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Preventing the 5:30 Panic - How Menu Planning Makes Life So Much Smoother!


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Without a doubt, the worst place to be at 5:30 p. m. on a weeknight is standing in line at the grocery store with kids. They're cranky, you're cranky, everybody's hungry, and all around you are people in the same position.

This 5:30 ritual naturally follows from the 5:00 one, whereby you stand in the middle of your kitchen hoping for some inspiration. You open your freezer, and are greeted by packages of fish sticks and pizza pockets, each containing only one, covering up the liver you bought in a health frenzy 27 months ago. You decide it's easier to start fresh.

Plan to Avoid Last Minute Guessing Games

A few months ago I began planning my meals. Know what you're going to make and who's going to cook it, and you eliminate the last minute guessing games. After completing our first meal plan, my husband and I trekked to the grocery store and dutifully bought a week's worth of groceries.

There was only one problem. We had nowhere to put all this food. Our cupboards were too full, and our kitchen is rather small. As we were discussing this conundrum while washing the pots after dinner, my husband had what was, to him, a flash of brilliance. “Doing dishes together is so relaxing, " he said. “Why don't we take out the dishwasher altogether and then put in more cupboards? We'd have more room. "

Ten minutes later, after I had stopped spluttering and was able to climb up off of the floor, I replied, “you know, honey, we could connect just as well by snuggling while listening to the dishwasher. Besides, we don't need more cupboards. We just need to eat more!"

Organization Means Cleaning out Your Cupboards

Not all at once, mind you. But think of the money you have invested in your cupboards and freezer. Five-year-old jello mixes? Cranberry sauce? Soups? I even have three different kinds of lentils. We buy these things on impulse with no clear plan about what we're going to do with them. What we do with produce is even worse. Most of it can better be called a science experiment. We fill up our carts with all these lovely green things, only to have them turn into runny brown things. One could argue that this can be used for family togetherness-"let's play ‘What Was It?'-but it's probably better not to waste money like this in the first place.

So for the next few weeks, our family is going to eat through our house. It may make for some interesting meals (cranberry, fish and jello), but we probably won't have to spend much on groceries for at least two months. Then we can start this meal planning in earnest. We'll buy only what we need for this week, and what we will buy, we will actually eat. Of course, we'll still have to keep on hand extra for “company" meals and snacks. We'll keep our basic supply of baking goods, cereals, and any necessary chocolate, too, but that's it. I can keep my dishwasher, I won't stand in line at the last minute, and we can relax over dinner like we're supposed to. But I think I'll toss that liver.

Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. Do you need help organizing your home? Get your FREE household organization charts , including chore sheets, organization checklists, and more!


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