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Meal Planning

Most people realize they can organize and reorganize their kitchens to better suit their space and needs.  However, it's not nearly as often someone thinks about organizing their actual eating.  Today, we're tackling meal planning.  Something every busy parent and each busy person should be thinking about.

First, start with organizing the refrigerator! A couple times a year (think season change, at least), go through everything in the fridge and freezer.  Toss expired items or things otherwise ruined by freezer burn.  Toss food that no one will eat.  Let's set up what's left in the fridge so it's easy to see what you have so when it comes time to cook and shop, knowing what you already have on hand is an easy task.  Think condiments in one place or all on the door.  Maybe beverages all on one shelf, like milk, juice and soda.  Leftovers in one area.  And, use the drawers efficiently!  Most refrigerators have 2 - 3 drawers, designated fruits, vegetables and meats/cheeses.  However, if you usually don't have much to put in the categories, don't be afraid to use the drawer to hold something else.  For example, bottom drawers usually fit bottles (whether soda, beer or for baby) well.  Or, if you keep your breads in the fridge, perhaps keeping them all in a drawer can help chorale them (like a bread box).

Create a similar arrangement in your food cabinets or pantry.  Edit out items that are expired or won't be eaten.  If they're unopened, donate to your local food pantry.  Create categories that make sense for the eating habits of the household.  This might be by meal, by type of food or in categories of who eats what (adults vs. kids).

Now it's east to see what's in stock.  When something is missing or running low, there should be a place nearby to jot it down and add it to the running grocery list.  Before shopping, grab the list when you grab your reusable shopping bags. 

Consult the list and the in-house stock when trying to decide what to cook.  Grab the recipes to make sure you have the amount as well as the item needed. 

When you return home with your needed goodies, there are 2 more tasks to complete! 

1)  Next to the running grocery list, keep a running list of what recipes you have the ingredients to make.  When it comes to meal prep time, glance it over to see what sounds best today - for taste and time. 

2)  Before putting away things like fresh fruits and veggies, you might consider washing and chopping them for their intended use.  This makes meal prep half as much time (great when stomachs are growling!) and allows for quicker, healthier snacks on hand - like carrot sticks and apple slices ready to go!


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