Intro to my Flexible Pantry-Box Menu Planning System
But the reason I'm excited about it is because I'm gonna use it for re-assembling a menu planning system that I created about, oh somewhere around 2001 probably? Well, actually probably even earlier than that, so let me just say that I created it, oh man, this makes me feel old! I probably created it in the nineties, a couple decades ago, wow! Thinking about that being a couple decades ago is like, "Whaa!" 😲
Anyway, I created this menu planning system, and I used it for quite awhile when my kids were all little, and it worked really well for me. The basic gist of the system was that I had two separate little recipe card boxes, and each one had a different purpose. One of them was called my "Pantry Box" and it only had recipes in it that I could make from what I currently had in my pantry, or my fridge, or my food storage.
So for instance, right after I'd gone on a shopping trip, I could look through my other box, which I called my "Index Box" because it was an index of all my recipes, and I could pull something from that and I could put it into my Pantry Box and ... well, I'm kind of explaining it backwards! But no worries, I am going to be publishing a really good in-depth overview of the system, and even doing some how-to's on how to set up your own system if you're interested in this. But I digress.
The point is that there's one box that's your Pantry Box that has everything in it that you can make from what you already have in your pantry. And then the other box is all the rest of your recipes.
Life with A Growing Family Can Be Chaos!
And the reason this worked well for me was because life with little kids is, well, unpredictable! And also, I guess with my personality, I don't necessarily like to stick to a really rigid plan. So for example, you might have a really rigid plan of, "I'm gonna make homemade tortillas and beans and rice on Wednesday night," but then on Wednesday, you've got one of your kids throwing up, or you just don't feel good, or whatever, and that plan doesn't really fit what's going on in that day. (Yep! You know exactly what I'm talking about, right?)
And so I liked being able to just grab my Pantry Box at some point in the afternoon and just say, "Oh hey, here's something I feel like making today!" And I knew I had every ingredient I needed for every recipe in that box.
Grocery Shopping Planning Simplified
And as I was flipping through my Pantry Box, if I came across something that I realize that I didn't have the items for, then I would move it over to my Index Box. I also had a little special section in the Pantry Box where I could put recipes that I wanted to make soon behind a little tab that was labeled TO BUY. That way, when I was making my shopping list for the next week, I could review those recipes to see what I needed to pick up.
Basically I just had this constantly rotating box of lots of recipes that I knew I could make without having to go to the store. And over time, you kind of figure out what kind of things you want in your pantry, and you can just stock up on those when they're on sale. And it was just a really flexible system that I liked better than any other menu planning system I'd ever seen.
E-Book and Workshops
So anyway, way back when, when I created this, I actually made up a little ebook that I was planning to offer to people. I also did a couple of workshops to share it with people, and it was pretty exciting. But, as often happens with me, I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but something major must have happened, because I never did market my menu plan. And then, to top it off, when we moved from one house to another house, as I made that move, I lost my boxes!! 😭 Somewhere in that move, I never could find them again. And so my menu system was gone.
Since then, I've pretty much done a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants non-system where I'll just look things up on the internet, and I'll make what I feel like that day. Or I'll write down just what I'm gonna make for the week and then shop for those things. Or as has happened the last couple years, I have a daughter who lives at home with me, who's a young single adult, who loves cooking and doing things in the kitchen, so I've been mostly letting her do a lot of the cooking because she enjoys that. This has given me more free time to work on some of the other things that help our family like side income and etc.
Needless to say, my tried-and-true menu system hasn't been used for a long time. But I was thinking about it the other day, and wondered if I had something about it in my files. Searching through my Google Drive, I came across my old ebook! I read through it to "teach myself" how to set my system back up, and in doing so, I realized that my system needed to be updated for today's technology.
The Flexible Pantry Box Menu Planning System Returns
So... I decided to recreate my Flexible Pantry Box Menu Planning System! And I'm gonna do it in a single box instead of two different boxes this time, which is why I purchased this Acrimet 5x8 Card File Holder. The 5x8 cards are nice and big to write on. Instead of having two separate boxes, I'll have an index in the back, and I'll have the pantry section in the front, because it's a very long box with plenty of room. It's an awesome-looking index card box!
I'm going to recreate my system and use it for several months, and then update it based on what I learn as I'm setting it up and using it for awhile. Then I'll share it back out to my Jumbled Sunshine social media pages! This is just a little preview post to get you excited about what will be coming ahead.
Tools and Supplies
Today I wanted to share with you this awesome product that I purchased to recreate my system in. It's made out of metal and is very heavy-duty. As a matter of fact, you need to find a place for it on your counter and just let it sit there. Granted, when I share the system in full and give you a step-by-step process to set yours up, you can use any card file containers that you want. But this is the one that I picked that I'm going to be getting my personal system set up with.
I will also be considering ways to adapt the menu planning system for today's technology. For example, putting things into, perhaps Google Keep, with the categories and pantry items tagged or something. So that might become part of the system as well. But we'll see, because some things really just do better with low-tech systems, despite all the advances in gadgets and software. I mean, it's great to have your recipes organized electronically, and I can see all the benefits of it, but every time I start trying to organize my system electronically, it just falls flat. I don't know, there's kind of a barrier to recording them and getting back to them quickly and easily. So I like the idea of just having a good old-fashioned recipe box on my counter that is a flexible menu planning system.
This post has been just a teaser, to give you something to look forward to in the coming months. Though I did drop a couple of ideas that you can in your menu planning. I would encourage you to work on getting your recipes organized with everything you can make with what's on hand, in your pantry. Keep all of those recipes together in one area so that you can plan on the fly based on what is going on in your family that day.
I look forward to sharing more with you about this as I get it set up and share my journey with you as I get my system up and running again. I'm really excited about it!