Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Easy-Peasy Meal Planning

Does this ever happen to you?
You go to the grocery store, walk around for way too long, find a bunch of deals and things that look yummy, pile everything into your cart, pay way too much money, then get home to unpack everything only to discover that you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner. To top it off, you've spent so much time in the shopping center that you feel rushed to try to make anything moderately edible!

...this has happened to me more than once...

So - to change things up, I made a grocery list, started planning meals, and it has been wonderful!

When you go to the store knowing what you are planning to eat for the week and knowing what items you need to buy - you get into the store, shop, and leave. It saves time by letting you skip unneeded browsing, and it saves money but making sure that the food you are buying wont be wasted.

In a tiny house with a small fridge - everything needs a place. I don't have acreage of refrigerator shelves for left overs or random groceries. I don't have extra money for bread to go moldy or veggies to go limp from want of eating. I don't have extra time to stroll casually from aisle to aisle browsing cereals and pondering what to make for the evening.

If you have and excess of these three things, well, enjoy (or come over to my house and I'll put you to work) but if you don't have an abundance of space/money/time, you may find this helpful:

You'll notice that my list is vegetarian but you can edit it for your own use. If you absolutely never eat peas, then having peas on your grocery list is just a waste of ink. Remove it and add parsnips or something else you love.

How I use it -

1.) Make a meal plan.
I give myself 10-15 minutes to think of or find recipes for meals for the week ahead.
I'm a big fan of: Post Punk Kitchen, The First Mess, and The Food Network for ideas and resources.

Things I look for in a recipe - one pan / one pot recipes, crock pot options, and things I can grill.
They also need to have easy to understand directions, simple lists of ingredients, and bonus points for nutritional breakdowns.

Of course, I love trying new cakes and fancy stews with 25+ ingredients, but I save those for the weekend and focus instead on healthy, simple, and fast meals for the week.

Print or write these out and attach them to the list so that everything stays together.

2.) Analyze the meal plan for ingredients.
Have two recipes that call for half an onion each? Great! Chop up the whole onion and save yourself having to chop again the next day.
Mark down the ingredients you need and take stock of what things you already have in your cupboard.

3.) Take the thing to the store with you! Remember the reusable bags! :-)
Of course while you are at the store you can keep an eye out for discounts and those fancy special ingredients, but try to limit the cursory shopping to a minute or two and no more than two items. Even if there is a great sale on frozen sliced carrots - do you really have room to store all ten boxes? Instead grab one or two and start your meal planning for next week by looking up a carrot soup, carrot cake, and carrot and lemongrass curry.

4.) Save your work!
All that planning and shopping won't do you any good if you look in the fridge on Wednesday and can't remember what you were going to make. So, save yourself the stress and smack the list and recipes to your fridge with a magnet. That will keep it handy and visible for the Wednesday you had to work late and can't even remember your own name by the time you got home.

So - good luck darlings and happy cooking!

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