Meal Planning Part Two: Recipe Roster
As I noted in part one of my meal planning series, there are many benefits to planning meals–even if it’s just for supper, which is what I focus on. Reduced stress, better use of your food budget, and having a plan for leftovers are just a few of those benefits. And it’s much easier to get started if you don’t feel you have to reinvent the wheel. So I will be going through my planning process to help anyone else facing a daily dilemma about dinner. As a first step, I’m going to talk about recipe rosters.
A recipe roster is simply a list of recipes and meal ideas that you can cycle through when making your meal plans. Rotating these recipes over various weeks means you won’t be serving the same thing week after week. You can always add new recipes when you find some, but having a base collection of recipes and meal ideas–ideally with some flexibility for adaptation–will streamline the whole process and make it easier and faster to come up with a plan each week. Using familiar recipes also helps with shopping. You’ll know what you need for each meal and can plan your grocery list accordingly.
How Many Meals in a Recipe Roster?
Although not a hard and fast rule, my weekly breakdown of protein goes something like this: two or three chicken, one or two vegetarian, one fish, one pork, and one beef (possibly two during BBQ season). Since my rotation is heavier on chicken and vegetarian dishes, I aim to have about eight to ten go-to chicken dishes, four or five vegetarian, and three to four of each of the others in my recipe roster. I also include ideas for sides and vegetables.
Organizing Your Recipe Roster
Hard copy or electronic? For managing your recipe collection, choose whatever works for you. There are lots of apps for meal planning and recipe storage. You can also use the Bookmarks feature on your browser.
I’m old school. I like paper. I still clip recipes from hard copy magazines. I’m not averse to online recipes and have hundreds saved in my Bookmarks, but when it comes to the everyday, most-used recipes in my collection, I need a hard copy. I’m a very messy cook, so I’m always leery about having a tablet or phone too close to the cooking area. I also find phones way too small for reading recipes in the midst of cooking. Our kitchen desktop computer is the perfect size, but it’s not easily accessible from my stovetop. Bottom line: paper rules for me, whether it’s a print version of an online recipe, a clipping from a magazine, or a cookbook. (Paper is also good for scratching down notes about adjustments to ingredients or cooking times.)
Regardless of medium, you will need to organize your recipes. For my paper recipes, I use binders. Here’s where my background in library science shows: I have binders for broad categories and tabs within each for subcategories. For example, I have a “Meat” binder with tabs for chicken, fish, pork, and beef. I also have a Vegetarian binder with tabs for tofu, beans, salads, and sides. With this system, I can easily find the recipes in my rotation. (Yes, I’m aware I sound totally Type-A, but this level of organization really makes life easier.)
For the record, I use the same basic system for my bookmarks of online recipes, with folders based on type, e.g. chicken, vegetarian, salads, sides, dessert, etc. I’m sure recipe apps do the same thing.
Ideas for Your Recipe Roster
I have a very long recipe roster, so rather than add it here, I have included it in a separate post.
I pick and choose between the main courses, sometimes basing things on what’s on special at the grocery store. After I’ve run through the rotation over the course of a few weeks, I can go back to the earlier ones without worry over recipe fatigue.