What do you do when you don't know what to cook anymore? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 03-15-2009, 01:07 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm sick of standing around wondering what to make for dinner. And I just remembered tonight about this yogurt-chicken thing I used to do that was really good, that I'd forgotten about completely, haven't made it in oh, a year?

So how do you remember all your favorite stuff and keep from getting into a boring old food rut??

lovin DH since 1/04, best mom for my 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), one 13 wk (10/13) and 5/15 just your average multigenerational living family!!
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#2 of 16 Old 03-15-2009, 01:20 AM
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I try to revamp the general food menus 3-4 times a year. So our summer menu looks different than our fall menu for example. I have a Summer, Fall, and Winter plan on the computer. I don't seem to have a Spring one... I guess I jumped Winter to Summer last year? I don't record the recipes, just the names/ideas. Then I have recipes saved separately on the computer, or I record what cookbook and page a certain recipe is in.

I don't plan out all the meals for all the months at once, but I spend a full day thinking about ingredients that are great for that season/in season fruits and veggies. I pull up a list of the menu idea lists I generated for last summer, fall, etc. I flip through magazines I have and recipes I've gotten from mags and friends and family. So I have a "Winter Meal Ideas" list which is different from my meal plan. If I feel OCD about it, I categorize them by stuff like "pasta", "soups" etc. Summer meals are less cooking, lighter, faster, because we're often busy. Winter meals are stove/oven heavy to keep the place warm.

When I do the meal plan for the month, I pull up that season's list and look for things that it makes sense to make together (like, I'm buying pumpkin, and there will be lots, so let's do pumpkin lasagna and pumpkin dip) or not (like, DH is not going to be happy to eat 3 bean meals in a row). Some stuff never makes it off the idea list bc it seems too time consuming or I can't adapt it to something DD will eat, etc. But some are priorities, like I've been wanting philly cheese steak even though I haven't had once since I originally went veggie a decade ago. So I put veggie chicken philly cheese steaks on the winter menu. : We've had them twice now-Jan and Feb. They're on the menu for March too!

This way I use seasonal stuff, but we don't get too sick of stuff either. So when summer rolls around, gazpacho soup will still sound good to me, because we haven't had it since last summer. And we have some year-round staples too. They always go on the idea list (spaghetti and tomato sauce, black bean wraps, veggie chili, veggie burgers, falafel, quesadillas, mac and cheese) and they make it on the meal plan if they sound good and not "not THAT again!" DD is telling me now that she's "mac and cheesed out."

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#3 of 16 Old 03-15-2009, 10:34 AM
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I'm new to menu planning, and I love the idea of a seasonal spreadsheet. I'm going to have to try that!
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#4 of 16 Old 03-15-2009, 12:33 PM
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I have lists of stuff we like and go from that. We do eat seasonally so I take that in account when meal planning.
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#5 of 16 Old 03-15-2009, 10:19 PM
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A year ago, I was in the same rut. I knew there were more things we used to eat, but I couldn't remember. I spent quite a bit of time going through the 4 or 5 cookbooks I had, a binder of loose recipes I collect, and all the online links in my recipe folder I've found over time. I made of list of everything we already made that we liked, a list of things I'd like to try and then another list of everything else that doesn't need a recipe- quesadillas, burgers, etc.
Then I meal planned a week at a time, again refining my lists- yes, yuck and more to try. I saved every meal plan for a year in a folder. I sat down and again, updated my lists, this time into categories- meat, no meat, quick, soup. And again, I wrote down even things like hotdogs, scrambled eggs, etc. After all this time, I literally had a list of everything my family liked to eat. Now I meal plan a month at a time.

I love to cook and I love reading blogs and collecting recipes. I still keep a pile of new things to try, and as they are approved they get added to the list. What a relief it is not to get to every.single.Sunday and dread the task of meal planning. I just pull out the monthly plan and write down the ingredients I need for the week. Easy peasy.
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#6 of 16 Old 03-16-2009, 02:07 AM
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I looove the idea of a spread sheet. Great idea.
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#7 of 16 Old 03-16-2009, 02:23 AM
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I pored over my magazines and cookbooks, made two month-long menu plans and, because I need the organization, put everything into an excel spreadsheet. I even put all the ingredients with columns for the food item, menu, week, and grocery aisle. That way, if I shift things around in the weeks, I can just re-sort it and print out a new shopping list. I started this last winter and it's been a big help.

It's been great since we started this system for many reasons:
*I always know what I have on hand
*my dh is scheduled for dinner two nights a week
*we actually eat leftovers now, because I schedule them (refreshed w/ something new like a green salad or side dish)
*I only have to think about what we will eat about twice a month

Spring starts late around here and the farms aren't producing too much until summer (except salad greens), so I can probably stick to my winter list until May, but I am looking forward to creating new menus for summer and fall.
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#8 of 16 Old 03-17-2009, 01:13 AM
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I have all over tastes in this house, so what I do is make a list of main things, side dishes, etc that everyone likes. Then I have a list of how I ever presented them in a way each kid liked....as they grow older they change. Sometimes I swear dinners look entirely different for each kid, but really all the same ingredients and it just took minimal effort to present it differently.

I don't cook as seasonal as some. I buy at costco a lot and I have a DD with allergies so I make her the things she likes and keep them on hand

I like having a list according to course, like main dish, side dish, very simple side dish, veggie, fruit salad, etc because I tend to serve things with the same sides, and this way I can find something on each dish menu to choose from.
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#9 of 16 Old 05-06-2009, 09:59 AM
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I have a menu created in open office spreadsheet where I write down what I'm planning on making for dinner, and then what I actually do Those two things vary pretty considerably I then color-code for what 'type' of meal it was, mostly based on the meat (or lack thereof) - beef, venison, goat, lamb, chicken, turkey, seafood, vegetarian. The best part about it, is that when I'm feeling bored with what I've been making recently, I can scan back through and get inspiration - realize "oh! I haven't made that in weeks/months, we'll do that!!" or, alternatively 'oh, right, I just did that two weeks ago.. hmm.. maybe something else....'
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#10 of 16 Old 05-08-2009, 05:01 PM
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For new ideas - I google on the ingredients I want to use. For example, I googled "ground beef and bisquick" and my family just loved the Cheeseburger Pie I made.
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#11 of 16 Old 05-10-2009, 12:26 AM
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oooo a seasonal spreadsheet. LOVE that idea.

I love spreadsheets:

mum to a crew...
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#12 of 16 Old 05-10-2009, 12:28 AM
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annie's frozen pizza???

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#13 of 16 Old 05-13-2009, 10:28 AM
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when you dont know what to cook anymore then start exploring for some new recipes.. there are surely so many recipes around the world you can try..http://www.bargainscreeners.com/blog/gnc.gif there are so many websites on the internet that gives information on healthy meals or foreign meals.. i mean dont you like it.. sometimes when you get too ored you tend to go off and search for some new things.. this is the time for you to learn new recipes..
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#14 of 16 Old 05-17-2009, 08:42 PM
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The website for Whole Foods has a lot of good recipes. I don't always buy all the ingredients at the store, but we have gotten a bunch of recipes from there.
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#15 of 16 Old 05-20-2009, 04:18 PM
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Recipezaar is my favorite cooking resource! When I need inspiration, that's where I go!
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#16 of 16 Old 05-29-2009, 12:12 PM
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Oooh, I like the idea of the spreadsheet! I might have to give that a try.

I love to cook, but I do get in food ruts pretty frequently.

A few things that I do:

I made little slips of paper and wrote a meal idea on each one. The idea was I'd "pull one out of the hat" when I didn't know what to make. But really, I just ended up going through the slips until I found something that sounded good. So a list of what I cook would be better.

I started a cooking blog. So periodically I can go back through it and see what I have made and what I liked, what I changed about the recipe, etc....

I keep a ton of other cooking blogs in my Google Reader, and I am trying to get into the habit of "starring" things that I want to try, instead of just thinking "that looks good!" and then forgetting where I saw it, or that I ever saw it in the first place.

Although it's definitely an asset, my love for cooking is also a problem. I have trouble making the same meal over and over, because there are always new things to try. New things that take longer and cost more money.

Going to go play with spreadsheets now!

Hippie sympathizer and mom to L, 4.8.10.
Pet-mom to Squirt with FLUTD & Maya the deaf wonder dog .
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