31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Cook More Often

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31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Cook More Often

Join us all month for 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!

Whether your reason behind wanting to cook more often is to save money or eat healthier, it’s a great goal for the New Year. Some of you may love to cook — like Shaina from Food for My Family, who is sharing her tips for cooking more often today as well — but resort to eating out when life gets busy. Others of you might be complete kitchen dunces who look for reasons to be too busy to cook…like me.

Although I sometimes still struggle with this — when we overbook ourselves or have sick kids, for example — here are a few tips that have helped me get much better about cooking dinner most nights of the week:

1. Plan your meals and grocery lists.

Although there are exceptions, most people find that simply planning ahead is the key to cooking more often. Create a list of the meals you’d like to make during the week and base your grocery list on what ingredients you need to make them. This list doesn’t have to be rigid if you prefer more spontaneity to your meals, and you can always carry a meal over into the next week if you want to switch things up. I have several meal planner and grocery list printables available here at Organizing Your Way to make your planning even easier:

:: Weekly Menu Plan

:: Weekly Menu Plan (Without Assigned Days)

:: Weekly Menu Plan & Shopping List

:: Weekly Menu Plan & Shopping List (Without Days)

2. Create an idea file and a favorites list.

Another common reason that families eat out is because they get tired of the same meals week after week. To battle this tendency, create a list of all of your favorite meals as well as an idea file for recipes you’d like to try. I actually have two idea files — one for links to recipes on the internet and one for physical recipes I tear out of magazines. Being able to quickly see all of our favorite meals as well as get ideas for new ones to try is a huge help when I’m planning our menu and realize I’ve got 5 Italian dishes on the list.

3. Throw in some easy options.

I realize they’re not the healthiest option, but we keep frozen pizza on hand for those nights when dinner is just not coming together. Other easy options include grilled cheese and tomato soup, eggs and sausage or grilled hotdogs and french fries. We try to serve an easy fruit or veggie to go along with these easy meals, but these nights are usually about survival and not running out to get fast food, and having easy options available means we’re less likely to do that.

The funny part is I used to refuse to plan for these types of meals and then we’d have nothing easy in the pantry and end up at a fast food restaurant anyway. For me, if the choice is between fast food or something easy at home, at home is still the obvious choice because it’s healthier and costs less!

4. Keep extra meals in your freezer.

Whether you double a recipe and freeze the extra or set aside a once-a-month cooking day, having meals in your freezer is a great way to have home-cooked meals more often. We just finished the meals that we stocked our freezer with before the baby was born, and I am so thankful for all of the yummy meals we were able to make right at home even with a colicky baby.

The thought of OAMC may be overwhelming to you, but doubling a recipe and freezing half doesn’t involve much more work than simply making a single meal, and the payoffs are more than worth it. Next time you make your family’s favorite meal, try it!

5. Put it on your daily schedule.

For me, it’s important that I look at whatever meal I have planned for the day and actually write down what time I need to start preparing it. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve looked up at the clock and realized we should be eating in 15 minutes and I haven’t even started dinner yet. However, if I take the time to think through the meals and what time I need to start making dinner, I’m much more likely to actually get it done!

6. Take note of the obstacles.

Think about what other obstacles keep you from cooking at home and brainstorm solutions for each of them. Are your afternoons and evenings so busy that you frequently run out of time to cook? Could you start your meal preparations in the morning by throwing everything in the crockpot or by putting a casserole together? Maybe you have really picky eaters in your family and it’s hard to find many things they like, so you’re stuck with the same meals every week, which leaves you uninspired to really cook. Instead, could you try new meals and serve side dishes you know they’ll eat? Whatever your particular obstacles are, brainstorm different ways to address them rather than just giving up!

Do you cook at home a lot? Is your goal to cook more? What obstacle keeps you from cooking now?

The 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010 series is sponsored by Get Organized Wizard. Find ready-made action plans, organizers and checklists for more than 200 projects in the Life & Goal Organizer.

About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

12 Responses to “ 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010: Cook More Often ”

  1. I love the concept of an “idea file” to keep the recipes I want to try together. I’m always coming across recipes and thinking they sound good, but then I lose track of them or forget where I saw them.

    Once A Month Cooking sounds like something I should try more of in 2010. I’d like Once a Month Shopping, too ;-)

    Great post!


  2. This is something I do – cook! We seldom eat out. It’s a treat when we do. Thanks for the tips. I can implement a few of them to make my cooking time go smoother.
    Southern Gal´s last blog ..Encouragement My ComLuv Profile


  3. I have both a file on my computer and a notebook to have recipes to use without cooking the same old same old all the time. I also keep frozen food in the fridge that I call “food of last resort”, chicken patties, frozen rolls, french fries, some frozen pizza. So much easier and cheaper than fast food.

    I like to cook but there are days when it just aint gonna happen, so this really does save us.


  4. As a food blogger with the goal of cooking through a specific cookbook in a year, I have a lot of motivation to keep cooking! That said, I do tend to go out to eat when things get busy, or just for fun – DH and I love to do paired wine dinners or go to food / wine / beer events.
    Wendy´s last blog ..American Hot Cocoa My ComLuv Profile


  5. I love the “food of last resort” from Sue, above. I always keep a family-size Stouffer’s frozen lasagna in the freezer. It takes a while to bake, and we usually end up eating it because I don’t want it to get old (not because we’re in a pinch), but it’s like a balm to my frazzled mind to know it’s there in case we have a dinner emergency!


  6. You are really speaking to me with this list!

    I am trying my darnedest to cook more and I’ve found that the Pantry Challenge going around has been super helpful! I’ve created a meal plan for the month which involved putting in a different meal at 6pm every night on Google Calender (that way DH and I can both see it). I’ve also put out notes at 7pm throughout the week depending on the meals the next night (last week it was to make hamburger buns, tonight it’s to put the turkey in the fridge). I was also lucky enough to have some time over Thanksgiving to cook up a bunch of food that I’ve been stretching out (tonight we’re having Chicken Chilies Casserole from the freezer/dethawing since last night). And finally I created “Theme” Nights – ie, Mondays are Soup Night, Tuesdays are Italian, Wednesdays are Leftovers and Sunday is Homemade Pizza. It’s really made a HUGE difference!


  7. i am working to make more food from whole foods. we where using alot of boxes and cans. i feel like with me trying to lose weight and to give my kids a healthier outlook on food this is the best way to start. we have also worked out a plan to not eat out as much. with a family of 6 it will help us save money and eat better. i to keep the frozen lasanga in the freezer for the days i just dont feel like cooking. sometimes mom needs a break! although my mother and father in law gave us a crockpot for christmas and i am loving it. making all kinds of stuff so the lasagna that usually gets eaten quickly as been sitrting there for awhile now!


  8. My boyfriend and I have done a good job of cooking at home… he is a big eat out kinda guy so he has worked hard to focus on home more. The next goal is to vary up what we cook so its not the same meals each week! I love the idea file idea :-) I have a bunch of recipes I have ripped out of magazines and saved in a box, now I just need a nice way to rotate through them. I like how it sounds like you organized them
    Laura´s last blog ..Goal #5: Wear More Jewelry My ComLuv Profile


  9. This is a no brainer for me. I love to cook and it is a lot cheaper than hitting fast food. When I know I can make a simple meal I know we are eating a lot healthier. I like to keep my recipes on http://springpadit.com you can type in the link to a websites recipe and it adds it to your account. You can make up menus and it has apps to post a reusable grocery list. There is all kinds of fun things to make cooking and shopping easier.
    Rana´s last blog ..Mommy’s little helpers! My ComLuv Profile


  10. I wouldn’t say that I love to cook, but it is just another one of the tasks on my daily to-do list. The best thing to make me cook has been your #1 recommendation – having a menu plan and grocery shopping to the menu plan.

    I would love to know a little more about once a month cooking. Specifically, what sort of meals are best to freeze. I always find the meals I freeze end up a bit soggy or the meat is too tough. The only things I have success with are simple rice or pasta dishes. Any other ideas?
    Julie´s last blog ..Tastes of summer – BBQ My ComLuv Profile


  11. I just discovered your blog via Sherri’s list on Serene Journey. It looks great and this post is really helpful. I was about to write my own post about cooking and meal planning etc but this is so good, I think I will link to this and add my own comments.

    Look forward to reading more on here!


  12. these are great ideas! Last fall after reading simplemom.net, I started planning meals a few weeks in advance. When I was doing this faithfully it made the entire world (mine anyway) spin better! I’m working back into that. One thing that helps me is my seal-a-meal my mom gave me last year for an anniversary present–the perfect present. It’s so nice to cook and separate big batches of food, plus it’s great for that one or two serving that you don’t want to toss or eat again!
    Emily´s last blog ..a new year, a fresh start My ComLuv Profile


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