Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting Organized And Making Better Use of Time...

When I decided to relocate, my life was in an awkward pause of sorts. I had two contracts end abruptly and I was still reeling from the loss of my oldest sister and best friend just that past July. I think too much happened almost all at once though it ran a course of a 5 month span. Fast forward to the Spring of 2014, and I was working toward relocating full force. Finding a place to live was our main objective and trying to land a job was also on my list. Papa Smurf would continue the same job (at a different location) once we relocated and were settled. After we successfully relocated, there was another issue to combat. We purged ALOT before we moved. We only took whatever we could fit between our Pontiac Grand Prix and my older sister Ericka’s economy sized rental; which was not much. I went through a major adjustment period. Aside from getting used to a new place, a new state, our first year with a school aged child, a new school, new school system, at the peak of the challenge was having to do without the things that we left behind. And when you really need something it’s the worst to try to track it down versus realizing you left it. In the midst of it all, I felt so disorganized at times last year. Despite the repeated moments that I was reassured with others, I didn’t even care to hear that I made a major life change that was an accomplishment in and of itself. The disorganization during the adjustment period took much of the joy that came with that accomplishment away at times. Though I can be spontaneous, most of the credit to that goes to my husband as I am a creature of habit. Everything and I do mean everything that I need must be present, accounted for and above all have its place. What can I say it’s the Virgo in me!
Anyways, getting to the point, it’s a no brainer that 2015 was dubbed the year of “Get It Together” and get organized. Moreover, I declared that the adjustment period was over so it was time. By now a lot of people have probably fallen off track with their New Year’s resolutions. I think one of the reasons that NYE resolutions often fall off and lose momentum around this time of year if not sooner is because they often require a more calculated approach. Nine times out of ten, the approach in and of itself does not mesh well with a person’s current lifestyle. What exactly am I saying? Well you have to take baby steps first. You must make room in your present life for what you are trying to do if you really want to succeed at maintaining and achieving your resolution(s). 
For myself, this was going to involve getting in tune with our present adjustment period routine, what had to go, and what I had to get back to doing. 
Soulful and Abundant Sundays
Somewhere during the adjustment period Papa Smurf landed two jobs and decided to keep both. During this time life got super hectic. People had no idea (aside from the ones who visited) just how busy things got during the course of the week especially when we were getting Juliana ready and registered for school, doctor’s appointments, other appointments, interviews, adjusting to her weekly scheduled once school started and squeezing all of that in where it could fit in toggling one vehicle and Papa Smurf’s work hours. In the midst of the madness the big dinners that we would make from time to time especially during the week kind of fell to the waste side. The best part of making a big dinner is the leftovers!
So I knew I needed to get back to that somehow. And so I did, once Papa Smurf’s schedule leveled out when one job took precedence over the other. I started freezing smaller servings of the large batches of meals that I would make, from baked macaroni and cheese, greens, and lasagna. I would use freezer ziplock bags, sandwich sized for lunch portions and quart sized bags for dinner portions. During the week this makes it easier during the week for short cuts and already prepared sides to add to meats for meals. Also it will keep you from going out to lunch when you can’t really afford a daily out to lunch habit or need to cut back
Back to the Basics
Somehow we slipped into letting Julie buy lunch daily. However, baby girl started running a serious tab. The café counselor said it was probably the snacks and al a carte stuff. Whatever it was, it felt like we were dealing with a $20 a week habit. After frequent slips home that her account had to be replenished yet again we were rushing around to hit the ATM for cash too often for my liking. I don’t know if she had an accomplice (which was my sister’s theory) or what but I set a spending limit for her that would be in place. I also decided that it would only be in place for a last resort as that would be the only time she would buy lunch from there on out! Back to the basics, her Minnie Mouse lunch bag was coming back! A weekly trip to Sam’s (bulk/ wholesale store) to purchase her lunch stuff for the week and possibly longer. Going back to packing her lunch the night before would become a must do as well! And even if I may not always get to it the night before, having things on hand to put together quickly made life easier and mornings go more smoothly.
Blast From The Past
During the later years of my college career long days as a full time student, especially around midterms, finals, and meetings for group projects made my time limited. I lived off campus. Marinating and freezing meats for dinner, frozen vegetables and fresh bagged salads were a way of life. I couldn’t afford a daily carryout habit, nor did I want to. Freezer ziplocks, using seasonings and marinades to marinate them in advance were also common practice. Usually after a weekend grocery trip, I would season everything up, and then place them in the freezer until I needed or wanted them. In the morning, I would take out dinner to defrost. By the time I got home and was too tired or had too much work to do in the oven it would go. No fuss. The end of my college years was a busy time. Likewise, family life gets busy and though I am a cook some nights I’m not really up to toe job. Other times, the day can get ahead of me. So, I had to go back into my old ways yet again. 
Set A Grocery Budget….
Stop Shopping Around Cravings /By The Day
Instead…Make An All Inclusive List. 
One thing that really had thrown me off as far as cooking dinner for the family was that we also slipped into shopping by the day for dinner, so often that it was becoming habit. What can I say? I love fresh ingredients. However, that wasn’t an excuse, it was becoming an inconvenience as hours fluctuated and dinner would run later and later because of it. Either that or we would end up getting pizza or the like more often than I wanted to. Late dinners ruined the bed time routine which made for long nights and rough mornings. Besides, I could still buy fresh and just freeze what I wasn’t using right away or before the “best by” date if I had purchased too much. By now you see a trend that freezing is very much a key time and life-saving practice for me. Setting a budget really forces me to pinpoint what I need versus what I don’t. It is a great way to attack the whole needs vs wants battle. There isn’t too much room for slipping one too many snacks in the cart which can take away from pantry and refrigerated staples that I may need. Which is why though it may seem archaic, a list is helpful in keeping me on track too. There is nothing worse when it comes to grocery shopping than getting home and realizing you don’t really have any real food because you shopped around your cravings and snacks you wanted; or realizing that you forgot that one thing again. Though I like the grocery, I don’t always have the time and frequent trips can become costly. I have learned to use the "regular" grocery for sale items. I usually have the sale paper marked all up before I go, and even tag items that I have a coupon for with extra notes (i.e.: how much off for how many items). Having a list and the sale paper already marked up makes me feel more organized and focused for the trip. Like I said before lol there is nothing worst when it comes to grocery shopping than a wasted trip. Anyways, I use the bulk/ wholesale shopping for all else, favorites, and things that the kids go through fast or that we consume at a faster rate. Having one less thing to go out for, and one less trip to make, keeps me organized and makes optimal use of our time. 
Well those are just a few actions I have taken to try to stay on track especially when it comes to meal planning. What are some things that you do to stay on track and organized for meal planning? Or for goals like eating out less for dinner or lunch during the week?

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