Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 5: Decluttering the Recipe Binder and a Few Words about Menu Planning

Read the previous entry in this series:  Day 4: The Freezer or start at the beginning with the introduction: 5 Ways Clutter Costs.

This recipe binder represents fourteen years of learning to cook. Seriously.
I did not learn to cook until my daughter was born.

This is at capacity. Any more recipes would be annoying.

I mean, I cooked. I knew how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch. I knew how to make muffins and how to make lentil soup. I could make anything--as long as I followed a recipe. The trick was making dinner--night after night after night.

When I had my daughter 15 years ago, I realised I had no idea how to cook and clean for four people, two of whom could not control their bowels. Somehow, I found fly lady--and through her, Leanne Ely.

Leanne Ely has written a series of cookbooks called Saving Dinner. (There is now a website of the same name, I see.) In each cookbook, she divided the year into seasons and then further subdivided the seasons into weeks. Every week had six recipes--and an accompanying grocery list. (This was fifteen years ago, remember. Revolutionary.)

In time, I learned to make a menu plan for myself. I would plan seven dinners and then make up a shopping list. Sometimes we'd have Monday's dinner on Wednesday--it really didn't matter. I knew I had all the ingredients. For a long time, I even planned a month's worth of meals at a time.

Over time, I collected recipes. Some of them arefrom Leanne Ely's books: I used them somuch the pages fell out--so I just popped them into a page protector and into a binder and away I went.
I consult the binder first when I'm planning the week.

What I do now--and I don't do it the "best" way--not at all--is I look at Safeway's on-line flyer and see what's on sale. I plan whatever meat we're going to eat from what's on sale.

Then, I go down to the freezer and see what meat we have on hand. I make a quick list. (I tell ya, a voice-activated inventory app on the freezer would be so handy.) It could go something like this:

Me: "Suri, I'm taking out the chicken legs."
Suri: "With back attached or without?"

Me: "Suri, I'm putting in some ground beef."
Suri: "Expiry date?"

Me, upstairs at the computer: "Suri, show me all the fish I have in the freezer and rank by expiry date, soonest to latest."

Wouldn't that be great?

As I went through the book, I asked myself:
"Will we ever eat this again?"
"If I've never made it, would I want to try it?"

There were even some duplicates!

Now, I can menu plan more easily. (Bonus: I found the recipes for the dishes I cook at Thanksgiving. I'd thought they were somewhere else! Good thing--Thanksgiving is next weekend!)

For meal planning, I use a form based on one I got in a Simplify 101 course. (They also have an e-book on menu planning.) My menu planning form has room only for dinners. It's what I need.

On the left, there's room to record the expected temperature--and my work hours. That helps me plan whether we want something BBQ'd or cooked in the crock pot, for example.

At the bottom of the form is the place to record my groceries.

I find it so handy to have my menu plan with me when I'm shopping for groceries.

Here is a downloadable printable of it, if you wish to have it. My menu planning form.

(Now, I know there are apps which do all this for you--but I don't have a phone.)

When I have done the shopping, I take my menu planning form and the recipes for the week--and clip them all together on the fridge. That way, I can ask one of those two children, both teenagers now, and learning other life skills, to make dinner--and the information about what to make and the recipe are right there. No excuses! That, to me, is the biggest benefit of menu planning--I can hand off making dinner.

Do you menu plan? Have you got a recipe binder (or something similar)?

 Read the next entry in this series Day 6: Food Storage Containers, or Don't Declutter Just to Declutter

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