Another Meal Organizer!
you find yourself staring at your pantry hoping for some inspiration?
Or do you seem to spend a whole lot of money on groceries and never
seem to come home with much?
Do you often end up buying an expensive takeaway meal because you
either can't think of anything to cook or you are sick of eating
the same meals over and over??
was my situation just a few months ago.
I started checking out different websites looking for inspiration.
If you are reading this then you have probably done the same thing
and would know all about the many different ways that people have
to try to organise their cooking. You can cook
and freeze all your meals for a whole month or write down all
your recipes and buy in bulk. In fact, there are countless
ways to organise your household's mealtimes. I'm not offering anything
new or even that exciting - just a system that I have adopted which
works well for me.
see, I'm not a really well-disciplined person and so the thought
of planning and cooking 30 meals in advance scares me LOL. I also
love to eat food and enjoy different tastes so I like to have room
for exploring new recipes and adapting the ones that I know and
love. I should warn you now that I don't cook with recipes - I make
things up as I go along, adding a little bit of this and a little
bit of that. I don't think that I have ever made one pasta sauce
that tastes the same as a previous one!!
this system you are not tied down to a rigid meal plan nor do you
have to go out and buy a huge deep freeze. The information provided
here will help you to maintain a semi-organised meal system which
allows room for improvisation and last minute changes.
The main objectives behind this system are to:
Avoid food wastage (and therefore money wastage)
grocery shopping less of a brain strain
the "what's-for-dinner" doldrums
So how does this system work?
Well, it's basically just a list of complete meals that you have
in stock which you keep on the fridge door and cross off as you
Sounds simple doesn't it?
it is in principle, but in practice you need
to maintain a fairly well organised system so that you have all
the necessary ingredients to cook all of the meals on your list.
There is no point in listing ten exotic dishes if all you have
in your pantry is a can of tuna!
goes on the list??
what goes on the list?
on a theme
are meals that are easy to make (or that you don't mind making)
and that you don't mind eating - there is NO point in stocking your
cupboard with things that you don't really want to eat because you
will end up getting takeaway instead and spending unnecessary money!
are meals that you can cook in less than 20 minutes for the times
when you have absolutely no time to cook and are really hungry.
If it's quicker to cook than jumping in the car down to McDonalds
then it fits this description!
I keep a couple of complete frozen meals for days when I arrive
home late and the troops are starving. I don't like those TV dinners
with meat-and-two-veg so I keep a packet of stir fry veggies and
sauce which can be cooked in a wok in 10 minutes - you can always
add cooked rice to bulk out the meal.
isn't meant to be boring!!
So I always try to add something to the list that I have never cooked
before. It's usually something that can be cooked without buying
a lot of exotic ingredients. I tend to leave this meal for a weekend
or some other day when I'm not pressed for time. The family is always
appreciative of something new, and if it's a success then it can
become part of the tried-and-true list!
ON A THEME
don't always like to be tied to a strict plan and so these meals
give me the option of changing my mind. Eg, I might decide not to
use the mince in the freezer to cook chilli con carne but to make
bolognese sauce instead. If you organise your list under main ingredient
and have a good stock of common ingredients then it shouldn't matter
too much nor should you need to rush out and buy extra ingredients
at the last moment.
yes, you DO have to make one LOL
used to shop from memory.
problem was that my memory wasn't as great as I thought it was and
I would arrive home to find myself stuck with ten tins of tomatoes
and nothing else!
I used to cook from what I had bought which was often a
disaster because I would be lacking a key ingredient and end up
either buying it at twice the price from a convenience store or
giving up and buying a takeaway. Now I buy for what I am going to
cook and usually have all the ingredients to hand (of course there
is still the odd dash to the 7-eleven, I am human after all LOL)
GOES ON THE LIST?
Your shopping list will be made up of these things:
is usually the main ingredient for a meal and is most likely going
to be some form of meat (unless you are a vegetarian/vegan!).
are things that you use in a lot of different recipes, eg tinned
tomatoes, onions etc. These are things that are worth buying in
bulk because you know that you will use them.
FROZEN, TINNED OR DRIED INGREDIENTS & SUPPLIES
nothing more annoying than going to make a meal only to find that
you are missing a key ingredient or that the fresh ingredient that
you bought last week is now a soggy mess in the bottom of your refrigerator
(of course if you had used your list correctly you would have avoided
this situation but we all make mistakes, right??!!).
While you can't beat fresh veggies, having frozen standbys to add
to meals is very useful!
use a lot of chopped onions in my cooking - in curries, pasta sauces,
chilli etc. I now buy a 500g (1lb) bag of frozen chopped onions.
Now I don't have to worry about green things sprouting from my onions
and (best of all) someone else has already peeled and chopped them
useful ingredients include a jar of crushed garlic, tinned new (tiny)
potatoes to add to casseroles and tinned stir fry veggies to add
to stir fries and Asian meals. Chunky style frozen veggies are great
to add to any cooked dish and tinned tomatoes can be used in just
about any dish too add flavour or provide bulk.
FORGET YOUR CORE GROCERIES!!
the rush to buy all the goodies that you will need to get your meal
plan underway don't neglect all the other grocery items. I've found
that it helps to keep a typed list of all the things that I always
buy like cat food, coffee and washing powder etc and then add the
can either type this up yourself or set up a master grocery list
with one of the online supermarkets like Woolworths
and print it off - this has the advantage of giving you the prices
course you can always try shopping online but bear in mind the delivery
How to be a bargain shopper
friend of mine told me that the best time to shop for meat at a
supermarket is on a Wednesday because that's when they mark down
their stock in anticipation of adding new stock for Thursday night
shopping (in NSW anyway).
keep an eye out for bargains in the meat section.
markdown meat prices when the use-by (or freeze-by) date is approaching.
As long as the meat still looks okay and you freeze it that day
it is perfectly fine (and cheap!!) to buy it.
be afraid to experiment or substitute if you see a bargain. Many
recipes work perfectly well with a different kind of meat.
week I was at the supermarket when I spied some trays of diced turkey
breast which were reduced from $7.50 for a 500g (1lb) tray to $2.99.
I usually buy chicken breast for my recipes and then I dice it myself
but I decided to buy three trays of the turkey instead. I ended
up paying only $9 for 1.5 kilos (3lbs) of the turkey when I would
have paid $12.99 a kilo for chicken breast. So I saved quite a bit
of money on just that one purchase!
By the way, the turkey tasted great and was a welcome change from
out for discontinued items.
These are items that the store no longer wants to sell and they
are often heavily discounted.
For example I have purchased jars of boutique simmer sauces for
just 50c - they were originally $3.50 each and were now cheaper
than buying packet sauce mixes. Just remember to make sure it is
something you WILL use!!
WHEN YOU GET HOME...
out your preliminary meal list and note any changes or substitutions
or any last minute additions (or inspirations!!). It's best to do
this while you have the food in front of you so that you don't forget
divide up the meat into meal sized portions and pop it straight
in the freezer. Put the stuff that needs chilling into the refrigerator.
Now it's time to organise the pantry!
put the ingredients for each meal in a separate pile (not including
herbs and spices and oils etc, just the tins and packets). This
allows me to grab them quickly when it comes time to cook a certain
meal. It also allows me to make sure that I do have all the ingredients.
Eg I would put a packet of penne pasta with a tin of tomatoes and
a tube of tomato paste all ready to make Penne in a Tomato Sauce.
I type up the new list of meals, transferring any remaining meals
from the previous list to the new list.
you find that that you keep transferring the same meals then it's
time to cook up that meal and then scratch it off the list!
I keep the list in order of key ingredient. By organising the list
this way I avoid cooking several chicken dishes in a row etc. You
could always consult with your household about what they might like
to eat that night or (better still) delegate the cooking to someone
else - after all they have a menu plus all the ingredients to hand
finished I print my list and stick it to the fridge.
That was fairly straightforward wasn't it??!!
comes the easy part - once you have cooked a meal you tick it off
is an example of one of my MEALS