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Old 06-14-2007, 11:36 AM   #1
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How do you decide what to plan for dinner?

Curious. How do you decide what you're having for dinner? Do you plan ahead, find recipes on this site or get inspired by the What are you having for dinner threads, browse around other cooking forums -- or do you fly by the seat of your pants & leave something out to defrost, make a market run on the way home or order a pizza or take-out?

I keep a well-stocked pantry, and have many foods like chicken, beef, seafood in the freezer. I try to keep fresh fruit and veggies on hand. When that's not possible, I have frozen veggies & canned fruit. I have never been one to cook ahead and freeze foods in ziplocks, only unless I have some leftovers. I try to keep it as fresh as possible. I do, however, sometimes resort to some frozen ready-made dishes & improvise with fresh sides.

What's your plan & where do you find your inspiration?


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Old 06-14-2007, 11:45 AM   #2
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About once every three months or so, I take a weekend day/afternoon and plan my menus for at least three months ahead. I have a separate calendar with each day's menu written in its space.

I have a list of recipes I've culled from my collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines. That's were my ideas/inspiration come from and I also get to use most of my cookbooks on a regular basis. I came up with this idea because I found myself thumbing through my books and magazines always saying, "I've really got to try this or that."

When I plan the menus, I take into consideration the season of the year so I can use the foods that are plentiful then. I also usually plan something special for Sunday meals and for any holidays or birthdays that fall within my menu planning months.

Once every two weeks, when I do my grocery shopping, I make a list from the recipes I have selected.

It's been years since I've uttered the words, "What are we going to have for dinner?"

"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:50 AM   #3
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I usually decide what I feel like that day and sometimes I plan ahead. I do have a well stocked pantry and buy lots of fruit and veggies everyweek. I also have become pretty proficient at doubling recipes (enchiladas, meatballs, marinara etc.) to freeze for later. It comes in handy on busy days.
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:52 AM   #4
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I hardly ever plan in advance. I never know from day to day if we are going to have time for a "real" dinner or not. My freezer is full of beef, chicken, and venison and I buy pork and fish when I get a craving for it. The pantry is always full of everything.

I guess the only time I plan ahead is if I know we are going to have company. Dinner around here is a day by day even an hour to hour decision.
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:56 AM   #5
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Iam the worst to reply, Iam so changeable - except for special dinners. I think ahead only maybe for the week, things we haven't had for awhile. If someone is hungry for something - thats dinner. Not a big planner, usually the day before or that morning.

Or what the cook is hungry for, and everyone else likes.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:14 PM   #6
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I have a friend like Katie who makes all her plans in advance. Not me! I keep a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer and I tease my friend that I cook whatever falls out of the freezer when I open it. I'm really not quite that spontaneous, but I usually don't have any plans made early. For one thing, I don't know when and if we will be eating at home or somewhere else. It is always a surprise for dh also.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:25 PM   #7
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I think I have said this before elsewhere in this forum, at my house, the question is not "what's for dinner", rather the question is "what needs to be eaten?" I feel like I manage a small food service operation. In fact I used to manage a nursing home kitchen and for sure, some of that job has carried over into my life now. I plan out meals usually three days in advance, so I can pull meat or cheese from the freezer. I need to keep track of what is ready to eat from the garden. We usually are eating something from the garden from April through November. Right now, it is spinach and today I dug my first yukon gold potatoes.. I am frequently thinking about meal planning. I cook in abundance so we can eat on leftovers. I need to have plenty of food in the frig for the weekends because we do a lot of outside work then and I do not have time for food prep. Yep, meal planning is a big part of my life
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:29 PM   #8
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I too have a well stocked pantry, freezer, fridge and do plan a lot of meals ahead. However, if something calls for fresh veggies I tend to hold off on buying them unless I plan to make the meal within the next couple days. I usally make a run to the store for my seafood on the day I'm going to make it. Also, a lot of times I'll preplan on making something but I'll see something on t.v. or on the computer and think ohhhhh that sounds good or I'll just get a craving for something so the planned meal is out the window. I rarely waste any food though.
As far as meats go I do buy my chicken, roasts and some others types ahead and freeze a lot of those. However, for my pork chops and steaks I make a run to the store on the day I'm making a dish that requires it or if I will keep them in the fridge for no more than a day before using them. Heck I can go to the store with a meal idea in my head but will come home with something completely different because so type of meat of veggie looked so good I just had to change my mind.
I go through my spurts where I get bored with dishes and get creative. Sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants and other times I might follow a recipe but then change it up the next time to suit or tastes or I'll just use a recipe as a guideline but not truelly follow it. My favorite way it by trying something out to eat and really liking it and trying to determine whats in it and then making it at home and working at it till I figure it out.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:42 PM   #9
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One of the reasons I plan so extensively is that our nearest grocery store is about 30 miles away, which makes it a bit challenging to "run to the store" when I need something.

I keep a very well stocked pantry and my freezer is always filled with meats and veggies we will eat two weeks hence.

Yesterday was my grocery/shopping day and I spent a large part of this morning portioning and labeling things to go into the freezer.

I use the freezer of our shop refrigerator to store already prepared meals. These are usually leftovers that are substantial enough for another full meal.

Every couple of months, we "eat down" that freezer. Last month, 17 of our meals were from the freezer. Boy was that an easy cooking month!
"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:44 PM   #10
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Im also well stocked so unless its for company I dont plan ahead its really just what mood Im in or when DH asks for enchiladas which sound really good to me for tonight and I know DH will be thrilled as well.

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