You see, I used to waste food. A lot of food. I would have great intentions of eating my fruits and veggies, but they'd just end up rotting away in the drawers. Or I would attempt to cook new and 'exciting' recipes, only to get lazy and go out to eat instead - so those ingredients fell by the wayside. Or how about those leftovers that get shoved in the back of the refrigerator and actually grow an assortment of colorful, fuzzy friends we call MOLD. So then I was wasting food... and good tupperware! ;) What is the solution to all of these issues and more? Two words my dear friends: meal planning.
I plan our meals one week in advance. I like to use fresh, whole foods as a large part of my cooking so I don't want to buy too far in advance or it would spoil before I could use it. I also have a recipe compilation on my computer so as I plan the meals, I just copy and paste the ingredients of the recipe into a separate word document that doubles as my grocery list. Once the menu is done and the list is completed, I comb through my list and delete items I know we already have, or add items I know we need (mainly toiletries and things of that nature). To create the recipe compilation is time consuming at first, but it's a one time deal and it's easy to add to! It is well worth the initial investment of your time- and as stated earlier, it's actually a financial investment because you know you will use every item you shopped for and nothing goes to waste. Then I hang this menu on the fridge so everyone in the family can be on the same page.
Of course, things come up. Friends stop by (need more food) or friends invite you over to their place (need less food). An impromptu date night is sometimes "required" to save your sanity... and maybe your marriage. haha But seriously, in the grand scheme of things it's nice to have everything laid out in advance, with the expectation it won't be perfect every time.
So here is our refrigerator, the day after our weekly trip to the grocery store:
A tiered plate holder (or cupcake server) makes a great place to store more yummy food!
Typically on the "ready-to-go meals" shelf are frozen meals that I had made in advance. My small group also will do meal swaps every now and again, so that is a place to store those meals as well. Currently, there are thermals stocked with frozen breast milk! Tis' the season of life I'm in right now, folks... Our freezer overall does not stock that much food - mainly because I like to have fresh ingredients.
At the end of the week our fridge will usually look like this:
Now for some of you, that picture made you shudder! For me, it's a thing of beauty. It means I didn't waste any food so in turn, I didn't waste any money. I'm not one for "options" or a whole lot of "just in case" foods. I hate clutter. It makes me feel chaotic. This route also encourages me to buy fresh, whole ingredients in place of foods with a longer shelf life. As a side note, make sure to check for expired ingredients every few months. A great time to clean out your refrigerator/freezer/pantry is the night before trash day. ;)
There you have it! I'd like to challenge you to try this method for just one week and see how it goes. :)
You might be pleasantly surprised!
If you already meal plan, would you mind sharing your tips & tricks, or even a favorite recipe?
Happy organizing, friends!