If you know you want to be cooking more at home, but haven’t found ways to make it happen, it may be time to get into meal planning. I have developed a system for keeping my kitchen organized and fairly well-stocked at all times. If you’re meeting great resistance and still dining out more than you’d like (or succumbing to convenience foods), use the following guidelines to get your own system down pat. Bon appétit!
I stuck a small dry erase board on my refrigerator to capture ingredients and recipe ideas while I’m in the kitchen as soon as I notice I need it. If my iPhone is handy, I go straight to my Groceries app ($.99 and worth every cent). I can’t say enough about this app. I make separate lists for ingredients that I get from different sources. For example, I get bulk items like grains, trail mix, and granola from Whole Foods, spices from the International Market, and local, seasonal produce from Hollygrove Market and Farm. I LOVE combining trips, so if I stay on top of my lists then I rarely have to make a special trip to get anything.
Get yourself a collection of Pyrex containers of various sizes with lids. They’re oven, dishwasher, and freezer-safe, they don’t hold odors or leach harmful chemicals into your foods like plastic, and they’re nice enough to serve out of. Well worth the investment. I also have a small collection of BPA-free plastic ware that I use only in the fridge for storing cut veggies and cleaned lettuces.
Make it a habit to purge old stuff out of your fridge on a weekly basis. I use grocery shopping as an excuse to clean because it’s when the fridge is closest to empty. Before stocking your new groceries, remove anything old out of there and wipe down the inside to keep everything as fresh as possible for as long as possible. This is easily my favorite habit I’ve developed.
If you don’t know what’s in a container in your fridge and you forgot how long it’s been in there, there’s a good chance it’s a goner. Keep a roll of blue painter’s tape and a Sharpie in a kitchen drawer to keep everything labeled and dated. No more mysterious science projects!
One of the benefits of buying local produce is you get into a rhythm with the seasons and eventually learn what’s coming up. If you’re still in the dark about what’s available, subscribe to your local CSA’s e-mail updates to use in your planning. This will usually include a list of what they’re offering for the week.
Schedule a prep day (Sundays are great!) to wash and chop up freshly cut veggies for easy stir-fries and salads throughout the week. Store them in your Pyrex!
The more you experiment in the kitchen, the more comfortable you will get with thinking ahead. I am happy to report that I now eat 90% of my meals at home. I love this because I have control over the quality and amount of oils, sugars, and salts in my food, not to mention the freshest, tastiest food in town. Happy and successful meal planning!