What I Learned When I Kept a Time Log, Part 2

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I learned a lot about myself and my time from keeping a time log for a week. Before I elaborate any more, here are a few details that people have asked me about:

1. Here is where I first heard of the idea. I don’t think I’ve ever had an original idea in my life. This one was no exception.

2. Here is where I downloaded and printed off my time log. I tracked my time with pen and paper. My husband told me there’s probably an app for it, but I don’t need another reason to hop on and off my iPad all day. (I decided on an iPad).

3. I tracked what I did in 30 minute increments. I recorded things like “outside with kids” or “blogs/fb/email”. I didn’t write down what I did outside with the kids, or that I texted off and on while we were outside. I just went for the main activity of that time frame and recorded that. And I have RescueTimeif I want to see where my interwebs time is going, so I didn’t feel the need to track all of that.

I didn’t do this time log so I could fit more in my day. It probably sounds like I’m trying to be more productive or something. I’m really not. I don’t have much interest in adding more to our days. But I do like to be aware of where I am spending my time and energy. And I know I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to keep our home life simple, so I wanted to see if that has actually paid off at all.

Anyway.

The week that I did the time log, I recorded about 5 hours spent cooking or preparing food. This particular week I was sick one of the days, and Mothers Day was another day. So that was two days where I didn’t do much cooking or preparing meals at all. The rest of the week was a lazy-cooking week. I pulled meals out of the freezer most nights, thawed them in the fridge overnight, and just had to chop up some vegetables to go along with whatever was in the oven.

So here’s what I noticed about cooking for the week:

1. I didn’t spend much time cooking. But we still ate good, healthy meals, and didn’t necessarily fall back on eating out. Freezer meals saved the day.

(I’m a part of a freezer meal exchange with 6-8 other families. We make meals in multiples of 6 or 8, depending on how many are participating, and get together about every 6 weeks to exchange all of the food. I LOVE THIS. It totally works for me.)

I am also slightly addicted to doubling every single recipe I try and freezing half of it. It has become a compulsion and I won’t stop.

2. Dinners are very simple. We have our main dish (say- burritos), and a vegetable on the side. No fruit or bread or whatever other thing might round out the meal. Just two things on the plate. My kids eat enough bread/starch and fruit throughout the day for snacks, that I don’t see the need to have them again at dinner.

3. We repeat certain meals and snacks that work for us, over and over. It definitely makes grocery shopping easier and more efficient, and cooking or preparing those things becomes a no-brainer.

Bananas. Apples. And oatmeal. (Repeat weekly).

For example, my kids eat oatmeal almost every morning, Monday through Friday. Without fail. On the weekends we do pancakes or waffles and eggs. But the oatmeal system works for us during the week. I soak the rolled oats (the old fashioned kind) and a little ground flaxseed in milk overnight in the fridge and heat them up the next day. The Monkey likes his with raisins, Chicken does not. Lately they’ve learned how much better it tastes when you add cinnamon and honey. (Their dad taught them that. He lives life on the edge).

No decision-making in the morning about which type of cereal they want or whatever. Keeps the mornings that much easier.

4. I have gotten in a food rut. See number 3.

After I looked at my time log and noticed I only spent 5 hours dealing with food, first I gave myself a high five for feeding my family well, with little time involved. Then I thought about how I was bored with our food staples and needed to change things up a little. I noticed that our ripe bananas were really collecting in the freezer because EVERYONE WAS SICK OF BANANAS AND NO ONE WAS EATING THEM ANYMORE.

The following week I made these for snacks and had the kids pick out some new fruits at the store. They tore up some apricots and plums. Turns out they like fruit a lot- they were just bored to tears by apples and bananas. It’s been good to change things up a little bit.

So there you have it.

I’m curious- does 5 hours seem like a lot of time, or not much at all for the week? When I think about providing 21 meals over the course of 7 days, it seems like a pretty minimal amount of time to me. What do you think?

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14 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Kept a Time Log, Part 2

  1. I’ve been thinking I need to do one of these time diaries again! Recording the information was a hassle, but it was really illuminating.

    5 hours doesn’t seem like a lot to me. The freezer meal exchange sounds pretty fabulous!

  2. I’m glad you found the time log exercise useful! I spend less than 5 hours cooking, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy at this stage of life when it’s hard to get the kitchen to myself to do it. I can sympathize with the banana inventory problem. Sometimes we’re into bananas…sometimes we’re not. If only they’d last long enough to ride that out!

    • umm… all i can say in reply is BLOGGER NERD ALERT: I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU JUST COMMENTED ON MY BLOG.

      i loved “All the Money in the World” and am waiting patiently for “168 Hours” to become available at my library. (still 5 more holds on it, if i remember correctly).

      and…for the banana problem that apparently plagues many of us, may i suggest using them for banana bread?

      i’m done being a weirdo. thanks for commenting!

      • this reminds me of when gretchen rubin commented on my blog. i honestly nearly died! anyway, i wandered here from laura vanderkam’s post and realize i also need to re-timelog. also, i am really intrigued by this freezer meal business and i think i need to make it part of my life.

  3. So smart with the freezer meals. I’ve been doubling one meal a week to swap with a friend, but doubling everything to make freezer meals–genius. I’ve got to try that this summer!

  4. 5 hours doesn’t seem like much–but I’m wondering how much time it really is when you factor in the time you’d previously spent on the food in the freezer? I’m horrible with meals and meal planning (though I’m still doggedly working at it). The weeks I take time on Monday (usually my day off and the kids are at school) to make some staples to carry us through the week, the week always goes better. The past few I haven’t been doing so swell with that, though, and there’s been much more eating out.

    • Yes, I definitely had invested more time on the front end to stock my freezer so much. The week following my time log week I spent much more time in the kitchen because I was ready to cook again after taking a break. So it definitely changes.

  5. Pingback: Whole30: Halfway | Ye Old College Try

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