Meal Planning

Honestly, this was a foreign concept to me until recently.  I used to have a chaotic and random approach, waking up each morning without the first clue of what I would prepare to eat that day.  This was problematic, to say the least.  It led to a lot of rushing and panicking to ensure we could eat something--anything--on the day.  Often I resorted to just improvising with whatever I had in the fridge and cupboards.  This part wasn't necessarily bad, since it forced me to be creative, but still, it was an awful lot of unnecessary stress.

I resolved to become disciplined enough to sketch out my week.  I started just by spending some time the night before picking out what I'd make the next day and making sure I had everything readily available.  That improved things, but I knew I could and I should do better.  I just didn't really know how.

So I did what I usually do when I don't have a clue--I researched it.

There are plenty of guides and templates, as well as great FREE tools available online to make food planning easier.  Some great recipe websites include a meal planning feature when your register, and it costs nothing.

All Recipes is one which has a nice interface, not to mention a wealth of recipes to choose from.

ZipList is also free and comprehensive, allows you to clip recipes wherever you find them through your browser, and has nifty Apps which work both on iPhone and Android.

Pepper Plate is very good, free, and also comes with nifty free Apps for a wide variety of devices.  Like ZipList, PepperPlate has a Bookmarklet which allows you to import a recipe you like directly though your browser.

Personally, I use the MealBoard App (though I am currently also test-driving a couple of others).  MealBoard is only available for Mac iPhone and iPad, though it does also work with a browser interface for importing recipes.  There are pros and cons to all.  I use MealBoard because it's easy to have on my iPad, I like their neat interface.  Most importantly, it has a Pantry database which allows me to keep a record of what I have in stock, so I know what I really need to buy.  Other services generate a shopping list alone, and there's nowhere to keep your kitchen inventory.  To me, that little difference is a big one.

For my Danish friends--you'll find that Superbest, in addition to making shopping a breeze by allowing you to do your shopping online and delivering it to your home with very few delivery restrictions, also provides meal planner, recipes, and more.  Their products are fresh, of good quality, and they have a wide selection.  Their service is very good, and their prices are competitive.

There are certainly some other very good grocery stores in Denmark to go to.  Coop's SuperBrugsen stores are great examples where you can find many ingredients you couldn't find somewhere else, and is my personal go-to store when I feel like shopping "live."  They also have a nice madplan feature and a good assortment of opskrifter (recipes y'all) on their website.

The point is that I've found I now love plan.  It saves a lot of time and effort, and it also saves money.  I tend not to get too hung up on it.  It's not written in stone.  I make changes as circumstances require, but at least I have a notion of what I intend to make and what I'll need to have on hand.

How do you go about it: on a blank sheet of paper, on a fancy calendar, on an electronic interface, or by putting a collage of recipes fixed with magnets on your refrigerator door?  I'm always interested in learning new ways, and finding new tricks, so do let me know.

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