Our schedules are often times unpredictable, and its hard to plan meals more than a day in advance.
Does anyone else face a similar problem, and what have you come up with to solve it?
I had similar issues due to a lifestyle that involved lots of commute (to work, to friends place) and friends that insisted I stay with them more than I stay at my space. I would often come home to open a refrigerator that would have wilted herbs and spoiling raw food. To top it, I had parents that visited me intermittently and stayed at my place, filling the refrigerator with fresh raw foods to cook meals they wanted and thus the refrigerator had a lot of raw food when they left. No amount of telling them worked. I also compost all my wet waste and am super conscious about wasting foods and in addition, I don't earn as much so I can't afford to eat out all the time.
To work around these life constraints, I started dehydrating raw foods that were left over. From garlic to herbs like parsley/coriander, mint to tomatoes, french beans, peas to fruits like pineapples and apples.
I would turn on my dehydrator before I left home for an overnight stay at my friends' place and come back to find all my fruits/vegetables dehydrated. Of course, there was a small amount of prep time involved but that saved so much food from going to waste.
Once I had dried food, I stored them away and made yummy meals like pastas, fried rice, soups, stews and ate dried fruit for snacks anytime. There was no more grocery shopping involved before making a meal.
which I can never remember if I currently have in the pantry or refrigerator.
Do I have enough fresh garlic in the house? Lemons? What spices do I have in the spice rack?
I am quite forgetful myself and get overwhelmed when there are too many things involved. Cooking is one such activity, there are dry ingredients to consider (those in pantry), wet ingredients (think those items in your refrigerator), the process of cooking itself and the cleaning up after it, wew!
To make cooking effortless, I started with storing all my dry goods in a clear plastic storage box where I could see them all in one shot. I definitely would have essentials like salt, pepper and oil. I only started buying spices that work with everything like turmeric and garam masala. This way when I was prepping for a meal, all I had to do was look in the box, gather my dry ingredients and wet ingredients from the fridge and cook in the kitchen.