Monday, October 24, 2011
Cooking on a Budget - Part Five
I probably should have done this one before the grocery store and coupons....sorry. Better late than never!
So, to do a really good job with meal planning with your recipes, grocery ads and coupons, your recipes first have to be organized. I know a bunch of people just sighed realllllly big just then. Just like most of what I have to say, there is some up front work, but once it's done it is smooth sailing!
If you are like most people you have piles of recipes ripped out of magazines, printed off the internet, or scraps of paper laying around. How do you even know what you want to make?! Let alone shop for it then make it. So this part will take a little while....I did it over about 2 weeks, but I had A LOT of scraps....like almost 20 years worth in some cases! I have an end table right next to my chair where I normally sit in the living room after dinner or whenever I'm taking a break from something. I put in all my magazine scraps and print outs and even those little cookbooks that you can buy from the check out line all into a fabric covered bin and put it on that table. Then I looked at each one and got really honest with myself. (BTW, the recycle bin was also right next to my chair!) Ask yourself some questions....
1. Am I really ever going to make this?
2. Does this contain ingredients that I don't normally keep around?
3. Am I going to buy that particular ingredient just for this recipe or is it repeated in others I want to try or I will make?
4. Will my family actually eat this or is it something I just hope they would eat?
5. Is this recipe too involved for me? Will I have the time to actually make it or will I always overlook it because of the time factor?
You get the idea. You might think of some more specific questions to ask yourself. Now put it into a pile or a folder. Make 2....one for "yes" one for "maybe". The "no" pile is the recycle bin! The maybe folder you will revisit one day after you get better at planning and in the kitchen and more comfortable with the routine. More than likely most of the maybe's will get recycled, but you might find some that you really want to try then. Do not be surprised....if you are completely honest....that the recycle bin is now very full and your 2 piles are very small. That's actually kind of a good thing. Unless your are a chef and cooking a variety of things every day, you do not need hundreds of recipes. It's actually best to have a very few that you are very good at. In fact, you might want to go through your yes pile and select your top 10. Master those.....if your family even gets past the first run (can't tell you how many times that has happened to me!) once they are mastered pick 10 more. Or maybe you only want to start with five. Whatever you feel you can do.
Now let's organize all of those ripped pages and print outs. The picture above is a 3 ring binder that I have. It has sheet protectors in it and it came with some fancy papers with a cooking border around it so that you can type out recipes and then print them onto this paper. I still have a good part of my yes pile that hasn't made it into the binder yet. I don't want to waste my time typing it out if it is not going to be a keeper. To me that means I have to make it at least three times (if it was good the first time) and my family says yes they really like it. THEN it will make the binder!
In my binder I like to keep like things together. Meaning, first I have any snacks or appetizers. Then comes soup. Then sides. Then I break down my main dishes....beef, chicken, pork, meatless. Then last but not least desserts! And yes, I alphabetize within those categories. You can take the girl out of the library.....
You might have a different system.....there's no right or wrong. I have a friend that keeps hers together by Mexican, Asian, etc. Whatever works and makes sense to you and that you'll be able to EASILY find when you want it....that's the way to do it.
I do not always type out my recipes that are keepers. Maybe the magazine did a great job with the layout plus there is a picture of the end product that I like to look at. All you need to do is put that in a sheet protector in your binder. Another thing I like to do when I print off the computer is copy and paste into a Word document and add my own picture. For example, say that you like my Taco Soup recipe.....and it is really good!.....you can copy and paste it into Word. When you make it, take a picture of any part that you want to stand out.....the brand of something you used, the pot full, the end product in a bowl.....and add that to your document. Then print out the whole thing and place it in a sheet protector. BTW you want a sheet protector so you can wipe off any spills.
Now that you have a binder....or maybe working from your top ten from your yes pile....grab those grocery ads and coupons and start planning your trip to the store. You might actually be surprised at how little you'll need to buy depending on your recipes. You might already have a majority of the ingredients in the pantry you cleaned out a couple weeks ago.....you DID clean out your pantry didn't you?
Until Next Time.....