I am excited to share a great meal-planning organization tip with you today! Even though I'm not normally in a big rush in the evenings to get dinner to the table, I am sure that most working moms are, along with SAHMs with busy schedules who run kids here, there and everywhere. I know that will be me a few years from now when the boys are in school and involved in extracurricular activities too, so I will be happy that I started this organization system for myself. It's super easy, cheap and can save you precious minutes when the kids are whining that they are hungry and you need to get dinner to the table fast! :)
For as long as I can remember, I have always planned my weekly menu on Sunday afternoons, followed by a trip to the grocery store to get the food we will need for the entire week. I guess this was something I learned from my mom, because it was rare we had to make an extra run to the store to get something in a pinch, aside from our weekly trip. It definitely saves time during the week when you don't need to stop at the store, even if it's just to pick up a few items.
I have now added another step to my weekly meal planning process. I purchased four baskets; one for each night of the week that I cook (Monday through Thursday). We dine out on Friday and Saturday evenings and usually have leftovers or something easy and light, like sandwiches, on Sunday nights. I found these baskets at Walmart and I love the handle on the front that makes them easy to pick up. With limited pantry room at the apartment, I store my baskets on top of the cabinets in the kitchen for now, so the handle makes them easier to grab from way up there. :) Next, I labeled the basket with the day of the week. Yes, I have a label maker and I love it dearly. I am a self-proclaimed geek, and I'm ok with that. ;)
To organize for the week, I place the recipe(s) (Since I have been cooking a lot via Pinterest lately, I have tons of printed recipes floating around the kitchen. Next up will be a re-haul of my recipe book!) that I need for each day in their respective basket, along with all of the dry ingredients I will need for the meal, including everything down to salt & pepper or other seasonings. Then when it comes time to make dinner, I can just grab the basket I need and go! For someone in a rush, this could save valuable minutes if you tend to be the type that scrounges through the pantry searching for an ingredient that may have gotten shoved to the back, or is hiding behind something else. In the cramped pantry I am currently using, I have found it harder to get to things sometimes because I have to stack way more than I am used to stacking. :( After this first week, I am considering getting baskets for the refrigerator too, to hold all of the perishable ingredients, but I fear they will take up too much space in our current refrigerator. Perhaps when we finally settle into a house I will revisit that idea?
Below is a pic of this week's baskets. I tried a couple new recipes this week (coming soon! - Baked Brown Rice Balls and Blackened Cajun Chicken with Cilantro Lime Quinoa), and made a couple of our new favorites too (Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta al Forno and Taco Pasta).
The basket for the Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta was a bit cramped with 3 cans of diced tomatoes, a box of pasta, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, but the ingredients fit well for all of the other meals. I am excited to try making my own taco seasoning tonight for the taco pasta. I just found the recipe this morning and I already have all of the spices I need, so I will give it a try. I feel better about that versus the contents of prepackaged taco seasoning, so I hope I love it just as much!
If you try out this tip, let me know what you think and if it works well for you. If you have any other additional tips, I would love to hear them too! Happy planning! :)