Sunday Evening Cocoa Musings – The Five P’s

Some days time just gets away from me, and I can’t do my writing until the evening. This plays very well into my musing today of the Five P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

I am a list maker. I love planners and notebooks and I will actively swoon at the thought of using a fountain pen. I love handwriting lists; to-do lists, grocery lists, items I need for a craft project, things I want for Christmas or my birthday.

I am awful at implementation.

Case in point – I know how much food I have in both my freezers and pantry. I know I need to make a meal plan for the week so that my husband and I are not running out to spend money at a restaurant when we have already spent money on food at home. If I do not write it down, commit to taking the ingredients out of the freezer and writing the meals down on the meal planner on our fridge, it will not happen. We will resort to eating the Home Meal Replacements in the freezer (the modern euphemism for a TV dinner) or we will order out, which doesn’t help our budget.

I had a plan to go to the grocery store after my appointment on Saturday morning and pick up some things to round out our meals this week. Milk, some shredded cheese, some breakfast sausage, vegetables, and maybe some fruit. While I was there, I saw a package of oven-ready lasagna noodles, and my husband’s request for lasagna bubbled up to the front of my brain. I already had some ricotta cheese, which I had bought for something else and had since forgotten what I bought it to make, so I thought it wouldn’t be too harmful to make a pan of lasagna. We’d get a few meals out of it, and my husband would be happy with it.

But I had not taken out any hamburger or sausage from the freezer to put into the lasagna, and I didn’t know if we had mozzarella, and I was certain we didn’t have marinara sauce, so now the impulse to make lasagna had cost us about $20, what with the sausage and the lean hamburger bought in a 1 pound package, and another container of ricotta.

And then when I got home, I realized I had to do the dishes and clean the stove top before I could even make lasagna. Some of these dishes were dishes that I had asked my husband to wash, and that didn’t get done, so I got angry. (Yes, I’m guilty of being that wife.) I had already gotten up early that day and done a lot, so instead of dealing with the dishes and making a lasagna, I took a nap.

Since we do not have house elves, the dishes were still there when I woke up. So I did what I usually do – I got pouty and suggested we go out for dinner. We called a friend, went out to a fabulous Turkish restaurant, and spent $70 for dinner.

This story is a little telling in some ways. First and foremost, I am privileged and spoiled because I can make a decision to go out to eat instead of cooking because I don’t want to wash the dishes. I have easily two months worth of food in this house, but if I don’t want to cook, I can pay someone else to cook for me and to wash the dishes. 20 years ago I wasn’t in such a position. Hell, 7 years ago we weren’t in a position to do that. But we do that now, more than we should because we fail to plan or fail to execute the plan.

Secondly, I know my husband doesn’t want to do the dishes either, so I can use that as an excuse to go out to dinner. Third, we have friends we don’t visit very often, even though we could just go see them and bring a dish and have a potluck dinner with them. We don’t because it requires planning.

Mostly, we are lazy and undisciplined. Lazy and undisciplined is not the way to go through life when you are not born into wealth and luxury, when you have to work for your money and make every penny stretch because you still have to save for retirement and you are paying off student loan debt and you may need a newer car in the future…I’m sure you get my point.

I’m not saying everyone who does this is lazy and undisciplined. I’m acknowledging that I am. I also know I’m quite capable of changing this behavior.

I am the same person who managed to feed 8 people on $400 a month. We ate well – there were good dinners, leftovers for lunches for the folks who worked. The kids had good snacks to take to school and everyone had the opportunity to eat a decent breakfast. It was an incredible amount of work – but only for three days of the month. I did batch cooking, I stuck to a meal plan, and I gave folks two options – eat what’s in front of you, or make yourself a PBJ.

Now that it’s just the two of us, it’s a little harder to bring myself to do that big batch cooking again. Occasionally I will make a lasagna or a big pot of pea soup or chili. We’ll eat some, we’ll package up the rest and freeze it for nights when we just don’t want to cook. I’m working out a schedule to do this on the weekends so I have a stock of food just waiting to be thrown into the oven or microwave and be ready for dinner when I get home.

Mostly I’m getting back into the mindset of prior planning – and then following through.