I was just thinking this morning that I should try once again to put together a menu for the month. I know it's a little late in January to make one for this month! I did put together the first week of the month, but I didn't get past that week. As I was sitting there, I thought a bit about how our weeks go. I usually make a couple large things sometime in the week....3 lbs. of ground taco meat, a roast, a roasted chicken, chili, spaghetti, a large rice cooker filled with rice, a pot of beans, or a couple large pans of steamed vegetables. I always have three things ready to go in my fridge....meat, starches, and vegetables. This way I can make any number of things quickly, nutritiously, and with minimal fuss.
I'll give you a little example. Last evening, I planned to cook rice and sautéed vegetables. I knew there was a bit of leftover chicken breast and a bit of roast that was leftover from a previous pot roast. I was going to mix the two, reheat them, and serve the meats with the rice and vegetables. It was going to be "my take" on Chinese. When I went to serve the rice, Monica had forgotten to hit the COOK button so no rice!
I had to punt so I grabbed bags of flour and corn tortillas, heated them on the stove, and pulled out a container of beans I had defrosted the day before. We heated the beans and served them with guacamole, salsa, and shredded cheese. Paul was raving...a lot. He and the kids loved it! I had to think quick on my feet to come up with a "save" for last night's dinner.
So what are we having tonight? I defrosted pork chops that I've been meaning to make for some time. I decided this morning we would have them with steamed vegetables and the rice that was finally cooked last night.
After discussing this with Daddy, he told me not to sweat the menu planning. He is pleased that we are all getting healthy, nutritious meals and he really doesn't have much to add. This led us to a few other thoughts. We talked about the balancing of our checkbook which mind you, never happens. I used to balance my checkbook when I had a job before I was married, and I basically made money and spent it. I didn't save anything because there wasn't anything to save. I lived hand to mouth. I balanced my checkbook because I was told you were supposed to do that! I approached my checkbook the way I try to approach menu planning and organization. I've been told and inspired by a lot of well meaning people. But I have to ask. When did Martha Stewart become our spiritual and organizational guide? She's a convicted felon! I know she served her time, but she also kept making a dime from her nicely padded prison cell off of all of the gals like me who go to her like she's an organizational goddess.
Granted, I'm not receiving spiritual direction to find out if I'm being a good enough steward nor am I actively seeking it out so I go to the next best thing...my husband. He came from his father's financial philosophy...
We have never balanced our checkbook. In the first years of our marriage, we felt guilty over not doing this. After a while, we consulted help from a financial planner who told us there are 2 kinds of people: those who balance their finances to the gnat's eyebrow and those that don't. He asked if our checkbook was serving us or were we serving our checkbook? We finally decided to stop feeling guilty. In this age of online banking, we can basically look at our checking or savings balances at any time. Daddy handles our finances and does rather well with them. He invests, moves our money around so we can get better rates, and does the old bankroll under the mattress trick by stashing money away in separate online accounts earmarked for things we want to save up for. I help out by shopping online deals, buying in bulk, and letting go of money wasters like junk food, eating out, and cable TV. I also try to make lists whenever I have to hit Target, Wal-Mart, or Costco so I'm not tempted to impulse shop.
You want to know the quickest way to double your money? Fold it up and put it in your pocket.
So am I being irresponsible? Are WE being irresponsible? I wondered if Ma Ingalls ever made a menu for the month. I don't think she did. I'll bet she kept everything pretty simple. They probably ate the same things day after day or depending on the season. She probably made a lot of their food when the time was right for it. She probably bought staples in town when she needed them. And she probably wasn't tempted by big grocery stores, concession stands at games, or drive-thrus because she was in a hurry.
I think simple is the way to go....menu or no menu, balanced checkbook or not. I don't want to discourage anyone from actively pursuing spiritual direction or a very good Dave Ramsey course. I'm just saying if you aren't doing these things and your wondering if you can still be a responsible member of society, I'm here to tell you that you can! When you think about secular responsibility, you probably can use Martha Stewart as your spiritual and organizational guide. But if you truly seek spiritual guidance from a reliable source, your responsibility meter surely changes. We'd rather be responsible for imparting the faith to the kids, being active participants in their education, building strong family bonds, and living every moment intentionally trying to build a culture of life. If we can get to the checkbook or the calendar to plan meals, so be it. But if we don't, you can be sure there are other very worthwhile goals on our plates!
Oh, and here's a cute picture I snapped after lunch today. I love cardinals in winter! This one was just outside the kitchen window in a little pine.