Modern menu building on a budget – summary and wrap-up

These are a great start, but I’d also like to reiterate some of the tips we’ve talked about in our modern menu building miniseries.

1. Know thine habits. By anticipating your hunger patterns and outside buying triggers, you can more effectively plan to have the food you want to be eating on hand instead of ducking in, grabbing fast food, and not eating the food you already have in your fridge.

2. Take stock of what you already have. Raid the fridge and, while you’re at it, make sure food is where you can see it. Nothing worse than finding two rotting halves of an onion. Look through your pantry, too. A great tip from Vintage Eater, vintagejenta, is to put your grains and beans into air-tight, clear glass jars. Again, if you can see it, you’ll use it. 

3. Build a framework to organize your menu. Include entries for the meals you’ll cook for yourself and the meals you’ll eat while out.

4. Figure out what you can buy on sale. It’s about being flexible and also, about knowing what you regularly eat week after week. Watch for those items (or those type of items) while perusing sales flyers. Also, bear in mind what you already have, so that you can pick up additional items to supplement.

5. When you’re done, write a menu. I always play a game with myself to see how much existing stuff I can use up while bringing in as few new items as possible. An empty fridge can be a good thing sometimes, folks, though if you asked 8 year-old Jenny that same question, you’d hear a totally different answer.

If you can plan ahead and organize what you already have, you’ll find that you waste less food and eat a whole lot better.

Next Saturday is our vintage Christmas cookie swap here in Boston and we’re encouraging Vintage Eaters elsewhere to host their own, so for all of our posts this coming week, we’ll provide old recipes that you can use for your own baking. Thanks for reading.

Published in: on 5 December, 2011 at 10:36  Comments (3)  

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  1. Really great! My sister does something you might like. She lines the back wall of her fridge with bottled water (glass). That way she maintains fridge energy efficiency, because an empty fridge takes more energy to keep cool, and eliminates that deep zone where food you mean to use but do not gets stuck to simply waste unless you are highly vigilant. Newer fridges are wider and better, but the older ones are as deep as ovens and the back third of any shelf is the danger zone. I love this series! Thank you!

  2. A favorite, creative-juices exercise of mine is to “eat down the cupboards.” Meaning, use up all that stuff you’ve already got! Especially if you’ve had it for a while. A new favorite salad of mine (Asian winter slaw: I made because it was latish at night, I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, and I wanted something simple and easy that wouldn’t dirty up too many dishes or take long to make. I had some nearly-wilted bok choy in the crisper, half a giant bag of carrots, some not-as-sweet-as-I’d-hoped apples slowly turning mealy, some peanuts, and lots of pantry staples like sesame oil, bottled lemon juice, and brown sugar. The result was amazingly delicious.

    It also makes you use all those things you bought on a whim (I’ve yet to use that toasted Israeli couscous I bought a long while ago) and you might discover some new favorites.

    Menu planning in my head is like my favorite thing ever. I’m especially fond of repurposing leftovers. So fun! And tasty.

  3. Vintage Jenta, I love your blog, btw! I didn’t realize that you were doing something so similar.

    I think for families, maybe the written menu planning is the way to go, but I’m like you – I do it in my head, pretty exclusively trying to eat down my cupboards and fridge. I just got a major haul from my CSA yesterday.. Going to be eating in for awhile.

    Take care,

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