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Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 09:19
by Allium
The dummy would be me ;-)

I love the idea of meal planning, mostly because I get to dinner time (or lunch!) & I cannot for the life of me think of what we should eat, even if I know what's in the kitchen. My problem is I can't find a way to meal plan successfully. I literally need a step by step guide :oops: I have a lot of questions!

Do you write your meal plans down? On a calendar? A self-designed spreadsheet? A post it note?! Where do you keep it? How do you make sure you stick to it? Do you alter it if plans change (friends/family comes round/you stay out for lunch), or just leave it saying you had a salad for lunch when you actually went to starbucks for a mocha choca extra creamy latte with a side order of chocolate & something with cheese?! Do you have reminders for what to take out of the freezer/prepare the night before/prepare earlier in the day/batch cook? How do you stop it getting too repetitive or labour intensive? Is it for a month or a week? Am I asking too many ridiculous questions?!

Basically I think I need an app for it on my iphone :oops: preferably one that I can sync with my laptop & print off a weekly timetable and will give me a kick to take the stuff out of the freezer the night before...or a live in chef...! I always have the idea that I could draw out a timetable on A4 (like the weekly ones we had at school) & copy it so I can fill it in each week...but I get stumped at the 'find a ruler' stage, & I've never managed to get a spreadsheet version that didn't print off ridiculously small or impossibly big.

Please help this dummy :D

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 09:22
by Aitch
oh i would LOVE a meal planning app.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 09:45
by camper
I used to have some meal-planning software but never really got to grips with it. One of the programs was called Shop'NCook. I use i-cal and I write on each day what we will have to eat, then make my shopping list from that. I only plan for dinners, and make sure I have a stock of the stuff we usually have for lunch (our lunches are very unexciting and revolve around crackers with salady stuff, eggs and cheese). I find that as it's on the calendar I can look back for inspiration if it's all getting a bit monotonous, and as I have a macbook and i-phone (get me! :wink: ) I always have it with me. As DH has the same it is also on his calendar but I usually have to ring him from work at lunchtime if I'm working the late shift to remind him what I'd planned for him and MJ to eat. I generally plan for a week because that's about as long as fresh stuff lasts before I need to shop again. If we're really skint I plan for 6 days then make a cupboard-surprise dish with whatever's left on the 7th day. Sometimes if I have to rejig it (e.g. if what I planned takes too long to cook and MJ is too tired to wait) I do enter this on the calendar so that I can keep track of it, but not always. I also think the calendar helps prevent the monotony as you can see whether you're eating pasta and pesto every other day. I also try and plan to try one new recipe each week to try and make things more interesting. The vine leaf, herb and yoghurt pie I made a couple of weeks ago was amazing and has now been added to the regulars list!
Hope that helps. I'm sure you'll get lots of feedback from others too. I'm a complete convert - I think it helps us budget better, and actually encourages us not to eat the same things all the time.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 09:56
by A_W
I have written down all the meals we cook in a notebook - think there's about 45 in there. Then each week I look in the cupboard/freezer and see what is left and then write a list of meals for a week that fit whatever is in there and a list of what I might need to buy that week. So if I have lots of spaghetti we have spag bol, spag bol with baked pot for night 2, or lots of rice then it's chilli con carne, rissotto etc. and so on.....

I think it helps my pg brain having all the meals I ever cook written down and then I can just look at it and think oh yes we'll have that. I also have a list on the kitchen wall of easy quick meals when I haven't planned ahead - i.e. got something out of freezer, like pasta/pesto/peas or stir fry with noodles that take only 10mins to do. The meal list reminds me of meals I forget about that I don't do very often. If we have meat two nights in a row then the following night will be fish or veggie - we can't afford red meat every night. Lunches in this house as I'm a sahm are either sandwiches, pitta bread, soup, cheese on toast, tomatoes/sardines on toast, pasta or the odd meal in a cafe if I'm feeling fed up and have the energy!

When we get in a bit of a rut with meals I look at bbc good food website that Lin introduced me to and get some fresh ideas from that or my year cook book that has meals based for each month is really good. I do like the website though as it has some great ideas on it and cheap options and quick options too.

Hth, A x

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 09:59
by blackberrycrimble
We sort of semi-meal plan. We have a whiteboard in the kitchen that organises our lives for us, and a corner of it is our meal plan. Starts on a Sat. At the moment we tend to plan for weekend days and days where F and S are eating at home (on nursery days they eat there and we eat later, so more time to think/do something random), but as today is my first day post-job, I'll probably start planning a bit more (and S will have another day at home eating to plan). We only do tea, although that does make lunches very boring and repetitive. We also have a big notebook where I note down tried and tested meals and recipes to jog my memory if stuck. We are also guided by what is in our veg box. Actually that makes it hard to plan after wednesday at the moment as that is when the veg box arrives. Another part of the whiteboard is a shopping list, so if we need things we don't have, we can write those up for the next trip to wherever. I quite enjoy it, good luck.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 10:00
by babydsmummy
I am a fairly low tech meal planner. I made a sheet using Word with a table with 7 columns and 2 rows. Obv, a column per day of the week (I shop weekly) and onw row for what we are eating and the second for the things I need to buy. I start it on a Friday as that is my shopping day.

On a good week, I will sit with some recipe books etc to do it carefully, but usually just write down some of our usual meals. I try to check the fridge, freezer and cupbaord for things that need using soon and plan meals to use them up, but this is less of a problem now we do plan. I try to plan harder meals that I can freeze leftovers of for weekends or weeks off then plan to eat the leftovers or a very quick pasta/stir fry type meal for the four days a week I work.

I stick it on a wall in the kitchen, and keep some of the old one to give me ideas when I am stuck. I only plan teas - the other meals sort themselves out!

If we don't stick to it for whatever reason eg fancy a takeaway instead, I usually just put the missed out meal on the next week's planner, as long as the ingredients can last that long.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 10:06
by camper
Forgot to say - I also try to plan meals that are suitable for keeping (either by freezing or just keeping in fridge overnight) the night before I do a 12-hour shift at work so I have a meal to take with me. Stuff like ratatouille, pasta, casseroles, curry are all good for this.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 10:09
by mamamiff
Wow! You're all a lot more organised than me, and I thought I was doing quite well! We started planning meals about a year ago, mainly to help with budget restrictions, and I think it's great. We only ever plan for the coming week (6 or 7 days) and usually only for dinner. We write down the meals we'd like to have that week (usually a couple of high rotation favourites, something quick and easy, something in the slow cooker, and sometimes something new that DH or my mum have found) then look at what we already have to make those meals and write our shopping list based on what else we need. We've found that it saves us LOTS of money and we no longer have a crisper full of wilted vegies that I can't think of a use for :) I don't think a calendar would work for us because we don't decide at the beginning of the week what nights we're having each dish, unless I know we'll be home late so I put on the slow cooker that morning, or similar. But each day I decide what we'll have that night, and we work our way through them during the week. It's quite amazing how much less stressful the weekly shop and evenings are now - although we still argue about who has to do the dishes! :D

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 10:24
by Allium
Thanks for the ideas everybody! So far I have learnt I need a whiteboard. That sounds perfect!! It will magically organise me, I'm sure ;-) I also need to find my brain so I can write down a list of all the meals we make...choosing something from a list sounds much easier than plucking them from thin air, which is how it feels at the moment. I think trying one new recipe a week sounds like a good idea too...we have so many recipe books :oops:

Despite having the fab iphone & macbook prob combo, I've never managed to get to grips with ical...DH swears by it for organising his life/work/everything, but I just can't seem to get into it. Weird really, as I used to have everything (work related) on outlook's calendar, & it can't be that different...anyway, I need a real world version otherwise I'd just ignore the plan...I'm like that! I did have a quick look for meal planner apps, but there was only one free one & it's no longer available :? How can they have an app for giving birth, but not for planning meals?!

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 11:31
by shye
I plan meals but not always which days... so I'll make a list of meals when making my grocery list... but that way as the week spans out differently than anticipated (like it always does) I can choose my meals accordingly.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 15:41
by Turtle'sMammy
I write mine down on a magnetic pad that sticks to the fridge. Not every week. Usually I do a meal plan (for 10 days) then carry on a bit longer with whatever's left for a while until the cupboards are in dire straits and I panic and start again (on DH's next day off). What we eat depends on his schedule. What with his lovely mix of days and nights, it has to be a factor (if I don't cook before he goes on a night shift he'll nothing for an entire 24 hour period besides a scuzzy old burger from a drive through). I do try and do a new recipe (or two) on every rotation. Actually think I might be going a bit overboard with it TBH.
So I start on whatever day we're doing the shopping, then consult DH's schedule and try and figure out which things are easiest to make on which days (complicated things are for his days off, when I have more time for arsing around in the kitchen). I consult my myriad of cookbooks, ask DH (and get a "whatever" :? ) then leave it in the lap of the gods.
If we miss a day I'll either skip that meal and tack it on at the end, or just move everything back a day, depending on what it is.
It's a nice guide. And handy when doing the shopping, but it's not a religion :wink:

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 16:39
by KatGoldLIN
On grocery day (usually every 10-14 days) we draw up a meal plan by picking a few favourites and then grabbing a cookbook or two and picking things that we want to try. It helps keep it interesting.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 17:48
by AB&M
I just use my calendar and then write up a shopping list for each day of the week to match the meals (I like to walk to the shops so I buy less even if it means going more often, plus some things are bought from the market).

In the calendar on google, DH can see from work what's for dinner (& decide whether to go to the pub :wink: ).

I rarely have much fresh food left at the end of the week and always make some sort of casserole / curry / stew type sauce thing that everything gets bunged in anyway so I use up the old stuff first.

The only rules I have with my meal planning are:

something from each type of starch group - bread, rice, pasta, potatoes etc
at least 1 fish dish
at least 1 veggie dish (am trying to increase my repertoire here but severely restricted by my lack of love for veggies!)

An app would be fab as I'm sure we get stuck in a rut a bit.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 21:07
by hiann
You all need to get Organised Mum stuff! http://www.organised-mum.co.uk/

I do meal plans for a week or two at a time.

Based on 1 mince dish a week, one fish dish a week, a HM "fast food" meal (pizza or burger), a rice dish, a pasta dish and a chicken dish and we tend to eat at my mums or MIL's on a Sun. The rice and pasta meals may have chicken in them as well as the official chicken days or may be something like pasta and pesto if its a busy day. Rice days tends to be Tues as I do a big kitchen clean Tues night tradiotionally so doesnt matter if I make a mess with rice boiling over (although tend to use a rice cooker now so not an issue).

I have a section in my OM diary where I have listed meals under type: chicken, mince, pork, other, pasta, rice etc etc... and then try to balance it out. I keep a note of what we have in the diary each day so I dont repeat the same meals too much: so if we have spag bol one week, we'll have cottage pie the next etc.

Re: Meal Planning for Dummies

PostPosted: 25 Oct 2010, 21:10
by shye
I totally do what the organised mum meal planner looks like! But on the back of envelopes...