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May 11, 2008 11:23 PM

Weekly menus

How does everyone plan their meals? How often do you shop? Where do you find inspiration?

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  1. I plan my dinners out a month at a time. Near the end of the month, I go to

    and print out a blank calendar for the next month. I write down dinner ideas for each night, then create a grocery list for each week on the bottom half of the calendar page.

    I never thought I'd like being quite that organized, but I LOVE it. No more "what do you want to eat? I don't know, what do you want?" conversations. No more just going out or taking in when I'm not in the mood to figure out a dinner plan. No more wasted food that I buy and then forget about. It's better on the pocketbook and the figure.

    I have a number of dishes that I often make. We seldom have the same dinner more than twice a month. I have a file of recipes that I've saved and want to try, and I usually work in a few of those each month. If they're keepers, they get added to the rotation in future months.

    6 Replies
    1. re: modthyrth

      I like this idea and would like to start implementing it. I worry that I would repeat things fairly often as I'm in a recipe slump. Would you mind posting a few days or a week of menus?

      1. re: nissenpa

        My pleasure. I typically plan out the main element of the meal, but the side-dishes not as often. It's usually either rice, quinoa, or cous cous, and whatever vegetables I have in the fridge of freezer.

        Week One:
        Sun--mother's day, and we were traveling back from LA. Road food (and not the good kind, unfortunately)
        Mon--Szechwan shrimp, broccoli, and a blend of quinoa and rice
        tues--Trader Joe's chicken fingers, frozen corn (Jury Duty, I wanted super fast and easy)
        Wed--grilled salmon, roasted asparagus and mushrooms
        thurs--chicken marsala
        friday--BBQ Beef (taking it to a potluck, no need to make sides)
        Sat--grilled hamburgers, coleslaw, baked french fries

        Week Two:
        Sun--BBQ chicken breast, leftover coleslaw
        Mon--taco salad (with the remainder of the ground beef we used on sat for the hamburgers. Taco salad night always follows a hamburger night closely.)
        Tues--Pesto chicken
        wed--curried mango quinoa salad, with chicken breast mixed in
        Thurs--baked cajun shrimp, cous cous
        Fri--bourbon chicken, broccoli, blend of quinoa and rice
        Sat--flying out to CO for a wedding

        I tend to choose meals that are pretty fast and easy. Most of my planned meals take 30 minutes or less, especially when I know what's coming up for dinner and already have everything defrosted, marinating, etc. I'm also a lifetime Weight Watchers member, so everything is pretty healthy. I'll plan more elaborate meals when we're having friends over, celebrating a special occasion, or if I get a bug to make something particular. But for the most part, it's tasty but not fancy.

        Edited to add that I'm not a slave to the menu. Sometimes I'm just not feeling whatever is planned for that night. I'm always happy to swap out a future meal for the night's meal, or ditch the plan entirely and go out to eat. Planning ahead just means that I eat out out of frustration less often ("Oh, hell, I don't know what to make, let's just go out").

        1. re: modthyrth

          Thank you so much! I know that took some time to post. I did WW years ago and also eat pretty healthy. Lots of veggies. I like how you balance out the beef, chicken, and fish. Not too much of one thing.

          Would you mind sharing your bourbon chicken recipe?

          1. re: nissenpa

            Here you go:

            Bourbon Chicken (not sure why it's called that, since there's no bourbon in it ;-) )
            4 Servings
            Core Recipe + minor points

            2 lbs boneless chicken breasts , cut into bite-size pieces
            1-2 tablespoon olive oil (I used one tbsp.)
            1 garlic clove , crushed
            1/4 teaspoon ginger
            3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
            1/4 cup apple juice (not Core)
            1/3 cup light brown sugar (I used plain Splenda)
            2 tablespoons ketchup
            1 tablespoon cider vinegar
            1/2 cup water
            1/3 cup soy sauce

            Heat oil in a large skillet.

            Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove chicken.

            Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

            1. re: modthyrth

              Gotta try this one....sounds yummy! Thanks for posting modthyrth.

    2. I plan my weekly menu around what's on sale that week at the two grocery stores I go to. I also have a way-too-full freezer mostly containing meat I bought on sale, and little containers of leftovers and side dishes (there's only two of us). I read the sale flyers and make up menus based on their sales and my freezer contents (I keep an inventory list which makes it easy). If nothing great is on sale, I skip that store for the week, believe me we will never starve or be bored.

      I have to say, a lot of my inspiration the last few years is right here on Home Cooking, and the rest is from chefs that I deal with every day, they always have a good idea of the current trends. Instead of going out and spending $200 on dinner, I just make it at home, maybe some exotic drinks and I enjoy it as much as going out nowadays.

      1. Since I've been cooking from the Cook Book of the Month right here, I have been planning weekly menus based on which recipes from the book I think the two of us would enjoy. We usually shop twice a week, Wednesdays for the main fresh produce and seafood and Saturday for fresh Italian bread, salumi and cheeses, and again, fresh seafood. We buy our organic meat at a local farm once a month. There are a few regular meals we've become accustomed to. For instance, Monday dinner is usually a macaroni/pasta dish & salad. Weds. & Sat. = fresh fish. The other days are protein + veggie + starch meals. It's all variations on a theme, so the meals are different each month. We don't eat dessert, and usually don't snack.... we're not deprived, though.....

        1. My husband and I alternate who cooks (the other washes dishes those days). I cook M,W,F and he cooks T,Th, and either Sat or Sun. Our main planning is if we want to have something special we get the ingredients when we shop. If we find interesting ingredients, we determine how quickly we need to use them. We're vegan, so we soak beans the morning of the day we want to eat them. We nearly always make enough of each evening meal to have leftovers for the following day's lunch. We generally shop on weekends. I typically drive home past a WFM on Wed and past a TJs on Th (I have a job which involves home visits, so end my day in different neighboring communities on different days), so if we need things then, I stop on my way home.

          1. I plan out five or six meals but don't slot them in to particular days. I consult what's fresh and on sale at the store before I make out my list - also I look to make sure I am using up anything that might spoil in my fridge. I go to a food coop once every two weeks (it's farther away so frequent trips are expensive). I go to the grocery store about every 5 days. All this will change soon when my CSA deliveries start up again. Then I'll base all my menus on what's in the bag.