Let's Talk About Meal Planning

jmzmsApril 15, 2008

I've tried so many times to do "meal planning" and somehow always seem to fail at implementation. Life gets in the way, I'm too tired to cook, etc. And it's just DH and I. So, I'm wondering what you successful meal planners are doing...

How do you track it? Scribbled on a piece of paper? Or a more organized fashion (spreadsheet, index cards, etc.) Do you give yourself room to adjust (say cook Wednesday's dinner on Monday because you're more in the mood for Wednesday now)? Or do you stick with the plan no matter what?

How far out do you plan? Do you do a week at a time? A month? Is it a rolling schedule? Or do you sit down on one specific day and plan through day "z", and then on day "x" you do it again?

Do you plan the entree only? Or do you plan all of the sides, etc. also?

What other tips do you have? Thanks!~Michelle

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not an expert on it, but have found a couple things that work better for me. First, figure out what you have, then jot ideas. For instance if I have hamburger, onions, etc, I can make: chili, sloppy joes, spaghetti, hash, cheeseburgers, etc. I'll make a list of those items and possible side dishes so I can go down and grab some things I feel like. I like to list things that will have an expiration date, like eggs, fresh produce, etc.

One other thing is to have a list of "lazy meals". Frozen pizza, grilled cheese, sausage & cheese slices w/crackers, etc.

My biggest problem is I can't plan what nights I'm going to have the ambition to cook a big meal and the nights I'm going to be exhausted.

I've found that by having a list of meal ideas, the days I feel like cooking are much easier. Right now I have a rack of ribs in the freezer that have me drooling but I need a night (or day) that I can do it.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Herein lies the problem! I have no meal plan; just like cynic I can't tell if I'm going to have the ambition to cook or not. I find I have the majority of my energy in the morning. So in the morning I might do a little bit of prep like slicing onions or vegetables or at least leave a note for my teen to do it as soon as he gets home from school. Or else I may have ingredients for a crock pot meal and that feels good getting dinner out of the way before I leave for work.

I do have an idea of things I can make but have never been able to impliment a PLAN. The most I can see ahead is a few meals and I feel sly as a fox if I can get something in the freezer for future use! I love hearing what works for other people. Without other human advice I wouldn't even want to know where I'd be!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 4:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Alas, I also have the planning problem. It's just DH and I, and I try to cook in bulk, but that doesn't seem to help much. Many of our meals are just a protein and starch.

DH could almost care less what he eats, so I don't have much motivation to plan. My biggest issue is getting enough veggies into our diet. Neither one of us likes them very much!

I try to catch most episodes of Robin Miller's show on Food Network. She seems to plan well and makes things that have lots of flexibility. I might wind up buying her book just to get firmer ideas.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 5:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I was married, I was a planning whiz. My husband wanted a large variety of food at each meal. Not just meat, potatoes and salad. He wanted meat, a couple vegetables, a couple salads, and a bread. (And no he didn't get fat because he only wanted a spoonful of each.) Anyway, every week on Wed (sale day at the grocery store) I would sit down and plan meals for the week. I wrote a menu for each day. Took that list to the store and bought every item on the menu. Didn't have much clutter or extra stuff in the cupboard because I used up what I bought each week. Left overs were OK, for example we would have potato salad for three nights if we had slaw or garden salad too. Pot roast OK twice if we had mashed potatoes one night and baked the next. It was very easy. In fact it was easier than trying to put together meals from whatever happened to be in the house on any given day.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was raised in a house where we knew what we were having for dinner by what day of the week it was! We had 7 different dinners and that was it. How boring is that? I didn't know any different and thought everyone ate that way. Now, years later, I love to try new recipes and, as my husband says, he never knows what he might be having for dinner. I do try to have 2 meatless meals a week, however. My husband loves salmon (we get it fresh and canned at Cosco) and says he would eat that every night but I don't care for it so much so it only appears once every 2 weeks. We eat mostly chicken and fish and ground beef. Long ago I made a "master" list of all the entrees/side dishes, that I prepare so if I'm stuck for something for dinner I usually go to that for inspiration.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 12:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For those of you struggling with even attempting a meal plan, I think the easiest way to start is with some C.O.S.T. cooking ideas (cook once, serve twice). I am the Queen of Best Intentions....I intend to get organized, clean house, do once a month cooking etc. ha ha. I always double the batches of my main dishes or meats so that I can create cook dinner with virtually no work the next meal. For example, If you are making enchilada chicken, then double the amount so that the first night you have the chicken over rice, the next night you have chicken enchilada soup and if you have been ambitious and you have tripled your chicken, then the very last pieces can be torn up for a great chicken taco salad. Once you start thinking like that, it becomes so easy to meal plan (without the "meal plan.") I have it easy with Homemade Gourmet because I can type in what I have on hand and they will print out menu suggestions, recipe list and do the meal plan for me if I want. Such a great benefit.

blessings on this never ending journey,

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy family dinners with Homemade Gourmet

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 7:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am no longer interested in fixing large meals. There are just the 2 of us also; hubby is a meat and potato guy; I can do with a couple of slices of cheddar cheese and a few crackers.

Saturday the temp was 97 with 110 index. Even with a/c I didn't feel like cooking.

By now you make be thinking I am coming up with some answers. Nope! LOL. I was browsing this forum looking for somethings to cook.

I don't really care for cooking a large portion of meat (even ground beef) but I do portion it out into servings before freezing. I will use the crockpot for a roast that can later be sandwiches or a second meal, in the winter stew or soup.

I think that by now it has come down to what do we like? DH likes pork chops, and ribeye steaks (which I buy in bulk on sale and have it sliced free); He will eat spaghetti, lasagne, taco salad or chili, and a mixed platter of summer sausage, cheese cubes, apple and crackers.

I don't mind the above but if he isn't home, I would probably have oatmeal, green salad, or peanut butter sandwich on toast.

So that is what I buy along with a few frozen veggies in a bag so I can pour out a serving to heat. An occasional ham steak; a sweet potato to go with ham or pork chops. We don't eat fish except fried catfish (pure southerners) and we eat out for that.

Yes itis a limited meal plan, but no sense buying lots of stuff that doesn't get eaten.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 4:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I follow weight watchers and I find that if I plan out our weekly menu it's easier, I eat healthier and it's much less expensive, though I will admit there were weeks (especially while house hunting) where everything got messed up. It's difficult to be dedicated to this, but when we don't (I mean, when I don't) plan we either eat out or eat pasta. I have a huge list of food blogs that I go to for ideas. We also eat very little meat during the week because we do not support factory farms and cannot really afford the meat otherwise. We have DH daughter on weekends, so we save the meat meals for then, otherwise it's just the 2 of us. I do the planning and buy the groceries, DH cooks, but I do get his OK on the chosen meals. So, here is what I do.

Sometime during the weekend I check out what we have left that needs to be used up and write that down. Then I ask DSD and DH if they have any requests for the next weekend. Then I start searching/reading my food blogs and weight watchers cook books. I find recipes or whatever for dinners Sunday - Saturday night, and either more for lunches, or plan the dinners to be bigger to accommodate extra portions. Then I get "approval" from DH. I write up 2 lists (I like to write things down). 1 is each recipe's ingredients. The other is all the items we need from the store. This way if I get to the store and need to eliminate one of the recipes or make some other change, I can check all the recipes and see if that will cause changes anywhere else.

We do the shopping Sunday. I try to plan for an easy meal for Sunday night cuz who wants to do all that work after shopping? Otherwise, each meal does not have a set day. It seems like a lot of work, but honestly, our grocery bill has dropped dramatically, and it's so much easier to come home and check the list for dinner then to come home tired at the end of the day to a bunch of random groceries and say "hm, what can we make out of this", which is when we end up eating out, not cost effective.

Life does get in the way, he does get too tired to cook, but I do try to plan some simple meals for the worst days. Grilled veggie burgers is one of them. He wants to make up a spreadsheet of meals we've tried and rate them for easy picking when I don't have time to plan.

This week is bad because my back is very injured and I've been in a lot of pain since Saturday. I don't think it even occurred to him to plan or go shopping :( But my appetite is pretty much gone, so we can have pasta all week if he wants LOL I'd like to eventually get to the once or twice a month cooking, but that's a very long term goal!

I hope this ramble helped someone!!!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 6:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The struggle I've experienced is trying to figure out what to do with all the lovely vegetables that come in my CSA box from the local farm. I don't know what I'm getting until the night before, and it's hard to sync that up with meal planning and grocery shopping. I finally decided to literally make a meal planner that addresses that issue, but it can also be helpful for folks who keep some stuff in the freezer and pantry, and then get the urge to cook when they have energy, like described above. I totally hear that!

So just enter what produce you have on hand, and the meal planning tool will bring back a list of relevant and healthy recipes to pick from. I use it to plan a week at a time, but it can also be used for just one meal - very flexible.

I hope this helps you guys out!


Here is a link that might be useful: EatRealGood - Meal Planning and More

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 9:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My DH works 12 hour swing shifts. 2 days of days, 2 days off, 3 nights and so on. Meal planning is almost impossible with any perishables. If I miss the day it was supposed to be cooked by the time I cook again (when he comes off nights) it is most likely spoiled, especially this time of year. I will print out a recipe that looks good buy the non perishable items on my weekly (or bi-weekly) trip and then on my way home that night I will stop and get the perishables. It does mean some extra trips but the store is literally on the way home and I figure I am still saving money because we don't end up throwing spoiled food away.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 8:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used to plan meals, but I would not plan them for a certain day. If I have the ingredients on hand then I could fix the meal for what ever day I wanted. I do plan meals for company coming and special meals and such though. I keep a notebook ahead of time what I hope to fix. I found it easier not to plan a meal for a certain day because who knows what that day might bring! I might not be home or I might be eating out!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 8:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hear ya on the energy and the heat of 100 plus! Zaps the energy and then add diabetes to that and you have even less energy. Then add a retired DH and you have even less! lol
anyway I came here also looking for a fast or just ideas on cooking. I am doing a lof ot canning this year in hopes it will get me out of the kitchen more. Canning things like salsa, tomatoes, and beans, and going to do some boiled chicken and some ground meat so I will have that and wont have to always worry about thawing out something fast.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 3:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've had a tough time with meal planning too!
I used to spend a great deal of time shopping, because I didn't plan ahead, so I would go often to get what I was making for the day.
And I would end up buying whatever I felt like making at the time ... often something fast.

Then I got great advice from a friend.
Sit down with your family and ask what they like to eat (Spaghetti, Meat Loaf, Mac & Cheese, Tuna Melts, etc).
Then find out how many times a month they would like to eat it. (Spaghetti is weekly at my house!)
In short order, you can come up with a meal plan for a week or a month, that you can re-use over and over (my plan changes a bit though, since I like to surprise them some).
Based on my friend's advice, I went shopping much less often, and when I did go, I could buy some things in bulk (savings!).
I saved even more money because by clipping coupons, since I knew what I was making for the next week or two.

I used to think of meal planning as a chore, but now I realize I like doing it - I'm in control of my family's diet, and am saving money! (A lot!!!).
I feel great about that.

Recently, I've explored some websites to make meal planning even easier, and I found a fun one. CookPlan.com is a great free site that
lets me add recipes (or copy other recipes with 1 click!), choose what recipes I want to make, and then lets me plan meals on a calendar.
Then I just print a shopping list (Cook Plan . com creates the shopping list for me). I'm having fun with it, and recommend it!

Here is a link that might be useful: CookPlan.com is great for meal planning

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 10:42PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Sauce Freezing Question
Hi all. This may seem like a silly question, but I'd...
Freezer Cooking for 2
My parents are caring for my terminally ill uncle....
For those of you with food savers
Do you reuse the bags? If so, is there an easy way...
crock pot,is that what this is?
I pulled it out, got it as a wedding gift, used it...
Preparing meals to freeze
Hello I make a lot of meals and freeze them. My daughter...
Sponsored Products
Peer Chaise Outdoor Patio Set of 4 in Brown White
$1,099.00 | LexMod
Lovebird Jewelry Tree
$24.99 | Dot & Bo
Manhattan Bar Stool
Grandin Road
Safavieh Area Rug: Cambridge Light Blue/Ivory 8' x 10'
Home Depot
Capacious Famished Bowl - White - Tse & Tse
$69.00 | HORNE
Dynasty 19 3/4" High Transitional Swing Arm Wall Lamp
Lamps Plus
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™