meal planning help needed - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 06-23-2010, 10:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I could really use advice on meal planning (planning, prepping cooking etc) and/or some of your meal plans. I just want to add that I am clueless! My DH and I seem to have entirely missed the whole planning food thing. It stumps us everyday.

We have an almost 16 month old.

thank you and our health thanks you
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#2 of 6 Old 06-24-2010, 03:56 AM
 
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First off, planning before you go shopping is really important. The day before you go shopping (or several hours before you go), clean out your fridge. Take all off the expired food, old leftovers, and wilting veggies out and throw them in your compost/trash. Take all the other stuff out and put it on the counter, then wipe down the inside of the fridge. When you put things back in, put leftovers/things that will expire soon but are still good in front so they get used up faster. Now sit down and plan your menu. I plan my menu on the day I get my CSA box so I know what veggies I have to work with. I used to only plan dinners in advance but then found we weren't buying enough food and were having to go to the store multiple times a week. As you add a meal to your plan, look at the recipe or think in your head if there is anything you need to buy to make that meal. Add these items to your shopping list as you write your menu.

Breakfast is the easiest. Here are some ideas:
-Steel cut oats cook with dates and cinnamon and topped with nuts and fresh fruit (buy whatever's in season, we eat apples all winter. Right now we are just buying a flat of strawberries a week and that's all the fruit we'll eat, making the most of strawberry season) Eaten with whole grain toast with nut butter. You can make oatmeal in the crockpot overnight and it will be ready in the morning!
-Whole grain pancakes (I make mine without any added sugar, instead put sliced bananas or berries in the batter) topped with applesauce and walnuts.
-Eggs cooked with spinach and cheese, kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
For quick breakfasts when you are rushing to work or whatever:
-Cold cereal with fruit on the side
-Whole grain toast with nut butter and yogurt with fruit
-Muffins (make them without much sweetener) and fruit
It can be fun to get creative with breakfast, but eating the same foods often isn't a big deal for this meal in my opinion.

For lunch:
If we're not going to be home for lunch, I make it the night before and have it ready to grab in the fridge. Even if I will be home, it's nice to have lunch ready, or I spend my whole day cooking. My rule for planning lunches is to have a fruit, a vegetable, a grain food, and some protein (unless our breakfast and dinner that day are protein packed). Lunch ideas, these are things you can pack:
-Hummus with pita, dates, nuts
-Vegetable spring rolls with coconut almond sauce, apples and cheddar cheese
-Grilled cheese with tomato soup
-Burrito: whole wheat tortilla, shredded veggies (lettuce, cabbage, carrots, zuccini, fghvbn kale, etc), leftover beans, rice or other whole grain, salsa, cheese, etc. With fresh fruit!
-Veggie burger (or non-veggie, if you're an omnivore) on a whole grain bun or bread with condiments, kale/lettuce and fresh fruit
-Leftover grains and beans with a salad or steamed veggies
-Leftovers: soup with bread, leftover lasagna, pizza, etc.

For dinner:
This is the meal I always struggle to plan, because I feel like I need to be creative with it. My rule for planning dinner is that it must contain at least two servings of vegetables, one of which must be green, whole grains, and nuts or legumes.
Here are seven dinners that I have made recently, this would look different at a different time of year:
-Spring Beet Soup (soup with onions, carrots, cabbage, beets, and beet greens, topped with sour cream and dill, served with falafel with pita, lemon tahini sauce, salad greens, and feta
-Rice and walnut loaf with almond gravy (kind of the vegetarian equivalent of meatloaf) served with a green salad with green onions, radishes, and toasted sunflower seeds
-Eggs in a nest (brown rice with braised chard and poached eggs on top)
-Pizza with spinach, mushrooms, onions and quinoa salad
-Red lentil soup with rice, veggie stirfry
-Tempeh tacos with cabbage, kale, sour cream or yogurt, cheese, and salsa. Served with baked sweet potato fries.
-Edamame tofu salad http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/index.php?video_id=138
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#3 of 6 Old 06-24-2010, 11:08 AM
 
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I have a list of things we all like and lots of new recipes printed out. When I shop, I stock up on sale items and we have a pretty well stocked kitchen. So I plan from that.

I don't plan breakfast or lunch. My youngest son is in daycare and eats breakfast and lunch there. My older son eats breakfast and lunch at school during the school year. So I make sure we have plenty of breakfast and sandwich stuff to take care of dh and I and whenever ds1 wants to bring his lunch to school.

I try to plan seasonally too. So right now, foods that don't heat up the kitchen. In winter, it's a lot of soups and warm food. Later on in the summer, we'll have tons of veggies so that'll go into my meal planning. There are monthly meal plan threads all over this forum to give you some ideas.
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#4 of 6 Old 06-24-2010, 01:16 PM
 
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Keep in mind when you plan your menu what your weekly/monthly schedule is like. If Mondays are always crazy, make it a soup/salad and sandwich night, or a crockpot night. Remember to be flexible, we have been moving planned meals around all week based on unexpected schedule changes. As long as the perishable ingredients get used and eaten before I have to toss them, I don't mind. (Even if it means I made something completely different then what I had planned) The way I figure it, menu planning is supposed to free me (from the Five o'clock "oh ----! what's in the fridge that I can throw together for dinner? Forget it, lets order pizza--again.") but not put me in bondage to THE PLAN. (It can also be used as a money saving tactic, a way to liven up your diet, or various other things, but that is primarily how I use it.)

And I totally second what PP said about planning seasonally. I KNOW I'm not turning on the oven in hot weather or standing over the stove stirring/watching something cook. If I plan on something heat intensive we will end up making something else, so I just don't do it. Summer means lots of grilling (yeah it's hot, but it doesn't heat up the house so I let it slide ), salads, sandwiches, and leftovers. In fact, I plan for leftovers and time saving steps. If I have the grill on for hamburgers tonight, I'll cook tomorrows chicken for sandwiches at the same time. If I'm slicing a bunch of veggies for a salad, I'll make sure I slice up the tomatoes and onions for tomorrows sandwiches at the same time and stick them in containers in the fridge. It makes tomorrow's prep a lot easier which is especially nice when you have a little one hanging around your knees.


Start with a list of foods you know that your family likes and set them into days where they will work. Then think of things you would like to try to make and maybe put one new recipe/meal in each week or every other week.

Some people have themed days and that helps them chose what to put where, but that may be more rigid/structured than you would like or maybe need. Examples:

based on type:
Mon= Meatless, Tue= Sandwiches, Wed= Comfort, etc.
or ethnicity:
Mon= Tex-Mex, Tue= Asian, Wed= Italian, etc.
or preparation:
Mon= Quick, Tue= Roast, Wed= Crockpot, etc.



I found it helpful to open a spreadsheet with a different tab for each month of the year. Each tab has seven columns (Mon-Sun) for the weeks of the month. And then Dinner, Lunch, Snack and Breakfast sections for the month. I usually only focus on the Dinner tab, because it is the only meal that makes me crazy, but the others are there just in case. You can add sections if necessary (like having a separate section for each the main course, side, and dessert) and make it as complicated or simple as you like. I can highlight boxes where there are special events I need to plan for (birthdays, company, etc.) and put in bold or italics days where we don't need a meal because we will be out. It is probably easier just to look at what I'm talking about, and since it is a google doc, here is the link to my menus 2010. http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?k...thkey=CLf-iZwC

Wow, now I'm rambling Sorry. Can you tell I have a lot to say about meal planning? It's just that I've only been doing this since last September and it has made my life SO much easier that I'm still excited about it. (especially since I started it right before I got pregnant with #2, we ended up planning each month in advance and shopping for all non-perishables/things that can last up to 1 month on the first Sunday of the month, then my DH picks up our produce from the farmers market once a week-SO MUCH EASIER THAN WEEKLY MASS GROCERY TRIPS!)

Anyway, if you've made it through my ramblings you should get a gold star. Good Luck! And remember, it is supposed to HELP you, NOT stress you out. Baby steps!

Hey, Babe  +  Me  =  Little Man 07-27-08  &  the Storm Sprite 07-11-10  computergeek2.gif    
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#5 of 6 Old 06-24-2010, 03:11 PM
 
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I've learned that my particular style is to have a partially open-ended plan. I plan out 5-6 meals I want to make, based on the veggies I'm getting in the CSA box, then I get whatever else I need at the store. I try to plan it such that a couple meals need to be prepared soon, but that the others can hang out and wait for me. Often I'll cook two nights, and the third night we'll finish up leftovers. I have found that if I plan a new meal for every single night, we end up with too much food in the house!

I am actually getting ready to write a "Cooking and Meal Planning for Beginners" e-book to post on EatRealGood. Let me know what kind of info you think would be useful in such a thing!
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#6 of 6 Old 06-25-2010, 12:16 AM
 
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