Debra asked an excellent question on my last post on meal planning that I thought I would address today. This has been what I have been planning to do all week, but it’s even more perfect because my tired brain needs to remember my own tips today as I meal plan!
“I sort of ‘freeze up’ when trying to plan a week’s worth of meals. Do you ever feel that way? If so, what helps you to overcome it? Do you cycle through many favorites or are you always looking through cookbooks trying new things?”
Debra, that happens to me all the time! For a while I didn’t even want to meal plan because it just seemed like I couldn’t come up with a good, rounded weekly meal plan and thought I did better on a day to day basis . But I have found that to be untrue, and the more I plan ahead , it seems, the more rounded out my menu turns out. So how do we get that meal plan done? Here are a few things that have worked for me.
One of the most helpful things for me, for a while, was having a rough outline of what type of meals I would fix on different days. It gave me somewhere to start when I was doing my meal plan. Here is an example:
Monday: chicken (roasted), make broth that night
Thursday: Grain based
Saturday: Legume based
So when I was doing my weekly meal planning, I would just need to pop different recipes into the rough outline that correlated with either the beef/soup/grain/chicken/ legume.
Keep a List
If you keep a list of favorite recipes that you want to make on a consistent basis, you will never have to get stuck in meal planning. You can just pull it out, and pick a few and there you go! I would recommend that you keep a list categorized-Beef, chicken, grain, legume, side dishes. It could also be good to write down, next to the recipe, where to in find it, such as : Chicken Bake-The Joy of Cooking , pg 455, or Spinach Side dish-epicurious.com
Finding New Recipes
I also frequently browse cookbooks to find something new to try. I like to make something new at least once a week (though I have to admit, sometimes it’s daily!), so I love reading through cookbooks. I will mark all the recipes that I think sound good which gives me plenty of new recipes to try all the time.
Another good way to find new recipes is to do searches on recipe sites like allrecipes.com or epicurious.com. For example, if you have a bag of potatoes waiting to be used, you can type in that ingredient and do a search. All the recipes that have potatoes will come up and you will have plenty of inspiration !
But it’s worth noting that in different seasons, I have not been “into” trying a lot of new things but just rotated easy favorites (this would be during early babyhood with Elena, and tired pregnancy weeks!)
So those are the things that work for me. But I would love to hear from others. What works for you?
And on to my meal plan for this week (to show what an imperfect planner I am, myself!)
Monday: Millet Zucchini Side Dish (an idea I had last week to try), Chopped liver (a new recipe that Ina Garten did on her show, that I wanted to try) with homemade crackers, Green Salad
Tuesday: Italian Rice Salad (just a basic favorite recipe), Green Salad
Wednesday: Lentil Soup, Green Salad, Irish Soda Bread (yum, made this last week, and loved it!)
Thursday:Buckwheat and Pasta (did this a few weeks ago and loved it!), Savory Carrot Salad
Friday: Some type of beef dish….(I sometimes give myself a few days to decide and find a recipe lol)
This post it part of Menu Planning Monday!
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Looks like a yummy week! Thanks for sharing your menu–and your process. 🙂
Oh I love anything the Barefoot Contessa makes!
Have a wonderful week,
These were great tips. Thanks for sharing.
I like your methods. I also have a list of ‘keepers’ where I write the dish, cookbook, and page number for ready reference.
I like to start with what is on-hand and go from there. For example, I have a huge ham left from Easter so… we are having several ham suppers this week. If you do too, check out my post on http://www.MomsMealConnection.blogspot.com/. The recipes are Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin, Eggs Bennedict, Ham and Potato Soup, and Mediterranean Vegetable Salad with Ham. All are delicious and different so your family won’t say “Oh, no! Not ham again!”
Check out other family-friendly menus on my website: http://www.MomsMealConection.com
which is designed to connect busy moms to meals that fit their lifestyle and schedules.
I hope you enjoy your meal planning!
Do you know if any sort of whole food pyramid exists? I’m looking for a basic guide to align my food choices with as I fill out a weekly meal plan. I struggle with knowing how much dairy, grains, etc. to plan for any single day. What methods do you use to balance these things out?