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Menu planning at home


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If there is just one food-related habit I wish I could acquire it would be the ability to plan meals.

It would save me time since I would only have to shop once or twice a week.

It would save me money since I buy too much food that never makes it onto the table.

It would free up my mind for more interesting pursuits if I didn't spend so much of every day dithering about what we will eat for dinner.

It would result in much more interesting and varied meals as I wouldn't be forever falling back on "desperation dinners".

It would result in much healthier meals on the whole.

But I seem to have some sort of permanent mental block and despite numerous resolutions, plans, gimmicks, etc. I CAN`T PLAN DINNER FOR MORE THAN 1 DAY AT A TIME.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I don't plan menus for the weekend, but I do for the week. And usually we pick 5 dinners we want and buy the ingredients for that considering what spices and what not we already have. What varies is what night of the week those get made, it all depends on what I feel like.

What I would love to start doing is basing them off my cookbooks, so that I use them and not just look at them!

Nolnacs - I love the database idea! What program to you use, if any?

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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I meal plan, pretty rigorously, using a palm pilot. The process looks like this :

- As I get inspired throughout the week for next week, I'll make notes next week's memo (which sits on Sunday of that week). For instance, it's Friday, and next weeks notes include soft taco, curry with spring rolls, and some kind of protein with brown rice pilaf as packed lunch idea.

- On Saturday, I'll check my freezer inventory, what's left in the fridge, (what was in my CSA box on Wednesday,) and our schedule for the following week, and finalize a menu by day for the following week, beginning on Sunday. This plan includes 6 day dinner, 4 days of brown bag lunches and snacks for DBF and I, and daily breakfast/coffee. It takes into account days when we'll need dinner to be super quick because of obligations.

- I gather up all the recipes for next week, and make a detailed grocery list in my palm pilot.

- I look at which meals will need something defrosted, and make tasks to remind myself to do that the day before.

- Grocery shop on Sunday.

Each day, it's a matter of just making what's on the schedule, and defrosting whatever for the next night, if needed.

It sounds complicated. But I waste very little groceries this way, and we both like that most of what I cook is from scratch and relatively healthy.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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Planning out the week's menus (more or less) provides the following advantages for us: it pretty much guarantees that my husband does the bulk of the shopping, which means the Berkeley Bowl run. This saves us money and wastes a minimum of food. And it usually means that I don't have to fret about what to eat for dinner; there are some options and all ingredients necessary. Meals with fish always happen on shopping day, and generally chicken or beef meals happen within the first two or three days of the week. I figure in leftovers and repurposed meals, and vegetarian or mostly veg meals happen later in the week, which usually includes a pot of beans. If there are ingredients that are okay languishing in the fridge I sometimes change things around. We often have a "kitchen sink" night at the end of the week to use up odds and ends.

Nothing is written in stone, so if I miscalculate or just can't abide cooking for some reason, we treat ourselves to dinner out, but that doesn't happen very often; we are pretty frugal. Once in a while I get inspired and shop midweek for a few things that either don't keep or can't be had from the farmers' market or Berkeley Bowl.

We have good friends, a couple, who alternate every week. Week one he plans the menu, does all the shopping and cooks all the meals; week two, she does it all. That's great if both partners are adequate cooks with flexible schedules and neither of them has anything close to a panic attack at the prospect of going to Berkeley Bowl. I can survive it, but shopping in Chinatown is more my speed.

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When I'm at the cottage, I will plan a weeks worth of meals since the nearest town is half an hour away and it tends to be a 2 1/2 round trip by the time I'm done. I don't plan a menu as such as we're going to eat such and such on Tuesday, but I get the weeks supply of fruit and veg and dairy in one trip. I really only want to do it once. In the city, no way. Because my freezer is well stocked with meat, the closest I get is checking the freezer the night before to take something out. The next day, I tend to shop for the sides.



Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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