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How do you figure out how to meal plan? - Page 2

post #21 of 191
I have only been planning my meals for a few months now and I love it...

I made a word document that I can fill in for grocery list, I look at what I have in the house and what is on special and think about what we feel like eating and I make a list of 7 meals...

Then I go through each of the meals and see what I have and what I need... and fill in my grocery list accordingly... (my grocery list is all in sections of food type so that it makes it wasier to shop)

I find it so much easier doing it this way and now I don't have the nagging "what are we eating tonight" question... I just look at my list and choose a meal, knowing that I have everything already in the house...

I also save all the weeks in a folder and I can go back to them of I want...
post #22 of 191
post #23 of 191
courtenay_e :
Can I have some of your recipes? Can I? HUH? Lets start with roasts, and assume I need "cooking for dummies" now, what type of meats can you use? I mean, when doing a pork roast, what PART of the pork? etc. do you add broth, water, what spices? What veggies?

I am getting bored with my same old, same old (spaggetti, meatloaf, blah)
post #24 of 191
yes courtenay e
can you continue your little tutorial for us?

And I for one am interested in the other cookbooks you like and rely on, other than The Best Recipe.
post #25 of 191


I've been in a rut as of late and find myself doing the pasta thing that someone else mentioned in an earlier post.
Sounds easy enough to sit with a calendar and plan out at least a few weeks in advance- and I'm sure it'll help me reduce our grocery bill. Thanks for the tips and I'll letcha know how it goes for us...
post #26 of 191
I buy things I find on sale and then plan my menu for the next week or two around what I have bought. The kids looked in the cupboard and fridge yesterday and complained there was nothing to eat, but I looked and made up a menu for the next 16 days out of the 'nothing' that was in there and had them pick what they wanted for dinner tonight from that list. I think letting them have some choice in it helped it go down better too.
post #27 of 191
subbing so I can refer for ideas later. :
post #28 of 191
what does subbing mean?
post #29 of 191
Originally Posted by danarobbins
what does subbing mean?
Subscribing to this thread (you get e-mail notifications when someone posts to the thread)...at the top of this thread, under thread tools.
post #30 of 191
This is fabulous... thanks so much :

I'm trying to incorporate more healthful, low-fat recipes into my repetoire... so I try to use one new recipe each week from either Cooking Light, the Best Light Recipe, or something similar. I figure if we like only 10% of them, we'll have 5 new recipes we love each year.

One book I really love is "One Bite Won't Kill You" by Ann Hodgman. Also, the Moosewood Low-Fat Recipe book is a staple in our house. I make the dark chocolate pudding at least once per month.

FYI... here's a great recipe for homemade rice pudding using up leftover cooked rice. (As my husband likes rice with just about any meal, leftover rice is pretty much a given.) http://dessert.allrecipes.com/az/CrmyRicPdding.asp
post #31 of 191
Here's what I did:

I took one afternoon and sat down with three cookbooks (two slow-cooker books and a Weight Watchers book), and a big stack of Cooking Light magazines.

I printed out three free blank calendar sheets from www.calendarsthatwork.com for July, August and September.

I decided that I wanted each week to have one soup night, one beans & rice night, one salad night, one chicken night and one red meat night. The other two nights are for going out or leftovers.

Then I assigned recipes to the days. First I put in the recipes I already know by heart and love: chicken and salsa in the crockpot, that kind of thing.

Then I found recipes I wanted to try that fit the categories. When I found on, I wrote down the name of the cookbook and the page number. I used codes to make it even faster: i.e., "SCRB p. 14" = Slow Cooker Recipe Book, Page 14.

I checked as I went to make sure I didn't have too much of anything in one week, like three Mexican dishes in a row, or three with lentils as the main ingredient.

Once I'd filled in all the days, I typed it up into the www.calendarsthatwork.com template, so that it looked nice, and saved it on my computer so I couldn't lose it! I put the current month on the door of the fridge so that we can see what is coming up.

Each week on Sunday (or whatever my marketing day is) I look up the recipes, photocopy them, and make a shopping list. If necessary, I can eliminate one of the meals or move it around if we have special plans. I keep the photocopied recipes on the fridge in a clear sleeve so that I can look at them while I am cooking. It's right at eye level which makes it easy to read. I can make notes on them afterward if there need to be changes the next time I make a dish. I put them in my family notebook when I'm done to be used again in the future.

All I plan is the dinner meal. I use whatever is seasonal, on sale, leftover, or something I need to clear out of my pantry for side dishes and lunch. This leaves me room to be creative but takes the hardest decision-making away.

This system wouldn't work for everyone, but I thought I would share it because it seems to be working for us. I did it this way because I liked the idea of the Saving Dinner meal plans, but didn't like the recipes themselves.
post #32 of 191
Originally Posted by Anglyn
courtenay_e :
Can I have some of your recipes? Can I? HUH? Lets start with roasts, and assume I need "cooking for dummies" now, what type of meats can you use? I mean, when doing a pork roast, what PART of the pork? etc. do you add broth, water, what spices? What veggies?

I am getting bored with my same old, same old (spaggetti, meatloaf, blah)
DS is asleep in my lap, and so I'll have to answer those questions tomorrow...but the quickest answer would be this...

Get yourself a copy of "The New Best Recipes" by Cooks Illustrated. You could get it for $14.95 last time I checked, off of Amazon (though that may have gone up, it'll still be cheaper than the cover price), or it's currently at Costco on the book table for $19.95. It has all those tutorials, and tells you WHY one cut of meat is better for a certain way of preparation or another. It's really the absolute BEST cookbook I've ever read. I've given my copy away numerous times to friends just learning to cook or needing new ideas, etc. It literally has over a thousand recipes in it, so you'll be hard pressed NOT to find something you like in it...and everything EVERYTHING I've made out of it really IS the best I've ever made.
post #33 of 191
Okay, I read the post AFTER that one, and frankly, I have a zillion cookbooks, but I'll do an assessment tonight and see which ones I REALLY use the most, and let you know. Tomorrow.
post #34 of 191
Okay, so I have ten extra minutes before bed time. A lot of what I do is simply cooking by feel, using what I've learned over time...but here are other books that I've learned from, in no particular order. (Still maintaining that the Cook's Illustrated Series is the best resource I've found so far)

I've listed a book before by a lady with the last name of Cunningham...I think it's called the Kitchen Companion. Good stuff.

My mom's "Good Housekeeping" circa 1969. Basically, I take the basic recipes and change them up...for instance I combine the recipe for Italian Meatloaf from here and the one from Bittman's book.

Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"

Pelegrino's "Rao's Recipe's from the Neighborhood" (great "real" italian)
and his "Rao's" (or something like...it was the first one)

Ummmm...Not your Mother's Slowcooker Cookbook

Moosewood Resturant Cooks at Home

Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Burley (has great resources list in the back for mail order sources such as Goldmine Foods)

there are some great baking ones, too...

King Arthur Flour's Baker's Companion and Cookie Companion

William Sonoma's Baking Cookbook. The best banana bread recipe I've ever had. And I love banana bread.

Many of the things I make, too, are just recipes that have been handed down, and then I've kind of made them my own with what I've learned in the last few years. I make KILLER turkey chili, originally my great grandmother's recipe, but changed by my mom, and now changed again in my kitchen...even my mom admits that mine's better than hers...and her version is pretty darned good.

What is it you'd like recipes for? I will see what I can do, if you're looking for something in particular.
post #35 of 191
What a great thread. Courtney thank you so much for the awesome ideas. I love it!!!!! Could I please have your turkey chili recipe.
post #36 of 191
post #37 of 191
I tried the crockpot idea and found a couple we really like! (online)

What I really need is HEALTHY and EASY recipes, is that asking too much?
post #38 of 191
Courtenay, I read your post the other night after we got pizza because we are terrible at meal planning. We're instituting your plan. We went through some cookbooks and planned six weeks of meals and so far it's going great. You saved our family from constant carryout!

post #39 of 191
Shelleyd, you're funny! Yup, that's actually what did it for us. I was so SICK of resturant food...and our budget JUST COULD NOT handle the tabs anymore! So, we went to work. In general, it works really well.

I really DID post the turkey chili recipe two days ago...where the heck did it go? Maaaaannnn, there's ten minutes down the drain! I'll see what I can do about reposting tomorrow. SOrry for the wait!
post #40 of 191
: becuse I want to see that turkey chili recipe! Which reminds me I haven't made my spicy turkey lasgane in a while. It was the first "grown up" food DS ever ate.
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