Weekly Meal Planning

Raquel StecherAbout Me
Blogger at Thoughtful Eating and Vintage Brand New. Please add my to your circles.

How do you plan what you are going to cook for the week? Or do you plan at all?

I plan my meals for the week, every week, for various reasons.

  1. It gives me a ready answer for that daily question "What's for Dinner?". 
  2. It forces me to buy only what food I need for that week. 
  3. It allows me to use that food efficiently and by the end of the week the refrigerator is significantly emptier than it was at the beginning. 
  4. It allows me to schedule time for more complicated cooking adventures.

Every Friday, I plan the week's dinners, from Saturday to the following Friday, and I shop for the ingredients either on Friday evening or Saturday morning. When planning, I keep in mind my busy schedule. On days I have off, like Saturday and Sunday, I have more time to experiment with new dishes or ones that require more preparation or cooking time. On weekdays, I opt for quicker meals or slow-cooked ones that I can prep early in the morning and have them done by that evening. I also keep in mind any social events or gatherings I go to where there are food or any time I go out on a date with my beau Carlos. In those instances, I don't cook and I won't buy any food for those evenings. To keep myself on a budget, I try to chose meals that don't require expensive ingredients and serve a dual-purpose: dinner that night and leftovers the next day. This usually works but there are some instances where I don't even want to look at the meal the next day. If I do an unusual weekday experiment, sometimes I will plan not to have leftovers the next day and will plan and buy ingredients for a lunch accordingly.

I break out the plan by day and by type of meal. For the most part, I am planning dinners, lunch leftovers and a Sunday brunch, but if there is something really special I'll make sure I'll allot time for that. This is how I laid out this week's meal plan.

D - Lentil Soup

B- Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Bacon
D - Lasagna with Salad and Garlic Bread

L - leftovers
D - Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans, Bowtie Pasta with Marinara

L - leftovers
D - Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus

L - leftovers
D- Three Bean Chili with Cornbread

L - leftovers
D - Cookin' Canuck's Smoked Paprika Chicken with Rice and Corn

L - leftovers
D - OUT - Carlos' treat

Once I plan out my meals, I look at each meal and see what ingredients I need and what I already have in my kitchen. Then I create two shopping lists. One will be for Market Basket where I buy my packaged foods, dairy products, meats, fish or poultry, cereals, frozen goods, canned goods, etc. Then I'll make a list for Wilson Farm which will consist entirely of fruits and vegetables. I try to make these plans and lists on the computer so that I can easily edit them. For the shopping lists, by now I'm so familiar with the two markets I shop at, that I organize my list in order of where the items appear in the store. No joke! After shopping somewhere for a few years or even a few months, you become familiar with the landscape of the market. Use this to your advantage. If your list is in order of appearance, it will facilitate more efficient shopping and will prevent you from missing something on your list (or having to back to an aisle on the other side of the busy market, don't you hate that?). I only do grocery shopping once a week and I try to avoid missing anything that will require me going back during the week. 

I will often organize my meal plans so that any dinners that require vegetables or meats that go bad really quickly are made earlier in the week and other ingredients that last longer or are frozen are used later in the week. With meats and poultry, sometimes I will freeze the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday meats when I buy them on Saturday and I'll keep the rest of them in my refrigerator's meat drawer.

I also print out my menu plan and keep it in an accessible place in the kitchen. That way, if I ever forget what I planned for that evening, I have my list handy to remind me. Also, if I'm using a recipe I got from a cooking website or blog, I will write out the URL so I can refer to the recipe quickly.

How do you plan your meals?
Do you have any money-saving or time-saving tricks?
If you don't plan your meals, how do you shop?
How often do you shop and why?

Please share your thoughts!


John Hayes said...

Interesting & informative. I think the way you plan is not only ultimately economical but also helps to structure your days & your weeks. This week's menu looks great, btw--if only the Boston area weren't so far away!

Laura said...

I enjoyed reading your methods. Like you, I plan on Friday (my night off from cooking!) for the following week so we can shop over the weekend. I use a form my husband created on the computer based on a picture of a product I saw in a magazine, with menu space for each day on the left and a grocery list that can be filled out on the right.

I tend to stock up on meat at Costco so I write down reminders on the menu to defrost things for later in the week -- if I'm roasting a chicken Thursday I'll have a note to move it from freezer to fridge on Monday, and so on.

With six of us (including an 18-year-old boy who eats enough for two people, grin), I wish we had leftovers more often!

Best wishes,

Raquel said...

I rarely plan out my week this way, so I am the complete opposite! I tend to go to the store with a list of basics I need to replenish (flour, milk, butter, etc) and then I'll buy up things that look interesting or are seasonal or on special that I want to experiment with. I usually don't plan meals ahead because J's work schedule varies and my mood for what I want changes a lot. I find that since I work at home, it's actually not a hassle for me to bop out in the middle of the day and grab what I need to complete a dish. (In fact, it's often a welcome break.) Occasionally I'll pick one or two things I know I want that week and then the rest of the list I let myself just go by what looks good.

For instance, I'll pick up a squash or some veggies or a pork tenderloin, and then when I get home, I figure out what I can make with it. I have dozens of cookbooks, so I have lots of options. I tend to try and buy things that I figure will work well together no matter what recipe (or self-invented recipe) I decide to use. It's sort of a seat-of-my-pants cooking style, but it really does work for me, and my life in the kitchen (and Jeremy's life of eating) is always an adventure for sure. This is an interesting post; I might try blogging about this similar subject myself! Thanks for sharing your methods. You are so organized!

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