Before you go on a call, you plan.
You have trainings.
En route to the call, scenarios run through your head. In EMS, it’s all the different possibilities. Shortness of breath could be allergic reaction, asthma, cardiac related, musculoskeletal. . .anything. You run through the different treatments you may have to administer. In Firefighting, you’re thinking through hydrant locations or do you need a water shuttle, is roof ventilation needed, what if there’s an occupant trapped, can you even get to the structure or will you need to walk or call for a smaller vehicle?
Pre-planning is a practice used to identify problem areas, potential hazards, and the need for additional resources and allows for decisions to be made faster in the event of that incident actually occurring. With pre-planning, you put a plan to paper. You know how many tankers, how many pumpers, how many engines, how many squads you’ll need and from which direction they need to come. You have a lay-out of the place to know entrances and exits. You identify possible threats to you and your department members. You plan ahead how to avoid or eliminate those threats.
Pre-planning increases your chance of success.
So now let’s look at pre-planning at home.
My mama worked nightshift when I was growing up. At the start of every month, she would get home around 0800 on Saturday morning and go to bed. My dad made sure we had breakfast, usually while watching quality Saturday-morning cartoons before getting the weekend chore list done. When mama woke up, she printed off grocery inventory lists for us to complete. One of us was out in the garage calling to the one in the house how many pounds of ground beef we had left, how many chicken breasts, how many pounds of fish, or frozen loaves of bread. Another one was in the pantry counting boxes of noodles and rice and cans of diced veggies and beans. The refrigerator was thoroughly cleaned out and good produce moved to the front. While we were counting, mama was at the table working on the menu for the next month – meal planning.
Part of creating that meal plan was looking ahead in the schedule to see who was doing what when. When we were little, it wasn’t that overly difficult. At that point, it was more her and dad’s schedule that she had to coordinate and plan meals around. However, this habit of pre-planning every month led to success when we started playing different sports at different times and in different locations. The crock pot was already frequently used, but now it pretty much never was put away.
How does this story help you? It gives you steps you can follow to identify and eliminate potential problems – nights where you won’t be home to cook a clean, nutrient dense meal for your family or those times when you don’t know what you can make with ingredients on hand – and give you a better chance at decreasing stress in your life allowing you to enjoy it more!
Get a master calendar – whether you get a leather bound, print one off Word, or draw one out by hand – and write down your schedule for the next month. Include business meetings, sporting events, family gatherings.
Start planning out meals. Go through cookbooks. Pinterest is a wonderful thing. Call up family members and get old family recipes. If you have a spouse and/or kids, ask them what their favorite meals are. I don’t usually plan out a full month, but I do plan out about two weeks at a time. Write them in on a simpler calendar. We always used a Word document for this one. Make sure you compare it to the master calendar! If you’re going to be gone all day, not get home til after 7pm, do you really want to cook a full meal? Or would a crock pot meal or leftovers be a better option?
All of those meals. Write down the ingredients you need to make them. Every single one, no matter how little the amount. I don’t know how many times all I needed was a tablespoon of butter or just one more egg, but I didn’t think I needed to add those items to my grocery list because I always have them in my fridge until I actually needed them!
Do a quick inventory of your cupboards to make sure you have everything on that list or add it to your grocery list. You don’t have to have pages of inventory items; my family just really, really likes lists. But make your grocery list based off your menu. This will save you money in the long run! No more guessing games and buying items you don’t need that will expire or rot before you use them!
My dad has always said, “If you’re going to do a job, do it right the first time so you don’t have to do it again.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with struggling with this, but stick with it. It takes about 21 days on average to make or break a habit. If you end up missing a meal or two on your menu, that’s fine, but don’t throw out the whole month because of those one or two misses. Life happens. Follow through.