36. The Kitchen Page
How I nail our household catering - and an early Christmas present!
I’m not keen on titles where every word starts with a capital letter, but you’ll see that I’ve made an exception to my usual practice for this post. Why? Because of the status of The Kitchen Page. Reader, it runs our house.
Okay, not the house. Just the kitchen. But this single sheet of A4 paper contains everything I need to know about the fridge, the freezer, the grocery shopping and the meal planning, and a list of any tasks related to any of those.
After I’d included a snap of it in this post last Saturday, some of you had asked how I use this page. So, this is for you! 🥳
After hanging from a bulldog clip attached to a piece of floppy cardboard for years, with nowhere reliable to keep the pen, my kitchen page was given a very smart upgrade when my husband gave me a Rapesco clipboard with its own pen clip last Christmas. Heaven.
The page is divided into five sections: Shopping, Notes, Fridge, Freezer and Meals. Here it is up close:
The ‘Shopping’ section
This is our ongoing shopping list for food and household items. I order all our shopping online, and it’s delivered every Tuesday. I don’t need to add to this list the staple items I buy every week because the online supermarket adds my preferences to my virtual trolley for me.
So the items listed in this section are generally either things that I’ve used up and need to replace, or they’re ingredients for a new dish I’m planning to cook.
The ‘Notes’ section
A simple space for kitchen-related reminders. Here you can see I’ve put ‘Th’ instead of ‘T’ for Thursday, just so I don’t mix it up with Tuesday. And look, I made cake today! Lucky Jim! 😃
Yes, I reclaim my freezer Tupperware! The day after I’ve put a container of something into the freezer I’ll take it out, dip the container into hot water and turn its block of icy contents out into a polythene bag to pop straight back into the freezer. This saves me an immense amount of space and frees up the container for further use.
I also reuse the bags that have had cooked food stored in them, keeping a stash of empty ones in the freezer for next time. (However, I recycle, rather than reuse, any bags I’ve used to store raw frozen meat and fish.)
I’ve learned that it’s always a good idea to flatten out the surface of whatever I’m going to be freezing so that the bagged-up slabs will later tesselate in best space-saving fashion. I can fit quite a lot of things into the drawers of my home freezer, but the freezer in the campervan is tiny, so I need to take that into account at this stage.
⚫️ Why the dots?
I use dots to keep track of what I’ve got in the fridge or freezer. This is a game changer!
Many examples of freezer or larder inventories that I’ve seen online give a numerical value for the number of portions being listed: ‘Stew x 6’, or ‘Soup x 2’ for example. I wonder what happens on the inventory when six portions of stew become four, or another batch of soup is made and the two needs changing into an eight?
So I ‘number’ my items with a dot instead: it’s easy to put a cross through the dot when a dish or an ingredient has been consumed or used, and just as easy to sprinkle a few new ones onto my kitchen page when I’ve had shopping delivered or made a fresh batch of something. It’s not at all hard to count dots!
The ‘Fridge’ section
After my delivery every Tuesday I list whatever’s going into the fridge, adding a dot (or more than one), and the use-by date for each item. Anything that’s still unused from last week gets relisted here too: I don’t even need to check in the fridge for what it is, or its use-by date, because last week’s kitchen page tells me all that.
The dates don’t need to be in order – life’s too short! Heck, I know that the 12th comes before the 28th!
It helps me to abbreviate things:
‘SGM’ is small green milk (a pint of semi-skimmed) – as opposed to ‘GM’ (a two-pinter of the same).
‘BM’ is blue milk (a two-pinter of the full-fat milk I use to make yoghurt).
‘CTM’ is a chicken tikka masala ready meal.
‘SC’ is a small tub of cream.
The dots to the left of the vertical line in this section represent the number of each item I have, and the slanted lines and crosses show what has been opened or used.
Just a quick glance at this section tells me – among many other things – that the ‘SGM’ dated the 10th is the open carton of semi-skimmed milk that’s on the go at the moment, and that the next carton to open will be the large one dated the 15th.
There are no detailed descriptions of anything. I don’t need them. This week I know that ‘pork’ means the boneless shoulder joint I’m going to be roasting on Saturday, and ‘chicken’ is the pack of free-range chicken legs which my slow cooker is turning into barbecued deliciousness as I’m writing this post.
The last two items in this section – cooked cabbage and cooked pot(ato), just the one – don’t have use-by dates beside them, but letters to show on which days they had been cooked. This is how I keep track of any leftovers that land in the fridge.
I don’t bother to list things which I know I’ve always got on hand and which I know we’ll get through before any date deadlines – cheese, homemade yoghurt, butter and veg, for example.
The ‘Freezer’ section
I freeze meals such as chilli, stew and homemade curry in portion sizes: either for one or for two. You can see below that at the moment I’ve only got single-serving blocks of soup, chilli and stew in the freezer, but if I have a mixture of one- and two-portion blocks, it helps to know that. If I know that we’re both having soup for lunch, I’ll thaw a block for two, thereby preserving a couple of single-portion blocks. That way I know there’s still an easy meal on the cards if only one of us needs to take a flask of soup to work on another day.
I store what are listed generically as ‘fish’ and ‘chicken’ in a ready-to-cook format. I open up the packaging, trim and slice the meat or fish and freeze it in small bags each containing the right amount to feed the two of us. Formatting food to freeze means that I don’t ever have to thaw and use a whole pack of chicken thigh fillets in one go because, hey, I don’t ever freeze a whole pack of chicken thigh fillets!
I know that the ‘fish’ listed in the freezer section is diced cod loin, and ‘chicken’ is diced chicken thigh fillets. If I’m making a Thai fish curry or chicken Dijon for supper I’ll take the relevant bag out of the freezer, and that’s my protein component ready to go.
One of our three freezer drawers contains only frozen veg – mostly cauliflower, actually, because in my low-carb life I use it for everything (mash, rice, pie toppings, cheesy bakes, soup) – and frozen veg isn’t listed on the kitchen page because I know I’ve always got it. My routine is to add anything I’ve used to the shopping list so that it’s replaced in our very next grocery delivery, so I know I’m not going to run out.
(Abbreviations used: ‘YP’ is Yorkshire puddings, and ‘FPM’ is fish pie mix.)
Some thoughts on meal planning
I’ve seen a lot of systems for meal planning on blogs and YouTube, and many show it as a stage that happens before the shopping. That’s fine in theory, but setting in stone in advance that you are intending to eat sausages on Thursday and then finding that the use-by date on them is Tuesday might just mess up your plan! Yes, I’ll decide before I shop that I would like to cook and eat sausages sometime over the next week, but I’ll wait to see
the whites of their eyes their use-by date before I determine exactly when to cook them or whether to freeze them.
So, I plan our meals after the shopping has been delivered, but because the kitchen page always tells me what’s in stock in the fridge and freezer, and because I know the contents of my larder inside out, I always have an idea of what sort of meals I’m going to want to cook even before I write them down.
The ‘Meals’ section
This section is very straightforward: I just write the day, the name of the meal and the date. Having the date here is crucial, because by cross-referencing with the ‘Fridge’ section I can work out at a glance which meals would be best to appear on which day.
Our routine is that we have fish on Fridays, a roast on Saturdays and curry on Sundays, so those three days in this section are the easiest to populate.
Next I'll simply have a look at what fresh items are listed on the ‘Fridge’ section, and take their use-by dates into account when I’m deciding what to cook on the days that are left. If there’s nothing fresh that needs using – or if I just fancy choosing à la frozen carte1 – I’ll focus my attention on the ‘Freezer’ section.
What’s missing from the kitchen page?
You might have noticed there’s no inventory of what’s in my larder. Reader, I don’t need it: I know I have everything I use on a regular basis, because my habit is to always have a stash of the dry goods that I use regularly. Equally, I don’t list the veg in my fridge: I know I have cabbages, leeks, Brussels sprouts, celery, carrots and peppers because I buy these weekly. My restocking system is extremely simple: every time I use anything I’ll list it on the ‘Shopping’ section of the kitchen page so that I remember to order it for delivery the following Tuesday.
Over to you!
If you feel it would help you, I’d love you to use the kitchen page for yourself! Simply download it below (it’s free, it’s Christmas, it’s yours for personal use) and give it a go. I’d absolutely love to know how it works for you, so do please leave me a comment.
And if you feel this system might help your friends and family too, please share this post with them. Thank you!
UPDATE: I’ve had a request for my fish curry recipe: you can download it below.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a ‘recipe’ as such – this is a dish that just kind of happened one day but which we enjoy enough to have it on a regular basis! I hope you enjoy it.
If you enjoyed this post, please let me know by clicking the heart. Thank you!
If you’ve got any questions about the kitchen page, do ask me in the comments. Do you have a system already that works for you? Am I missing something? Do tell!
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Sorry, by ‘à la frozen carte’ I clearly meant: ‘à la carte glacée’. Apologies. 😉🇫🇷