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LaurieB

How do you decide what to cook

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I usually plan something out based on a recipe in a cookbook that looks interesting, or from a magazine or video, then realize my arthritis is too bad for the amount of effort involved and wing it with something I make up based on what I have on hand that is quick and easy. I hate my arthritis.

 

Becsuse I wing it a lot, it is important for me to have a well-stocked pantry so I have the basics available for whatever I decide I want to do.

 

I do browse a local farmer's market type program every week online, also - I don't often buy from them since it's hard to be sure I'll use the fresh produce fast enough to be worth paying the premium for fresh and local stuff, but I find it helps me think seasonally to see what they have on offer.

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Ugh. I confess that deciding what to cook on a work weeknight is one of my most despised chores.  I like cooking & eating, of course, but weeknight meal planning sucks.  So I'm one of the staring-at-the-fridge-contents-hoping-a-meal-will-magically-appear types.  On a practical level, I guess I just see what's available at the store, what's in season, what pantry/freezer items I have, and whether I want to cook asian or western.

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Eat Your Books is fantastic for those indecisive moments in the store. Go to the store, figure out the two or three ingredients that are really standing out to you and use your phone to search through your cookbooks at home for interesting ideas involving them.

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PS: I am a guy.

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It's funny - although I've been semi-retired for 2 years now I still follow the pattern I developed when I had 3 "part time" jobs. I read the flyers from the local grocery stores on Saturday, think about the sales and the recipes I like that work with the sale items. On Sunday morning I often spend a while looking through cookbooks and my recipe files over breakfast. And then work out a menu for the entire week. And go shopping. I post the menu on the refrigerator. I really like the feeling of knowing ahead that I am making something we both like and that I have everything I need. I suppose this all stems from many years of working 8:00 to 6:00 and then knowing I have to grade papers after dinner. So probably I need therapy - but actually it works for me. 

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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

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I am a bit like @Shelby.   And like  @quiet1 I face physical challenges that sometimes mean that my complex meal plans become a mere memory at the end of the day.:D But inspiration can frequently come from strange and wonderful sources. An ingredient that needs to be used up, a casual comment somewhere here on eG, something I come across while surfing the web,  a Skype conversation with my sister in England.  Almost anything can be the trigger except the notion of planning more than a couple of hours ahead of time.  

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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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For some reason planning in advance never works for me except for special occasions. If I was just feeding myself it probably would, but usually there has been a household of one type or another (housemates in college, family, housemates now, etc.) and so then other people don't always want whatever was planned, and sometimes you can say 'just eat it anyway' but other times there are complicating factors like my mom being on chemo and having less appetite so you feed her what she feels like, that sort of thing. So planning ends up feeling more work than it is worth.

 

The closest I've come to planning (when my arthritis wasn't as bad) was to plan but not day-by-day. So in a given week I'd be prepared to make meals a, b, c, d, e but it wouldn't matter much which meal came first unless there was something to be used up like salad greens that don't keep well. I had those meals up on a list in the kitchen with notes if there was anything extra needed (like if I hadn't purchased salad greens on the weekend because we wouldn't be home for dinner at the start of the week) and then when it was close to time to start cooking whoever was cooking and whomever had special needs could get together and see what looked good. That worked reasonably well, especially while my housemate worked near a Trader Joe because it was trivial for him to pick up anything particularly perishable on the way home, so I didn't have fresh herbs wilting accusingly at me in the fridge all week. :)

 

I keep trying to make freezer cooking work (make up a big batch of something and freeze it) but around here if you've smelled up the whole house making a huge vat of chili, there is mutiny if you try to squirrel some of it away for later. Maybe I just need a bigger pot so people have enough to get sick of it? :D

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4 hours ago, quiet1 said:

I do browse a local farmer's market type program every week online, also - I don't often buy from them since it's hard to be sure I'll use the fresh produce fast enough to be worth paying the premium for fresh and local stuff, but I find it helps me think seasonally to see what they have on offer.

 

I do this exact same thing, sometimes I can't think of a particular pairing for a protein or something, and inevitably I'll browse through the "weekly harvest" list from the co-ops around here in Nor Cal. I always seem to be struck with an idea or two just from seeing what is in season and fresh nearby.

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I do a lot of intermittent fasting...16 hour...20 hour...24 hour.....2 day... 3 day.

There's little doubt what I want to eat after a good fast. :D

 

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~Martin :)

I try to find the good food in every situation!

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Method A - I ponder food all day as I work and develop a good idea of the dinner to come   30%

 

Method B - Dinner sneaks up on me and I see what I have on hand at the last minute    45%

 

Method C - I think about dinner well in advance and carefully plan what I'm going to cook  10%

 

Method C - Eat out 15%

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Thanks, @Okanagancook, for resurrecting this thread.  It's given me some good food for thought.  I'd always followed a regular routine of planning around the farmers market or my CSA box, doing most cooking on weekends, focused on dishes that I'd freeze in individual servings for at-work lunches, and occasional mid-week pasta or soup/bread/salad dinners.   I kept a mental nutrition checklist of foods that I wanted to include on a regular basis (beans, tofu, cruciferous veg, dark green leafies, fresh fruit, etc) that provided some guidance. I haven't been working for a while so I have more flexibility to try new things but I need a better way to keep track of recipes or ideas that I want to try.  

 

On 12/2/2016 at 3:21 PM, Shalmanese said:

Eat Your Books is fantastic for those indecisive moments in the store. Go to the store, figure out the two or three ingredients that are really standing out to you and use your phone to search through your cookbooks at home for interesting ideas involving them.

I have tried this at the farmers market and had trouble reading my tiny phone screen in the brilliant mid-afternoon sunshine but I need to give it another shot. I'm going to try using the bookmark feature in Eat Your Books to keep track of recipes that I want to try. I like that I can enter my own recipes or add recipes from un-indexed sources.  

 

I recently borrowed 2 cookbooks from my library.  In order to get the most from my 2 weeks with them, I've been going through them carefully, taking notes, marking recipes or ideas that I'd like to explore.  I usually do that to some extent with a new cookbook, but knowing it's going to be handy on my shelf, I don't take such careful notes.  I need to set myself a goal to do this with some of the books I own from time to time.  

 

I'm hoping that by marking things in EYB as I think of them,  with occasional deep-dives into selected cookbooks, I can build a "To-Try" list in EYB that should help me actually use more new ideas and recipes.  Time will tell if I can make it work.


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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I have been bookmarking recipes I want to try.  That list is quite big now and I should have paid more attention to detail so it would be easier to find what I am looking for. 

For example, one of the bookmark folders I created is entitled "WTM Veggies" (what to make) and I put all the veggie recipes in that folder.  Well, there are over 200 recipes in there!  Unfortunately the website doesn't let you move bookmarked recipes from folder to folder.  If I were to do it again, I would make a folder for each veggie and maybe a miscellaneous folder for less common veggies.

 

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7 minutes ago, Okanagancook said:

I have been bookmarking recipes I want to try.  That list is quite big now and I should have paid more attention to detail so it would be easier to find what I am looking for. 

For example, one of the bookmark folders I created is entitled "WTM Veggies" (what to make) and I put all the veggie recipes in that folder.  Well, there are over 200 recipes in there!  Unfortunately the website doesn't let you move bookmarked recipes from folder to folder.  If I were to do it again, I would make a folder for each veggie and maybe a miscellaneous folder for less common veggies.

 

 

Good point.  I should give some thought about how I want this to work.  I was envisioning searching for an ingredient (or maybe two....like dang, wasn't there something that used blueberries and cucumbers????) that looked especially enticing at the market and specifying that the results show only those recipes with my "To Try" bookmark.  

I was hoping that this might also help me identify recipes that I've wanted to try but was missing buttermilk or mint or something. 

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I would recommend you take a look at the help section of EYB concerning the use of bookmarks.

If you want to search ALL of your 'to try' recipes then you would have to put them all in one bookmark folder because you can only search one bookmark folder at a time.

You can however, put a recipe in more than one bookmark folder.  So you could do a 'to try salads' for example.  

 

I have mine arranged in type of dish:  salads, poultry, vegetables, sauces, condiments, etc.  I search a specific folder because I am usually looking for a type of dish.

 

Hope that helps.

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There's also this, for when you want to cast a broad and non-specific net in search of inspiration. I've used it off and on for years (research is a large part of my freelancing life, and I used to read Tara's newsletter regularly). 

 

 


“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Interesting site!  I sent it to my brother who uses internet recipes a lot.

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1 hour ago, Okanagancook said:

Interesting site!  I sent it to my brother who uses internet recipes a lot.

My way to use Google has introduced me to so many different ways of preparing ingredients.  I simply type in "what can I make with xxxx".  Sometimes I find something totally new and sometimes just a reminder of something I've done in the past.  Sometimes I will include two or three ingredients. I rarely  use any of the specific recipes but rather riff off the suggestions.  

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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 usually start with  the fridge.  Can't figure it out but I always have leftovers and things waiting to be cooked.  

 

To quote Calvin Trillin:

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” 

 

No matter how hard I try to buy only what is needed for today's meal, there are always other things that manage to sneak into my shopping cart.  Bargains, rarely available items, particularly marbled piece of meat.  There are also leftovers from the meals that are intermittently delivered to the office.  I can not let those die in vain.

 

For example, tomorrow we are going to have white chili made with left over pieces of roasted chicken.  But today I am going to a business dinner and will have left overs for sure, so those will have to be re purposed on Thursday.  And I soaked way to many beans for the chili so there will be bean salad on Friday.  I would really like to buy a piece of fish to cook but I already have things!  Need intervention, please help.

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I thawed a pound of ground beef last week to make tacos. It's still in the refrigerator, in its package. I've got to use it. That's the impetus for a lot of my meal planning today for what we're having tonight.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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On 12/2/2016 at 4:08 PM, FauxPas said:

 

@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. 

 

I wanted to get some ideas for meal planning, something at which I am spectacularly bad.  I like the idea of picking a cookbook and making meals from just that book for a week, then moving on to the next book.  I have many cookbooks and after the initial look-through they get put on the shelf and are rarely looked at.  This would at least force me to use them.  Maybe not a whole week, that would be too organized.  Maybe start small, 3 days, perhaps?

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On 12/6/2016 at 8:30 AM, chromedome said:

There's also this, for when you want to cast a broad and non-specific net in search of inspiration. I've used it off and on for years (research is a large part of my freelancing life, and I used to read Tara's newsletter regularly). 

 

 

 

I did not know this existed.  It'll come in handy, thank you.

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4 hours ago, ElsieD said:

I wanted to get some ideas for meal planning, something at which I am spectacularly bad.

 

There's a site called The Dinner Daily which gives you meal plans and shopping lists for some of your local stores, based on the flyer sales. Unfortunately, only in the US as far as I know. But it's free for two weeks, if you wanted to give it a try anyway! 

 

I'm thinking of trying it out next time we are in the US for an extended visit. I don't think they include smaller stores, like Trader Joe's, unfortunately. 

https://thedinnerdaily.com/

 

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Whatever falls out of the freezer and smashes a  toe when i open the door gets ate that day.

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I usually have a good variety of entree-makings in the freezer, and a fairly well stocked pantry, so a lot of it's what I feel like, what the temp outdoors is, and who all is going to be there to eat -- don't want to cook a whole pot roast or Italian roast chicken for two people. Sometimes it's something in the fridge that needs to be used. Sometimes it's beccause there's leftovers that lend themselves to recycling. Sometmes it's because I read something that sounds interesting, and decide to make it.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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