As we all forego that nightly stop at the grocery store, and negotiate planning dinners (and lunches and breakfasts and snacks!) days in advance, we realized we have an incredible resource to help us through the transition: Jane Coxwell, who creates the fresh, clean recipes we share on THE GOOD EDIT. Jane started her career as a chef on yachts, where, as she sailed remote areas of the globe, she was tasked with planning up to a 100(!) meals at a time. Over the next few weeks, she’ll be sharing tips we can all use now — and come back to for planning girls’ weekends and family reunions in the years to come.
On Meal Planning & Smart Shopping
Over the course of 14 years, I’ve worked on boats that range in size from 25 to 100 meters, which meant some had very little storage and limited work space, while others had top-of-the-line industrial kitchens. Sometimes, I had the opportunity to pop into bakeries and stores when we went to port, and could improvise recipes that incorporated fresh local ingredients. On other trips, in the South Pacific for example, I had to plan and shop ahead for 30 people for 30 days.
Currently, I’m finding a small silver lining in the fact that my experience on the water is making it a bit easier to plan for weeks of staying inside at home. I hope these tips also help you feel empowered to take on shopping and meal prep with confidence.
Make a Plan
I know this sounds obvious, but you have to make a list! Shopping for food online can be hectic, between delivery windows and backordered items, but if you have a clear idea of the meals you want to make and the ingredients they will require (as well as some substitutes in case popular items aren’t available), you’ll have a better chance of staying focused, so you can sign in and check out quickly.
And if you’re headed into a grocery store, take a few minutes to make a plan of attack so you know exactly where you need to head within the store. This will empower you to move efficiently through the space, while ensuring you get everything on your list. I prefer to do a quick lap around the perimeter of my local store, grabbing produce, meat and dairy along the way before making quick runs down key aisles that have the dry goods I need.
Determine How Much & How Long
When you sit down to make your list, think about how many people you’re shopping for and how long you want these groceries to last. Then, think about “hero” items that can be used or spread across different meals. I’ll give you two examples of what I’ve done recentlye.
- 1-2 whole chickens can go a long way…
- Make a big batch of chicken soup (using a whole chicken), and freeze some of the soup for additional meals
- Cooked chicken will last 3-4 days in the fridge, and you can easily freeze it in smaller portions and take it out for future meals
- Since there’s a lot of meat on a whole chicken, you can mix things up with chicken pot pie, chicken stew, chicken curry, chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, and more
- Butternut or other squash are equally versatile…
- You can roast a squash for one meal, then freeze half and blend it to make a soup, or toss it with herbs and oil to enjoy as a side
- If you have leftovers from your roast squash, you can add some feta and spinach and toss it with quinoa, or use the same 3 ingredients for a great frittata
Fill in a Calendar
I like to draw up a little chart, but you could print a weekly view of a calendar and break meals down into lunch and dinner in columns for the week. I find it’s easier to treat breakfast separately, because a lot of us have the same thing every day, and this way, you only need to fill in 14 meals for the week.
Make It Last
By choosing several “hero” foods, plus supplemental ingredients that keep well over time, you’ll be able to extend the value of your shops. Using the prior chicken example…
- Sunday, you could make your big batch of chicken soup and freeze a couple of portions of soup and chicken
- Then fill in ‘chicken pot pie’ for dinner on Tuesday, ‘chicken salad’ for lunch on Thursday, and perhaps chicken sandwiches for lunch on Saturday
- With just one hero ingredient, you’ve covered a big portion of your meal ideas for the week
Also, think of things you can double up on or freeze. Soups are great for this, and sauces can be used in different applications, like this lemon vinaigrette, which can be a dressing for fish or a salad, or can add brightness to freshly roasted vegetables. If you have a jar of that in the fridge, you can use it on so many different things.
Keep Things Fresh
When you’re shopping for a long period, most of what you buy should have a longer storage life. But don’t be afraid to purchase a few of your favorite fresh, perishable items. Arugula won’t last as long as a butternut squash (which can save up to a month in a cool, dark place), but it can dress up any hero ingredient, or serve as the base for a salad with leftovers. Just be mindful to use it early, and enjoy!
Jane Coxwell is a chef, author and consultant, and has earned her reputation as one of the most sought-after private chefs with a style that’s as elegant as it is unpretentious.
Equally comfortable working over open fires on the beaches of Papua New Guinea as she is in the kitchens of the biggest names in fashion, media and entertainment, Jane has cooked her way around the world, cultivating an approach to food and travel that is uniquely her own.
Born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, Jane was one of the youngest chefs ever appointed to run the kitchen of a Camper & Nicholsons yacht. At just 23, she joined Hall Wines in California’s Napa Valley as Executive Chef and Culinary Manager, where she cooked for prominent guests including Hillary Clinton. For the last near-decade, Jane has served as Diane von Furstenberg’s chef, both on Eos, the 305-foot sailing yacht she and Barry Diller own, and in New York and Connecticut.
Her experiences on and off Eos — ranging from meals in the villages of Southeast Asia to the vibrant open-air markets of the Italian Riviera — inspired her first book, Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes. Now based in New York City, Jane continues to develop food-and travel-centric content while working on her second book. She also consults for large events, including the creation of the first sustainable meal for the 2017 CFDA Awards.