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Weekly meal planning for the indecisive

I am always very indecisive when it comes to lunch and dinner and would like to start a weekly meal plan so I know what's ahead and don't spend an hour vacillating before dinner. It would also be nice to stop proliferating options for dinner and actually get around to cooking the ideas on my very long list. However, I find this very difficult to do as I fear that I won't want whatever is on the plan for that night and am so used to deciding on dinner the day of dinner or even a few hours before that I have no idea how to schedule the meals. I guess perhaps many just put the meals on the calendar and that's the plan, no need to predict what I might want for dinner on Tuesday. For the weekly meal planners out there do you just go with it or let yourself change the plan if you have other ideas? I was thinking that perhaps forcing myself to follow a plan for a week would help me get into the groove of a long-term plan and I'd learn to live with it.

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  1. I don't plan. change my mind too often and don't want to be stuck with a plan unless it's for an affair.

    1. I have been doing a weekly menu plan for a few years now. I mostly stick to it, except when I unexpectedly get home late, or something else comes up. And in those cases, I often just shuffle the planned menu items to a later day. My first step is to look at my calendar and decide if there's anything that might affect dinner - home-arrival time early or late, or a dentist appointment so we'll want something soft and comforting. ;-) Weather too - very hot days call for a salad dinner. I mostly just stick to the plan - I know what we like, and don't feel cramped that I don't change it up at the last minute. It does make it easier to try out those recipes you've saved. If something's not already in your rotation, you probably won't think to try it when you get home and are hungry.
      During the 20 minutes or so it takes to come up with a plan, I hate spending the time. But the rest of the week, I'm grateful for it, so I don't have to think about it on the drive home, or improvise while hungry.

      7 Replies
      1. re: patricium

        " If something's not already in your rotation, you probably won't think to try it when you get home and are hungry."

        This is so true and another reason I posted. I had the same dinner 4 times in a row last week mostly but not for a lack of options.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          About this, what I find helps is to make note of what new dishes sound appealing (and doable), to add to your rotation, when you have time to spare. The Home Cooking section in CH is a great source for that ;-)

          Reading about how the recipe is done and how others do it help me visualize and set me with the proper expectations, so I could feel comfortable with picking something from this to-try list even in the middle of a busy week.

          1. re: vil

            New ideas is not the issue...I have a list of 50 or so ideas on the "short list." I actually spend the time reading about them all and then never get to them which is why I wanted to start planning to actually try them because otherwise I'm wasting my time.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              I look at what I have to use up from the house and what is on sale and then I look at my "recipe" sources. If we are especially craving something I will make it buy most of our meals each week are new recipes. I save the good ones and the crappy ones are noted so I do not repeat. I know I am cooking a certain number I times a week. Sometimes I get lazy and we order in. Usually that is a swing day of food that will either keep or was mostly pantry and freezer items.
              I still get to choose what I want but I know I am picking from those five to seven choices. I like to only shop once a week.

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                I see I see. So it sounds like you really need to commit yourself (by making a clear plan), for the dish to happen. For me, it constitutes a commitment to make the dish, when I buy or defrost a perishable item (such as meat or fish), because I hate wasting food. For me, I know I prefer having the flexibility for changes, such as using the same ingredients to make a completely different dish that suits my mood of the schedule, or even moving the perishable back to the freezer.

                I was about to say your style and mine are different, but reading more about your concerns further in the thread seems to say that you have a fear of commitment too (like me).

                1. re: vil

                  Yea, commitment is the issue :) I fear the worst so refuse to commit.

          2. re: patricium

            I plan like this too. I cook for a family of 4. So first I think about which kid has an activity or if my husband or I won't be home for dinner for whatever reason. If my husband won't be home for dinner, then I try to plan something for that night that my kids like but he doesn't. Or if it's a day that I will be home late from work, I might make something the day before that won't suffer from being re-heated.

            I have a huge list of dishes and some are definitely in the regular rotation but I generally try to mix it up with a new dish once a week.

            On the weekend, I try to figure out the basic plan and then shop usually on Sundays. Often times I will really plan for Monday-Wednesday and then shop again for Thursday-Friday later in the week (on a day when I work from home). We very rarely eat home-cooked meals on Saturday and Sunday.

          3. I'm wondering if you stay a little indecisive if it will suit your style better. You know, like, you'll do something with chicken but not have to decide what exactly til closer to cooking time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: c oliver

              That's sort of what I've been doing since I know what's fresh or has been defrosted, but I seem to still always be torn :)

            2. I plan for the week, but it does go awry sometimes (mostly when I just don't "feel like" whatever).

              I live alone, so it is quite easy to be flexible re dinner, as in to dinner or not to dinner sometimes.

              I also plan my breakfasts and lunches a week at a time, and I tend to really stick to the plan for those meals.

              1 Reply
              1. re: laliz

                Like laliz, I am single, so it's easier to just do, or not do.

                There is, however, times when I get a craving for something - pork, pasta, whatever. So perhaps fieldhawk can let that guide her.

                OR - don't try and plan an entire week. Choose 2 days of the week that you'll stick with what you decided to make, and take those ingredients out to defrost or set on the counter so when you see them when you get home, with the recipe right alongside it. That might make it easier to try one of the 50 ideas.

              2. I don't know if it will be helpful to you or not, but I actually plan to be flexible! Here is what I do:

                I make meal plans on the weekend for the next week. I always seem to have several recipes or ideas that I want to do, so inspiration is not short :)

                I always make at least one soup ( for lunches or quick dinner) and one or two salad dressings or spreads/dip.

                I take out my proteins from the freezer. I like a variety.

                I decide how many nights will be lighter fare/meat free vs heavier and "comforty".

                I like a variety of cuisines and styles, so I plan for that...not necessarily which *night* I will eat them on. I like to be flexible.

                I try to use up what I have open and available, then go to the store if needed.

                So, by Monday, I will have a soup or two already made, a bean dip/hummus/pate ready, a few dressings ( Asian style/balsamic/blue cheese) and... for example, a chicken defrosting, a steak or ground beef, a pork tenderloin, maybe tofu or fish in the cold drawer section of the fridge. It is typically the veg that I might have to go to the store for, but when I think a week in advance, I just get it all at once.

                I always have a few ideas, but I do keep it flexible. Like, I know next week that I want to make Hemingway's hamburgers, pork lumpia with a light soup, Vietnamese veggie spring rolls... and I want to roast a duck. I think I want a big Caesar salad one night too, maybe with a bean spread on thick low carb crackers. I have some asparagus to use up too. All those things will be ready for me to decide "on the day of". I tend to be very flexible with my veg and try to have 2 vegetables. I buy what looks good or is in season, then incorporate that in the meal plan that day.

                Hope that helps!

                2 Replies
                1. re: sedimental

                  I'd not heard of Hemingway's hamburger. Is this kinda what you do?

                  http://www.openculture.com/2013/09/er...

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Yeah! There is a thread about it somewhere here. I thought it sounded intriguing- but I have never made it.