Meal Planning 101

I’m sure many of you are already diligent meal planners, but this concept is pretty new to me. In fact, there have been many trips to the grocery store where I actually made my list in the parking lot! Of course I’d get home and realize I missed an ingredient or two and the whole dinner would be out the window. Anyway, after actually following through with one of the many “Pin Now, Read Later” pins on Pinterest, I discovered a pretty easy system that has greatly increased the efficiency of my grocery store visits. Here’s how it works.

I start with a quick recap of what’s in season. I have the binder broken down into season, which helps a lot with the planning process. (I actually pulled the list from here: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season) Not only is this more “locavore” friendly, but it actually helps me save money, because it helps cut the travel cost. Buy regionally and seasonally!

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Check your local store listings for deals.  The reason I recommend this is because, like I said above, a lot of the localand seasonal stuff is on sale. Plus, it can really help dictate your menu. If there’s a sale for 10/$10 on zucchini, you can try out all sorts of new dishes! Heeeeell zucchini bread muffins! So, sort through your in-season selection and pick the ones that are on sale.

Get out the recipe book. I usually have a good idea of what I can do with certain ingredients, however I like to keep my recipes on notecards in the front of the binder, so I can do a quick check of my current knowledge base. This also forces me to do a pantry check to make sure I don’t buy an extra ingredient when I’m at the store. If I don’t have any recipes to accommodate the seasonal fruits/vegetables, I hop online and do some digging.

 

 

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Pantry/refrigerator check. Once or twice per week, I’ll pop open the fridge and see what’s left from the previous week. This allows me to do a quick inventory of the staples, as well. I add these needed staples to my list of in season veggies and recipe ingredients, and then let the planning begin.

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Plan your meals for the week. I always find this to be the most challenging part, because you have to make sure you properly carry over leftovers to the following day, so you don’t double up on food and recipes for the week. A lot of times, I’ll make a giant salad for dinner and have enough leftover for a wrap the next day. I also try not to be wary of specific meals that I don’t like as leftovers. (Specifically, fish. EW.)

 

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Make the cooking process easier by pre-sorting ingredients. I love the purpose of the vegetable and fruit crisper, but sometimes stuff can get lost in there! I find that keeping the ingredients I want to use for dinner in these little plastic containers can really expedite the whole cooking process. For example, in the bin to the left, I have ground beef, onion and green peppers for the stuff Italian pepper recipe I love. When it’s time to cook, I just grab the container and everything is ready to go. I also keep the smaller fruits in the one to the right so I make sure to opt for fruit instead of pudding!

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This system is far from perfect, but for right now, it’s what is working for me. Of course I have to take into consideration that sometimes I will throw dinner plans out the window and be stuck with extra ingredients for the week, but I try to address that problem by incorporating these extras into something else for the week.

I hope this helps some of you regain control of your kitchen like it helped me!

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