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Eating, Organising

Simple ways to meal plan better + free printable!

April 20, 2017

If you’re looking for a really simple way to meal plan, this post is for you. I’ve tried to meal plan in various ways – with apps, notebooks, folders, using groups where meal ideas were shared, and none of them stuck. I wasn’t consistent with any of them and that was because they just didn’t work for me or my family.

What I needed was to be able to meal plan, store recipes that I use regularly, keep a record of what food we have, and store recipes to try out. Personally, I need to physically see and touch a recipe, make notes on it etc, and I couldn’t do that with apps. Since starting the Live Lagom sustainability project, I’ve been consciously trying to keep track of the food we have. We would end up wasting quite a bit and sticking to a meal plan has helped tremendously. I also didn’t want to have to use lots of paper week after week, so I came up with a way to use one binder for everything.

How I created my recipe binder

I began by putting together a ring binder to contain all the recipes. The one I use is a Staples BETTER binder. It’s very affordable, and the rings open with the press of a tab, which is really handy. It holds up to 275 sheets of paper and comes in tons of colours, so if you wanted to separate your recipes into individual binder, you could colour code them and have a binder for each food group. There are larger versions as well, so if I ever need more space, all I would need to do is transfer everything over to the new binder and add more plastic sleeves to store the recipe sheets.

I popped a cover sheet (I created one that you can download for free at the end of this post) into the front clear pocket and wrote onto the spine label. I then put in a pack of punched plastic sleeves. These will keep the pages clean and prevent them from getting damaged with spills etc.

Recipe binder with printables

Meal plan without waste

The binder has two interior pockets. I use the one at the front of the binder to store a laminated sheet of paper that tells me what we currently have in the house. Knowing what you have is crucial to meal planning without wasting anything.

I use a Staedtler correctable pen, which is great on laminated surfaces because you can use the eraser on the back of pen and rewrite. There’s no need for wipes or any other removers.

My ‘What Have We Got?’ sleeve is divided into the following sections:

Fruit & Vegetables

In the Fridge

Pasta, Grains & Lentils

Snacks

Meat/ Seafood/ Chicken

Tins & Jars

Bakery

Cooked Foods/ Leftovers

I fill this in before I plan meals so I can try to pair ingredients together and use up things like that packet of bulgur wheat that has been sat on the shelf for yonks! Once I have meals written down for the week, I look through the recipes to ensure I have everything I need. Anything I’m missing, will go on a shopping list so I can ensure it is purchased for the week. If you’d like to add this sleeve to your recipe binder, I’ve created a free printable that you can download at the end of this post.

Organising your recipes

I divided my recipes into the following sections:

Appetisers

Bread

Chicken

Desserts

Festivities

Lentils

Meat

Pasta

Rice

Seafood

Sauces

Soups/ Salads

Vegetables

 

Food tracker printable filled out

Use some coloured tabs to do this. I had Avery printable tabs left over from a project years ago and typed out the sections, so it was really quick to do. These are no longer available but I found an inexpensive alternative – Post-it index tabs – that will do the job just as well. You’d just have to write on each tab to distinguish the sections, or use a colour guide if you prefer a cleaner look. I used my Dymo label maker to print out mine.

Recipe binder tabs

 

Then all I did was fill in the sections! I printed out recipes that I use regularly and love and popped them in their sections. I’ve left additional plastic sleeves in so that whenever I find a recipe I love, all I’ll need to do is print it and slot it in.


Recipe binder layout

There is an interior pocket at the back of the folder and I use this to store clippings of recipes that I see in magazines that I would like to try. Nothing makes it into the binder unless it’s a recipe we use and love.

Use your binder for more than just storage!

Since receiving my Instant Pot, I’ve adapted a lot of my recipes for pressure cooking, so I use post it notes to record the adaptations. I can try different settings and will always remember what I used previously. Or I’ll amend a recipe to cater for Yusuf’s allergies and will make notes so I know what to use in the future. I use my Personal Planner to write down dinners for the week and that way I’m constantly looking at it as I use the planner for other things throughout the day.

Recipe binder notes

Recipe binder and meal planning

 

I’ve found that this is such a great way to meal plan, store recipes that we use and love, know what food we have, and store recipes to try out. I’d love to see your recipe binders, so if you create one, please tag me on Facebook or Instagram!

This post was created as part of a collaboration with other bloggers who all have great tips for meal plannning! Links to their posts are listed below:

Meal Planning for Ramadan + FREE Printable

10 Tips to Meal Planning Success

Home Management Binder with Evernote – Includes Meal Plan Note!

Meal Planning For One & Family

10 Meal Prep Recipes you Have to Try

To download the free printables, sign up for the And then she said newsletter below! Note: you’ll need to click on the link in the email you receive to confirm your subscription first 🙂

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Eating

Mum’s homemade garam masala

March 9, 2017

homemade garam masala recipe

When I got married, one of the first recipes I asked my mum for was her homemade garam masala. She used to cook with it on a regular basis and I loved her blend. I remember using a shop bought version when I was at university and it was just all wrong. A great garam masala spice blend has a good ratio of spices in varying quantities. It has to be just right – too much of one or too little of another and your food just doesn’t taste quite the same!

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10-minute couscous salad

February 7, 2017

 

couscous salad

 

I’m often looking for recipes that involve little to no work, or that don’t require me to be standing over a stove for long periods of time. This 10-minute couscous salad is one of my favourites. It is easy to make and the only ‘cooking’ you do is pouring hot water over the couscous.

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Eating

Instant Pot Cardamom & Ginger Cheesecake

December 19, 2016

instant pot cardamom and ginger cheesecake

One of my favourite whole spices has got to be cardamom. It’s subtle – so not overpowering like the clove, it doesn’t have cinnamon’s heat, or star anise’s hint of liquorice – it’s just a lovely, wholesome flavour that almost envelopes you as you devour it. So when I saw a cheesecake recipe for the Instant Pot, I knew I had to try a cardamom version. Inspired by Jo’s lemon and ginger cheesecake, I used a gingernut biscuit base for this, followed by a creamy, rich cardamom filling and topped with crushed pistachio nuts and toasted coconut for texture. This really is a delight to eat and the texture from ‘baking’ it in the Instant Pot is quite  possibly the best I have ever tasted.

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Eating

Instant Pot Masoor Daal

December 2, 2016

instant pot masoor daal recipe

Masoor daal is one of my absolute favourite daals – it’s richer and more filling than the split version, is inexpensive and with my Instant Pot, it’s a dream to cook and ready in minutes.

Here’s a step by step guide that will hopefully eliminate the guesswork to give you a great result even if you’re new to Instant-Potting!

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Eating, Reviews

Help with your new Instant Pot

November 27, 2016
help with your new instant pot

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.

 My Instant Pot was an Eid present from my husband (bless his soul!) – he heard me go on and on about it after some friends in the US introduced me to it, and decided to surprise me with it. To say I was overjoyed was an understatement. We were both initially apprehensive about it, especially since I really didn’t want to have something unnecessary cluttering my worktop, and an expensive item at that, but it has lived up to every expectation I have had and more!

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Eating

Quick & Easy: Nigella’s Crustless Pizza

April 28, 2016

alt="pizza"

On days where I’m either too tired to stick to the day’s menu plan or when the kids seem to want to eat more than usual, it really helps to be able to have a few recipes up my sleeve like this crustless pizza from Nigella’s Kitchen that I can whip up fairly quickly with ingredients I’m likely to have at home.

I’ve used pepperoni slices on this version, but you could use sweetcorn, pineapple, jalapenos, olives, chicken strips (cut fairly thin) – just about anything you/ the kids would like and have on hand. Since these are fairly small, you could whip up a few with different toppings, so they’d also make a really nice snack for when you have people over for a game night or something similar!

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Eating

Homemade Granola

January 26, 2016

Lemon Cupcakes-2

 

The kids like to keep me on my toes (i.e. – ensure that I am never able to finish a meal in one sitting if they are awake), so when I came across this recipe for homemade granola, I knew I had to try it because:

  1. Breakfast that you can toss into a bowl and top with yoghurt = win.
  2. I had finally found a recipe that would use up the multiple bags of oats I had laying around from when I used to add oats to Yusuf’s bath water to relieve his eczema.
  3. This is brilliant for nursing mamas – it really boosts supply and is a great way to start or continue (depending on whether you’ve had any sleep at all) your day.

This was ridiculously easy to make – I can’t believe how much this costs in stores! Here’s the recipe that I adapted from How Jen Does It on YouTube:

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Eating

Dirty rice

December 24, 2015

DIRTYRICE

 

I came across this dirty rice recipe by accident when I was scouring Pinterest for easy meals to make that could last in the fridge longer than a day or two and were filling. The name is what caught my attention – I had never heard of dirty rice before. I had everything on hand to make it, except for the turkey mince so I substituted that with quorn and have used that ever since!

This is such a quick, healthy and filling meal – the kids love it, and it’s super versatile – you could add in more veggies if you’d like to or use chicken or fish or just leave it meatless.

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