It takes a little work to simplify – Menu Planning

It’s one thing to say “I’m going to live a simplified life.” It’s another thing to put it into action. In order to get to simple you have to put in some work to set up systems that simplify processes. But the work is worth it.

I’ve been working on a meal planning project for the last few weeks that has been paying off in incredible ways!

The sticky tabs of good intentions.

Do you relate to this scenario? I have gone through my cookbooks in the past and diligently stuck sticky notes to the pages of the recipes that I intend to make “one day.” In my excitement of finding some recipes I select one or two to make in the near future, the rest of the tabbed pages don’t get looked at again until the next time I flip through the recipe book and get inspired, that could be months later. Plus. when it comes to weekly grocery lists I don’t go back and flip through those books. I’m in a rush, I want to write my menu, write the needed grocery list and get on with things. Grocery shopping is not my favourite activity, I want it done.

About a month ago, I came up with a new idea. Using a scribbler I tabbed off themed pages such as “Mexican,” “Pasta,” “Slowcooker,” etc. Then I have been thoroughly going through each cookbook and recipe binder carefully assessing each recipe:

  • Will I make this?
  • Will my husband eat this?
  • Can I easily get the ingredients?
  • How long does it take to make? Am I willing to put in this amount of time?

If I’m all yes’s to those questions, then I decide which theme the recipe falls under and write down on that page the name of the recipe, the name of the cookbook (I abbreviate to save time), and the all important page number. I write a letter “V” beside meals that are vegan/vegetarian as I like to make sure I have a mix of meals during the week.

I have a section called Soup, Sandwiches & Salads. I record which sandwich or salad I would pair with each soup. Again, doing the thinking now, saves time when I’m menu planning. This also makes it easier to mix and match from different recipe books. I may note a soup from one recipe book, but match it with a handheld or salad I find in another book. It’s not written in stone, but does help to ease the menu-planning thinking.

When reviewing the recipes in the scribbler later, I don’t have to wonder if it’s something I’ll like, or something I won’t have time to make, or question the ingredients, will James eat this? — I’ve already done that thinking. I just go through the scribbler and select random recipes for the week’s meals to create my menu.

Since I have cookbook and page number handy, I can easily peruse the recipe for ingredients I’ll need to add to my grocery list and assess what I already have on hand. Simple.

So, although, it takes some time to go through the recipe books in the first place, the work is worth it to make menu planning so much easier later.

I am loving this process. The benefits are many:

  • it makes eating healthier easier
  • it makes selecting meals easier
  • it makes grocery shopping easier
  • it creates much less food waste
  • reduces stress.

As a side note, I tend to double recipes; cook once – eat twice to have meals in the freezer for future use. This past week, I didn’t do any cooking. I had enough options in the freezer to just thaw and reheat. (Not in the microwave please, use the oven.) I only had a few perishables to buy for groceries.

If this system interests you, and you’d like more details, feel free to reach out in the comments below.

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