Writing takes a lot of my time. Add to that trying to keep the house together, clean and organized, doctor and dentist appointments, and I needed a streamlined plan for grocery shopping and cooking.
There's an app for that.
I'm a meal planner from way back, when I had four kids and and a job outside the home. I got this from my then mother-in-law who planned her week's meals every Sunday. She was also a penny-pincher, and that suited me because there was very little cash for groceries in my house.
She would plan a roast for Sunday, beef stew for Monday, and so on and so on. The "rubber chicken" type of planning. If you're not familiar with it, it goes...A roasted whole chicken on Sunday, maybe a chicken and rice type thing the next day, chicken enchiladas might be next, all the way to chicken soup usually being the last thing. Boiling the chicken in your crockpot is another way, separating the bones and skins from the meat and dividing it up for separate meals.
I still basically use this method, but I'm a lot more high-tech, having discovered how to streamline my process even better, and Pinterest is part of that, as well as some other great apps.
End of December, I put together a menu for the 31 days of January. I've got a lot of writing I need to be doing, plus some doctors' appointments, yearly exams and the like, for myself as well as husband and son. A lot going on.
I've been adding recipes to Pinterest ever since its inception. That was the first amazing thing I jumped onto. I immediately saw this tool as my online filing cabinet. A place for every recipe I gleaned from the web.
Rounding Up Your Recipes for Menus
As I have pinned any recipe I want to keep, I just go to Pinterest and find them. Seeing a full-color picture of the dishes gives you ideas, and the process goes pretty fast. I rounded up 31 menus in an hour or so. I allow for leftovers on some days. I pick my menus with my calendar beside me, noting the days we will be eating out or at church, or elsewhere. Basketball season, we eat out most game nights. If I see I'll be gone most of a certain day, I can plan a crockpot meal or soup and sandwiches. I also have freezer meals for those occasions.
I've noticed that at the end of the month, I always have leftover menus--and the groceries to go with them--because you end up, for whatever reason, not using every single day's menu. This is a good thing. You've already saved having to buy as many groceries the next month.
Printing Pinterest Boards: I recently discovered the old fashioned "Control P" for print on Pinterest. Open your board and simply pres Ctrl and P at the same time. A menu opens up for you to print however you want. I print to PDF, and then decide whether I want to physically print for my binder. While the recipe itself isn't available, the web link below the picture appears. This is a good backup, and a nice physical cookbook to have.
Organizing the Menus:
A lot of menu planners exist on the web, and I've used many, both paper and digital. I still like to keep a calendar of menus in my notebook planner. I'm one of those people who say, "What if the grid goes down?" I need my lists. One really cool thing about the monthly lists of menus is that you can use them all over again. Talk about handy!
In my opinion, one of the best websites I've ever come across is Donna Young's Homeschool site. Back when I homeschooled, about 10 years ago, I used this site over and over. You can print out nearly any form you need for scheduling not only your students' studies and reports, but household schedules as well. Now she has even better, updated household forms you can download, including some great menu planners and even a members' submitted cookbook. This helped me enormously when filling in my 31 menus.
Anyway, techie lover that I am, I like digital at my fingertips, on my phone and/or pc desktop. I'm a Google Syncer. My main calendar is in Google, which syncs to my phone. The home page on my phone contains a short list of my calendar, so I can see immediately what is happening for the net few days. It's pretty easy to type in each day's menu on my calendar as a "Google task," and specify that I want Google to list my tasks in the calendar.
The Grocery List
Now that I know what I'm cooking every day, I can be at total peace about "What's for dinner?" This is peace! I never scramble around, moaning, "What do I do about today's dinner?" I've been planning my meals this way for so long, I can't remember being stressed out about this facet of life. I've got plenty of other things to stress about.
Having the ingredients for my menus is another de-stresser. Sure, I might still have to pick up some items after my big shopping trip, but basically I have what I need.
This part is simple. You just list all the ingredients from each menu. On a piece of paper, or using one of those downloadable, printable lists where you put a checkmark in the little box beside any item you need, or you can type it in on your computer and print it out.
My favorite way is to have the list on my phone. However, I do have a paper backup just in case. You never know about that grid might be going down.
Recently I found what seems to be invented just for someone like me. A Google app, ShopGlider.com. It can be used on your computer desktop and/or digitally on your phone or tablet. It has starter recipes you can use, and you add your own using categories. . Say you're having a party, you can have the menu items in just that category, and know when you go shopping what grocery items you need. Check it out. It might be for you.
I've been using Evernote about as long as it's been out. It's an old friend. It does everything. I can't think of anything I can't make it do. Before Pinterest, I saved all those pages from the web and gave them "tags." Don't you just love tags? I can put my grocery list in Evernote. And, yes, Evernote syncs with my phone. I use Evernote for a lot of my writing research. It's the best thing I've discovered for any kind of research. And, wow, EVERNOTE FOOD has just come on the scene.
You have to see Evernote Food yourself to really understand how sophisticated this program is. Hats off to some of the best programmers in the world, the Facebook techs.
Lastly, another very popular app is Cozi online, which provides your family with a...well, cozy calendar. I've used it a lot and like it. It just has limitations for me, but it is simple and easy to use and very well put together. Cozi now has an iPad / iPhone app you can get to on Cozi.com's main site.
If you've made one of your New Year's goals to get a handle on the kitchen part of your life, you might like some of these ideas.
Part of my journey has been to cook wonderful food and have a great plan to help me.