Monday, August 2, 2010

Organization by OCD

I thought I would share some of the ways we are (obsessive compulsive) organized. This week and next week on Monday I will post about menu planning and food organization. This week is an overview of our system, next week will be a sample menu complete with grocery list and recipes. I might make it a monthly thing, we'll see if I keep up with it :)
Of course, this doesn't mean our house is always clean and supper is always ready... so don't be thinking I have a superwoman complex. You can just look in our kitchen and see that isn't true!
Menu Planning and Food Organization

God has provided us with plenty of money to live comfortably, but we do have to be careful and good stewards. One way we are able to do this is by cooking every night rather than going out or having frozen foods. This can be full of frustration and hard work if you don’t take time to prepare in advance. I dread the question, “What do you want for supper tonight?” If we get to that question anytime past about three in the afternoon, it’s usually too late and the evening is full of agony. No exaggeration. If, however, we make a menu and have all the ingredients on hand for that menu, we can just look at the list and say, “That sounds okay.” And we have all the stuff to make it, and the recipe to get started. Our menu isn’t a rigid daily task-master. It is our idea jump starter and time saver.

The most important thing in any organizational project is to think about your needs, time, and space. It doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s; it just has to work for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work for you! Also, stay flexible. If it doesn’t work, keep adjusting, you’ll get there through trial and error.

Our food process goes something like this:

Make a menu list while we are doing our budget. This goes on the refrigerator. (i.e. the control center) I make a grocery list, and do the shopping for the month, except perishables, which I get on my weekly trip to get sales. Recipes are either in the binder (if we’ve used them before) or on the fridge (if they are new). Each morning I look at the list and see what looks good, then thaw out the meat needed for that dish. After we’ve cooked it, we mark it off. If it was a new dish, the recipe either goes into the database and binder, or into the trash. The recipes are searchable on the computer, or organized by main meat ingredient in the binder.

How I organized the food area of our life:

1. I thought about how often I grocery shop, and the whether I like to plan around what’s on sale or what I have on hand.

2. I decided how often I wanted to have to sit down with my family and talk about food.

3. I thought about how often I use the same recipes, how often I tear recipes out of magazines or try new ones out of cookbooks.

4. I thought through the easiest way for me to form a comprehensive grocery list for each menu.

5. I thought of all the ways it would be nice to be able to find a recipe, by main ingredient, cooking time, etc.

6. I thought about how I cook and how much I use the computer, and my familiarity level with computers.
What works for us for each step:

1. I grocery shop once a week for perishables, like milk, bread, and produce, as well as weekly sales. I really only like to shop once a paycheck for the rest of our stuff, so I knew I would need two weeks on our menu. I like to stock up in advance on meat while it’s on sale and freeze it in one meal portions, so we plan our menu based on what’s in the freezer. We’re also flexible; if I find something that doesn’t freeze well on sale after we’ve done the menu; we work it in whenever we want.
2. We sit down and talk about food as seldom as possible, so we go ahead and think up a full month of meal options at once. We pull out old menus, one cookbook (a different one each month) and whatever I’ve pulled out of magazines that month. While we are talking I just write them down in a list, and then when I plan my grocery trip I put all the ones with similar ingredients in one paycheck. Since we do this at the same time we do our monthly budget, it’s easy to say, Uh, let’s stick to cheap recipes this month, or Hey, we can afford a couple more expensive dishes to try this month.
Budget and Menu list:
3. Dishes we’ve had before are already in the recipe book. New ones I clip to the refrigerator under the menu. After we use a new recipe, if we like it I put it in the computer, print and then put it in the book. If we don’t like it, it goes in the trash.

4. When we are done planning the menu, but before I put away all the recipes and books, I sit down and make a grocery list for the ingredients we don’t already have in the freezer or pantry from previous sales. A lot of the things I can find over the next couple shopping trips in sales, but I also know which things don’t go on sale often, and just grab those when I’m out.

5. I wanted all the recipes we use in the same source. I was tired of having to flip through endless cookbooks in search of a recipe I had used three months ago, or wade through all the pages torn out of magazines. So I decided to make a recipe binder, and any time we cooked something that we didn’t absolutely hate, or anytime I found a recipe I wanted to try, I would add it to the binder. I wanted to be able to find recipes in several different ways, but the most important to me was the main meat they used. My recipe binder is therefore divided mainly by meat, then other things like sides, dessert, breads, etc.

6. I’m a messy cooker, and I like to spread things out, so I needed my recipes in a compact, relatively food proof setting. This precluded just setting the laptop on the counter and looking online while I cooked. Instead, I bought a three-ring photo album for 4X6 photos. I am pretty familiar with Microsoft Word, so it was easy for me to create a 4X6 template, and type up all our recipes. I started with the huge pile I had pulled out of magazines, since that was the part that was driving me most nutty. Now that I’m up to date, it only takes a few seconds to add the couple new ones we try each month. I print the cards and slide them into the proper section of the binder. I’m not particular about alphabetical order or anything like that; it just goes in the right section. To organize the binder, I just cut cardstock to fit with little tabs, hole punched the dividers, and wrote on the little tabs with permanent marker. Nothing fancy, just what works for us!

Notes:

I repeat: The most important thing in any organizational project is to think about your needs, time, and space. It doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s; it just has to work for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work for you! Also, stay flexible. If it doesn’t work, keep adjusting, you’ll get there through trial and error.

You can buy 4X6 sized index cards, to print three to a sheet like photos and cut them out. Because of the way my printer is set up, I made a 4X6 Word Document and precut my cards to just print one at a time. Some people prefer sheet protectors with regular sheets of paper, sometimes with several recipes on a page, sometimes with just one per page. That way you don’t have to do any formatting or cutting. That way you can also just slide your magazine page right into the protector, or copy the page in your cookbook and slide it in. There are also programs online to make menus and grocery lists, and they even provide recipes.

I LOVE having our recipes in the computer before they go in the binder. I can use the search function to look up a recipe by the title, any ingredient, etc. This is great if someone wants a recipe, because I can find and print it in seconds. I can also do a search if we have a specific recipe we need to use up before it goes bad, like sour cream, which we never use fast enough.

1 comment:

Mrs.Leyba said...

LOL,U crack me up! But good job, I do a little of the same thing...but I am not so OCD!;) Nice work!