“One good decision can lead to another.” – Nutri-Grain commercial
One of my dreams for quite some time has been to have a completely organized system of recipes and meal plans. Several years ago, I made an attempt at a paper version of my own paper-based recipe organizing system, in which I typed up my recipes into a template and printed them out, punched them with my circa puncher from Levenger, and inserted them into a kind of circa notebook rollodex that I had also purchased from Levenger.
I finally had to admit that this system was not practical for me personally. Either I was not as passionate about creating a paper version of all the recipes I liked as I thought I would be or it was unmanageable – probably a little bit of both.
Then a few years later I got an iPad which really transformed my use of cookbooks and recipes. And of course, the Evernote app further helped organize and simplify things.
Today, we have a shared notebook in Evernote that contains all of our recipes. It is not a perfect system yet – ultimately, the goal is to have all the recipes in a standard template with a picture of the final product in each note.
I have agonized over dividing recipes into traditional cookbook categories such as appetizers, sides, mains, low carb, etc. Fortunately, since Evernote is searchable by keywords, we now are developing a system of just entering whatever keywords we think would be applicable into the note above the recipe, and listing one recipe per note alphabetically all in the same notebook. This way, if a recipe could be both a side and an appetizer, it doesn’t have to go into just one category. The only division is that there is one notebook for food recipes and one notebook for drink recipes.
I spent most of the long Fourth of July weekend watching TV and movies while working on the new meal planning system (and loving every second of it!). My purpose in creating this system is to simplify my life. There are so many things I would rather do and think about than running out to the store because we don’t have something to make for dinner.
Several months ago I finally started to use Amazon Subscribe and Save. This program is pure genius, because not only can you have items that you already know you will use (such as toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, and probably a hundred other little items that are required to run a household) on hand at all times, you actually can save money just for subscribing. Another advantage is the flexibility of canceling or holding a shipment at any time.
I am slowly starting to order the non-perishable food items we use on a regular basis from this service as well. My goal is to eventually have everything non-perishable ordered on Amazon Subscribe and Save, and to only buy fresh produce, and certain refrigerated items once a week, with one larger shopping trip to include frozen products for the month once a month.
Dinners were the main hurdle for me in planning out meals. I decided to plan out the meals for the month, since it seemed easier to me to plan out a set number of meals that could be repeated during the month. I chose 8 recipes that I have already made and know we like, and then 4 new recipes that we have been wanting to try. I plan to make the 8 previously made recipes twice during the month, and to try one new recipe each week. I also factored in the likelihood that we would eat out once or twice a week.
Right now this is all spelled out in one note in Evernote. I have the recipes for the month listed out for one month, and each item is linked back to each individual recipe note. I am not sure if I am 100% in love with this system yet, but you have to start somewhere.
Pushing Past the Resistance
One main reason I wanted to start this blog was to write about the reasons we don’t do the things we know we should or that could make our lives better. I have been wanting to do this for years but have not gotten myself together enough to actually execute a planned out menu for the month. Why?
One reason might be the fact that it practically took me two whole days. Fortunately, I had a four day weekend and no plans, so I was able to dedicate the time I needed. It might take someone else a few hours to plan out their meals for the month for the first time and go to the grocery store and be done with it.
We all have different strengths and areas that cause us to stumble. Throughout this process, I did notice a little voice inside of me that was telling me this was unnecessary, or too much, or not possible. I was able to move past the little voice and keep pushing my cart through Whole Foods to get the ridiculous amount of food I calculated we would need to make the meals for the month.
There were a few times I just wanted to give up and go home with what I already put in the cart off my list. I didn’t prepare myself properly to go shopping, because somehow I forgot to take inventory of what was already in the kitchen so I ended up buying even more than we needed. I also didn’t convert everything we needed for the recipes into my one shopping list – so I was kind of all over the place going back and forth between several lists while at the store.
In the end, we will end up using the food I bought extras of the next month, since most of it was frozen. And I ended up leaving the store with everything I needed for the month, less two items that 4 different employees confirmed they do not carry, which I will order online.
The Bliss of Simplicity
It takes an investment of time and effort up front to live a simple life. There are some difficult choices to make when it comes to making changes and setting up systems to make day to day life more streamlined. It is always worth it to continue to move forward, even if you feel like there is no point or are not sure what to do next. Just do something, and then another something and another, and before you know it you will have improved an area of your life that once was not as good. And then it will only get better from there.
If you have any tips on monthly meal planning I would love to hear them. I am new at this so I could use all the help I can get!
photo credit: Boo-the-hamster