Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meal Planning

I think that meal planning is a challenge that most families face. With seven to eight people to feed on a daily basis and several people doing the shopping, I have really had to improve my meal planning skills. For a long time, Kirk and I would mean to make a plan for what we would eat each week, but didn't usually get it done. Now that we've had three to four housemates and I do most of the cooking, I have to have a plan.

I've been making myself a one-page calendar of three to four weeks at a time that I can keep on the fridge. It allows me to look forward at what's coming up and remember what I've made recently. I usually only plan a week or less at a time, but try to have something in mind at least a day or two in advance. Being on a budget, I also try to take into account what is on sale at Safeway each week.

To help myself in the inspiration department (which I think is one of the biggest challenges in planning ahead), I have a list of meals that we enjoy and a list of recipes I want to try. The last couple of days I have also been going through my cookbooks. Like many people, I have a couple of binders of recipes that I've cut out of magazines, found online, been given by friends, or just jotted down. Unfortunately I haven't done such a great job recently (okay, in the last couple years, really) of actually getting the clippings, scraps of paper, and recipe cards IN the binders. I decided it was time to look through what I already had and get rid of anything that I've had forever and have never made, or probably won't ever make. Next, I re-organized everything and added the many recipes that had accumulated outside the binders.

Much better!

I also decided to make a couple of quick-reference pages with the recipes that I make the most often and post them on the inside of some kitchen cabinets. That way, when I want to make waffles, cookies, brownies, pizza dough, Aunt Lois' cheese crackers, or Grandma Joy's chocolate-cherry cake, all I have to do is open up the cabinet. With very little counter space, it helps not to have to open a cookbook every time.

I still have a lot to learn, but this has been a good journey for me. As Trip gets older, life is only going to get more hectic, and family meals will be even more important, so meal planning is a good habit to develop now.


La Belle Coccinelle said...

Great minds think alike, because I have the exact same setup on the inside of one of my cupboards too! I have been trying to do this same thing, it's a hard habit to learn, but it does pay off... when I keep myself on track, at least! Love you all!

Tammy said...

Great ideas Aimee. To help us keep away from getting in a rut, I made a spreadsheet of our favorite foods and grouped them by food type. Then we list the date beside it when we fix it. Sometimes we look at it and realize that it will have been quite a while since we have fixed something, or that we eat one thing too much! I think we should put the pancake recipe inside the cupboard door.