menu planning as an act of self care

I've been asked about my grocery shopping habits a few times lately, and it's not just because of my zero waste leanings during the actual shopping. Friends have wanted to know how i keep our fridge almost empty while still filling our table with food food every night; how I store food for the whole week in such a small space; how I reduce our food waste; how I keep us well under budget month after month.

menu planning as an act of self-care | seekthewelfare

As I thought about how we manage all of these things at the same time, it kept coming back to being deliberate. Each step is simplified, planned, and careful. As such, it not only reduces our food waste by keeping us from buying food we can't eat fast enough, but it greatly reduces my stress level both in the store and every night of the week as I move towards and make dinner.

One hour of planning gives me hours of calm throughout the entire week. 

So here's the process I've been using for almost two years:

1 // Poke around to find out what you have already and taken inventory
Go through your fridge, your cabinets, and pantry space to see what you have...everything from stray vegetables and fruits to condiments. Write it all down.

2 // Pick recipes that feature those ingredients first
My favorite method for finding recipes for a particular ingredient is simply punching the ingredient into pinterest along with the protocol I'm following. For example, I search for "paleo butternut" or "sibo eggplant." I also love rifling through some of my tried and true recipes on pinterest or in my recipe box. 

3 // Fill in the rest of the week with recipes you want to make and eat
I really love filling my week with new recipes to try, but some weeks, when I'm just not feeling it, I use just old familiar ones. My usual ratio is three new ones to four old ones. Figure out what you like best and go for it.

4 // Write down each recipe's vital information
I like to note how long it takes, any prep that needs to be done beforehand, and, of course, any ingredients I need that I don't have yet. That way, when I go to the plan each night, I know what to expect and I can take care of my future self by getting small tasks out of the way. To see how I lay mine out, see the photo above.

5 // Write your shopping list
Write your weekly staples down (breakfast foods, snacks, butter, etc) and then add any new ingredients you need on it with the amounts you need.

6 // Only buy what's on your list
Don't snag those extra zucchinis "just in case" or get the extra large package of chicken thighs because "we'll eat them sometime..."

7 // Enjoy
Come home, put your groceries away, hang your menu plan up somewhere you can access it easily, and enjoy the confidence that you have all the food you need for an entire week of meals.

8 // Continue enjoying...
...all week long.

Do you menu plan? What is your process? Join the conversation on facebook.