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Old 04-20-2011, 06:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: Oregon
How do you plan meals?

How do you plan meals? How do you decide what's for dinner?

Do you start from a recipe? Do you just look at what is in the pantry? Do you draw up a month's worth of meals in advance and plan them down to the letter? Do you just feel like eating something, go to the store, buy the ingredients, and come home and make it?

What's your modus operandi when it comes to choosing what to eat?

My husband and I have two different MOs. I like to plan things out in advance a little more than he does. If I'm really thinking ahead, I will do something like: cook up a batch of black beans and use them for 2 separate meals in a week, freezing the rest, i.e. burritos the first night, soup or chili the second, or vice-versa. He prefers to look at the pantry, see what's in there, and cook. As such, I generally make sure we have a well-stocked pantry. Because he is so good at cooking on the fly (he's made me better at it), when I'm too tired to cook (I work until 6pm), he takes over and does a fantastic job of it.

One of our staple meals around here is:

Random vegetable (kale, leek, raab, spinach, or some combination thereof)
Lemon juice
Olive oil/butter
1/2 and 1/2

We also eat a lot of stir-fry. Since we have a nice fuzzy logic rice cooker, it's easy to set up the rice ahead of time to cook. Rice and beans are another thing we eat a lot, because we always have both in the pantry. The rice often gets used for the next night's meal: vegetable fried rice or pineapple fried rice.

Your turn.
If I am not better, at least I am different. --Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Old 04-20-2011, 04:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: upstate NY
We have a hungry family and like to prep all our own meals at home so we grocery shop twice a week.
Weekends we hit the farm market.
Many of the meals start with whatever is good and fresh at the market. Once I have that, whether it's a nice piece of lamb or some fresh veggies or a fresh loaf of bread , I get other parts of the meal at the grocery if they're not available at the farm market.
I like to think in terms of full meals when I am at the grocery store. We don't have time for a lot of creativity or extra shopping, so when I come home from weekend shopping I have a good idea what's going into mulltiple meals during the week. Down to the sides and sauces.
We also raise our own hogs so there's always plenty of pork (and venison) in the freezer but that's whole 'nother story.
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Old 04-20-2011, 05:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
Location: Here

I have a few staples I get each week: ground turkey, salmon, pasta, pickles and a boat load of vegetables. Versatility is the key. Bananas, Spinach, eggs, legumes and flat Italian parsley are always present for that reason. I donít plan ahead, really. I live in the moment and allow my moods to direct me. My Iron Chef challenge is to come up with something novel. I get ideas from other people, signs I see, magazines and the internet. I keep my style seasonal.

Tonight, I made potato pancake waffles, served with a poached egg on top. Got his idea from a diner in Chicago. Always wanted to recreate it. I enjoy the science behind cooking. I needed more baking powder to puff up my waffles. Cooks illustrated is my favorite publication - scientific test kitchen.
I always cook everything from fresh ingredients. I am grossed out by additives and trans fats, but also because real, tastes better than dried, frozen or artificial.
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:03 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: The Danforth
like eribrav, we have a hungry family (3 sons) and so must shop every week. Tomorrow is Friday, our usual shopping day and I am trying to figure out what to do as we are literally on fumes as far as food goes in the fridge - and this Friday being a serious Stat holiday (Good Friday) NOTHING will be open. This is after dropping approx $250 last Friday on groceries.

We buy the usual stock items, beef, chicken, pork, pasta, lots and lots of veggies. IF there is anything on sale, such as Blue Menu frozen lasagnas (emergency meals) we buy and put into the chest freezer. Also, rice is purchased in the 5 KG bags - one white basmati, and one brown basmati, which we mix (a cup of each) when we cook it. So rice lasts for a while.

Menus tend to be cyclic. we just try to mix up the meals through the week based on what we purchase, i.e., Monday night: baked chicken breasts, Tuesday: beef stir fry, Weds - pasta with chicken alfredo, tonight - not sure yet: maybe pork chops. All meals have a hefty veggie component. I like to steam broccoli & carrots mixed. At least once per week. Bok choy is blanched in boiling water with ginger slices added then salted and mixed with a drop of oil, choyote squash sliced and stir fried with water (braised?) or a bag of frozen vegetables , steamed. Since American asparagus appears to be in season, we've had that once a week as well.

I do know that this Sunday we are having a leg of lamb (fresh Ontario - not frozen NZ) as an Easter meal.
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Last edited by Leto; 04-21-2011 at 04:08 AM..
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Old 04-21-2011, 05:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Redneckville, NC
I *TRY* and plan out meals for the week (or second week as I usually buy foodstuffs in a 2 week period), but usually I just buy staples and veggies to cook random meals.

Rice, Potatoes, Onions, Garlic, Pasta, Soy Milk, Eggs, Cheese, those all get bought every week no matter what.

Veggies I just buy what looks good and what's on sale. I usually try and plan at least 3-5 meals out of the stuff I buy and I know I can make it with those items.

I am leftovers king and usually try and reuse anything that gets leftover from the last meal. I like cooking pasta, rice, and beans in greater quantiles so I can reuse them with the next meal.
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Old 04-23-2011, 08:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
Eat your vegetables
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Location: Arabidopsis-ville
I have a notebook that contains my current circulation of tried-and-true recipes. I put it together with a month of dinners in mind. Every weekend I sit down and write what I plan to cook that week, keeping in mind what we have in abundance in produce, whether from the greenhouse garden or the produce deal section of Jungle Jim's. I then make up a shopping list so I have the necessary ingredients on-hand. A lot of the time I'll take a standard recipe and tweak it - diced mushrooms instead of tofu, Manout for Cheddar, toss in radish sprouts and baby greens when it calls for simple iceberg... I can make the same monthly rotation of recipes into a fun and interesting culinary experience. I enjoy looking at new recipes for ideas. Food blogs are fun, since they often add little handy tips for making cooking easier. I love food. Meals are my favorite, I love preparing them and sharing them with those I love.

My husband is a better cook than me. Tt doesn't need to plan, he just looks in the cabinet and puts together something delicious. He is my pinch-hitter, whenever I'm too tired or busy to cook, he will step in and make things happen. I love his cooking.

As far as staples go, we always have milk, shredded sharp cheddar, parmesean, eggs, frozen broccoli, frozen spinach, rice, whole grain pastas, tortillas, salsa, chips, bread, some sort of fresh green leafy thing (rabbit), rolled oats, and quick grits.
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Last edited by genuinegirly; 04-23-2011 at 08:53 AM..
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Old 04-23-2011, 12:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
Location: LI,NY
I plan our meals one week at a time. I make sure we have a variety of meals so we don't get bored with the same thing over and over. The meals are usually quick and simple. Quick because we are starving by the time I get home. and Simple because that is how the kids eat. One meal will be a chicken dish, one is pork, one is beef, one is meat free. Weekends are up in the air because every other weekend the children are at their father's. I make sure we have enough veggies and side dishes for the week as well. I write the meals on the calendar (but of course, they can change) and make my shopping list from that. I only go food shopping once a week. Well, actually, the groceries get delivered once a week. I love Peapod.
"Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles." ~Alex Karras
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