I enjoy cooking, what I hate is deciding what to cook! There is nothing worse than going into the kitchen at the end of a busy day and asking or being asked “what do you want for dinner?”. EXCEPT going in and having a taste for a particular thing that I’m missing a key ingredient for. In my case, a trip to the grocery store is at least 30 minutes in the car, plus the misery of a store crowded with other tired, crabby, after work shoppers. So, no.
I go through cycles of meal planning, some more detailed and elaborate than others. But I really regret it when I lose the habit altogether. However I plan, I like to have flexibility within the week. I’ll never be someone who does a day by day plan. That feels too restrictive to me. I know that if I make a schedule I’ll inevitably decide I’m really not in the mood for spaghetti on Wednesday. I have plenty of flexibility with the two methods below.
During one Pinterest inspired phase, I created a magnetic chalkboard and card system. This works great for getting input from my boys when they are home. The cards (made from paint swatches) each have a main dish on them. It’s much easier to contribute ideas when they have options to choose from. “What do you want for dinners this week?” can elicit a blank stare.
I also make notes on the back of cards with additional information. Some list which cookbook or Pinterest board to find the recipe in. Others have ideas for what side dishes work well with it. The cards for the week get hung up on the board, which hangs in the kitchen. Then whoever is cooking can choose from a set of ideas that we have the ingredients on hand for.
The other tool I use regularly is my notebook. As much as I love technology, for my to-do lists and meal planning I like pen (preferably brightly colored) and paper. I keep a 6 x 8 leather notebook with refillable pages on hand at all times. My current favorite way of using this for meal planning is to have a list of lunches & dinners down the far right side of a page and my grocery list on the other two thirds of the same page. That really helps me when I’m shopping.
If you’d prefer a digital option, this website has a nice step by step method of setting up menus on your Google calendar.
Whatever system you use, meal planning is a great way to get the most out of both meat and produce CSA shares. When you get your bag or box that’s a great time to brainstorm ideas around what you have on hand. Whether you’re looking for some new recipes, or going back to family favorites, having those high quality ingredients to start from will give you a jumping off point!
How do you plan your meals and shopping? Share your tips below!