Baskets! The final missing piece in my quest for a simple home-cooked meal plan

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by ZeaPeaO
2 White Wire Freezer Storage Baskets
2 White Wire Freezer Storage Baskets

I had a "baskets!" moment about … baskets.

A while ago I mapped out a basic cooking roster for my partner and myself, based on our schedules. Which was a good plan, and I even put it on our fridge. And we both kinda went "that's nice"… and that was it. We've got a few favourites so we mostly do have those every week; but our cooking plan is still a hot mess of near-daily supermarket visits, late dinners, and always running out of food by the end of the week.

Recently, I went as far as writing out specific things we're definitely going to have this exact week — the meals with ingredients, and even made a shopping list for both the farmer's market and the shop.

Then I got to thinking about how I'm going to make sure we actually use all these ingredients so I don't have to scrape them out of the vegetable drawer in a month's time. And finally: was there a way to make this easier on both of us?

We're both pretty lazy, and I'm a very "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" person. Other than writing lists all the time (oh the paper!) I realized… Why not just spend the extra time right when I get home with the groceries to divide up all the ingredients and organize them by meal. So then there's no confusion, or decisions, or unanticipated sneaky pizzas.

I also have an unnatural love of wire baskets and, I'm always trying to come up with more excuses to bring them into our home. And hmmm… a set of wire baskets, lined up in my fridge, labelled by day, and filled with the exact ingredients would not only look hot, but also might just be the final missing piece in my quest for a simple home-cooked life.

  1. Awesome Idea! I love organization, and this definitely would help solve the cluster-f*ck of my fridge problem.

    Something that I recently did that has helped a LOT with grocery shopping is to make a "by the week" grocery list. This means that I have meals written out for days that have similar ingredients, for a whole week. For example, if I make Chicken Parmesan, I have leftover shaved parmesan, tomato, and maybe basil. So what can I make with these nice pricey ingredients a couple days later? Tagliarini picchi pacchui!

    Its nice because I will go to my husband and have him pick a "week" of meals (in reality its usually 3-4 meals) and then I buy the unusual extra ingredients, and tada! I actually USE them! I hate throwing away food because it went bad, so this has cut down on waste in a huge way.

    Anyone have a couple recipes they'd love to share that have hand-in-hand ingredients? (sorry for the hijack, I get excited about foodstuffs!)

    • Using the same ingredients for different meals is hard! One thing we've managed is a three-day baconfest.

      Day 1: Breakfast for dinner. Toast, eggs, bacon.
      Day 2: BLTs.
      Day 3: Big salad. The rest of the lettuce, the rest of the tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and croutons from the rest of the bread.

      We like it because hello, bacon, and we can usually use most everything in those three meals. Anything left over is versatile enough for other meals.

      • You can make a quesadilla out of pretty much anything, and anything you can't, you can probably make a stir-fry with. Leftover chicken of any kind makes chicken salad–once I used some that we'd thrown some cajun spices on and grilled, and the cajun just made the salad more interesting. If you made too much slaw for fish tacos, the next day throw it on top of a burger/sloppy joe.

        Listen to me sounding all Leftover Queen–in reality I would love to see a post on this topic but no way could I write it!

    • Italian chicken slow cooker (chicken+vegetables+italian dressing), leftovers go into pasta.
      The cranberry beef slow cooker recipe from the cooking challenge, leftover beef can go into a salad. Bonus: add raisins, feta cheese, chopped nuts (I keep nuts in the freezer so they stay good forever). http://offbeathome.com/2014/06/cooking-challenge2-day-5-recipes
      Ropa vieja slow cooker (sensing a slow cooker theme yet?), leftover meat goes into tacos/fajitas.

      And my general clean-out-the-produce trick is to:
      1) saute up whatever is left, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and maybe some italian herbs, and serve it over pasta, OR
      2) if you know the end of the week is coming up and you have an extra piece of meat (chicken, beef, pork, whatever) do a dry rub of whatever herbs strike your fancy and let it hang out over night then roast it in the oven along with all the vegetables that you didn't know what else to do with.

      • Yep, I am a huge fan of the "saute all leftover veggies and throw them on pasta/rice/grain" school of dinnertime.

        I also love the idea of adding another basket to the fridge: the "eat me first!" basket. It could hold leftovers, produce, and other things in danger of going bad quickly. That way this stuff is at the front of the fridge, not lost in the back. Especially helpful with roommates to let them know when you need help eating up something you've bought.

        • If you're especially lazy or don't have time to cook, throw the leftovers over a salad. If the dish doesn't have a sauce, add dressing, salsa, or salt & pepper.
          It's also a little lighter if you plan to eat your leftovers as lunch the next day.

    • I make a meat-stuffed text mex stuffed peppers, then a couple days later a spanish rice and beans. All those leftovers combined with corn tortillas and cheese makes an amazing tex-mex casserole toward the end of the week and frankly, that's the biggest reason I make tge peppers anymore ;).

    • I love when I can get recipes to line up like that! Sometimes we do this:
      -mac and cheese (shredded cheese, sour cream)
      -fajitas (shredded cheese, sour cream, onion, bell pepper, chicken)
      -stuffed peppers (onion, bell pepper, ground turkey)
      -meatloaf or chili (onion, bell pepper, ground turkey)
      -salad (shredded cheese, onion, bell pepper, chicken)

      Obviously this requires a few more ingredients, but still it allows us to get a whole week worth of food with only a few ingredients, and keeps us from tossing the leftover veggies .Oh! And we can chop a week's worth of pepper and onions all in one day, because I hate doing that part and am not willing to do it multiple times in one week.

  2. That's an interesting approach. Is there any chance of getting a picture of the "baskets" refrigerator? And maybe a description of one of the baskets? I'm curious what you do when days share ingredients.

  3. I love this idea! I'm cleaning out my fridge this weekend anyway. I may buy myself some baskets and implement this into our organization scheme. Very cool 🙂

  4. I love this idea! I want to implement it for our freezer. I'm already scheming about what baskets I would use…

    – Meats! (This is the most important basket for me. I like to buy meat at the butcher, but the little wrapped paper bundles get hidden under all our other freezer things)
    – Easy dinners
    – Sweets
    – Frozen single ingredients for cooking (e.g. walnuts, beans, blueberries)

    I also second Colleen's idea of creating an "Eat me first!" basket in the refrigerator, so that my husband and I can easily see what's about to go off.

  5. This was the BASKETS moment I needed myself. I've been struggling to work out how to meal plan in a way that works for me – and lo, baskets is it!
    I may have been shopping today.

  6. Nice! I should do this at my house. My huge help was finally bucking up and paying for Plantoeat.com. Drag and drop menu planning in a few minutes with a ready to go shopping list? YESPLZ.

  7. I love this idea. Maybe I could finally wrangle all the bags of frozen berries and veggies I have laying haphazardly all over my freezer!

  8. Hey guys, this was my submission. I'm glad it resonated with some peeps, and that no one has told me I'm crazy! I hope it works out for us. And I'm really surprised that no one said they do this already (in the age of pinterest etc.)

    I'll be honest I have not yet purchased these baskets. See: disorganised. I'm hoping to do so tomorrow. I will provide a photo for sure, and I will track whether it is a revelation for us.

    I already have a little trolley with 4 basket drawers so I think that's where I'll keep the non-fridgestuffs. I'm toying with how to manage things like pepper or oil etc., which obviously I won't be dividing up.
    We have a magnetised whiteboard (actually blue because of course it is) sitting at the back of our bench. It was last written on about 6 months ago surprise surprise but I may resurrect that, or maybe just make a space between all our magnets and write straight on the fridge. I don't cook from recipes per se, personally, but my partner appreciates the direction.

    Yep I definitely plan(ish) the meals around matching ingredients as well. I always try to buy seasonal and it's winter here for us so that kinda helps with keeping the list down at the moment.

    Having an eat now basket is genius, pretty sure we need that too.

    go team baskets!

  9. Exciting news! I got our week's veges today and I have installed the first fridge basket! I did steal the basket from my trolley cabinet but it'll do for now until I purchase a set
    Tomorrow is my partner's turn to cook as it 's my yoga night so we're having Tuesday nachos. In the basket is spinach, mushrooms, garlic , onion, habanero sauce. Not in the basket are the chips, and the beans which I forgot to buy. Next to the basket are sour cream and cheese ( not for me)
    Today has been win all round

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