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Moxie
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Grocery shopping and meal planning.

 

I had to go to the store 3 extra times last week for food items that just a few minutes of planning ahead would have noticed. That is so annoying!!

 

I've tried Emeals, Plan to Eat, cute meal planning notebooks, plan paper, everything.

 

What is wrong with me?? It isn't complicated--plan food, make a list. A monkey could do it!!

 

How do I fix this??

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Well, what's the hangup?  When you figure out what you're going to eat for the week are you missing ingredients, or the week doesn't go according to plan, or you run out of other things that you figured you'd not need?

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Honestly, I'm not sure. Writing it all down feels so daunting to me. So I end up going to the store and buying one of everything and cooking on the fly or forgetting things.

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I get a lot more organized when I only go to the store once a week and can't go more than that.  Then there are consequences to not being organized enough.

 

I am a lot better at meals when I keep certain things around always rather than shopping for specific meals. 

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Do you have a to do list?  If so, put meal planning and grocery list making on the to do list.

 

Or do what a friend of mine does.  She takes two meals for every dinner of the week.  And they have one or the other.  When they get tired of a meal, she switches it to a different one.  I'm not clear if she has ingredients for all 14 meals at all time or if she makes a list based on which she chooses to stick in there.  Anyway, however she does it, it really made meal planning and grocery shopping easy for her.

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Grocery shopping and meal planning.

 

I had to go to the store 3 extra times last week for food items that just a few minutes of planning ahead would have noticed. That is so annoying!!

 

I've tried Emeals, Plan to Eat, cute meal planning notebooks, plan paper, everything.

 

What is wrong with me?? It isn't complicated--plan food, make a list. A monkey could do it!!

 

How do I fix this??

ME TOO!!! I literally just asked myself aloud today, "what is my problem? WHY can't I sit my butt down and plan my meals?" I tried. I got ONE item on my "meal plan." Tues I am making Asian BBQ chicken.

I'm tired of figuring out what to make, I try to avoid grains and dairy, but my family doesn't care, and nothing is all that interesting to me. Argh!

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I'm the same way. I have a garden, and I never know really in advance what will be ready. Somewhat in advance, of course. Tonight we had broccoli and potatoes from the garden. That's not usual all year of course, but my problem with all the premade planning stuff is that it assumes you shop from the store for everything. I am forced to only go to the store once or twice, if pressed a week, because I live 10-15 minutes from the store. I compensate by having a large freezer, which almost always has some meat/protein in it, and I can either do potatoes or rice, and I at least have frozen peas or spinach around. I don't necessarily have weird ingredients lying around, but I can do something basic.

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It's because you are impulsive (spontaneous) and want to eat, what you want to eat, when you think of it. That's perfectly normal. Plans give a sense of stability to some people, and a sense of restriction to others.

 

Also, some people who eat in a way that focuses mostly on 'foods that are cooked separately then served as a meal' get bogged down because meal planning makes them think of recipes, isn't actually the way they think when they cook.

 

Try this:

 

Make a list of meals you might want to eat. Not really recipes, just meals. I think of the meat first, then which starch/carb I want to serve with it, and then I usually just put "+ 3 veggies". I try to have some beef meals, some chicken or turkey, some pork, some seafood, one soup (usually Sunday), maybe one 'processed' (convenience food), and maybe one that is more about the carb than the protein. That yields maybe 10 to 12 meal ideas.

 

Then I just make sure that I have stuff on hand for most of those meal ideas, most nights, but if I don't, I know that I can just pick another idea. Sometimes. I make the kids pick the ideas. I don't make special grocery trips for a specific idea (unless I just really feel like it).

 

When I've 'used up' about half the ideas, I generate a whole fresh list of 10-12 new ideas.

 

Sometimes I save the old lists for when I'm really out of good thoughts.

 

Most of my ideas are pretty simple and don't rely on ingredients that I would only buy for one specific meal. (Some do, just not the majority.) I tend to keep frozen foods on hand, and different sauces or spices for them, and most starch items are non-perishable.

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We have 2 meals per week that are based on the day. IOW, we have the same meal on the same day every week. We eat simple meals: a meat, a starch, a veggie. We know what to buy each week because we always keep the same things stocked. If we use up the chicken one week, we get another one the next time we're shopping. The only thing I run to the store for throughout the week is if we run out of milk or bread that I didn't buy on shopping day because I didn't realize how low we were. Doesn't happen often, but if it does, it's no big deal. The grocery store is only 5 minutes away. Also, I don't have small children that I need to take along. I hated doing short shopping trips when my kids were younger because taking them along was more of an ordeal than just being able to run up there by myself.

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Instead of assigning meals to certain days, I just make a list of 7-10 meals before I go to the grocery store. That way if I don't feel like spaghetti when Monday rolls around, it's no big deal. I just choose from my list.

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Well I have no magic formula, just commiseration. I am very organized in many areas of my life--homeschooling, around the house, toy storage--but when it comes to meal planning, I'm a lost cause. I think it's because I'm a picky eater and I don't like to cook, so I don't really care what anyone eats.

 

I'd rather organize most anything in the house than figure out what to fix for dinner. Because after fixing dinner, there's a mess in the kitchen and all we have is food to show for it. But after organizing something, everything has it's tidy little place. Personally I vote for only eating once a day. Then everything can remain in its place for the rest of the day.

 

I'm kinda weird like that.

 

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I have a hard time planning meals but it's because I don't know what I will feel like eating/making days in advance.  And if I don't feel like eating and/or making some dish it just isn't going to happen.  So I've resorted to keeping a very stocked kitchen pantry/fridge/freezer.  I have everything on hand for probably 80-85% of the meals I make so I can just pick something and make it.  For instance, I buy a half of beef, in additional to all those different cuts of beef in my freezer, I always have: bacon, ham, turkey, whole chickens, chicken breast, chicken thigh/drumsticks.  I may also have chicken tenders, different cuts of pork, and rarely fish depending on if I find good sales.  Salad ingredients are always on hand as well as at least 3-4 different kinds of frozen veggies.  I keep bags of dried beans on hand and when I get around to cooking them I cook 4-6 pounds at a time and then freeze the extras for easy additions to other meals.  I have multiple starches around couscous, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, several styles of pasta etc.  I make my own bread products so I can just make any bread or buns if I decide to make a meal that needs that. 

 

So on any given day, most any idea I come up with to make, I will likely have the ingredients on hand.  I do keep in mind any pershiable ingredients that need to be used up and incorporate them into whatever we are having. If I'm craving a specific food that requires a special ingredient than I will add that item to the grocery list and pick it up on the next trip and make it later (chances are if I'm craving the item now, I will be craving it even more in a few days from now when I actually get around to going to the store so I don't worry about wasting the special ingredient).  My grocery list, is simply of list of things that we are out of, getting low on or on a great sale and I want to stock up on that item.  My grocery list and my meal list (granted it's only a mental list and seldom has more than a day or two of meals on it) are nothing alike.

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Instead of assigning meals to certain days, I just make a list of 7-10 meals before I go to the grocery store. That way if I don't feel like spaghetti when Monday rolls around, it's no big deal. I just choose from my list.

I have done it this way, too, but it doesn't help me. Sometimes it is because the ingredients are perishable, so there isn't as much flexibility as it would seem. Sometimes, a particular recipe really needs to fall on a given day because of crockpot, or which people are or are not home that night. And so on.

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We pretty much always keep the same stuff on hand and my pantry is always stocked with spices, pastes, etc.

 

When I'm on my game (which I'm not right now), we have a theme for every night of the week:

Monday - Throwback (stuff we ate as kids in the 60s-70s

Tuesday - TexMex

Wednesday - Asian

Thursday - noodles

Friday - pizza

Saturday - "free square"

Sunday - slow cook

 

So I have some framework for each night, but it's variable. Monday might be meatloaf or chicken pot pie. Tuesday could be tacos (chicken, beef, steak, fish) or enchiladas. Wednesday may be stir fry, curry, or tandoori chicken. And so forth.

 

It's easier for me to think in that framework when I'm shopping or pulling stuff out of the freezer.

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We pretty much always keep the same stuff on hand and my pantry is always stocked with spices, pastes, etc.

 

When I'm on my game (which I'm not right now), we have a theme for every night of the week:

Monday - Throwback (stuff we ate as kids in the 60s-70s

Tuesday - TexMex

Wednesday - Asian

Thursday - noodles

Friday - pizza

Saturday - "free square"

Sunday - slow cook

 

So I have some framework for each night, but it's variable. Monday might be meatloaf or chicken pot pie. Tuesday could be tacos (chicken, beef, steak, fish) or enchiladas. Wednesday may be stir fry, curry, or tandoori chicken. And so forth.

 

It's easier for me to think in that framework when I'm shopping or pulling stuff out of the freezer.

 

We do something similar to this, except for throwback Monday - but I love that idea and will start incorporating it! I subscribe to a meal planning service and pick and choose a few that sound good each week. 

 

This time of year, almost every dinner starts with a big salad on more than half the plate, then we usually do: 

 

Texmex - change salad to taco salads or have a small burrito or taco on the side

Asian - cold noodles with lots of veggies and tofu, stir fry, curry, etc

Italian

Burger night - various veggie burger recipes

Mediterranean salad - chickpeas, olives, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and pita on the side

sandwich night - the meal plans I use have a ton of sandwiches in them, so we pick a yummy sounding one and have that with salad

leftover night/take out night

 

Winter involves a lot more casseroles, soups and stir fries.

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I guess we've just done it so long it's easy for us.

We have a bunch of meals in our repetoire. We don't even look at sale flyers anymore, but that's just laziness on our part. We used to plan around loss leaders and such.

 

We are like ajfries in that we plan 7 meals (dinners only--the rest are whatever you want, you make) but don't assign them to a particular day, unless, like Quill says, we know we need something for "Wednesday's potluck at church" or "only 2 will be here" kinda days.

 

What is harder for me now is NOT eating so much processed food. We never ate a lot, but now I need to go to the store at least twice a week, because veggies don't last quite the whole week. Used to be we'd have hamburger helper, for example, which can be eaten any time during the week (or month, as it were). If we have something that requires a more perishable item, say, mushrooms or corn on the cob, we try to eat it earlier in the week.

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I don't really meal plan as I never really felt like it worked for me. I went through a brief period of feeling like this was something a wife/mother was supposed to do because I kept seeing references to meal-planning on blogs/magazines/this forum, etc. But when I tried to plan out our meals it just didn't work for me. 

 

What I do that works for me:  

1) Have things that we like on hand that are relatively easy to cook. For us, quick meals that everyone likes are pasta, burritos/enchiladas or a "burrito bowl" and some kind of eggs. So if we always have eggs, pasta, rice, beans and some cheese I can throw something together. It also helps with grocery shopping because even if I can't remember if we "need" something I just get it because we'll eat it eventually. Similarly, we have certain fruits and veggies we all like and we just always buy. That makes it easy to pull out something to use for a meal (salad ingredients, spinach, green beans, etc). 

 

2) Let go of the idea of cooking recipes or even what a meal is. I still like to read recipes and will browse various sites but once I got rid of the idea of cooking by a recipe it became easier to not worry about if I had certain ingredients. I tend to have the spices on hand we like and I have certain pantry staples that I can use to make something. If I'm not sure what to make I might type in a couple of ingredients I have on google and I'll get some ideas and then just adapt it to what I have. It's also fine to have a meal that is something like salad, bread, cheese and fruit. One of my friends does what they call "rabbit food" (for some reason) and she cuts up raw veggies and fruits and puts them on the table along with cheese and things like salami and some crackers and maybe some dips like humus. She says it's her kids favorite meal. 

 

3) Every now and then I'll make a list of dishes that I have the ingredients for in the freezer or fridge or that I feel like making. So it might be: meatloaf, chicken, pork, baked potatoes. Then I'll glance at the list at the beginning of the week and think about whether or not there is a night I want to make one of those. 

 

4) Occasionally I'll read a recipe or have a craving for something more complicated. I make it then. But I find I resent less the cooking and planning if most of our meals are the more simple kind. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well I have no magic formula, just commiseration. I am very organized in many areas of my life--homeschooling, around the house, toy storage--but when it comes to meal planning, I'm a lost cause. I think it's because I'm a picky eater and I don't like to cook, so I don't really care what anyone eats.

 

I'd rather organize most anything in the house than figure out what to fix for dinner. Because after fixing dinner, there's a mess in the kitchen and all we have is food to show for it. But after organizing something, everything has it's tidy little place. Personally I vote for only eating once a day. Then everything can remain in its place for the rest of the day.

 

I'm kinda weird like that.

 

I have thought that before. I guess I'm weird like that too. :laugh:

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Instead of assigning meals to certain days, I just make a list of 7-10 meals before I go to the grocery store. That way if I don't feel like spaghetti when Monday rolls around, it's no big deal. I just choose from my list.

This is what I do. Whem making my list of potential meals, I look through the ingredient list and write down what I don't have. A lot of the other staples, like milk and bread and such I don't bother writing down. But any ingredient for a specific recipe I do.

 

My problem is even when I stop at each aisle and check my list to see if I need to go down it, I still end up backtracking several times. I walk a 5k every time I go shopping.

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I go through fads of doing it and fads of not. Best technique for me is

 

Look in the fridge

Write down meals that use up whatever has to be used first.

Look in the catalogue and see what's on sale. Plan your other meals around this.

Make sure you write down every single meal and what you need.

 

It's not the end of the world when I don't meal plan, I just make sure I buy the things we always eat. Yoghurt, butter milk, fruit, veges. It doesn't hurt to take a break from meal plans for a week and just use up all the leftover bits and pieces.

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I tried once to sit down with DH and meal plan for a week.  We basically sat and stared at each other for 5 minutes and then ended up with a list of 5 pasta dishes... not very helpful.  What I've found that works for me is that every night I'll jot down what we had for dinner and what I actually felt like having for dinner, and then the night before I go grocery shopping I'll plan the next week's meals around those items.  

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After a looong hiatus, I am back to meal planning. I've cooked dinner 3 nights in a row! :hurray:

 

For years I have kept a binder full of page protectors, and as I print out recipes I add them to my binder. I use Plan to Eat to store my recipes.

 

From the tips in this thread, I just made a little spreadsheet with the days of the week across the top and the categories written below them. Since we will have activities Monday afternoons, I designated Monday as the slow cooker day. Then below the headings I listed meals according to the category type. The idea is that each week we can look at the list and pick one meal for each day for the next menu, and then I can plan those on Plan to Eat and generate a shopping list.

 

I have given up on cooking really healthy dinners. It's very hard for me to maintain interest and all of it feels so unfamiliar. It ended up being a barrier, so I got rid of that ideal. My family and I agreed to eat healthy for breakfast and lunch and then stick to reasonable  portions with dinner. I am terrible about serving veggies on the side, so I finally bought giant bags of frozen veggies and heat those up for side dishes.

 

So far, I have:

 

Sunday (throwback): Meatloaf, chicken pot pie, homemade mac & cheese, cheese steak sandwiches, pork chops w/ mushrooms & spaetzle

Monday (slow cooker): Pot roast, meatballs & mashed potatoes, sweet & sour pork

Tuesdady (Tex-Mex): Taco pie, chicken enchiladas, burrito bowls

Wednesday (Asian): Turkey/Cabbage stir fry, yellow curry, Tandoori chicken

Thursday (Italian); Cheese tortellini w/ pesto, grilled chicken and pasta, lasagna or baked pasta, calzones

Friday (soup): Mulligatawny, chili & corn muffins, minestrone, chicken & dumplings

Saturday (kids' choice): Pizza, burgers ...

 

If we slack off on that (let's be honest, it's likely), then I am considering going back to making four weekly menus. With Plan to Eat, I can generate a shopping list for each menu and keep that in the binder so I always have a master list of ingredients for the week.

 

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I've developed a system using little round magnets and a calendar grid drawn on a dry erase board.  First, I kept track of what we actually ate for dinner each night for a couple of months.  Then I wrote each different meal on a sticker that then went onto a magnet.  Some meals we like to have more than once a month, so they would get two magnets (for example, I have two "tacos" magnets and two "chicken and rice" magnets, etc.).  So now I can plan for a month at a time by just moving around the magnets. I like to leave spaces here and there for "leftovers" or eat outs.  On shopping day (usually Sunday for me), I consult my dry erase board and write down the week's menu on one side of a piece of paper and make a shopping list on the other side.  It's helpful in making the shopping list if each meal has a recipe card with ingredients listed.  After shopping I put my week's menu up on the fridge where I (and everyone else) can see it. <-- That has really helped to curtail all the incessant "what's for dinner?"'s that used to drive me crazy!

 

It's been working very well for me.

 

 

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I have similar issues.  Part of the problem is pickiness.  Another part is perfectionism.  And the third part is that it never fails when I plan carefully there are several ingredients the store suddenly does not have and 90% of the time we aren't talking unusual ingredients.  I am often able to make some substitutions, but not always or then my list and plan kinda starts to fall apart.  Not to mention fresh stuff doesn't stay fresh all week.  So if I want fresh vegetables and my plan is on Friday to have zucchini, it may not make it until Friday if I buy it on Saturday. 

 

All of it drives me bonkers.  I use meal planning services too.  Then I find myself unable to make up my mind with too many choices.  However, with those services that have no choices I don't find half the meals appealing or something I'd be willing to eat at all.

 

I know..cry me a river.  But I get it. 

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cleaning out the fridge.  My mother-in-law once food poisoned my husband with bad leftover spaghetti.  My kids and hubby have learned to check dates on everything in the fridge.  No one ever heats up leftovers unless I instruct them to do so.  

 

Ah yes.  Another issue I have.  Since I deal with all the food I know what's been in there too long or not.  Couple of weeks ago DH went digging around and I didn't know.  He took a very old bowl of soup he found way in the back.  I was waiting until the garbage was full to throw it out and take it right to the can outside.  I called him up at work and told him not to eat it.  He wasn't going to listen.  I'm like PLEASE it's like three freaking weeks old.  It was a cream soup too.  *sigh*  He listened.  I really should probably get a better system. 

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I've been trying since my oldest was born.  Total failure.  I always make sure I have meat/fish in the freezer, fresh veggies in the fridge, and brown rice/potatoes on hand.  Pick a meat, 2+ veggies, and a starch and call it good.  I don't eat much starch but my kids need it or they're STARVING.  Nothing fancy, no casseroles or dishes that take a lot of prep time.  Just meat, veggies and potato/rice.  Boring but at least I can get a meal on the table.

 

The only exception is Wednesday during the school year.  That's soup/stew night.  I start that in the morning.

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