New school year: Resolutions for more structure

In my continual quest for a more calm and organized home life, I am trying to institute more structure to our days.

Michael felt like it would help us to have a posted schedule this summer instead of just floating through our days.

I tend to resist structure and go more with how I am feeling. I work out at different times. I work at different times. But I realize this may not be the best structure for my kids.

So I went to the school supply store and got gigantic poster-board size laminated sheets to post a daily schedule and some family rules. The idea being that the kids will know what to expect and there will be less arguing about getting off the computer and getting exercise for example.

We’ve traveled a lot this summer so I don’t think I can evaluate yet how effective it’s been but I will be updating with the fall daily schedule.

For the fall each day has some variation so I created an Excel file for each day that I will print out and post for the kids so they can check it. I’ll also send Michael a copy so he know the family’s schedule.

Michael also thinks we would benefit from a weekly meal rotation so I’m not re-inventing the wheel each day for dinner.

Again I am not a fan of repetition so my compromise is a general meal rotation based on if I would be home to cook or driving to swim practice.

So for hot weather:

Monday – Slow cooker

Tuesday – Pasta

Wednesday – Leftovers or salad

Thursday – Fish (This is my new shopping day so I want to eat my fish fresh.)

Friday – Pizza and movie night

Saturday – Grill

Sunday – Grill

With general categories for meals, I’m not locked into a specific dish but a genre and easy cooking method for that day.

So these are my current efforts to institute more organization and smooth running to our family life. I will report back as we go along.

Do you have a posted schedule for your family? Do you have posted rules? Do you have a set meal rotation? How often do you change it? Does it get boring?

41 comments Add your comment

FCM

July 30th, 2013
3:58 am

When they were younger we had a posted schedule for morning & evening routines. Not so much now.E take the sales ad for Publix and plan our meals. Each has a day where they plan a meal, and when.younger helped cook it. Now that they are 11 & 13, they cook on their night and I help only if asked. School routine dsys have simple structure. Weekends much less. Sunday church & youth programs, a couple of rehersals for Junior Theater Competition this year.

I dont post a schedule but set the phone alarms to different tones. One for wakeup, one for be down for breakfast, one for bus. These audio queues really work…even the dog seems to know which is which. They worked so well this past year that I kept them for me this summer while mine visited relatives.

In the course of adding structure, leave wiggle room. The more rigid the less you will want to do it.

SEE

July 30th, 2013
6:31 am

I’m assuming since your husband mentioned it, meal times must be a problem for you. I’m also assuming the reason is because you don’t have meals planned; therefore you have to build recipes around what you have – (i.e. reinventing the wheel translates into “I have these ingredients, now what can I make with them”).

If you don’t have specific meals planned, then you aren’t going to solve that problem. You end up in the same scenerio For example: for your day marked “slow cooker”…it’s late afternoon and you start thinking about dinner. You find beef, but it’s frozen so that’s out. You have defrosted pork, but need a recipe for a slow cooker pork meal. You find a great recipe, but lack the potatoes to make it. You either look for another recipe based on what you have (see above mentioned problem), take the kids on another grocery run, or just go to fast food. The problem wasn’t really solved, was it?

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
6:49 am

My motto is CLEAR EXPECTATIONS CAN ELIMINATE CHAOS. In all areas of life. I have never had a set meal plan but if that works for you TWG..then great! I have had: WE WILL SIT DOWN TOGETHER FOR DINNER AND WE WILL EAT WHAT IS SERVED. I was never a short order cook.

FCM…I love that your girls scan the ads and cook. Teaches so many skills. My daughter has been home from college this summer and I have loved having her cook meals and help around the house. She works primarily on weekends.

I love the BOGO in the Publix ads. You can really save a lot of $$$ if you pay attention and plan. TWG I know they do not have Publix in AZ. I know lots of folks say Publix is more expensive but if you pay attention to the ad and shop accordingly, I think you would save money. I often wonder why the folks with EBT are not directed to shop this way, as I see so many of them wasting $$$ on things that are not even healthy.

Everyone has a different learning style: Visual/Audio/Kinesthetic. FCM…good idea about the cell phone alarms!

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
6:58 am

One suggestion, when grilling on the weekends, grill some extra for the week, and put it in the freezer. We do that with the neighbors. We all get together on the weekends, have a couple of grills going, and everyone puts on their meat for that day, and a few cook more for the week. It’s very handy to have frozen meats, especially on these hot summer evenings. No one wants to stand over a hot stove/oven, when it’s 90 degrees outside.

Also, incorporate salads into the your weekly menu. Chicken salads, tuna salad, fruit salads, etc. The fresher, the better. Salads take minutes to whip up. However, I don’t like bagged salads, they go bad to quickly. I prefer a head of iceburg letter, fresh spinach, etc.

Friday’s have always been junk food/clean out the fridge nights in our home. We start fresh on the weekends.

I think it’s wonderful when the kids help plan the meals. When I was younger, my mom allowed me to cook dinner for the family, one night a week. My brother got a night to cook too. It helped us learn to cook.

mom2alex&max

July 30th, 2013
6:59 am

I always struggled with meal planning. My issue is that I don’t really like to cook. I plan the meals, I pre buy all the ingredients, and come 5 o’ clock the last thing I feel like eating is what I planned. Frustrating for everyone.

FCM

July 30th, 2013
7:24 am

@ MJG – Thank you. My mom had them growing things in her garden this summer too. Now I just have to work on the clean up the kitchen routine. LOL You are right about different learning styles too, that is one (w/regard to yesterday’s topic) that was hard to impress on the teachers. The younger child is an audio learner. She can remember most anything she hears! They ended up putting her at a table during certain activities so she could read aloud the material to herself without disturbing other kids. The child I mentioned that had the “intervention” tended to “tune-out” if the material was easily understood. The math teacher showed her where the current information was leading, and gave her some extra work in class that was harder than the current assignment. The teacher I mentioned in the story (the male) had the Social Studies class (she likes that subject least) so he just made sure to tell he he knew she could do it, and praise her big time when she did really well. doing assignments that were not just Q & A. At the end of the year I said you can give a gift to 2 of the teachers (I didn’t have much $$$ to spend) so pick them…the Social Studies teacher was one of the two and since I had to run her back to school to deliver it, was the last person she hugged before Summer Break officially started. :)

@ Mayhem, I did that with the oven this weekend. I figured if I was going to heat the house (I picked the overcast day) then I was just going to get it done. I put boneless pork ribs with general seasoning (so I can go bbq or greek later this week), chicken thighs, and mac and cheese in the oven. Less than an hour later I had at least 4 meals for this week. Last night I got home, sauteed spinach, added the chicken, made a quick lemon dill sauce for the top and with the reheated mac & cheese. Dinner was ready in 15 min. It was good too!

One note on yesterday’s blog: @ Catlady- you mentioned testing. Not sure what we should test. I have greatly appreciated your insight in the past on the RTI process, that is how I knew to really push for Tier 3 and it changed how I approached the younger child’s school last year. By far last year was our best academic year for both kids ever. I am truly hoping to carry that through 2013-14.

@ TWG & MomtoKTB: Thanks, I am going to send a note to the teachers. I am there first and foremost to help my child do the best they can. I did send a note to “Coach” who at the end of school year because he had placed that child in those classes. I told him to please get me another set just like them! In fact, I came home from Open House last Aug and that child said “See Mom, see what I was telling you about my teachers!!!” I said what I see is that you have the best team of teachers I have ever met. I am impressed. She was floored, you uh like them? YEP!

Also, yes we have to do the things that work for our kids. Organization is a big challenge for one of mine. The other is just about OCD about it.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
7:35 am

@ FCM…are you trying to taking over my role for longest posts? HAHA ((())) to you!

Techmom

July 30th, 2013
7:38 am

We used a meal planning site for about 2 years and it was really handy. Select your few meals, print the list, mark off what you already have on hand, add other stuff (breakfast, lunch, etc.) and then head to the store. Took a little more planning up front but saved lots of time at the grocery store and during the week. Also, when you have everything on hand, it’s ok to get home and go, ‘eh, I’d rather have chicken tonight instead of fish tacos’ or whatever. Just have them another night.

I’m thinking printing a daily calendar might be a bit much TWG… can you do it a week at a time and just leave room for daily additions in case anything comes up? If you’re not a schedule person, I’m thinking printing something daily is going to get old real quick and you’re not going to stick with it. Recognize your weaknesses and solve those problems… what specifically are your family’s problem points? I think you might be over-doing it by trying to schedule everything versus the things that are really the issues. I fully recognize that having 3 kids participating in activities plus school and homework is a lot to keep up with but you have managed to this point without a daily calendar. Since you’re not a schedule person, I think you’re going to do this for about 6 weeks before you give up. Find a method that works well with your personality and that of your kids so that you can keep it up until it becomes 2nd nature.

catlady

July 30th, 2013
7:55 am

I agree with MJG. Many of my children at school suffer from a lack of structure, and it shows!

When mine were younger, they were allowed only one special activity at a time. This held until they became drivers. Then I could be more flexible.

Carve out time for the family together in addition to meals. Keep solitary activities (computer, video, wii) to a bare minimum. Your kids’ teachers,will thank you.

A,final suggestion, schedule some volunteer time for the,family. Do something meaningful for someone else.

On the meal planning, it sounds like Michael might not enjoy all the new dishes you try. Let everyone generate a list of favorites. Use these to plan meals, and leave one day open to experiment.

catlady

July 30th, 2013
8:03 am

Sorry, FCM. I guess I made some assumptions that you were having trouble getting your child placed in a class that would benefit her/him. You sure should not have to go through the tiers each year anew if you are having success with tier 3. Sounds like you have had some great,teachers to work with!

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
8:21 am

@momtoAlex&max….I can help you out!!!!!. I’ve started a new business, I’m tired of the corporate bs and I’m trying to get out of the corporate world.

I cook healthy meals you can store in your freezer, and heat them up quickly in the microwave, or oven. I have numerous choices to offer. You, or anyone else on this blog can contact me at homecookedmeals13@yahoo.com

FCM

July 30th, 2013
8:26 am

@ MJG…6 weeks no kids makes you ready to talk I guess. ROFL

HB

July 30th, 2013
8:39 am

Structure can be good, especially for the kids, but I’m curious as to why Michael wants you to change how you organize and prepare meals. Have there been major problems with the end results (lousy meals, picking up food at the last minute instead of cooking, etc)? If so, then it makes sense to try and fix it, but if the end result is fine, why do you need to compromise if you’re happy with your current way? If you want to try a new way great, but if he just thinks there’s a more efficient process, then after making his suggestion on how to improve, he should back off. You’re an adult, and how you accomplish the tasks that you alone are responsible for should be up to you, even if he thinks the way you do it is more difficult. Adults shouldn’t micromanage each other.

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
8:50 am

Michael may want you to try different things, but has he stepped up to the plate, and offered any H E L P? Any suggestions? Or does he just want changes without offering any suggestions.

In my house, if you don’t like the way I do something, please feel free to do it yourself. :) Amazing how quickly the attitude changes.

April

July 30th, 2013
8:53 am

Summer schedules have never worked for me. We are more go with the flow and spontaneous. I can plan things but then it rains, or a friend calls with a last minute invite, or someone has to go to the dr, etc. We prefer to just take things as they come in the summer.

We do use google calendars and sinc a family calendar to ical on our iPhones. That way the entire family has everyone’s schedule with them at all times. If one of the kids has an additional practice come up, she can add it immediately so that everyone knows what is going on. It really comes in handy when making appointments and scheduling other after school activities.

Atlanta Mom

July 30th, 2013
9:26 am

I am a huge proponent of the kitchen calendar. Everyone’s activities get posted. A child (or parent) can check the calendar to see if an outing can be planned. It also made the kids aware of just how much was going on in the entire household. With 3 children it was the only way I could keep up with when I was coming and going.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

July 30th, 2013
9:33 am

Let me clarify on a couple of items –

I’ve made a schedule for each day in Excel to reflect that swimming is on some days, church on Wednesday, etc…. but i’m just printing it once — it shouldn’t change each week so they know what to expect all fall

on the meals — I actually usually plan every single week and am scouring recipes and have a plan — I guess Michael feels like I spend a lot of time on this because I want different stuff each week —

I ask the kids for all their favorite meals and then will fill in each week’s spots with one of their favorites —

We do share a google calendar for all the family appts and what not — the schedule just has the stuff that happens every week

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
9:42 am

@ HB…haha! Our son needed to purchase a washer/dryer set ( over the weekend) . I offered to help him, as he has NO idea about the options nor the price points or haggling with a sales person ( which I am excellent at). I went online to check out some reviews on models in his price point. I was prepared! I was chatting with my husband and he tells me, ” Well, he does not need all those bells and whistles…just a basic model.” My reply, ” Um when was the last time you operated a washer or dryer?” This would be like me telling someone what you may or may not need on a riding lawn mower.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
9:46 am

@ Atlanta Mom…I like to write things down too and used to leave a summary of when and where I would be traveling plus all meal options and activities, while I was away. Hubby once told me he did not read the list. I gave up. More of an issue when the kids were home but now they are not. You will see me when I show back up …haha! There is food in the fridge, pantry and freezer.

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
9:50 am

MJG I agree with your husband, you don’t need all the bells and whistles on a washer and dryer, especially for a first set for one person.

I’ve had the same “bottom of the line” Kenmore washer & dryer, for over 13 years. I have 5 people in my family, and this set has lasted and is still in great shape. Three wash cycles, water temp button, and load size. My dryer, has heated dry and air “fluff”. Two settings.

We paid less than $700 for both of them, brand new at Sears, over 13 years ago, and they are still going strong.

catlady

July 30th, 2013
9:51 am

It sounds like also your kids have trouble with deadlines (end of computer time, etc). I would suggest penalties for arguing about getting off the computer. The penalty should be dramatic for arguing, such as loss of computer time for a week. This bickering and arguing adds stress to the whole family. If it is Susie’s turn and Jason is still on, Jason loses time for a week. It is that simple. Jason will become very scrupulous of his time from then on.

I always was very unaccepting of bickering. As an only child, I thought my children should get along or be,quiet! I even through ice cream cones out of the window when two of the were bickering. Stopped that cold.

I guess I say it too much, but I think an over emphasis on computer/tv/gaming/wii leads to so many negative effects. At one point I cut us off for several years so we could focus on more important things.

HB

July 30th, 2013
9:53 am

Theresa, then I would say it doesn’t matter whether he feels like you spend a lot time on it. If you enjoy scouring for recipes and mixing things up, and everyone’s happy with the food, then it should be your call (provided you do not complain or expect special consideration/appreciation for the extra time spent). If at some point meals become his responsibility, then he should do it his way, and you, in turn, should not push him to scour for new recipes.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
10:10 am

@ Mayhem…. I am not a bells and whistles person. We walked out with a new set for $1100,00 ( after haggling) including tax and delivery on Saturday and not 13 years ago. It had a 4 star consumer rating ( out of 5) with over 200 reviews. My son like that set. I bought my set: MAYTAG off of Craigslist for $500.00. It was 2 years old ( I verifed the serial number) and the people were moving and I had cash. I bought it 2 years ago. I do know that washers and dryers last a long time. Son had my old Kenmore and it is now 16 years old. We just sold it to the neighbors for $80 with the dryer, for their son. My point was that my husband knows very little about washers and dryers…including how to operate them…haha!

Techmom

July 30th, 2013
10:59 am

TWG – ok, that makes sense. I thought you were literally going to print a schedule for every single day! So do you have somewhere to post all these pages? What do you do with those one-off things (band concerts, birthday parties, etc.) that don’t occur every single week? Do you still have a monthly wall calendar?

@HB – I’m with you about meal time. Before my husband worked from home, he constantly was asking me why I didn’t have dinner ready (or at least thought about) by the time he got home. Food is just not that high of a priority in my world. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great meal but the every day cooking, eh, not real exciting. So finally I signed up for the meal planning site and told him that if he took the time to choose the meals for the week, I would, as normal, grocery shop so that everything was on hand. When he started working from home though, I totally stepped back and let him pick up some of the cooking… and there were days when I intentionally didn’t worry about dinner and at 5:30 when he walked downstairs and asked if I thought about dinner yet, my response was, “no, didn’t you?”

Mother of 2

July 30th, 2013
11:40 am

I actually plan my meals for the week, not just the genre. That way, when I go shopping I make sure I have all of the ingredients. If something comes up, I can always switch things up. I try to make chicken early in the week, so I can have leftovers in case there is a change to our schedule.

Also, you can plan to make a new recipe so that your meals don’t get boring. Meal time is big for our family. We try to eat together every night – doesn’t happen every night, but that is our plan. So I try to make new and different things. If it gets boring, we won’t have a good time eating together.

I think that a big daily schedule is a wonderful idea for your busy family. It will teach your kids to be better planners, and understand why they can’t say “yes” to every opportunity.

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
12:23 pm

For my family of 5, I normally spend about $150/week on groceries. This feeds us all 3 meals a day. I take breakfast and lunch to work, hubs takes lunch. The kids all work different schedules, so we just leave sandwiches and/or leftovers for them for lunch. Breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal, except on weekends, when I pull out the griddle and am a short order cook. LOL. Pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and of course, fresh fruit.

I usually have to hit up Publix once or twice a week, to replenish the fresh fruits and veggies.

Misty

July 30th, 2013
12:30 pm

MJG: You spent $1100,00 on a washer/dryer set!?!? or was that meant to be $1100.00? :-)

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
12:34 pm

Really Misty?

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
12:35 pm

You KNOW that had to be a typo, yet you still pointed it out.

HB

July 30th, 2013
1:48 pm

Oh come on, Mayhem. It was a little light teasing — had a smiley face and everything. Calm down.

Mayhem

July 30th, 2013
2:04 pm

Sorry, I had just gotten an annoying phone call, then read her post.

Misty – my apologies.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
2:24 pm

YES $1100.00…. my typing skills are not my best skills. ONE of the reasons why I do not sit at a desk and in an office all day.

Dennis

July 30th, 2013
4:03 pm

Batch cooking. It plays a big part in our week, but we spread it out through the week and serve it fresh first then reheat.

Vegetables: its as easy to cook a pound or two pounds as it is a serving. Plus it gets cooked before it wilts or molds. They are more refrigerator stable when cooked, plus you might take advantage of buying biggre bags and get a lower price per pound.

Meats: big cuts are cheaper than the quick go-to’s. Boneless skinless chicken breasts cost more per pound than bone in thighs or whole chickens. Chuck roast is cheaper than steak. It takes some learning how to use it but it can be far more delicious. Braised chicken thighs are a slow favorite for us (they bone themselves after cooking).

No posted schedule, but the kids know what to expect when soccer practice starts – somebody has practice Monday through Thursday and matches on the weekend.

SEE

July 30th, 2013
6:37 pm

TWG – I can eat the same thing everyday…my husband and kids get “tired” of same thing, so I can understand why you want to spend time planning meals. If you feel that meal planning excites your creative juices, then you should continue.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
7:15 pm

@ Dennis….we can get Tyson boneless chicken breast for $1.99 per pound on sale in metro Atlanta: Kroger or Publix. Not sure where you live but I prefer not worrying about the bones in other pieces. I buy a lot, when it is on sale. I also like the rotissierie ( sp?) chicken for $4.99 or $5.99. Add a salad, some rice and fruit…DINNER!

I was never a sports mom. My two played several sports, along the way, but it did not consume our family. I see lots of families who are into sports every night. Not us. I was more about school and grades. Church was important too.

motherjanegoose

July 30th, 2013
7:17 pm

TWG…can you just go with 10-12 different meals ( in a sequence) and repeat? On the other nights pizza, soup, sandwiches or even breakfast for dinner? My daughter is home now and trying all sorts of interesting things. I have cooked for 40 years and am frankly tired of it!

Observer

July 30th, 2013
8:48 pm

TWG, have subscribed to emeals.com for several years. $5 per month. They have recipes for 5-7 days per week along with grocery list of items on sale that week at your grocery store of choosing. Has been a time saver for me. Shop one time per week. Try the recipes. Makes the “what do I cook” obsolete.

DB

July 30th, 2013
9:36 pm

I’ve had my “close to the bottom of the line” Maytags for 24 years, now. My repairman (who I have also had for 24 years!) has had to make a few tweaks here and there, nothing major — i.e., a new ignitor for our gas dryer — and every time I wonder if I should just get a new set, he shakes his head and says, “No way — they just don’t make ‘em like this any more.” Hint: if you are thinking of buying a new appliance, talk to your appliance repair guy — he has definite opinions on which ones are trouble and which ones are golden!

Re: Schedule: Before Google Calendars, I had a calendar program on my computer that I entered everything into, and printed out calendars for each week, a month at a time. They fit in a magnetic calendar holder on my fridge (or a large lucite photo holder). Once everyone was online, we all switched to Google Calendars — the kids would put their class schedules, rehearsals and practices on it and on-going things like sorority./fraternity chapter meetings, etc. I would put my work schedule and other appointments on it, my husband would put his class schedule and work schedule on it — it was pretty handy, and it helped us plan weekends and holidays much more easily.

I’ve been reading how other people plan meals with interest — as much as I enjoy cooking, i absolutely despise planning meals and grocery shopping, and I do a poor job of it. It’s hard to cook, let alone cook healthy, balanced meals, if you don’t have anything TO cook! One thing about living in Shanghai this summer is that I have been living in a hotel for seven weeks. Room service is nice, but eating out for every meal is getting old (except breakfast — we keep yogurt and juice, etc. in the mini-fridge.) Can’t wait to get back to my kitchen in mid-August!

Kat

July 31st, 2013
2:57 pm

I have always been pleasantly surprised at my husband’s ability to organize and prepare. He is a genius at packing – both suitcases and vehicles. He’s also good at planning meals. Alas, I have to do it – but I turn to him for suggestions.

motherjanegoose

July 31st, 2013
9:11 pm

Actually, I am WRONG…my husband knows how to repair washers and dryers, so I guess that is not very little. I have never had to call a repairman. Once, he tipped the dryer over and enough change fell out to cover the part we need to buy as a repair. We joked that it was like a slot machine. I am NOT good at emptying pockets. He does not know how to operate them/chooses not to…haha!