How do you figure out how to meal plan? - Page 4 - Mothering Forums

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#91 of 192 Old 04-20-2007, 04:18 PM
 
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I write down what I make every night in my date book. It takes two seconds and now I can look back over a whole year (I started in 2006) and can see what we ate for sides, veggies, etc with which dish. When I'm feeling lazy, I flip through last year's calendar for whole meal ideas.

I'm a magazine junkie and I rip out any recipe I find interesting and put it in a manila folder. When I'm meal planning, I pull that out and flip through for ideas.

I actually only meal plan for about 1/2 a week at a time. I end up with less waste because I know what I'm in the mood for! I make one "bigger" grocery store trip a week, and a second one mid-week to pick up the next batch of stuff.

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#92 of 192 Old 04-24-2007, 05:27 PM
 
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This Thread Is Great. I Just Printed Out My First Meal Plan On Calendarsthatwork.com
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#93 of 192 Old 04-24-2007, 11:22 PM
 
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Yay! Good for you. I'm going to have to plan for a LLL Silent Auction basket...the theme is "Post Partum Support," so one of the things we're going to do is put a crock pot, a meal plan for six weeks, and recipes to go with the plan in it. Then again, we have gift cards for Olive Garden, Quiznos, Subway, Montana's Grill, and Chilis in it...so they don't have to cook a few times...

Anyway, I'm off to plan for somebody I don't know. Wish me luck!

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#94 of 192 Old 04-25-2007, 10:39 AM
 
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#95 of 192 Old 04-28-2007, 01:04 PM
 
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My dh gets paid twice a month and a day or two before payday I sit down and make a menu (for dinners only) to carry us through to the next paycheque.

Every Friday we make pizza so Fridays are taken care of. Then I look at our calendar and note if there are any evenings out, special celebrations or anything that I should plan for and fill in those days on the meal calendar. the I check my schedule - if I am going to have a full day away from home I plan something for the crock pot for those days. If dh is away over meal time, I plan a totally kid-friendly meal that involves as little prep and cleanup as possible.

Then I fill in from there. We usually have tacos once a week, soup once a week and curry once a week so I fill those in. I look in the freezer and cupboard for ideas. Once the menu is filled in I make a shopping list - we save a lot of money this way. I tend to have a full freezer no matter how often I try to work my way to the bottom and this method helps me a little in that department.

This way I only have to think about what to make twice a month - in the morning I take a peek so I can get things out of the freezer if necessary.
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#96 of 192 Old 08-10-2007, 01:39 PM
 
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Bumping this up, what a great resource thread!

Baking mama to dd (7.5), ds (6), ds (3.5) and someone new in April
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#97 of 192 Old 08-16-2007, 08:37 PM
 
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wondering when I'd see this around again. It's like an old friend!!

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#98 of 192 Old 08-31-2007, 12:26 AM
 
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Courtenay, have you tried freezing any of the Cook's Illustrated recipes? I found some great recipes in Cover and Bake and The Quick Recipe, and I would like to incorporate feeding the freezer.

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#99 of 192 Old 08-31-2007, 08:45 AM
 
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Not sure if anyone posted this but I LOOOOOOVE food network.com they have soooo many recepies and you can save your faves on the site so when you're out of ideas you just check out what faves you had and or find something new with the ingredients you have (using the search option).
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#100 of 192 Old 10-25-2007, 03:24 AM
 
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Just subscribing and bumping.
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#101 of 192 Old 11-01-2007, 11:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nadia105 View Post
Courtenay, have you tried freezing any of the Cook's Illustrated recipes? I found some great recipes in Cover and Bake and The Quick Recipe, and I would like to incorporate feeding the freezer.
The guiness stew freezes well. That's the only one I know for sure that I have tried.

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#102 of 192 Old 11-06-2007, 02:38 PM
 
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#103 of 192 Old 11-06-2007, 11:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by courtenay_e View Post
The guiness stew freezes well. That's the only one I know for sure that I have tried.
I froze a couple out of Cover and Bake and they turned out pretty well. I think it was the baked ziti and penne with chicken, mushrooms and broccoli.

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#104 of 192 Old 11-14-2007, 04:03 PM
 
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this is exactly what my family needed... thank you!!!

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#105 of 192 Old 01-20-2008, 09:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by courtenay_e View Post
Get yourself a book called "The New Best Recipe" by the editors of Cooks illustrated. Last time I checked, you could get it off of Amazon for $14.95, and it included a free copy of the magazine, too (and the magazine is as awesome as the cook book...). The editors of cooks illustrated take great pains to honestly figure out what makes a recipe great, and then they tell you exactly how they came to that particular recipe and WHY certain things work the way they do...so this is the part you can bring to your other cooking.
After reading this thread, I became obsessed with finding a copy of this cookbook, on Courtenay's suggestion. It was $24.95 or so on Amazon (and I'm cheap, so I didn't get it), nobody had it for cheaper on Half.com and my local Sam's Club didn't have it. I finally (by accident at this point) found a copy of it at a local discount/remainder/leftovers warehouse-type store last week (For $9.99!). For the record, it is completely worth the list price and I will be buying it often as a gift from now on.

It is sooo awesome. DH and I are hooked on it. The information is both basic and comprehensive at once, if that makes sense. And the authors really go into amazing detail about how they determined what was best for each recipe. Apparently there are a bunch of similar books by the same authors in the same vein (including one on 30 minute meals) which I am now on the lookout for.

Thanks so much for recommending this book! I hardly ever buy cookbooks, because one seems much like the other and it's such a gamble as to whether the recipes will be good at all. We're adding a recipe or two a week from this book to our meal plans and I'm very excited to try them.
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#106 of 192 Old 01-21-2008, 01:49 AM
 
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My Dh and I spent the day cooking for the freezer. We made 19 dinners. It was the first time I have done it. I bought a really great cookbook called "The Big Cook". The book is divided into sections: Beef, Chicken, Pork and it has easy recipes the are great for the slow cooker and go into ziploc bags so they don't take too much room in the freezer.

It seemed overwhelming at first but this book is really well organised and it helped to have dhs' help.

It also has each recipe divided into the amount for each meal so you can make one meal or up to eight meals of the recipe. It does the math for you.

Dinner time is solved for at least a month ! If anyone is interested in the book the web site is www.thebigcook.com .
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#107 of 192 Old 01-22-2008, 12:31 AM
 
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I go to the grocery store once a week and usually do my planning the night before that. I work in the evenings, so I usually have to cook during my son's naps.
What we've come up with is that I cook a meal every other day (usually Sat, Mon, Wed) and we have leftovers with different sides the next night. Fridays I meet my husband after work and we go out to eat. A lot of times on leftover nights I'll also make a dessert for us to have.
I do keep some organic frozen meals and soups, etc in the house just in case we don't have enough leftovers or the meal turns out awful (which hasn't happened yet!).
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#108 of 192 Old 02-11-2008, 12:24 PM
 
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This thread is so great, I am totally going to use the courtenay_e plan when I move again, it is going to make life so much easier and it seems as though it will save money which is always a bonus!
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#109 of 192 Old 02-18-2008, 12:58 PM
 
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So glad I came across this thread. I have a picky dh, ds 30mos, dd 18mos & we're on a budget. My sweet family keeps giving us deer meat, which I eat, but the rest of my family can't stand. So I'm so glad to see this thread. (I already said that.

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#110 of 192 Old 02-19-2008, 04:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jennifer-Juniper View Post
After reading this thread, I became obsessed with finding a copy of this cookbook, on Courtenay's suggestion. It was $24.95 or so on Amazon (and I'm cheap, so I didn't get it), nobody had it for cheaper on Half.com and my local Sam's Club didn't have it. I finally (by accident at this point) found a copy of it at a local discount/remainder/leftovers warehouse-type store last week (For $9.99!). For the record, it is completely worth the list price and I will be buying it often as a gift from now on.

It is sooo awesome. DH and I are hooked on it. The information is both basic and comprehensive at once, if that makes sense. And the authors really go into amazing detail about how they determined what was best for each recipe. Apparently there are a bunch of similar books by the same authors in the same vein (including one on 30 minute meals) which I am now on the lookout for.

Thanks so much for recommending this book! I hardly ever buy cookbooks, because one seems much like the other and it's such a gamble as to whether the recipes will be good at all. We're adding a recipe or two a week from this book to our meal plans and I'm very excited to try them.

I am so glad that you bought it and found it useful!!! I really honestly use it all the time. I have several other cookbooks that get used a couple times a year, but that one is just out on the counter most times. Our new favorite book by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated is "Steaks, Chops, Roasts, and Ribs." It is "only" about half as thick (only being in quotes because the Best Recipes book is easily six inches or more thick...), but we bought a whole hog and shared a 1/4 cow this year, which is a LOT of cuts of meat that I may not be accustomed to randomly picking up in the store. Let me tell you...it is a massively useful book!!!! So, share the wealth! I am now on my fifth copy, as I pass mine on to friends or family members or visitors from other countries (we keep exchange students and their chaperones occaisionally and ALWAYS send them home with a copy, as they want to know how to make what they just ate!), and it is already well worn, dog eared, book marked, and even (shamefully) watermarked in a couple of spots (s'pecially the brownie page, as the bowl always comes off of the steam bath and goes oooover the book:...and drips on it). I am getting over the flu, and just used it today, to make myself some stovetop rice pudding, which I eat as I write this. YUM. Have fun with it!

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#111 of 192 Old 02-19-2008, 04:21 PM
 
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I'm glad so many people find the way I do things useful. It sure does help us stay on a really tight budget. And yes, we save hundreds, literally, because we're not buying convenience foods and/or fast food. We eat a LOT healthier, as well, now, too, because I can plan it ahead of time!

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This thread is so great, I am totally going to use the courtenay_e plan when I move again, it is going to make life so much easier and it seems as though it will save money which is always a bonus!

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#112 of 192 Old 02-21-2008, 08:48 PM
 
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subbing...thanks everyone! great ideas
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#113 of 192 Old 02-24-2008, 07:45 PM
 
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good ideas! Subbing!

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#114 of 192 Old 02-25-2008, 03:48 PM
 
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My two reasons for wanting to get in the habit of meal planning are:

1. So I have all the supplies I need to start dinner at a reasonable time without having to scrap the idea for lack of ingredients or having to run to the store at last minute with toddler, thereby having a really late dinner.

2. To save money. I'm really overspending on our already generous budget.

Number 2 is the reason I'm writing. It seems when I meal plan I plan more expensive meals and overspend. Its the last minute default meals that are cheap--spaghetti and sauce, fried egg sandwiches, burritos. It doesn't help that ds isn't fond of eggs. He's getting better, but we have chickens and their eggs are great and I'm never sure if he'll eat them.

I'm trying to overcome almost 20 years of just cooking whatever comes to mind. I can meal plan for 2 or 3 days, then old habits come along. When I do plan, I spend so much money.

I'll figure this out, one of these days. Just wonder if anyone has any thoughts. Sometimes a soundbite is all I need to make changes.

Thanks

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#115 of 192 Old 02-27-2008, 12:27 AM
 
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A great way to have your gourmet and your budget too is to form your meal around one spendy item when you want to have something fancy. For instance, if you are having salmon, serve it with a big pile of (cheap, bulk) rice. Save the spendy asparagus to go alongside a cheaper cut of beef or chicken. Throwing in a vegetarian meal high on spice (like curry) will cut your costs and usually please meat eaters. When you are going to cook your veggies all the way through, like in a stew, you can save money without sacrificing much quality by using frozen veggies. Even buying organic frozen veggies usually costs less than buying fresh, plus you know it won't go bad. Use bulk items when you can, like pastas, rice, other grains, polenta. The more you cook from scratch, the more money you will save.

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#116 of 192 Old 02-27-2008, 01:19 PM
 
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My two reasons for wanting to get in the habit of meal planning are:

1. So I have all the supplies I need to start dinner at a reasonable time without having to scrap the idea for lack of ingredients or having to run to the store at last minute with toddler, thereby having a really late dinner.

2. To save money. I'm really overspending on our already generous budget.

Number 2 is the reason I'm writing. It seems when I meal plan I plan more expensive meals and overspend. Its the last minute default meals that are cheap--spaghetti and sauce, fried egg sandwiches, burritos. It doesn't help that ds isn't fond of eggs. He's getting better, but we have chickens and their eggs are great and I'm never sure if he'll eat them.

I'm trying to overcome almost 20 years of just cooking whatever comes to mind. I can meal plan for 2 or 3 days, then old habits come along. When I do plan, I spend so much money.

I'll figure this out, one of these days. Just wonder if anyone has any thoughts. Sometimes a soundbite is all I need to make changes.

Thanks
You can plan in a few of the cheap, easy meals along with some of the more complicated/expensive ones. There may be some days when you know you will be busy and need something quick for dinner, those nights are great for pasta, grilled cheese, breakfast for dinner, etc. Also plan in times for leftovers and things. We are a family of five with 2 preschoolers that can sometimes eat as much as me and a 9 month old not yet on table food and we ALWAYS get at least 2 meals out of standard recipes (particularly the ones int he best recipe series). I kept trying to plan 6 meals for the week and we never got through all of them. For us, 3-4 recipes will easily feed us through out the week with leftovers and some 'on the fly' meals mixed in there (Some days I just don't feel like making an involved recipe, so I love having some easy things on hand).

Baking mama to dd (7.5), ds (6), ds (3.5) and someone new in April
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#117 of 192 Old 02-27-2008, 01:44 PM
 
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My two reasons for wanting to get in the habit of meal planning are:

1. So I have all the supplies I need to start dinner at a reasonable time without having to scrap the idea for lack of ingredients or having to run to the store at last minute with toddler, thereby having a really late dinner.

2. To save money. I'm really overspending on our already generous budget.

Number 2 is the reason I'm writing. It seems when I meal plan I plan more expensive meals and overspend. Its the last minute default meals that are cheap--spaghetti and sauce, fried egg sandwiches, burritos. It doesn't help that ds isn't fond of eggs. He's getting better, but we have chickens and their eggs are great and I'm never sure if he'll eat them.

I'm trying to overcome almost 20 years of just cooking whatever comes to mind. I can meal plan for 2 or 3 days, then old habits come along. When I do plan, I spend so much money.

I'll figure this out, one of these days. Just wonder if anyone has any thoughts. Sometimes a soundbite is all I need to make changes.

Thanks
I've found that pre-planning a few cheaper meals per week has really helped. Like, every Thursday, we have this white beans and lamb shank stew. Lamb shanks are super cheap at the grocery store. I cook everything in a pressure cooker, and it's ready in like 30 minutes... no soaking needed.

I try and buy bulk packages of things like chicken thighs and stuff that I know we eat a lot of. Then freeze them in individual packages.

I don't always plan every day of the week, but I've found that even planning a few saves big money.

Have you tried making a cheese souffle with your eggs? It's actually pretty easy to do and doesn't really taste like "eggs". You could also do a puffy oven pancake for dinner sometime (dutch baby). It's mainly eggs...and pretty cheap and hands-off to make. Very kid friendly. I let my kids choose the fruit they want on top, or sometimes we just do maple syrup... and serve fruit on the side.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#118 of 192 Old 02-27-2008, 07:51 PM
 
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this is an amazing thread! thanks ladies......
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#119 of 192 Old 02-28-2008, 01:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nadia105 View Post
You can plan in a few of the cheap, easy meals along with some of the more complicated/expensive ones.
Quote:
Originally Posted by umsami View Post
I've found that pre-planning a few cheaper meals per week has really helped.
You guys are right. This meal planning thing is new to me. Although I like to cook, I rely on (healthy) packaged foods to make things simpler. Also, if I'm going to plan in advance, I'm going to plan something interesting. The thing is, the way I cook, the costs just add up so fast. Even making "homemade" pizza can get costly:

pizza dough from trader joe's $1.
cheese $3
mushrooms $1
canned artichokes $2
pine nuts, keep in stock $0.50
tomatoes $1
garlic, keep in stock

So that's $8.50 for just a pizza that we eat in one sitting.

My really good mexican bean soup is about $15 a pot. We can get a few meals out of it, but still, that's a lot of money.

Or my enchiladas. They're black bean burgers and cheese in flour tortillas with really good organic sauce on top. I only use 1 can of sauce because it's so expensive, but it just tastes so good. (My husband keeps saying I should put more sauce, but I won't. It's just too expensive.)

bean burgers $4
cheese $2
tortillas $1
sauce $3.60

That's $10.60 for one meal. (Not including the cost of fresh fruit.)

So this is about more than just filling in a schedule of menus, it's totally re-thinking how I cook. I really don't want to start using dry beans, I'm happy with canned beans. And $1 per can isn't that much.

I sound like I'm saying, "Yes, but..." which I am saying. I'm just trying to figure out how to change things without changing them too much.

Thanks for the ideas already. They are stewing away in my brain. Any more thoughts?

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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#120 of 192 Old 02-28-2008, 01:18 PM
 
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One of the other things I have to deal with is the lack of good, inexpensive produce. We live in Arizona. I've only found one farmer's market that actually sells PRODUCE. Most just sell crafty type stuff. And even that 1 good market isn't that great and I often forget about it.

During the summer, we eat fruit non-stop and our budget goes through the roof.

Does anyone live in Tucson and have any good ideas? I mainly shop at Trader Joe's and Sunflower with supplementation from Fry's or Safeway and Costco for bulk stuff (though not much Costco.) I really don't shop at the Co-op much.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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