Monday, December 12, 2011

A little planning goes a long way!

I know very few people who actually enjoy thinking about what to make for dinner. And until I starting coming up with a monthly plan, I too would roam around the market asking myself, "What's for dinner?" Shopping without a plan is tricky and I'd often find myself just grabbing old standbys that weren't necessarily the most nutritious, and certainly weren't the most innovative! I understand being busy and not feeling like you have time to plan meals. However, it really doesn't take much time at all. In fact, I'm convinced if you just set aside a little time once a month, you can stop thinking about it. I don't know about you, but that seems a lot simpler to me!

Over the summer, I started setting aside about 30 minutes at the end of the month into planning next month's menu. 30 minutes! That's all. And I don't have a fancy system. Here's what I recommend. Sit and make a plan. It really doesn't need to be complicated. Here are my tools:

1. I have a three-ring binder that I use to collect the recipes I actually use all the time, and also new ones I print off of vegetarian blogs. It's simple, easy to deal with, and is a collection of only the BEST recipes. If I tried a recipe and it's just so-s0, it doesn't make it into the binder!

2. I have 3 or 4 cookbooks I use regularly (and continue to share those favorites on this site). I have many (many!) other cookbooks that I like to reference every once in a while, but I usually stick to a few. If I didn't find something to make in my binder or want to try something new, I reach for a cookbook.

3. I do my main cooking Monday/Wednesday/Friday. So, on a given month, I am planning 12 meals. That might sound like a lot, but it's simple. If you're looking to simplify even more, assign a type of meal per day. Maybe you choose one day for soups, or another day for a pasta dish.

Trust me, thinking about planning my meals just once a month has really made an impact on my approach to cooking and grocery shopping. On the off days the meals are simple (burritos, lentils and rice, etc.)

If you're someone who likes to kick off the new year with a resolution, I wonder if you might want to think about incorporating a meal calendar into your routine. Just try it! :) It makes a lot more sense than the old "I'm going to lose weight or drink less" resolutions that no one seems to keep!

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