{March Topic: Meal Planning} My Routine

Since moving out on my own, I’m pretty surprised to admit that the most challenging thing I’ve had to deal with has been shopping for food. I finally feel like I’m about 80% there in terms of figuring things out, but some weeks are inevitably better than others. I thought I’d share my “fun” journey as it might help some others that live alone.

When I moved out, I was offered the opportunity to “shop” the shelves at my mom’s house before I bought anything. {Another perk of having family members with hoarding tendencies} I didn’t really have any sort of plan though. Long story short, after a trip to her house and the grocery store and many trips from my car to the kitchen, I realized I’d ended up with a whole lot of condiments, coffee, snacks, and things for lunch, but not much for any other meal. It was pretty comical. A friend even stopped by and asked “Wait, you already went shopping? Where’s the food?!”

The next week, I planned to rectify my lack of any actual food, so I picked out two recipes to make for dinner that week figuring that each one typically lasted my mom and I a couple days. Again, I came back with bags of food, but I had a plan so I was set. It wasn’t until I started cooking that I realized one recipe called for a 1/2 can of soup. I ended up doubling the recipe to use the whole can which ended making it enough food for the week. I never did end up making the other recipe, and a lot of the ingredients went bad. Fail on my part for not checking the recipe in the first place.

One way or another this went on for weeks. Buying too much food, spending too much money, forgetting to cook something before it went bad, and then having a fridge full of food I was stuck with until trash day. A lot of it has been learning what doesn’t make sense to buy, e.g. an entire gallon of milk for 1 recipe and I don’t drink milk. I’d like to think those days are past me, but having a plan has made a big difference in both having a kitchen with actual food and my wallet.

At some point during the weekend, I open up my recipe manager, Paprika, to find a recipe for the next week. As a creature of habit, I’ve grown used to eating one thing for a few days, so one recipe actually works. Another perk to this is I typically only have to really cook once during the week. Lately, I’ve been picking a lot of casseroles because they’re easy enough to make and reheat well. If for some reason I can’t find something I want to make in Paprika, I turn to Pinterest.

Once I’ve picked out a recipe, I add it to Paprika’s Meal Planner just so I can keep track of what I’m making each week, and add any ingredients I’m missing to my Shopping List project in Omnifocus. Paprika actually has it’s own grocery list feature, but I’ve found I prefer Omnifocus because I can set the items I buy frequently to recur every week or every other week. I also like having my lists in one place. I have a “Grocery List” perspective in Omnifocus to show any items with the “Shopping: Grocery Store” context. It’s also a “starred” perspective on my phone, so it’s 1 tap away once I open up Omnifocus when I’m out shopping.

I try to do my grocery shopping on Monday after work partly to save some gas, but mainly because I found myself putting off weekend trips in favor of lounging around the house in pajamas. I try to do most of my shopping at Aldi, but if for some reason, they don’t have somthing, I can save it for a trip to another grocery store or add it onto an order from Amazon. I generally try to keep to my list, but truthfully, Aldi’s prices are low enough on most things that if I throw in a few extra things, I’ll still stay under budget for the month. Another perk of Aldi is that you bring your own bags. One week of groceries fits in 1-2 bags for me, so I’ve eliminated the back and forth trips from car to kitchen.

Monday night is also typically my cooking day. Once I get home, I grab my iPad or computer and open up Paprika to the recipe I’m making. I like to listen to podcasts while cooking too, and while I’m in the kitchen, waiting for my food to cook, I’ll prep my lunches for the week. Doing all the cooking and prep {and cleaning} on one day means the rest of the week is fairly simple. Whatever I made typically lasts me most of the week, which means after work, I just have to pop some left overs in the microwave. By the time the week starts wrapping up and I’ve likely run out of the meal I made, I tend to make something simple from the freezer like a pizza or order carryout from my local Chinese restaurant as a treat for the weekend.

The last step in my meal planning routine takes me back to Paprika. Before I start the process over again for the next week, I use Paprika’s built-in rating system to rate the recipe I picked. My hope is that eventually I’ll be able to use them to simply the recipe picking process down to 10-20 favorites so that I’m not constantly buying new items.

Andrea

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