I'm a big believer in eating meals with your family, but I'll admit, it's not easy. It takes creativity and patience, along with a bit of trial-and-error, but it IS possible!
Today I'm sharing my meal planning process. This works for me and maybe it'll help you too.
A MASTER MENU LIST
This is exactly what it sounds like. I created a list of our favorite meals and put them into a table format. My full list is about 2 pages long. Click here to print a blank template.
In the picture above, you can see that I've listed meals on the left. At the top, I've listed the months.
Every time we eat a meal, I put a check in the box for that month. Note - I don't mark the meal until we've actually eaten it. After all, some weeks life gets busy and the plan changes!
And yes, if you look closely, you'll see some of my meals are super-easy. No judgement allowed! Family meals are important to me, but I never said it had to be fancy!
PLAN A WEEKLY MENU
This is where the Master Menu List really comes in handy!
Every Saturday or Sunday, I make a meal plan for the week. I simply grab that list and choose meals that we HAVEN'T eaten recently.
If you're like me, you can get into a rut and make the same thing over and over. That's fine of course, but this system helps rotate meals and I like that.
Planning Tip: I found it helpful to have a rough schedule of when I'll cook and when we'll eat leftovers. After all, some teaching days are so busy that I can't cook big meals. On those days, we'll eat leftovers, I'll use the crockpot, or it'll be something super simple, like pizza bagels.
Here's my current meal plan:
WHAT ABOUT NEW RECIPES?
Honestly, I'm not an adventurous cook. Life's been busy and it hasn't been a top priority.
But THIS year, things are different. I have a Master List of recipes that I plan to try and guess what? I've already tried several of them in the past couple weeks! It's all about spoiling my son before he heads off to college. Discovering new meals is one way I'm doing that.
Over the next few months, I'll share my favorites with you. Some of them have been huge hits with Kevin and Matthew!
MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST!
NOTE: If you don't like oatmeal - STAY WITH ME! My husband doesn't like oatmeal either, but this is more like....granola and he loves it. So does Matthew!
It's called Overnight Oats. I heard about this a long time ago, but avoided it because I don't like mushy oatmeal.
Steel oats is more my style. It has a nutty, chewy texture and I love it!
My overnight oats recipe is for steel oats, although you could use either. It literally takes less than 5 minutes to make the day before. The next day, just grab a spoon and dive in!
Overnight Oats Recipe
Grab your favorite mug (I love this one!) and mix the following:
NOTE: Steel oats are very hard and this mixture needs to sit for at least 8 hours to be soft enough to eat. The best part is that they'll maintain the chewy texture for a couple days in the fridge, so go ahead and make a couple mugs for the week. You'll be glad you did!
If you liked this post, you might enjoy:
This Year I'm Saying YES to My Family
Teach Piano AND Have Dinner With Your Family? YES!
Quick and Tasty Meatballs
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
UPDATE: This post was written in August of 2018. I'll post an update on July 2, 2019. You won't believe what a great year it was! I'm so thankful that I said "YES" to my family!
Family has always been important to me, but this year, more than ever, I'm putting family first.
My son, Matthew, is a senior in high school and you better believe, I want to treasure this time before he heads off to college.
So instead of teaching most afternoons, I'm leaving time to cook yummy meals and try new recipes.
Is it my shameless attempt to lure him home when he's off at school? Absolutely!
But seriously, my real goal is to simply be...AVAILABLE. If he's free and wants to hang out with me (be still my heart!) I want to be available.
The last thing I want is to look back with regret because I didn't cherish this time.
NOT AFRAID TO SAY NO
Of course, all of this hinges on my ability to say NO and truthfully, that's not easy for me. I'm a "yes" girl at heart. I want everyone to be happy.
But setting boundaries is important. I've written before about the necessity of learning to say NO and this "yes" girl is definitely getting better! Mostly because I'm getting a lot of practice!
The school year hasn't even started and I've said NO to:
Yikes! Just looking at that list stresses me out! But you know what's crazy? Normally, I would have said "yes" to everything without even blinking.
I would have reworked my schedule to make everyone happy and then I would have been completely overwhelmed.
Not this year! My priorities are set.
These are the "yes" decisions I've made:
A SIDE BENEFIT
One of the best parts of this decision is that I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. Since I'm not overwhelmed with commitments this year, my focus will be better. And I'm excited about that!
There will be TIME. Because I'm MAKING time - for the things that matter most.
I'd love to hear how you're making time for the important stuff!
If you feel overwhelmed trying to balance family and business, you'll love my newest webinar, Upbeat Moms! Click here to get an exclusive coupon.
In the Upbeat Piano Teacher Mastermind, we talk a lot about goals. I love goal-setting. But there’s a downside to setting goals.
If you really want to achieve your goals, you have to get good at saying no.
Here are some comments from our group. The topic was about putting students on a waiting list.
"Saying no is the worst!!! How many are on my waiting list? None. That's because I keep creating new time slots for them all!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaghhhhh!"
"I love teaching and have a difficult time turning people away. In my mind I'm saying "It'll only be a couple hours," but I know it'll ruin my whole day off."
"I have a real tendency to say yes to all students - and then my home life gets crazy."
MY PERSONAL STORY
That last quote is from yours truly. Yes - I confess - in the past, I’ve added students AFTER all my slots were booked, thinking..... It’s just 30 more minutes.
True . It's 30 more minutes of work and 30 more minutes away from my family. I always regretted it.
But recently a friend looked at me and said "You've gotten good at saying no." Really? I hadn't noticed. My immediate concern was "Have I been rude?"
But then I thought about it and decided to take her words as a compliment. It meant that I was keeping my priorities and that's everything to me.
My 5-STEP STRATEGY FOR SAYING NO
Here's a basic formula to help you have some backbone! I'll follow it up with a couple examples.
How does this play out in real life? I asked my Upbeat partner, Sara Campbell, to weigh in with a couple examples. She does a fantastic job of putting on her "business hat" when necessary!
EXAMPLE 1: SCHEDULING REQUESTS
Let's say a family wants to have lessons on Saturday mornings, but you don't teach that day.
Glad we’re connecting about the fall schedule. The studio is not open on Saturdays, but here are three options for you: Tuesday at 5pm, Wednesday at 3:30pm, or Thursday at 4pm. Let me know which works best for you and I’ll get that on the schedule! Thanks so much. Looking forward to seeing you and Sam at lessons soon!
EXAMPLE 2: MAKE UP LESSONS
Let's say a student chooses to miss her piano lesson.
I’ll miss seeing Cindy in person today! I hope she has a nice time at the amusement park! During her lesson time I’ll record a short video assignment that she can watch tomorrow at home. This will help keep us on track during this busy time of year! Thanks again for letting me know about her absence. If she has any questions about her assignments, have her text me! I’ll be happy to help.
ONE FINAL TIP
Don't delay giving an answer because you feel bad.
Being wishy-washy isn't fair to the other person and it won't "soften the blow" at all. in fact, it'll make things worse and cause hurt feelings.
If "no" is your answer, go ahead and say "no." (Confession - though I strongly believe this, I still struggle with it. Hey, I'm far from perfect!)
How do YOU say "no" when necessary? I'd love to hear!
NEED MORE HELP WITH YOUR BUSINESS?
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Welcome to a new series called A Peek Into My Life This Month.
Occasionally teachers ask me personal questions and I thought this would be a fun way to answer. It’ll also be nice for me to share things that I love and keep track of these memories for myself.
I’m learning that life is more enjoyable when we stop and really appreciate the moment. I think keeping track of my “monthly memories” will help me to enjoy the present more and that’ll be a great tone to set for 2018!
What I'm Doing in My Music Studio
1. I’m teaching anything and everything Christmas, of course! Thank goodness I’m blessed with students who love Christmas music as much as I do.
2. I also enjoy sneaking in lots of theory through Christmas games that celebrate the reason for the season. For SO many years I resisted playing games during lessons and I regret that. It’s such a FUN way to build a solid musical foundation. (You can read more about that here.)
3. I'm planning for next semester by "playing detective" now - What are my students' weaknesses? For example - some kids need to work on scales. I have another student who relies a little too much on her ear and needs to solidify her note reading. Setting goals for everyone!
4. Finally, I’ve been playing Christmas music for my personal enjoyment and also to prep for an upcoming school recital. The kids were supposed to sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” - but get this - unfortunately SO many students were sick that the whole performance was canceled at the last minute! Such a bummer...)
What I'm Reading
I’m an avid reader and always in the middle of a book - usually multiple books! That’s why I started the Upbeat Piano Teacher Book Club. (If you’re not a member, you can read more about it here.)
Right now I’m reading:
1. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper - This book is full of daily readings for Advent. It’s new for me and I’m enjoying it. Each reading is only 1-2 pages and helps me to focus on God during this busy season.
2. Made to Crave Devotional by Lysa Terkeurst - One of my big goals recently has been to get a little healthier. I joined Weight Watchers back in June and have dropped 20 pounds. (Go me!) Even though I’ve lost some weight and love WW, this whole journey has been tough.
This Made to Crave Devotional really helps remind me to keep my focus on God and trust that HE should be my source of joy - not chocolate! (I have to be reminded of this constantly!)
3. The Twelve Week Year by Brian P. Moran - I just got this book and am SO excited! A dear friend recommended it to me and the concept sounds fabulous to a planner like me. I'll do a review once I'm finished!
4. The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere - I love fiction and I love Christmas. This is the perfect combo for this time of year!
Next month the Upbeat Piano Teacher Book Club starts a new book. I'd love to have you join us. You can read more about it here.
What I'm Watching
1. Hallmark movies! Feel free to laugh at me - that's my ironing board set up in our family room because this time of year I love to get my ironing done while I watch Hallmark Channel.
Of course, sometimes I actually curl up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa and just relax, but life has been busy. This is a great way for me to multi-task! (And yes - I’m like the only person who still irons their clothes!)
2. Pentatonix Christmas - Did you see their Christmas special? They are fabulous!
3. Various Christmas movies - I absolutely LOVE The Santa Clause Series with Tim Allen and of course, Elf is always on our watchlist EVERY Christmas too!
4. Oh! And we've been to the movie theater twice this month. (A real treat for us!) We saw "Wonder" with Julia Roberts (great!) and "Thor Ragnarok" (We love Marvel movies, so yes - this was great!)
What I'm Working On
I'm just starting to organize my thoughts and goals for the New Year. The picture above is my Powersheets Planner from this year. As far as 2018, here are some thoughts:
1. Sara and I are already working on the next webinar series and we’re SO excited!
2. College visits for my son. (Wasn't he a toddler only yesterday?) A BIG focus for me in 2018 will be living in the moment and enjoying every one!
3. Personal and business goals for the new year. I’ll share some of those next month. One goal will definitely be getting back into my morning routine after the busy holiday season!
I'd love to hear what you've been doing this month!
I'm taking a break from piano talk today and sharing one of our favorite family Christmas traditions.
If you're a parent of young children and you enjoy celebrating the true meaning of Christmas - you'll absolutely LOVE reading this book for Advent!
The Jotham Journey Trilogy is written by Arnold Ytreeide and I can't say enough good things about these books. They're FULL of excitement, mystery, and plenty of ADVENTURE!
Whether you have boys or girls, your kids will absolutely love reading these books AND they'll get to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
It's been a wonderful tradition for my family for many years and it won't be stopping anytime soon. My son, Matthew, is now 17 years old, but he voted to dive into the series again next month.
Gotta love a kid who loves tradition!
As you can see in the picture above, this is really a series of books.. There are 4 in the series and you only read one book each year.
Technically, you could read the books in any order, but I recommend reading in the order they were published. (And I'd definitely start with Jotham's Journey!)
A Few Important Notes
ONE - The books are broken down into sections of daily readings that lead right up to Christmas. If you want to read this year, you need to start on December 3, so get your book soon. It's available in both paperback and Kindle.
TWO - This is a book that you'll read WITH your children and I would definitely follow the recommendation of ages 9 and up. Some parts could be frightening for young children.
Nonetheless, I can’t say enough good things about this series. I’m SO grateful that my son still enjoys reading them with me!
If you've never read them with your kids - now is the perfect time to start! You can grab your book here!
Music games that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas....
Music games you can play with your piano students! These celebrate the true meaning of Christmas!
As piano teachers, one of the best things about summer is that most of us have extra time on our hands. If you’re like most people, that means you're excited to tackle some big projects!
Do any of these sound familiar?
I'll be the first to admit that summer projects are great, but here’s the truth. Unless you tackle those projects right away, they'll likely hang over your head the entire summer and depress you.
Let's do something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Instead of choosing something TO DO - I encourage you to take something OFF your list.
Here's the idea -
Let’s fast-forward to September. You’re about to launch into a new school year and you're hoping it's your best year ever.
What could you take OFF your schedule this summer that will make you happy in September? What can you let go of that will get you excited?
Here are some ideas:
1. Is there a family who always pays late? Is is time to let them go?
2. Maybe it’s a student who never practices and they need to move on.
3. Could you move 3 current students into a small group class? That would take OFF some teaching time, but you’d still be getting paid for those students. (Another idea: if you have any slots open for fall, start those new students in a group class instead of private lessons. You'll decrease your teaching hours AND increase your profit at the same time!)
4. Home - Is there a chore you could delegate?
5. Do you hate grocery shopping? Try the online shopping at Walmart. I have a friend who recently gave it a try and said it she'd definitely do it again on busy weeks!
6. What about cooking? Can you share the responsibility with your spouse? Even doing some basic freezer meals would take daily prep OFF your schedule on busy teaching days.
7. Maybe you have a monthly subscription to something that you never use. Cancel it or put it on hold. Come September, you'll be glad to have that extra money in your bank account!
My Personal Example
This is going to surprise a lot of you, but......not so long ago, I decided to take preschoolers OFF my schedule!
Yes - Sara and I created a fabulous webinar all about preschoolers, but it wasn't the right season for me to do this. At this point in my life, I simply prefer to add older students to my roster.
(And yes - I'm still teaching a lot of kindergarteners!)
It won't always be this way though. Before long, my son will graduate from high school and it'll be the perfect time for me to add preschoolers back to my studio!
Make Smart Choices This Summer
Let me clarify - I’m not saying that you shouldn't tackle summer projects. We ALL have things that need to be done, but we need to use wisdom when planning the months ahead.
And truthfully, sometimes the smartest choice might be very simple: Take something OFF your list!
If you need help managing your time, this is how I learned to maximize my mornings!
Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.