Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting back to meal planning

When most people wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, it's because they don't know how they'll pay the bills, or they've just had a dream that they can't find their child, or they just remembered that they forgot to do something critically important. 

Not me. When I wake in the night in a panic, it's because of something crazy. Crazy like last night. The fridge and freezers are stuffed full, and I woke up in a panic because I was afraid we wouldn't go through all this food before it spoiled.

Really, I was panic-stricken. After several minutes of tossing and turning, I finally got up, went to the kitchen and turned on the lights, at 2 AM. I found a sheet of paper and pen, and went to the fridge/freezer and searched for everything that could possibly spoil if we didn't use it this week. I wrote all these items down, then menu planned to use them up this week. The next morning I went out to the garage freezer (where we have the most in store) and looked through everything and made a plan to use 1 thing from the freezer per day, and try to clear a shelf or two, so I could relax a bit again.

Does this sound crazy, the lady who stocks up in big quantities, having a freak-out over maybe having too much? Well, it may make more sense if you imagine having your living room filled to the brim with furniture. You might get an overwhelming desire to get rid of things. I know I tend to feel a bit claustrophobic if the house becomes too filled with stuff. This is how I feel when the fridge, freezer and pantry are extremely full.

So, it's time to use some of this up, for my sanity's sake.

I tend to meal plan only under two sets of circumstances, one, when we're running low on everything, and two, when we have so much I want to make sure we use it all up.

Right now, we're in the super-surplus category. So, I'm back to meal-planning. From the fridge, we need to use up cooked beans, cooked brown rice, corn-on-the-cob, yogurt, early season apples, tomatoes, plums, pears, and onions. From the freezer, mostly I just want to free up a shelf or two, so the items to use are not specific.

Tonight's dinner will use some cooked rice, black beans and corn-on-the-cob from the fridge, tomatoes and onions, plus some cheese, eggs and milk. I'm putting these together into 2 dishes, one a skillet dinner (a great use for odds and ends) of beans, rice and tomatoes, and the other, a corn pudding topped with salsa and cheese. In addition, we'll use some of the fruit that's in the fridge, plums and apples, in a fruit salad. I also baked a plum kuchen (using 20 plums) for tomorrow's breakfast.

For my own lunch today, I pulled out some small things from the freezer. Tomorrow's packed lunches will have sandwiches, yogurt, fresh tomatoes, and more fresh fruit.

I've already pulled a container of home-cooked refried beans, from the freezer for tomorrow's dinner. I'm making bean and cheese burritos, with a tomato salad and more fresh fruit. 

Saturday's lunch will be a black bean soup, using all the ripe tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and topped with cheese and salsa. Soups are another great use for odds and ends.

Meals for the rest of the week will involve using the above mentioned fresh foods, plus something from the freezer every day. 

I'm feeling better now that I have a plan for using up some of our surplus. I should hardly complain, but a panic is a panic, and I'd like to sleep better tonight.

Do you meal plan regularly? 

Do you do this weekly or just when needed, (during busy periods, when there's company expected, or as in my case, either too much or too little in the way of supplies)? 


  1. That's interesting that you were worried enough to get up. I'm sure we could do a lot of psychoanalyzing with the way one buys and prepares food. Some of us have a lot on hand with a plan and some of us, have little on hand with no plan and there's everything in between. I have ideas of why I don't like to be in the kitchen much, but that's a story for another time.

    Since participating in Food Waste Friday, I tend to buy less food which has been saving me money because of less waste generated. And forever, the meal planning has been a hit or miss thing. However, I do try to plan meals around what needs to be used up.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      yes, I probably could use some "couch time". LOL! And not just for food issues!

      I think I just needed to have a plan to deal with the bountiful harvest. Once I got up and wrote things down, I went back to sleep and slept the rest of the night. I'm a planner, by nature, so the more interesting thing, to me, is why I hadn't made a plan before this, to use it all up.

      I think buying less is what works for many people, in regards to using it all up. You can always buy more, if needed, but you can't always eat more, if you have too much.

  2. Well, it sounds like you've had bountiful harvests so it's no wonder you're concerned about using it all up. Glad you have a plan of attack so that it's not weighing on your mind as much (and hopefully, you'll be able to sleep!).

    I meal plan every week because if I don't, I would constantly be at the store getting that last ingredient for dinner! That drives me crazy!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      yes, a bountiful harvest, it has been. Our orchard and garden really produced this year, and it's all ripening at once. After making a meal plan to use it up I managed to get back to sleep that night, and slept soundly last night. I just needed a plan.

      There was a time when I meal-planned every week, but just fell out of that habit. I think I may go back to it for a while.

      Isn't that annoying, when you're about to make dinner (or right in the midst of preparing dinner) and you discover you are out of a key ingredient?! Meal planning is a real help in preventing that, as you've already thought out what you'll need. It sounds like you've got it under control at your house. :)

  3. I would like to laugh a little, but just the other night I was up at 2 taking something from the freezer because it dawned on me I hadn't planned supper for the next

    Can you sort of meal plan? I think that is what I do. I shop with the meals we eat in mind -- mixing sales and necessities. then instead of truly planning meals I often give my family a choice of a couple of meals and let them chose what we have the next night.

    Several years ago I tried making meal plans for a few months and shopping by them. I found I actually spent more and didn't enjoy cooking as much. Odd I suppose, but I love the spontaneity of having a few choices. My husband likes to know what we are having for supper so every morning I try to let him know at minimum what the main dish will be.

    1. Hi Shara,
      so I'm not the only night wanderer! I don't feel nearly so crazy now (just a little crazy)!

      My meal planning for the past couple of years has been in the car, on the way to my daughters' school, for that evening. But I think until we get through this glut of fresh produce, I will plan dinners again.

      I'm like you, I like a bit of spontaneity in meal prep. I don't know what I'll be in the mood for, until that day comes around. And for me, I think that "mood" is more than mental. I think it's my body speaking to me, telling me I need more protein or iron, or fresh produce, or something like that. So I cook accordingly.

  4. As a single person eating alone most nights my meal plan looks like this. I have a small chest freezer, it holds ingrediants. My in-frige freezer holds left-overs. when I make a soup or casserlole or really any meal I might eat it for a day or two then put the rest in the freezer compartment in portion sized containers. Every few days I sort through what I have in the way of prepared meals, move some to the frige to thaw giving myself some variety. When the stock of leftovers gets low I make something new.

    1. It sounds like you have a system that works very well for you. I try to keep my freezers "categorized" (one for fruits, veggies and breads, another for main dish ingredients, and the third for leftovers and odds and ends that need eating). Sometimes things get a bit jumbled, when one of the freezers is too full to hold anything new.

  5. I do not meal plan, sometimes I would like to but it is always a huge fail for me it seems and I toss it everytime.

    Cooking though is a creative process for me and many of my original recipes come to me an hour before it is time to cook dinner. Sometimes in the last 5 minutes!

    I don't have food wastes so that is never an issue and I don't usually have a whole lot to work with. I don't go to the store for last minute ingredients either, I use what I have.

    My family likes variety and I never know until time to make dinner, what I am in the mood for or what I will have the energy for so it is a day by day approach.

    My tastes come up when shopping to and I buy what my taste buds are screaming for as far as ingredients go... so I listen to them :) mostly based off sales but not always.

    1. It's clear that meal planning is not the answer for everyone, all the time. Some people do well with a weekly plan, others with a plan just a day or two ahead of schedule, and then still some who like to cook on the fly.

      My "system" is a hybrid of meal planning, once a month meal prep, and "mood" cooking. I meal plan when it's clear I need some structure (like now to make sure I don't miss something about to spoil) or we have guests, or a holiday to prepare for. I also like to stock the freezer with ready made meals. And then from time to time I just like to wait and see what I'm in the mood for. But even with "mood" cooking, it's based on what's in the pantry and fridge. If I had to run out to the store to pick up extra ingredients daily, I'd be too tired to cook!

  6. Living alone, I don't meal plan. I have things I like and will make regularly. I don't make large meals, so that's not a problem. I eat lots of salads and fresh fruits. I keep some staples like almond milk, rice, dry beans and such for soups which is what I eat the most of during the winter. Then I buy what I can of the veggies and such I will need to go with it.

    I have to keep a few things on hand for the grand kids who are here frequently, but I tend to make something and eat it for a few days to finish it off then make something else.

    Of course I keep long cooking oatmeal on hand as one of the treats I love is a fruit crisp I can toss in the slow cooker it takes care of any sweet tooth.

    This past summer I ate what I was able to find at the farmer's market with what staples I had on hand. Of course a bad day, one which I don't want to prepare anything, is a pbj night.

    1. Hi Lois,
      I think meal-planning might just be overkill for one, as yourself, living alone. I could hardly picture my own self sitting down to write out a week's worth of meals if it was just for me. It would just seem silly.

      One of the great things about preparing meals just for yourself (and I experience this every weekday for lunch), is you can fix whatever you please, without having to make what someone else wants. Peanut butter on bread is my kind of "meal". Or sometimes it's an egg and toast, simple and filling.


I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.