Going minimalist on grocery shopping: meal planning

This post - as the title has warned you already - is not about my wardrobe. It is on a subject that I thought was only reserved for the very, very organized folks. Or for people with larger families. Just not for me living in a small flat with my mister... Yes, we shall speak about meal planning today. 

I first stumbled upon the concept of meal planning a few months ago. I am currently unemployed, wrapping up my thesis so the mister has to provide for the both of us. Now this is not really a big problem, but I felt like I should keep a closer eye on our spending habits. 

But that is only one part of the story. The other one has to do with my current minimalism journey. Now I have been raised on a farm and from young age was aware of where produce came from and what it took to grow it. So trying to make the most of your crops while wasting as little as possible came natural to me. Until I moved to the city and became accustomed to spending, spending and spending some more. Slowly, but very steadily, my rather frugal upbringing faded and got replaced by the notion that everything is always available, no matter how exotic. And if things spoil, so what? There is always more. I bought salads that slowly turned into brown, sluggish masses in my fridge, that sharon-fruit that I had to try but then forgot about, potatoes that I forgot to store properly and therefore grew quite impressive shoots on my kitchen windowsill... the list could go on and on. 

A few weeks ago, when I had to toss a whole kilogram of carrots that rotted within two days because I forgot to take them out of their plastic bag, something suddenly clicked. What was I doing? When did I become so mindlessness about food? How could I throw away food so easily while -yes, it sounds cheesy- others are starving. Then, I opened the fridge. Same scenario. Filled to the brim with... well... stuff. I could not even remember what was lying in the back (and it was gone to the point that only the wrapper would tell me it was mint). This was insane! I had been decluttering my wardrobe, my DVD and CD collection, my books and my craft supplies, now it was more than time to do the same with the kitchen. I emptied the fridge, gave it a good wipe and only put in those things we actually use. Which were not many. 

And then, I started my first round of meal-planning. Want to see how that looks like? Here you are:

 First, I have to get cozy. Lighting candles is my all-time favourite to get relaxed.

Then, out comes the laptop to check special offers in our local supermarket for the week and a few cookbooks for inspiration. And hot cocoa. Because it is fall now. You can find the recipe for the hot cocoa here. I make it sans the whipped cream but with some gingerbread spice sprinkled into the cocoa, sugar, water mix for a bit of extra coziness.

I also go through our kitchen cabinets to see if we need any staples like pasta, joghurt or dish washing soap. Then I will flip through the cookbooks and look for recipes that fit with the special offers in our supermarket. I usually pick three to four different dishes per week, the rest of the days we will have leftovers which I tend to store in our freezer for this purpose.

One thing I also try to do is to cook with the vegetable that is currently in season. Seasonal produce not only delivers the best value for your money in terms of vitamins and nutrients, it also is normally the cheapest because "in season" means nothing else than "abundant" and therefore cheaper. Buying seasonal mostly goes hand-in-hand with buying local and I am all in for reducing my carbon footprint. I mean, seriously, who needs strawberries from South Africa in december? And why would I want to buy apples from Argentina when the Dutch apples are just as fine? Excuse the waffling, but I am quite passionate about this topic.

Right, back to the meal planning. So once I have my plan together, I go shopping. And guess what? Yep, we are indeed saving money. Now that I buy ingredients rather than groceries, I know exactly what I want and how much and everything will be used before it can spoil. No more spoiled food means less waste which actually means we are throwing away less money -pun intended. I also tried out a whole range of new dishes, some of them so simple and fast they have already become staples for those days / weeks when you just cannot be bothered.

Go ahead, try meal planning for yourself! It does not matter if you are single or the head of a 20-person household. It works for all of us.