Rule #1: Every food has a place. A few months ago, Bjork and I started having this recurring argument about lunches. Every day he would eat lunch out at a restaurant, and every day I would get frustrated that he hadn’t taken a lunch with him since we had a kitchen full of really good food. We even got to the point where I was putting sticky notes all over the door to remind Bjork to bring a lunch with him – and STILL he would forget or struggle to find food to take for lunch in the morning before work. Eventually, we found one small hack that made a huge difference: organization! Seriously. Organizing our food storage has helped both of us keep a mental inventory of what food we already have. We store our foods in containers categorized by type (grains, canned foods, etc.) and our leftovers in individual serving containers with labels. Our rule of thumb is that we should be organized enough that we can find any food in our kitchen within five seconds, and leftovers should be ready to grab and go.
Rule #2: Stick to a system. I have a food blog and I LOVE to cook, so in our case, it makes a lot more sense for me to be the Master Grocery and Meal Planner for the two of us. There have been times when I’ve sent Bjork to the grocery store for a few items, and it takes him twice as long as it would take me because he’s not familiar with the ingredients or the layout of the store in the same way I am after years of practice and experience. In our relationship, we find that we’re both better able to enjoy the process of cooking and sharing food together when we have a set system for our groceries and meal planning.
Rule #3: Maintain five basic staple ingredients. Our favorite staple ingredients are rice, quinoa, oats, frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes. Recently we hosted a few kids through a foster care program, and even though I normally plan for the meals each week, I hadn’t had time to do any meal planning or grocery shopping that week because things were so crazy. Thankfully, we had a few boxes of spaghetti, a jar of our favorite tomato sauce, and some frozen vegetables that Bjork was able to whip it all up into something delicious and satisfying. Keeping staple ingredients on hand makes for a great back-up plan when life gets a little unpredictable.
Rule #4: Focus on one priority meal. Bjork and I have the most time for cooking and eating together in the evening after work, so we place the emphasis for cooking and meal planning on dinner. We don’t put as much energy into breakfasts or lunches; we just typically choose simpler recipes, like eggs, oatmeal and yogurt. This allows us the time and energy to try for fun, new, and engaging meals at dinner. It can be really overwhelming to try to plan a full recipe for EVERY meal of the day, so be realistic and choose one priority meal where you want to focus your time and energy.
Rule #5: Don’t overdo it. When we first started living together, we were so excited to share meals together that we would pick seven brand-new recipes to make – one for each night. Unfortunately, for two people, we were buying a ton of ingredients and it was just too much food. Now, every week I only plan for making three dinners. The reality is that if we make one pan of chicken enchiladas, we’ve likely got enough food to feed our two-person household for several meals. As we’ve learned from experience, usually three dinner recipes will be more than enough each week.