Friday, September 23, 2011

Foodie Friday! #2: Meal Planning

My mom's not much for writing things down, though she does keep her life (and therefore, my dad's) very organized - not sure how she does it.  I, however, am a list-maker, and a planner-outer, and an otherwise very visual person.  Since I now live in a two-person household (three-creature-household, if you count our fluffy), it's imperative to stay organized, and also to stay organized together.  It didn't really take much for S. and I to adapt to living together (we've now been doing it for over a year, woohoo!) and I'm sure our organizational methods helped tremendously.  Or, well, I established an organizational system, and S. agreed to participate (he's not much of a plan-all-of-the-details-out-in-advance-person, but he is grounded and practical).

S. and I use Google Docs to keep our lives organized.  Both of us can access the documents we store there at any time (so long as there is an Internet connection, of course), and both of us can edit/modify said documents; it keeps things really simple and convenient for us.  Our expenses sheet (an Excel file) is stored there, and is how we keep track of our joint checking account, as well as our credit card, savings account, and monthly budget planning.  The other frequently used document stored there is the weekly meal planner, and the catalog of previous recipes.  The meal plan for the week looks like this:
I know it doesn't seem symmetrical, but the whole odd-numbered days in a week thing really throws me off and makes it hard to create pretty, symmetrical documents.  This is what I went with, it works, and I'm too lazy to change it now!

All of the underlined bullets are links to the specific recipes posted on food blogs or Food Network's site, or various other resources.  I sometimes also leave comments (like with the Korean pork option on Thursday) if I have further instructions not present in the recipe.  S. is the chef here, but I plan the meals; I keep inventory of what's coming in our CSA box for the week, as well as what I know we have in the freezer and pantry, and plan accordingly.  It seems disjointed, but it actually works out really well; I enjoy reading food blogs and S. doesn't, so I don't mind doing this, while he would never want to plan things out this far in advance.  I try to choose simple recipes with a basic set of ingredients for the most part, since we don't have time for elaborate meals; most of these get the job done, and are still very delicious.
I believe these were fairly easy enchiladas (according to S.), along with a side of black beans from a can, heated up.  Still fairly healthy (healthier than going out for fast food, I hope!) and low-key.

Since we get a notification of the next week's box's contents a week prior, it's easy to plan things out a week in advance (how many times can you use the word "week" in one sentence?).  I also store all the previous weeks' menus in another file on Google Docs, so that I can sometimes rife through them and pick out favorites to repeat.  I'm also currently working on compiling another document with recipes that we've used and liked, just in case the original blogs disappear (this happens more frequently than you'd think).  I have kept all the original author information and links to the blogs, but I've tried to consolidate everything in one place, to preserve and to have ready access to.  Once this recipe codex is in a more presentable state, I'll show you that, too.

It's important for us to meal plan, so that we know what kind of pantry supplies and dry grocery items we might need (e.g. pasta, tomato sauce, spices, etc.) and knowing what dinner is going to be every night helps streamline days.  It also helps me remember to take out proteins the night before to thaw in the fridge, and S. can keep track of which dishes need to be marinated in advance.  We've been doing it this way for a little over a year now, and it seems to be working well.  Of course, we could always use any advice or helpful tips, so give it up if you have any!
A staple dinner in our household - homemade pizza!  S. has become a pro at it (he makes his own dough) and it always ends up really tasty.  He alternates between chewy crust and thin, crisp crust, depending on his mood - the dough recipe is always the same.  He makes big batches of it and freezes it in portions; this works really well, as you can just thaw out what you need the night before.  We never order take out pizza anymore, unless we want super gourmet pizza (there are a few great places in the city that do a really tasty, expensive pizza), and that's just a sometime treat.

I know not everyone is responsible for their own households (yet), and some of you have been doing it for years.  Some of you, like me, are new to the party.  What kinds of things do you do to stay organized?