Happy New Year! It’s time for me to talk about one of the best time- and money-saving tricks I know: meal planning. For those of you with kids, this may be a little more complicated, but I can give you my ‘husband and wife’ planning perspective and you can adapt from there!
I have been on a serious organizing streak recently (I literally organized my best friend’s underwear drawer for her the other day) and I think it’s mostly due to the positive impact that I see it having on my life. The more organized I am, the more productive I am, and the less anxiety-filled my day will be. It could be something as big as organizing a closet, or something as small as putting together a caddy of all my cleaning supplies- it doesn’t matter, if it’s organizing, it’s making me feel great these days. So, naturally, I need my refrigerator and pantry to be as spotless as possible, and I need to preplan everything I will cook. This is a great Sunday afternoon activity, and it’s easier (and less stressful) than it sounds!
I start by taking out my calendar (or bringing up my iCal, which I am glued to these days) and looking at the week. There are many weeks where Matt and I will only be home for a dinner or two; others, four or five. Obviously, this changes the amount of shopping I need to do! I take out my favorite cookbooks and my Real Simple ‘To Get” pad (check it out here) and I start brainstorming!
My normal routine goes like this:
1) Write down the days of the week that I need to cook dinner
2) Beside each of those days, I write down a recipe, along with the cookbook and page number
3) I go through each recipe and figure out what ingredients I already have and what I need to buy
4) I mark down what I need to get- then I go get it! I also purchase other staples (eggs, bread, lunch things) on this trip- and mark them all as well.
When I am feeling super-ambitious, I will clear a shelf in my pantry and separate ingredients out into the meals I will be cooking, so that everything is already laid out for me, which really cuts down on my prep time. It also helps Matt, if I am late coming home from work, be able to start dinner without me.
Because of this routine, I am able to keep only the bare essentials in our pantry and staples/condiments in the fridge. Our fresh produce waste is down to almost none, because we only buy what we plan on eating. And, because we keep less food in the house, it’s easier to see what we do and don’t have in the house, which helps us avoid double-buying ingredients or assuming that we have something when we actually don’t. For us, having less choices, while maybe not as glamorous, saves us a lot of time and stress each day- one less choice to make or thing to plan.
I also keep a wipe-board on the fridge that includes what (or where) we will be dining each night, along with a space for Matt to write requests for the next week’s meals. This is placed right next to the “To Get” pad, so everything is centrally located and I can move from one to another!
Do you have any tips for planning meals or fridge/pantry organization that you’d like to share?