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How do you decide what to cook


LaurieB
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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.

This is pretty much how DH and I do our dinner planning; we decide how many nights per week we'll be home and go from there. We usually under-plan by one night b/c of the reasons Dasha cited above.

What's new is how we decide who preps and makes the meal... DH now works from home and is finished at 3pm; I don't get home until closer to 6:30 or 7 pm. At first, I would come home and immediately get to cooking, stew about how DH had been relaxing since 3:30 and not have dinner ready until 8:30 or 9. He'd get hungry and wonder when food might be ready. We've now worked out a plan that on days when I'll be home late, he preps or makes dinner (so long as I leave out a recipe for him or go over the game plan the night before) and everyone's relieved. The worst part about this is now that I wash dishes on days when he makes dinner, something I blissfully avoided when I was doing all the cooking.

my motto: taste, savor, share

circulation manager, imbibe magazine

celebrate the world in a glass

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as i've been reading this i have been working on the menu for lunches and dinners for the next three days. i am off from work on wednesdays, fridays and some sundays so that is when i plan my menus from/to. right now i am planning for tonight(pulled the maltausen from the freezer. have to pick up green beans and i have some red cabbage and homemade applesauce already), looking at what i have to do for our meals tomorrow since i work till 8(poach the chicken breasts for chicken waldorf salad. portion out the leftover soup for our dinners), and friday (still no clue for lunch though dinner will be lasagna. have to buy the lactose free cottage cheese today so i can let is drip for a day or so to get most of the liquid out before i use it like ricotta). since john will be gone saturday the package of loin lamb chops will come out and i can play after work. when i work sundays i will usually set something up and leave painfully, exquisitly detailed instructions so john can get the meal ready and we can eat when i get home.

like most of the other responders i work in several ways:

in summer what is fresh at the farmer's market

in fall what i have squirreled away in the freezer since i am very busy elsewhere(pre

beaten chicken breasts; casseroles; premade meatballs, etc)

in winter and spring what's on sale and what meats john may have brought back from

hunting trips

i also have a good freezer and a pantry that i can pull from and i replenish when things are on sale and i have coupons

i really like the idea of picking an area to cook from for a week and may start incorporating that philosophy in my cooking as well. just as long as there is enough rice, potatoes and rice noodles john will be happy

Edited by suzilightning (log)

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I am single and live alone so I spoil myself with a new recipe or two each week. I eat the leftovers till they're gone alternating between each dish. Needless to say sometimes I have to come up with another alternative recipe if I don't like one of the dishes I've made.

I am a avid recipe hound. I am currently making alot of my dishes from recipes I copied out of my Cooking Light magazines. I just flip thru them and make the grocery list and on Friday I shop. I try to make the dish that takes longest to cook on Sunday since I have more time that day.

I love to cook new dishes; I just wish I had someone to tell me, besides me, how good they are. Ah, the sadness of cooking for one. *smile

Amoreena

Edited by Amoreena (log)
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I'll usually either think about it the morning of, or if I see some really inspiring thing on tv or well, lets face it, on this web site, I may plan a day or so in advance. I am lucky to have a Safeway, literally, two blocks from my house. But then sometimes, the planning goes out the window, like tonight for example. I had some of the stuff here to make this asian inspired salad that I like, so I went after work to get the rest of the stuff, saw some gummy bears that were calling my name. Had a few tortilla chips with some cheese sauce when I got home..then when it came time for dinner, didn't feel like making the salad, so I opted for a lean cuisine pizza margareta instead. I'll probably have the salad tomorrow night now!

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There's just two of us, and I don't ever plan meals in advance. If I find myself one day with a craving for something I can make, I'll make it, and if it needs ingredients I can't get that day, I'll plan on getting them and cooking it in the short term future. If I know that my schedule will take me near a certain store where there's always a certain item that I can't get anywhere else or is especially good there, I'll plan a dinner around that. The only other exception is that if I see that my supermarket's having a big sale on something the next week, which will mean that there will be a guaranteed fresh batch of them and lots to choose from (rib roasts, for example, or jumbo lobsters), I'll plan on having that one night. Otherwise, my dinners are entirely driven by what looks good when I shop, and what I'm craving that day.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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My week is usually a hodgepodge of planning and winging. When I go to the store, I have a few meals in mind that I've been craving or just haven't had in a while and then fill the rest of the cart with stuff that looks good at the time. Then I'll take stock of what I got in the fridge on a nightly basis to determine what I'll make that night. Last night I stopped at the store to get a few things I knew I needed for tonights dinner of Sichuan Peppercorn Shrimp and this weekends attempt at Bavarian Pot Roast and hot spinach salad. After that I have no clue what I'll be making so it's back to the fridge to put stuff together.

Edited by Octaveman (log)

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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To inject a little humor here, I'm not the most organized shopper, and even on those few times I make a list, I forget to bring it. And like some other people I know, I don't always pay close attention to what I already have. So occasionally I'll see something and think "I should stock up on that" and when I get home and put them away, realize "oh, I guess I'll put them with the 20 cans I already have." And because I don't always put things in the same place, I might have a stock of them in various places. Who knew I had a lifetime supply of organic maple and onion baked beans? Will you look at that!

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Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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  • 7 years later...

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

I wing it about 50% of the time and plan ahead the remainder.

Most of what I cook at home is a seasonal menu so my menu planning tends to revolve around what is available at my farmers' market, enhanced by curiosity and personal whim. Whether I'm cooking for one or more than one doesn't factor into things. The meals are typically vegetable-centric, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes vegan, sometimes meat (in varying amounts) will be involved.

For instance, last night was:

Mixed bean salad

Zucchine alla parmigiana

Tonight will be:

Warm potatoes with anchovy and tomato confit

Heirloom beans with black cabbage, pancetta and shallots

Greek yogurt with rhubarb-ginger jam

Tomorrow will be:

Fagiolini con salsa di acciughe (green beans with anchovy sauce)

Adobong puti (white adobo, or chicken adobo without any soy sauce)

Jasmine rice

??? (probably fresh fruit for dessert)

Then, there are days when I don't know what it is I'll be having for dinner until I get home from work. Those nights are when it's most fun, because I get to exercise my improvisational muscles. I only need to satisfy myself. My partner isn't picky and likes just about everything...so that's gravy.

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I never plan much ahead of time. Certainly the idea of planning a week's menu at a time doesn't appeal in the slightest. Most days I work from home so about 11 am, I head out to the market to see what they have. Chinese markets are very seasonal, so things come and go. Button mushrooms are just arriving and will disappear around New Year. So, I'm using a lot of them now. 

 

The only meats the market usually does are pork, beef, freshwater fish, a limited range of seafood (clams, crabs, shrimp), chicken and duck. If, for a change, I fancy a bit of sea fish or some lamb I will head to one of the supermarkets.

 

On days when I have to work elsewhere, I usually eat out.

 

The only exception is when I am cooking for others (usually it's just me). For example next week I am cooking for three dear friends I haven't seen in a while. It is a special occasion as one of them is leaving to study in the US and we won't see her for two years. I have been planning the menu for weeks, but still haven't fully made up my mind.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I'm in the organized minority. Shopping for us means getting into the car for a purposeful trip, so saving time and gas isn't insignificant over the long run. Here in the East Bay we are blessed with Berkeley Bowl and great farmers' markets. My husband does the Bowl run, usually about once a week. As much as I appreciate its existence, the Bowl makes me claustrophobic and my desire to get the hell out makes me a bad shopper. I usually do the mid-week errands for misc stuff as needed. The farmers' market is an outing we do together on the weekend. 

 

I plan menus for 5-6 days. We eat fish and chicken about once a week, otherwise we mostly eat vegetarian, although I do use meat and poultry stocks for soup. On major shopping days we eat fish that first night. I don't always cook my meals in the order expected, and sometimes I scrap my plans because I just feel like something different. Toward the end of the week our meals are kitchen sink: using up bits and pieces, being creative or deciding that organic popcorn and a G&T is a perfectly respectable dinner. Especially if there is some good chocolate around for dessert.

 

Surely shopping habits don't just depend on personality type, but on where you live and how walkable your markets are. But yes, we are organized by most standards. You should see the pre-printed Berkeley Bowl shopping list my husband designed according to how he moves through the store and what we most frequently purchase. No, you probably don't need to see it, since you might think we were insane.

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My menus for the week are entirely dependant on what is best in the big farmer's market on Sunday.  I'll buy the entire week's veggies and fruit then, and after that I wing it based on how I want to combine those with the various proteins I have available to me.  Meals around my house tend to be heavy on the veggies and protein and light on starch - I'll buy potatoes maybe once a month, 10 lbs at a go, and rice/pasta less frequently than that in 1-2 lb bags.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I make monthly menus, where the  meat is based upon what is on special offer the week of my main shopping.   It isnt  set in stone, what we will eat , if I find that I can make something else out of the same ingredients I might make that  and if there is something special on offer that I can afford and works with my menu I might  have a change of heart  but most often we eat what it say on the menu.

 

But like today, it said  Kassler and carrot bake and we are eating spagbol,  a friend came over with ground meat and  few other things and asked me to make it for dinner so I did, request that  includes free food is always welcomed. 

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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  • 2 years later...

I feel paralyzed about what to cook.  I have acquired a lot of cookbooks over the past couple of years.  I have a subscription to Eatyourbooks.  But I have trouble deciding.  I sit on the couch while watching tv with a pile of books, looking through them.  Sheesh.

 

but I am going to try the suggestions here http://www.thekitchn.com/7-insider-tips-for-getting-more-out-of-your-cookbooks-235215

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I'm different. I seldom cook from cookbooks.

 

By far, my usual method for deciding is to go to the market or supermarket and see what they have which looks good. But I am lucky to live somewhere food is treated much more seasonally than iy often is in the west. Not so many ingredients out-of-season locally but instead imported from the other side of the planet.

 

Alternatively, ideas spring from almost unrelated things I read here and elsewhere. For example, recently @Chris Hennes posted his version of a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe for Shaoxing "small stir-fry" (here). A few days later, I saw the yellow chives used in that recipe, bought some and made something totally different with them.

 

Or I may just remember some old favourite, the memory triggered by nothing in particular and tell myself "you haven't made that in while. You like it!" So, out it comes again.

 

Finally (I think), if I find an unusual or unknown ingredient (it happens a lot here) I tend to buy it, then go home and search for information on it or how to cook it - even sometimes to search to find out what the heck it is. Then I will attempt to cook it. There have been some inedible, frightening failures, but the occasional winner.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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I have an ever growing list of new ideas and an ever growing list of recipes I've made and liked, which I sometimes want to tweak slightly. Every season is a race to make all of those that suit it.

Most of my new recipe ideas are based on flavor combinations I had tasted somewhere or saw online. 

~ Shai N.

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I too like to cook with what is best from the store and seasonally but I also want to use my new cookbooks. My freezer is full of really nice meats/poultry and our grocery stores/local butcher usually have tons of stuff to choose from.  There in lies the rub!

I like the way Chris Hennes cooks from one book and as he said before he really gets to know the author and the book that way. 

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I wing it most of the time based on what's in the fridge/freezer and counter top.  When I'm shopping I buy what looks good or just calls to me.  Sometime I have a vague idea of what I'm going to do with it but that can change on a whim.  I don't meal plan at all and usually just look  in the fridge after work and think, what can I put together whithout taking too long.  Even when doing SV which takes some planning I'm never  exactly certain what the final dish will be.  

 

As as my wife says, "always a surprise". 

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Since I prepare meals only for myself, there is no pressure other than to have something ready to quickly heat up in the microwave during the week.  My meals are based upon what I like to eat, what is on sale, and what I have in the pantry.  Even though I have a copious collection of cookbooks, I rarely refer to them anymore and just fix what I think will be nourishing and taste good.  I cook a big batch on the weekend and put the rest in the freezer and fridge for weeknight meals.  Works for me and I have sufficient variety based on different things being on sale.

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I generally make a plan for the week, shop for that plan on Saturday, follow the plan over the weekend... and then often completely fail to follow it through the rest of the week. One of my favorite after-work techniques is looking through the freezer, fridge and cabinets then waiting patiently for something to make itself. That plan never seems to work too well though.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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16 hours ago, Okanagancook said:

I feel paralyzed about what to cook.  I have acquired a lot of cookbooks over the past couple of years.  I have a subscription to Eatyourbooks.  But I have trouble deciding.  I sit on the couch while watching tv with a pile of books, looking through them.  Sheesh.

 

but I am going to try the suggestions here http://www.thekitchn.com/7-insider-tips-for-getting-more-out-of-your-cookbooks-235215

 

@Okanagancook, I think I know what you mean. Sometimes there are too many choices!

 

I love the idea of picking one cookbook and using it for a week. If you have a hard time deciding which cookbook to use, maybe get someone else in the household to pick one that appeals to them. That way, they are invested in the choice and more likely to help out with shopping and prepping, etc. xD

 

One week is enough that you should be able to make good use of any specialty items you have to purchase, but not so long that you get tired of them, ha. 

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