Works in Progress: Autumn Meal Organization

Yes, you read that correctly. Here it is late July with “official” Autumn well over a month away. 41 days until pumpkin spice latte season (September 1st) and 64 days until the Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd. I’m stewing in the muggy oppressiveness of a Georgia July and thinking of butternut bisque and slow cooker chili. In part this is because,

fucksummerIn addition to the cooler, darker months being superior (in my humble opinion) I have back to school on the brain. Now, I was homeschooled for most of my life and we did a sort of “year round” school. I have no idea why I associate fresh crayons and new classes with falling leaves and crisp air. In case you didn’t know Georgia has a ridiculously early back to school date. Hope starts her first day of the 10th grade ON AUGUST 5TH. Atticus will begin Pre-K on AUGUST 10TH. The kids should still be catching lightening bugs, eating ice cream, and going to bed late. Instead we are commencing school shopping and schedule wrangling. Sam starts his college classes the last full week of August, but school mode really kicks in at my library. I have several huge projects going on and people start trickling back on campus. All this school time leads to autumn in my brain hence the dreaming of autumn dishes.

I should probably explain why food pops into my brain rather than decor or, I don’t know, crafty stuff. For some reason I lose all desire to cook and plan meals in the summer. May hits and I throw in the towel. You would think my slightly reduced work schedule (36 instead of 40 hours) would mean more time cooking, but that is the last thing I want to do. We live on spaghetti, rotisserie chicken*, and simple dishes like grilled cheese and pancakes for dinner. The kids freaking love it (most of the time). I get my kitchen mojo back around August. I really enjoy cooking and baking, but only from August to April. I’m a strange bird.

Anyhoo, back to the organization part. I’ve set a goal to cut down our food budget or at least steward it a bit better. I’ve learned that “stocking up” doesn’t really work for us. For one we are in an apartment without a pantry and with a small refrigerator. Secondly stocking up on certain things like chips, cereal, snacks, etc… simply leads to my family consuming more of said item. To illustrate my point I’d like to remind you all that Sam is Hagrid-sized and eats his breakfast cereal in a mixing bowl. When the cereal is gone Sam and the kids will go for fruit or yogurt (yogurt is rationed, though). If there is more cereal they just keep eating. Once-Month-Cooking runs into the same issue of “where the hell do I put everything”? I believe a compromise is in order and I think I’ve figured out a solution although I may not get my stuff together enough to do The Plan until September.

Autumn Food Plan

The Budget

We are trying to get away from using the debit card for many of our purchases. It is just too easy to overspend. Cash also seems to slip out of our grasp. I’ve determined an honest grocery budget by analyzing several months of receipts.  We spend an average of $125 dollars a week on groceries and about $20 to $30 a week on non-food items (toilet paper, diapers, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, cat food). Instead of worrying about the budget from week to week, I am going to put the entirety of our food budget on a Kroger giftcard. This will allow us to “see” how our budget dwindles and we can make adjustments. It also allows us our awesome fuel points right up front and that will help with gas expenses. For August our budget will be $750 (however August is a lean month due to back to school shopping… I will most likely start this in September).

The Meal Plan

Next week I’m going to focus on thumbing through cookbooks and updating meal plan cards with Autumn favorites. The weekly rotation looks like this:

Monday: Easy meal (my night to work)

Tuesday: Poultry or Fish

Wednesday: Pasta or grains

Thursday: Pork or Beef

Friday: Casserole or bake

Saturday: Soup / Curry / Chili / Stew (don’t worry, if it is hot out it will be a salad and veggie plate)

Sunday: Slow cooker meal

Twice a Month Cooking / Twice a Month Baking

I cannot manage once a month cooking, but I think I could do every other week. What about baking? I’d love to have a time to make baking mixes, bread starters, muffins, granola, etc…. Trying to attempt this every weekend would be a nightmare. Instead I will be setting Monday mornings aside to do alternating meal and baking prep. I will also alternate the focus of my shopping each week. One week may be a bit pricey for meal prep, but the next week I’ll be focusing on baking and other kitchen projects and will focus on staples.

Here is how it will shake out:

Week 1: Shop 08/01, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/03

Week 2: Shop 08/08, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, pancake mix, granola, kitchen pickles, and a bread starter)

Week 3: Crazy work weekend so shop Friday 08/14, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday O8/17

Week 4: Shop 08/22, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, hamburger buns, granola bars, salad dressing, loaf bread)

Week 5: Another work weekend, shop Friday 08/28 and prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/31

I’m excited about spending my Mondays in the kitchen and I know, honestly, that I will probably start some of these projects on Sunday evening.

There we have it. I’ll let you all know how this shakes out. Honestly, it may be September before my plans come to fruition, but that’s okay. The planning and listing relaxes me (I told you I am strange).

*Yup, no longer vegetarian. I went over 2 years and then caved.

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12 comments

  1. You sound just like me! I can’t cook during the summer. There’s something about the heat and cooking that’s just too much. Plus I don’t have AC, so cooking in the summer while living on the second floor is ridiculous.

    Why do the kids have to go back to school so EARLY? That’s crazy. And it’s so hot and muggy out. Who wants to learn in that weather?

    Please keep us informed about your progress. Putting the grocery money sounds unusual, but like it would work. Good luck.

  2. Yes and YES! I’m so ready for Georgia’s next season. Summer blows.

    This may sound weird but for what I do for our food budget every month is put a specific amount on a refillable gift/money card. It really helps me keep up with spending as I’m not carrying cash but kind of am in a weird way? I’m not taking money from bank or credit card. I keep a post-it note on the card with the balance so I always know my budget. It may not be for everyone but it really helps us stick to our guns about purchases.

    Here in Athens the UGA students have already begun to arrive…whoa!

  3. We never get much more organized than planning our meals weekly (just a list, to tweak as we go) and going grocery shopping Friday evenings or Saturday mornings. With several runs back to the store during the week.

    I get the April-through-August lack of motivation, though. I think it’s a southern thing.

  4. I think the Kroger gift card idea sounds wonderful. Wish I would have thought of this when I lived with my kids. I imagine huge savings plus you can send kids into store to buy stuff.

  5. I’m unashamedly going to steal some of your planning ideas. Now that I’m home again and the temps are in the 100s, nothing sounds good to me. We also start back to school the first week in August and I am NOT ready. The upside is that it’s too hot to do much else and we’ll be done mid-May when the weather is nice enough to enjoy it.

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