Meal Planning and the Lean Pantry: A Recap

I'm sure we all have friends who don’t ever cook or eat at home. It just isn’t important to them and hasn’t been necessary. We also have friends who cook at home almost every night. They have pantries full of ingredients and fridges full of leftovers and condiments. 

I’m kind of somewhere in the middle. I love to eat out and explore the innovative San Francisco restaurant scene. But having a little fresh food at home and being able to cook a nourishing meal for my tiny family has become essential to me!

Recognizing your values is a really important part of Essentialism and when it comes to meal planning and prepping, it pays to know why you do it and what your goals are. Are you interested in saving time, saving money, eating healthier, learning how to cook, or learning how to enjoy cooking? Your approach to meal planning and/or prepping might shift over time and it might be different from mine. 

In fact, my values now are different from mine a couple of years ago. At first, my goal was about learning how to cook, follow recipes and run the economy of a home. Then, as I was battling financial constraints, it was about economy and less waste. Now... it’s kind of a hybrid with an emphasis on saving time and building community. I still prefer home cooking most of the time and hate wasting scraps and leftovers. There is a joy in nourishing your own body or that of loved ones. What an honor. Whatever the reasons you want to cook with more planning or preparation, these last few weeks we've discussed a number of ways to set yourself up for success:

If you're interested in saving money, consider Meal Planning and Eating Seasonally, The Essentials of Meal Planning, I <3 Progressive Cooking, The Essentials of a Fridge SortZero Waste Shopping, and Bulk Shopping vs. Bulk Shopping.

If you're interested in saving time, consider The Essentials of Meal Planning, I <3 Progressive Cooking, Post-Market Prep, and Overnight Prep.

If you're interested in eating healthier, consider Meal Planning and Eating Seasonally, The Essentials of Meal Planning, Post-Market Prep, and My Lean Pantry.

If you're interested in less waste, consider The Essentials of a Fridge Sort, Freezer Essentials, Lean Pantry: An Introduction, My Lean Pantry, Zero Waste Shopping, and Bulk Shopping vs. Bulk Shopping.

Happy cooking and let me know if you have any other questions about Meal Planning or the Lean Pantry! xo

++ A few relevant links:
John Oliver did a great segment on Food Waste! He discusses some of the statistics I mentioned in Zero Waste Shopping
+ Since I'm pretty organized and rather frugal, I sometimes get asked about couponing. I don't. The Simple Dollar does a nice job explaining why
Remodelista featured Silo, a cool zero waste restaurant in Brighton. “Their waste-avoiding initiatives are exhaustive and startling. They cultivate their own mushrooms in discarded coffee grounds. If you want a receipt, it's emailed.” Woot, paperless receipts!

Bulk Shopping vs. Bulk Shopping

It’s funny… I used to be confused when I heard that bulk shopping can save you money. How does buying more than you need save money? How does a weekly $100 Costco trip save money? I obviously had the wrong kind of bulk shopping in mind.

I'm not anti-Costco but stores like it promote organized hoarding. They feed our clutter epidemic in this country. They profit from our feelings of scarcity and we rationalize the waste. We like feeling more secure and also to think that we're getting a good deal.

(The bulk of Costco  via )

(The bulk of Costco via)

But when did we start to want our homes to look like a store? I used to dream of having a stocked, organized fridge with lined-up bottles of soda and water, and maybe a row of champagne. (You know, just in case somebody stops by and we need to celebrate something. ;) We like our bookshelves to look like a book store. We want rooms with neatly organized crafts and multiple rolls of wrapping paper.

If storing an excess of something brings you nothing but joy and you can afford it, then great! If not, maybe look at your purchasing habits. Are you doing it by default or because you think you should or because the world might end or because you think it saves money? Shop intentionally and let the store store the stuff!

(The bulk bins of a store like Rainbow)

(The bulk bins of a store like Rainbow)

I've since discovered the kind of bulk shopping that actually saves money and resources: Bulk Bins. Here's how they compare to Bulk Stores:

+ For a primer on Bulk Bin Shopping, check out Zero Waste Shopping!