Originally Posted by kellid
Do you have any tips on streamlining this?
I haven't read through the whole thread yet, but I do have a little tip on the menu planning/grocery shopping.
I do meal planning one week at a time. I used to try to do a month at a time but I found that it was too overwhelming for me that way and it works better week by week. I select the meals that I'm going to make, and what needs to go with them. For example, "Spahgetti, salad, bread." (I consider what is going on that day/evening in my plan--for example, if we are going to be going somewhere later that evening, I'll plan something simpler. Weekends when DH is going to be home and we don't have plans I'll try something new or a little more complex.) Then I go through each recipe (either in my head or on paper/in the cookbook) to make sure that I have all the ingredients that I need. Sometimes I need to check the cupboard/fridge/pantry but often I just know that we have that ingredient because I just bought it or just saw it in the fridge or whatever. I prefer to discover that we are out of canned tomatoes for the spaghetti right before I go to the store, than at 4:45 when I am making the spaghetti sauce.
So as I go through each recipe I jot down the missing ingredients on my list, along with the general staples that I always keep on hand and need to replenish. (Milk, kid snacks, fruit, flour, whatever.)
Then, the part that has revloutionized my grocery shopping experience--I rewrite the list based on the organization of where I shop!!! I write the vegetables in one list b/c they are first, then the meat department, then "ethnic foods", then eggs, then dairy, then crackers, then bulk and coffee, because that is how the store organizes them in their aisles and that's the path I take through the store!!! After you shop somewhere a bit you know where things are kept, so it's easy to take a moment at home to picture the store in my mind and organize the list, before you get into the store, this way I pass through the store once and get everything on my list and am done--no going through the entire store then discovering a vegetable you need for a recipe at the end of your list, then going all the way back to the produce department, then realizing you forgot milk, etc etc. I did this last night and I swear, it only took me 20 minutes to get through the entire store and do all the grocery shopping for an entire week!!!
I also try to just remind myself about the next day's dinner while I am cleaning up the kitchen each night after dinner, and ask myself if there is anything I need to do. (soak beans overnight, remove meat from the freezer defrost in the fridge overnight, etc.) Then I also try to do anything really prep-intensive in the morning while DD is eating her breakfast--for example, if there are a lot of veggies to be chopped, I try to do the chopping in the morning. That way it's not as time consuming and stressful as it is when I'm trying to "beat the clock" with a hungry husband and cranky kid in the afternoon/evening.
These are the things that have really helped me.