Thursday, October 08, 2015

31 Days to Surviving Sports Seasons Sanely: Planned Overs

I always try to do planned overs.  These are leftovers I plan on.  If you’re afraid they won’t be left, only serve what you want eaten for that day!

One of my favorite planned over is to make a pot roast for dinner one night.  Load your crockpot with the good things you like - beef; potatoes; carrots; onion; celery; a fennel bulb is tasty and different; herbs (that herb pack I put in the grocery list post and some bay leaves are a great start!); salt and pepper (if you flour, salt, pepper and brown your roast first then use a little red wine to clean the pan into the crockpot, so much the better).   Cover it all with some water (not beef broth or stock!) and cook all day.  When you get home from your event, your family will love you.

But, save some back.  Save half the meat (this means you might need a big roast or you need to cook two in two crockpots!) Save the liquid, save some veggies. A few nights later, you’ll make Shepherd’s Pie with the leftovers.

N-boy up to bat; feeding him good meals is important! Making it easy is necessary!
Shred or dice up your meat and veggies (but not the potatoes!) If you need more veggies, a bag of frozen mixed veggies goes beautifully. Or just peas. Put all of the meat and veggies in a casserole dish (or your oval crockpot) Melt butter, cook some flour in it, add a couple of cups of the reserved liquid from your original pot roast (or half a box of beef broth) and reduce until it’s a beautiful gravy.  Pour the gravy over the meat and veggies. You want just enough to not quite cover them. Boil more potatoes and add the leftover potatoes to get hot. Mash them however you choose (milk, butter, a little garlic?) Scoop the potatoes over the top of your meat, veggies, and gravy.  I like shredded cheese over the top of that.  Bake at 350 until the cheese is melty and a little brown OR put it in your crockpot on low for 2-3 hours to heat everything through.

Knowing I have everything for two separate family-favorite meals - even if they happen in different weeks - is always a happy, sane saving thing for me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wednesdays With Words: October Week #1

Just a reminder that while I'm participating in Write 31 Days this month, I won't be posting new words (I'm saving them, though!) ... but I'd love to read yours all month long!

31 Days to Surviving Sports Seasons Sanely: The Crockpot is Your Friend

Maybe even your best friend.

I have two crockpots. During sports seasons, they generally work every other day. We may have pot roast in one onone day and Potato Soup in the other the next.  Food that is hot and waiting for us when we get home from the fields is perfect food and I’m uncomfortable with leaving an oven on when we leave. The crockpot is my tool of choice.

My first crockpot is an old-style round crockpot. It has a removable liner with three settings: off, high, and low.  My second crockpot is fancy-dancy oval shaped crockpot with the latch down lid, timers, settings, thermometer and a warm setting.  I know I don’t use this one to its maximum capabilities.

One of my favorite tricks - and one I use just about every week during sports seasons - is one night we have pasta.  In the afternoon, I make my pasta - any pasta will do - with jarred sauce no less. I spray the liner of the oval crockpot, and pour it in. Sometimes I add meatballs (do cook them with your sauce first). If I don’t have meatballs, but do have Trader Joe’s breaded Eggplant Cutlets or Spinach and Kale Bites (like a veggie meatball), I’ll put them atop the pasta. Add mozzarella cheese over the top (or ricotta mixed in!) and set the crockpot on warm.  

My kiddos working on meatballs. This whole tray will be frozen, we had meatball subs with some of the earlier rolled ones.
When we come home, dinner is hot and ready to serve. And the pasta is like second day pasta, which is my favorite anyway.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

31 Days to Surviving Sports Seasons Sanely: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is the hardest thing for me. When it isn’t a sports season, we meet my husband after work at a Whole Foods half an hour away. It’s beer tasting night (with food! The kids eat through the store) and I get an extra pair of hands to help with the shopping.  The children don’t complain about that night, either, as we’ve met some other families who regularly go and they have friends.

We’ve tried something new this soccer season, grocery shopping after morning chores and before school starts, so we leave around 7:30, do our shopping, and start lessons at 9. Kroger at 7:45 on a Tuesday is a beautiful thing.

The other option I’ve considered is that on Thursdays, our “home ec” day, we do GroveTime, clean the house, and grocery shop.

Having a list because we’ve made a plan helps with less back-tracking and makes the shopping go more smoothly and with less whining.  I realize that this is very truly a benefit of homeschooling, that our daytime schedule is somewhat more fluid and we can try these odd things.  Having my list split up generally into the sections of the store helps too.

That being said, I have gotten out of the habits of planning and preparing a list and done the quick "I’ll get food for a few days" stops the past couple of sports seasons and that just doesn’t work for us - I feel like I'm always at the store and spend more money.  I’m attempting to make things better.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Write 31 Days - some of my favorite series!

I'm linking to some of my favorite favorite favorite bloggers' 31 Days series (other than mine!) Hope you'll check 'em out!

Prime Periwinkle - 31 Days of Poetry by Just Me

Here are links to some I think I'll enjoy:

The Writer in You
31 Days of Self-Directed Study

31 Days to Surviving Sports Seasons Sanely: Menu Planning

Everyone talks about menu planning.  It’s a fantastic topic and necessary for everyday family life.  I expend so much more energy when I don’t make a menu plan by running to and from the store and coming up with different ideas and I spend way more money because I’m going to the store two or three times a week (we’ll talk more about that tomorrow!)

If you need help with it, I highly recommend Mystie Winckler’s Simplified Pantry cookbooks, menu plan, and shopping system.

My system is similar to hers, but not exactly and I don’t have the pantry component.  

First, I have a grocery list that I hang on the side of my fridge. It’s in one of those magnetic calendar hangers realtors hand out for free.  My list is separated into sections: Dairy, Meat/Freezer, Aisles, Produce, and Other.  Arranging the list by where I find the items helps me not have to backtrack:

I keep it on the fridge so I can write on the list when I use the last of something or am going to need something.

Printed on the back of my grocery list, is a table for meal planning for the week.  

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Prep for Tomorrow.  There are seven days plus one for emergencies or taking a meal to a friend in need.  That way if I go beyond my plan, I have some cushion.  I always like to have my plan with me at the store because sometimes I’ll substitute based on a special sale or realize I forgot a necessary item for some meal.  

I always look at my Google Calendar and note the activities for each day because that will affect what I cook. Piano Lesson day is an all-day crockpot meal because the kitchen opens into the dining room where the piano is and I don’t want to be disruptive during lessons. If we only have soccer, then something I can cook in the afternoon and keep warm will do.  I also pay attention to what can and what needs to be prepped the night ahead - like snacks for the team.  I also look at the weather forecast, because there are some meals I simply don’t want on a 90* day, especially if I can make a big cobb salad and pull it out of the fridge when we get home.

Finally, after shopping, I try to write the plan on this whiteboard so I - and everyone else in the family - can see it.  Sometimes, if they know what’s up, I get extra help!

One item I usually buy is the herb pack with rosemary, sage, and thyme. (If only it had parsley, too we could sing.) Anyway, it has a nice quantity and variety that adds flavor to many different kinds of meals.

Knowing what we’re going to eat, having a bit of cushion, knowing what has to be done ahead of time. These things keep me sane.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Our Weekly Amble for September 28-October 2, 2015

Break week was necessary and fantastic.

We relaxed some, we worked a great deal.

On Monday, we watched the second to the last of the History Channel's "The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents." In general, I've found these to be balanced enough and pretty well done.  We still talk about things. I like the earlier episodes, the later episodes are slightly more problematic from a conservative viewpoint.

We also watched a couple of Avengers cartoons. You know, because break. And Monday.

We had soccer practices or games most days. I'm trying to Survive them Sanely, as I'm sure you've noticed.  Happily, I prewrote the series and am enjoying the fruit of that.

Tuesday, we had a child need a filling at the dentist; a Vet appointment for our crazy dog Buck (he prescribed a sedative hoping that a couple more weeks would help him relax and trust us); and I met with a friend of a friend to discuss AmblesideOnline, Charlotte Mason, and homeschooling in general. We had planned to meet at a park, but had to reschedule for the library.

Wednesday, after we ran, we worked on cleaning up children's bedrooms and the loft. We also had the start of the Homeschool Chorus and piano lessons. Soccer, of course, finished the day. In the late afternoon, I planned lessons for next week. I decided to try Sarah MacKenzie's Spiral-Notebooks.

On Thursday, we really did clean the house as I was preparing to go on our presbytery's Women's Retreat. We vaccuumed and laundered and dusted and did a lot of general putting away. It wasn't the children's favorite day, but it was necessary. We, again, finished the day with soccer. I went to the grocery store after the game, while Jason took the children (and dog) home for dinner.

Friday, my wonderful mother-in-law came to watch the children so I could go to the Presbytery of Ohio Women's Retreat. They had a fantastic time. I did, too. We had Tara Barthel to speak her "Fear Not" retreat and had a beautiful, relaxing, encouraging time. She is lovely, funny, and an excellent speaker, we recommend her.

It was a good break week.  Maybe a little busier than a true break, but I think we're all ready to head back and finish our last 7 weeks before Yuletide Session.