i have the worse time figuring out what to cook. it seems like i cook the same thing. i've looked in cookbooks for receipes...too many ingrediants. i look on this site to try to get ideas. how do you folks plan your family meals?
Not having to work, I never plan a week's worth of meals but live "day to day". I'll get some meat out of the freezer or at the store and that will be the start of my meal planning. Sometimes it's an old family favorite while other times I'll find a recipe in a cookbook that I want to try. If it's a recipe for just the meat, I'll add vegetables that I either have on hand or what looked good at the store. Almost always they are fresh and my favorite way to prepare them is to roast them. Dessert is generally fruit unless we're having company.
And I cook seasonal -- stews, roasts, one pot meals in the winter and grilled meats and lots of vegetables in the summer.
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I am a lot like Martha. Even when I worked in an office I could not plan a weeks worth of meals. I have no idea on Saturday what I want on Thursday.
As for recipes - I don't worry too much about the number of ingredients - if I don't have it on hand and it is not an integral part of the dish I have no problems leaving it out or substituting something else. I do look at the number of steps and prep time if provided. If it is going to take all day to get it to the oven, off the list!!
From my mother I have always served - a protein, at least 1 green, a starch and a bread. Plus I think about the color of the plate. During the week I would cook quick grilled meats. To enhance flavor coat the pork chops with a teriayaki glaze or use barbecue sauce on the boneless chicken breasts. For a green veggie - saute garlic maybe add a thin sliced onion in olive oil add a bag of spinach, turnip ir mustard greens toss until wilted add salt and pepper; then before serving a little balsamic or for greens like kale - serve with chow chow. I love collards but they do take longer to cook and chow chow is a wonderful flavor boost.
I also like simple casseroles (protein, starch and vegetable with a binder) with a salad and garlic bread.
On the weekend I like to cook a larger piece of meat - boneless pork loin, chuck roast, whole chicken - that I can use later in the week or freeze the leftovers for another use. When I make a meatloaf I will make enough for 2 and freeze 1 before baking. For greens I love broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts that can be tossed in oil and roasted - add ingredients as you like.
Starches depend on the meat - pork is great with roasted sweet potatoes. Beef or chicken I will go with white potatoes. Also in the winter - roasted winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnip roots and onions are wonderful!! Noodles are great to have on hand if serving a saucy entree. Quick, easy and doesn't take away from the star of the meal.
Also the crockpot during the week can be your friend. Start off a simple beef stew or pot roast in the morning - serve applesauce or salad, heat rolls and dinner is wonderful. When I make beef stew I will skip putting in potatoes and serve it over potatoes or noodles.
If you're tired of rolls and don't want to attempt biscuits - corn muffins are a snap to make - Ballard, which I think was sold to Martha White is a great mix for me because it is not sweet.
I know a lot of our better cooks on here won't like this = jarred red sauce can be a great help during the week. Slice and brown Italian sausage, add onions, garlic etc cook pasta of your choice - cork screw, ziti, etc toss with the meat add the sauce maybe add some frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained) sprinkle chees on top and bake until bubbly.
When you and your family are ready to expand your tastes - Spaghetti Puttanesca (excuse the spelling) is quick, easy and bold in flavor.
Try reading some of the 5 ingredient or less cookbooks for ideas.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Charming,
Plan meals? What's that?!
I check the grocery sale and go from there. I too get into a rut more often than not. I try to throw in a new recipe every so often.
Does this hat make my butt look big?
I don't spend much time planning either, but I do take inspiration from any and all sources. e.g.: Cooking shows, restaurant menus, internet sites, etc. I look for meals that feature fish or poultry since I no longer prepare red meat.
Also, being in California, I rely heavily on fresh produce so when I do chase down recipes, I look for interesting ways to prepare veggies.
Hope that helps.
Charming, you sound like a great cook!
I don't actually plan meals. DH is a fussy, picky eater and was brought up by a Mom who did not like cooking or have that be a focus of her activities (she was a single Mom for many years and had to work) They considered common things, like cantaloupe, quite exotic.
Anyway my cooking is, of course, influenced by what DH will eat, which is not much choice.
He likes chopped meat, so meatloaf, spaghetti and hamburgers. He will eat chicken if it is white meat and he can be assured he will never find any piece of bone in it!
No pork (except rarely thin pork chops), lamb, salmon, tuna (fresh), ham only very occasionally, no sweet potatoes, most veggies (exceptions are peas, spinach & broccoli) He will eat potatoes, (fries, mashed) rice, but no other grains like couscous, barley. He likes lasagna and mac and cheese.
I have always thought of meat first and then what to accompany it with. Am trying now in dieting, to think of veggies first. Problem is that we are only 2 and fresh produce is expensive and doesn't last long. I bought a squash and baked the other day. It didn't taste that great and he wouldn't eat it (what is this stuff?) so even though most on this board like fresh produce, it is not feasible for all.
I really like to cook, read recipes, talk about food, but fate has decreed that I am married to a non-foodie! So my meals are basically what I scare up each day. Even given a different situation, I would not like to plan meals exactly a week in advance. Only thinking that you buy in the store can be combined in ways to create different meals.
LOS - DH is not from the coast so most fish were foreign foods to him when we first met. He is also the same with chicken- white meat only, no faking wings as white meat. but he will accept bone in.
Growing up coastal south - who knew about boneless fish filets? From the time we were old enought to cut our meat fish had bones. None of us chocked to death. But for DH to find ONE little bone in fish - End Of The World!!!
He was not overly fond of pork early on - but learned to like it. He has never been fussy and has learned to like - roasted brussel sprouts, winter squash, turnips, etc.
We tend to make the meat portions smaller as we get older and it is taking a much less center position on the plate.
One good thing for you - veggies like spinach cook down so much - a bag of fresh is only about enough for 2 servings.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Charming,
Our diet is pretty boring, grilled chicken or fish accompanied by steamed vegetables or a fresh salad. My meal planning revolves around what vegetables look good when I am at the market. I keep tortillas, rice, quinoa, cheese and pasta on hand so that we can give the basics an ethnic twist. Occasionally, we will get a yen for a specific restaurant dish and treat ourselves.
I do a lot of planning as I go shopping. What's fresh? What's on sale? Lots of salads in the summer and soups in the winter. I make soup or a stew on Sunday in the winter for Monday night's dinner--I like to come home from the office on Monday and just warm up dinner. I allow no more than an hour each night during the week to prepare dinner and save longer preparations for the weekends. I always have pasta on hand and try to keep a can of crabmeat in the refrigerator and scallops and shrimp in the freezer. We eat 1-2 dinners of seafood or fish each week. It's easy to sear salmon fillets and finish in the oven. I can always add crab or shrimp to pasta along with some vegetables. Boneless chicken can be fixed so many different ways. In the summer as a main salad dish or added to pasta or with potatoes and rice and a vegetable. I get several cooking magazines and am always trying new recipes that I find online. My local supermarket also has recipes each week online that utilize their specials, so that's another source. I love to cook and try new things. I am amazed at all the resources out there.
Planning the meals is the hardest part for me and I don't want to spend a whole lot of time doing it. I can cook most anything, but on a daily basis its either a pasta dish of some sort, or grilled/roasted meat with veggies. Sometimes potatoes (sweet or white) and we do like rice, both brown and white.
DDIL in her mid-30's won't touch any meat that has a bone in it.
Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.
LOS, I think I'm married to your husband's brother! I could've written almost your same comments. My guy is picky, too.
I bought a butternut squash a week or so ago and neither one of us cared for it. So I made a very simple soup recipe with the leftovers. It was delicious! DH wasn't here to taste it and after two days, I froze the remainder. He probably won't like it. He's not into creamed soups.
As I've mentioned before, I'm not crazy about meat loaf, but made a new recipe yesterday that yielded two loaves. I did cook them both and froze one. From the previous comment, it sounds like maybe it would've been better to freeze it before baking. I didn't know better. Oh well!
I don't plan my meals in advance. It's whatever I'm in the mood to fix and what's in my freezer.
I don't use packaged products such as Hamburger Helper.
I tried roasting carrots (I only really like them raw) and didn't like them, but I made a delicious Eggplant Parmesano last week. I usually either boil or nuke my veggies, except for potatoes, which we like mashed, baked, or oven-fried.
My husband was picky as well -- corn, peas, green beans, potatoes and iceberg lettuce were his vegetables when we married.
But that was because ALL of the other vegetables his Mom cooked were overcooked and mush -- think of canned asparagus cooked to death.
But he LOVED Asian food and all the vegetables in them!
I like vegetables and would fix them for myself -- with fresh you can buy a half cup of something to fix for yourself.
And after a while he would try it and like it. The only thing he doesn't eat is beets but he HAS eaten them for I shredded them in a salad -- next spring I'm getting some of the yellow ones -- we'll see!
So sometimes it isn't the food that they don't like but the preparation of that food.
I'm really proud that he likes vegetables so much that if he sees something at the store, he'll buy it and bring it home -- like brussels sprouts or broccoli.
But it was slow . . . and I didn't give up what I liked -- I either made two vegetables or I had the vegetable and he had a salad.
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I grew up on a livestock farm so we always had a great deal of beef, pork, lamb and chicken in good supply. Once in awhile Mom would do fish and seafood. DH family grew up with a Mom who had trouble cooking. He thought dorm food was WONDERFUL! They ate alot of canned or processed meats & fish.
So when we got married he had some of his first steaks, beef & pork roasts, lamb and fresh seafood.
I ask my family at dinner one night a week what they are hungry for and plan from that.
Generally menus are decided around the meat and most dinners kind of come with a standard menu at our home.
Keeping a supply of fresh vegetables on hand at all times, a well stocked pantry for condiments, etc., I can put a meal together with bringing home the meat from the butcher, stopping at the dairy store and retrieving a loaf of artisan bread at the bakery.
I usually have two menus in mind for the week when I do my shopping.
DH is at the club & I have dinner meeting one night each week; going out with friends, the regular Sunday lunch stop and a pizza night another day so my week doesn't leave enough days to spend in the kitchen.
Meat, starch, vegetable, salad or fruit, sometimes bread, no dessert.
Being a slight "foodie," I probably go overboard on it.
First, regardless of whatever it is planned, I need a form-a-day to hold all my notes. This is because sometimes the best menu plans don't happen because we aren't home, or some such.
When I plan the menu, I get the groceries for it. If the menu plan doesn't work for that day for any number of reasons, a couple of weeks later, I'm looking at an ingredient wondering, "What's THIS for?"
My form helps me remember why I bought it.
The forms are bound (I have a comb-binding machine.) So, this prevents the menus from ending up everywhere.
That's pretty structured, but I'm so totally disorganized, I need serious help or else a lot of money is wasted due to menus changing.
The form-a-day helps me in another way.
When deciding what to eat, I have a ton of loose recipes, and recipes in cookbooks that I want to try.
With the form-a-day, I can work in a large number of new recipes for a month at a time, or longer.
The "notes" section tells me where the recipe is at, and after I make it, notes about how it worked out. If it's no good, I can write that in the notes, and toss the loose recipe.
With the form-a-day, I make a list of the groceries needed just for the recipes on that day.
I'm winging it right now with a "homemade" version of the form-a-day until I can get the refill planner that starts in January.
This form a day is really a Franklin Covery planner--but ONLY a CERTAIN one that has the format I need.
I can fill in appts in the calendar section, to make sure I don't plan something time-consuming planned on the day I have a doc appt.
The form-a-day has three sections that I use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If I don't plan for it, there is nothing in the house for either meal. Nor for snacks.
I also keep a schedule for foods... I REALLY am disorganized. The following is only for supper planning.
M:Soup, Salad, Muffins
Using the loose recipes I've found or from cookbooks, I just fill in the recipes based on the above schedule. That makes sure I don't get into a rut.
I've worked in cooking methods, too, because it changes the flavor of the food so it's not so monotonous.
This is enormously way too structured for most people. But, it's the only way I can make sure we eat the foods our diet restrictions call for, without getting bored, without food and money waste, without spending hours upon hours in the kitchen.
There are just two of us, and both of us have a strong food memory and we both tire of the same foods over and over and over....
If you are just looking for ideas for what to serve, google "Meals on Wheels menu". They all have slightly different menus based on funding, but nothing on the menu is over the top or extravagent. So, should be easy enough to cook.
Very interesting topic, OP! Sorry, I would have used your user name but it's a dilly!
Anyway, here's how I plan food for the week. First check to see what's in the freezer ready to eat, what's on sale (that might end up in the freezer as I try to plan ahead) and what we have a desire for....
Usually works out in a balanced fashion. I keep the frozen foods rotated; same with the fresh produce and work from there. If onions are on sale, I put French Onion Soup on the menu. If the local grocery store has a sale for "sirloin in a bag." then I plan to make something fresh with it and freeze the rest.
I, too, remember my Mom's teachings re meals: a protein (meat/fish), starch (rice/potatoes), green or other vegetables, green salad or the making of it (tomato or cucumber slices count!), usually a bread of some type or the equivalent. Dessert is rarely served here...
Bottom line, check your freezer and then the sale ads; add and discard ideas as you see what the choices might be ~ I simply go by an old saying: Waste Not, Want Not!
Index Lady - Wow! We can all take a page from your organizer - my hat is off to you.
One thing I use to help organize recipes because I have so many books and loose recipes I keep in a binder is a dedicated Recipe Index. It is laid out like a cook book and you write in the recipe name, recipe book and page. Under each recipe I add I include notes about what I did different or would do next time.
I don't usually plan meals on a weekly basis. If I'm cooking something special and involved then I have to think ahead at the store for the ingredients. I do have an ongoing grocery list posted.
I usually have in the freezer:
Boneless Skinless Chicken breasts
2" thick Pork Medallions, which I slice in half
Large bags of green peas, corn, green beens, and sweet potato fries.
Always have fresh baby greens, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers and celery. I always have a good block of Parmesan.
Pantry always has tomato sauce, evap milk, honey, olives, pesto, sundried tomatoes, a variety of beans, rice, pasta and nuts.
Usually I think about what I want to cook in the afternoon, take something out of the freezer and go from there.
I think the important thing is to have a stocked pantry with the essentials. That way you can come up with just about anything on a moments notice.
Oh, and the last thing and most important...being brave enough to experiment! LOL!
I tease DH by telling him I'm going to stare at the fridge and see what falls out of it.
Actually I have a fair number of standard dishes I like to cook, enough so that there is plenty of variety.
In general I try to make something on Tuesdays that provides sufficient leftovers for his Wednesday and Thursday supers, because he teaches night classes those days.
I buy what's on special most weeks and no matter what I have ground beef in the house.
My DS works nights so he usually takes a container of dinner to reheat at work.
If say there is a chuck roast special one week I usually buy 2. But save 1 for at least 2 weeks. So Sunday might be pot roast one sunday then the next something completely different.
Some nights we go minimalist and just have grilled cheese and soup, other nights its a more elaborate meal, say pork chops, rice oor noodles, a salad and veg. It depends on the specials really.
DH prefers a hot meal every night, ever during summer, so Meal type salads are out. Otherwise he's pretty easy to please.
I think what helps make me a good cook is that for 39 years DH has never failed to thank me for the dinner. Same with my kids. They ALWAYS say, "thanks, Mom, that was great." Who WOULDN'T want to cook for them, and plan stuff they like?
Life is GOOD!!
Kathy, I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that, no matter the dish, you always gets appreciation from those you just fed!
I've been married to DH for 37 years and, even when both of us were working, I did 90% of the cooking. And he always, without fail, thanks me for the dinner, says it was "great" (even on those few ocassions whenI know it wasn't) so I really feel for those who don't receive appreciation for their efforts from the ones who are benefiting from those who work hard and cook as best as they can.
To all of you who work hard and try hard to make a good meal, but never hear a word of appreciation. This is what you should hear: "Thank you ~ that was a great meal ~ I appreciate it!" You don't have to be a great cook ~ just someone who tries ~ and don't let others who never bother to get up off the couch tell you otherwise!
100% agreement with Kathy and IR. DH always tells me it was good and will tease me about why should we go out when I can cook anything (his words) at home.
Flattery wins out every time.
It makes a BIG difference when your husband loves what you cook, makes you enjoy cooking that much more.
Whether You Think You Can Or You Think You Can't..... You're Right - Henry Ford
Alas, I only hear this when DH actually likes the meal and often he doesn't like the food as he is so fussy.
This does remind me though of one occasion when we were newly married. We were in the middle of a fight (an often occurrence) and this may have been the time I fastened a paper napkin to my head like waitresses in diners at that time wore, also a fluffy handkerchief in my pocket fastened with a fancy pin, another such style. Anyway whether this time or another for the get up, I served the meal as a waitress.
I had made a new dish. A meat pie, made with hamburger and as we weren't speaking DH left me a note saying this was the best thing he had ever eaten and he left me a 1¢ tip!
When we were dating, the then Dating Husband complained about a dinner while eating it.
I calmly went over to his plate, picked it up, dumped all the food in the garbage, put the rest of the food in the pot in the garbage, then put some REAL garbage on top so he couldn't dig it out.
NEVER complain about how bad my food is while eating it.
He's never done it again in the 30 years we've been married, no matter how bad it is.
He also expected me to always make HIS favorite dishes. Excuse me? THERE is the kitchen. Get at it and cook MY favorite dishes. And, go get all the groceries for MY favorite meals--don't use the food I bought for YOUR favorites.
I work, too!
So, when it comes to food, most everything happened while dating, so the 30 years of marriage have been peaceful.
Index Lady - Good job! Early on while still dating DH and I would trade off cooking, unfortunately DH's dinners were usually hot dogs or his specialty - cut up hamburger, also known as sloppy joes. So I took control - told him I would cook and he could do the dishes and we haven't looked back.
DH doesn't cook around here. He'll do the dishes most of the time, though.
I think I just figured out one of the reasons I don't like cooking any more. It's never a cooperative effort. I'm expected to put a meal on the table while he's off somewhere, or on the computer or watching TV, then he comes to the table. Turns it into a chore for me.
Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.
It would for me, too, if not for The Husband's good attitude.
Just last night I told him there was some leftover pork and potato salad, etc. He ate all the potato salad (he doesn't like) and forgot about the pork.
He never complained, said anything. Just ate the potato salad for supper.
I didn't realize it until today. I made him a good dinner today!
Speaking of dating, when DH and I first met we would take turns cooking for each other. I would cook something special at my house and a couple of nights later it was his turn to show-off. I think we both gained about 20 pounds in the first 6 months! LOL!
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