13 February 2016

Weekend Cooking: More on Meal Planning

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

adventures in meal planning @ www.BethFishReads.comI've written about my conversion to meal planning before, including a few lessons learned, but I haven't talked about some of my favorite resources and the details of my plan.

Setting up & basic plan: Although we rarely repeat a meal (I'm kind of crazy like that), I do follow the same basic structure each week, which helps me home in on creating our weekly dinner plan. Everyone is different, but for us, I plan 1 fish, 2 meat/chicken, and 3 vegetarian meals each week. I leave one day open for leftovers or for going out.

Except for the fish, which we eat the day we buy it, I don't assign any of the dinners a particular night, which allows us flexibility according to our moods or schedule.

Broad outline: I usually start by having an idea of what I want to eat or cook. Initially, these are broad categories, like soup, Mexican, curry, or on the grill. Once I've got a vague sense of what I think I want to cook, I start the recipe hunt to find the specific meals.

What's 4 Dinner from www.BakedBree.comRecipe sources: Besides my cookbooks, my favorite places to find recipes are magazines and trusted bloggers (like you!). If that fails, I do a general Internet or Pinterest search.

Whoa, wait! Magazines? Yes, magazines. I subscribe to a magazine service called Texture, where I find the majority of the new recipes I try. If you don't want to pay for a service, check out your local library. Most libraries in the United States offer Zinio, which allows you free online access to all kinds of magazines, including cooking magazines.

Final steps: After I have found my recipes, I write them in on the very cool What's 4 Dinner planner page shown here. (You can download your own from Baked Bree by clicking on the link, which will also take you to Bree's meal planning post, which includes some her favorite resources for getting started.) Then I print out or copy all my recipes, and fill out the grocery list. Finally, I clip the recipes to the planning page and hang the stack on my refrigerator for easy access. (I just ignore the days of the week; I'm too lazy to make my own form)

Example: Last week, my broad categories were Super Bowl Sunday snack dinner, fish, pasta, chili, curry, and beans. We ended up having chicken wings as part of the Super Bowl dinner, grilled salmon with roasted broccoli, Brussels sprouts and leek pasta with a salad, beef chili with French fries, root vegetable curry stew with a salad (see photo), and black beans and rice and salad. Note that when I made my broad categories, I didn't know which meals would be vegetarian; I let my recipe search dictate that.

During the week: If a dinner turns out not to be one we'd like to repeat, I toss the recipe. If it's a winner, I try to find a copy online to pin to my tried and liked Pinterest board, noting any changes I made. If I can't find a copy online, then I insert the printout into one of my recipe notebooks so I can find it again.

Bonus: I used to throw out my planner page at the end of the week, but I've been inspired by Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity, and I've started saving them so I can track our 2016 dinners. I loved seeing Trish's stats from last year and can't wait to make my own pie charts.


Mae Travels 2/13/16, 6:09 AM  

Happily, I'm traveling, won't have to plan any meals for another week! Your ideas look good but I've never been that organized myself.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Tina 2/13/16, 6:54 AM  

Great plan. I do weekly menus too and like you, don't assign a particular meal to any one day. My journal keeps me straight on what I made before and planning.

Karen 2/13/16, 7:48 AM  

Thanks for the tip about Zinio—I will see whether my library offers it.

Unknown 2/13/16, 7:48 AM  

Your planning ideas sound wonderful. I don't cook much. Our weekly choices are very sporadic with usually something like Pizza or Hardee's thrown in. It makes it difficult to lose weight. One of my plans this year is to sort through the paper recipes and books I have and keep what I've liked and used as well as sharing the best ones on my blog.

Molly 2/13/16, 7:56 AM  

When the kids were home, I'd rely on the same ole recipes all the time. When they were young, they were not adventurous eaters, and I was not willing to endure the complaining :)

However, now that we are empty-nesters, I desire to return to the kitchen in a creative way - attempting new recipes in broad categories. You offer some great suggestions here to help me achieve that goal.

jama 2/13/16, 8:16 AM  

Wow, impressed with your plan -- so organized and efficient. :) Wish I could make a reasonable plan and stick with it -- difficult to do with a traveling husband who makes last minute trips, etc. I've learned to be spontaneous and flexible, which is basically against my basic nature . . . sigh.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 2/13/16, 8:26 AM  

I wish I was more of a planner, but these days with just the 2 of us we eat out a lot and I usually only cook a big meal 2-3 times a week. I do love looking through cookbooks and thinking about trying new things LOL

bermudaonion 2/13/16, 9:13 AM  

I'm not cooking much these days but was never this well prepared even when I was cooking.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 2/13/16, 9:41 AM  

Interesting about the online Library service. I did not know about that! I wish I was better at planning meals but i usually decide the day of by going by what sounds good or seeing what someone else is making on Facebook or here :)

Deb in Hawaii 2/13/16, 10:59 AM  

You are so organized--I admire that! Your vegetable curry stew looks delicious too. ;-)

rhapsodyinbooks 2/13/16, 11:18 AM  

I think I am doing great to plan one day ahead! LOL

Margot 2/13/16, 11:24 AM  

Wow - I am blown away by your organizational skills when it comes to meal planning. I've been feeling the need to do something different. I missed your past tips on meal planning so thanks for the link on that. I also like the idea of being able to look back at a record of what you've eaten. I've become very haphazard with meal planning since I retired, but lately I'm feeling like I'd like to get back on track. This is good timing for me. Thanks.

Carole 2/13/16, 2:17 PM  

I tend to work from day to day with food. I'm not sure forward planning would work for me. Cheers

shelleyrae @ book'd out 2/14/16, 7:41 AM  

My meal plan gets scribbled on a bit of notepaper and clipped to my fridge. Like you though I have a rough weekly outline, 1 fish meal, 2 chicken meals, 3 red meat meals and 1 freezer meal. I do stick to an order though because I have to work around kids evening activities and my husband's schedule. Planning just makes everything easier:)

Laurie C 2/14/16, 12:12 PM  

You guys and your stats! ;)
Congratulations on the impressive menu planning! My husband does a lot of the cooking, and if I were to start cooking all the dinners, he'd have to do all the dinner clean-up, so he wouldn't be too happy about that, since I tend to try to cook too many complex dishes at once and can't keep up with clean-up as I go!

Debbie 2/14/16, 2:32 PM  

While I do love to cook, I hate to cook during the week, after work. This is our week: I cook on Sunday, have leftover on Monday, my husband works late on Tuesday so it's popcorn for me and a sandwich for him. Wed--I usually cook something (but I never know what it will be.) Thursday are $1 Taco nights at a local Mexican restaurant and Fridays we spend with our friends either their house or ours, so I do 'entertaining' cooking on every other Friday. Saturday? It's always open for ????
But I love, Love, LOVE keeping track of menus and meals. In fact, I have a notebook that I try to keep track in. I might join you all in really documenting my meals this year. Good company.

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/14/16, 4:37 PM  

I love the What's 4 Dinner planner, I'm going to download that. And I loved Trish's idea, what a great resource.

Jackie McGuinness 2/14/16, 6:04 PM  

I usually have a loose plan in my head and a good idea of items on hand. But I will change my mind if something appeals to me.

So glad we will have a kitchen for the next month. Hotels are great but really hard to eat well.

Heidenkind 2/14/16, 11:51 PM  

Can you give us a link to your Pinterest board?

Shanaya Tales 2/15/16, 12:16 PM  

This seems to be an interesting link-up; totally up my alley. Will surely participate in the future. :)

Jan 2/21/16, 9:45 AM  

I used to plan meals, but I've gotten away from it. Now I have a vague idea when I go grocery shopping and pick up a few things, but I think I should go back to meal planning. Great post and I love your meal planning page and the sources you use. Great ideas!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 3/1/16, 11:46 AM  

So organized!!! I've started keeping track of our monthly meals in my...wait for it...bullet journal! It really has been helpful to see just how often we eat a meal or what we haven't eaten in a while. I like your idea to do themed type meals and then drill down from there. Our dinners are so much smoother when I have a plan in place, but coming up with the plan is painful! I can't really figure out why I have such a tough time with it.

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