Weekly Meal Planning - Jan & Feb 2022

Anyone planning menus this year? Any recipes you’re excited to try?

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I always laugh/cry when I think that people who are busy are too busy to figure out the ways in which they can be less busy. I completely fall into this category. Sometimes. Busy-ness is cyclical over here.

When I am at my organized best, I will come home from a shopping trip and create a word doc listing all of the produce and/or meat that I bought. Typically, these are bought 10 at a time rather than 2 at a time. Then I brainstorm meals around those items, write them down, and mentally figure out the night before what needs to be defrosted, washed and chopped, etc. Marinades can be made in the morning and do their thing while I work…

Sometimes, what I have is a glut of leftovers, and food that’s been sitting in tupperwares in the fridge too long makes me anxious. So the goal then (which happens to be this week), is to repurpose those. For instance, I had the better part of a roasted kabocha in there for a week, and morphed it into pasta with roasted squash, rendered bacon bits, and caramelized onion last night.

On the days when it’s 5 before I start thinking about dinner, we are doing take-out. There is no way I can pull a rabbit out of a hat in that short a time period. And I will almost never resort to a frozen/convenience or just add water type of side, because that’s almost all we eat for our lunches.

The biggest drawback of my brainstorm method is that I rarely cook my books. It’s almost all just my own creative thought process, which doesn’t afford the opportunity to branch out. But it’s hard to break habits, and my habits are typically shop then plan, rather than plan then shop.

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I vowed to B that I need to start weekly meal planning this year. I’m so bad at it because I’m an impulsive cook/shopper. I normally hit food shops at least 2 to 3 times a week, depending on my mood/what looks good.

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I have to do this or we’d be in a real menu rut. I have my “regular buys,” sure, but so many of the recipes I’d like to make call for special ingredients that aren’t easily substituted. Also if I plan ahead I can more easily cross-pollinate my menu so ingredients are used up between meals.

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Plan then shop is my exception, but like you, I do it when I have a specific recipe in mind. That just doesn’t happen as often as my shelves of cookbooks might imply though. I should endeavor to at least shift the balance!

Here’s my cooking list for the next two weeks or so:

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@ChristinaM You inspired me to try formal weekly meal planning. I took the geeky route and am using an Excel spreadsheet. Right now, I’m half filling it in in real-time / half doing some actual planning. I need to gain some traction with this…maybe starting this weekend.

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This can be helpful, too - reflects real v. aspirational cooking. And you’ll have a list you can refer back to when inspiration lacks.

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I’m not very organized, usually I’ve a vague idea in my head what to cook in the coming week. And I spend a lot of time in the shopping list for H to execute.

Sometimes when I use a list, I will use Reminders that comes with OS, it’s a task list that I can add and check things from my laptop or phone, and where ever.

Lately, I’ve planned several Japanese meal since we’ve got a bunch of Japanese products from the grocery. The next will be Japanese rice ball, gyoza, takoyaki (octopus balls).

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My other style of cooking is rather intuitive (or lazy) by checking the ingredients in the fridge to look at the expiration date and the state of vegetables, then find recipes to use all those things, just before cooking.

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I always serve fish or shellfish on Friday, often do a roast on Sunday, chicken on Monday.

I alternate my poultry, seafood and red meat, and alternate my starches through rice, pasta and potatoes, occasionally perogies, corn tortillas or polenta.

I haven’t usually planned specific dishes in advance, unless I am having company or it’s a holiday, or have purchased a special ingredient.

That said, I have been planning mains for a lot of holidays, such as Robbie Burns day, Mardi Gras, St Paddy’s etc,

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I’ve been trying to cut down on meat and am finding that it takes more planning and a bit more cooking. It’s a little easier to wing it with meat and three. Those chickpeas aren’t going to soak themselves, nor will the beets roast and peel themselves.

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DH & I are retired and tend to grocery shop together - he is the one most likely to shop alone (most often when we need fresh vegetables). We batch cook things like chili and stews to stock the freezer, and also buy poultry and meat when we find good prices then vacuum seal them to freeze. So I keep a freezer inventory and we plan our meals around that but not exclusively. These past two years of Covid have really put a dent in our spontaneous menu planning, and we’ve also missed fresh vegetables which have gone missing in our local grocery stores from time to time. We plan about 4-5 days of meals at a time, then review our cupboards, freezer and refrigerator and go from there.

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We were in the same boat until we signed up for a CSA share. Is that an option where you live?

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It is in the summer. But we have our own garden in the summer…

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We got lucky and found a year-round one, finally. Of course, the recent 8-12" of snow hit their crops hard and they are having to take a month off to regroup and regrow.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr