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Eating Wisely

Lists and Leftovers

Lesley Robinson
Ottawa ON Canada
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 3, May-June 2007, pp. 118-119

When my children were small, life was unpredictable and frequently chaotic, especially in the approach to dinnertime, when little people were tired and hungry and, of course, my baby would need to nurse constantly. On some days, dinner just didn't get cooked and I was thankful for the days when my husband was away on business and we just had "breakfast" for dinner—scrambled eggs and cereal! When I went grocery shopping, I would buy what looked good and was in season or on sale, but sometimes those wonderful foods would sit in the refrigerator for too long and end up being thrown out because I couldn't get my act together to create meals around them. I needed to get a little organization into our lives.

The plan I came up with proved to have a number of benefits. Not only was I able to provide regular tasty and nutritious meals for my family, but I found that our life became less hectic and stressful, and I was even able to save money. My plan took some time and thought to set up, but once it was done, I was able to sit back and enjoy the benefits for years to come.

Here's what I did: I sat down with a few good cookbooks and a set of index cards. On the top left hand corner of each card I wrote the name of a tried and trusted recipe. On the top right hand corner I wrote the title of the book it came from and the page number. Underneath I listed any ingredients that I would not regularly have on hand in my kitchen. I began with about 30 cards and have gradually added more over the years, as I found new recipe sources and the tastes of my family have developed and matured. Once a week I would select the number of cards I would need for meals for the next week and voila, there was my shopping list! I saved time by instantly planning a dinner for every day of the week and I saved money by shopping from a list of exactly what I needed and avoiding impulse buying. After they had been used, I put the cards to the back of the box, so that the menus could rotate.

The next step of the plan was to reschedule our days. Instead of waiting until everyone was tired and frazzled, I decided to cook in the mornings when everyone was fresh and happy. Frequently I would prepare something and set the oven to bake it automatically, so that it would be hot and ready at the right time. The final part of the plan was that I would cook in the morning on days when we were home and always cook double quantities so that I could put half in the freezer. Then on days when we were not home in the morning, I could pull a ready-made meal out of the freezer and still have a stress-free afternoon. Occasionally, if things were stocking up in the freezer, I could just take some time off and enjoy my very own convenience foods!

Here are some sample recipe cards from WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, a La Leche League International Cookbook (order this book online at or call 800-LALECHE).

Eggplant Custard Bake


Tomato Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese


Cheese and Potato Puff Pie


Cottage cheese


Magic Quiche


Swiss cheese
Green peppers


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