Oct 19, 2013

Kitchen Organization: Meal Planning and Recipe organization

Today I thought I'd talk about how I organize my recipes and meal plans. It's not a big before/after organizational project, but I find it helpful and know that it's an area many people struggle with.

Meal Planning
A couple years ago I started meal planning on a regular basis. Before I'd have a general idea of what I might want to cook for the next day or two, but no real plan. I got tired of multiple trips to the grocery store a week and the constant wondering "what's for dinner?"

So over the weekend I come up with a plan. I start off by looking at the week ahead's schedule. What will we be working? Do we have any social engagements? Having an idea of what will be going on helps you plan in advance. We have regular Wednesday night activities so we decided that would be our night to get a quick cheap meal out. I generally plan on 4 meals for the week which gives us some leftovers for lunch and then room for spontaneous dinners out with friends or a date night.

Next Bryan and I think about what we are craving. He's not actively involved in the process, but I always like to ask him if there is something he wants in the coming week. Sometimes he has something he'd like and sometimes he doesn't. I also like to check the weather. Especially around this time of year when it can vary pretty drastically. Is a cool spell coming up this week? Maybe a stew would be nice.

Lastly to fill in the gaps I look at recently pinned or favorited recipes from my favorite food blogs. As a food lover it's usually not difficult for me to come up with a few ideas. I just try to make sure there is a balance of different types of meats, grains, and veggies. If we have a roast one night I'm not going to plan another beef dish for the week, unless its something different or several days later.

I like to grocery shop on the weekend. In the last year I've made it more of a point to go to the farmer's market. So I'll make my meal plan either Friday nights or Saturday morning over coffee. We hit up the farmer's market for what we can get there and what looks good. (Usually I'll have a meal or two where I've got a meat dish and I'll serve one or two seasonal veggies that look good at the market.)  Next I go to the local, small grocery. They sell fruits and veggies, some milk, and a few dried goods. I've found they are a lot cheaper and fresher than our grocery. I buy what I can there before finally going to the big chain grocery store. You don't have to make it as complicated as that, but that's what works for me.

I love starting off the week armed with a fridge and pantry full of groceries and a plan.

Recipe Organization
If you are anything like me you have a gazillion recipes saved in one form or another. When I first got married and had to start cooking, I printed off a bunch of recipes. I'd collect them from family members, friends, and websites. These quickly piled up and I needed a way to organize them.

I separated them into categories (appetizers, veggies, pasta, etc) and put them in binders. It was kind of amazing how quickly they grew out of control. So I decided to save a couple of trees and stop printing every recipe that looked halfway interesting.

Now I wrangle my recipes in a Google Doc. Organized in the same way I link to the recipe in the document. When I've tried a recipe I write a note about it beside the title and change the font color. That way I can tell what I've made and what I haven't at a glance.

There are other ways you can digitally organize your recipes, whether its saving it to a recipebox on recipe websites or pinning to your Pinterest board. I encourage you to find a way that works for you and stick with it.

So now that you've read more than you wanted to know about meal planning and recipe organization, how do you deal with these issues? Do you meal plan? Or do you have an interesting way to organize recipes? I'd love to hear about it!

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