Take a look at my refrigerator doors. Sure, I’ve attached all sorts of clutter to them—photos of friends and family, invitations to future events, gym schedules, goofy magnets—but I’ve also made a simple, recent addition that has changed my life. Can you see it? I’ll give you a hint: It’s in the lower left corner.
Let me back up a bit. Before the beginning of this year, I’d often run out of dinner ideas during the work week. If I hadn’t planned ahead, by Wednesday I’d be struggling for inspiration and probably preparing something I’d made a million times before. Then, once the weekend rolled around and I’d had time to peruse my cookbooks and magazines, I’d come across new recipes I wanted to try, older recipes I’d been holding onto for years and never prepared, and favorite recipes I’d forgotten about and wanted to make again.
Because I didn’t have a system in place, this cycle of finding recipes and then forgetting about them occurred more often than not. Putting flags in my cookbooks and folding pages over in magazines didn’t work for me either, as I always failed to remember them as well. So back in January I decided to adopt a different approach. I spent a few hours paging through my books and magazines, and I compiled a list of winter dishes I wanted to make this year. When I was done I attached the list to my refrigerator door. I even added a nerdy little box next to each item, so that I could check off the meal once I had prepared it. I’ve always enjoyed checking finished items off of lists—I used to organize my homework in high school and college with this method—and I still feel a small twinge of satisfaction when I complete an item on my meal planning list.
As you can see, I am a total dork. But since I’ve adopted this system, not only have Jim and I enjoyed several new recipes, but we’re adding more variety to our diets as I don’t make the same dishes repeatedly. We’re also cooking with more enthusiasm, as almost every meal is a new adventure and something we haven’t tried before. If you look closely at my list, you’ll even see some recipes from my recent blog posts, such as my sweet potato and butternut squash soup and those pork and ricotta meatballs. That delicious swiss chard, bean, and barley soup? The recipe had been languishing in my recipe binder for years before I added it to my informal kitchen memo. I recently wrote Food & Wine’s green chicken masala on the list, and I am looking forward to making it later in the week.
So, if you are anything like me and need some help organizing your daily meals, I highly recommend my newfound method. I plan on compiling a similar list once spring and summer start. Or, if you don’t have any problems planning your dinners, I hope I’ve given you a good laugh at my food-related nerdiness.