Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reducing Food Waste Wednesday - Meal Planning

I know, I know. This is the one thing that most people absolutely hate to do. It seems like it takes so much time and no one is ever in the mood to do it

But it's important.

The Other Williams and I never go grocery shopping without our weekly dinner menu planned. Here's why:
  • It saves us a LOT of time in the long run. No worrying about what's for dinner tonight or do I have everything for the recipe I want to make. Meal planning also saves us time in the grocery store. We know where everything is and we get in and get out.
  • It saves us a LOT of money. While we do try to buy in bulk and when things are on sale, where we save the most money is not buying something that we don't need and letting it go to waste. By checking the pantry for what we need we don't end up buying things we already have on hand.
  • It saves us a LOT of calories. Because we know what's for dinner that night we aren't tempted to eat out as much. We know everything is already in the pantry or fridge and just waiting to be put together. We also aren't tempted to throw in high-calorie foods because it's just not on the list.
There is a lot of waste to be had if we walk into the produce department with all the beautiful colors screaming at us and we don't have a list. If I don't plan, I know we'll be tossing expensive produce away because we simply bought too much. So here's how it goes for us:

  1. Pick a day that you are least distracted. We do our list the day before we're going shopping. Find a day or time of day when you can devote some time to meal planning. Maybe during your lunch hour or while the kids are playing outside after school. Maybe it's 2am when you can't sleep. The point is to try to make it a habit. Put it in your routine.

  2. Have a system. We have a large cookbook selection and get food magazines. The Other Williams goes through the magazines regularly and pulls out recipes that she thinks we'll cook and puts them into our recipe binder. The binder is a 3-ring notebook with a folder for new recipes. As we make a new recipe we decide if it's a keeper or not. If it is then it gets filed into the binder. If not, it goes into the recycling bin. For cookbooks, when we first purchase them or when we have some spare time, The Other Williams will go through it and place tabs (5-10) in the book to mark the things she's most interested in cooking. This speeds up the process when we need to find something we want to cook while making the list.
  3. Just Plan it! When we're planning our menu for the week. We pull out the recipe binder and a couple of cookbooks. Sometimes we'll troll through this blog. The idea is to get it all out in front of you and pick 6 dinners (we eat out once a week) for the week.
  4. Make the list. Once you have written down on a calendar/list/whatever what the meals are pull, print, or mark the recipes. Then one by one go through the ingredient list and check to make sure you have what you need. The things you don't have, write it on the list.
  5. Simplify Breakfast & Lunch. Normally we'll each choose one breakfast that we'll have all week. For example: smoothies, oatmeal, egg sammies. Next we'll choose 1-3 different lunches to have all week. For example: sandwiches, soup, salads. Once this is decided we'll add to the list what is needed for these meals
And that's it. It maybe takes us 30 minutes to plan our meals and make the list. It saves us time, money, calories and we end up wasting a lot less food! If this doesn't look like it's for you here are some other ideas (click image to see original post):

DIY Meal Planning Board
Large Weekly Menu - Add recipe cards

Recipe Magnet Board - Recipe on the back!

DIY Menu Board from wood letters and frame

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