A lot goes in to getting dinner on the table. The first step is creating the plan. What are you going to make every night? Then there’s putting together the grocery list. Next, you have to do all the shopping but when you come home with the groceries what do you do? Putting away your groceries can make getting dinner on the table much easier and here’s how…
Taking the time to put together a your plan and shopping list isn’t just about getting in and out of the store. It should be a tool for how to put away your groceries too. When everything goes according to plan I have my refrigerator broken out into zones. All the veggies together, all the herbs together, all the fruit together, all the meat and cheese together, and so on. Nothing is worse than digging through your refrigerator and trying to find ingredients. This can be a huge time-suck. Before you can even do that you have to start with cleaning or at least organizing your refrigerator so you know what you have.
Pantries should be organized too. This will depend on what you have to keep on hand but the idea would be snacks all together, canned goods all together, and then if you do a lot of ethnic cooking organizing but region can be very helpful in speeding up making your meals. If you don’t have a ton of space try using clear bins with lids and make each bin a “type” of cuisine. It will also help if you slap a table on the front of the bin “Chinese” or “Mexican” and so on. Then when you go to make your stir fry all you have to do is grab your bin so you have all your sauces and seasonings. If one of your bins becomes too full trying breaking it down even further. Maybe you have a stir fry bin, a Thai curry bin, and Asian Dry-ingredients bin (one that has wrappers, pastas, and bean curd knots). You get the idea. The best thing about clear bins with lids is you can see in them and they’re stackable.
If you have seen posts on my kitchen you know I have more room than the average home cook so having room to organize all my ingredients is a luxury but when you have less room organization is even more important so that you can make the most of the space you have.
Even with all the thought I put into putting away my groceries I realized there’s a step that makes maybe the biggest difference. That’s breaking down my meat by recipe, labeling the freezer bag with what the recipe is, the day I bring it home.
Rather than writing 6 pounds of chicken parts on my grocery list my list shows how many pounds per recipe. I need 4 pounds for Crispy Chicken with Tsimmes. I need 1 pound of chicken pieces for Stewed Chicken with Chestnuts and another pound for Chicken Tacos with Kale and Salsa Verde. I do this so when I get home I can then open up my package of chicken and separate it into freezer ziplock bags and write the name of the recipe on the bag. Doing this means that when it’s time to make Crispy Chicken all I have to do is thaw the bag labeled Crispy Chicken and I am good to go. This also prevents me thawing more than I need and helps cut down on waste.
I used to just break down bulk meat I bought at places like Costco into meaningful “portion” sizes. This was a good first step but know I am breaking it down by recipe. This means I don’t end up with a freezer full of meat I have no plans for and it means that I use everything I bought.
This takes me to my “bonus” thought on meat:
If you like eating meat I would encourage you to think about how that meat was farmed and raised. This often is reflected in the price. I am not saying you have to eat the most expensive meat but what I would encourage you to do is buy your meat from a butcher, farmer, or rancher that you can talk to. One that can tell you about how the animal was raised. This often is NOT the butcher at the meat counter in your grocery store but the stand alone butcher shops or the stalls at your local farmers market that are selling meat. You will pay more but think about what you’re paying for. Do you want to support small farms? Do you want to support famers who provide and care for each of their head of live stock? Talking to and shopping with these vendors will give you a lot for your money. First off you should be able to taste the difference literally. Your meat will retain it’s flavor much longer and won’t spoil as easily. Best of all you can get exactly what you need.
I go to my butcher once a month and buy all the meat I will need for the coming month. It’s a pricey stop in the grocery shopping outing but with a solid plan I can get what I need and only what I need. Less waste, high quality, supporting small business, and putting my dollar towards businesses that align with my values. Sure I could save money and buy cheaper meat elsewhere but is that really the place I want to cut costs? Do I want lower quality meat? If it’s too big of a chunk of my grocery budget maybe I should eat less meat…
Again, I am not saying you should blow your budget on high end meat. This is just “meat for thought” and one that’s a personal decision for everyone but one I felt compelled to share.