Meal planning/Lists/etc?

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A co-worker who considers me fair game to ask for all things food related wanted to know if there were any websites that would let them plan out a month's worth of meals, letting him enter his family's likes and dislikes, and then print him out a shopping list. I was dumbfounded, and couldn't decide if this was brilliant or insane. (Later I decided: insane.) Do people actually do this? Granted we have our setlist of favorites and quick-n-cheap, but I'd much rather go to the market and see what looks good and what's fresh than tie it down to something a month in advance.

Jaq (Jaq), Tuesday, 24 January 2006 04:06 (eighteen years ago) link

There used to be CD-ROM programs and whatnot that I think helped you do this -- it was also a bit insane then but I didn't cook so I didn't even play with it. I don't remember what it was called. Just make the same thing every day, is my advice, and multiply by somewhere between 28 and 31.

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 24 January 2006 06:15 (eighteen years ago) link

That does sound insane. Decide what you want the day before, shop for it at lunchtime, cook it in the evening. How difficult is that?

Johnny B Was Quizzical (Johnney B), Tuesday, 24 January 2006 12:45 (eighteen years ago) link

Do you have kids Johnny?

Miss Misery xox (MissMiseryTX), Thursday, 26 January 2006 18:27 (eighteen years ago) link

I can see planning and shopping for a week - and this is what I did when my kids were small. But planning and shopping for the month in advance just seems over the top to me. Yet, I'm also the person who bought a 3-year supply of bay leaves and generally has either a whole pig or half a cow in the freezer and who jellies quarts of stock to have on hand.

Still, I don't really plan meals. We keep a well-stocked pantry and larder instead and can throw interesting things together impromptu. Also, we eat later than most people with kids, so it's no stress to prep and put something on to cook at 6 that won't be ready for an hour or so.

Jaq (Jaq), Thursday, 26 January 2006 18:46 (eighteen years ago) link

Being prepared with a full larder so you can just throw things together is different from planning meals out (a month!) in advance so you can buy the food to make those meals, though.

Although I have to say, I am all for this sort of madness, if you can pull it off.

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 27 January 2006 00:26 (eighteen years ago) link

Hmm, I do plan for the next couple of days. This makes it easier if I have leftover veggies from the previous day which I can use in other meals. For example: I'll buy spring onions for my salmon & egg dish and then I'll also buy mushrooms for oyakudon (Japanese chicken and egg dish). It saves money, I guess, but most of all I don't like to throw away food.

I can see why it's insane but if you don't have much time, I can understand you want to try out this month long meal planning thing. Not that I'd do it. Never evah. I'm not that kuh-razee.

Nathalie (stevie nixed), Wednesday, 1 February 2006 09:36 (eighteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

We have a bad tendency to not grocery shop or eat actual meals when we're busy, so I'm trying to create weekly meal plan. My general plan is to make something that will generate a couple of days of leftovers on Sunday (ie roast chicken last week, big pot of chicken and rice soup this week, probably this big pork loin we've had in the freezer for a month next week), fill in the remaining days with the ever elusive "easy weeknight meals" (ymmv re what exactly constitutes "easy" but for me it's one pot, minimal prep), and make a store list based on the plan.

Does anybody do this? What works for you? What have you found to be burdensome or unsustainable? Bonus questions: what are your favorite meals that generate leftovers and/or your favorite "easy weeknight meals"?

carl agatha, Monday, 2 December 2013 13:30 (ten years ago) link

urgh I like cooking but I feel like my life is dominated by trying to work out what to eat and yet never having anything in the house to make a decent meal out of unless I specifically plan it.
I used to not have a car so would stop off on foot on the way home most days and get most things fresh, just decide on the day what to make. (Would get a grocery delivery for tins, staples like pasta, etc).
Now going to the supermarket in my car is kind of more of a hassle, but it's a huge shop so I don't have to traipse around 3 tiny Tescos to find leeks or whatever. Anyway this means I try and shop for several days or even a week at a time but it's quite a shift in attitude for me.
I'll always shop to a recipe and generally attempt to use up stuff but this doesn't always happen. Anyway, this week I made basic pasta today, with leftovers for tomorrow lunch, going out for dinner tomorrow, planning on a curry for Weds and a big chilli for Fri and Sat. So just have to think of something a bit less meaty/salty for Thu!
Roast chicken is great for leftover chicken ideas (usually risotto), pasta normally features at least once in the week, and I've recently been making this leek and mackerel penne bake thing all the time bc it's so comforting and easy.
I need more meals that generate two nights' worth though!

kinder, Monday, 2 December 2013 22:33 (ten years ago) link

On the occasion that I buy sliced sandwich meat, I really do love a savory sandwich with avocado and arugula and something spicy on it. Or tuna melts with tomato slices, or roasted brussels sprouts and a bottle of wine. So I might not be a good model for such responsible parental types as yerselfs.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Monday, 2 December 2013 22:43 (ten years ago) link

One pack of Italian sausages will make a couple of different meals--there are a bunch of variations on the sausage + onion + tomato + white bean combo and almost all of it can come out of cans, and whacking apart an onion isn't too much trouble. It still takes SOME time, though, as opposed to just reheating something.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Monday, 2 December 2013 22:46 (ten years ago) link

i have a lot of things to say about this but i don't feel like typing them all out!

carl i will say that the flickr gallery of meals has been very helpful in generating ideas for what to shop for/make that week. also, half of the meals on there were made with leftovers.

also rotisserie chickens are worth it because you can make broth to make risotto to make risotto cakes etc etc etc

sweat pea (La Lechera), Monday, 2 December 2013 23:28 (ten years ago) link

tonight i am making a garbanzo-tomato-potato curry that i will supplement with some samosas or papadam (?) or i dunno, some other frozen thing i have that tastes good and can be thrown in the oven for 20 min while the curry cooks so i have more leftovers as a result and it feeds two of us for two more meals instead of just one. that is how i operate on a most-days basis

sweat pea (La Lechera), Monday, 2 December 2013 23:32 (ten years ago) link

Good grief Kinder I could have written that post word for word, at least until the leek and mackerel casserole.

Two good pasta recipes I make a lot are in the Smitten Kitchen: pasta and broccoli rabe (dead freaking easy) - - and pasta and broccoli rabe and sausage casserole - (involves béchamel so more of a Sunday dinner).

Whole Foods sells frozen broccoli rabe which makes both of those much easier.

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 02:13 (ten years ago) link

basically i do 95% of shopping on sunday, and before i go i write down a meal plan for the week. i'd say we're 80% successful at sticking to it. soups and stews are the best leftovers so i try to make them early in the week. between cookbooks and internet i never lack for stuff to try but i do need to balance things ingredients-wise or else i spend too much.

call all destroyer, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 02:53 (ten years ago) link

in the summer i improv more because i can't go to the farmers market with a firm plan. in the winter things are v. structured.

call all destroyer, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 02:55 (ten years ago) link

I went for about 6 months shopping with meal plans and now I have reached the stage where I can do a lot of it in my head...also I tend to fall back on my 'easy' dishes so that I can manage how much I am spending, and then just change up a new meal every now and then

favorite 2-nighters
roast chicken in the crockpot
turkey chilli
soups of all kinds especially minestrone

the best 2-nighters are the ones that can do two lunches as well :)

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 02:58 (ten years ago) link

xpost yeah cad otm, farmer's market considerations weigh into my meal plans quite a bit

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 02:58 (ten years ago) link

its not hard though, in the summer it's just like buy vegetables and grill stuff.

call all destroyer, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 03:02 (ten years ago) link

VG, I would like to know more about your turkey chili and enchilada recipes! Both of those sound good.

LL, I will check out the Flickr gallery as well!

Yeah, meal planning definitely helps with the budget since I can see how to use ingredients throughout the week instead if using something once and then letting it go bad in the fridge.

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 03:55 (ten years ago) link

LL's flickr gallery is good stuff. I don't even like half the ingredients she uses (vegetables again?) but it a) is beautiful, and b) is super inspiring.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:11 (ten years ago) link

And she's amazing at side-dishes! I'm good with mains but less so with coordinating like two sauces, a salad, a roasted side, this and that.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:12 (ten years ago) link

Since we have a toddler and both work we pretty much have to do some kind of planning. We don't so much sketch out a day-by-day plan, but we have certain standard dishes that we can make in large quantities on the weekend (with variations), like meatballs, roast chicken, stir fries, stews, casseroles, etc. One or both of us will cook one or two of these dishes on a Sunday, and then we'll supplement during the week with quick meals like super-thin fish fillets in the oven. We always keep some kind of chicken, some kind of beef or pork, and some kind of fish stocked in the freezer, as well as things like turkey burgers, hot dogs and sausages that can be made quickly in an emergency.

This weekend I made a huge thing of meatballs, for example, like maybe 2.5-3lbs worth of ground beef. I'd say that gave me, H, and K each at least 2-3 lunches and dinners each plus a good amount of surplus was frozen for future lunches. Then H also made a chicken casserole, so that we're not just stuck eating one dish three days in a row lunch and dinner.

For veggies we basically buy a large amount of lettuce or a large bagged salad, plus certain standards like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, and one or two fresh cookable veggies (like a leafy green, asparagus, etc.) that can be easily sauteed or steamed quickly. We also pretty much always have frozen green beans and frozen broccoli, which are easy to make quickly.

We do nearly all shopping at Costco, and the way we've found to make this work is just to buy fewer different kinds of produce, buy things that are shelf stable or freezable, and know what you will and won't use. For example, their apples come in like 16-packs, but you can keep apples pretty long in the fridge. So maybe we buy one of those every 2-3 weeks. Strawberries otoh go bad pretty fast, but it's easy to finish a big box of strawberries in a week. But you don't buy like strawberries and blueberries and raspberries all at once.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:20 (ten years ago) link

having a lot of glass snapware is really helpful for freezing (another thing you can get at costco)

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:21 (ten years ago) link

When I looked at that "What the World Eats" thing I felt proud that we spent considerably less per week than most of the families (albeit larger ones) in the developed world. Part of it is Costco and planning, part of it is not buying all the extras like chips and drinks.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:22 (ten years ago) link

Hmmm meatballs is a good addition to the Sunday dinner rotation.

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:59 (ten years ago) link

carl here's the turkey chili recipe for u

it's ww, but that is by the bye - i *swear* on my own mother that it's delicious.

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 04:59 (ten years ago) link

Naw girl, it's cool. I still make a few WW recipes, too. Twice baked sweet potatoes are killer ('cept now I use regular cheese instead of low fat nonsense).

Goes like this:

Microwave a couple of sweet potatoes. Scoop out the insides. Mash with sour cream, salt and pepper, cubed Canadian bacon, and if you feel like it, a chipotle pepper in adobo (my brilliant addition). Fill the tater skins with the filling, top with cheese, and stick them under the broiler for a minute. Fast and filling.

Anyway, thanks for the link!

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 05:04 (ten years ago) link

Oh yeah I've been killing the baked potatoes lately. Bake, split open, add cheese, bacon or shredded chicken, chives or scallions, and some Tofutti sour cream and they're the best meal. Yours are more sophisticated, though!

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 05:50 (ten years ago) link

I always bake extras and then slice & skillet brown them the next day, toss in the pan with seasoning and shredded cheese, top with fried egg. Sometimes I crisp up broccoli and/or bell peppers w them too.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 05:52 (ten years ago) link

It seems too simple to be called "meal planning," but if I have potatoes and broccoli and cheese, some eggs maybe, and the cumin and cayenne and adobo peppers in the cupboard or freezer, I'm always going to get fed.

Tottenham Heelspur (in orbit), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 05:54 (ten years ago) link

i can't go to the supermarket without
a. planning exactly what we'll be eating for the coming week
b. making a list of everything i need
c. rewriting the list so it's grouped by location in the supermarket

(and i still always forget at least one thing)

i hate cooking, lack imagination, and would eat frozen meals/chips/chocolate/cereal only, otherwise. i really can't deal with thinking about what to cook when i get home from work, i need to know in advance.

just1n3, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 06:34 (ten years ago) link

lol, I do the grouping on shopping list by location thing, it's one of the more anal things I do. I get annoyed if H makes the list and doesn't group by location. I like to make my circuit around Costco in a specific order, and I can do the whole shop and be out in like 20 mins if I set it up properly.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 06:37 (ten years ago) link

omg yes location grouping

set the controls for the heart of the sun (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 3 December 2013 07:05 (ten years ago) link

Hahahaha yes OTM and also OTM re: partners not grouping the list correctly and ruining my flow. Precision efficiency is key to my grocery shopping happiness.

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 13:10 (ten years ago) link

Oh we have baked potatoes for dinner a lot, and I have included breakfast for dinner one night thus week and I am totally going to bake extra potatoes for eggs a la in orbit! That's a great idea.

carl agatha, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 13:12 (ten years ago) link

count me in with all of you fusspots. xp

estela, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 13:13 (ten years ago) link

i've been baking little baby potatoes lately, they look very appealing swaddled in foil and you get a higher skin to potato inside ratio which goes well with butter and sour cream. obviously you have to eat them in multiples.

estela, Tuesday, 3 December 2013 13:20 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

I've leveled up on meal planning and spent most of yesterday, along with Jeff, making "freezer meals" to toss in the crockpot. We managed to bag up ten of them, two each of Apricot Ginger Chicken, Turkey and Black Bean Chili, Spicy Sausage Soup, Ginger Garlic Chicken, and Beef Stew. Nothing super exotic but solid, Midwestern Mom-style slow cooker fare.

I have spent a good portion of the morning looking for some more interesting options, and some vegetarian meals.

Anyway, it's a lot of prep and labor but if we only have to do that once/month I think it could be worth it.

about a dozen duck supporters (carl agatha), Monday, 26 January 2015 15:30 (nine years ago) link


difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Monday, 26 January 2015 23:02 (nine years ago) link

recipe for apricot ginger chicken, pls

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Monday, 26 January 2015 23:04 (nine years ago) link

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into pieces
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into the size of green bean pieces you like
1 inch ginger root (I think it needs more)
3 gloves garlic, minced
2/3 c. Apricot jam
2 T soy sauce

Put it all in the slow cooker and cook for 6 - 8 hours on low.

OR put it in a freezer bag and freeze it and sometime in the next three months, thaw it out overnight in the fridge, then slow cooker it.

about a dozen duck supporters (carl agatha), Tuesday, 27 January 2015 01:04 (nine years ago) link

Thanks! Gonna make this week.

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Tuesday, 27 January 2015 13:40 (nine years ago) link

oooh yum

difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Tuesday, 27 January 2015 20:07 (nine years ago) link

one month passes...

Have you continued w/ freezer meals?

a girl with colitis (Je55e), Saturday, 28 February 2015 17:54 (nine years ago) link

I've got beef stew cooking in the slow cooker right now.

We're still eating the ones we made and froze the first time but we'll definitely do it again. I've compiled a spreadsheet of potential recipes.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Saturday, 28 February 2015 21:47 (nine years ago) link

Note: I didn't care much for the apricot ginger chicken. Too dry, not enough apricot or ginger.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Saturday, 28 February 2015 21:48 (nine years ago) link


difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 28 February 2015 23:14 (nine years ago) link

It didn't sound that great. I actually printed the recipe book and I think I will make some this week since school is on break. Which are your favorites so far?

a girl with colitis (Je55e), Sunday, 1 March 2015 19:02 (nine years ago) link

Spicy sausage soup. It calls for spicy Italian sausage but we used andouille and I think that was much better.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 1 March 2015 20:52 (nine years ago) link


difficult-difficult lemon-difficult (VegemiteGrrl), Sunday, 1 March 2015 21:16 (nine years ago) link

1lb ground spicy sausage (subbed sliced andouille. I bet you could use chorizo and black beans and that would be darn good, too.)
8 medium-sized carrots (about one pound), peeled and sliced
2, medium-sized tomatoes, cored, seeds and juice removed, and diced (we used one can of diced tomatoes because it's winter)
1 medium-sized zucchini, ends cut off and chopped (about one cup)
1 medium-sized yellow squash, ends cut off and chopped (about one cup)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced (about one cup)
1, 15oz can of cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1, 24oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce (this seemed really weird to me but it worked.)
3 cups chicken broth (day of cooking)

Everything in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 1 March 2015 21:24 (nine years ago) link

The parenthetical (white kidney beans) was copied from the original recipe. I assume you all know what cannellini beans are. I am not beansplaining.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 1 March 2015 21:25 (nine years ago) link

I've got a list of 32 other potential freezer meal recipes in a good docs spreadsheet that I will share with anyone who is interested. Hit me up at carlagathaparty at gmail.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 1 March 2015 21:27 (nine years ago) link

Here's the beef stew recipe we used - This one is my second favorite. I added potatoes day of cooking each time.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 1 March 2015 21:27 (nine years ago) link

Man this one sounds not quite right

Slow Cooker Party Beef Roast

2-3lb boneless beef chuck shoulder roast
1 cup grape jelly
1 cup Simply Heinz ketchup
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

a girl with colitis (Je55e), Sunday, 8 March 2015 02:04 (nine years ago) link

It could be good for meatballs, but with the addition of something spicy maybe to cut through the sweetness of the jelly and ketchup

a girl with colitis (Je55e), Sunday, 8 March 2015 02:05 (nine years ago) link

lol is that from a recipe generator like the one crabbits or someone posted a long time ago? with the washing the lemon juice and stuff. also, party beef.

computer champion (harbl), Sunday, 8 March 2015 02:33 (nine years ago) link

It's from the "no-cook" recipes book carl agatha has been using. I got that from the PDF, but I noticed the version on the blog is "party pork," which is certainly better than beef, but still sounds way sweet. And weird. Nothing against the book/blogger! Most of the rest sound pretty good.

a girl with colitis (Je55e), Sunday, 8 March 2015 04:41 (nine years ago) link

Yeah that one didn't make my list. I'm all about embracing the hot dish-esque cuisine of my flyover foremothers but beef, jelly, and ketchup is so not going to happen. Same way cooking with cream of soups is fine but Mountain Dew is a step to far.

from batman to balloon dog (carl agatha), Sunday, 8 March 2015 12:36 (nine years ago) link

two years pass...

working on cooking ahead. i did it a couple weeks ago and was pretty successful. i have been budgeting and realize i spend a hilarious amount of money on food :D

assawoman bay (harbl), Saturday, 26 August 2017 19:33 (six years ago) link

harbl is going to make:
poached chicken, chopped up w/ barbecue-ish sauce
corn salad
cole slaw
roasted beets
roasted potatoes

should work ok

assawoman bay (harbl), Saturday, 26 August 2017 19:35 (six years ago) link

i have a fish and a flank steak in the freezer for protein later in the week

assawoman bay (harbl), Saturday, 26 August 2017 19:36 (six years ago) link

flank steak is bomb

lag∞n, Saturday, 26 August 2017 20:05 (six years ago) link

skirt even better imo

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Saturday, 26 August 2017 20:31 (six years ago) link

I've recently embarked on a "use it up" mission, which means some serious work on freezer/pantry items. Just cooked up some lentils that were purchased maybe 3 years ago? If they are lame I will feed them to the chickens.

mom tossed in kimchee (quincie), Saturday, 26 August 2017 20:48 (six years ago) link

report back - i have some 5 yr lentils I've been eyeing

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 26 August 2017 20:58 (six years ago) link

i've never seen skirt steak in my costco

assawoman bay (harbl), Saturday, 26 August 2017 21:42 (six years ago) link

imo roasted sweet potatoes keep better/reheat better than roasted reg potatoes

just1n3, Sunday, 27 August 2017 02:18 (six years ago) link

Meatballs / bolognese sauce probably freeze the best of all the dishes we can make in large batches. Freezing them in snapware seems to work pretty well.

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