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How do you decide what to cook


LaurieB
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How do you plan your weeks meals? Do you

a) wing part or all of it?

or

b) do you have a meal plan all mapped out, based on who you know will be around to eat and what you have on hand? Do you plan your menus based on leftovers?

I'm just curious (a friend once jokingly likened me to a "food anthropoligist"),

but because my husband's jobs fluctuate with the seasons, I need to change how I plan and prepare meals about 3 times each year.

Advice? Thoughts?

Laurie

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I don't plan anything; being single and living close to a lot of good food stores, I can just stop by after work and get whatever looks good.

If for some reasons, I just go home, I have enough things in here to make a very simple and very good pasta dish.

If I have leftovers, I will take them to work the next day, or keep them for the next night.

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I'm a homemaking homeschooling mom of three. A very wise person once told me, "Know what you are having for dinner by 10 am if you will be home all day or by 10 pm the night before if you will be out of the house." To the extent that I follow that advice, my stress level is much less. :biggrin:

I usually plan my meals five-seven days at a time and shop accordingly. I make a menu, though I don't necessarily serve what I'd planned for Tuesday on Tuesday -- if needs change I flex my plan. Sometimes a menu is abandoned altogether -- again according to need. When designing menus, I consider what I have on hand, what's in season, and grocery store specials. I think menu planning, even as loosely as I do it, saves us a good bit of money and lots of frustration.

Current example: I bought two fryers on sale for 79 cents/lb. yesterday, brought them home, seasoned them, and have them waiting in the fridge (yummy little skins drying as we speak) to roast this evening, to be accompanied by baked potatoes, salad, and bread. Tomorrow I will be gone much of the day, so I'll make chicken stock overnight with the carcasses and put together a potato/leek soup in the morning. We'll have that with chicken sandwiches and salad for dinner.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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I plan a week's dinners at a time. Since it's almost always just the three of us, I usually plan on cooking a meal, then having the leftovers the following meal(s). So I usually end up cooking something new three to four times a week. Sometimes that all gets thrown out the window depending on thawing times, my mood, whatever, and then we pull out what's quick and easy.

In picking out recipes to try (I'm not quite skilled enough to create something on my own), I try to do a variety (so no chicken all week long). I've also started picking out one meal with my husband's tastes in mind, another with my 5yo's tastes in mind, etc. So hopefully one person will be happy with each meal, as I usually can't please everyone. :)

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I'm a homemaking homeschooling mom of three. A very wise person once told me, "Know what you are having for dinner by 10 am if you will be home all day or by 10 pm the night before if you will be out of the house." To the extent that I follow that advice, my stress level is much less.  :biggrin:

I usually plan my meals five-seven days at a time and shop accordingly. I make a menu, though I don't necessarily serve what I'd planned for Tuesday on Tuesday -- if needs change I flex my plan. Sometimes a menu is abandoned altogether -- again according to need. When designing menus, I consider what I have on hand, what's in season, and grocery store specials. I think menu planning, even as loosely as I do it, saves us a good bit of money and lots of frustration.

I could have written this word for word... :biggrin:

I am also a homemaking mom of 3, who also plans meals 5 to 7 days at a time. I have a notebook where I write it all down, complete with lists of most of the food products in my house. I can look at the lists of vegetables, meats, etc and plan meals with what I have on hand supplementing with what is on sale.

I browse cookbooks and mark pages that I am interested in trying out and when I find the ingredients on sale I add it to my menu. Like Lori said, it saves a lot of money and frustration.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I tend to shop on a daily basis. Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to make and just need to pick up the main ingredients and sometimes I wait until I get to the butcher to see what looks good or appeals.

I've always planned meals this way. Years ago when I worked downtown Toronto, on my way home from work, I would get off the subway at different stops along Yonge Street and pick up the makings for dinner at different butchers and fruit and vegetable markets.

Ann

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Ann, we're alike in this way. I rarely plan ahead, at most the night before, depending on what I've got in the freezer and what we feel like. In the summer, I'll work meals around fresh produce, but in the winter, it's more about what meat I've got in the freezer. I also tend to shop on a daily basis, which drives my son nuts, by the way. :biggrin:

Marlene

cookskorner

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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How do I plan meals? By what's on sale.

Seriously, I start with what meats and vegetables are on sale in any given week, and put together a rough mental outline of how I want to use them. I always leave flexibility in the plan, though, in case I run across a really good buy of scratch and dent meat.

I don't plan out things in more detail than that. I tend to wing it every night from the items I have on hand. Once in awhile I'll get it in my head that I want to make a specific dish, and then I make sure to shop for those ingredients.

It works pretty well for us, but then, I'm only feeding two (my husband and myself) most nights. If we're having company for dinner, I will angst and fret over the menu for days and plan out every step of the cooking and serving timeline even if it's just a simple meal of soup and salad.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Because I frequently pre-order some of our groceries from Simon Delivers, I usually try to plan 3-4 meals for the coming week. This is a fairly new thing for us, and it seems to work well. I used to aimlessly wander the supermarket in a daze, throwing things into the cart. This led to spending too much money and coming home and finding that I had $100 worth of food that didn't actually amount to any concrete meals. Also, we're trying to bring our lunches to work, rather than eating out/ordering takeout all the time, so I need to think about what would be good as leftovers and what else I need to order to make healthy lunches.

I only plan 3-4 meals for the week because 1) we'll probably want to go out to eat at least once in the week or do takeout and 2) there may be a night when we're too tired to do anything besides make a sandwich or defrost some chili or soup from the freezer.

I'm definitely more flexible with this in the summer/early fall, when we have the St. Paul Farmer's Market , and my shopping tends to be inspired with what I find on my weekly expeditions there. Same goes for weeks when I go to United Noodles, the huge Asian supermarket, or one of the Latino markets.

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i call this the "College cook" method.

I go to my supermarket of choice and window shop until I find a meat that's within my price range (on sale, usually) and go from there. I improv quite often as far as what sides or cookingmethod or whatnot. It's rare for me to go in having a particular dish in mind, unless I'm just craving someting. I also usually only buy 2-3 days ofgroceries at once (this being due to sharing a fridge with 3 roommates during school)

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I'm lucky enough to be living 3 blocks away from a great greengrocer who is on my way home from College. Usually, I see what meat is on special and buy that and then start thinking about what to do with it. I also tend to anchor my cuisine in a certain region for the week as it allows me to buy things like herbs and use them repeatedly that week. Finally, on the bus ride home, I usually finalise the exact recipe and figure out all the things I need and pick them up on the way home and cook it that evening. I try and keep the pantry stocked fairly diversely so I can whip up almost anything with just a few fresh ingredients.

Last week, I wanted to make cornbread so I got a litre of buttermilk and anchored my cooking in the south. This week, I ground up some fresh five spice powder and bought some cilantro so it was very much asian cooking. The coming week, I still have some cilantro left over and I bought some fresh pork so it's going to be mexican/latin american.

PS: I am a guy.

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. . .

I also tend to anchor my cuisine in a certain region for the week as it allows me to buy things like herbs and use them repeatedly that week.

. . .

Let me say that is an interesting and very wise idea and one I have never thought of. It certainly addresses the problem of buying an ingredient just because you need a tablespoon or two for a single dish. Thanks for sharing.

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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unfortunately I seem to have lost all self control and lately have taken to cooking the tastiest looking items on the'what I had for dinner', 'Chinese home cooking', 'Korean home cooking' , 'cuisine of Umbria' etc etc etc.

I made the Korean pancakes 3 nights in a row and drank the dip after (if any was left)

and I have bought pretty well all the cookbooks being used in various threads. Had to email a friend in Canada to get Au Pied de Cochon i.e. I am a total egullet addict.

....my family think it could be worse :biggrin:

so for the time being no planning ahead............

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Add us to the list of meal planners. We shop twice a week, so our shopping list usually has 3 meals on it. The menu rotates to be somewhat seasonal (lots of bbq and grilling in the summer, braising in the winter), but we also have a cheat sheet of old stand-bys for when we aren't feeling particularly creative.

Left-overs tend to be brought to work for lunch, or the kids will have them the next day.

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Add us to the list of meal planners.  We shop twice a week, so our shopping list usually has 3 meals on it.  The menu rotates to be somewhat seasonal (lots of bbq and grilling in the summer, braising in the winter), but we also have a cheat sheet of old stand-bys for when we aren't feeling particularly creative.

Left-overs tend to be brought to work for lunch, or the kids will have them the next day.

Yes, I also have a cheat-sheet of desperation dinners for days when dinner time has arrived and I still don't have a clue what to cook. It also lists some of hubby's favourites that can get lost in a too creative streak! :biggrin:

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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 map out a dinner plan for each week. I take into account prep time relative to our schedules (I have a lot of night meetings), and decide on a general idea for each night. It's usually based on what I already have in the fridge/freezer, and I look at the grocery ads each week to see what's on sale.

I always pick the protein in advance, but often I will base side dishes on what looks good at the store. I shop at multiple markets too, but try to keep it to one or two markets each week.

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We figure out on Saturday, what we want to spend all day Sunday making, so that there will be sufficient leftovers to make up little meals for both of us to take to work the following week.

Yesterday, I cooked up a 4 lb pork loin, double butterflied and stuffed with 4 lbs of ground pork shoulder, spices, herbs, eggs and fennel. Got the rice cooker going with 2 cups Brown rice, all the leftover celery and carrots in the refrigerator. A dash of oil and salt, and a layer of rice in the bottom of each plastic container, a big slice of the stuffed porkloin, smothered in the roux based pan sauce I made from the drippings from the roast.

Sure tasted good at lunch today!

Sometimes we make up homemade sausage mcmuffins and freeze them, let two thaw overnight in the fridge and have them for breakfast at work using the microwave.

Sometimes we grind chuck/sirloin/tenderloin strap, make 3-4 lbs hamburger, get out the George Foreman grill and make loads of hamburgers. Each burger into a little plastic freezer bag, and into the lunch pail goes the burger patty, a bun, some condiments, and oila!

And,most of all, it's fun to spend all day Sunday cooking together.

doc

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I am a terribly disorganized shopper these days, but when I worked outside the house, meal plans were essential, and I had a list of fast, popular dishes on the fridge door, so before I shopped, I made sure I had everything on hand for at least two or three of the dishes.

But, now, I shop whenever I want to (more often than I'd like to admit) because I don't always know on Sunday what Friday will bring, or what we'll feel like eating.

And, I've learned that some things freeze well, and are really no more work to prepare in quantity. In fact, just today, on the stove is about 10 quarts of gumbo, which will be portioned out and frozen (after dinner tonight) for fast food.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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One week my wife and I sat down (over a decent lunch at a nearby restaurant, back when we worked on the same block) and drew up a wonderful menu plan for the week, which we followed up with appropriate shopping and preparation. It made life endlessly easier and not a little cheaper, and dinner was good all week.

That was in 1999. We've never done it since. Oh well.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I live alone, so I don't have to take anyone else's tastes into consideration, which can be quite liberating. I tend to be of the fly by the seat of my pants sort when it comes to grocery shopping. I'll go in with a short list of things I really need like milk, eggs, soda, paper towels, etc. and then see what's on sale. I'll also avail myself of the Reading Terminal Market or Italian Markets here in Philly and find produce that's on sale/in season/reduced in price and sort of go from there. I stopped at RTM just a few days ago (detailed HERE) and bought a bunch of reduced price produce and made some pasta with it that night and then a big batch of potato-leek soup yesterday. When I stopped at the supermarket for milk to make the Potato Leek soup, I saw that beef roasts were 50% off so I bought a 4 pound rump roast that I will likely defrost and make tomorrow for dinner and then enjoy the leftovers in sandwiches or sliced on a salad for the rest of the week.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Right now I live with my parents, so many times my mom and I plan out what we are going to make for the week and then go grocery shopping. Othertimes, I go grab a cookbook or Food and Wine and wing it depending on my mood and what is in the house at the time.We take turns cooking depending on what is going on during the day and who is home. I have school and work third shift so cooking for me on my off days from either is a way to relax.

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(...)In the summer, I'll work meals around fresh produce, but in the winter, it's more about what meat I've got in the freezer.  (...)

I do the exact same!

The shops I go to are sort of around a block so whenever I (or we) go shopping (almost on a daily basis) I just have to think if it is meat or veg I want to plan the meal around. If it's vegetables (or there is still some meat in the freezer I want to use) I'll go around counter-clockwise, thus visiting the market first and if meat is the center of my plans, it's clockwise and to the butcher first.

I hardly ever plan for more than the current day, only if I know I won't have time to do shopping the next day will I try to look that far ahead. Or in case of a special occasion, guests or a birthday or somethink like that.

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I usually plan ahead for at least 4 nights of the week. I order groceries from Fresh Direct weekly, so I need to have a game plan when I place my order. And I like to know what to take out of the freezer if that's part of the plan.

However, I now have 2 kids (a 2 year old and a 3 1/2 month old) and I just went back to work after matenity leave, so sometimes I just can't get it together to make anything for dinner. We just order in on those nights.

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I live alone, so I don't have to take anyone else's tastes into consideration, which can be quite liberating.  I tend to be of the fly by the seat of my pants sort when it comes to grocery shopping.  I'll go in with a short list of things I really need like milk, eggs, soda, paper towels, etc. and then see what's on sale.  I'll also avail myself of the Reading Terminal Market or Italian Markets here in Philly and find produce that's on sale/in season/reduced in price and sort of go from there.  I stopped at RTM just a few days ago (detailed HERE) and bought a bunch of reduced price produce and made some pasta with it that night and then a big batch of potato-leek soup yesterday.  When I stopped at the supermarket for milk to make the Potato Leek soup, I saw that beef roasts were 50% off so I bought a 4 pound rump roast that I will likely defrost and make tomorrow for dinner and then enjoy the leftovers in sandwiches or sliced on a salad for the rest of the week.

I have a family (DH and 2 kids) but I also do what you do.

I shop weekly. I have a mental idea of how many meals

(breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks) we need.

Then I see what's on sale, and plan the specific dishes around those.

We have some specific items we buy each week (e.g. milk, fruit, veggies,

etc.) but other than milk, those categories are so broad that

they can adjust to include anything that's on sale....

Milagai

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