A few months ago, I did a post about about how I use Evernote for meal planning. In this post, I’m going to build on that and give you some of my tips that make meal planning work effectively for me.
1. Know what you’ve already got
Whether this involves checking your fridge, freezer & pantry before you meal plan, keeping a running list of what is there somewhere, or just being ‘aware’ of it in your head, it’s really useful. I use a combination of the checking and being ‘aware’ of what we’ve got, because there are some things that Hubby mainly uses and he never remembers to tell me when things are running low, but I’m usually aware of how much is left of pantry staples/stuff I use.
This also includes knowing how many meals-worth of frozen food you have. I freeze everything in single-meal serves, so I can quickly count up the containers and know how many meals we have in the freezer.
2. Know what your staples are
These are different for everyone. My staples are even very different from my Mum’s, and she’s the one who taught me to cook. If you have NO IDEA what your staples are yet (be it because you’ve just started cooking for yourself, or because you’ve never really thought about it), there are a few options.
If it’s just because you’ve never really thought about it, collect up your favourite/most-used recipes and look at the ingredients. Anything that can be frozen or is shelf-stable will make up the beginning of your staples list.
If you’ve just started cooking for yourself and don’t know where to start, because you don’t even really have favourite recipes yet, I’ll be doing a post next week about my pantry staples. You can also google ‘pantry staples’ and see what other people recommend.
3. Always have your staples on hand
They’re not really staples if you don’t have them on hand 🙂 If you always have your pantry staples, you can make a lot of meals just out of your pantry. This is great for weeks when you don’t have a lot of money for food, as you can just get a few fresh ingredients to supplement what you already have.
4. Stock up on staples when you can
If your pantry staples are on sale, replace anything that you’ve used. Eg, if you always have tinned tomatoes in the pantry, decide on a “standard” number of cans (maybe 10) and replenish your stock up to that number every time they’re on special.
5. Check the use-by dates on everything
Always keep an eye on what is about to go out of date, to save on wasting this food. There’s nothing worse than planning a meal for the week, and really looking forward to eating it, only to go to make it and find that one of the main ingredients has gone yuck. Then you have to make another trip to the shops and buy the ingredient, which often is not on special at that point, or run around trying to find something that you DO have that you can use instead.