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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Menu Ideas & Help / General Daily Menu Planning Opinion
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    General Daily Menu Planning Opinion

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    Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:55 pm Groupie
    Hey all,

    I love reading through everyone's menus on 'Zaar and I know that my week is less hectic when I have created one of my own. Sometimes though I struggle with creating a menu and then a just throw something together and when it gets time to pick what to make for the night I look at my choices like "what was I thinking with these pairings!?".

    I am a little bit of a food snob, I love eating out and having a gourmet dining experience. I am at a point in my life right now where I have the time to spend on putting together dinner and I enjoy cooking and making different pairings. However, the menu planning process itself is overwhelming...I know when I have put together something good but I am never quite sure how I got there. Generally I plan a menu with 4 meal options not assigned to any specific day and that gives me the flexibility to choose what to make based on our schedule and things that come up.

    My question for you all is how do you plan your menus? Does how you arrange your 'Zaar cookbooks make a difference? Do you worry about how foods are paired and what makes you determine how to pair things? Do you base your menu choices off of the groceries you have available/will be buying? Do you have any suggestions for me on how to develop some kind of formula to plan gourmet style menus quickly (nothing too crazy usually a main dish and a side dish and desert once a week)? Am I being too neurotic about the whole process lol?? icon_lol.gif

    I really look forward to hearing your feedback!
    Thu Sep 30, 2010 5:13 pm Groupie
    Hi, Like Kelly I am interested in the process of making a weekly menu and really a step by step guide if you will. I recently retired and would like to reduce shopping and throw aways. It is now just DH and myself, both our lovely children are out on their own now. We are in our mid-50's, do not enjoy going out to dinner much, once in a while is fine. I love to cook and now that fall is here I usually make a pot of soup for the week. After that, it is whatever I can plan for the day.
    I would like to now start planning for the week.
    I do use OAMC for comfort foods, roasts, soups, chilis, etc. but am not proficient enough to plan out ahead of time. I look at the sales for the week and then go from there, nbut would enjoy learning to do a weekly and then eventually a monthly chart.Do you use a program, a calendar, zaars shopping list, menu planner?
    Diet concerns:
    low sugar
    low salt
    lots of fruits and veggies
    (cancer diet) so I need to be real careful with the sugar and salts.

    Thank you
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:32 am Groupie
    I've always planned my menus. I even used to plan dinner for my Mom when I was growing up and she used to let me cook dinner for us once a week. I loved it. Sometimes when I was younger, and my son was young, more things came up with schedules and nights changed around. But I always planned a weeks worth. My now ex is a police officer so his schedule was always changing and many times I had to adjust my schedule to fit in with his. On top of it, I worked a 50 hr week, so it was always interesting. But I always cooked a homemade dinner. I'm not a fan of eating out.

    I cook for 2 ladies 3x/4 wk, and writing a cookbook and then I have a real job, which currently is only 25 hrs/ wk ... so planning is really key for me.

    So planning for the week - I have a few guidelines:

    1. I make a pot of soup every sunday, even when it is warm, it is a great go to for dinner or for lunches. I make a full pot, but I always freeze a couple of containers. I also make 1-2 loafs of bread on Sun too, usually the breadmaker, but I like to have some homemade bread on hand.

    2. Also, 1x per month I roast a turkey and cook a ham. Yes a whole turkey. I usually have it that night, but then freeze the rest. Makes great quick easy go to packages if something comes up or if I am in a hurry. Also a couple of bags in the fridge for lunches, etc. Just about anything.

    3. My menus do revolve around the farmers market on Sat am for all my veggies and fruits and whats on sale at the store.

    4. Also, if I am grilling. I often throw on an extra chicken breast or some extra grilled veggies, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Or I may even throw in shrimp. That way, the extras I cook I can use to top a salad or make a unique sandwich for dinner.

    5. Most importantly, I plan for the week - 1 night for:
    - The soup I made with either a salad or sandwich
    - Beef, pork or lamb
    - Chicken dish
    - Seafood 1-2x
    - Salad
    - And I try to make one night vegetarian if possible, but that doesn't always happen.
    And, having a little extra either in the fridge or something I grilled I can use to add to my sandwiches or salads.

    6. I also plan to use different styles of cooking, grilling, smoking, crock pot or saute.

    7. Once a month I also go through my pantry and freezer and use up what I have and knowing what I have on hand, I find I go to the store less. I still go now and then for extras, but planning a general meal ahead helps.

    8. I probably have 2,000 recipes or more which I use, and almost 600 on here, so I try to use them often because I know them and they are easy to make for me. But I also try to find a new recipe and try it 1x per week.

    9. For me, I don't have to have a 4 course meal. I really try to eat a lot of veggies and fruits as much as possible. And not eating take out or delivery means I can control my salt and sugar which is important to me.

    I also try to stay away from canned soups, although I do have recipes that include it. Also, I use ground turkey rather than meat if possible and try to make my own salad dressings. And when I make my own dressing, I try to use it in 2 different dishes within that week, so I don't waste anything.

    10. And lastly, I never eat leftover the next night, but I try to recreate them in another dish another night, or I will immediately freeze so I have them for lunch, or it may be something I can use as a side dish with a salad or soup the following week. That also means less to be forgotten in the fridge and no throw a ways.

    Hope that helps.
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:02 pm Groupie
    My menu planning can be hit or miss, but when I do it, my week always goes better and my family and I eat better. Here's how I do it (when I do it!).

    On Sunday a.m. I look at my calendar for the next week and determine when dinner will be and what my schedule is that day. I also check the local ads. I then choose my meals depending on what kind of time I'll have during the day to prep and how much time I'll have to actually get the meal on the table. I then pick and choose meals.

    For meals I usually concentrate on the entree and then add a veggie and a starch.

    The one thing that SAVES me is my "cook ahead" approach. If I'm making red sauce for pasta, for example, I make LOTS, usually four meals worth. It's not that much more work and I now have three more dinners in the freezer. If chicken breasts are on sale, I buy 10-20 lbs, roast them up and then pick the meat off. I now have the basis of many quick to prepare meals for those busy days and a bonus of homemade chicken stock.

    Lunches are also planned.

    Once I have my menu planned, Monday is shopping day; our farmers market is on Wednesday, so that is usually seafood night; other than that, it's all about the schedule!
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:52 pm Groupie
    Always planning or preparing ahead really helps as a couple of said ... cooking more chicken rather than just 3-4, cook 6-8 etc or even 1 meatloaf, make 2 and cook them and freeze. Then just slice, thaw and heat up for a quick dinner. As I mentioned I love ham frozen. Thaw and top with a quick chutney (even store bought), some roasted spuds and roasted green beans and you have dinner in minutes with 1 pan clean up.

    I don't call it OAMC, but just cooking a few things ahead of time really helps during the week. Cooking on the weekend, soups or if I make rice ... I make a double batch and freeze 1/2.
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:00 pm Groupie
    Dear Kitchen Konfused,
    You're looking for a how-to mini-guide? You'll need to listen to all the ideas you'll find here, then pick what's gonna work for you. Here's what works for me. I plan out dinners only, as far as I can/need to, and sometimes that means weeks or months ahead. You don't need to. I use a blank calendar page (HERE), and print copies as needed. Each month I fill in the dates, then get to work marking which days are "special," meaning birthdays, out of town, camping, early evening meetings, visitors, etc. Then, whether for a week or a month, I check my freezer and pantry inventory and plan to use what I have. I like to do a big cook (bbq, roast, chili, etc.) on Saturday rather than Sunday, so I plan those out first. Then I fill in the "down and dirty, fast and furious" dinners, which usually use up planned-overs or frozen meals. Then I fill in the rest of the days.

    I like to vary meats and meatless throughout the week, as well as cuisine, and mix pre-cooked with fresh-cooked. And the occasional pizza makes it to the family table (not always planned).

    Having ingredients and leftovers on-hand to put together almost-instant meals for those nutty nights is nice: chopped cooked chicken, cooked lean ground beef, chicken/beef/turkey meatballs. When I'm serving rice, I know I can put half a batch in the freezer, and I've got that already cooked for another meal. THEN, on the days when I, too, think, "WHAT was I thinking -- or not?!" I can throw something on to heat while I take off my shoes, and it all works out fine.

    Perhaps if you think of it as practice, you'll find you've gotten really good at it. Not perfect, b/c Life is what it is. But it needs to work for you, the way you think, the way you eat. If you're a pantry gal, use that. If you must have fresh organics, you'll be going to the store frequently, and plans could change based on the prices. If you OAMC, remember to take it out of the freezer in plenty of time to thaw.

    Hope this helps.

    Last edited by CheapThrills on Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:45 pm
    Forum Host
    Great plans everyone, and a great topic!

    I first look at my week ahead and see what sort of plans I have coming. What days will be quick meals, what days can I spend more time cooking etc.

    Then I check what is on hand in fridge, freezer and pantry. Try to use those up.

    I check the sale paper to see what's on special on my local stores.

    I also keep looking at those recipes I just wanna try soon, and see how many I can put in my menu. I usually try LOTS of new recipes each week (but there are weeks that it's all my "go to" recipes.

    Then I just start plugging in. For the most part my menu is planned around the main course, unless there's a side dish I'm craving.

    So main dishes are put in first, and I look for a variety within the week of meats/poultry, also Region (like Mexican, Italian, etc)

    I go back when I'm done and fill out the days with the side dishes.
    Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:46 pm
    Forum Host
    PS, I stickied this menu thread so it will stay at the top of our forum!!!
    Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:34 pm Groupie
    I love planning! I use an excel spreadsheet. 1 tab has my menu (I plan dinners only), another tab lists all the recipes we like, along with the location (cookbook title,, etc) and the main ingredients. The final tab has an inventory of what's in the freezer. I go to the farmer's market on Thursday evening, and get what ever looks good and fresh. Then Friday night, I make up my menu for the following week (grocery shopping on Saturday, as needed). Things I take into consideration:

    Vary the protein type: vegetarian, poultry, red meat, fish/seafoood.

    Use up leftovers. With only two of us, there are always leftovers. And I hate just reheating the same old thing, so want to "recreate" whenever possible.

    Work schedules. I'll switch meals around depending on our schedules, but I know there are a couple nights per week when we need something easy.

    I enjoy food photography, so always note when a dish should get a photo.

    Be mindful of cooking methods. You can't stir 3 pots at the same time. I try to pair a labor-intensive main dish with easy sides. (and yes, I learned this the hard way...)

    Once you get in the habit, it's not that hard.

    Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:36 pm Groupie
    Thank you all for the great replies and advice. I love the excel spreadsheet idea and keeping a pantry inventory, I just don't know if I am that organized! I tried allocating one day each week to a cuisine or type of food and that did make it much easier to plan sides. I'll let you know-how the next few weeks go!
    Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:07 pm Groupie
    WOW Thank you all for great ideas. I do use some of the ideas posted now I just need to organize more. My freezer is full of harvested frozen veggies so I will get to those right off and make those into a meal or side. I think I need to start planning my weeks meals and really do a good inventory of what I have and need. I probably could not shop except for essentials like milk, eggs, maybe some lunch meat for hubby, for at least 2 months but then I see the ads and get different ideas. OY VEY!

    Ok I will start this this week, the inventory so I can close out pantry items, freezer items, and such, then get to shopping and better organizing.
    Thank you for the calendar link! That will really help me actually put plan to paper or meals to paper as they say.
    You gals are wonderful and now I have some guidelines an will really try to stay the course. Well for most of the days, I have some tags and a recipe to invent thsi weekend.
    Thanks again
    Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:14 am
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    I've created a blog with regards to healthy meal planning and preparation..please do visit my blog and let's share some ideas SPAM LINK REMOVED BY MODERATOR
    Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:12 pm
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    all are great...
    Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:44 am Groupie

    I have been implementing all of the techniques discussed and some are really working for me! One thing that has come up though I would love to hear from you all on.

    I have a few cookbooks that I really enjoy making recipes from, I want to be able to incorporate making those things into my meal plan that I generally put together using 'Zaar.

    My question is do you all supplement what 'Zaar recipes you are making with cookbook recipes? Do you just add all recipes that look appealing to you to 'Zaar even if you haven't tried them yet so that you can easily add them to menus and shopping lists? Look forward to hearing from you all!
    Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:06 pm
    Forum Host
    KellyMac6 wrote:

    I have been implementing all of the techniques discussed and some are really working for me! One thing that has come up though I would love to hear from you all on.

    I have a few cookbooks that I really enjoy making recipes from, I want to be able to incorporate making those things into my meal plan that I generally put together using 'Zaar.

    My question is do you all supplement what 'Zaar recipes you are making with cookbook recipes? Do you just add all recipes that look appealing to you to 'Zaar even if you haven't tried them yet so that you can easily add them to menus and shopping lists? Look forward to hearing from you all!

    Hi Kelly!
    When I find a recipe that I want to use from another source, I look on Zaar to see if it's already been posted. Usually, at least for me, it has, or a recipe so close I can use it to add to menu and shopping list.
    If it hasn't, I don't usually add it to the database until after I've tried it...UNLESS, I know for sure I'm gonna like it. You know how you just KNOW. icon_cool.gif
    I am always hand writing on my menu after I print it. I get annoyed with adding and deleting of my staples to the list (I think the program is too slow).
    Hope this helps!
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