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Food Planning

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Working along with our Freezer Organization methods, we use a couple of tracking methods in the kitchen as well.

The side of the refrigerator has been covered with whiteboard paper.  On that, we have two main sections: weekly menu with sections for each day, and grocery list – which is further split into “next time we go to the store” and “when it’s on sale” (plus occasionally sections for other stores – like the garden centre or if we need to fill the propane tank for the BBQ).

Fridge with menu and grocery list

Fridge with menu and grocery list

Menu gets updated every Friday, since K is at her grandparents most weeks, which makes it easier to hit the grocery.  We don’t always stick to the menu exactly – we’ll try to eat everything from the planned list sometime through the week, but it might not be on the originally planned day.  We also try to schedule in 1-2 “leftovers” nights, since we tend to cook more than we eat on any given night, especially if K decides it’s something she doesn’t like that week…

As for the grocery list, any time we notice we’re out (or almost out) of a staple, it gets added to the list.  Other things (milk, fruit) are perpetually on the list, so we don’t even bother writing them down anymore.  We round out the list based on the week’s menu plans.  Now that our local Farmer’s Market is open, I’ll hit that up Friday morning (early afternoon once I’m back at work), then do the grocery for everything else in the evening.

Between the freezer and the menu, we keep our grocery bills down by buying frozen or freezeable stuff when it’s on sale, then we only need to pick up fresh items when nothing is on sale (milk, eggs, produce).  We’ll also tweak the menu based on what’s on sale.  Find a 30% off steak that’s best before tomorrow?  Goes into the freezer or on the grill tonight.

Freezer Organization

June 4, 2012 1 comment

The first appliance Big C and I bought together was a chest freezer, and it has more than paid itself off over time.  There are two problems with chest freezers: remembering what you have, and getting to what you want.  We use two linked organizational methods to overcome those problems.

Milk Crates

Credit goes to Big C’s brother T for this one.  We use four milk crates to fill the bulk of the freezer.  Infrequent use stuff goes in the bottom ones, frequently used stuff goes in the top, and the front and side get filled in with miscellaneous stuff.  The crates lift out easily for access to the bottom, and they make for convenient organizational units.  We usually divide by food group (fruit or meat), and subtype (pork, chicken, beef) for the crates, and put pre-made food (whether homemade or from the frozen section at the grocery) in the front and side.

Freezer Map

Hanging over the freezer we have a great big whiteboard.  The whiteboard is divided into regions (one per milk crate, plus areas for the front and side), corresponding to where each item is (so the top left crate is on the top left of the whiteboard).  Each section lists everything in that crate/region, including description (“1 lb ground beef” or “small bag chicken stock”) and count (using tickmarks instead of numbers, for ease of updating).  Every time we take something out, it comes off the map.  Every time we put something in, it goes on the map.  Every 6 months or so we empty the freezer and reorganize.

Freezer & Map

Freezer with Map of contents

These strategies have made it really easy to keep track of what we have on hand, which makes it easier to plan our menus each week (for what we’re going to pull from the freezer and what we’re going to make in bulk to add to the freezer) and to know what we’re ready to stock up on as soon as it goes on sale.