Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Menu Planning

Tomato soup, grilled cheese, and brownie pudding... I think I've got a dinner all planned out for this week. :)

Do the rest of you all plan menus for the week or month? We did for a couple of months and really liked it, but it was more effort than I usually want to put into meals. I'm just curious as to how y'all handle things. I might get back into meal-planning again, especially as it's more efficient and economical.

-- SJ


Ben, Kyri & Rachelle said...

I do haphazard menu planning. I have a list of recipes I don't make often interspersed with routine favorites. But I can never stick to a schedule. If I plan something for Monday, chances are I won't feel like eating (or making) it that day. So it is a rough plan for the week, flexible as to which day we'll have what. :) rlr

Queen of Carrots said...

I do semi-haphazard menu planning, too, but in the opposite way: I'm pretty sure for a week in advance of the parameters of what I will cook each day, based on our schedule for the week. (Say, chicken Monday, beans Tuesday, something in the crockpot Wednesday). What it actually turns out being depends strongly on my mood of the day. And since I don't follow recipes if I can help it, we hardly ever have the exact same thing twice. I would like to create a list of meals we definitely want to repeat so I don't forget something we really like.

According to Amy Dacyzyn, the guru of ultra-cheap living, advance menu-planning is actually not the best way to save money. It's better to buy what's on sale when it comes on sale, and then cook based on what you have in your cupboard. Takes a while to get a system like that figured out, though.

SM said...

I come and go with my meal planning. The times I plan ahead and use what's in the cupboards is very time-saving, but I don't always like to sit down and plan, mostly because I eat by feelings. "What do I feel like eating tonight?" I ask Nathan that question and he is usually answers, "I don't know. What do we have? Give me options." While I operate more on a... "I feel like pasta" or "I feel like Mexican" or "I feel like I need more vegetables, let's have a salad."

For the most part I just grab whatever sounds good out of the freezer or cupboards. The most annoying part is if I don't have all the ingredients necessary. Sometimes I improvise... sometimes it means a trip to the store to quench my craving.

Anonymous said...

I operate on the controlled chaos model, which integrates a random mix of good ideas, basic staples, flexibility, creativity, and spontaneity. I don't plan specifically for each day, but I sort of mentally map out week by week. And I shop substantially by the sales, so I almost always have a well-stocked larder to fall back upon, so that really opens up my options.

Pretty much it depends on what I'm in the mood for and what I have the energy for. We have a few favourites that take more work and that we have less frequently, and then of course the old standbys.

Usually I group things by meat base, and build around that. I also start out on the weekends, and live off of that. For instance, roasting a chicken in the oven takes a few hours, so that's obviously not a put-it-in-the-oven thing when I get home from work. This is a random and unplanned meal and is based on supply and demand. (Just recently Michael told me, 'Hey! We have six dead chickens in the freezer!') Usually we'll have roast chicken only on Sunday nights, so I pop it in the oven after church and then cook mashed potatoes and candied carrots sometime in the afternoon (Michael does the gravy). If I feel like making biscuits I'll make them in the toaster oven. Then after dinner Michael will pick the meat off the carcass while I read to him, and we'll put the leftover meat in a tupperware container, and I'll have chicken dishes all week:

Chicken casserole (w/cornbread & leftover gravy - very simple and quite good)
Walnut chicken & rice (oriental dish - stove top, so good for quick fixes)
Honey mustard chicken
Chicken with noodles

Or I'll be at a loss for a meal, and fall back on spaghetti. This is good, as I always make way more sauce than I need and end up making spaghetti pie later in the week.

Sometimes when ground beef goes on sale for $0.99/lb., I'll stock up in 5 lb. quantities. This necessitates cutting it all up that night and subdividing it in small ziploc freezer bags. Sometimes this happens. If it doesn't then I have a 5 lb. block of ground beef defrosting at a time, which means it's going to be a ground beef week:

Layered casserole/shepherd's pie
Meatloaf and green bean casserole

I'm sure I could put a lot more planning into my meals, and there are a lot of avenues I haven't explored yet. Just recently I started making my own refried beans, and we're very pleased with the results - they need to simmer for a while, so it's obviously started on a weekend. We've had chips and beans and salsa for Sunday lunch several times, as a tide-me-over until supper, and then I use up the leftover beans in enchiladas or some other mexican dish.

If fish goes on sale I'll buy that and freeze it - usually catfish nuggets can go pretty cheaply. They freeze well, defrost quickly, and make a great quick and easy meal with rice. Fish is sort of in its own category, and doesn't really relate to any other theme. (Except leftover cooked fish and leftover mashed potatoes make nice [salmon] croquettes.)

Whatever dish it is, though, I make large quantities and almost always get another meal out of it later that week, not to mention a lunch or two. So I really have to think of only three or four meals a week.