Reduce waste and food miles by meal planning!

Our regular menu changes, usually seasonally, and our specials menu changes daily here at The Art House.

This takes some planning, as you can imagine!

With so many mouth to feed, randomly ordering supplies and then playing ‘Ready, steady,eadie cook’ every day in the kitchen is not a great ideas.

So, we plan.  We may look like groovy hippies, but we’re very organised ones.

Using guidance from our local suppliers, Sunnyfields farm, we track what’s in season and meet monthly to decide what’s on the specials menu for the month.  This meeting makes us hungry so we usually do it over lunch.

Oh kitchen co-ordinator and chef, Eadie, was hired the moment she told us she reads cookbooks for fun – what we wanted in our chef was somebody who was so excited about cooking, they do it for fun!

Ziggy has a long-term love of cooking, in fact I met her many years ago over a table of zigzvegan treats at a local community event, and our friendship blossomed over a hot stove, so to speak 🙂

So, the task of planning with them both is a fun one and involves talking about our favourite subject – FOOD.

Taking time to think about your meals at home can be a great thing to do, too, I’ve found.

Planning well not only ensures you can use ingredients which are seasonal (which reduces food miles dramatically – asparagus in October usually gets flown in from Kenya, asparagus now grow just around the corner), it also reduces food waste as you only buy ingredients you are intending to use, rather than just buying what’s on offer, or panic-buying everything in sight!

Planning also takes a lot of the work out of cooking.

Needless to say, plans need a degree of flexibility, too!

Both Ziggy and Eadie, with their wonderful crew of volunteers, are adept at inventing new salads out of the ingredients we have, especially anything which needs to be used whilst it is at it’s freshest and best.  Having a meal plan doesn’t mean you can’t do this at home, it just gives you somewhere to start.

So, how could all this planning work for YOU?

I implement a similar system at home to the one we have at The Art House, simply to save time and make sure that Bik, Missy and I get proper meals in our busy lives.

Here are the steps:

1) Collect recipes and ideas for seasonal dishes through the year.  Riverford send me recipe cards with my weekly veg box at home, and look out for seasonal recipes here on the blog, too!

2) Make sure you have ‘staples’ listed somewhere for the things you like and that you buy or order these when they start to run low.  For me it tinned or bottled tomatoes, sweetcorn, rice, wholemeal pasta, noodles, quinoa, tofu, onions, jacket potatoes, garlic, tinned beans, red lentils – I can always make a meal as long as I have these!

3) Each week (or month if you like to plan in advance – whew!) make a plan for your meals for each day.  I use post-it notes on our kitchen cupboard for these, but if you want a portable one I can highly recommend this downloadable, quirky colourful one from Lime Tree Fruits on the ‘Freebies’ page.

4) Once you’ve planned your meals, check your basics levels against what you will need and then add any extra supplies to your grocery list.  You can either pick this up whilst you’re out shopping (we hope at Rice Up and other local independents as much as you can!) or place an online order with Sunnyfields or Riverfords like I do (I find food shopping a bit of a chore, and rarely do it).

5) During the week, if your schedule changes, so can your plan – plans aren’t there to tie you down, after all, but to free up more time to do what you love, like coming to The Art House for some live music or an inspiring meetup, for instance!

I hope that sharing how we plan at The Art House and how I’ve adapted it to my home life is helpful to you – please do feel free to share this blog post along and of course leave your ideas in the comments section!

About janifranck

Land Artist, educator, community builder, director of 'The Art House' in Southampton.
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