Saturday, March 29, 2008

around the www

If you know me IRL or if you've read my blog at all then you know I'm a planner. I love list-making and scheduling and I often feel that if I didn't have these things I'd quickly go insane. Someone in my mom's group directed me to Menus for Mom's about a month ago. I used it pretty faithfully for a couple of weeks and I really liked it. Basically it's a service that provides a "free weekly menu plan including recipes and grocery list for 5 nights of dinners by email. Did you get that? Not only do they send you a 5 night dinner plan, but they also send you the link to the grocery list you'll need for those 5 dinners and then a link to the recipes and cooking instructions for those 5 dinners. Awesome.

I will say that like most things like this, you have to tailor it to meet the needs of your family. Of course, if someone in your house has a food allergy or requires a special diet this might not be the best idea for you, but for us it works great. I usually get the menu at the beginning of the week and decide right away which 3 or 4 dinners we'd prefer. (Since I hate to cook I only use about 3 or 4 of the meals and we eat out or eat leftovers for the rest of the week. Plus this gives us a chance to automatically eliminate the one or two meals they suggest that don't sound all that appetizing to us.) Then I print out the menus, recipes and grocery list. I mark off the items I won't need to buy and I add other items that we'll need for breakfast and lunch. And voila! I'm done! The list is organized (unlike my usual shopping list) so it makes it much easier to navigate in the store and the entire process requires very little thought on my part.

The best part is how well-planned out it is. For example, one night at the beginning of the week you'll make sloppy joes and double the recipe so that then at the end of the week you can make sloppy joe pizza or calzones or something else that would require the rest of the meat sauce and each night you have a nutritionally balanced, well-rounded meal. On a night where the main dish may take three or four hours in the crock pot the sides can be made ahead as well so that the entire meal can be put on the table in a jiffy when dinner time comes OR on a night where the main dish only takes twenty minutes to prepare, the side dishes take even less than that so everything is timed to be done right at the same moment. This is a problem I constantly have when I'm trying to cook a meal. I'll have the meatloaf done but the potatoes will still be boiling on the stove yet to be mashed.

One last thing I love about this and then I'll shut up. I love how these menu plans make me try foods I would never try before. For example, one night the meal plan suggested "5 Cup Salad" which is basically a fruit salad with a cup each of 5 ingredients such as whipped topping, mandarin oranges, pineapple, and some other things I can't remember. I would have never even considered making something like this before, but because it was on the menu I went ahead and bought the ingredients for it at the store and then when the night came to make it I thought, "What the heck!?" and threw it all together and darn if it wasn't pretty good.

I got off track last week with Easter and birthday parties, but that's part of the beauty of it too. I can make the whole thing as flexible as I want and I don't have to always stick to it. For me, I find that is what works perfectly. A plan when I need it to be there and a plan to forget when I don't need one.


I've also recently discovered Bookmootch and I'm in love. You see, I've got rows and rows of books that I've already read and can't bear to just give away but they're taking up lots and lots of real estate here at my house. I considered trying to sale them on Craisglist and after browsing the book category on there for a few weeks I decided that that wasn't really worth the trouble because it looked like stuff rarely moved in my area. Then I looked at and thought about selling some of the books for a little extra money there but when I registered I realized that there were more hidden fees (plus shipping) than I had anticipated and upon noticing that they were associated with Ebay I bailed on that idea quickly since I've never really been a fan.

So. I was about to go on amazon and order the next book for my book club a week or so ago and I read somewhere about Bookmooch. I decided to try it out and created an account and started listing the books I'm ready to get rid of in my BM inventory. I quickly earned enough points just by listing books to request the first book I wanted to get (A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author as The Kite Runner). Then today alone I had three requests for some of my books so I will get them in the mail on Monday and now I have three more points just like that. I can get my next three book club books essentially for the amount it takes for me to ship these three books on Monday. I'd been spending about $10-15 each month on my book club books and this should only run me about $9 or $10 to ship all three. Love it.


Emily said...

Great ideas, especially the first. Once the wedding is finally here/over and Joe and I are living together, I'm definitely looking into the menu planner. Right now we only see each other on the weekends and we're always trying to figure out what to have for dinner. This would make things easier!

Michelle said...

Court - As a fellow "list addict" I would also like to share with you. Takes a while to sort through the website and get the idea but the "flylady" is helping me with a house cleaning schedule so it's not such an overwhelming task that takes me all weekend. :)

Beth_C said...

The Menus for Moms sounds wonderful. I will have to go check it out!

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