Friday, March 5, 2010

Scheduling and Meals

I get a lot more done when I operate on a schedule. Here's a scheduling resource that I really like:
(Click to be taken to the Maxwell's website)
This book is full of great tips for scheduling a busy household, though Mrs. Maxwell's recommendations for scheduling infants are a bit extreme, in my opinion--I ignored those. The key to making a schedule work is having a plan for the children, too. If I don't have Elijah and Noah busy with something while I'm washing dishes, for instance, they're bound to create interruptions. But if I plan ahead of time to have Noah playing with Legos in the living room, while Elijah sits next to me and reviews his memory work, then I have a better chance of getting the job done.

The best part of this book is the scheduling kit that comes with it. First you write a list of all the things you need to get done in a day, and calculate how much time you need for each job. Then you total up the time and realize that you've got more work than you can complete in twenty four hours. Then you grumble and think and erase and consolidate and think some more, until you finally have the activity list down to twenty four hours. Repeat for each of your children. Next you write each activity onto a little square of paper (a different color for each member of the family) and start arranging the squares on a chart until you've got everything figured out. I'm a visual person so I found this step really helpful.

I got this book and kit a couple of years ago, but sadly, haven't made use of it since I moved to Texas. But a few days ago, I finally got it out again and created a schedule that runs just through 2 p.m (our afternoons and evenings are really unpredictable, so I'm leaving that block of time unscheduled for now). Let me tell you, just since implementing that rough, partial schedule, my productivity has improved quite a bit. And the boys love being scheduled because they know that I won't neglect the things they love, like story time, outside time, and "school" time (which consists mostly of coloring and puzzles and reading aloud, nothing too rigorous).

Of course, the schedule still needs a lot of tweaking, and I'd like to expand it a bit, too. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how much time is reasonable to spend on meal preparation and cleanup. Here's where you come in. :) If you're willing to share, moms, how much time do y'all spend cooking? Do you cook from scratch at every meal? How long does it take you to prepare breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? What about cleaning up afterwards--how long does that take? Do you have help? How long would it take you if you didn't have help? Do you have/use a dishwasher? Do you like to cook, or are you just trying to get the job done as quickly as possible?

(Don't feel like you have to answer all of those questions! But feel free to ramble if you're so inclined--it's always fun to compare notes!)


  1. Okay, I'll start. :)

    I schedule an hour for breakfast--prep, eating, cleanup. For breakfast it's just me and the boys and we eat something quick and easy like cereal or eggs. So within that hour, I have a little "extra" time to organize a cupboard, wipe out the fridge, or think ahead to dinner.

    I schedule another hour for lunch and while we usually eat leftovers or sandwiches, I don't end up with time left over to do anything extra. Maybe we eat more slowly at lunch time.

    I have an hour and a half scheduled for dinner but it seems as though I always go over (unless we're eating a freezer meal). I don't know if I'm a slow cook or what. I could schedule more time, but I hate to think that two hours of every day should go just to cooking, eating, and cleaning up dinner. There *is* more to life than eating...

    I don't particularly like to cook but I do like eating healthy and delicious homecooked meals, so I cook. :) I don't have a working dishwasher (oh, how I wish) and I don't get help with cooking or cleanup. Well, I mean, Elijah "helps" but that doesn't speed things along any. I consider his help to be more character training (for both of us, LOL) than actual help.

  2. Well, Sharon, life will never be simple. But in my present situation, it is definitely simpler than it has been--and there is still not enough time. I have no kids, no pets, no yard, no house plants, no Wednesday night church, no visitors. I don't have time to make a schedule. I have a to-do list somewhere, but I don't have time to look at it.
    Mon-Thurs: I get up at 6:30 and eat breakfast, maybe start a load of laundry or hang some out, have worship, get dressed, maybe do dishes, make sure I've got my homework, then I'm out the door. We get home around 12:30, or later if we stop at the store. Then it's lunch, study, a bit of housework, a short walk, supper, dishes, worship, go to bed. That's all there is to it. Maybe time for computer. Once a week I play a few notes on tin whistle. Dad does the floors once a week. I don't like to cook, but I like the way I feel when I eat well, so I try. And I like being in charge of my own kitchen and making the best of whatever food is available. I have no oven, microwave, crockpot, or dishwasher, just a hotplate and a toaster oven, and 3 pans. Dad likes to eat about the same as I do, so that makes it easy.
    I remember the days of inefficiency, constant interruptions, having a messy house, and feeling buried under mountains of good intentions and failed plans. But there were children at home and I look back at it and think what a wonderful time it was!!!. It didn't last nearly long enough.

  3. Hi, Sharon--
    As far as meals go, the less prep. and mess the better (I've read from other moms of large families on this, and they say the same thing--esp. about the mess)! So...for b-fast, we have simple cereal, toast, eggs, or sometimes pancakes from a mix I've done up and add milk/eggs/oil to. For lunch, it's also simple--sandwiches, quesadillas, fruit, carrots, and/or frozen pizza. We use paper plates as much as possible. If you want as little stress as possible re: supper, use your crock pot! It's wonderful when you're low on energy anyway late afternoon, and yet, you know there's a delicious meal awaiting in a short time, with a smell that fills the house! A lot of times in the morning, I'll rinse 4 cups of beans (any type) in the crock-pot, cover with water, turn it to high for a couple hours, pour off the water, replace water, and allow to cook on high the rest of the day. I also add minced garlic and salt at that point. By supper, you can either have soup or chili (if you add a bit more water during the day) with sour cream and cheese, or you can simply fill tortilla shells with toppings! It's so cheap too! The leftovers make another whole meal.
    Rice also can be done up, and just add seasoned, sauteed chicken/veggies, etc., covered with cheese in a 9x13 for 30 min. up veggie dishes that will last you a week--like a big pan of frozen broccoli, drizzled with olive oil and a bit of water, and cheese at the end. Bake for 40 min., and voila! :)
    Then, you've got potatoes--oh, can you ever make up yummy dishes and toppings with those! Simply planning a menu or keeping an idea list on hand can help a lot, as I'm sure you know.
    Planning ahead is the key to little prep.
    Blessings in Christ--

  4. Hi Sharon, I have lots of thoughts on this, but didn't want to say too much too publicly,, in my experience people are way too ready to criticize, esp since we have "way too many" children [not]

    I'll email you via FB when I get a chance. Scheduling and household management is a favourite topic of mine, grin, even if I am constantly chasing an unattainable ideal.

  5. Rachel, thanks for the suggestions! I do need to do more menu planning, and I ought to keep an idea list too, don't know why I haven't thought of that one. Cooking dinner does go more quickly and smoothly when I've gotten the meat out to thaw the night before so that I'm not trying to defrost it at the last minute in the microwave, etc.

    And Henrietta, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Seeing as all 12 of yours are obviously happy, healthy, and well-educated, I would think people would be eager for tips, rather than ready to criticize!


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