Happy Holidays! You made it through Thanksgiving, and if you’re anything like me, you have a ton of food still in your fridge that you have no idea how to get rid of without wasting any of it. Now, I don’t have any “leftover reinvention” recipes, because I actually prefer leftovers just the way they are, but I do have some techniques for planning out meals while saving money and preventing monotony.
So one Monday after work, I decided it would be a good time to go to Wegmans since I had been out of town and hadn’t gone grocery shopping in a while. I bought ingredients to make Pho that night plus some leftovers (nice and comforting after travelling all weekend!) as well as some produce and staples I assumed I was out of. I got home, expecting to find an empty fridge and pantry waiting to be filled. What I forgot, somehow, were all the leftovers from the week previous and all the produce, pasta, and bread waiting to be eaten. So I now had enough food to feed the Duggar family for a week and only one or two people to feed. Oops.
For the first time ever, I realized that I needed to meal plan (I usually just cook whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it- unlike most people, cooking relaxes me after a long day at work!). Not to know what to buy, but to retroactively make sure none of this food went to waste. I also knew it’d be a busy week, so I wanted to plan out leftovers on nights that I wouldn’t have time to cook (and I always take leftovers for lunch). I began mapping out lunches and dinners on my giant white board (that I usually use for studying),
along with the activities for each night, based on what I had the most of and what would go bad most quickly. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have to buy anything new at the grocery store for a long time (except the steaks for a special birthday meal on Friday, which I couldn’t get ahead of time). I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t eating the same leftovers for lunch and dinner on the same day, so it kinda felt like I was doing a logic puzzle.
Everything was going well until I realized that I couldn’t keep all this on the whiteboard forever, since I also need to study. I tried to find apps and printables for menu planning, but none really had what I needed, and none were particularly user friendly. Even Pinterest didn’t give satisfactory results, so I had to get creative! This is what I ended up doing:
- 11×14 frame with glass (I found a very cheap one in a clearance pile)
- 11×14 poster board
- Big and small letter stickers, like the kind used for scrapbooking or elementary school projects (or markers if you trust your handwriting)
- Dry-erase markers
On the poster board, measure out the following lines and put tiny tick-marks with pencil that you can erase later:
- On the 14 inch side (top to bottom): ½ inch, 1 inch, 1 ½ inch, and every 2 inches following (5 total)
- On the 11 inch side (left to right): 1 ½ inch, 4 inches, 7 ½ inches, 10 inches
- Using the small stickers, write “lunch”, “dinner”, and “events” from left to right, leaving the ½ inch margin on top. I spaced the words in between the 1.4, 4, 7.5, and 10 inch marks to make sure I’d have enough room to write.
- Using the large stickers, write MTWTFSS down the left side of the page 2 inches apart. I put Saturday and Sunday together since meals are less regular on the weekend.
- Place the poster board in the frame and write in events and meals on the glass using dry erase markers. I used a different colored asterisk to indicate that I was using leftovers for a meal. This is an easy, organized, and reusable way to plan out meals visually each week, which definitely saves money and reduces waste. And it’s cute!
This particular week, my meal plan was as follows:
- I made Pho on Monday and ate the leftovers for dinner Thursday and lunch on Sunday
- I had a little leftover pasta with sauce that I ate for lunch on Tuesday with a piece of fruit
- Tuesday night, I made fajitas (recipe coming soon- as a guest post!) which do not produce leftovers but did use up a lot of the old produce and tortillas that were already in my fridge
- Wednesday, there were leftover pork chops, mashed potatoes, and broccoli that I had for lunch
- Dinner Wednesday as well as lunch Thursday and Friday was chili, since it makes enough to feed everyone
- Friday night was a special dinner that will not appear on the blog as it was hazardous to one’s health (though we did have veggies as sides)
- Saturday lunch was toasted bagel sandwiches with apples, cheddar, and turkey slices, and dinner was premade Wegman’s ravioli that I got on sale
Nothing was wasted, I never got sick of anything, and I can feel confident that I had a balanced diet. Success!