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planning cooking ahead of time

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We often see posts here where people are asking for advice about what to make for a certain event or occasion. These are always fun, but the food one makes for an occasion is different than what one makes for oneself or one's family.

What I'm wondering is, to what degree do you plan ahead of time your daily food, during the week, not for occasions? How do you go about it? What system do you employ, and how well does it work for you? Especially for those of you who are only cooking for one or two, how do you do it?

Thanks in advance for input . . . .

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  1. I plan meals for the week during the weekend prior. I sit down w/recipes, cookbooks, cooking magazines, whatever, and my Palm. I put the recipe name and reference the source into my Palm on the specific day I'm going to make whatever it is - and I often include ideas for a veg. and starch to go w/it. At the same time, I add whatever ingredients I need for that recipe to my shopping list. I go thru all the days of the week and presto, a plan of attack. This has worked well for me for years . . . .

    I'm essentially cooking for 2 - our preschooler enjoys a ltd. selection of things - so I cut recipes in half in most cases.

    1. I pretty much have always planned by market. In that, what is a special, fresh, a bargain that day, makes the meal. I do stock items, again, bought on sale, and keep them in the pantry, freezer or prepped (ie a jar of homemade roasted garlic in olive oil).
      But I do cook for one, or at the most two. I did try the keep a menu and shop by it for a month and hated it, and it cost me more.

      1. If there's something particular in season or something particular we want to make for which we don't typically keep the ingredients in stock, we try to plan before or while shopping. Other than that, we try to determine in the morning if we want to soak beans (we're vegan so we eat beans a lot) for that evening's dinner. Sometimes we soak beans not yet knowing what we'll use them in. Sun-Thurs. we always try to make enough to have leftovers for the following workday's lunches. Weekends, we generally try to eat up any leftovers and "must go" ingredients from the week.

        We determined before we got married that we would alternate cooking days (I cook M,W,F and my husband cooks Tu,Th, and Sat or Sun) and the other does the dishes. (Part of this plan was that while one was cooking the other could be exercising, though we need to get back to this aspect of it.) That way on Tues, I know I don't have to figure out what to make. If one of us has to work late we're flexible. If I'm going to make muffins or bread for breakfasts, I generally plan to make something fairly simple for supper/lunches. Weekends for breakfast we often make things that take a little longer or use more dishes like pancakes or scones.

        1. My plan is similar to gansu girl.

          I look through cookbooks, magazines, internet and pick out about 5 meals. My 5 meals include beef, chicken, fish, vegetarian, and maybe a repeat of one of those. I try to include a recipe that ingredients that I don't use all the time so my family can try something new. You never know what will be a new favorite. I make up a shopping list b/c I hate running to the store for one ingredient. I have found that if I make 5 meals we have enough for leftovers for lunch and maybe one more day during the week. I am feeding 5 of us and try to make it interesting at dinner time. good luck!!

          http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com

          1. I have taken 2 basic approaches, although I am being kind of lazy about planning at the moment.

            Option 1: Farmer's Market
            - shop at farmer's market for produce
            - after returning home, plan meals for the week based on produce bought
            - go to grocery store for staples and anything special needed for the week's meals

            Option 2: Revolving Meals (I used this when I was working crazy hours)
            - I made a list of easy dishes for weekday dinners
            - I created a spreadsheet with those dishes and their ingredients
            - Each week I decided which meals to make and printed out those ingredients from my spreadsheet. That was my grocery list.

            I cook for 2, and I end up having leftovers for lunch pretty often. Also, I freeze leftover soup and pizza and pita dough.