Anybody not find meal planning helpful? - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-14-2011, 08:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been going back and forth for years on whether meal planning is beneficial for me or not. I read article after article saying how much time and money it saves, but I have not found that to be the case for me. I am wondering if I am doing something wrong. Here is what I do. I refer to all of my recipes sources, which includes online sites and cookbooks, and I will pick out what sounds good for the week or find which recipes are cheap and easy. I write down the recipes for each day (usually just dinner) for one week. But what ends up happening is I end up having to buy MORE ingredients for all these recipes instead of just using what I already have. Also, I get overwhelmed by looking at so many different recipes. They all sound so yummy. I am not good at staying with the same meals each week. I love to cook and am always trying new recipes.

 

Wouldn't it just be easier to go to the store on a weekly basis and only buy your staples that you may have run out of and then whatever is on sale, such as meats and veggies and fruits?

 

 

 

 

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Old 04-14-2011, 09:22 AM
 
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I let my pantry/freezer guide my menu planning.  Maybe that would help you?

 

I shop very frugally, buy in bulk, utilize an extra freezer and a vacu-sealer. So when chicken is on sale I stock up, same with cheese and other meats, beans, grains, etc. All of these things save me a lot of money. So when I do my weekly menu planning I take inventory of my pantry and build a menu around that.  This usually means I am just buying fresh produce on a weekly basis.

 

A perfect example would be when do my weekly dinner menu I would look in the freezer and see I have chicken breasts, venison cutlets, turkey meatballs, ground beef, pork chops and a whole turkey breast. In my pantry I know I have pasta, brown rice, basmati rice, couscous, quinoa and I also have a bag of yukon gold potatoes, a large butternut squash.

 

My menu planning would start by building off of those. I might go to my favorite cook books or recipe websites and search under "poultry" since I know I have both chicken breasts and a turkey. Once I find a recipe I like I search for a good side the uses what I have on hand. 

 

If in my search a particular recipe sounds good but I don't have the key ingredients on hand I see if my a) my budget can swing it or b) make a note of the recipe for my next big shop.

 

To be honest though I save most of my really creative cooking for the weekends.  I have about 15-20 tried and true standbys that my family loves and that translate well to lunches and leftovers. This makes weekday meal planing easy too.


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Old 04-14-2011, 09:26 AM
 
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When I grocery shop, I stock up on sale items.  And then plan my meals from what I've got in the house.  If you're just pulling a random recipe and putting that on your meal plan, it can easily add up with different ingredients. 

 

Last week for example, I made a pork roast on Sunday with mashed potatoes and corn.  We had pork quesadillas, pulled pork sandwiches and a couple of lunches for dh and I.  Leftover mashed potatoes went into mashed potato cakes as a side another night.  So one roast gets turned into many meals, using things I already had in the house.

 

I save tons of money doing it this way.

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Old 04-14-2011, 09:36 AM
 
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I have the same problem. Or someone eats a key ingredient for one of the meals I had planned before I get a chance to make it. And then I have to go to the store AGAIN and while I'm there I buy other items I didn't really need. I find my grocery budget is easier to handle when I stick with staples and make dinner out of whichever produce needs to be used and add some protein/grain combo. 

I usually do one main grocery store trip per week and one extra to get produce and bread during the week (or farmer's market).  As a vegetarian, my non-perishable staples are tortillas, pasta, rice, bean thread noodles, other grains, lentils, assorted bean varieties, bread. I usually have broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, bok choy, seasonal veggies and tons of fruit around. Of course there are tons of other perishables and condiments and oils and things I buy too. 

When it's one of those 'I don't know what to cook" nights, I usually make lentil soup and some sort of curry veggie dish over rice. You can curry any veggies! 

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Old 04-14-2011, 10:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mamagrigsby View Post

But what ends up happening is I end up having to buy MORE ingredients for all these recipes instead of just using what I already have. Also, I get overwhelmed by looking at so many different recipes. They all sound so yummy. I am not good at staying with the same meals each week. I love to cook and am always trying new recipes.

 


That's why I started planning for the month instead of just the week.  I no longer have to pare down my overabundance of options because I now have 28 slots to fill instead of only 7.  Plus, this way I can more strategically plan my meals based on ingredient leftovers. Like making a roast one night and then a casserole with the meat and finally a soup with the broth from the carcass.  If I know that a recipe will only need 1/2 a container of something I either double it and freeze half or plan another meal specifically to use that ingredient.  Because we shop monthly rather than weekly, our pantry is quite bare by the time menu day comes around so it is easy to see what ingredients need to be utilized in the coming menu, but even if that weren't the case I would still plan from my pantry before finalizing the upcoming meal plan. 

 

I understand that meal planning doesn't work for everyone but I personally think that it can work for lots of people (maybe even most people) once they work out the kinks.  Ultimately you need to do what works best and is best for you and your family and not worry about it not being some arbitrary form of "right".


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Old 04-14-2011, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Spuglyroo:  How do you only shop once a month for things that spoil, such as milk, fruits and veggies? Just curious. That would be wonderful to only go to the store once a month.

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Old 04-14-2011, 03:47 PM
 
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I guess saying we shop once a month isn't quite accurate.  The once a month stuff is for dry goods, meats, dairy, and any household products.  All our dairy that will spoil before the end of the month gets frozen and defrosted as we need it.  Things that don't freeze well get used up the first week or two.  DH stops at the farmer's market on his lunch break once a week to restock any fruits and veggies we need but as soon as the garden starts producing that might be eliminated.  We use to go to both the farmers market and the grocery store weekly and since we switched it has been such a time and money saver for us.


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Old 04-14-2011, 04:01 PM
 
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Because we all have so many differences and situation it is best to take different things from other great moms like those who have already spoken, just implement one or two from whatever resonates with you.

 

As a regular task I too find menu planning can become a stress, even something that I will begin to avoid.  I avoid this when I came across a 5 week menu planner.  I sat down and found 35 dinner recipes, most of which were in my head and were family favorites.  Soups, casseroles roasts, etc.  We always do a pizza night once a week on Fridays, Sundays are roasts of something.  For breakfast and lunch it is the same.  Oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch on Mondays.  I even came up with 2 snacks, say apples/cheese slices and popcorn.  I made sure I had some very easy recipes in there and ones that the kids could cook by them selves.  This way, on bad days, tired days, crazy days something can still be made.  It took me 2 days to complete my menu.  It was daunting but is wonderful now.

 

So now if there is a sale I am not only focused on this week.  Morning and afternoon meals or the same so I can almost shop blind folded for them now.  Now I love recipes and cooking so while online, or in a mag if I find a good recipe, it is easy to insert it anywhere.  If I have to go out a buy items, than I add them to the shopping list.  But because the shopping list contains all the normal stuff, it doesn't add to the stress at all. 

 

I have a large family, homeschool, and work full outside the home, so it can't take too much of my time or it won't get done lol.  I can send you a menu planner so you can see what it looks like.


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Old 04-14-2011, 04:10 PM
 
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I needed to add, the kids were running lost my train of thought, keep a stocked pantry.  Stock, four, rice, beans, baking soda/powder etc.  That way when new recipes come along you won't have to buy so much. hope this helps


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Old 04-14-2011, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Alotufuz: I can't believe you work full time AND homeschool. Incredible. That is amazing! You must be very organized with your time. Do you work evenings and weekends, or days? Anyway, yes, I would love to receive a meal planner from you. Thank you!

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Old 04-14-2011, 05:03 PM
 
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I work 3rd shift.  I am not always organized or half as amazing probably.  But this way of meal planning has helped out.  Even if I don't follow it when I am lost as to what to do I can just go to it and pick right back up.  The items on the planner most are usually pantry items that are stocked as well, and if not I already have about 30 other meals to pick from. 

 


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Old 04-15-2011, 08:35 AM
 
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For my meal planning, I only write down what grains and meat I'll be cooking, then I combine those with whatever vegetables we have on hand and whatever creative inspiration strikes, when it's time to cook. 

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Old 04-15-2011, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, Vaske, when you put it like that you make it sound so easy. I like that.

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Old 04-17-2011, 03:42 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Vaske View Post

For my meal planning, I only write down what grains and meat I'll be cooking, then I combine those with whatever vegetables we have on hand and whatever creative inspiration strikes, when it's time to cook. 


That's pretty much what we do :

 

What's the grain? (default = rice)

What's the vegetable?

What's the other (meat or whatever)

 

 

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Old 04-18-2011, 04:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post

When I grocery shop, I stock up on sale items.  And then plan my meals from what I've got in the house.  If you're just pulling a random recipe and putting that on your meal plan, it can easily add up with different ingredients. 

 

Last week for example, I made a pork roast on Sunday with mashed potatoes and corn.  We had pork quesadillas, pulled pork sandwiches and a couple of lunches for dh and I.  Leftover mashed potatoes went into mashed potato cakes as a side another night.  So one roast gets turned into many meals, using things I already had in the house.

 

I save tons of money doing it this way.


This is what I need to start doing more often.  I did a big shopping trip almost two weeks ago, and when I sat down and thought about it, there were several meals I could already make..I think I wrote down ten meals off the top of my head.  Then, when I ran out of bread, I cruised the produce isle and grabbed a couple things that were on sale while I was there, as my produce was getting low too. 

 

We joined a CSA this year, and we have plans for a good garden, so I anticipate that my grocery shopping will be cut down dramatically once all that gets going.  In that case, I will also have to plan my meals based on what we get both in the garden and the CSA and just go once in a while, or once a month as SpuglyRoo does to re-stock our staples.

 

 


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Old 04-19-2011, 04:01 PM
 
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Hmm, good advice about finding a way to make meal planning work for you.

 

What works for us, for now, is having a loose weekly menu that we can do variations on week by week. I never plan vegetable sides but just use what's in season and on sale or from the garden, csa, etc.

 

So I plan for:

Sunday- cook a big pot of beans and rice, veggies

Monday- roast beast or bird and veggie sides, either rice or quinoa

Tuesday- leftover roast is recycled into shredded meat for tacos with leftover rice on the side

Wednesday- chile using leftover meat and beans

Thursday- simple soup of lentils or similar, salad

Friday- always fish day

Saturday- a nice cut of meat plus salad and baked potato

 

My family hasn't complained about this because I can vary the details while keeping the framework so that I don't go crazy! I mean "fish day" is pretty open as to what I'll make and veggie sides can vary anything! I hardly ever use recipes, and if I do, it's looking on allrecipes.com and searching by ingredients that I already have on hand. I buy staples and vary what I make with them. Very rarely will I buy something specifically for a recipe (maybe for like baking, otherwise I wing it!). Right now, I'm really busy in my life and can't get elaborate with meal-planning, so I stick with what I can make quickly off the top of my head and that I know my family will like. 

 

Good luck figuring out what works for you!!


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Old 05-29-2011, 08:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamagrigsby View Post

I have been going back and forth for years on whether meal planning is beneficial for me or not. I read article after article saying how much time and money it saves, but I have not found that to be the case for me. I am wondering if I am doing something wrong. Here is what I do. I refer to all of my recipes sources, which includes online sites and cookbooks, and I will pick out what sounds good for the week or find which recipes are cheap and easy. I write down the recipes for each day (usually just dinner) for one week. But what ends up happening is I end up having to buy MORE ingredients for all these recipes instead of just using what I already have. Also, I get overwhelmed by looking at so many different recipes. They all sound so yummy. I am not good at staying with the same meals each week. I love to cook and am always trying new recipes.

 

Wouldn't it just be easier to go to the store on a weekly basis and only buy your staples that you may have run out of and then whatever is on sale, such as meats and veggies and fruits?

 

 

 

 


I have two rules about menu planning for our household... 1) Recipes are guidelines - if we don't have/like an ingredient, we can and will leave it out or replace it; 2) if something comes up (my parents are in town, a supper that we want to go to) and it won't cost us more than we can afford, a menu day can be abandoned at any time.

 

We pretty much do variations on stuff that we know works for the family. We eat veggie sketti at least once a week (pasta, garden-veggie sauce from a jar, cheese mixed in, sides), and making a pizza crust with cream cheese and a package of frozen veggie mix is a super fast, super yummy meal that bug (5yo) can help with and adores.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaske View Post

For my meal planning, I only write down what grains and meat I'll be cooking, then I combine those with whatever vegetables we have on hand and whatever creative inspiration strikes, when it's time to cook. 


Veggies are a given, but like you, we don't specify. We let bug pick or we go with what sounds yummy or even what we have.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by craft_media_hero View Post

Hmm, good advice about finding a way to make meal planning work for you.

 

What works for us, for now, is having a loose weekly menu that we can do variations on week by week. I never plan vegetable sides but just use what's in season and on sale or from the garden, csa, etc.

 

So I plan for:

Sunday- cook a big pot of beans and rice, veggies

Monday- roast beast or bird and veggie sides, either rice or quinoa

Tuesday- leftover roast is recycled into shredded meat for tacos with leftover rice on the side

Wednesday- chile using leftover meat and beans

Thursday- simple soup of lentils or similar, salad

Friday- always fish day

Saturday- a nice cut of meat plus salad and baked potato

 

My family hasn't complained about this because I can vary the details while keeping the framework so that I don't go crazy! I mean "fish day" is pretty open as to what I'll make and veggie sides can vary anything! I hardly ever use recipes, and if I do, it's looking on allrecipes.com and searching by ingredients that I already have on hand. I buy staples and vary what I make with them. Very rarely will I buy something specifically for a recipe (maybe for like baking, otherwise I wing it!). Right now, I'm really busy in my life and can't get elaborate with meal-planning, so I stick with what I can make quickly off the top of my head and that I know my family will like. 

 

Good luck figuring out what works for you!!


Having the structure, but keeping the flexibility... that's what makes it work for us. Sometimes the bf will forget to defrost the meat and so we will switch meals with the next day or something. It's there so you have something to work from, rather than scratching your head saying "I dunno, what do YOU want for supper?"

 


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