Part 5 - Tying it all together
After I had my list of meals I actually went back over the ingredients again to cross check and make sure everything on the list had at least one, ideally two or more recipes it could be used in. Things that had no recipes (and weren't things we just munch on as snacks) were culled. The recipes didn't just have to match to the ingredients - the ingredients had to match to the recipes as well, or there was no point in keeping them in my pantry because they'd never get eaten.
Now we're getting somewhere.
I've suggested before that people who struggle with daily planning try weekly planning instead, and this works largely the same way. If it works for you to plan exactly what to make each day that's fine - use traditional meal planning and just stick to executing your plans. Don't fix what isn't broken. But if not, just make a list to use for the week, and cook whatever - whenever.
What's cool about the capsule pantry is that you don't really have to change the ingredients in your house on a weekly basis based on the meal plan.
P.S. Did you notice in my last couple of posts that I have no idea what it actually means to be a minimalist? Yes, you can cut this down even more if you want. You could have 4 meal categories and like half the ingredients I have on my list and you'd be doing fine and have to devote even less mental energy to cooking. Make it your own!
My family has been following this plan with pretty good adherence for about 4 months and it’s going fantastically. Without exaggeration, we’ve reduced fast food by about 75%, and food waste by almost as much. And that's not even getting into the reduction in my dinner-stress. The idea was that I would be able to rely on having ingredients to make foods that I can make on a whim without needing to look up a recipe, and that is exactly how it has played out. It still happens that probably five days a week it gets to be 5 PM and I’m like “hmm what’s for dinner?” - but since I have multiple options at hand that are EASY and don’t need any special ingredients, it's easy to answer the question AND make dinner on time and without any stress.
The hardest part for me has been letting go of that perfect fantasy version of myself who looked up new recipes for every night of the week and never let an obscure ingredient go bad because I always knew exactly what recipe to use it in and I always had the energy to actually prepare said recipe.
What I would change is keeping a stock of fully cooked ingredients in the freezer - specifically ground turkey and cooked chicken - so that I don't have to worry about thawing it ahead of time and then making sure it's cooked through, and can instead just throw it in the pan and heat until warmed through.
The best part is the flexibility. If I was planning on veggie spaghetti all day for dinner, but I decide I don't want to make veggie spaghetti and I want veggie fajitas instead, that's fine - I just change it on the fly because I'm only swapping out like one ingredient I already have for another.