Several years ago, I felt convicted that I needed to serve my parents in a more consistent, daily way. After praying about it, I felt that I should help them by taking over all the supper meals – planning and preparation. (In our family, because there were no young children anymore, breakfast and lunch meals were on each person’s individual schedule and we each made breakfast and lunch for ourselves.)
All the children in our family had been well-trained in the kitchen and we were very capable in meal preparation. However, I found out that being able to make the meals and making them every day were two very different things!
After a couple years of making all the suppers, my sister Noelle told me that she wanted to do it for a while – just for the skill of doing it every day. After a couple years she got married, so now she does all the meals at her own house and I’m back to doing them here. (Actually, Noelle’s husband is really good in the kitchen too, so they share the meals sometimes.)
Every family has their own way of doing things, but here are a few tips from things that I’ve learned …
Plan a weekly menu.
- Planning the menu makes the rest of the week go more smoothly because then I’m not caught at 5:00 with the realization that I don’t have anything ready for supper. I can also look at my menu at the start of the day and know how much time I need to plan for supper prep. (Do I need to plan time to soak cashews for my recipe, or remember to bake an extra batch of bread?)
- As I’m planning the menu, I keep in mind what my week’s schedule looks like. On a busy day, I’ll plan to put a soup in the crock pot so that then all I have to do is quickly throw together a salad and supper is ready! If we have company coming over, I need to know how much extra of everything we will need. If it’s a quiet day, I can take a little more time and make something a bit more involved.
- I find that when I plan a menu I’m more organized in how we shop, how often we shop and in how I use my leftovers. Being more organized in these things saves money because we waste less.
- I like to keep my old weekly menu plans in a 3-ring binder. That way I can look back and see when we ate this certain meal last or what ingredients I put in that stir fry. It makes it easier because I don’t have to re-think everything.
- (I also put my often-used and favorite recipes in the same binder. Then I have them handy as I’m looking for meal ideas, and also as I make my shopping lists.)
Make shopping lists.
- After I plan my menu for the week, I look down the list and see what ingredients I will need for each meal. I usually sit right by the frig as I make my list so I can check to see what we need. Of course, we have our regular things that we need every week. Keeping track of those makes putting the list together pretty easy.
- Because we live out in the country, my Dad usually does the shopping for us when he’s in town for his work. I like to put my shopping lists together in an organized way so that it’s easier for him. I divide it up into which store – Vitamin Cottage or City Market – and then try to put my list into categories that correspond with the different areas of the store – (produce, organic eggs and butter, canned goods, etc.) That way he’s not trying to read through a list of scattered items and wondering if he got everything from a certain area.
- During the week, I keep a piece of paper ready so that I can jot down anything that I notice we need. That way I’ll remember to add it to the next shopping list.
- Use up your leftovers! I find leftovers a fun challenge. I once stayed with some friends who were leftover geniuses! That experience motivated me to try to use up every single leftover. Sometimes a person has to get very creative! I like to organize the fridge so that the leftovers are on top and very visible. That helps me remember that we have them, and that we need to use them up. I think using up the leftovers is one of the most wise and practical skills of a home-keeper. I was talking once with my sister and another friend about moving from being a single girl and making your own money to becoming a wife and letting your husband provide for the finances. (Side note – home-businesses are great! However, most of the time a new, young wife is too busy with her new life and often busy with little ones, to be doing much with a home-business.) My sister, friend and I were saying that we thought that it would be hard in some ways to leave that burden up to him. We would want to help in some way! But then we realized that we can help him by saving money! Saving money is just as important as making money. As we wisely learn to use what we have, and not waste, we will be a blessing and an asset to our families.
- When I make soup (which is pretty often – I really like soup), I like to make an extra amount to freeze. Then I have a meal in the freezer ready to go anytime. I do the same with homemade bread. It’s nice too, to have these things ready to give to families who just had a baby, or are moving, etc.
- I like to keep an extra supply of frozen vegetables. This makes it easier for me to extend hospitality to others, because even if I wasn’t planning on having that many people for supper, I can always quickly steam a bunch of veggies and, voila! The meal is large enough for everyone!
Scripture tells us to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13 and I Peter 4:9). It’s good to remember that we need to work to make our home just as nice for our families as we do for company. Serving our families in the kitchen, with the laundry, in the garden etc. are ways to do this. We can “look well to the ways of our households” and bring our families “good and not harm all the days of our lives.” (Proverbs 31)
Authored by Megan Miller