If my first annual Together Reader Survey told me anything, health and wellness seem to be huge Togetherness goals for many people – especially those of us who work in schools with fixed schedules, where running out to lunch is not an option. Planning, procuring, and preparing food can take a significant amount personal time!
I’m always looking for ways to help people eat their way toward Togetherness. Imagine my excitement when one of my favorite Together principals, Julie L. (she’s the one who’s behind International Binder Week), sent me a snapshot of her truly awesome household menu board.
Maia’s note: For those of you who wish to live in Spontaneous Stirfry or Cook the Fridge-land, we pass no judgment. But you should probably not read this post as it may squash your soul.
Maia: Why did you make this menu board?
Julie: I’m trying to lose weight and get back into really eating well. For me, the secret is weekly meal prep. But in the last few months, I’ve been ordering out more and eating at coffee shops because I’m not cooking enough. AND I now have to pack a lunch for Arcadia [Julie’s young daughter], and she’s at a super picky stage.
Maia: Tell me about the set up of the menu board.
Julie: This one has clips for all the items I have to cook: Lunch 1, Lunch 2, Dinner 1, Side dish (for dinners/lunches), snack, Arcadia, breakfast, and dessert. Each week I used to go through all my recipe books and pick three things to make. But that took a long time.
Maia: What is on all of those cards?
Julie: The cards are all of my favorite recipes. For example, I have 10 breakfast recipes, and Crocodile Crunch is one of them. When I’m done with Crocodile Crunch, I put it back in the orange/diamond box and pick a new one for next week.
Instead of looking for old recipes that I vaguely remember seeing somewhere, I’m flipping through 10-20 favorites. This saves me mental energy and ensures I don’t forget the best ones!
Maia: How else does this system help you save time?
Julie: I collected all the recipes I had dog-eared over the years and cut them out or printed them on card stock. Of course I also laminated them with my brand new personal laminating machine! Then I categorized them into vegetarian meals, protein meals, sides/salads, dessert, breakfast, and snack. Each card has a strip of tape on it to identify it as one of those categories.
Maia: How do you prepare for the week?
Julie: I go through the boxes at the bottom of the board to pick out my items for the week, which I put up on the clips. This saves me enough time to prepare five or six items. In the last two weeks I have been making enough food that I didn’t order takeout once!
Maia: You are a busy principal of a large school! How on earth did you find time to make a menu board?
Julie: After six weeks of school startup prepping and leading, I was craving a physical art activity. So I worked on laminating and cutting for a week. It was really satisfying.
Julie, thank you for sharing your wisdom. And your menu board! Perhaps someday we can get you to share your recipes with us, too.
A few things to highlight that make Julie’s system different than many I see:
- Julie took the time to curate her favorites. This is one of those upfront steps that will save time in the long run and reduce the planning lift each week. I do something similar in Evernote, and add a hyperlink if a recipe is required. The point here is to have a list of your favorite meals or things to cook. I even have a category called, “Too Tired to Cook!” with bullets underneath that list items like “Egg Salad Sandwiches and boxed Tomato Soup,” or “Frozen meatballs with pasta squash and mashed cauliflower.”
- Julie made her system visible to others. This is where mine falls down; my family cannot help with the planning process because it lives in my computer! As Julie’s preschooler gets older, I could envision them clipping recipes together for the week ahead. Shared ownership! And as Arcadia gets even older, she could select which ones she would cook.
- Julie made her system visually appealing to HER. Your system is only good if you use it! Julie centrally located her Menu Board on the inside door of her pantry, added some color, and, of course, some lamination! Many healthy meals to come! Thank you, Julie.
P.S. WHAT IS CROCODILE CRUNCH? According to Julie, it’s “fruit with a sauce drizzled over it made from almond milk, spirulina (basically algae– good for sneaking veggies to kids), orange juice, maple syrup, and almond butter. Along with coconut and some kind of flakes/cereal sprinkled on top!” I’m in.
P.P.S. Are Together Household posts interesting to you? Want more? On what? I’m still staying in the educator/nonprofit lane, but I also want to keep addressing issues of balance. Would love your thoughts!