Thursday, January 14, 2010

Planning Meals and Staying Organized

It’s that time of year again—that New Year’s resolution time. If you missed that January 1 mark, it’s not too late to make a few. Maybe one about making weekly meal plans?

Planning meals is something you do for yourself, not something you do because it’s what the “good” homemakers do. It is not like resolving to mop your kitchen floor every week or vacuum more. When you plan your meals, it gives you extra time to do the things that you really want to do. It gives you a sense of order instead of panic, as the dinner hour approaches.

Do you just love driving to the grocery store every other day, parking, waiting in line, driving home and then realizing that you forgot something? Unless that is an activity that gives you joy, make your life easier by a little planning. Here are some tips.

· Try to have a set day that you’ll plan your meals. If you typically shop on Saturdays, plan your meals and write up your list on Friday.

· Get in the habit of immediately writing down anything you are getting low of during the week. Keep a magnetic pad on your fridge with the list and constantly add to it. Don’t wait till you’ve used up every last drop of laundry detergent to buy more. If you think there might be a chance that something won’t last you through the week, buy more of it.

· If you have your cookbooks out and you feel motivated to come up with more that one week of meals, by all means, plan the whole month if you want.

· Organize your list by aisle: produce, canned, frozen, cereal aisle, etc. This will allow you to zip in and out in a hurry.

· Keep a list of your family’s favorite meals with the cookbook name and page number posted in your kitchen. I have mine taped to the inside of my pantry door. This triggers my memory and keeps me from forgetting about our favorite meals over time.

· Come up with a weekly pattern. For instance, we like Mexican so each week I plan on doing one Mexican meal. The actual meal rotates between tacos, black beans and rice, quesadillas, nachos. In the winter we’ll have a soup night, an Italian night, a Mexican night, a leftover night, and a chicken night. In the summer I might do a salad instead of soup each week.

· Come up with a list of common things you need, print it out, and tape it inside a kitchen cabinet. My list has things like eggs, milk, butter, shampoo, Kleenex, dishwasher detergent, pull-ups, jelly, flour,etc. As I’m making my grocery list, I scan over that as a trigger to my memory. This week I was about to forget coffee, but scanning my list, I saw coffee and wrote it down. I still use the pad on the fridge as well because my common list is not meant to be exhaustive. You wouldn’t want to have every last spice written on there. I needed cardamom and turmeric this past week. But between the two systems, the list on the fridge and the common list, you should be able to go to the grocery once and only once most weeks.


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Robyn said...

Thanks for posting this, Les. Even though I don't have many people to cook for, we have a very set schedule that makes things easier. We generally have Italian on Monday night, leftovers Tuesday, breakfast on Wednesday, a Mexican variation on Thursday, leftovers on Friday, and something special I plan for Saturday and Sunday. Since the majority of what we eat is Mexican, pasta, and breakfast, I pretty much always have the right stuff on hand so even if I recipe may call for something, I just omit it. Again, even though I don't have a big family, I realize how great it is to have a routine and consistent shopping list. Thanks for posting!