This is what happens when I don't post a tip for so long, I have to post multiple, 4 page long, tips at once. This tip is a branch off of "my mom's" previous tip about menus.
I haven't been cooking for my family as long as my mom has for hers and so I am still in the discovery phase of what my family loves, what they tolerate, and what they abhor. For that reason (and the fact that I LOVE trying new recipes) I am always looking through cookbooks for new recipes to try. After having to look up every recipe when I went to make my shopping list I decided it was time for a change.
I created an excel document (which I have included in a link below) that broke each recipe down for me so that I didn't have to look it up until the day came that I was actually making it. I included what cookbook it was in, the page number, the time required, the genre, and (my favorite and might I add most ingenious part) I included a list of the ingredients I didn't usually have on hand.
For example, things like butter, flour, sugar, sour cream, cheese, chicken, ground beef, and cream of mushroom soup; those are regulars in my kitchen, I always have them on hand. But, things like cabbage, jalapenos, Russian dressing, or orange sherbet aren't pantry staples so I would have to get them for a recipe. When looking through a recipe, if I knew I didn't keep that on hand (or if it was a produce, other than onions) I would type that ingredient into the ingredients column.
By making this little (actually huge) recipe/ingredient data base I have been able to simplify my menu making. Like my mother, I have designated days for different genres (once again, this just simplifies everything) Every other Thursday I make menus. I scroll down my recipe data base and write down the recipes I want to do and I put the ingredients I need on my shopping list.
This has worked out so great for me. I am not going to lie, it did take quite a bit of time to get it up and running, but sustaining it is no big deal at all. If you have the time to create something like this for yourself, go for it! It has been a great menu planning tool.
A side bonus, you know those days when you have NOTHING in your fridge/pantry. Those are the perfect days to scroll down the database and find the recipes that seemingly need no ingredients. Chances are, your empty pantry has the necessary things to make a delicious meal.
Here is the link to my recipe database: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pn4WdmcCP2gYCjmnJ_jv7bA
By the way, what you want to look at is in sheet 4. You can look at the others but they won't make much sense since they really are of no relevance