Tackling Menu Planning
Most of the time when I write this article, I focus on what I do well - what tips I have to share with others, what model behaviours I have that others can follow. This issue is about a weak spot. The one that I’ve been hopelessly searching for the right App to fix for me. Meal Planning.
I like to think of myself as not wasting much food – but in reality I’m just good at not putting wasted food in the garbage. We have a compost, a garburator and a dog … between those three I can usually avoid throwing much in the actual trash.
The problem is between what we buy, and what actually gets made. And by we, I mean ‘I’. Many a bean sprout has been wasted because I’ve only used half of them in a certain dish, and the rest wilt into mush in the fridge.
I know that with a meal plan, I can save money by avoiding groceries I don’t really need. I can save time because I know what to make. Heck, I’ll probably save energy since I won’t be standing there looking blankly into the fridge at 5:30 pm.
But that level of organization in the kitchen scares me. I love making things spontaneously, mixing and matching ingredients, experimenting with new flavour combinations, making up dishes. But my wild and free ways in the kitchen don’t seem to add up to meals on time, nor food waste avoided.
So I took a little cruise around the blog world to see how other people tackle this common task. Multiple planning methods abound, but one common element stood out. SIMPLIFY.
I am completely guilty of having 8 million ingredients in my fridge and cupboard so I can cook different dishes from culinary traditions all around the world. There’s proof that this may be contributing to my food waste, as well as my disorganization.
Enter archaeologist William Rathje and The Garbage Project. William has been studying North Americans’ waste habits since the 1970s. There are several factors that he has found to influence food waste, but the first principle is pretty simple: the shorter the ingredient list you work with, the less food gets wasted. For example, Mexican American households that eat a fairly traditional diet use a small group of ingredients - combined many different ways - and waste less than their American counterparts.
I’ve been on an ‘eat local’ kick, so I think this is my chance to really focus in. I will try eating mostly local foods - narrowing my ingredient group significantly. I’m a bit obsessive about tailoring recipes too...so who knows. A cookbook may come of this.
I have also come across a couple of online recipe/meal planning/shopping list services so I will try them out. I figure I’ll give each a 30-day try. So for the next couple of months I’m going to sign up, limit myself to mainly local foods, and see how it goes! I promise I’ll share the results -- in case anyone is in the same boat as I am.