What Are Your Meal-Planning Tips?

Last week my tired (OK, I’ll just admit it: lazy) brain led a teriyaki/pizza/burger assault on my body.

Now, I’m pretty sympathetic to giving in to the occasional fast-food craving. But definitely not all week like I did. This after I resolved to cook more at home, to pack more lunches, etc.

I don’t think I cooked anything besides oatmeal last week. I even have a list of go-to quick meals, but I didn’t even open the drawer on them.

I admit that there was a touch of laziness and  to my meals, but at 8 p.m. on a weekday, as much as I love food, the last thing I want to do is go to the grocery store then whip something together.

I realize part of my issue is poor planning and not taking time over the weekend to decide what we’re going to eat then buying the groceries for them. But I’m working on it.

And I’m enlisting your help.

What are your meal planning tips? Do you use online programs or social networks to help you make grocery lists? Do you have a recipe list that you rotate through? Or is Martha Stewart the only person who does this kind of planning?

18 thoughts on “What Are Your Meal-Planning Tips?

  1. the best recipe website out there is allrecipes.com a close second is tasteofhome.com or delish on msn.

    I have a rotating set of menus I use (I have about 4 months worth so the family doesn’t get bored) and every week someone in our family gets to choose one of the menus. I also have a meatless meal as one of the meals to cut costs.

    In the summer, we have salad night and in the winter we have one night that is homemade soup night. Once you make homemade, you’ll ever eat canned again!

    I’m writing a cookbook of cheap menu ideas . . . it will be published soon–keep your eyes peeled for it!

  2. Pick a day to cook up several meals and store them in your freezer. I usually do this on a Sunday, and spend an hour or so cooking. Then during the week, I take something out, pop in microwave and have a yummy dinner.

    Another suggestion is using a crock pot. A lot of 5 ingredients or less recipes are out there, put in slow cooker and you come home after a long day into a house that smells delicious!

  3. I try to keep the essentials in the house, and use a couple time saving tricks. I look at the Wednesday grocery store ads, see what is on sale, and create meals around that. When I buy hamburger meat or chicken, I cook them up right away and store the browned meat in the freezer. That way, on days I don’t feel like cooking, I just pull some already cooked hamburger meat, zap in microwave, stir in some taco seasoning and put on top of salad with tortilla chips. Instant taco salad. Also works with burritos, quick shepherd’s pie, etc. With chicken, just zap with some teriyaki sauce or bbq sauce with some veggies, yummy dinner in less than 5 minutes.

  4. I do (when I get organized) something similar to what Angie posted. I take a morning a month and cook a whole bunch of stuff: chili, chicken pot pie, shepherds’ pie, beef stew, lasagna etc. Then I freeze each in 8 by 8 or 9 by 13 pans. Get them out the morning you want to cook them and they’re usually thawed by dinner time. I have done Dream Dinners before, but it seemed expensive for what I got (this was back on the East Coast.) I would love to get some different dishes to cook ahead though … might have to look around for some new recipes.

  5. I keep certain staples on hand always: onions, salad greens, pasta, rice, jars of pasta sauce, cheese, canned black beans and canned kidney beans, bags of various frozen vegetables, quinoa, frozen shrimp (easily thawed for salads or to add to pasta dishes.)

    I always have some homemade soup in the freezer.

  6. http://www.allrecipes.com – you can create your own professionally printed cookbook.
    http://www.epicurious.com – includes recipes from Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appétit. Also has a Tastebook feature where you can create your own hardcover cookbook for printing.
    Vegetarian Times (online or print) – http://www.vegetariantimes.com
    Moosewood (www.moosewoodrestaurant.com/recipes.html)

    For meal planning and shopping, Meals Matter (www.mealsmatter.org) – has recipes, but also meal planner, ‘create a virtual cookbook’, and automatic shopping list features.

  7. I always keep staples on hand too, so when I go to the store I buy according to what I need to re-supply, and meals I want to cook that week. If I buy a beef roast I insert garlic into it before I freeze it. All pork chops get put in zip bags and some get marinade in them before going into the freezer. One thing new I plan to try this year is to plant green onions through the summer so they will be fresh all the time. We’re also going to try one of the upside down hanging tomato planters this year.

  8. I Use my iPod Touch as a PDA. I have a bunch of recipes I want to try out in VoodooPad and then I have a free shopping list program called ShopShop. I can then check out the recipes at the store and decide what I want to try cooking this week. I’ll use the left overs for lunch.
    http://flyingmeat.com/voodoopad (made in Washington)

    The iPod touch is also great to read recipes off of and to listen to music while cooking. It also has a nifty timer and is quite a kitchen helper.

  9. Thanks for the fantastic tips! Keep ’em coming. I incorporated some into a weekend shopping trip and cooking fest this weekend. Will blog more on that later.

    – Angela

  10. Tonight I’ll do some photos and screen shots showing you how awesome an iPod Touch or iPhone are in the kitchen.

    I even use an app to do measurement conversions.

    Podcasts make doing the dishes fun!

  11. Jake, I would love to see those photos of how the iPod touch works in the kitchen. I’ve tried using my Blackberry storm, but the browser’s slow and it gets kind of hard to use when I put it in a plastic bag (I’m mess), and it doesn’t have any good apps for cooking that I know of. If anyone has a G1, it’d be nice to hear how that works out.

    – Angela

  12. My friend works for T-Mobile on the Android OS Phones. The web browser is very nice on it. But I can’t have a cellphone with me at work but I can have an iPod Touch due to security regulations. (no camera, no recording, no phone,) It is the best PDA I’ve used.

    Here is the recipe I made tonight. I am getting over a cold

    Sometimes I use the AllRecipies DinnerSpinner for ideas.

    I use a free program called ShopShop for grocery lists

    I use Todo List for my to do list

    The iPhone OS Clock has a nice timer for the kitchen

    I will keep recipies and all sorts of neat data and document clippings in VoodooPad

    Reading recipes in the Safari Web browser

    The calculator comes in handy when figuring finances

    Kitchen Converter to figure out measurement conversions

    Finally cooking the soup and dumplings. I used a $6 chicken and made soup for about 5 meals. I had dinner with my lady friend, gave some to my neighbor upstairs and have four lunches. Not bad for about $10 worth of fresh ingredients.

  13. I don’t have an iPhone I have a iPod Touch. Feel free to post this on the blog. Glad to see the comment spam filter didn’t eat that comment.

    Just like how my grandfather would not be without trusty pocketwatch or moleskin notebook and pen I never am far without my iPod Touch

    The iPod touch starts at 220 and goes to 399 but you don’t have to pay a monthly fee since it is not a cell phone. I work at Keyport and can’t have a normal cell phone at my desk so the iPod Touch is a great little handheld computer that I use instead of getting another laptop. (I had two laptops die last year)

    I have a protective rubber case but I keep it away from any boiling pots or liquid. This is actually my 2nd iPod touch since I killed my first one by dropping it in the bath tub while reading online news. That is one nice thing about the printed edition of the Kitsap Sun. You can read it in the bathtub and not worry about frying the circuit board when you get it wet.

    Usually I have it in my front shirt pocket and will refer to it while cooking. The iPod Touch has no buttons besides the touch screen so I don’t worry about cleaning it Usually I just wipe it clean of finger grease.

    It has a 600 Mhz processor a nice graphics chip and a lot of ram and storage space so it is comparable in power to some laptop computers but it is thinner than a deck of cards. You can’t make calls or check your mail away from a wifi hot spot but it is hellishly fast if you are home and have a wifi hot spot. I always have it with me so it is my day planner, walkman, recipe book, notepad, shopping list, scrapbook to do list, calendar, address book, photo album. There are also a bunch of nifty cooking podcasts you can listen to or watch in iTunes for free.

    Google’s Android OS devices like the G1, Windows Mobile and Palm are all fine PDA/Smartphone solutions but since I am an old time Mac fan I am predestined to get an Apple product. Plus it automatically syncs with all my software on my Mac. Using VoodooPad and other programs that sync with the device it is nifty to walk away and have most of your personal information with you. Since I got it I find myself almost never printing things out when I can just throw the information on to the iPod Touch.

    You can do all the stuff that can do on your desk but without paper. There has been a lot of talk with tech companies making “Kitchen” computers mounted on a kitchen table or on a counter top but this works out for me. I got my first computer if first grade and could write in a word processor before I knew how to write cursive. To me digital information just seems more natural to me. I love reading online cooking blogs like Gluten Free Girl and Broke Ass Gourmet. I also trade a bunch of cooking tips and recipes via social photo networking sites like Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/groups/glutenfreegoodness/ ). I used to live with a woman who was severely gluten intolerant and finding other people that were dealing with this unique food issue online was great.

    Plus it is nice to read the KitsapSun.com under a blanket on a comfy chair with a nice mug of coffee on a cold weekend morning.

  14. Since we’re talking about PDAs and phones…

    May 21: Blackberry Storm vs. iPhone Shootout – Come see the sparks fly and learn about why these devices are such amazing tools and truly connecting us together. A professor from Olympic College might also talk about the T-Mobile G1. It’s at Poulsbo Library in the Community Room from 5:30p-7:30p. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/56231

  15. My friend Beth works for T-Mobile attracting App developers to Android. The G-1 is not going to be the only Android phone/PDA on the market for long.

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