Meal planning

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dinner plate

Sarah of Ghost World is an impressively well-organized blogger and pediatrics resident (and Quo Vadis / Rhodia fan). Reading her recent posts about refilling an empty fridge and managing the loose ends in life reminded me of a subject I’ve been meaning to write about since I saw her advice on Carrots ‘n Cake back in April: meal planning.

When I lived in Europe (Germany, Austria, England) for a few years after college, I fell in love with how easy it was to go to the farmer’s market every day, see what inspired me, and cook. Of course, I also had a lot more free time—the easy pace of European life is often oversold, but it’s definitely less hectic than your average New York day. The only thing you had to plan ahead for was Sunday, when everything was closed. And you could always go to a restaurant if you didn’t do your shopping on Saturday.

Here in Red Hook, I’m no longer close to a daily farmer’s market, though we do have a great supermarket. I work from home, and I don’t have kids, so it’s still relatively easy for me to pop over to the store at the end of the day and pick ingredients for that night’s dinner. Nonetheless, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of plotting out a couple meals in advance—in part because it’s summer, and I can now buy a bunch of vegetables at once at our weekly farmer’s market, and in part because, you know, life is stressful, and who doesn’t want more free time to read or garden or take an aimless walk around the block before dinner?

There are plenty of online tools to keep track of recipes and meals; many people also use their planners for that purpose. Thus far, however, I’ve been taking it 2-3 days at a time and using a simple shopping list as a mnemonic device.

How far in advance do you plan your meals?

5 thoughts on “Meal planning

  1. I grew up with a Mother who was a Public Health professional…all our meals were planned at two week interveals (I still have the sheets) and we froze fresh vegtables every summer. We purchased meat direct from the farmer and froze that as well.

    With my own young family and working full time, I would plan out a month at a time. I have sheets that show each meal with columns listing which cookbook and page as well as what ingredients I need to buy.

    I made seperate lists of the “fresh” foods that needed to be purchased each week. Plus, each week one receipe could be doubled and frozen so there was always nights I didn’t have to cook or room for emergiences. I love cookbooks and we were always exploring!

  2. My mom’s had a lot of luck freezing Minestrone, Erin — she uses the recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook and adds sausage (sort of sacrilegious from the perspective of a vegetarian recipe, but there you go), then freezes it in 2-pint containers. Warm it up on the stove before dinner and you’re good to go.

  3. We try to plan for one week at a time, but we need some ideas for more vegetarian meals. Either that, or learn how to freeze meat & fish and thaw them so they don’t taste like they’ve been frozen. Typically, we get fish and chicken, and maybe one other meat. Then the first 3 or 4 days are covered, but by the last couple of days of the week, we’re out of dinner food.

  4. during the summer, to help save money, my mother and I would sit down and plan the family’s meals in advance. Despite being only 20, she trusted me to cook them and have them ready each night around 5-6-ish, I’ve been cooking since I was young, and for the longest time she would just throw whatever looked good into the cart, and plan meals later.
    I prefer planning meals out week by week. it’s what I did with my food in my dorm, and what I’ll be doing this year. A week ahead of time means I can buy all the food at once, don’t have to worry about last-minute changes, and don’t have to leave campus mid-week to restock.

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