14 September 2011

Menu Planning: How I Do It

As you know, my love for food doesn't just come from eating it.  I enjoy the whole process of making dinner.  From menu planning, to grocery shopping, to organizing the fridge (which is desperately needed), to prepping for dinner (the chopping, measuring, mixing, sauteing) and finally, sitting down to enjoy it.  I don't even mind doing dishes. And of course, I love sharing my food with you.  I just wish I could have an awesome photographer be in my kitchen every time I want to take a picture of something.  Often things don't show up on this blog because of picture quality or my laziness of taking photos. That's why it's important for me to get some sort of photography setup soon, more blogging!!!!

If I could, I would go grocery shopping every day. I love it. I love to browse the aisles taking everything in. I like to imagine buying everything I want. I like to visit multiple grocery stores.  In order to save time, gas money and grocery money, I try to make 1 serious trip a week, and stop 1 or 2 other times for something specific I may have forgotten or if I changed my mind on what's for dinner.  Here in Oklahoma, I'm still trying to figure out where the best bang for my buck is, where my couponing hobby will work the best, and which items I should buy where and on what day.  There aren't any major national grocery stores in town and no double coupon days (that I've found), so I have to be careful.  I found my best bet is to stick with the commissary on base for a majority of items, especially when they have specials and case lot sales.  The only day they are closed is Monday, and on those days, the other grocery stores in town offer a 10% military discount.  I don't have a specific 'day' to shop (yet), although I rarely shop on the weekends...I just can't take the crowds, especially when I find grocery shopping relaxing and sort of therapeutic.

So at some point during the week, I'll sit down with my menu planning/grocery shopping list notebook, my recipe binders, and my computer and start working. I first write out the day "Monday, Tuesday..." skipping a few lines in between for recipe titles/notes.  I then fill in any days I know we'll be eating out.  For example, this Saturday we are going to the Oklahoma State Fair and will be eating there.

(Click for larger view)

I'll then scan my starred items in my google reader.  I think I've talked about my google reader before.  It's my website-reading-hobby-hero. I don't know what I would do without it.  I follow nearly 200 sites, most of them food blogs.  I read/scan them in the morning (my little routine) and occasionally throughout the day on my phone during down time.  When I see something that I want to read more thoroughly or I'd like to go look at another time, such as a recipe, I'll star it.

So I'll first scan my starred google reader items for anything that I might want to eat in the coming week.  If I find something, I'll pick a day to make it and write it down and print the recipe (or write down what site it's from). I'll then add any meals I've been thinking about and craving.  I'll also usually ask Aaron if he wants something special and he always responds with "I'll eat anything you want to make. Or if you don't want to make anything, I'll be fine with peanut butter and jelly."



After I exhaust my google reader and brain (not hard to do), I'll hit my food binders for recipes I've printed out in the past and torn out of magazines.  I'll usually have a full menu for a week by now.  If for some reason, there is still nothing standing out, I'll look through random cookbooks and even foodgawker or tastespotting.  And if THAT doesn't work. Well, I guess we'll starve.

No. That could never happen.

Oh, I forgot to mention that as I find recipes, I start my grocery list.  I look at the ingredients, and if I don't have something, or don't have a substitute, I'll put it on the list.  I do that for every meal planned for the week.

If there were more than one store I was going to, I would make columns for each store and list the ingredients that way.  Typically where we are living now, I hit up the commissary first and then other stores after.

My initial list often changes throughout the week.  Sometimes it's due to our schedules, sometimes we have more leftovers than expected, sometimes there was a great price on another item at the store.  I found this really helps me out throughout the week, I've been doing it for years. And I really like it, it makes me feel organized.  It also gives me something to do while watching tv at night or during a lazy part of the weekend.  I recommend it for everyone.  Remember, you are never 'stuck' to a list. It's more like a guide, and as you make them, you'll be surprised that it's a lot easier to stick to your list than not.  I don't have to worry about what I need to get for dinner or how long it will take me to cook. I know it ahead of time. If I need to prep something the night before, it goes on my list.

So, after all that...wanna see what's on my list for this week?

Wednesday - Buffalo Chicken Sliders & Tots (What's Cookin' Chicago)
Thursday - Breakfast for Dinner, Grits, Eggs and Homemade Biscuits
Friday - Baked Chili Rellenos in tomato broth (Binder Recipe)
Saturday - State Fair
Sunday - Tomato, Cucumber and Avocado Sandwiches
Monday - White Clam & Arugula Flatbread (Binder Recipe)
Tuesday - Brown Rice w/ Shrimp, Snowpeas & Avocado
Wednesday - Rosemary Roasted Potatoes w/ Grilled Chicken

So, do you plan your weekly meals? Do you have any menu planning routines?


  1. this is so helpful! i was hoping to find a break down of meal planning... unfortunately, my boyfriend just moved to nyc and i am always so all over the place. i am going to take your tips and attempt to plan next week!

  2. I'm glad I could help! Although I probably made that much longer of an explanation than needed. That's a total bummer your dude moved away, but menu planning should help with that. By laying it out on a piece of paper, you are more likely to see if your making too much food for one person or not. When living alone, I did that often, I'd plan all these awesome meals, and in reality, the dish I cooked on Monday lasted me all week!

    Let me know how it goes!

  3. I meal plan almost exactly the same. I always ask hubby if there's something he'd like, but I usually can't get anything out of him so I get dibs on the whole week :) If I could have someone photograph my dinners, it would make my life a lot easier. My dinner shots are always sub-par because I'm so anxious to eat :)

  4. Well, I think your photos are fab...they always make me want to eat!