Saturday, January 10, 2015

Another Meal Planning Idea: Dinner Bins

One conversation that comes up over and over again among my friends and I is how to get healthy dinners on the table every night when we're really busy. This is something that so many of us struggle with. We want to eat well, but after a long busy day, spending an hour or more making a healthy meal just isn't practical, especially when the kids are "staaaarving!" and you've gotta get them out the door to dance class or whatever. I've talked about ways to make it easier before (see this post) but I'm always on the lookout for any extra help I can find in this area.

Several months ago, while browsing meal planning ideas on Pinterest, I came across quite a few pins about using storage bins and baskets to organize ingredients for meals. This seemed like a great idea to me, because although I plan my menus in advance, and shop with a list, many times I'd go to make dinner and I'd find I'd forgotten to buy one critical ingredient. Or worse... that someone had eaten some of the ingredients I needed for that meal.This was particularly annoying when we were pressed for time, and I'd suddenly have to switch gears and come up with something else last minute.

Filling up the bins...
Most of the pins I saw showed the baskets or bins being used in the pantry (which looks totally adorable, especially pretty baskets with cute labels!) but since most of our meal ingredients are fresh produce, I have mine in the fridge.We are very lucky to have a second fridge in the basement, which is where I store my bins, as they take up too much space in our main fridge. On Friday or Saturday, when I do my grocery shopping for the week, I spend and hour or two chopping up veggies and putting the ingredients for each night's meal in the bins. Every night when it's time to make dinner, I just bring up that night's bin and start cooking. For the most part, this system has been working out really well for me. One small regret: I wish I had gotten bigger bins. The ones I got are big enough to hold all the veggies we need for our meals, but it might be nice to be able to toss in the pantry items as well, such as pasta, rice, beans, etc.  I'm sure the system will evolve over time, but as of now, it has made dinnertime much less challenging for me.
Our Dinner Bins, all filled up for the week. There is no
 "Friday" bin, because that is our Leftover Night. 


  1. I'd love to see your dinner menu for a week! I usually only plan a couple of days at a time.

  2. The link in the above post ("see this post" has a sample of a week's menu. Also, here is this week's menu:

    Saturday: Homemade Pizza Night
    Sunday: Bean Tacos and Salad
    Monday: Curry bowls
    Tuesday: Pasta and Salad
    Wednesday: Roasted Veggies and Kale
    Thursday: Peanut Noodle Bowls
    Friday: Surprise!

    I typically plan my menus based on what's going on that week. For example, days when we're out until dinnertime are usually crockpot or make-ahead meals, and days when we have an evening activity I plan something easy with a quick cleanup, like pasta.