1) SPEND TIME EACH WEEK LOOKING FOR RECIPES.
This may feel like an indulgence, but just let yourself do it. Browse blogs and websites for recipes that look delicious. Hang out on Tasteologie. Pile up some cookbooks and reach fo the sticky notes. Get inspired!
2) CREATE A PLACE TO SAVE YOUR RECIPES, and keep it SIMPLE. Do whatever works for you. Don’t get caught up in a system, just use whatever works best and most easily. Personally, I like Pinterest because it’s easy to visually browse what I’ve saved. (Watch for another post coming soon with a rundown of our readers’ favorite places to save recipes.
3) ASK OTHERS WHAT THEY WANT TO EAT. Like. your partner, family, and roommates. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in our weeks and forget to ask our households what they would like to eat. I get extra inspired, too, when I feel like I’m cooking a meal as a gift — trying to please and delight the palate of someone I love.
4) KEEP A MEAL JOURNAL. One of my best inspirations is my own record of things I’ve cooked in the past. Take a look at what you were cooking a year ago, two years ago. It’s a good way to remember things you used to cook, and still love.
5) START A CALENDAR. Now that you’re getting inspired in what to eat, start a calendar of what you’d like to cook over the next few days or few weeks. It can be as organized as a Google Calendar, with notes on each day for that day’s menu. Or you can just jot notes to yourself in the corner of your laptop screen. The important thing is to write it down.
6) GO WITH THEME NIGHTS. (soup night, pasta night, beans). I find find it really helpful to have a theme night each week. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it may be especially helpful for those with kids. Keeping the focus narrow will help you and your household make quick recipe decisions.
7) CHOOSE A SHOPPING DAY AND MAKE A LIST. A lot of the readers who seemed to have success in meal planning shopped very purposefully. They looked at their recipes and made a shopping list. Some of the meal planning and recipe-saving services let you do this easily, extracting ingredients from the recipes you have saved.
8) CHECK WHATS ON SALE. Some people really like to organize their meals around sales. Is organic chicken a dollar off this week? Or canned chickpeas? Check out your grocery store circular and adjust your meal plan or shopping list a bit.
9) PLAN FOR LEFTOVERS. Most of us have at least some tolerance for leftovers. I regularly cook one or two big healthy casseroles at the beginning of the week and eat off them all week long for lunch. Some people can only eat leftovers for a single night. Either way, try to make your cooking always do double duty. Make a little extra of everything, and if you don’t want it right away, freeze it.