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Old 02-06-2014, 10:24 AM   #1
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Menu Planning?

How do you plan your meals? Do you write it out? Use a spreadsheet? Is there any good software that helps?

I'm beginning to realize that I know nothing about this subject. I'm pretty good at cooking without a recipe and adapting to what's on hand, but lack of any planning is a serious handicap. I buy the same things over and over, so I make rice and beans twenty ways to Sunday, but it's time to expand my horizons. I want to plan for the next few days or a week and then shop accordingly.

Any suggestions?

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Old 02-06-2014, 10:56 AM   #2
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I look at DH and say "What do you want for dinner?" LOL If we can't decide on anything, we eat out.

Actually, when my kids were still here, they were constantly asking what we were having, so I started planning the menu a week in advance. My planning was based on what I could afford and what everyone would eat. I posted the menu inside the cupboard door each week so they could just look and see what we were having. I let each of them (2) choose 1 meal each week, and then I shopped according to what was in the meal plan. Nothing fancy. It was just what worked.
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Old 02-06-2014, 11:20 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by skilletlicker View Post
How do you plan your meals? Do you write it out? Use a spreadsheet? Is there any good software that helps?
I find that when I plan my meals my grocery bill goes down. Duh!

I did it on paper before the Internet and apps came into being.
I still do it on paper. By the time I booted up the computer, opened the spreadsheet etc I could have it all done using a paper and pencil!

This is becoming an over-quantified world and over-apped world, if there is such a world as 'apped'!
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Old 02-06-2014, 12:17 PM   #4
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I find that when I plan my meals my grocery bill goes down. Duh!
I expect to save money and eat better. As it is I sort of have to buy for whatever I might decide to do later resulting in wasted money and food.
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I did it on paper before the Internet and apps came into being.
I still do it on paper. By the time I booted up the computer, opened the spreadsheet etc I could have it all done using a paper and pencil!

This is becoming an over-quantified world and over-apped world, if there is such a world as 'apped'!
Yeah, doing something on the computer might waste time but the trick is to look at what you actually do on paper first. I assume you:
  1. List what you want to cook.
  2. List ingredients.
  3. Cross off what's already on hand.
What's left is the shopping list.
Keyboard or pencil - either way it's okay.
I know that there is software out there but I'm thinking of just using GoogleTask and Calendar. Or maybe just paper.

If there was software that integrated the cuisines, recipes, nutritional values, grocery store sales, coupons and printed the shopping list corresponding to the isles in my favorite grocery store... well that would be neat.
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Old 02-06-2014, 12:32 PM   #5
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Google Task (on it's Calendar) is good.

"If there was software that integrated the cuisines, recipes, nutritional values, grocery store sales, coupons and printed the shopping list corresponding to the isles in my favorite grocery store... well that would be neat."

LOL Wouldn't that be loverly.
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Old 02-06-2014, 12:37 PM   #6
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I don't plan. I cook with what is in the fridge, pantry, root cellar, and freezer. When I shop, I pick up stuff on special and work with that. Having said that, I always have dried beans, rice, onions, garlic, celery, various stocks, rice noodles, dried mushrooms, lemons and limes on hand. I think I have every spice and herb known to man and tons of different vinegars.
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Old 02-06-2014, 01:17 PM   #7
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We plan meals for a seven day period. The menu is based primarily on what we have in the freezer/deep freezer. We make a grocery list for the additional (vegis, sundries, etc.) items we need to fix what we planned. Shopping may require going to Penn Dutch, Costco, Asian Market and/or Publix. Any meals we "skip", for whatever reason, are forwarded to the next week.
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Old 02-06-2014, 03:24 PM   #8
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I rough out a week's worth of menus on a whiteboard in the kitchen. A week, for me, is five meals. I leave two open nights for either going out or a "get yer own dinner" night where we just scrounge through the fridge rather than have a planned meal.

For the planned meals, I first check the ads to see what's on sale and then try to work around that. I also try to plan for things to do with the leftovers. So, for example, if I'm making ham one night, I know there will be leftovers, so I'll plan a meal later in the week where I can use them up.
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:00 PM   #9
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I buy extra when things are on sale. I freeze the meat in meal-size pkges. Right now I have a lot of chicken pieces and enough ground beef and pork chops for a couple meals. I usually only buy one roast when they are on sale and cook it right away without freezing it. All other items, frozen veggies, canned goods, soups, rice, noodles, beans pasta are bought when they are on sale and replenished when they get low AND are on sale the next time. There are things I grab just about every time I'm in a store, like canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce because I use them regularly. Yesterday I was making tacos and DH had to go to the store for shredded Mexican cheese. I usually only buy cheese when I'm going to use it. Now there's a little left and it will get sprinkled on salads.
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:43 PM   #10
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I take an old envelope and keep a running grocery list of things I need to restock or that I just have a desire for. Then I jot down the main meat/protein things that I have on hand, next I look at the weekly grocery flyers to see what is on sale around town and finally I look at the few coupons I clip to see if I can use an item or two.

I jot down seven possible meals using the items on my list including some nights of planned leftovers, gradually a loose menu comes together. Sometimes as the week unfolds the ingredients I have planned for a meal morph into another meal or the planned meal moves to another night etc...

Even when I have the list in hand things may change when I hit the grocery store. If I see a really good deal the plan can change on the fly to accommodate them. If the bargain items I find don't fit into the weeks plan then one nights dinner may end up being scrambled eggs, Dreamfield's pasta with oil and garlic or some other quick and easy meal that can be made using staple items. Scrimping a little to make room for these unplanned bargains can save a substantial amount of money in the long run.

I find a simple plan helps to control cost, reduce waste, and help me to eat a healthier diet, even if I don't follow the plan!
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:11 PM   #11
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I call Shrek and ask him what he wants me to pick up from the grocery store on the way home. That way I don't get home and he has changed his mind.
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:21 PM   #12
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I take an old envelope and keep a running grocery list... Even when I have the list in hand things may change when I hit the grocery store...
I find a simple plan helps to control cost, reduce waste, and help me to eat a healthier diet, even if I don't follow the plan!
Thanks Aunt Bea. I think just having a plan in writing will help even if it, changes. My problem is, I keep making mental lists and then forget to bring them.
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:53 PM   #13
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Aunt Bea----- if Lincoln can (purportedly) write the Gettysburg address on an envelope I guess a grocery list will be o.k.
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:59 PM   #14
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I use a combination of Aunt Bea's method and a customized version of the second form on this page: http://www.theprojectgirl.com/2009/0...free-download/

Another benefit of using a system like this is I check my cupboards in advance to make sure I have all the ingredients I need for each recipe I want to make, nor do I buy duplicates because I can't remember in the store whether I have X at home.
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Old 02-06-2014, 11:36 PM   #15
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I have no suggestions for menu planning. It's something I keep saying I should do.

Skilletlicker, do you have a smart phone or a tablet? A lot of us use OurGroceries. I type stuff onto my lists on my computer and it updates to my phone. I almost never forget to bring my phone when I go shopping. I often forgot paper shopping lists or lost them. I can cross stuff off the list on my phone or add stuff I remember. It syncs with the computer and with my husband's tablet.
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Old 02-07-2014, 12:50 AM   #16
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I'm kind of resistant to change (or so my daughter tells me ), so I don't use the grocery apps. But I can see where they would be very helpful for those shopping for families. I don't buy very much weekly, mainly perishable produce, since I'm only shopping for one.

I have a dry erase board on my fridge and write down things as I use them and think of them. Then when I leave the house to go shopping, I take a picture of the dry erase board with my cellphone, and there's my list.

As far as planning, I do as others here have said and check what's in my freezer and what's on sale, and try to work around that. I use the heck out of my foodsaver for breaking down larger amounts of chicken and meats into useable amounts for one.
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Old 02-07-2014, 03:07 AM   #17
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....Thanks Aunt Bea. I think just having a plan in writing will help even if it, changes. My problem is, I keep making mental lists and then forget to bring them.
I can't do the "mental list" thing because I quite often forget to bring my brain.

First of all, I was raised by a depression-era Mom. I have a 5-shelf storage unit in the basement with all the basic staples: cans of veggies, fruit, cooking soups, grains, pasta...you get the idea. And I have a smaller baker's shelf that holds...baking goods. Choco chips, dried fruits, nuts, a box mix or two. If I was creative enough I could probably feed us for almost a month just on what I have stored - all bought on sale or at an infrequently-shopped store that is the only place I can find odd foods. When I take the last of an item from the basement I list that on a chalkboard I have in the kitchen. I use the chalkboard to keep track of what I need to get my next shopping trip, whether it be a basic staple or a certain fresh-food item I want/need.

Knowing that I have a good supply of basics, I then plan my menu when I sit down with the grocery ads. One grocery store gets most of my business because of their selections and prices, so I open that ad first, wide-tipped marker in hand, and start to circle the sale items I can use for meals in the coming week. If I need something that isn't in the ad (like something from my chalkboard list) I'll write it in with a narrower-tipped marker at the top of the page, using the items on that page as a department guide. The bonus of using the ad is if I can't find something on the shelves. I can point to the item when I ask a stock clerk so he/she knows exactly what I'm looking for - no confusion like what happens when I try to explain what I'm looking for.

Lately I've been going through the plethora of recipes I've either clipped from magazines and newspapers, or saved online either through a cooking website or link to a random recipe. Making sure I try a new recipe using foods that are on sale in that week's flyer have both added interest to our meal rotation and savings with my shopping bill. Good luck planning, but always stay open to surprise deals.
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Old 02-07-2014, 06:24 AM   #18
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Saturday morning I make a shopping list considering what I already have in the freezer, planning meals that use different proteins and are a mix of "meat, starch, veggie" meals and stews/soups/pasta dishes. I have my laptop open to RECIPES so I can ensure I buy all the ingredients I need. Then we shop, cook, eat.

I try to mix cuisines, types of meats, starches and veggies. At least once a week lately, SO wants to have a salad for dinner so I have a duck breast (which she hates) or something else she doesn't like.

Other times we wing it and/or go out.
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Old 02-07-2014, 06:28 AM   #19
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I keep a steno pad on my desk handy to write down replacement stock and anything new I feel like making.

I also keep another steno pad where I go through my grocery receipts and write down meats and special ingredients that I have to work with, leaving room to enter ideas/plans for meals.

After reviewing my potential meals list I decide what I want to cook first and prepare them.

I don't define exactly what I'll eat on a particular day. I just have several possible meals ready and decide which I'm in the mood for when it's time for supper.
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Old 02-07-2014, 07:56 AM   #20
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A lot of what we eat depends on two things for me.
1. What is in season as we enjoy eating that way and also this usually affects the price ie. better
2. What inspires me at the time.
I like to do one big shop a week so I'm thinking about a week ahead at this point. After working out if we are having company that week at some point or if it's just the two of us I try to plan a mix of mostly economical but tasty meals so that we can also have some treats too, especially for the weekend. if there are bargains to be had I get them for the freezer or the store cupboard. After a few weeks of doing this you should end up with some good options between the freezer, the store cupboard and the weekly shop.
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