Weekly menu planning

We are almost there.
Between more or less 2 weeks, our family life will have a new start, again.
And this time, all 4 of us will be completely into that!
As I wrote before, we are all very excited. And we have absolutely no idea what our life will change into.

During this transitional period, I need, more that ever, clear and steady strategies. And, as an organizer junkie, I am making my way to create them, taking faith to the personal need of clearness and to our priorities as a family.

From a practical point of view, one of the best organizing strategies I have ever applied to simplify our family life, has been creating and using a weekly menu planning.

Together with daily and weekly routines, that I would be pleased to talk about when I have the chance, creating a menu-plan is something I use to organize a consistent part of our family life.
Knowing in advance which are the main dinners of the coming week, it’s a useful tool to avoid the famous “5 p.m. stress”, I mean the eternal question every mom asks herself at that time of the day: “What’s for dinner?”
With menu-planning, this issue won’t belong to you anymore, or in any case, that question has a clear answer, every day.

At the beginning, more or less one and a half year ago, I began writing meals according to my children school-lunches menu: to avoid repetitions, I made up my mind to create 5 dinners a week that were different from what they ate for lunch at school. It was amusing to notice our health soon benefited from this simple strategy: there was more variety and a more mindful choice of nutritive components.

Actually, menu-planning has been a huge help regarding economic reasons, too: it allows us to write a grocery list in advance and, shopping with this only, it saves time and money. It also limits trips to/from grocery stores during the week, then it allows us to shop once a week and save even more!

Menu-planning, mostly during my last trimester of pregnancy, has become extremely helpful for our family menage because it allows me to spend less time as possible, even in actually just planning the menus.
I like cooking and I must admit I don’t excessively stress on spending time daily in the kitchen, but in these last months of pregnancy, I have included some important changes to the planning part that helped me so much in getting the most, with less effort.

In fact I began to plan 2 weeks of menus in only one session of planning.
Mostly, I understood clearly that, according to my family’s habits and tastes, we didn’t actually need to plan for brand new menus every week. We just needed 2 flexible and down-to-earth menus, just to make my life easier and effortless in terms of focusing and pre-planning.

Firstly, according briefly to children lunches’, I planned the protein choices (aka the main courses) of dinners, for 2 weeks.
I actually don’t need to plan for produce (veggies and fruits), because I am more or less aware of our weekly consumption and I actually shop for what is available in season and at the local farmer market.
Also, I usually choose easy and fast recipes for our week-days meals, and they happen to be the kind of meals we indeed like the most.

Then, I planned a 2 weeks-scheme of dinners that I alternate every 2 weeks.
Having planned main courses only, their flexibility allows to avoid feeling bored and enjoy enough variety.

That’s an example of my 2 weeks menu-plan:

1st week:
MONDAY: meat (chili or marinades, chicken or venison)
TUESDAY: soup and fish
WEDNESDAY: cheese and legumes (steamed lentils, beans with tomato sauce, steamed chickpeas or homemade falafel, rice and peas…)
THURSDAY: burritos and stir fry veggies
FRIDAY: fish or homemade pizza (it depends on what we prefer the most)
SATURDAY: I plan for lunch, too: eggs (omelet, sunny-side eggs, hard boiled or à la coque). For dinner: american style (buns and french fries)
SUNDAY: we usually go out at relatives’ or at friends’ for lunch (pasta and meat main course) so we take it easy at dinner: just a sandwich or a light veggie soup with grated cheese on top.

2nd week:
MONDAY: meat (meatballs, crumbed or roasted meat or frozen in advance meat)
TUESDAY: cheese and legumes
WEDNESDAY:eggs
THURSDAY: soup and legumes
FRIDAY: pasta and fish
SATURDAY: I plan for lunch, too: pasta with homemade pesto (or something that includes seeds) For dinner: homemade pizza
SUNDAY: light & take-it-easy dinner: veggie soup with grated cheese on top.

I also planned for breakfasts, snacks and my weekdays lunches, but I usually look at them for ideas or for checking I am eating the healthiest as possible, especially now that I am pregnant. I often eat dinner leftovers and I bake breakfast meals in advance (cakes, pan brioches, cookies….)
It helps a lot cooking in bulk dinner’s main courses in advance and freeze them for the week. I usually prefer to cook in less sessions I can: it’s useful for saving time and for spending less in daily kitchen cleaning.
Also, if we like to try something new, I can easily choose the recipe ingredients according to the main scheme of the day.

So this is the scheme I apply for our family living, but it’s easy to adapt it to everyone’s style and habits.
It’s a helpful approach I surely invite you to implement, as well. I know it would be very helpful to us, especially during the first months after baby’s arriving, when we will really need to shop and cook the less as possible. This method also doesn’t require my supervision, because it’s so simple my husband can easily use it on his own.

Surely, life will be extremely busy during next months and knowing this part of our family life is more or less, under control allows me to de-stress and to focus only on what/who really requires my full attention.

And what about you? Which are the strategies you use and suggest in planning your family meals?

Decluttering

Around the blog-sphere, during these first days of the new year, there is such a great talking about resolutions and goals.
I adore these states of ferment, mostly because , as some of you could have well presumed, I am a huge fan of plans and organizational skills.

One of the hottest topics of the moment is decluttering, a simple word that became so popular thanks to Flylady, and that means getting rid of the useless stuff around our houses, with the intent of taking off the superfluous and keeping only what it is strictly necessary. Elisa on Genitoricrescono.com wrote just some days ago, an interesting and useful post on the subject, that I highly suggest you to read. And Silvia and Serena have just launched a brilliant therapeutic initiative for drifter parents as we all are.

I am talking about that, because since some months ago, our house has been the subject of a huge decluttering operation.

Pushed by the soon arrival of the third baby boy, we are working hardly room by room, to literally create space for the newborn and get everyone ready to welcome him in our house.

I began some time ago with closets: taking advantage of the change of the season, we abandoned our needless clothes and took only what was right for our actual life (and size!). Then, we moved to the master bedroom, to the craft room and to the kids’ room and, finally, to the garage, a sort of purgatory of any kind of objects that fell into disuse and that we, just as a habit of unconsciousness, thought we couldn’t get rid of.

Meanwhile, something is happening. The more we proceed, the more I am conscious that our decluttering, that started from material items, is actually more and more becoming a spiritual decluttering of our entire family.
As if, everyone of us, is creating space to the new baby inside our soul as well as inside our rooms.

The act of getting rid of the items of the past, is slowly but progressively helping us on resetting ourselves as a family and on getting ready to begin again, in a new, different and unknown family asset.

We are all 4 conscious that our family routines will be soon no longer the same. And, even if sometimes we perceive it with a little of preventive nostalgic attitude, we think it’s all extremely exciting.
Surely we don’t have any idea of what after would be, when the little baby will be here, but everyone of us, according to his own rhythm and reactions, is getting used to the idea that what some time ago were only words and expectations, will be soon a living reality that will surround us all. And will take us elsewhere. Elsewhere from the past. And where only the present moment counts.

During this special moment, the moment just before the leaving, when we say goodbye to what we are dropping behind and when we get ready to face the new, we are living really strong contrasting feelings.
At the same time, the objects (may they be letters, documents, toys, clothes or so on) and the act of taking them in our hands to feel the weight of their value for ourselves and to feel what kind of relationship connects ourselves with them, are helping us understanding how much, by the flown of time, they actually have become sorts of emotional catalysts , as they attracted tangles of thoughts and memories inside themselves that actually we took, for too much time, for granted.

We all realized, everyone in his own way, that most of the times these objects, so fully plunged in emotional habits, don’t correspond (anymore) to our current feelings. And that often they are some kind of fetishes of some simple and automatic connections of thoughts, that no longer belong to real feelings anymore.
Thoughts like: “…This was a gift from…” or “..I played with this when…” or even “…I take this in case of…” are evident signals of an attitude focused in the past or in a hypotetic future, that don’t actually deal with ourselves as individuals and as a family.

But mostly, as soon as we stop and just reflect a little on that issue, they don’t have really any kind of relationship with the items themselves.
In fact, they, emptied by that inappropriate weight, become lighter and regain their true material nature, letting us looking at them for what they really are, instead for what they represented or they could be. And for the most part of them, this means knowing that they are no longer necessary items.

In that way, decluttering has become a sort of family therapy towards our inner nature. Towards the values and the priorities that define us as family.

This path, that started from the mess of a cluttered house, full of piled-up objects, belonged to other selves and other ages of body and soul as well, is becoming more and more a journey through the deepness of the simplest living as possible, in line with our inner feelings.
This is allowing us to leave behind, without useless resentments and obsolete sentimentalisms, what is really needless and that could
only make our journey harder.

So, we came to an agreement with the liberating conclusion that, even if we can practically get ready and organize for the new life’s coming, we could never know how it will actually be until we are living it in the present that isn’t come yet.

We are feeling surely happier to see we have lightened our luggage from what doesn’t belong to us anymore and to cherish mindfully, even just as a precious memory of our past lives, only what is worth to be preserved.

Books that choose you

I like to think that, even though we are rationally certain of the opposite, sometimes we aren’t the ones to choose the books we like, but that, in some rare and unforgettable times, books are the ones that choose our company, in that precise period of our life. As they would actually call us.

In those rare and unforgettable times, those books reveal themselves as essential readings for our spiritual growing, books that usually bring inside answers to questions our consciousness hasn’t create yet and that can surprise us for the right timing in which they are expressed in our minds, sentence after sentence, as we keep on reading them.

Maybe that’s what I mostly love about reading: that magical atmosphere that surrounds some beautiful and special books that will forever belong to our personality.

When this passionate correspondence takes place, I feel blessed. Blessed by a special gift, that makes my life different and deeper.

This time, the event was so fully flavored by magic, I really needed to tell you, as if it would have been the evident prove of a
hidden plan that somehow chose me as witness.

I like to visit second-hands shops. For me, it’s a relaxing and stimulating activity.
Before having children, I considered those places, mostly garages converted in shops, mishmashes of old, ridiculous, kitsch or simply shabby, items. Then, I changed my mind; and I began to like them, first for the creative reusing aspects of the objects. But now, I must confess, I like to go there mostly to watch the people inside the shop and those long corridors full of furniture from the past and for those several objects piled up in the rails.

I wonder about the people they belonged to, their faces, their houses and their habits; I think those items maybe belonged to grandparents who aren’t here anymore; and that their nephews decided to get rid of those objects when they moved in the old house.
Those objects – not all of them, but surely some of them – seem talking to me.

About one month ago, in one of these shops, I have been chosen by a book entitled: Giochiamo ai clown (Let’s play clowns). Characters and costumes, make up and tricks, sketches and comedies. By Dominique Denis, photographer Jean Claude Dewolf, 1975, Giunti Marzocco Publishing.

When I saw it, I was really astonished, because I am really passionate about Commedia dell’arte and Theatre Anthropology and I am also a fan of Steiner’s education!

It is a wonderful book. There are beautiful pictures of children dressed in clown costumes (and their style is so amazingly 70ies!), the detailed story of the three main characters (White Clown, Augusto and Mr Leale), acrobatic training of the clowns (rolls, stretching, handstands), detailed instructions of costumes’, stage’s’ and accessories’ setting-up, make-up’s how-tos and screenplays (canovacci) of lots of sketches as well, that children can improvise in front a smiling public of little ones.

Moreover, the book contains a special guest’s introduction by Federico Fellini.
It’s such an amazing work that I have decided to transcript it here, because it shows in few, simple and genuine words, some of my personal struggles and reflections as a parent. It’s a sort of Children Manifesto, where the Italian director, as often, uses the Circus’ metaphor to describe the 70ies’ society (and not only that one!) and, in particular, the relationship between adults and children.

Here is Federico Fellini’s introduction, entitled “The White Clown and the Augusto“:

When I say clown, I think about Augusto. In fact, the 2 main characters are the White Clown and the Augusto. The first is elegance, harmony, cleverness, clearness. Augusto rebels towards such perfection, get drunk. rolls himself on the floor, enlivening an endless protest.

The White Clown and Augusto are the teacher and the student, the mother and the brat: in the never-ending fight between the White Clown and Augusto, the more you force Augusto to play violin, the more he will fart at you by playing his trombone.The White Clown pretends Augusto to be elegant; but the more his request would be authoritarian, the more the other would be ragged, clumsy, dusty.

The White Clown is a rich and powerful bourgeois. His face is white, ghostly; he has grimaces in his haughty eye-laces; his mouth is signed by only a sharp, unpleasant, brusque, chill, line.
Augusto, on the contrary, is the homeless, the child, the tramp.
The bourgeois is an assembly of White Clowns where the child is Augusto. The mother says: “Don’t do this, don’t do that…“. When the neighbors come over and the child is invited to recite the poetry “Let the gentlemen see….“: that’s a typical Circus situation.
The White Clown frightens children, because he represents duty, or for better saying it with a stylish word, repression.
On the contrary, the child, recognizes immediately himself as Augusto, he’s the one who breaks dishes, roll himself on the floor, throws buckets of water on others faces: therefore, he does everything every child would want to do and that the adult White Clowns, the mother, the aunt, restrain him from doing.

On the contrary: at circus, by Augusto, the child can imagine himself doing everything is forbidden: dressing up as a woman, pulling faces, shouting in the square, saying loudly everything he thinks.
Nobody, here, condemns you. Indeed, on the contrary, they clap their hands to you.

There’s another aspect that makes this book so special to me: a 1976 inscription written in its first page by some children of the IV grade to “the most outgoing schoolmate on his tenth birthday” and below this, the signature of 15 children and, I suppose, even of their teacher.

I don’t know why this man isn’t the owner of this book anymore, but I am extremely blessed to be able, after 36 years, to give this precious gift, a new life.
Mostly because, I imagine its author, its first possessor and even the book itself, could be happy to know that its path brought it in a house of children, full of fuss, screams and laughs.

That’s why this book couldn’t be anything else than a Befana‘s gift: she surely knows about old and precious things!

Then, welcome in our home, little big book.
And may this second life of yours, another time as the first, accompany the growth of those lucky children it has been given to.