It’s helpful to organize when you’re restructuring your life for whatever reason, dreams are just another kind of goal to adjust life to. I started with the dream of a pantry, then moved to a new state that required a new lifestyle, then got hit by the empty nest syndrome... which came with it’s mandate to reinvent myself! We all have our reasons to restructure and reorganize. But it’s helpful, and fun, to see what others have done/are doing, so I’ll share some of my strategies beyond just menu planning.
Toward Pantry planning, I started with a box of recipes that I had to paw thru to find anything (somewhere in this pile was that quiche recipe, right?) Needing accessiblity, I decided to organize them into a binder. It’s been a year-long process, but I’ve only worked on it on gray days because opening the project is like opening a present each time and makes the day brighter!
I started with re-organizing the pile into piles of sub-topics (breads, vegetables, sauces, salads…). Then I went online to find pictures that I thought were beautiful and appropriate for food-related titles. And I picked a font & colors to use that matched the tone of the illustrations (like those of Linda Paul, [which are copyrighted so I can't show you... but here’s a link to the Tuscan styles I was attracted to: Linda Paul Fine Art Prints
I don’t just have recipes anymore, I call it my Pantry Book- that gives me the feeling I’ve actually created something Big and Authentic – and worthy of passing down.
Here’s the inside layout via the table of contents – so you can see how I arranged the recipes and how I added all kinds of our life-needs into this one project, making it a complete resource for myself & something I enjoy referring to:
*if you can't see the font, let me know in a comment and I'll email you a PDF... for some reason it's not working to import one.
Table of Contents
Seasonal Menu Plans:
Soups Inventory, Breads, Sauces & Reductions, Cheese
Salad Inventory, Oils & Vinegars, Dressings
Il Cibo Cusina Al Fresco (Outdoor cooking~BBQ, Picnic...)
Condiments, Breakfast & Brunch, Rubs, Marinades
Honey, Fruited/ Fruity/ Fruits, Alchoholic/Mixed Drinks, Flower
Pasta/ Rice/ Potato
Lamb & Goat
Deer & Elk
Ethnic & Regional Dishes:
Regional: Southern Traditional / Southwest Flavor / Country Rustic
Ethnic: French / Italian / Asian / Mexican/Greek/Other
Pie, Compote, Crisps & Cobbler/Muffins, Bread & Coffeecake/ Custard, Pudding, Cream
Nuts, Candy, Ice Cream, etc...
Holiday Menus & Recipes
The Hard Times Café (frugality, planning)
Diet & Nutrition (information, ideas)
Cooking Tips and Other Knowledge (substitutions, tips, etc.)
Pantry Lists (inventories, storage, etc.)
Party & Entertaining (Ideas, illustrations)
Wine, Beer & Labels (info & illustrations)
Business (promotional marketing & gift ideas)
In this binder I have information, and lists, costs and other useful things – everything with it’s pretty Title page of course, organized like chapters in a book.
“The Larder Inventory“ (section or chapter) is not just a food list- pages on differences of different oils, salts, beans, rices, etc... for someday when I have a harvest and have learned to can food in jars. Things I would like to make in BULK so that it’s as available as opening a store-bought bottle. Things like these:
Blackberry reduction sauce (for lamb, beef, duck)
Juniper-pepper beef reduction sauce (for venison, elk)
Bottled Hell and other hot-sauces
“The Hard Times Café “ is a resource on frugality and other basic survival topics. What to do if. It’s how to cook outdoors, and whatever else you would need to store for emergencies from batteries to the Canned Goods List, to where to get and how much for a hand-crank pump for the water well, to homemade household cleaners, bug repellants, and medicinals.
So, first collecting things which either inspire, enrich, inform, to secure my life in some way, then organizing it all, then making it pretty!
Regarding the "Business" chapter- it’s basically a Creativity Foods Project File – with some foody goodies- a running list of projects for gifting when the opportunity presents itself.
It includes detailed planning pages for artistic endeavors, timelines to complete, pictures, clippings and other resources, materials & supplies lists, and vendor phone numbers).
So far it works best to start gathering materials for the project ideas all year long, assembling them in the month prior to a new quarter so that I can finish one aspect of the project each week with a deadline.
We survive on the income produced by our service business, that has been successful from the outset largely because of ‘word of mouth’ referrals, and our town is small enough that we might run into a client of ours when we’re out, so every little thing can count.
So when, for instance, our drive-thru bank sends back a few dog biscuits with the deposit receipt (which they do when they see the dogs in the car), they get a goodie bag in return.
Because of this popular practice in our town (dog biscuit treats), I began to create a giveaway gift bag / treat either during the Christmas season or at the end of January just for ‘winter’ cheer (because winter seems to drag on and on). The intention is to enhance business relations, and is somewhat specific on what clientele is intended –because we have well over 2,000 clients - I can’t make that many cookies! LOL. For that reason, certain projects might be more geared to our vendors, our business clients – or maybe just our seniors or to those who have made referrals... or just to anyone we run into & do business with until the supply runs out (I always attach a business card and a tiny bell to the packaging). The point really, is CHEER.
It might be a selection of little clay ornaments (made to hang on a tree, door handle or rearview mirror), or several large pieces of assorted decorative chocolate bark or gourmet nut brittle... always fancy or uniquely flavored, as this tourist-town has a plethora of gourmet shops, and most of us tend to be kind of spoiled.
I’d like to expand this to every quarter- every season – because sometimes we don’t have a season to ‘celebrate’ as much as one to commiserate - like a real good ‘mud season’!
As one who came from asphalt-bound green-grass-yard southern California to untamed clay soil and as the snow melted, was quite enlightening! You learn to contend with the slick, yet sticky, slurping, pull-your-boot-off kind of sucking that mud-season can be: my first encounter I was wearing sandals.
After walking around outdoors, I came back with 3” thick platforms of mud and gravel stuck to the bottom of my sandals- even scraping against the cement porch didn’t resolve completely! Try washing it off your car with a spray attachment to the garden hose, and scrubbing, and all you get is swirls of residue... it’s pretty YUCK!
Snow shoes double as mud boots.