TheEat: Meal planning

Reader Tom Green estimates that weekly meal planning take 35 to 45 minutes, saving him and his wife hours during the week.

Remember last week when I asked you if you were a planner or a wing-it home cook? Well, the planners, as they often do with their well-organized selves, came out in force to offer up some great tips for those of us looking to dip our toes in land of meal-planning opportunity.

Reader Pat Maloney told me that she uses an upright freezer with dedicated shelves: "One shelf for pork and chicken, one for beef and bacon (I buy several packs when on sale), one for leftovers, 1/2’s of those coffee cakes, brownies, etc., pizza crust (have to have at least one!), ice cream gets the bin, and frozen veggies, ice packs for us old folks with aching body parts."

And Tom Green emailed me to tell me about his weekly ritual with his wife — every Sunday they sit down and plan their dinners for the week together, after taking inventory of what they have on hand. "This may sound a bit compulsive, but really it is just a habit that has stuck. The reduction in angst, inefficiency and food waste is pretty amazing," he wrote. "The whole process now takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. I'm certain it saves us hours during the week."

And then I got an email from my very funny Aunt Nancy who is a faithful reader all the way from England. (Side note: Yes, my aunt is a subscriber; if you are not, what's stopping you?) While she doesn't identify as a meal planner (I believe her exact words were, "H--- no!") she does incredibly well keeping her home stocked, even when there isn't a global pandemic. 

"I also have a list of everything in every freezer, on the microwave," she wrote. "It occasionally gets out of date, so around the beginning of every month I update the list. ... I have very little food waste. I manage to stay on top of it. Soup is definitely my friend here."

I have learned in my three-week stay at the meal-planner bed-and-breakfast (where, surprise! You have to cook breakfast every day for yourself and family!) that I have a tendency to over plan. Like, just because it's written down (in easily erasable, non-permanent marker where no one in my house looks) I have to have some kind of elaborate dish every night. (Writing chicken fingers down makes it all more real, you know?) But Tom also included this, "During the pandemic we have always planned one take-out meal per week to support our local restaurants. Most of the take out meals also provide lunch the next day." 

Most of us have some kind of "take-out" night at this point, right? If you do, you're already halfway there on the meal-planning express! 

Lindsey Hollenbaugh can be reached at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6211. On Twitter: @Lhollenbaugh.

Managing Editor of Content Engagement

Lindsey Hollenbaugh is the managing editor of content engagement for The Berkshire Eagle. A native of upstate New York, she has a journalism degree from Ithaca College. She lives in Pittsfield with her husband and son.