Prior to this pandemic, it was fairly common to pop into a store or restaurant, motivated by the current mood or the special of the day. A plan may not have been top of mind, because people knew there would be something that tasted good and fit the budget, and pretty much everything would be in stock. As the world changed, people flocked to stores. Some with intent, some fueled by panic.
And that’s where the difference between hoarding and planning begins.
In my way of looking at this from a food and meal perspective, buying things without knowing what you are going to do with them is hoarding.
Buying things knowing you will use them is planning.
If you started out without a plan, you can shift and make use of what you have. The good news? It can be easier to make good choices that fit budget, taste, and health needs when you form a plan.
- Take a moment to consider what you have in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Group similar things together and/or by recipe. For example, pasta and pasta sauce go together. I make clam linguine in spicy red sauce, so storing diced tomatoes with clams near the pasta makes it easy to grab and cook. It’s also nice to have like items together so you can see what you have or what you may need soon. All my canned beans are on the same shelf. Baking items (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking salt, cornstarch) are in one cabinet. Dried spices and herbs are on a shelf near the stove to make it easy to add while cooking. Find what works best for you.
- If you find you have several things you like as ingredients, but you haven’t figured out what to do with them, search for a recipe using that item or items. Make a list of what you are missing from the recipe so you can purchase it on your next shopping trip (in store or online). One of my favorite things to do is look at the label to see if there is a recipe on the package. It’s a tasty and convenient way to make that item into something good. Plus, these usually have been tested to be “goof proof”. Not every recipe you find on a blog can say that same thing.
- Keep a running grocery list. I go “old school” with a pad of paper. If something you use all the time is running low, or that can be stored for a while to use in many recipes (some spices, bouillon, canned beans, etc), scoop them up when you see them at a good price and/or before you run out.
- Be open to try something new. You can swap many ingredients for others, or a bone in cut instead of boneless. I recently made a casserole with pinto beans instead of black beans. Delish.
- Make it a goal to use what you buy. This may seem obvious, but sometimes, it’s not. It is likely we have all bought something that sounded good or was a good price but had no idea what to make. Use that as your recipe search inspiration. If it turns out to be a favorite new thing, awesome! If not, don’t make it again.
- Go for balance. Five food groups. Numerous nutrients. Tasty options for all budgets and cooking skills. Think about your day, not just one meal or snack. This is how what you buy starts to become what you eat.
How will you convert your stash to a plan that supports your health?