IN MY KITCHEN

a culinary convert

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Not everything goes smoothly in my kitchen. I’d like to say that my clumsy children spilled the cornmeal all over the counter top, but it was me. And it was everywhere. I actually got out the vacuum cleaner hose to suck it off the counter in some places, and out of the cracks in the drawers.

But aside from this minor mishap in the kitchen, this week has gone so smoothly. Months ago, you all shared some of your grocery-saving tips and one that I heard over and over was, plan. your. menus. You’d think, hearing it over and over, I might actually give it a try, but I confess to still being guilty of the last-minute meal, the standing in front of the freezer/refrigerator/pantry looking for inspiration.

But this week, I sat down with a few back issues of Everyday Food and my notebook and got to work planning the week’s dinner menu. Then I went to the grocery store and do you know how much I spent for the whole week, including what I thought were a few splurges like bocconcini cheese and a fresh basil plant for my windowsill?? $87! And do you know how many times I went back to the grocery store for things I forgot or things I needed to make that night’s dinner??? Zero. Zero!

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It’s been pure bliss. Waking up each day, knowing exactly what ingredients to get out, not agonizing over what to make and feeling that panic when 4pm hits and I have nothing concrete planned. Having everything bubbling and simmering and baking happily in the kitchen. Really, it’s culinary bliss.

Where have I been? Why I have NOT been doing this every single week? I’m a true convert now, people. I have now become a follower of the meal-planning faithful. 

So, it’s Friday folks. If you’re not a menu-planner–perhaps I’m the last to get on board–give it a try this week. It is so worth it. It’s a time-saver, a money-saver, a sanity-saver. You’ll see….

And in the meantime, any inspiration for me for this week’s menu? I’d love to hear….

P1010001

Not everything goes smoothly in my kitchen. I’d like to say that my clumsy children spilled the cornmeal all over the counter top, but it was me. And it was everywhere. I actually got out the vacuum cleaner hose to suck it off the counter in some places, and out of the cracks in the drawers.

But aside from this minor mishap in the kitchen, this week has gone so smoothly. Months ago, you all shared some of your grocery-saving tips and one that I heard over and over was, plan. your. menus. You’d think, hearing it over and over, I might actually give it a try, but I confess to still being guilty of the last-minute meal, the standing in front of the freezer/refrigerator/pantry looking for inspiration.

But this week, I sat down with a few back issues of Everyday Food and my notebook and got to work planning the week’s dinner menu. Then I went to the grocery store and do you know how much I spent for the whole week, including what I thought were a few splurges like bocconcini cheese and a fresh basil plant for my windowsill?? $87! And do you know how many times I went back to the grocery store for things I forgot or things I needed to make that night’s dinner??? Zero. Zero!

P1010005

It’s been pure bliss. Waking up each day, knowing exactly what ingredients to get out, not agonizing over what to make and feeling that panic when 4pm hits and I have nothing concrete planned. Having everything bubbling and simmering and baking happily in the kitchen. Really, it’s culinary bliss.

Where have I been? Why I have NOT been doing this every single week? I’m a true convert now, people. I have now become a follower of the meal-planning faithful. 

So, it’s Friday folks. If you’re not a menu-planner–perhaps I’m the last to get on board–give it a try this week. It is so worth it. It’s a time-saver, a money-saver, a sanity-saver. You’ll see….

And in the meantime, any inspiration for me for this week’s menu? I’d love to hear….

26 comments on “a culinary convert”

  1. It’s taken me years to figure out the whole meal-planning deal! Last November, I did something else that really helped and saved money: Once-a-Month Cooking. I had one long, stressful-ish day of preparing everything for a month, but when it was all done, I had tons of meals to choose from right there in the freezer. We don’t do this anymore because we prefer salads, fresh fish, and other not-freezable ingredients. But we spent about $200 for an entire month! It was pretty amazing, and several of our friends decided to give it a try too.

  2. I’ve been thinking I should plan my menus (also with my Everyday Food magazines, that Martha makes it so simple and organized!) for weeks now, but haven’t done it. I will this week, and thank you for giving me the little extra push I needed.

  3. For this week – pineapple upside down cake? There’s a link to a very speedy version over on my blog.

    I’m failing to plan at all at the moment and reaping the consequences. It’s not pretty. Will pop back here for some inspiration later.

  4. you know, it seems to me that when I plan my menus EVERTHING goes smoother. The house stays cleaner, my time management is better, kid is happier, I get more done. Don’t plan the menus, everything goes awry.I’ve even gone slightly overboard and planned by the month when I’ve gotten great grocery deals- that helped me cope tremendously when my husband was out of work for 6 months- I had a full freezer and knew what we were going to eat (for the main supper dish, anyway) for an entire month. I think it all boils down to the fact that this sort of planning helps me to feel more in control.

  5. Welcome aboard the meal planning train. Seriously. Two years into keeping my notebook of meals/grocery lists and I can never go back. Here’s to happy weeks of cooking ahead for you, Molly!

  6. That is amazing! Spending so little AND having your meals planned out. I struggle so much with this area – the planning stage (and the spending too much). What did you end up making? Are you talking about dinner only? Did you plan out lunches and breakfasts too? And the big question: did your kids like what you fixed? I need ideas and a great amount of help – maybe a personal chef too. 🙂

  7. I grew up with a meal planner, and now I am a meal planner. When I started years ago, I wrote down a list of all the meals I knew how to cook (which was longer than I expected it to be) then grouped meals together by shared ingredients, that way I can use up perishables before they go bad and consolidate expenses, buy certain ingredients in bulk. I have been using the same composition notebook for years to write down my grocery lists (I go to three different stores two times a month) and menu ideas. When I am feeling less than inspired in the kitchen I can go back through my notebook for ideas. Earlier this week however I found that many of the things I normally buy have gone up in price – bulk pasta by 50 cents per pound! So it is time for a little revision of our staples. One thing I have been better about lately is thinking about dinner in the morning and getting the process started so I am not in a rush come afternoon, and I have been using my crock pot more often. I also make some things in batches to freeze for later, such as spaghetti sauce, beans (pinto, black, black eyed peas). As if I haven’t written enough here, I owe you a letter – perhaps I’ll include a list of some of our dinners (makes for very exciting reading). Maybe a recipe too? We could swap…Take care Molly and happy cooking!

  8. That is really amazing. $87??? How did you do it, where do you shop??? Would you be willing to share that week’s worth of dinners??? I am really amazed. And with $3.49/gallon for gas, something’s gotta give. Way to go! 😉

  9. go molly go!i really need to do the meal planning thing more often.a list helps too. i have this tendency to roam through the store without direction. ugh.you’re my inspiration! wish me luck

  10. Nicely done, Molly! It really is much better. I write my meals on the back of my list, then, when i remember, post the meal list on the fridge so I don’t forget what I have planned. Everything does go much smoother. Though I’m still finding orzo in weird places, like when they emerge from under the radiator, from a box-spilling accident last year 🙂

  11. This is exactly how i would LOVE to be! i am such a last minute person when it comes to meals. It ends up costing our family a fortune for meals because i end up buying convenience items and not using stuff i already have. Knowing you tried it and loved it and saved too… just enough to motivate me to do the same! 🙂

  12. Oh, I know this, I KNOW this. I’ve been doing this for YEARS and it works like a charm. I even have a day – Thursday evenings to be exact – for menu planning and homeschool lesson plans. BUT… the planning is the hardest part and sometimes I don’t do it in favor of a nice knitting session on the couch while the girls play Gameboys with Daddy.

    But yes, easier. Much, much easier. I have been lacking inspiration of late. I’m just distracted with what *I* want to do… and being in the kitchen is not one of those things. But company is coming… so I will plan. Yes I will. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  13. I subscribe to menus4moms dot com. Each week I get a weekly menu, and I can print off the recipes AND a shopping list. It is free.

    I don’t always use the whole weekly menu, but it gives me a starting point and some ideas for new things to try.

  14. I love doing my menus ahead of time. I take a BLANK 30 day calendar and brainstorm 30 dinner ideas. I then put it in a clear cover and put it on the fridge. I can use a vis-vis marker to check off the meals when I make them. I try to pick 7 of them a week and grocery shop for those menus. At the end of the month, if I don’t have them all checked off, I know I probably have the ingredients and can roll them over to the next month. Is that as clear as mud? lol Also, assigning each night of the week as a certain theme: Sandwich night, casserole night, mexican night, Italian night, chicken night, ground beef night, leftover night, breakfast night, etc….can really help in planning a weekly menu. Good luck on your new adventure!!!

  15. You are so right! What finally cinched the deal for my meal-planning habit was moving an hour away from the nearest grocery store last year. There’s no such thing as a quick trip out to pick up a missing ingredient — or takeout for that matter! These days, I plan a week in advance, plus a selection of “extra” meals on deck in case I can’t get out to the store on errand day for any reason. Such a big help!

  16. 🙂 oh my. cornmeal-everywhere!!!! pretty sure you’ll look back on that photo and laugh (if you are not already).

    the meal planning sounds great. was the boccocini splurge for those mini spinach/boccocini pitas from the everyday foods (i forget which issue)? we made them a few weeks back and they were so good and easy.

    keep us posted on the meal planning. i’d love to hear which recipes worked the best. and of course cornmeal spillage is always good for a laugh too. 🙂

  17. Yep, I seriously need to get back into the menu planning business here at the house. I’m tired of asking everyone last minute what they want and getting 3 different answers of foods from the kids and a “I don’t know” from hubby.

    I’ve got a several great recipes for main entrees on my blog under “recipes” you should check out.

  18. That’s great! I think I spend three times that for one week. Of course, we now have 3 eating (lots) children. Lol.

    Are you interested in trekking to Trader Joe’s in Towson with me? I haven’t been yet, and the ride would be more fun with a pal.

  19. $87 is awesome! I always plan my meals, but I can never get away from the store with less than $120 for a week. I probably could lay off the antibiotic/hormone-free milk and meat and organic fruits and veggies though. That would help. But I like them. 🙂

  20. As far as inspiration goes, I have to say that I never met an issue of Everyday Food that I didn’t like. I have often joked, “If it’s not in Everyday Food, then I don’t make it.” Which is, you know, only partly a joke. 😉

    Guess what I do?! I plan a whole month of meals at once. Yes, that’s right. A whole month. We shop once a week, but I plan it all in one sitting. This rocks! I’ve converted lots of my friends to it, too! I write down at the edge of the paper the “types” of meals (vegetarian, fish, chicken, red meat, pork) and make sure not to duplicate any of the meats in a given week (we’ll tend to have a couple of vegetarian dishes each week, and chicken and [organic] beef more than pork or fish — I know, fish is good for you! But I live thousands of miles from any coast and farm-raised fish grosses me out a lot). Usually we have one day of the week that by necessity (a late afternoon dance or ice skating class, for example) becomes “crock pot night” (this necessity was actually how I got onto monthly meal plans). Then I sit down with all my back issues of Everyday Food for the month I’m planning for, and just plug recipes in. It works so well. Yay for (pretending to be) an organized housekeeper!

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