Meal planning has always been difficult for me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t usually enjoy cooking, but every time I plan meals in advance, I’m never in the mood to cook that evening’s specific meal. So I try to make things simpler on myself. I have tried all of the following:
- Crockpot meals
- Muffin cup meals
- Once a month cooking
- Running out and buying things on the day I need them
All of these things failed me for some reason or another, and I was once again finding myself surrounded by empty cupboards and empty stomachs to match. However, I finally figured out an answer to my problem. I am posting this in an effort to help all of you who might be struggling with the same thing. Here’s what I did:
I took out all of my favorite go-to recipes, and supplemented them with a few other simple meals. I also asked my Facebook friends for their favorites. Then I went through all of them and made a list of the ingredients. I put dry goods in one category, frozen in another, and refrigerated in another, but I only added ingredients that I wanted to keep on hand all the time. For instance, I can keep any amount of dry goods in stock and almost every frozen item, as long as I don’t have pizzas or other space-consuming things in my freezer. Some of the dairy products, such as milk and eggs, I added to the master list, because I figured it would be good to always have those on hand. However, half-and-half didn’t make the cut because I don’t use it often enough, and I didn’t want it going bad in the fridge if I failed to use it quickly.
Most of the meals consisted solely of ingredients that I decided I could always keep stocked. As this was my goal, I didn’t pick out any complicated or obscure recipes for this project. I wrote the names of these meals down in a separate column of my grocery list, along with the designation that I could cook any of them at any given time, provided I always kept every ingredient from my master list on hand. These meals serve as my go-to menu, and it’s working out very well, even when we have company. (My husband likes it too, because he has more and better choices.)
The favorite recipes containing ingredients that were not on that list were written down in a separate place, along with the one or two extra ingredients I would need to make them. I ended up with about 40 meals I could make at the drop of a hat, and 10 or 15 more that required one or two extra ingredients. Now this is the hard part: initially purchasing everything on the master list and then remembering to write things down as soon as I use them so I can buy them again. Because I chose simple meals, and because I already had many of the dry goods on hand, I was able to make my initial purchase for about $100.
Good luck with your meal planning, and I hope this idea helps some of you!