This process we’ve been working through usually includes some questions along the line of “How?”. How do I organize? How do I set up?
I’d love to be able to say “Do this and this and this. Print this. Label that. Plug in this and you are all set!” but I can’t. Well, actually I suppose I could but that would be doing both of us a a disservice.
Why? Because One Size Does Not Fit All.
What works for me, might not work for you and what you need may not be in my tool kit to offer.
What I can do, however, is offer a few suggestions.
My goal for Meal Planning is to be able to create a variety of meals without a lot of fuss or preparation or cost. I don’t have a lot of mouths to feed and I don’t always need to have a lot of things ready to go at the last minute. But that’s me; you might need to be a lot more organized.
What I found for myself was that creating a system that would keep the recipes I needed on a regular basis handy saved a lot of time. I could add recipes as I input them into my regular meal rotation or remove them when they were no longer something I wanted to make.
This could be a 3 ring binder that was broken down into meal type (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) or by main ingredient (chicken, beef or vegan) or by process (roast, slow cook, quick). This is a flexible system that could evolve into multiple binders depending upon your need (Main dishes in one, sides in another, desserts in a third, etc.)
You could use a journal format. I’ve seen some astoundingly useful bullet journals. You could invest in some recipe management software. The options are as varied as the number of potential users.
The thing to remember is that you don’t need to make it more complicated than it needs to be. If you don’t need to plan for certain meals, don’t. If you need to be more detailed, add that into your process. The idea is to be a help to your daily life, not a time consuming hurdle that keeps you from actually living your life.
I like the idea of an app for my phone or tablet, but reality for me is that I dislike the need to refresh the screen, or keep it clean while cooking. I do, however, keep my pantry list on my iPod. The app I use allows me to use bar code scanners to add items to my list, which makes keeping track of specific brand items a breeze, while also being able to manually input items where I just need a reminder (popcorn rather than Brand Name Popcorn, for example).
A few years back I discovered that Julia Child kept a notebook in her kitchen with reminders for various tasks and recipes. The Julia Child who created wonderful collections of recipes had a notebook?! (Note: “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” is still available. Check it out.)
Turns out, it is a wonderful idea.
There are some things we don’t do often enough to encourage our brains to recall without prompting. How often do you create a white sauce? Would a reminder of the timing of boiling eggs be handy? Where’s that recipes for… ?
When I bought my new stove a few years ago, there were enough differences between what was on the new one from on the old, that I found keeping the Owner’s Manual handy important. That could be added to a 3 ring binder kept nearby in the kitchen. Same could be said for any appliance that isn’t in daily use.
Last year we talked about creating a family recipe collection or cookbook. By organizing your kitchen and your recipes, you are well on the way to doing just that.
Yeah, it is a bit of a surprise to think about, isn’t it? 🙂
You now have the bare bones of how to set up a system to keep track of your pantry, collect recipes and plan for meals.
Try it out for a few weeks and see how it impacts your time, your budget and your meals. Don’t be afraid to tweak it to make it work better for you – you are the one in control, after all.