Jump to content

Menu

2017 - Must Start Meal Planning. Help!!!


Just Kate
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've been looking over our spending in 2016 and the biggest category of waste for my family is food! Now, I know we need to eat. But I spend way too much money on groceries that sometimes don't get eaten (because I have no plan) and on takeout/convenience foods (again, because I have no plan). I have to make changes in this area in 2017, but I need some help.

 

  • How do you do your meal planning? I think I would like to use something that is available online and as an app.
  • Can you share any specific meal plans you have used in the past? Easy meals??? This is what I need!
  • I got an Instant Pot for Christmas, but haven't even opened the box. Any good websites or suggestions on using an Instant Pot to make easy meals???

 

Dh works out of town and I work part-time (school hours). Both kids are involved in activities, so I am usually running around when it is time to prepare and eat dinner. I'm tired of the waste though. Also tired of eating cruddy food.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just use the calendar app on my iPad to plan our meals. I created a separate calendar called "dinner." I have tried other, way more complex solutions, but they never really did what I wanted. This way, the entire family can access the calendar and see what's for dinner so it cuts down on me being asked 100 time a week what's for dinner. If I want to reschedule a meal, I just drag it somewhere else. It also makes it easy to look back and see what went over well if I want to repeat something.

 

I pick a time when I'm well rested and not stressed (and the kids are otherwise occupied) to sit down with my stack of cookbooks and then I'll plan out a month or more at a time. I'll usually put the abbreviated title of the cookbook in the entry, but you can also put that information in the notes. There a space that I can put the URL if it's a recipe I found online (sometimes there's more than one website and I put those in the notes). You could generate your own grocery lists at that point too, but I usually do those one a weekly basis. I use an app called Buy Me a Pie for my grocery list because it can sync across multiple devices. My kids also know to add things to the app if they come across something that we're out of.

 

As for the InstantPot, there's a social group here for the InstantPot that has lots of suggestions for the kinds of thinga you're looking for.

Edited by mamaraby
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been a meal planner for 22 years and just this year I managed to cut my average grocery spending by 24%. What works for one person may not work for another so I will share what I do.

 

I used to plan 12-14 meals for 2 weeks but not plan any for a particular day of the week.  I did not plan lunch or breakfast but had regular, expected options for those.  In June this year I got tired of buying two carts of groceries spending two hours round trip grocery shopping  and ending a two week period with rotting veggies and a list of complex meals that I didn't want to/have time to cook.

 

Now I sit down every Monday with the calendar for the week and I plan a specific dinner for each night based on the days activities.  I also plan one to two baked goods for breakfast and snack options, and 2-3 lunches. I also plan for any bake sales, potlucks or other events that I need to bring food for.  I write these meals and planned items on the second page of a composition book.  Then I flip back to the first page and write my grocery list based on what I am cooking including side dishes.  Costco purchases go on the back of the facing page so that when the book is open to my list Costco is on the right page and the grocery store is on the left page.  When I am shopping, if the store is out of something or has a particularly good sale I can turn the page to my menu and see what was planned and make any needed changes.  After dinner on Monday night I go to the store and shop.

 

Since June I have cut my monthly grocery costs by 24% and we rarely end up eating out on a whim because I waited too late to plan, or the meal was to complex to make in the allotted time, or I was out of a critical ingredient.

 

The other thing that makes a huge difference is that I loom at what is planned for the next day the night before and pull out any ingredients that need to defrost or know to plan to prepare anything that needs to be done earlier in the day.  I cannot wait until 4:00 to plan dinner.

 

I am a huge technology user, I had a palm pilot  when my oldest daughter was 1 year old.  I have tried many meal planning website and apps and grocery list apps and keep coming back to my composition book.  It sits on the counter and everyone knows where to look to see what is for dinner and  knows that anything that they want or need me to buy should be written on the page after the menu (which is the next weeks list)

Edited by Tania
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My SIL loves anylist. It is subscription, about $12 a year I think. I have used Plan to Eat. I liked it, I'm just a pen and paper kind of girl.

 

First: what will your family eat well? What recipes do they like?

 

Then: build/base a pantry off those types of foods. Lots of international foods? Better have a great stash of herbs and spices. Pasta? Lots of shapes and sizes. Bake a lot? Make sure you have a stash of flour, soda, powder, and yeast.

 

Finally: there are many, many ways to meal plan. It may take quite a while to find what works for you. I have planned off the weekly sales. I have planned on one type of meal per day a week. I have flown by the seat of my pants with what ever is growing in the garden. I like the idea of cooking once a month, with a twist. I don't always have the energy to do it up front. If I have four or so of the meals in the freezer, with the ingredients prepped for the upcoming week, I call it a successful session.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use Excel.  Years and years ago the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook used to have a section in the front where they did meal planning.  Between that and the Tightwad Gazette my plans have been influenced a LOT by their methods:

-plan for leftovers/reusables

-use the same ingredients to rotate through the week

-have 4 items on the plate (usually a fruit, a veggie, and a starch or extra veggie)

 

I don't use premade meal plans because they either rely on things we don't eat (like broccoli) or things we don't use often (like canned goods)

 

It makes it simple.  For example, last week I made pasta ragu.  At the same time I browned up beef for tacos for two nights later.  We ate, and then I reused the taco meat to make enchiladas.  And we had three hamburger nights because it was on sale - planning around loss leaders helps a LOT.  The leftover farfalle was made into a pasta salad to go on the side of grilled chicken (along with asparagus and warmed peaches).  The last of the asparagus was eaten at the end of the week with pork chops, rice, and salad made from the rest of the veggies that didn't make it in the pasta salad.  All easy to put together in 20 minutes at dinner time.

 

Just having a meal plan on the fridge helps because I know what to take out the night before or prep the morning of.  That's half the battle right there.  And I plan in nights when we won't want to cook/don't have time.  I keep two pizzas in my freezer along with homemade soup in 1 cup servings, tamales, and a last resort heat-and-eat lasagna from Sam's Club. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now I sit down every Monday with the calendar for the week and I plan a specific dinner for each night based on the days activities.

 

The other thing that makes a huge difference is that I loom at what is planned for the next day the night before and pull out any ingredients that need to defrost or know to plan to prepare anything that needs to be done earlier in the day. I cannot wait until 4:00 to plan dinner.

The above is why using my calendar works so well for me (and you're right, it's totally a YMMV thing). By putting them on the calendar I can see what's going on that day. For instance, Tuesdays we have class and don't get back until after 4pm. I know with all the driving I'm pretty tired when I get home so if it's not quick and easy or pre-prepared in some fashion, then it's probably not a good idea. Ditto for soccer season. My dh's days off rotate from week to week so I usually get his input for those days or plan favorite dishes (or more complex dishes because then I have more help in the kitchen).

 

I also never plan breakfasts. We have a few things on hand and the kids can pick from what's there. I hate sandwiches and have no interest in making a separate meal at lunch time so I make sure we have leftovers from dinner and a few pantry type staples for lunch in a pinch. And I never shop for more than a week at a time. My fridge simply isn't that big and then if there is a meal we didn't get to, I can carry it over to the next week and adjust my plan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I CANNOT meal-plan every week. Just can't do it. I've tried. So here's what I do:

 

I meal-plan on a quarterly basis, which I know sounds like a lot, but it's really not. We use a six-week rotation, which means that over the course of 12 weeks, we eat each meal twice (at most). We are not an adventurous eating family, so that works for us. Working on a quarterly basis also allows me to make use of whatever produce is in season, without reinventing the wheel every week. Our quarters are tied to the seasons rather than the calendar year. But we shop weekly, at least for fresh ingredients, so little waste. Knowing what will be coming up allows me to stock up on items when they go on sale (although we could take better advantage of this, and probably should).

 

For each week, I've planned out five to six dinners. Lunch and breakfast we keep the same set of basic options each week. I try to include at least one "quick-fix" option and one slow-cooker/prep in advance type option for each week. I don't enjoy cooking, though, so none of my meals are terribly complex. I also make use of leftovers as part of the plan (getting more than one meal from a package of chicken, for example). I do not assign a meal to any given day, but at the start of the week, I make a mental plan of which meals work best on which nights, based on our schedule for that week.

 

I also have made grocery lists to go with each plan. This is a HUGE time-saver and money-saver. Each meal has a number, and ingredients on the list are numbered according to which meal(s) they are in. That way, if we decide to substitute in a different meal one week (special occasion, just don't feel like having it, or whatever) it's super easy to cross out those ingredients. I find that it's much faster to eliminate than to create a list each week. The lists also include any staple items we'll need for the week, as well as stuff we buy weekly (milk, bread, breakfast/lunch items) and household items (paper towels, kitty litter, laundry detergent). Again, much easier to cross off than to think of what we need every week.

 

Once a year or so, I go through and change up the plans, taking out anything we're getting tired of and putting in new favorites. There is definitely some work involved up front, but since I made this plan years ago, we have saved tons of time and money, and lost a lot of weight too. Eating out and eating convenience foods was a major problem for us. Once it's set up, this plan is so manageable, we hardly have to think about it.

 

I will be glad to send you my template (just a Word doc) if you'd like. PM me your email.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't read the thread yet... what I do:
1) take inventory of foods on hand (make a list of stuff in the freezers mostly as in 2 frozen pizzas, 3 packages chicken breasts, 1 Italian sausage, etc) and pantry (Mac n cheese, spaghetti, etc not flour, sugar etc)
2. Look over list for combos i.e. Italian sausage +pasta+sauce, chicken+ taco shells and make a list of Meals I can/would like to make from the ingredients on hand plus a grocery list (need a salad with that pasta and taco toppings with that chicken) etc.
3. Compile a list of Meals I can make for breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
4. Just use this list don't assign to specific days ... I might note that something is super quick or requires the crockpot or grilling with a symbol or something

I found that having each day picked out was more stressful for me ... I felt compelled to follow the list when it didn't make sense with a schedule change or something.

 

I buy more meats and things on mark down/sale and figure them out when I get to it ;)

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Edited by theelfqueen
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Over the years I've tried pre-made plans, apps, programs, and subscriptions, but found those fail for me and go back to paper. 

 

Now I keep it real simple.

On Sunday, I take a sheet of paper, fold it in half, then fold it in half 3 more times so when I open it, there are 8 squares. I label each section Mon-Sun, plus snack. In each square I write the menu for that day. To make planning easy, each day's meal is loosely themed, for example:

 

Monday

B: Hot cereal (oatmeal, grits, etc)

L: A soup or a salad

D: Beef dish

 

Tuesday

B: Eggs of some kind

L: A pasta dish

D: Chicken dish

 

If I'm using a cookbook, I'll write the name & page number under the meal. When I'm done with the plan, I make a list of ingredients in my phone, put the plan on the refrigerator, take a picture, and head to the grocery store. 

 

I've been doing it for years and found if I don't make the menu plan, our week does not go smoothly. And since it's on the refrigerator, it' easy to reference and gets used, plus my husband can even start dinner if I'm late coming home.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To add, I usually just plan out the main meat dish.  The sides I go by what vegetables look decent at the store (and are a good price).  I keep frozen on hand too.  

 

Depends on what/how you cook.  You could also try something like e-meals.  I use them and Relish!  I've tried Fresh 20, but that didn't really suit my tastes. 

 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you pinpoint why the groceries you have bought don't get eaten? Why does that require a plan?

I have periodic clean-out-the-crisper meals, where I make a big stew with the odds and ends of veggies and any leftovers. You could simply use up the foods you have and make a meal with them.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you pinpoint why the groceries you have bought don't get eaten? Why does that require a plan?

I have periodic clean-out-the-crisper meals, where I make a big stew with the odds and ends of veggies and any leftovers. You could simply use up the foods you have and make a meal with them.

 

I can answer that (talking about myself).  Anything from laziness to lack of imagination to picky family. 

 

I've gotten better over time at least though.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

To add, I usually just plan out the main meat dish.  The sides I go by what vegetables look decent at the store (and are a good price).  

 

I do this, too.

When I shop, I aim to buy a protein for each day - whatever is on sale/looks good/I crave. I freeze some extra if there is a good sale.

I buy vegetables that are in season/on sale/look good.

I make sure I have staples of rice, pasta, potatoes, grains, flour to have a starch.

I keep spices, olive oil, curry paste etc in the pantry.

 What exactly I make of it I decide that very day. Key is to use the stuff I bought. We have virtually no food waste.

Edited by regentrude
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

An idea with stuff you won't get to in the fridge is to freeze it.  Obviously not salad, but anything else you can just chop it up, steam it briefly, and then use it later.  I sometimes have plans for something and then I don't get to it.  I hate wasting stuff and try not to. 

 

Salad stuff.  Well that's trickier.  i just go to the store more often for that stuff because I haven't found a better way.  I wrap my celery in foil.  That makes it last usually at least a week.  Right now we are still working through garden carrots that we keep buried in sand in the basement (I'm so amazed how well that's working out).

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm still a paper and pen person but, whatever the method, I don't see any reason to complicate it.

 

Before I go to the store, I make a list of 5 meals I want to eat (because my family is no help.)  Then I write down what I need to buy for them.  I keep a decent idea of when I want to make those meals based on what our week looks like, but I'm not a slave to it.  The extra two nights are for leftovers, using up odds and ends, or ordering out when our schedule gets changed or my mood dictates.  No guilt, because it's planned.

 

I do keep a fully stocked pantry and two freezers (regular and chest.)  It works wonders for avoiding the whole "I don't feel like running out just for a package of meat or head of broccoli, so let's get pizza" thing.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been a meal planner for 22 years and just this year I managed to cut my average grocery spending by 24%. What works for one person may not work for another so I will share what I do.

 

I used to plan 12-14 meals for 2 weeks but not plan any for a particular day of the week.  I did not plan lunch or breakfast but had regular, expected options for those.  In June this year I got tired of buying two carts of groceries spending two hours round trip grocery shopping  and ending a two week period with rotting veggies and a list of complex meals that I didn't want to/have time to cook.

 

Now I sit down every Monday with the calendar for the week and I plan a specific dinner for each night based on the days activities.  I also plan one to two baked goods for breakfast and snack options, and 2-3 lunches. I also plan for any bake sales, potlucks or other events that I need to bring food for.  I write these meals and planned items on the second page of a composition book.  Then I flip back to the first page and write my grocery list based on what I am cooking including side dishes.  Costco purchases go on the back of the facing page so that when the book is open to my list Costco is on the right page and the grocery store is on the left page.  When I am shopping, if the store is out of something or has a particularly good sale I can turn the page to my menu and see what was planned and make any needed changes.  After dinner on Monday night I go to the store and shop.

 

Since June I have cut my monthly grocery costs by 24% and we rarely end up eating out on a whim because I waited too late to plan, or the meal was to complex to make in the allotted time, or I was out of a critical ingredient.

 

The other thing that makes a huge difference is that I loom at what is planned for the next day the night before and pull out any ingredients that need to defrost or know to plan to prepare anything that needs to be done earlier in the day.  I cannot wait until 4:00 to plan dinner.

 

I am a huge technology user, I had a palm pilot  when my oldest daughter was 1 year old.  I have tried many meal planning website and apps and grocery list apps and keep coming back to my composition book.  It sits on the counter and everyone knows where to look to see what is for dinner and  knows that anything that they want or need me to buy should be written on the page after the menu (which is the next weeks list)

 

I love this! Thank you for sharing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is exactly my issue.  It gets to the point where I'm almost frozen by indecision.  Sounds stupid, but yes I get very stressed out over the fact nobody contributes to coming up with meal ideas.

 

I have an extremely picky eater. So I know the meals he will eat are limited - which is sort of boring, but also easy for shopping. Meat or salmon, and rice or pasta. I make sides DH and I like and DS doesn't.

But input on upcoming meals? Never. Neither of them cares. I guess I have it easy. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have an extremely picky eater. So I know the meals he will eat are limited - which is sort of boring, but also easy for shopping. Meat or salmon, and rice or pasta. I make sides DH and I like and DS doesn't.

But input on upcoming meals? Never. Neither of them cares. I guess I have it easy. 

 

My older kid is so picky he makes his own food.  I don't even consider him in the meal planning except to get him the stuff he'll eat.

 

DH is not picky.  But if I ask him for ideas he'll say pancakes.  Every.single.time.  I don't eat pancakes (but do make them for him sometimes). That's basically his way of saying he can't make up his mind either!  Younger DS isn't picky either.  I'm picky. 

 

Sometimes I think of just making the same thing everyday for as long as it takes until someone gives me a better idea.  LOL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another is that without a plan, I buy too much.  With a plan, I know I need 3 bags of the baby carrots that are on sale.  Without one, I am more likely to buy like 5 or 6 bags because the deal is so good lol.

 

 

I do that, too - but then we'll just snack on baby carrots or have them as sides for the next meals. Whatever is in the fridge is what gets eaten.

 

And yet another is that without a plan, I never have all the ingredients to make what I do want.  I have shrimp and carrots and celery and mushrooms, great lets make stir fry.....crap, out of soy sauce.  Or I decide I want a tuna salad, go to get the mayo out, and discover there's no mayo in the fridge.  So, the stir fry or the tuna salad or the whatever doesn't get made, and the produce ends up sitting there.

 

Can't you substitute or improvise? As in: no soy sauce - OK, let's stir fry and season with Italian herbs; no mayo - so let's make tuna in tomato sauce?

 

 

 

And one last reason, for US at least, is that when I make my meal plans, I do take into account the days when I have more time, and the days when I have less time.  If I just buy whatever, I am likely to buy lots of things that take a LONG time to cook when in reality the week ends up being really busy and I don't have time to cook a lot. 

 

ETA: I always operate under the assumption that I only have 25 minutes to make a meal (I cook in my lunch break), unless it is weekend. So the time consuming roasts etc have to wait until a weekend, if we happen not to be busy. 

Edited by regentrude
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I buy a ton of produce, especially if there are good deals. I love having a full fridge and options to choose from. But it gets eaten in the end.

 

I'm the only one who eats it unless I serve it.  It's not the first thing people grab.  Probably because, goodness forbid, it requires a bit of effort. 

 

Except some fruits my kids will eat.  Neither my husband or I like fruit though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't read the whole thread, but I meal plan using the Plan to Eat website. There's no app, but there's a mobile site that works well for reading (not so much for planning though, IME). I'm laptop-oriented, so I do everything sitting with my laptop and then use my iPad or phone while I'm cooking. One of my favorite things about PTE is that you can create a Google calendar link to your meal plan, so your meal plans show up on your calendar (if you use one) with everything else. Then you can just click the meal on your calendar and it takes you right to the recipe, if you need it. 

 

I don't buy on sale and then plan around that, mainly because I don't shop at the local grocery stores that have good sales. (I shop at Whole Foods, BJs, and through a local delivery group.) So I plan around whatever I have in the house, but mostly I can buy whatever I want. Planning still saves me money though, for sure, just because I'm less likely to be at a loss and end up ordering in. 

 

You've probably gotten great advice so far, so I'll just add this (assuming someone hasn't already said it). One of the very best benefits of owning my Instant Pot is that I can assemble meals in advance and then freeze them in large round containers uncooked. When the time comes to cook them, I run the plastic containers under hot water (or let them sit on the counter for a bit, if I have the time), pop out the frozen food, drop it into the Instant Pot, saute for 5 minutes, and then cook the way I would normally cook an IP meal. It's not fast, but it works perfectly for nights where I forgot to thaw something or discover I'm out of ingredients or just don't feel like cooking what I'd planned. I keep a few frozen IP meals on hand at all times for nights like this.

 

Honestly, the Instant Pot has saved me time and money just on its own, but the freezer meal thing saves even more (and I have never been one for freezer cooking before). If you want more details on that, let me know and I'll write more and link you to some helpful stuff. But yes, join the social group here and join the HUGE FB group as well. There's loads of expertise there, and you can search the group, so if there's a recipe you want to make but you don't know how to do it in the IP, you can probably find a version there that someone has already used and offered feedback on.

 

Ultimately, I meal plan, but I also make sure to keep some quick stuff on hand too. I tell the kids in advance that those things are off limits because they're emergency food. For example, Whole Foods sells these amazing frozen breaded chicken tenders--all natural, not greasy, lightly breaded, toaster oven friendly. They work great on salads for DH and me and alongside some fresh or frozen veggies for the kids. Between the meal planning, the frozen IP meals, and a couple of strategic pre-prepared items, we've been able to cut down our food costs quite a bit in the last few months. 

 

And now I'm going to read the rest of the thread to see if I can glean any new, useful info :D

 

ETA: Oh, about easy meals, whenever I add a new recipe through my Plan to Eat button (seriously, so easy), I can tag it with whatever applies, and Easy is one of those tags. That way when I'm meal planning, I can pull all recipes with that tag and assign them to busier nights, etc. I even add things like Baked Potatoes with Toppings or Cheese Quesadillas or Burgers or Leftover Night as individual recipes, because otherwise I tend to forget about options like that, and it makes them easy to pull into my meal plan calendar. We should start a thread about easy recipes. 

Edited by ILiveInFlipFlops
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My only suggestion is that before you start this you need to stock your necessities cabinets. List out spices, seasonings, and things like soy sauce, capers, ketchup, jarred sauces- those sort of random, yet key ingredients. Stuff that keeps but that can throw a major wrench in the works if you're missing it.

 

I admire people like regentrude who can improvise when they're missing a key ingredient. I cannot. I am just not creative or something. So I had to make a change and stock up that way and it has been a game changer. It gives me options.

 

I went through my favorite cookbooks and listed out the various seasonings etc. for any recipe that looked remotely like something I would do. I got multiple types of salts and peppers. Small bottles of rarely used seasonings, but better to have and not need than need and not have for something that doesn't cost much. Things like that. Even items like butcher string and cheese cloth and parchment paper. Your basics. I make sure I have ample amounts. Then from there dried pasta, rice, beans, tetra packs of broth or what have you. Again, things that keep a bit. Then I could concentrate on only buying the perishables for my weekly lists because the pantry was in order.

 

That is what changed me from the 4pm panic to at least knowing what's for dinner by 10am. I used the old auntie Leila blogs for meal plans, but the pantry prep saved me more than anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know that not everyone improvises easily, but another thing to keep in mind is that there are sometimes easy substitutions that you can make that you can find online. Google is your friend in the kitchen. Some of that is also stocking your cabinets with enough of the standard herbs/spices/ingredients.

 

Another resource that might help is something like "The Flavor Bible" by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg. They list flavors for individual ingredients, possible substitutions, and things that pair well with it. It's like improvisation with training wheels.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My only suggestion is that before you start this you need to stock your necessities cabinets. List out spices, seasonings, and things like soy sauce, capers, ketchup, jarred sauces- those sort of random, yet key ingredients. Stuff that keeps but that can throw a major wrench in the works if you're missing it.

 

I admire people like regentrude who can improvise when they're missing a key ingredient. I cannot. I am just not creative or something. So I had to make a change and stock up that way and it has been a game changer. It gives me options.

 

I went through my favorite cookbooks and listed out the various seasonings etc. for any recipe that looked remotely like something I would do. I got multiple types of salts and peppers. Small bottles of rarely used seasonings, but better to have and not need than need and not have for something that doesn't cost much. Things like that. Even items like butcher string and cheese cloth and parchment paper. Your basics. I make sure I have ample amounts. Then from there dried pasta, rice, beans, tetra packs of broth or what have you. Again, things that keep a bit. Then I could concentrate on only buying the perishables for my weekly lists because the pantry was in order.

 

That is what changed me from the 4pm panic to at least knowing what's for dinner by 10am. I used the old auntie Leila blogs for meal plans, but the pantry prep saved me more than anything.

 

Excellent advice. (And I'm not terribly creative either.) I do have a well stocked spice/herb cabinet, and I'm pretty good at knowing what can be left out and what can be substituted, but it helps to have the basics on hand at least. I always have lots of taco powder (or the ingredients to make it), cajun seasoning, and curry powder on hand, and lots of canned coconut milk and tetra pak chicken stock. I strongly prefer to make my own stock, and I do, but I go through phases when I have lots of homemade on hand and then phases when I have none and no time to make any. Or I'll think I have some in the deep freeze and it turns out I don't. So keeping some shelf stable stock is very useful. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know that not everyone improvises easily, but another thing to keep in mind is that there are sometimes easy substitutions that you can make that you can find online. Google is your friend in the kitchen. Some of that is also stocking your cabinets with enough of the standard herbs/spices/ingredients.

 

Another resource that might help is something like "The Flavor Bible" by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg. They list flavors for individual ingredients, possible substitutions, and things that pair well with it. It's like improvisation with training wheels.

I bought my friend that book for her bday last month off of Amazon. I hadn't read it but it's on my list for myself at some point! I think it would help me a lot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My only suggestion is that before you start this you need to stock your necessities cabinets. List out spices, seasonings, and things like soy sauce, capers, ketchup, jarred sauces- those sort of random, yet key ingredients. Stuff that keeps but that can throw a major wrench in the works if you're missing it.

 

I admire people like regentrude who can improvise when they're missing a key ingredient. I cannot. I am just not creative or something. So I had to make a change and stock up that way and it has been a game changer. It gives me options.

 

I went through my favorite cookbooks and listed out the various seasonings etc. for any recipe that looked remotely like something I would do. I got multiple types of salts and peppers. Small bottles of rarely used seasonings, but better to have and not need than need and not have for something that doesn't cost much. Things like that. Even items like butcher string and cheese cloth and parchment paper. Your basics. I make sure I have ample amounts. Then from there dried pasta, rice, beans, tetra packs of broth or what have you. Again, things that keep a bit. Then I could concentrate on only buying the perishables for my weekly lists because the pantry was in order.

 

That is what changed me from the 4pm panic to at least knowing what's for dinner by 10am. I used the old auntie Leila blogs for meal plans, but the pantry prep saved me more than anything.

 

I went to culinary school and I still struggle with improvising!  I guess because I worry about not liking the result.  I'm picky.  It's not obvious to anyone in my home that I'm so picky because I do absolutely all the cooking so of course I don't cook stuff I don't like!  But yep, I am and I would not eat something that ended up tasting like crud. 

 

I can do some improvising of course.  It's just sometimes I stare at everything and can't come up with anything.  So I do better with planning ahead.  It takes that pressure off for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I went to culinary school and I still struggle with improvising!  I guess because I worry about not liking the result.  I'm picky.  It's not obvious to anyone in my home that I'm so picky because I do absolutely all the cooking so of course I don't cook stuff I don't like!  But yep, I am and I would not eat something that ended up tasting like crud. 

 

I can do some improvising of course.  It's just sometimes I stare at everything and can't come up with anything.  So I do better with planning ahead.  It takes that pressure off for me.

 

I pretty good at improvising but if I'm not in the mood to eat something, it doesn't matter how good it tastes, I'm not going to enjoy eating it.  In those cases I've learned to just go ahead and serve what I came up with.  The rest of the family will eat it so I have to have to hear the chorus of I'm hungry so I feel like my job is done.  I will often just go find something for myself to eat that is more appealing.

 

For instance, spaghetti actually tastes good to me about once or twice a year, however I serve it almost weekly because everyone else likes it, it's cheap, it's quick, and I don't have to think too hard.  So most week's I just go make myself a salad or grab something from the freezer.

 

Edited by cjzimmer1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...