My kids used to take swimming lessons at a pool that was attached to a library. We made a point every week of checking out the library (mostly because I love going to the library… but you know it’s important for the kids too).
The cool thing about the library is that there are books of all kinds there. Yes I know it’s a library but many people don’t realize you can find books that aren’t novels.
One particularly rainy day, we decided to linger a bit longer in the library. The kids were off looking for their books and I found the cookbook section like I do every time I go to the library, and thought:
“Wouldn’t it be cool if I could meal plan right here?”
Many people I speak to on a regular basis find it difficult to find time to meal plan, but there are various ways to do it and it doesn’t always have to be at home it turns out.
One way to meal plan is by using one cookbook.
It can be done with a book you find at the library or one you have in that stack on your kitchen counter you never open or on your shelf collecting dust.
Cookbooks are more than just pretty pictures!
Every once in a while, I like to plan my meals for the week using only one cookbook.
Here’s how to do it:
Choose a cookbook that has simple recipes.
If you’re a busy family that needs to get a quick and nourishing meal on the table, don’t choose Mastering the Art of French Cooking, By Julia Child.
A book like this is not going to help you save time. Pick a book that looks simple with simple ingredients.
I found one that day at the library called Dinner Tonight: Done!, by Real Simple Magazine. I also like Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express cookbook or my 20-Minute Meals Recipe Book.
Flip through the book to find recipes that you find interesting or that look delicious.
If you’re in the library with your kids (and they’re a bit older like mine… this might be tough if you still have young kids), it’s likely that you have a bit of time to really look at each recipe (wait doesn’t everyone like reading recipes like I do??).
If you’re at home, grab your coffee on Saturday morning, sit down (yes you’re allowed to sit down!) and pick some recipes while listing to some fun music.
I promise this helps the process.
Pick five or six recipes you would consider making.
Take photos of the recipes you like so that you remember them (unless of course, you have a packet of post-its deep down in your purse, in which case you can tag each recipe page).
Then, whether it’s on a calendar, in the notes section of your phone, or on a sheet of paper, write down the days of the week and assign each recipe to a day of the week.
Be sure to add the page number so you can easily find the recipes when it’s time to cook.
Minestrone soup, p.145
Fish tacos, p. 95
Salmon, Brussels sprouts and salad, p. 34
Pesto pizza with salad, p. 56
The hard part is done! You now have recipes for dinner for next week! And you did this from a chair in the library!
Now onto the next part:
If you found your book from the library, don’t forget to bring it home!
You’re going to need those recipes unless, of course, you took photos of them but a book is nice to keep handy in the kitchen.
When you get home, go through each recipe one by one and then scour your fridge and cupboards for any ingredients you have on hand.
I cannot stress enough that It’s so important to use up what you have!
It saves money and food waste!
Also, don’t be afraid to make substitutions if you don’t have a particular ingredient. The other night I made minestrone soup which called for kale, but I had swiss chard so I used that instead.
If you’re not sure what to use as a substitution, Google is your friend. Search for “what to use instead of kale” or “kale substitutions in cooking”. This works for spices as well.
Next, make a list of the items you need that you didn’t find at home. Put them on a list according to how the grocery store works to make it easier on yourself when you’re shopping. I have a post about that here.
Get what you need and nothing more!
Ok, sometimes I realize I need a few extra things I forgot to put on the list, but be mindful of just aimlessly walking through the store.
This is a really good way to spend extra money.
Bring your food home and prep as much as you can.
- Chop the ends off celery, cut them in half and store in a container covered with water
- Put carrots in water (even those baby carrots!)
- Wash greens like kale and spinach, roll them in a tea towel and either store them in a container or in a plastic bag.
- Freeze bread so it doesn’t go moldy (slice it first!).
- Rinse berries and keep them in a container lined with a paper towel or a napkin
If you have any extra energy you can start to make a few parts of a meal.
- Make the soup on Sunday so it’s ready to eat on Monday.
- Make the pesto for the pizza and throw it in the freezer for Friday.
- Chop the Brussels sprouts so they’re ready to roast with the salmon.
The more you do on the weekend, the less you have to do when you get home from work.
Make time for this and you’ll feel better about it!
The same process works for using multiple cookbooks, but I like the simplicity of using one cookbook.
Try it next week to see how you like it!
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