A few people have asked me how I come up with ideas of what to make for the meals I post on here. The short answer: some careful planning and blog reading.
You need: your brain, the Internet, paper, something to write with, and a chunk of time before you go grocery shopping. I never go to the store without a weekly menu in mind. Otherwise I will end up buying a bunch of stuff that I don’t know what to do with.
The first three things I do are both very easy and help save me money:
1. Decide if there’s any food or cuisine I’m in the mood for. This one is very easy and self-explanatory. Maybe I haven’t had pork in a while and want to try something with that, or am craving Mediterranean food (this one is true always).
2. Look in my kitchen. This one is important and helps eliminate food waste. Is there cheese I want to use up? Veggies that might go bad soon? I note them.
3. Look at the grocery store ad and any coupons. What’s on sale? Admittedly I put almost no effort into obtaining coupons but sometimes my mom or the grocery store gives me some.
Keeping this in mind, I then sort through recipes I’ve gathered. Most of these are sorted on my Pinterest by food type, and I also have a board of recipes I’ve made and liked (you can browse all mine here). If I make something and don’t like it, I delete it.
I am constantly pinning things to my Pinterest from the following resources:
1. Other pinners. I follow some people I know, food blogs, and other random people I’ve never met who just have good food ideas. This used to be my #1 source but Pinterest has gotten cluttered with ads and “suggested pins” so now I mostly just use it to pin my own stuff.
2. Food blogs. This is the biggest one for me. I subscribe to a lot of food blogs and read them through the Feedly application on my iPad, iPhone, or computer. Here are some of my favorites to get your browsing started:
- Iowa Girl Eats. Start here. I love her and think her recipes are the perfect balance of ease, health, and yumminess.
- How Sweet Eats. Some of the most mouth-watering recipes are from here. Some of them are too complicated or require expensive ingredients, or are too unhealthy, but it’s a fun read.
- Annie’s Eats, The Lemon Bowl, Skinnytaste, Oh She Glows (vegan, sometimes way more bougie than I want to eat, but some good ideas here and there), Cookie and Kate (vegetarian), Gimme Some Oven, Budget Bytes, Pinch of Yum.
3. Magazines. For $10 a month I get access to a TON of magazines through the Texture (previously NextIssue) application. I take screenshots of recipes and add them to a secret board (one you can’t see) on my Pinterest so I don’t get in trouble for copyright infringement. If I make a recipe that is only available through the magazine (I have not done this yet), I will note it and you can feel free to email/message me for the info. Some of my favorite food magazines:
- AllRecipes, Clean Eating, Cooking Light, Food Network, Rachael Ray Everyday
I do most of my recipe gathering weekend mornings. I think it’s fun to spend an hour or two on the couch reading and pinning while I drink my coffee.
On Sundays I take all of the above info and start planning what I want. If I know I want a meal with chicken, I sort through my chicken board on Pinterest and see what looks good. I try to have vegetarian meals once a week or so and vary the type of meat/seafood across the week.
I write down ingredients from the recipes on a sheet of paper, minus the ones I know for sure I already have (like salt and pepper). If I’m unsure I put a question mark and then check it in the kitchen. If I have it, I cross it off. Once that is complete I re-write my grocery list by area of the store. It sounds like an unnecessary extra step but it really cuts down extra time zig zagging across the store.
When I don’t follow this system, I suffer in a variety of ways. Planning helps ensure I vary my meals without blowing my budget, because I look to re-use existing items and shop sales. Having a precise list also helps cut down on impulse buys at the grocery store.