06 July 2010

Finally finding a kitchen system

Making grocery lists and planning meals have long been a bane of my existence.  I have A LOT of trouble finding the mojo to sit down and plan a week’s worth of meals, especially doing so the evening before I might actually have a chance to get to the grocery store during a part of the day when the kids aren’t completely tired and acting that way.  For a couple of years now I have been compiling a binder of recipes we use and like so I can flip through it for ideas rather than dragging out a bunch of cookbooks.  Also having my own copies makes it easier to make out a grocery list as some cookbooks have some of ingredients tucked into the instructions, which I never discover until I am standing in the kitchen, knee-deep in prep.  I have a standard format for my binder, so I can find ingredients or prep time in the same place for every recipe.  More recently, I have been experimenting with ways of listing out meals so I can remember what I have ingredients for.  I rarely plan out which meal for which day, but I may make a note that a particularly quick meal would be good for say, Wednesday, when we have park day in the later afternoon and I don’t have a lot of time to get supper together.  I also like to have notes to myself with reminders of things that need to be defrosted (e.g., big ol’ pork roast) or that need some attention first thing in the morning (e.g. crockpot).

While this system has been better than panicking nightly when it is time to start supper there were still a couple of big obstacles.  First, I was having trouble making the list of of odds and ends that come up during the week mesh with the list I sit down and prepare before doing groceries.  Second, I wasn’t very consistent with checking the meal plan list to actually notice the reminders for night before or early that morning jobs.  Nothing like discovering that the only meal that you have ingredients for is a crock pot meal and it is just an hour until dinner.  Third, I rarely get everything we need in one place.  Now that we are in summer, I get my pastured meat and eggs from a nearby farm, my veggies from our CSA on Thursday, other veggies from the local Farmers’ Market on Friday, milk from the mystical milk fairy on Thursday.  Occasionally, I need to run up to the Fitchburg Farmers’ Market if I need pastured lamb.  Several time throughout the summer, we go berrying (strawberries in June, blueberries in July, raspberries in August or early September) or pick up canning quantities from either the CSA market or the local Farmers’ Market.  So…complications combined with the attention span of a fruit fly…not pretty!

There have been two recent additions to my method of madness that seem to fill in the missing pieces.  First, a homeschooling mama at park day said something about using dry erase markers directly on the refrigerator.  Genius.  My dinky dry-erase board wasn’t doing the job, but a big space…


I can list out what is in the crisper drawers from the CSA so I don’t have to go digging.  Upcoming meals are easy to see.  I can make lists of other kitchen business.  The notes in red were items stuck in the upstairs freezer without labels when I finished a roll of masking tape and discovered that we didn’t have anymore (Ms. Bean, the artiste, goes through a LOT of tape these days).  Once I got the tape, I got the jars labeled and in the deep freeze.  I have made notes with cookbook pages for recipes.  Plenty of room for everything I need to remember and easy to wipe off when I don’t need it anymore.

The second element is ZipList in conjunction with my iPod touch.  Since I can no longer live without my iPod, it is always close at hand, so I can add a couple of items to my list as I am standing in front of the fridge.  I can add other things when they occur to me.  Plus, ZipList has all sorts of neat tricks.  List items can be assigned to stores (Co-op vs. Pick-n-Save) and aisle order can be set up for each store so the list appears in the order you go through the store.  There are a few minor kinks that I am sorting out and or getting used to…for example, the last time I added ‘hot dog buns’ to the list, the default aisle was pet supplies.  I am also still working on getting the aisles in order for the stores I use.  Plus getting used to how it works and where things are.  But, I think it will be a workable system in the long run.


Cindy G said...

Wow, markers on the fridge, who'd have thought? (Now if I could only find the front under all the magnets holding pictures, old clippings, cards....)

Namma said...

Hey, now that you have such a great system in place...how about doing our grocery shopping and meal planning, too? Since we have neither an iPod nor a refrigerator front on which to write lists (ours is wood, which makes dry erase marks very hard to wipe off), are we doomed to failure???