So, Here's My Meal-Planning Routine

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I've found a new weekly routine for meal planning and cooking that is delighting me to no end, and so I thought I'd tell you more about it. 

Light on greens.

I'll begin by saying I am not the kind of person who subscribes to company newsletters if I can help it -- I only like receiving happy, personal e-mails in my inbox! -- so I knew something big was going on when I not only created a personal profile on the Cooking Light website in order to save the recipes I wanted to try but also promptly signed up for almost every single e-mail newsletter they offered

This means my inbox gets inundated with e-mails from Cooking Light every single day. 

And I'm totally okay with that. 

Purple morning flowers.

So, here's what I do.

I let the Cooking Light e-mail newsletters pile up all week in my inbox, and I give myself permission to ignore them. Then on the weekend, when I'm ready to begin the weekly routine, I sit down at my computer and turn directly to those e-mails. 

The first thing I do is look through every single one of them.

Each e-mail contains several recipes, and whenever something catches my attention, I click through to read the ingredients and directions. If the dish still interests me after that step, I save it to my recipe file. (This is where having a personal account on the website becomes super-handy!)

Green shrub.

After reading through every single e-mail and saving the recipes I'd like to try, I go into my saved recipe file and begin to select the coming week's menu.

I pick 5-7 dishes that I think will make for a great week of meals, trying when I can to overlap similar ingredients, and store those recipes in a special folder I've created for that week's recipes.

Note: This designated folder for the week's meals is super-helpful for creating the shopping list for the week. It also creates such an easy process for cooking dinner each night -- just pull up the week's folder and click on the recipe you want to make -- no hunting and digging through a backlog of archives required!

Pink flowers.

Speaking of shopping lists, Cooking Light makes this process super easy. With the click of just a few buttons from the special folder you created for that week's recipes, they generate a full list of every ingredient required for your week's worth of meals. 

I like to shop the aisles of the grocery store with a very handy + free iPhone app called ShopShop, which allows you to create multiple shopping lists for different stores, keeps in its memory all the items you have listed on your shopping lists previously, and makes crossing off and clearing your shopping list at the grocery store very fun + easy. (I know. I'm a nerd. But I do find that this is the perfect app for the person -- like me -- who really loves that feeling of crossing items off a to-do list!)


So, once the Cooking Light website has drawn up my shopping list for the week's worth of meals, I open up my ShopShop app and transfer to it any items I need to purchase from the Cooking Light list.

This might sound like a laborious extra step, but I've never found it to feel like extra work. In fact, it makes the shopping list process very conscious and deliberate for me, as I can check the pantry and refrigerator when necessary to determine which items I really do need, so that when I go to the store, I know the items on my list are the items I actually need to buy.


So there you have it: my newly discovered and newly favorite routine -- or, at least, the first part of it. In my next post, I'll share some of the other routines and learning edges I've discovered in the grocery store and kitchen through this process of learning how to cook.