Do you plan meals? Please tell me how! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 02-02-2014, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was going okay with the cook once a week thing, but now that has fallen by the way side and I am back to scrambling for dinner. I am doing lots of bake a chicken with veg things and I am tired of it. I make lots of brown rice (gotta love the rice cooker!) and veggies too.

 

Any planning people out there? I have some questions. Like what do you do when there are extra people? Do you intentionally cook to have left overs? Any really good easy meals that are on your planning calender?


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#2 of 15 Old 02-03-2014, 03:52 AM
 
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1. Yep we intentionally cook to have left overs

2. We very rarely have extra people....if we do it is planned ahead.

3. We plan by what we have. Each week I will go over our fridge and check off what we have and then either make up random dishes or look up recipes based on what I have (these are written down ahead of time). I made my own printable of things that I HAVE to have in the house to be happy....kale, collards, rolled oats, chia seeds etc. Also I printed off a printable I found of seasonal veg and fruit. And basically shop off that


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#3 of 15 Old 02-03-2014, 04:03 AM
 
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I meal plan with the same basic structure each week. For instance:

 

Breakfasts:

 

Monday - Eggs

Tuesday - Cold Cereal/Yogurt

Wednesday - Pancakes

Thursday - Hot Cereal/Oatmeal/Grits

Friday - Eggs

Saturday - Muffins / Bread

Sunday - Pancakes

 

Dinners:

 

Monday - Beans/Rice

Tuesday - Pasta

Wednesday - Slow Cooker

Thursday - Stir Fry or Curry

Friday - Beans/Rice

Saturday - Papa Pizza Night

Sunday - Family Dinner 

 

Each week, I'll sit down with the list of what we get in our produce box and what's on sale and I try to find recipes for each day that keep us on that same pattern. It really makes meal planning easier because I don't have to find completely random recipes each time.

 

We do almost always have leftovers that we use for lunch the next day. If the main course looks like it'll make just enough to feed us a night, I will add a bigger salad or an additional side dish to stretch the main dish further. 

 

The only time we would have extra people is if we had planned for it - we don't get a lot random stop-ins. :)

 

I hope this helps!

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#4 of 15 Old 02-18-2014, 12:19 PM
 
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I try to plan a week at a time, but I often end up doing just a few days at a time, planning around what we have in the house and what's on sale.  I'm the planner, but my partner cooks dinner every weeknight, while I cook on the weekends.  I write the menu on a sheet of paper on the cabinet door, until it gets full and we start a new page--3 or 4 weeks fit on a page.

 

Most of our meals make more than the 3 of us can eat, so there's enough for a guest or two if we have them.  Usually we use the leftovers for lunches or another dinner.  Sometimes we make a huge batch and freeze some to eat weeks or months later.  Sometimes we cook a lot of a food like rice and plan to use it in multiple meals.

 

Here are some of my multi-week menus, with recipe links and details about using leftovers, seasonal produce, etc.:

http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/tag/menu/


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#5 of 15 Old 03-09-2014, 11:47 AM
 
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Have you considered signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box delivery? Somehow being confined to whatever veggies are in season and will be delivered to you makes planning easier.

 

For breakfasts a big batch of baked oatmeal or baked french toast casserole is an easy way to make staples like oats or stale bread into a great breakfast. Plus they last for a couple days

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#6 of 15 Old 03-11-2014, 08:37 PM
 
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Here's an alternative planning method you might want to think about - pantry planning. This is what I do instead of meal planning. I want to decide what to cook on the fly as our tastes change and not be locked into a regime, but also need to work with structure and budget considerations. So I try to focus on having a well-rounded pantry - dry goods like pasta, rice and couscous, ingredients for basic baking, canned tomatoes/paste, condiments like oils, vinegar and sauces, plenty of herbs/spices, etc. Always have some canned/frozen veg and a selection of meats in the freezer. We always have basic veg in the fridge - onions, potatoes, carrots and usually celery. As the budget dictates, I purchase specialty ingredients to add to my pantry. With a good selection of basics always on hand, I can come up with a variety of dishes without having to plan out a week's worth of specific menus at a time. It's also nice for the budget because staples can be purchased in bulk for better prices where it makes sense to do so. 


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#7 of 15 Old 03-11-2014, 10:47 PM
 
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I plan a month at a time usually. We do our bulk buying the first week of the month, then weekly grocery trips for the fresh veg & dairy that get used up more often.
Instead of planning out meals for each specific day, I plan to make these 4-5 meals this week and then as the week goes I can be flexible about which gets made when. Planning ahead means I have all the ingredients on hand, but keeping it loose makes it easier if something comes up.
Yes, I deliberately make enough for leftovers. Especially when making something like soup that scales up easily. I also tend to plan meals thematically around ingredients. For instance, if I'm making meatloaf with roasted vegetables I will double the veg and use the extra to make soup or hash for dinner the next day. That saves time on prep, saves money bulk buying things like potatoes & carrots, and keeps it from being too boring eating the same thing two days in a row.
We don't have guests over for meals unless it's planned in advance, so that's never been an issue. Generally though, if your main dish doesn't scale up easily adding another side should stretch a meal for a couple more mouths.
For breakfast we eat oatmeal or granola pretty much every day, and lunches are leftovers from dinner or sandwiches (we keep sandwich fixins on hand). I make pizza every Friday, and plan to eat up whatever leftovers are cluttering up the fridge every Saturday. So it's only really 5 dinners I have to plan for each week. We often have a night of pasta and one or two nights of soup each week (though in summer we'll do a dinner salad instead of soup), and often I only have to cook 3 nights, plus pizza on Friday.
Here's a sample of what a week might look for us;
Sunday - meatloaf, sautéed kale, roasted potatoes/carrots/parsnips
Monday - roasted root vegetable soup, grilled tuna & cheese sandwiches
Tuesday - pasta with tuna and veg in cheese sauce
Wednesday - roasted root vegetable soup, bratwurst, vegetable fritters
Thursday - vegetable fritters topped with fried eggs, applesauce
Friday - pizza, maybe sweet potato fries
Saturday - assorted leftovers

Hope that helps!

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#8 of 15 Old 03-15-2014, 11:04 PM
 
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We plan week by week. Nothing fancy - just 'What do we want for dinner this week?' I make the meal plan on my weekly chore list, and have a shopping list on hand at the same time to write down what we'll need to buy. I try to remember which nights we're having guests, which night DD gets to choose dinner, which nights DH is out, and any other complicating factors. If I'm really on-to-it I might foresee that I'll be really tired/busy/overwhelmed on a day full of activities, so I'll need a make-ahead or simple meal for that night.

 

We plan lunches and dinners, not breakfasts. We try to keep in mind that some recipes (like soups and casseroles) make enough for lunch the next day, or even the next two days. 

 

I do try to keep expensive meals down. DH would happily 'order' chicken breasts and steak every night, which we can't afford, so I'm the one who pushes for beans and pasta and other cheap stuff. :p 

 

We don't tend to end up with unexpected dinner guests. We entertain regularly, but people don't just show up... maybe because we live out of town? I dunno! Occasionally we'll have a stray sister over for lunch, but it usually just stretches without any problems. 


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#9 of 15 Old 04-07-2014, 01:32 AM
 
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Nothing goes to waste in our home. Leftovers are suprisingly easy to make into a new meal, and we always budget because I'm notoriously frugal whereas my sisters are a bunch of squabbling greedy gannets.

 

I'm an avid list maker. First thing Monday is sort through our three chest freezers. What meat or frozen fruit and veg are remaining, those will be turned into meals for Monday through to Friday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dindins. Not forgetting tea for Juniper & Co. Lunches are planned, though as we all work or home school, lunches are usually sammiches, but I'll set aside a help-yourself bowl of salad leaves for the gannets to pick over. I grow salad stuff in my greenhouses really out of necessity because our British supermarkets, even high street produce stores and farmer's markets will put on the pennies. For the latter we have one of our own, but we endevour to keep our commercial prices bouyant. However, let's get wised up - our supermarkets employ clever buying psychology to make us add groceries not already on our shopping lists. Impulse buying is what they're expecting of us mummys. But they have a hard time getting round Missy here. :wink

 

I have a stock of cheap cut meats. Like shoulder of lamb, deliciously sweet being so close to the bone. Or chicken leg meat. We have a herd of rapacious hens for eggs, but should one dare to venture into our kitchen, she'll find herself dispatched to the pot. From a nice fat roasted bird I'll make chicken stock to use either for a gravy base, or turn into a decent soup using a couple of tins of tomatoes and adding homegrown onion.

 

Now here are some excellent best budget recipes: I've tried them all 

Here also is a very useful online recipe conversion site Makes life easier

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#10 of 15 Old 04-08-2014, 05:56 PM
 
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Thought I'd post, as I'm trying to hammer down our new food plan recently.  I actually do kind of a mix of what willfulmama and kitchensqueen do.  I don't necessarily plan out the whole menu before shopping day, so my grocery list generally consists of really useful, versatile ingredients like potatoes and carrots, salad stuff, canned tuna, dried beans, etc., trying to keep my kitchen well stocked with basics.  Then I'm free to choose veggies and a meat or two based on what looks good/is on sale at the store.  And then I look at everything we've got and plan out the meals according to a basic structure.  The current structure is:

 

Sunday:  Fish (because we shop on Sundays and I like to use it fresh)

Monday:  Meaty meal (so that the leftover meat/bones can be employed on either of the next two nights)

Tuesday:  Soup or salad

Wednesday:  Casserole or similar hearty mix-up of ingredients type meal

Thursday:  Legume-based meal

Friday:  Leftovers

Saturday:  Special indulgent meal - generally homemade versions of restaurant or take-out food, like homemade sushi or pizza or a special meal on the grill

 

One weekend lunch day usually ends up being a leftovers smorgasborg, the other is often a quick, simple soup.

 

Lunches I struggle with.  My DD is almost guaranteed to not eat lunch if it's leftovers, and my partner can't take hot food type lunches to work, so I have to plan separate lunches for DD and I, sandwiches for partner.  Our lunch schedule right now is somewhat regular:

 

Monday:  Omelette with pita or tortilla and veggies with dip

Tuesday:  Deli meat, cheese, apples and baby carrots, sometimes with crackers

Wednesday:  Annie's mac and cheese with hard boiled eggs and salad

Thursday:  Tuna something or other. 

Friday:  Sandwiches with yogurt, carrots/cherry tomatoes

 

Breakfasts are even more of a struggle, as my DD always wants Kix (but hardly eats any when she gets it) and I have to eat protein-y breakfasts.  We usually do oatmeal cooked with milk one day, smoothie with hard-boiled eggs one day, eggs and toast with fruit one day, the darned Kix one day, and pancakes with cottage cheese one day.  It's a decent balance, I guess, but I'm eager to read some more ideas.  I love reading other people's meal plans :)

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#11 of 15 Old 04-08-2014, 07:20 PM
 
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I have gotten a bit slack with meal planning but I need to get back into it. I like the "Like Mother, Like Daughter" method where you make a master list of all the meals you like to make/eat ( divided into categories if you can) then each week/fortnight you just go through and pick seven. We haven't written a master list yet but it's part of my grand plan :-)

We do a big supermarket/farmers market shop on Friday morning. Then usually have one or two quick trips for perishables etc.

I plan dinners only. Breakfasts are porridge, eggs, pancakes or leftovers. Lunches are sandwiches, eggs or leftovers.

I usually put the specific protein and the grain on the meal plan and then "salad" or "roast veggies" or whatever. That way, as a PP said, you can choose what looks best at the markets.

I try to keep a reasonable supply of rice, pasta, tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna, lentils, fetta cheese and flat bread. So I can make Spanish rice or lentil soup or pasta sauce easily.

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#12 of 15 Old 04-12-2014, 04:54 PM
 
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I just started using Google calendar to plan meals. I have meals repeat every 2 or 3 months, and if a meal is a stand-out favorite, it repeats more often. I leave a day or 2 each week to try something new, because I love to cook and time in the kitchen is my sole creative outlet right now. But, I'm trying to be more frugal and rein in our food budget, so I also have some structure. 

 

Twice a week I make a one-dish sautee (meats + 2 veggies + sauce)

Once a week I serve an egg dish as a main

Once a week I serve fish

Once a week I serve beef

Once a week I serve pork (sausage, usually) 

Twice a week I serve chicken 

Once a week I serve something Mexican (it is hands-down our favorite cuisine) 

 

I also cook a whole chicken once a week in the slow cooker. I shred the meat and if I don't have plans to use it that week for dinner, I either freeze it or use it for lunches. After I pick the meat off the bones, I fill the crock pot with water, and add seasonings for stock. I let it cook overnight and I use stock throughout the week. It takes minimal effort and adds maximum flavor. 

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#13 of 15 Old 04-12-2014, 05:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DuchessTergie View Post
 

I just started using Google calendar to plan meals. I have meals repeat every 2 or 3 months, and if a meal is a stand-out favorite, it repeats more often. I leave a day or 2 each week to try something new, because I love to cook and time in the kitchen is my sole creative outlet right now. But, I'm trying to be more frugal and rein in our food budget, so I also have some structure. 

 

Twice a week I make a one-dish sautee (meats + 2 veggies + sauce)

Once a week I serve an egg dish as a main

Once a week I serve fish

Once a week I serve beef

Once a week I serve pork (sausage, usually) 

Twice a week I serve chicken 

Once a week I serve something Mexican (it is hands-down our favorite cuisine) 

 

I also cook a whole chicken once a week in the slow cooker. I shred the meat and if I don't have plans to use it that week for dinner, I either freeze it or use it for lunches. After I pick the meat off the bones, I fill the crock pot with water, and add seasonings for stock. I let it cook overnight and I use stock throughout the week. It takes minimal effort and adds maximum flavor. 

 

I need to start doing something like that with the chicken.  I usually save up my chicken carcasses and then make stock right before I'm about to make a soup - and then it's gone.  I never think to actually buy a chicken primarily for the purpose of the stock. 

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#14 of 15 Old 04-13-2014, 01:51 AM
 
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Every Sunday I go through larder, cupboards, fridge and freezers and on a clipboard write a list of meals that come to mind depending on what I see. It's a no-brainer, but also it keeps me up to date on what has been used as it's easy to forget what's in store.

 

List dutifully pencilled, I will then chalk up on a built-in blackboard the planned meals for the week. In coloured chalks (chalks hidden away from tiny inquisitive fingers!), everyone gets to see our planned meals. -Sometimes, one of the family will ask can we change a meal to such-and-such? I always say "yes" as it encourages them to participate more often. That said, Kitty who is 6 months younger than me is my KBM: Kitchen Best Mate. Czech, and fostered since only last year, Kitty makes the most awesome sourdough bread - every day - I have ever had the privilege to eat! Yummo!  :thumb

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#15 of 15 Old 04-13-2014, 12:33 PM
 
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The past few weeks, I have been experimenting with sitting down with my husband on Sunday night and making a shopping list of what staples we are out of and planning out the meals for the week so we can get the ingredients. We pick meals based on what we're interested in and what uses up ingredients that we have. I haven't yet added in shopping the sales but sometimes I'm still adjusting the menu on the fly at the grocery store based on what is on sale or what is more expensive than I want to pay. Most weeks I try to plan 4 meals, at least 1 of which can be made entirely from non-perishable ingredients or ingredients that can be purposed for something else--that way if we don't get to all of the meals, that will be the one that we ax--for example, spaghetti made from frozen meat and canned tomatoes; if we don't get to it, those ingredients will not go bad on us. Then we are flexible about what we make what nights as we have friends over or we accumulate leftovers that need to be eaten or I have more or less time to cook depending on the demands of kids.Most of our dishes make scads of leftovers so we do not need or want to cook every night, so 3-4 new dishes a week is about right. 

 

However, my husband decided to get active with cooking this weekend and did some extra shopping. Right now I have 8 cooked hamburgers, a ton of chili, and a ton of soup in the fridge, and my husband is making sushi... I might not need to cook at all this week. 

 

The other part of this is NOT shopping on other days. If we run out of some ingredient, we just won't eat that for the rest of the week. Prior to this we were constantly running out to the store and it drove me nuts. We always get stuff like milk and fruit and eggs, but we won't die if we run out of (say) cottage cheese and have to eat something else for a few days.

 

We don't really actively plan lunch. I usually eat either leftovers or something on top of pasta; my husband usually eats sandwiches. If I plan to be away from the house for lunch some day I will get ingredients for a sandwich for myself and just pack veggies, fruit, string cheese, etc. for Daughter. 

 

Soon I will return to work and my husband will stay home. My schedule changes on the fly so each week will be different, but we will probably still use a variation of this method. 

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