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Talk - How Do You Plan And Organise Your Meals?

by | Jun 19, 2012 | 24 comments

Talk - How Do You Plan And Organise Meals?
 
One of the skills you learn from running a full house with growing children, a yard to mow more frequently than you shave your legs and work that piles higher than your frequent flyer miles is - juggling. The price you pay to master that skill is a chaotic mind and frequent bouts of confusion, both of which I manage to keep under a lid most of the time. But sometimes, I;  like most normal human beings, am at a loss.
 
Here is the deal. For the past several weeks, I have been trying sometimes successfully and sometimes failing miserably to organise my weekly meals. I want to do this in an effort to go down to zero wastage (I have minimal food wastage at the moment and it weighs down on my mind constantly), create more quality time to pursue the things that matter and to eat a variety of healthier meals without stressing about time. I want to be more organised to feel more in control of what I put on the table, save some money in the process and avoid the state of confusion and uncertainty surrounding my cooking when I have nothing planned.
 

Methods I Use To Plan And Organise My Meals (Not all work for me all the time)

  1. taste.com.au - I love this website. It has recipes from some of Australia's leading food publications, rated by real people who are cooking real food in their kitchens. Cooks like me who are sometimes harried and pressed for time benefit a lot especially from the helpful comments below each tried recipe. I save recipes to the My Recipes section for members. Most of the recipes that I have tried from this website are always pretty spot on.
  2. Paprika App - If I cook something or have a recipe from a blog that I want to try out, it goes straight to my app. There is a weekly menu planner where you can add recipes from you collection and a shopping list that will let you add items from those recipes. But I need to explore it more and build my recipe collection to the point where I can start creating weekly menus with a lot of variety. Love this app.
  3. My Pantry - On some days, I open my pantry and stand there staring at all the jars, boxes and packets in there till inspiration strikes. Same goes for my fridge. Although a very primitive and not at all organised way of planning your meal, it  does work. 
  4. Weekend Cooking - For the past few weeks, I have started setting aside a couple of hours in the weekend to either prep or cook and freeze some meals for the week. I am really loving this exercise as it is helping me provide a lovely variety and use up fresh, in season produce every week. This is by far my most favourite way of organising my meals.
  5. iPad Gallery - Once or twice a week, I sit down with a couple of magazines or cookbooks over a cup of coffee. As I browse through the recipes, I take pictures of recipes I could potentially cook in the week with my iPad and store them in a gallery labeled with the current week. In this way, I have recipes and ideas from a wide range of books in one place without having to bother with sticky notes, lists or a gazillion bookmarks.
  6. The Pantry Game - I talked about  how I play the pantry game in one of my posts last year. Basically, I put notes of one ingredient each in a box. These are all ingredients present in my pantry. Then I pick one out. The rule is to stick with the ingredient you pick. Once I have my ingredient, I either create a recipe from the top of my head or Google for ideas. Sometimes, having the ingredient picked for you is all it takes to charge ahead and create a meal.
  7. Lists - I am old fashioned that way. And I love lists. Anything that I can write in ink, my mind deciphers as the word of God and I must obey. It just works that way. I must have a hundred lists stuffed everywhere, menu lists that I forget I wrote down. They live in old diaries, daily planners, cookbooks and littered on my desk. 
  8. Shop Shop Shopping List App - Now that I can make lists on my iPhone on the go, the paper lists have lost a bit of their appeal. This is one app I dearly love. It is easy to use, it is free and it stores every single item you add on it. So the next time you want to make a new list, you just pick from a database that is already there. Moreover, you have the option of striking out what you put in your trolley as you shop. You can have multiple lists and they can be emailed or sent as a text message.
 

Now my biggest challenge is that I fall out of sorts with a lot of these methods. I forget to use them. Out of sight, out of mind. This results in a haphazard system. I know a lot of you plan and organise your meals. How do you do it? Do you make lists? What are your favourite methods/resources for organising your daily/weekly/monthly meals? Do you find it easy to stick to your methods? Does it work to keep away the confusion? Do you find yourself saving time and money? What websites/apps/cookbooks do you use? I am curious. Please share in the comments below so me and a lot of others can take inspiration from you. Ideas, links, tricks, stories - everything is welcome! Thanks! 

 

Talk - A new community feature on Cook Republic where I encourage readers to share their ideas, opinions and stories of their cooking methodologies and food escapades. A place to voice their opinions to inspire others to discover new things and become better cooks. Join me and have fun! If you have questions or ideas about what you would like to see discussed, please send me an email (link in sidebar in my profile).

 

 

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SNEH

I love creating easy, vibrant, fresh, everyday recipes and taking gorgeous photos of the food I cook. I have been blogging for 15 years and I have also written a book with over 100 new recipes. If you make a recipe from the blog, Tag @cookrepublic on Instagram. I would love to see!

COMMENTS

24 Comments
  1. Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Love that iPad gallery idea! I just got an iPad and am starting to use it to organize recipe ideas, pull up recipes, etc. I'm a list maker too, but I'm trying to eliminate all the paper and sticky notes!

    Reply
    • Sneh

      Awesome! Love the iPad. If you discover a magical app that does the trick for you, please let me know. I'd love to try out!

      Reply
  2. Iron Chef Shellie

    I'm so erratic with my meal planning. I've successfully done it a few times, and do one big shop once a week, then as required. But lately it's just been plan the night before! and it's annoying cos I don't save money that way!
    LOVE the taste website though. It's my go to place when i don't have an idea!

    Reply
  3. Rosa

    I don't plan my meals. I plan my weekly purchases at the grocery. Then with what I have, I improvise on a daily basis.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  4. Priya Sreeram

    I am not huge planner of meals; mostly the pantry & fridge ingredients dictates what goes on to the table and yes I improvise often; Nice post

    Reply
  5. Eha

    Living alone I should not take part of this conversation: how difficult can cooking for one be [well, most of the time 🙂 !]? But if you live in the country, order your food monthly by phone [explanation boring and plebeian!!] and have your two Gemini-parts of being a foodie on the one side and medico/nutritionist on the other oft fighting one another - that too can be 'complicated'! I have a basic list of things which I 'must' eat [nutritionist] and what I yearn for [foodie] in the fridge/pantry. I make weekly idea lists and refine these into menus about three days ahead - recipes these days oft come from blogs and I too love taste.com. And I hate to admit to over 600 cookery books going back decades - some days you just remember a certain recipe so enjoyed. And yes, I prep ahead every day and if a dish is truly able to be frozen, make a party sized load and feel virtuous after 😀 !

    Reply
    • Sneh

      Wow Eha, you sound extremely organised! I hear you on the "must" eat and "yearn to" eat front. It is a mental exercise in restraint and balance. I MUST start prepping ahead, looks like it really works for you.

      Reply
  6. chinmayie @ love food eat

    I can never plan meals... I always just look into my pantry/refrigerator and cook depending on my mood.

    Reply
  7. Jen @ Savory Simple

    I'm terrible at meal planning most of the time. I love all of these tips!

    Reply
  8. Chicco @ Chomps & Noms

    Those apps sound cool. I'll check it out! 🙂
    I organise my meals based on supermarket catalogues (what's on offer) and what I have in my pantry and fridge. That way, I can save time and money, and stopping foods from rotting in my fridge. It's a Mystery Box Challenge everyday :p

    Reply
    • Sneh

      Supermarket catalogues are a great tip! Thank you!

      Reply
    • Eha

      Thanks - forgot to mention about the supermarket catalogues - I get mine the previous week and that is required Sunday night reading, usually during the ad breaks of Masterchef 😉 !

      Reply
  9. Willow

    You sound so much more organized than me already! I'm impressed! I have to admit, I don't always plan a week in advance... in fact, I generally go to the store every day, or every other day, for ingredients I've just thought of or had previously forgotten. But I also don't cook every day... a lot of the time I'm too busy, too tired, or the house is just too hot to do anything in... and on days like that I always have go-to things like boxes of cereal, canned soups, and other ready-to-go foods. Since it's only myself and The Boyfriend, I don't have a whole lot to worry about... I wish I had some advice to share!

    Reply
  10. Mar

    Basically every Saturday or Sunday I plan a weeks worth of meals (and leave a day empty if I plan to eat out or plan part of a meal like potatoes and improvise from there). This has been very successful for the past year and I rarely have wasted food unless I make way more than the two of us can eat, something spoils before I get to it, or I simply forget something is part of a recipe. I write out recipe names on a calendar and then write out the shopping list combining things like "half an onion."

    I'm also part of a CSA (community supported agriculture) where I get produce and a fresh organic loaf of bread weekly. So I've started to leave a day open for that along with planning a lighter meal during the week where I can have a really large salad from the fresh greens. I even take into consideration silly things like it will be hotter this day, so I'll make something cool... or I'll be a little busier this day so I'll make something quick.

    I also use the app Springpad on google chrome and my ipod to save recipes, edit them, and keep notes for improvements.

    Reply
    • Sneh

      I am finding weekend make-ahead meals great too! With the CSA, do you do it weekly? Do you find that you don't need to make trips to the supermarket as much if you do a CSA box? I am part of a opt-in-on-a-need-basis CSA group and find that when I buy through them, the produce is fresher, lasts much longer and eliminates excessive spending at the supermarket.

      Will check out Springpad. Thanks for that suggestion!

      Reply
  11. muppy

    I've tried iPhone shopping list and it seems to fail me, I should try again.
    I organise my shopping menu plan every week and mostly cook new recipes too. The meals depend on the day and what time we are home and who's cooking. I only buy exactly what I need so at the end of the week our fridge is practically empty and I freeze leftovers for lunches. Our worms get all the vege scraps.
    As you can tell its something I'm quite passionate about. Most weekends I shop at markets trying to reduce what I buy at the supermarket and eat seasonal recipes.

    Reply
    • Sneh

      That is inspiring Muppy! I like how you have a practically empty fridge at the end of the week. I think my biggest downfall is buying new ingredients at the supermarket that I will only use once or twice to put up recipes exclusively for the blog. But your suggestion about shopping at markets could be a fix for that. Thanks!

      Reply
  12. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    These are great hints Sneh! I don't really have an ordered system but it seems to work for the most part. Although last week I found myself with some rosemary and parsley in the fridge for a recipe and I had no idea why. And I hate wasting things so that did annoy me 😛

    Reply
  13. Petra

    The Paprika app has made my whole meal planning so much more efficient and I get away with 1 grocery shop a week - trying very hard not to buy anything that isn't on the list! But I do find it hard to eliminate food waste, although would love to have zero food wastage.

    Reply
    • Petra

      PS love the photo!

      Reply
  14. Heidi @foodiecrush

    Love all these ideas and apps. Your idea with the iPad is genius, if I only had one with a camera! I just installed Zip List on my site and I'm excited to see how it works. My readers have been asking for a way to catalogue the recipes they want to archive from the site. Great post Sneh!

    Reply
  15. Toby

    Hi Sneh,

    I don't really plan an awful lot, but look in the fridge/ pantry before leaving for work. During the day I'll think about what I fancy for dinner and how I can make it with what I've got.

    I also feel bad about wasting food. But to relieve the guilt I'm going to start a compost heap in the garden, then what I don't eat, the garden will in time.

    Thanks

    Reply
  16. Anna

    I'm a student, broke and have numerous intolerances, so I really have to plan! My go-to meals aren't options now as I've got another food group eliminated, so planning is really important. I did a roast last week, partly to see if I could do it and partly for a heap of meat for the week, but because I didn't plan out the meals straight away I lost the chance to make great use of the meat and had to freeze alot of it.

    The main way I plan it all out is with paper.

    Reply
  17. Dora Thomsan

    Wow, I am just looking this kind of information on the internet and recently I find your content which was amazing. thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply

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