Thursday, 24 January 2013

5 Ways to Avoid Recipe Overload

Maybe on paper you know all there is to know about meal planning, but something’s still stopping you from putting the theory into practice. Meanwhile, you’re still facing the daily “What’s For Dinner, Mum?” stress-out at 4.30pm or spending more money than you need on fast foods, pre-prepared dishes, and trips to the nearest take-away.

What’s holding you back from making a meal plan? The answer could be that you aren’t taking your personality into account. Are you an Architect, a Strategist, and Enthusiast or an Intuitive? Once you’ve answered Revamp Professional Organisers’ Meal Planning questionnaire here, you’ll be able to identify your personality type and work with it, setting up your pantry, fridge and freezer to suit you.

I’m a Supermarket Strategist so apparently  I have super planning skills and am brilliant at bargain-hunting. I know what I should be paying for courgettes per kilo at this time of year and what is an unacceptably high price for de-caf coffee. Since I shop online I don’t find it too hard to stick to a list, but my glee at spotting a great deal or coming in under-budget is not matched by my culinary skills.

It’s not because I don’t have access to information. We have a whole shelf of recipe books glaring down at me and pooh-poohing my Cornish pasties. The King tends to go for celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver, whereas I have only just accepted that Vegetarian Grub on a Grant might not be the best cook-book for our family (baked bean lasagne, anyone?!). I have since moved up in the world and source most of my recipes from Slow Cook Fast Food by Sarah Flowers and How to Cook your Favourite Takeaways at Home by Carolyn Humphries. 

One of the most useful sections, therefore, in the 45 page downloadable Meal Planning Personality Profile ($19.95, available here) was the one dealing with recipe organisation. While many of our cookbooks contain delicious-looking gourmet food, there are in fact usually no more than a dozen recipes per book that a) I have the skills/time to make b) don’t cost too much or require lots of ingredients I don’t have, and c) my children will eat. So how to tackle Recipe Overload? 

1. Author Louise D’Allura recommends we go through our recipe books, and photocopy those we are likely to use or which have become firm favourites. These can be placed in a recipe box or scrapbook and the books themselves can be given away, freeing up space and time spend flicking through pages searching for instructions on how to make onion gravy.

2. In the Meal Planning Personality Profile, D’Allura also talks us through how to make a Master Recipe list to help ensure we get a healthy and varied diet which is manageable in times of time and money, and this includes finding our most-used recipes and keeping them all in one place.

3. Another idea is to mark each popular recipe with a post-it note so it’s easier to find, especially if you colour-co-ordinate or at least mark according to category – desserts, soups and so on.

£6.96, dotcomgiftshop
4. Group recipes from magazines or scanned and printed from books into categories that mean something to you such as "Great for Date Night" or "Can be Cooked on a Woodburner". Make sure you don't have ten of the same pizza dough recipe - choose the best recipes and commit to trying them. Place in a "Recipes to Try" ring-binder or concertina folder.

5. One way of ensuring that you will actually USE your cookery books rather than simply read them and savour the illustrations is to print out the Recipes To Try page from the Meal Planning Personality Profile, fill it in, and stick it on the inside of your cook book. This will act as a motivator and a reminder to try new dishes.

As for me, Strategist that I am, I have just treated myself to a cute recipe box from dotcomgiftshop (available here) – one of the things on my longstanding Housekeeping Would-likes/ Must-haves list – so this recipe-gathering project will be a good way to spend the dark evenings in front of the stove. But I must make sure I actually COOK the recipes too!
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