Plan For Success
Most of the time, whenever you “have” to go out to eat, it is because the kitchen is in a state of disorganization and confusion.
This post will get you well on your way to taking control of your kitchen and your cooking so that you do not need to succumb to the fast food trap. It will cover the three important keys to success:
Take Control of Your Kitchen!
A disorganized kitchen is the first barrier to successfully cooking at home. It simply leads to frustration and makes cooking feel like a dreaded chore.
The first and best thing you can do to avoid hitting the drive-thru is to get your kitchen in order:
- Do a “clean sweep”. Go through your cupboards, fridge, freezer, and pantry and get rid of all the garbage. This includes empty containers, rotten food, old stale food, etc.
- Wash down the shelves and drawers
- This is also good time to decide whether you want to switch things up a bit. Do you want to change where the spices are held? What about your dishes? Is everything easy to reach and access?
Once everything is cleaned out and in its place, you may want to take your organization to the next level by labeling your pantry items with nice new labels.
Our Kitchen Organization Printables post also has some more great tips and information on using labels in the kitchen.
Don’t Forget Your Equipment
During this organizing stage, it is also important to go through your tools and equipment.
This ensures that they are in good condition when you need them.
- Go through your cupboards and find all the tools you use
- Inspect them to see if they are either dirty or broken
- If you find any that are dirty, get them cleaned up so they are ready to use when you are
- If any are broken, decide whether you actually want to replace them. Do you use them enough to justify a replacement? If you do want to replace them, include this on your shopping list or a gift wish list
- In the future, clean and maintain the tools as you use them
Our Kitchen Organization Printables also has appliance information sheets that you can fill in and keep with your appliances.
Once your kitchen is all sorted and you know what you have and where it is, you can move on to planning your meals.
Benefits of Meal Planning
There are many reasons why meal planning has remained a wonderful tool for every home cook:
- You know exactly what ingredients you have on hand or are missing
- It helps you remember special steps needed for a particular meal (knowing when and how to prepare certain ingredients)
- It saves you money at the grocery store by keeping you focused on what ingredients you actually need
- Prevents the dreaded food rut where we are just eating the same foods day after day
Creating a meal plan is surprisingly simple. It seems old fashioned, but it works. If you have not done this before, start with a weekly plan. We have printables for most of these steps.
- Jot down your favourite meals on a piece of paper or use one of our printables. Keep this list for future reference and to add new favourites
- Create a 7 day menu grid using paper or a printable
- Look over your upcoming schedule and look for particularly busy days. Place a star on these days on your menu grid
- Look at your busy days. The meals for these days should be carefully considered. Perhaps you can plan to eat leftovers, make something with the slow cooker, have a pre-made freezer meal, or eat out
- Add other meals to the grid. Add a couple of dishes from your favourites list and make sure you make extra servings for the days when you need leftovers
- Consider making extra servings so that you can start stocking already cooked meals in the freezer for the future
- Make sure that you jot down any special instructions for the meal (ie., take out meat to thaw the night before, soak beans)
Meal Planning Tips
- While planning, have the recipes handy for reference
- Create a shopping list to go with it. Make sure that you bring this list with you to the grocery store
- If you are concerned that any of the food will be accidentally eaten before you need it, just label it “Reserved for Wednesday’s Supper”
- Meal planning also allows you to plan on making extra so that you can freeze leftovers for those days when things get very busy or you are not able to stick to the plan for some reason
- If you want to experiment with new recipes, reserve this for less busy days when you will not be rushed
Tip: Consider creating a binder dedicated to holding your meal planning and cooking resources. You can find cover printables and other extra resources like the “Favourite Meals” printable here.
Creating a Contingency Plan
No matter how hard and thoroughly you plan, contingencies are often required.
- Create a list of “In-A-Pinch” meals that use common ingredients that you usually have on hand. These meals can be thrown together in under 30 minutes and may include meals like: soup and sandwich, egg-based dishes, etc. You can find a printable page for this in the meal planning link. Keep this list with your meal plans
- Plan on making extra portions so that you can easily freeze them for future quick meals
You can find the “In-A-Pinch Meal Ideas” and other great time savers in the Free Printable Cooking Time Savers post.