I remember when the idea of meal planning first occurred to me. I was in my 20’s, single and regularly wandering through the supermarket buying things that “looked good” or were “good for me”. I would walk away having spent $80, with only myself to feed. At least half of the food would go slimy or freezer burned before I got around to using it and then I’d do it all over again.
One day I was standing in line at the deli counter when I looked at the shopping list of the lady in front of me. In addition to her list she had written down:Monday: BBQ beef sandwiches Tuesday: Spaghetti Wednesday: Chicken and rice
OK, so I don’t actually remember what she had written, but you get the idea (except the BBQ beef sandwiches, it really did say that).
Right there and then it occurred to me that there was a better way to do this whole grocery shopping thing. I was a full convert right there on the spot. That was about 20 years ago and I just don’t understand how anyone can come up at 4:30pm and not know what they are making for dinner. It would absolutely stress me out.
So, I sit down once a week, usually on Sunday afternoons and look through my recipe files, cookbooks and even old calendars to see what we were eating last year at this time, all for inspiration. I map out the week with the calendar open, taking into account days that there are basketball games, cub scouts, etc. I try to have a few easy dinners in my repertoire for days like that.
I love to read cookbooks like novels, but I am guilty of not really using them as much as I should. So right now I am focusing on just a few cookbooks and really trying to find the recipes that we love from them. The ones I have chosen for now are The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, and Simple Summers by the Moosewood Collective. I love all cookbooks by Moosewood; they are the most dog-eared in my kitchen. And how I wish I had had Feeding the Whole Family when my kids were babies! So much useful information on cooking *one* meal for your family. The Art of Simple Food is a bit like going to cooking school- so much great info there as well.
By setting aside an hour or so each week to make my menu plan, I have the luxury of flipping through the cookbooks, thinking about what we have in the fridge, or what is coming in our CSA box for the week. It takes the stress out of dinner and makes turning our a dinner each night a little more enjoyable.