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Weekly Menu Planning - Do you plan?

I often hear about people who plan out and prepare their menu for the week and I'm insanely envious of these people.

I've trying to organize my time and budget better and was wondering how many of you plan your weekly menu and/or prepare it beforehand so it's ready to go in the evenings. Any tips and tricks on getting started or favorite menu ideas?

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  1. I do it sometimes but I find the plan always goes awry somewhere. It actually seems to work better if I plan say 4 meals for 5 days, then I can accomodate unexpected changes in plans.
    Once I was exceptionally (for me!) organized and I cooked the onions for two dishes together -that felt really efficient, truly like I prepared two unique meals in not much more time than one!
    Otherwise - it's usually plans like: make a large batch of meat sauce (freeze some for a future meal), have spaghetti dinner one night and spaghetti pie for another meal. Or just have spaghetti again, but with the addition of garlic bread :)
    Or make Artisan Bread in 5 basic dough and have pizza, nan (with a simple shrimp curry) and savoury strudel that week - which can quickly start to feel like a lot of bread; my family is content with that but I feel like it's not a healthy variety.
    I have looked at OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) websites but they seem to rely very heavily on processed foods, cream-of-mushroom casseroles and the like. I am more interested in a Once a Week Cooking model, looking forward to other responses.

    1. I do plan, but not to the degree others do. Working full time and having a toddler, I find this is the only way to make sure we're not ordering takeout or pizza or something all the time. If there's cooked, ready to heat and eat food in the fridge, we eat it.

      One day on the weekend, usually on Saturdays (like today), a chunk of time is devoted to shopping and cooking. As we're more foodie than perhaps others who might menu plan, this involves going to several different stores. The "conventional" grocery for various paper products or canned goods or staples. The farmer's market for produce (when in season), the local meat market for meats. We do have a couple of "crunchy" groceries that sell acceptable meat, which are around 40 mins away - I might go to one of those instead of the multiple stops that are closer by since I can get almost everything there.

      I buy based on what looks good and fresh and what may go with some things I already have at home. If I have cabbage and potatoes at home, I might buy some smoked sausage, so that's one dinner. I usually buy some canned Tonno tuna in olive oil or canned chicken breast to make a quick capered tuna or chicken salad for dinner one night, which we'll have with whatever tapas things are around - crackers, grapes, homemade pickles, roasted red peppers, etc. I buy a variety of other stuff depending on what looks good - beef to grind to make hamburgers or to grind and use in a casserole, steaks, whole chicken or chicken thighs, a couple of turkey legs, a pork tenderloin, whatever. I still start meal planning based around the protein, so I usually make sure there's some protein base for each dinner. We do eat a veg. dinner once a week as well, something with beans and rice and veg usually.

      I try to think of what will go well with each thing and make a few sides, but they often interchange or get eaten for multiple dishes. Like I might take my homemade chicken broth and cook a batch of noodles in it, that's a side dish for at least a couple of meals. Or I'll make a big thing of white or brown rice or plain spaghetti and that's a side. Or the spagh will be topped with sauce and served with garlic bread for our veg meal that week.

      I get everything home and usually start cooking right away. It only takes a couple of hours. One thing I''ll throw in the crockpot, something else in the oven, something else on the stovetop, and as things get finished, they go into the fridge. Then we're set for the week.
      I also make food for lunches.

      1. I do not plan at all. I have no idea what I will be hungry for on any given day. I got to the store every day, but I don't mind one bit. The only thing I'll plan in advance for is dinner that I'll be cooking for company or something that have to be marinated overnight, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alliegator

          Alliegator and I are on the same wave length. We do have a Farmers' Market on Tuesdays, so I always figure Tuesday's dinner will come from there. I also try to have one dinner a week based on what's in the frig and pantry without going to the grocery.

        2. Yes and no. I plan to make one dish everyday for work and that rarely ever changes primarily because of time, space and odor limitations.
          For dinner, i stop at a Grocery store on my way home and get something to make.

          1. I plan now more than I ever did. I look at the store circular and then decide what to cook based on some of the sales. I don't do it for all the days of the week, but I do find that some of what I cook lasts more than 1 meal. It it the only way I know we will have dinner on the table without it being fast food. I also cook on weekends or use my crockpot so dinner will be ready at a decent time.