Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meal Planning, and thankful for the Internet

If you ask my husband, organization (and with it routine) are not always one of my strong suits. So any trick I can implement in my life that helps with this, I use.

That's a whole lot of meat!
One such trick (or tool) is the weekly meal plan. Besides the obvious of knowing what to make for dinner and lunch each day, it helps keep on budget (by going to the grocery store only once a week, and armed with a specific shopping list); allows me to plan meals around what we already have in the home; and prevents everyone else in the home from asking: "mom, what's for dinner?!?"

To achieve this is relatively simple: At the beginning of each month I visit our local Costco, and that is where I purchase our meat for the following four or five weeks. I will also pick up larger items such as our dog and cat food, and the club packs of apple juice (my boys can go through a package of six 2L jars in less than four weeks!), diapers, or wipes that we need. Then, on either the Saturday or Sunday (when I go food shopping), I plan out the meals for each week, taking into account what items we have on hand and any special requests Chris or the boys may have. I try to allow for one "treat" for each of them on the shopping list, be it a favourite cereal or snack etc.

Not only do I save money and become a little more organized, it forces me to become more creative and not always rely on the same, easy-to-prepare meals time after time (a la spaghetti and meatballs).

For instance, the dinners this week were:
Sunday:leftover beef roast sandwiches
Monday: Italian potato and sausage bake
Tuesday: Spanish rice and salad
Wednesday: pork tikka masala, rice and vegetables
Thursday: bulgogi (Korean shredded beef) and veggies
Friday: spaghetti and meatballs
Saturday: I'll decide after groceries!

Now things rarely go 100% according to plan. Our youngest had been suffering a teething fever since Monday, I was still under the weather with whatever chest infection decided it wanted to hang on, so Wednesday's pork curry lay abandoned in the crock pot as we opted for something purely for our taste buds, and I'm sorry to say we ate McDonald's instead. Yes, I know. Not very sustainable or healthy. And yes, about two hours later I truly regretted that sandwich.

That aside, I've now moved the meals back a day, so today (Thursday) we'll eat the pork tonight instead! I've realized that the meal planning works as long as you're willing to be flexible as well. Upsets to the plan happen, and if you can continue on despite it, meal planning will work just fine.

A note about Monday's meal: my mother-in-law Donna made this dish for us over a year ago, and it was so delicious! I wanted to recreate it, yet was unsure of all the ingredients. Google-ing "sausage and potato bake" yielded up the recipe quite quickly, and it was a huge success.

There are many staples in my kitchen; The Joy of Cooking that my mother gave me being one of them. I use it more than I do not, and, like the pancake recipe, I have used it so many times I now have it memorized. Yet I am eternally grateful for the Internet access in my kitchen. So many times I need to quickly look up a recipe or find inspiration, and I always find what I am looking for on either my iPhone or laptop. The convenience and ease at which I can find them cannot be understated, and I know my growth as a cook and baker has happened much faster because of it. (That and the willingness of  my family to act as guinea pigs!)

Having Internet access also allows me to follow other like minded individuals, and use their regular posts as inspiration too. Websites such as Food Matters and Well Preserved are continually checked for their recipes and information that have become invaluable.

So how about you? Do you utilize the Internet in your kitchen, and how so? Does it help ( eg. finding recipes etc.) or hinder (work as a distraction)?

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