Meal Planning

Getting dinner on the table is about more than just cooking.  Meal planning is essential, so you know what you’re cooking and have ingredients on hand without nightly trips to the supermarket.  I’ve got meal planning down to a science.  But it took a long time to get there.  Here were my phases of meal planning:

Phase 1: The No Planning Phase.  I just went to the supermarket and planned my meals on the fly, based on what was on sale or what looked good.  This usually resulted in maybe three meals a week, often with no side dishes.  The rest of the week, I was left wondering what was for dinner.

Phase 2: The Looking Through Cookbooks Phase.  On Sundays, I would paw through my cookbooks and magazines looking for recipes.  This was time-consuming and often resulted in overly complicated recipes and very late dinners.

Phase 3: The Online Menu Planning Phase.  I subscribed to an online menu planning service, which for a small subscription fee (about $7/month) you get your weekly menu and  your shopping list.  This was a godsend for the working mother!  I tried a few services, but my favorite was the Six o’Clock Scramble.  I have recommended it to many friends and family members.

Phase 4:  The Paper Phase.  After a few years of online menu planning, I accumulated quite a few favorite recipes, which I organized in an accordion folder.  Every Sunday, I chose five recipes and made my shopping list.  Ok, I admit it, I’m a nerd and developed a spreadsheet with my frequently purchased items so I could check off what I needed.

Phase 5: The Computer and iPhone Phase.  Now I scour the food blogosphere for recipes and save the recipes I want to make for the week into my Evernote, which I can access on the computer or my iPhone.  Then I make my shopping list using Ziplist, also which I can access on the computer or iPhone.  During the week, if I see I’m out of something, I add it to my Ziplist shopping list.  No more scraps of paper with fragments of shopping lists.  My list is in one place and as I’m shopping, I check the item off the list (on my iPhone) so it’s easy to see what’s left to buy.

Now if only I could be as organized in the other areas of my life!

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