeous sunset, the peace of walking the puppy along the property to learn his space, the satisfaction of cooking with berries and veggies right from your own yard. The muscles that are refinding themselves after schlepping 40 pound bags of feed, hauling hay and wrestling naughty goats back into their pens.

Everyday, when the goats and chickens follow me around like toddlers yelling, “Mom, mom, mom” with their bleating and clucks, it makes me smile. And today, we found our first egg! It’s exciting to see progress. So far that egg cost about $600+ but I’m sure the cost balance will even out over time. None the less, we know that those chickens are eating organic, non-GMO feed so the eggs will be pure and good for our health!

I love life on the farm. Come visit anytime you need a little more peace..there is nothing like a dose of fresh air and an animal snuggle to heal ya! ❤❤❤

Farm life, Life, Recipes

Blueberry Handpies

Using the recipe from the book, Hand Held Pies, these little beauties are a delicious way to use the fresh berries from the farm.

The butter crust is so flaky and delicious and the little bit of glaze gives the perfect final touch to the fruity middle. The only modification I made was to use corn syrup vs. maple syrup to thicken.

Farm life, Life

Farm Lesson #2 – Barnyards and Stemware

Farm lesson #2….Don’t carry your stemware to the barn.

I was checking on the animals and carried a glass of wine with me. I mean, makes perfect sense right?

Well, puppy jumped up and broke the bottom off my glass in one clunk. Good news? No one ate the glass pieces before I picked them up. That and the wine didn’t spill.

LOL. This farming life is coming along.

Life

He can do it again – finding faith in “the middle”

The middle. We are so safe in the middle. Not too in. Not too out. Nice and safe.

bird on gate at farm

The allure of the middle is a false safety net. The middle is full of fear. Protecting our heart from growing too attached, “shusshing” our spirits to not thrill too much, quieting our minds to not get carried away with dreams, quelling the soul to protect it from believing good things can come to you.

Why, when the very thing I have dreamed and prayed about for years is coming true, am I afraid? Silly vanity…robbing the joy of blessing through worry as if the universe is conspiring against me. Foolish heart that tip toes around the proof, afraid to shout it from the rooftops for fear of it not working out. Selfish pride, to assume I can live this life and not feel pain. The middle suffocates.

But alas, doesn’t this world need a little more hope…a little more possibility and positivity? Doesn’t this world need to see someone reach and try? To imagine a new beginning, a fresh start, a dream come true. Doesn’t this world, yea my very heart, need the medicine of courage and strength of will to dare to dream? Who then, am I to withold this strength from the world? Who am I to push back the tide of courage to others?

Softly, gently I step. Moving into the light of possibility. Of dreams come true, of possible heart ache, indeed, but of new life most certainly!

Things are not sure yet, but I am taking baby steps to find my new horizon. God, you have not failed me yet and I believe you are going to move a mountain once again.

Life

Ok, so maybe you ARE the boss of me.

216773_1031748287320_3793_nThis little girl came into our life by “accident” ten years ago. Sweet little Sadie. We were NOT going to get a dog. We were “just going to look” at the litter of 11 golden retriever puppies. Just looking. Yes, we took both kids with us, but we were NOT leaving with a dog.

Despite a 40 minute drive of reinforcements, “we are NOT getting a dog, we are just looking.” Forget the insistence that we aren’t ready, don’t have, can’t, shouldn’t. I’m telling you, even a heart like a ten pound hammer would find a litter of brown-eyed-puppy-breathed-yipping-jumping golden retriever puppies to be kryptonite. My steely position lasted strong….for about 2.7 seconds. The kids took about 4 seconds to find THE one. We left with a puppy and my husband was grinning ear to ear. He knew it all along.

We worked hard to train her, make sure she knew she wasn’t the boss and she caught on. A golden always wants to please so they are very trainable and will do just about anything that makes their owner happy. They are genetically designed as professional beggars as well and will eat nearly anything and at any time. Rocks, dirt clods, grass…you name it, they eat it.

A couple of months ago she was diagnosed with lymphoma in both kidneys and given about 6 to 8 weeks to live. We were offered the option to do chemotherapy, a treatment that lasts about 5 months, costs nearly $10,000 and results in an average of 4 to 5 months longer to live. Does that weird math escape any of you? We thought about it and decided to let her live out her days happy and stress free (well as stress free as possible since we brought ANOTHER NEW PUPPY home in this time frame). Since lymphoma is not thought to be particularly painful, she seems to do ok. Feels better some days than others, but still a sweet, sweet girl.

Despite the terrible timing of a puppy added to the mix (don’t judge – have you seen a WESTIE litter…kryptonite 2), Sadie is doing ok, but she has caught on to the situation. She knows. She gets scraps more often, more treats, extra loving. If told no she gives us that, “you can’t say no to a dog with cancer” look. She’s been golden mind melding us since that spring day ten years ago, but is pouring it on with the “I have cancer” look. No, I’m not making it up. But I have firmly come to the conclusion that our pets let us live here because we feed them.

We are so not the boss of us.