Author Topic: How do you do your meal planning?  (Read 5797 times)

shelivesthedream

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How do you do your meal planning?
« on: December 08, 2017, 01:50:22 AM »
For various reasons I've made a meal plan for December (until Christmas). The way we usually grocery shop is to do one online order at the beginning of the month of mostly dry/cupboard items with a few fresh things to start us off, and then we pop to the shops to buy additional fresh things as needed/desired. However, through careful and thorough planning (and not stocking up on things just for this month), I have made three and a half weeks worth of meals out of a single online shop that's less than we usually order. But I found it kind of hard to sit there and think of loads of meals in advance, especially as we don't have a regular work schedule and I can't be certain what I'll be doing on that day.

The method I used was to find out the cheapest vegetables on the online supermarket that would last (cabbage, kale, sweet potato...) and just write in lunches and dinners that had those as an ingredient until I felt they'd be used up. I looked up a few new recipes for them to get some variety but didn't want to hugely commit to making something I had never made before. Then I filled in with some standard cupboardy meals for us (pesto pasta, lentil curry, burritos) until I had put in all the days.

So how do you do it, especially if you plan monthly rather than weekly?

Bee21

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2017, 02:39:32 AM »
I simplified our meals as my kids and husband are fussy so I lost my cooking mojo. So this might not apply to you if you like variety or eat less meat. I use the same concept just vary the flavours.
Sunday -roast w extra roast veg (whatever is on sale). Meatloaf if I overspent the food budget.
Monday- leftovers from the roast/meatloaf.
Tuesday-pasta ( mostly bolognese or carbonara, mac n cheese, cooking for kids you know😂) +soup
Wednesday- something chicken (baked legs, stirfry, curry, crumbed, grilled breast) + rice n veg (kids hate chicken)
Thursday- something w mince (lasagna, shep pie, meatballs, burgers, enchilladas, tacos, cauliflower bake etc) or vegetarian if hubby is away
friday- pizza (or risotto)
Saturday- barbeque (steak, chops or sausage whichever i find on sale) and salad.

For lunches i make freezer meals (double up on the lasagna, burritos, enchilladas), or buddha bowls for myself. There is always soup for the kids if they refuse to eat the dinner or for myself when i am sick of meat. That's it. I buy the meat when it is on sale, bulk cook the mince dishes and the lunches so the cost is manageable.

11ducks

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2017, 03:12:08 AM »

I visit a discount fruit/veg place Saturday morning (on the way back from the gym) - they always have good loss leaders. I head home, then plan my meals to complement the fruit/veg/specials I've found.

We  tend to have these types of meals each week

1 x mince & bean  - pies/sausage rolls/Bolognese/tacos
2 x chicken breast (ie over salad, or in stir fry)
1 x pizza
1 x rice w curry (usually veggie)
1 x pasta (ie bacon cabonara/ravioli)
1 x leftovers/easy meals.

We have meat fairly regularly (4-5 x a week), but we don't use a whole lot  - I use 1x big chicken breast per meal (3 adult appetites),  or 200-250g bacon or mince, and bulk the food out with veggies (as an example, our bolognese has mince, beans, grated carrot and zucchini, our tacos are meat and bean with heaps of salad fixings). You get the meat fix without all of the cost or calories.


I can buy the chicken breast, mince and bacon in bulk packs and freeze them in individual  servings. The meals themselves are flexible (depending on sales/what we feel like)

shelivesthedream

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2017, 03:37:57 AM »
I feel like those are meal schedules, though, rather than meal plans. We have tended to rotate through the same default meals, but the PLAN is about writing down what you are actually going to cook, even if it's only which pasta option or which curry option. Means there is a firm, definite answer to "What's for dinner?" and zero thinking (even choosing pizza toppings) on the night.

Crease

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2017, 04:48:28 AM »
I found that once I began sticking to the basics, meal planning became easier. Though, it's just me I'm feeding. I imagine feeding kids is an Olympic sport. I cannot imagine planning for an entire month. A week is hard enough as is.

I go grocery shopping on Sundays, at the Fairway a few subway stops  away. Tons on veggies, organic beef and chicken, eggs, a starch, a good butter, a good cheese, and coffee. I'll re-up on oils and spices as needed.

I cook a big batch of meat and veggies to be packed and reheated for lunch at the office. Dinner is spontaneous but usually a large salad and whatever protein I'm craving. I don't really snack, but when I do it's a protein shake or cottage cheese. It probably sounds like I hate food, it's actually my favorite thing in the world. I just keep it simple when cooking for myself. My wife, however, is a magician. And we love trying new restaurants.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 04:52:54 AM by Crease »

FindingFI

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2017, 06:44:24 AM »
Our shopping happens once a week so I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but here it is anyway.

The flyers for our three local grocery stores come in the mail on Thursday, and all three stores are on my way home from work with 1/2 mile of each other.  Over the weekend I go through each flyer and compile a list of items that are on sale and we enjoy or use commonly, mainly proteins and produce with a few staples thrown in.  From that list, I start making our meal plan.  Breakfast is usually some combination of eggs, fruit or oatmeal, something easy and cheap and lunch is almost always leftover from dinner the night before, so those two meals are easy.  Dinners are assembled from the list of stuff on sale, usually a protein and two veggies, sometimes a starch.  Anything else I need to make those meals gets added to the list, and anything we aren't using gets crossed off.  Then I stop at the stores Monday on my at home. 

Going through the flyers every week has really helped me to identify and remember what good prices are for the things that we buy commonly, or that we really like but are expensive enough to only have on occasion. 

merula

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2017, 06:54:40 AM »
Weirdly enough, I'm in charge of the meal planning in my house, though my husband is in charge of the cooking and most of the shopping.

My method is that on Saturday, I make a list of all the stuff that we have that needs to be used up. Then, I'll make a list of dishes we can make with those things and staples we have on hand, and parcel those out on a list by day. Weekdays will just have a dinner meal listed because breakfast pretty routine and lunch is leftovers. Also, "leftovers" is also a common plan for days I know we're going to be busy.

When I'm not sure whether some meal idea will be a good idea for a particular day, I put it down anyway with my best guess, but we always have the flexibility of changing stuff around. "I didn't go get the cilantro we needed for the curry today, so let's move that to tomorrow and have soup today instead."

big_owl

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2017, 07:25:28 AM »
I use Blue Apron and Munchery for the bulk of my meals.  The dry goods come from boxed.com and we use to use Amazon fresh for everything else. But they discontinued service at my.house so now I have to go to the grocery store over the weekend that I despise. 

Lady SA

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2017, 08:51:35 AM »
The way we usually grocery shop is to do one online order at the beginning of the month of mostly dry/cupboard items with a few fresh things to start us off, and then we pop to the shops to buy additional fresh things as needed/desired.
So how do you do it, especially if you plan monthly rather than weekly?

Is there a reason you have to plan monthly? Especially if you are doing a large bulk order of staples and generally end up going to the shop to supplement-- why not keep this pattern and order monthly pantry staples and fresh foods that you know you eat often, but then do weekly meal planning (much easier!) and go to the store to get the supplemental ingredients for the weekly meals? That is exactly what we do: generally monthly bulk order of shelf-stable pantry items we are running low on like flour, sugar, grains/rice, nuts, cereal, canned veggies, spices, etc. Then weekly we plan 3 meals to cook, and go to the store on Tuesdays to avoid crowds and pick up those additional ingredients.

Sounds like planning weekly would fit better since you would be more likely to know your work schedule and be able to plan accordingly.

For what it's worth, this is what we do:
Monthly: bulk order of pantry items we are running low on
weekly: On Tuesday, choose 3 meals from a list of meals we like that sound appealing, or from library cookbooks. We try the cookbook meal and if we like it, it goes on our meal list.
To make our weekly shopping list: once we've chosen the 3 meals, we go through our kitchen and add the needed ingredients that we don't have to our shopping list. We also make green smoothies for breakfast everyday, so we check the ingredients for that, even though the smoothies aren't really part of our "meal plan" since it is a constant. Then we go to the store and pick up the fresh ingredients for the week's meals.

At the store, we split the list by zone so I'll be in the fresh food area getting peppers, onions, apples, etc, while my DH is in the meat section picking a chicken and in the condiment aisle. This makes the trip go twice as quickly and we are in-out of the store within 15 minutes, so the weekly trips aren't quite so painful.

Bee21

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2017, 01:49:45 PM »
I feel like those are meal schedules, though, rather than meal plans. We have tended to rotate through the same default meals, but the PLAN is about writing down what you are actually going to cook, even if it's only which pasta option or which curry option. Means there is a firm, definite answer to "What's for dinner?" and zero thinking (even choosing pizza toppings) on the night.

It's easy to plan for the month ahead if you have a meal schedule as it makes planning and shopping and stocking up food quicker. I see chicken or sausages at a good price so I buy enough for the month. Its pumpkin and root veg season, so i plan the meals around that. Having this type of schedule gives me flexibility and helps me avoid boredom. I don't look desperately on a piece of blank paper that omg i have to plan meals and do a shopping list. I know that i need to plan a pasta dinner, a chicken dinner using up the breast from the freezer, there are sausages in the freezer so no need to worry about saturday...I do a stocktake and clean out the fridge on Thursdays, plan the meals and write the shopping list in less than 10. Meal plan might be modified after the shopping trip based on whichever is on sale but i stick to the schedule.  So yeah, there is value in the meal schedule.

Zikoris

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2017, 03:32:27 PM »
I've started doing our meal planning a bit differently this year, and doing 90% of the planning and prep on the weekend. I find my weeknight meals are a lot easier if I only have to heat something up, or basically just assemble something.

My basic shopping system is to first count the number of portions of food we'll need for the week (normally 20 for five lunches and five dinners each, then subtract any freebies if thee's a company-paid lunch or anything) then head to the grocery store and buy the correct quantity of whatever veggie meats/tofu/other protein are on sale, and then get vegetables that pair decently well with them. Grab a few staples if I need them as well. I have a pretty good sense of the overall volume of food we need for a week, so I can mostly just keep adding complementary vegetables until the "pile" is the right size. I individually portion out all our meals to make it extra easy during the week.

Here's how last weekend's meal prep went (vegan):
Spicy Asian noodles (4 servings)
Spaghetti with sausage (3 servings)
Tofu stir fry (2 servings)
Thai chicken stir fry (2 servings)
Hummus and roasted vegetable wraps (2 servings)
Pizza (6 servings - baked fresh during the week, but made the dough and prepared the toppings on the weekend)

We didn't quite make it up to 20, so I'll need to cook dinner tonight. I also make bread and muffins fresh during the week as needed.

So the answer to "What's for dinner?" is really easy in our household - "Whatever you want that's on your side of the fridge!"

Emily Bee

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2017, 07:41:48 PM »
I'm just getting into meal planning myself!

So while I'm far from experienced I'll let you know what I've been doing.

First simplify whatever you can. if you can stomach having the same breakfast, snacks and beverages day in day out then life is easier. Also I live alone so my lunches are usually just the leftovers from yesterdays dinner. By having the same breakfasts and leftover lunches I really only have to plan for dinners.

Then you have to prioritize by figuring out what you value most. Saving money? Eating healthier? Improving your cooking? Experimenting with new tastes? Reducing your environmental impact?

Your priorities it will affect how you plan. My priorities were 1) eating healthier and 2) improving my cooking.

Since I'm a terrible cook and hate cooking I found Buzzfeed's website tasty.co really helpful. The videos make everything seem more approachable and fun. Since health was also important to me I used the search bar to look up vegetarian meals. Then I went through and bookmarked all the recipes I liked. (that weren't just covered in cheese or dessert, there are A LOT of those on that website)
Then I subdivided my bookmarks into main ingredients.
Then I put each recipe into a week (Spinach Week, Zuccini Week, etc) and created the master grocery list.

If you can give me an idea of what your priorities are then I can link you to the resources I've found to be most helpful.....I went pretty deep into the meal planning hole there for awhile hahaha

shelivesthedream

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2017, 03:32:25 AM »
So clearly I'm going to say my priorities are all of them :P But... What I look for in an ideal planned meal is that it has two to three portions of seasonal vegetables (we mostly eat vegetarian food, though I'd like to eat less cheese and more fish), has a fun new taste and feels like variety (we eat porridge or muesli for every breakfast and I'm working on a lunch schedule but we have more time to both cook and eat at dinner time so I'd like to mix it up and try new things), doesn't have too many component parts (doesn't use too many pans or need too many individual bits on the go at once - most of our meals are either one main thing or two smaller things) and if it takes longer than half an hour of efficient cooking to put together then is amenable to being at least doubled and frozen.

I think saving money is inportant but will follow naturally from not wasting food, from not impulse-buying and from eating seasonal vegetables.

My current favourite website is Budget Bytes but I'm keen to find one or two new ones!

Cranky

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2017, 10:50:07 AM »
Do you want to plan out all your meals for the whole month in terms of doing all the shopping at once, or just get the big things at once?

When my kids were little, I did a months worth of menus in the winter, and I bought all the meat and staples then - canned stuff, baking stuff,  cleaning stuff, cat stuff. I did it that way because I needed a trip with the car to lug it home, and I didnít want to worry about the weather - I was not that person at the grocery store trying to buy bread and eggs before the blizzard.

But because my kids were little, I did not make elaborate recipes involving exotic ingredients.

I still have a master list of what I like to have in the house in January, but Iím more slapdash about the actual meals.

« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 05:17:25 PM by Cranky »

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2017, 04:37:08 PM »
I've started doing our meal planning a bit differently this year, and doing 90% of the planning and prep on the weekend. I find my weeknight meals are a lot easier if I only have to heat something up, or basically just assemble something.

My basic shopping system is to first count the number of portions of food we'll need for the week (normally 20 for five lunches and five dinners each, then subtract any freebies if thee's a company-paid lunch or anything) then head to the grocery store and buy the correct quantity of whatever veggie meats/tofu/other protein are on sale, and then get vegetables that pair decently well with them. Grab a few staples if I need them as well. I have a pretty good sense of the overall volume of food we need for a week, so I can mostly just keep adding complementary vegetables until the "pile" is the right size. I individually portion out all our meals to make it extra easy during the week.

Here's how last weekend's meal prep went (vegan):
Spicy Asian noodles (4 servings)
Spaghetti with sausage (3 servings)
Tofu stir fry (2 servings)
Thai chicken stir fry (2 servings)
Hummus and roasted vegetable wraps (2 servings)
Pizza (6 servings - baked fresh during the week, but made the dough and prepared the toppings on the weekend)

We didn't quite make it up to 20, so I'll need to cook dinner tonight. I also make bread and muffins fresh during the week as needed.

So the answer to "What's for dinner?" is really easy in our household - "Whatever you want that's on your side of the fridge!"

I do a lot of this as well. I only cook a full dinner on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. I make enough for two dinners worth, and then we eat the leftovers on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. Sometimes there is enough bonus leftovers for Thursday. If not, we revert to a freezer dinner. I keep easy options like chicken, gyozas, or pasta on hand for Thursdays. Almost every dinner I make, we have all of the ingredients for in the pantry. I have a picky eater, so our menu options are well known, and we rotate through the list every other week or so.

I plan out our menu on Saturdays, inventory the fridge, freezer & pantry, & then go from there. We buy the same produce every week, so that is a standard list. I'll add in anything we need for meals during the week.

Common recipes: risotto, spaghetti & meatballs, Persian kebabs & rice (beef or chicken), tacos, fiesta casserole, a Persian rice/beef/bean casserole, etc.

Emily Bee

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2017, 08:44:25 PM »
Well since it sounds like you're pretty open to any kind of meal planning I'd recommend just picking themes for your week or month and look up recipes based on that. Themes can be anything from a particular item you want to feature or a region you'd like to try cooking from.

Then head over to Pinterest, type in monthly meal plans and you'll get tons of ready set ones or if you're looking for something more specific just type that in 'Vegan meal plans' or 'Japanese meal plans'
Using Pinterest I just found "Don't Waste the Crumbs" http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/real-food-menus/ Which looks pretty awesome.

Foodgawker is another great place for inspiration, it's like a pinterest for food! https://foodgawker.com/

And if you want to do some reverse engineered meal planning Recipe Puppy will find recipies based on the ingredients you put in. http://www.recipepuppy.com/

Good luck and have fun!



Emily Bee

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2017, 08:49:00 PM »
Oh I also meant to add that you should look into buying a CSA share. Fresh veggies delivered weekly, supporting sustainable small scale agriculture and a lot of them nowadays will email recipes and meal plans out to their clients based on the food you'd be receiving that week

bas5252

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #17 on: December 09, 2017, 08:53:38 PM »
I subscribe to Fresh 20 ($60 per year).  They post a weekly menu of 5 meals for 4 for under $100 per week.  They are often less than $100, especially since I tend to buy meat in bulk, on sale, and store it in my extra freezer.  The meal prep is laid out, so I shop and prep on Sunday, and have to do very little cooking during the week.  Throw all the prep'ed food into a pan and cook.  The meals are excellent.  When we first started, we would rate the meals on a scale of 1 - 5 and most meals come in at 4, even with the kids voting.  They have alot of different menu options, classic, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, etc.   Right now I am doing the Paleo menu.

My cooking skills have improved considerably since I started this, and it is very easy for me to throw a meal together, even without the menu.  And honestly, after cooking for 25  years, I have no cooking mojo left.  I don't want to think about it.  The meal plan puts me on autopilot.   I still cook the menu for 4, then my hubby and I eat the leftovers for lunch.  If I don't have prep'ed food in the fridge, I tend to eat toast and cereal for dinner.

True story - my son is a sophomore in college.  He was very excited to be living in a house this year instead of the dorm and "getting" to cook his own food.  About 2 months into the semester, I visited him.  He said that cooking for yourself *every single day* was not so fun.  Uh - yeah. 

Shropskr

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2017, 10:58:15 AM »
I've tried many different things.
Fresh 20. Great got tired of eating preset things
Thinking and writing a menu then shopping.  Life got in the way always extra or short do to changes

Now. I don't   
I keep a stocked freezer, and pantry. I shop once or twice a month at grocery store for veg/fruit or desires.ie I want pho.  Otherwise I open the fridge and cook from what about to go bad. Oh look cauliflower that was on sale and a huge bag of carrots (from Costco). Guess I'll defrost some sale beef and have beef and broccoli"cauliflower". Or caulirice. When I run out of fresh fruit/veg I go to the freezer or shopping. I also will make a stock up run to Costco when the list gets long or I run out of 2-3 staples and am tired of substituting

I get to eat more of what I want. When I want. Just gotta work 1-2 days ahead to defrost.

A stocked freezer/pantry are working for me for now.   Probably helps that I was raised 15 miles from the nearest grocery store so I substitute more than most and don't even think to make a last minute store run. It's just 5 min or less away now. Lol

Plugging Along

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2017, 12:31:14 PM »
I am sure I would call what Iíd meal planning, itís more of a system that works for us.  My family doesnít like eating the same thing, they get bored if itís more than once every 3 or 4 weeks. 

I do a combination of freezer cooking and what I call module cooking. 
I shop the flyers weekly for what is the best deals.   If there is an amazing deal I may even stock for a year this is not panrt6 and freezer items. I have been know to buy 75lbs of chicken when it is at its absolute lowest price same with ground beef.  Even when itís a good sale 8 bu6 more than 8 need.

For meats, I separate them into the following depdning on quantities:
- we eat as a family meal plus lunch leftovers, and premarinade them or Ďprepareí them and then freeze in ziploc bags.  Then when cooking I just take out the night before t9 thaw, and itís a quick cook when I get home.   Even the kids can help me.
- freeze some raw on cookie sheets and then ziploc them. 8 usethis flr new recipes or just for change
- precook some meat.  I will grill or cook chicken, then shred or cut 8t up and freeze on a cookie sheet, then put on a ziploc bag.   I can take a handful for sandwiches , fillings, or whatever requires precooked chick.
- for ground beef, I will cook it with onion and garlic and 5en freeze in 2.5 cup potions.  Used for tacos, sloppy joes, added to the sauce whatever.
- sauces for pasta, cheese sauce are made in soup pot size and then portioned out and frozen.  I will defrost a sauce cube and then mix it in with whatever pasta.  I have even frozen the pasta the same way.
Essentially i do a lot of the prep work ahead of time before freezing.  I will also make double batches and freeze one of whatever i am making.

I buy produce almost weekly or every other week when the Farm share is not running.  Same with dairy and Breads.   However I als9 have a stash of canned and frozen goods if I run out of time t9 shop for the week. 

For my weekly cooking, if I have shopped, I plan my meals around  what was on sale and the leftovers it will produce.   

I donít know 8f tha5s he,foul.   There times were we havenít had the same meal for weeks. 


Zola.

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2017, 02:31:35 AM »
We go to the supermarket every Saturday and buy for the week.

On Sunday I cook lunches for Mon, Tues, Wed and then make something simple on Thursday. On Friday we meet for lunch as we work closeby (not very mustachian, but its cheap enough).

On Sunday evening I chop up lots of vegetables, meat, baby potatoes and sweet potato and put them in the slow cooker on monday morning when we go to work.

Then when we get home dinner is waiting for us, and it will be dinner for a few nights.

jeninco

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #21 on: December 11, 2017, 09:33:05 PM »
I do weekly planning and have a family of 4, including two teenaged boys -- I can't imagine finding the refrigerator space for more than a week's worth of vegetables.

Our meals tend to be vegetable-heavy. We eat meat, but try for several vegetarian dinners per week.

Breakfasts: We have an assortment of stuff around, so this is mostly make-your-own, but if asked nicely I will make baked oatmeal (there are tons of recipes online) with tons of fruit and leave it in the oven programmed to start baking at 5:45 or so, so it's ready to take out at 6:30. (This only works in the winter -- our kitchen is quite cool in the evenings, so I don't worry about leaving this overnight in a cold oven.)

Lunches: I solicit suggestions Fridays/Saturday mornings before making a list.  Some negotiations happen, but at this point we have agreed on some tried-and-true standards. Usually my husband has sandwiches, and the kids have burritos/quesidillas/rice-and-beans with salsa and chips/leftovers. MY lunches are often varieties of chopped salads (this week it's fennel and oranges with lemon juice and pepper) and toast with something. I make sure we don't run out of un-mustachian very good bread.

Dinners: I primarily shop at a local store with decent prices, and supplement with a stop at Trader Joe's (for cheese, and various odds and ends). I look at the weekly flier for my store, and base meals on whatever meats and vegetables are on sale. At this point, I look through whatever cookbooks/notebooks/websites feel inspiring to me that day. So this week we're having:

mixed grill, sautťed snap peas, salad, cheesecake (it was my BIL's birthday)
chili (with part of the leftover grilled meat and beans), tortillas, salad
pork and veg stew (very light on the pork, with the remainder of the leftover meat)
turkey enchiladas, cabbage-and-carrot slaw (I shredded the turkey and put it in the freezer last month)
polenta with spicy cauliflower and tomato sauce
linguine with artichoke sauce (and green beans)
(it appears we're missing one here, but I'm too lazy to go see)

Once the menu has been shopped for (there are usually ample opportunities to substitute things that are discovered to be on sale) the dinners are written on a whiteboard on the refrigerator. That way everyone (including me) can see what the available dinner options are, and it's easy to think "hmm, today we're all going to come home late, so it should be something in a crock-pot" or whatever.

We tend toward lots of room-temperature salad-y meals during fall and spring, AKA soccer season, along with other things that can be made well ahead. I print out recipes that look interesting, and they often get one try before they're either tossed or stuck into my notebook.

We eat an enormous variety of things: nothing that we're eating this week was something we ate last week, although I believe we had turkey enchiladas the week before. Right now, we tend to have one or two mexican-ish things per week, one or two vegetarian things per week, possibly one grilled meat thing per week, and chinese/indian/thai - inspired stuff once per week. We've also created an entire family of "nicoise-inspired" salads, which are potatoes and vegetable-based with grilled meat, possibly tomatoes, something pickled, and something appropriate in the dressing (so a green goddess-type dressing with fish, and a mustardy vinaigrette if we're having potato, cabbage, and sausage as the base).

If I were trying to plan for a month, I think I'd shoot for two weeks of meals twice and aim for cooking double-batches and freezing some of the things -- anything stew-y or sauc-y will probably freeze OK, and then half the work is done. You also have the chance to plan inter-laced meals to be sure to use up everything (the classical example of this is roast chicken the first night, chicken salad sandwiches the second night, and chicken soup the third night, but shredded chicken and chicken stock both freeze well -- as do chicken bones if you're not in the mood to make stock right then and there).

shelivesthedream

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2017, 02:44:54 AM »
Thanks all, this has given me a lot of food for thought! (Pun intended) I think it's that doing all the thinking feels like a lot of work because I'm so new to it, so doing it every week sounds exhausting. In the UK, we also don't have grocery sales and flyers like you do. Prices trend up and down across the year, but fresh stuff doesn't generally go on sale unless it's a few packets about to expire. It's therefore better for me to plan first and then shop with a list from that because I'll know roughly what will be cheap in advance (January = Brussels sprouts and smoked salmon after Christmas, August = tomatoes) based on season and previous experience. I can always do a swap in the shop if I spot a surprising deal. I think I'm going to experiment with fortnightly meal planning for a few months and see how it goes. I'm hoping the massive thinking effort will get easier once Ive done it a few times!

Diego

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #23 on: December 12, 2017, 06:02:22 AM »
A friend of mine is a professional nutritionist, and she has made me two "diet plans" (which aren't for lose weight, but for eat healthy). Each diet consists in two weeks of meals. A diet is for ďsummer foodĒ and the other one is for ďwinter foodĒ, so I only buy seasonal food, which is cheaper.

I repeat the same diet in winter/summer over and over again, but I donít get tired of eating the same meals during 6 months, because these diets are varied.

Each diet has cost me 35Ä, but I always know what to eat, I keep improving my cooking skills because every time I cook the same meal I get better results, and I eat in a very healthy way.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #24 on: December 12, 2017, 08:25:12 AM »
I officially plan for weekly, but in reality I have an unofficial month plan.

I don't scan the ads for the stores, but for a month every quarter or so, I buy whatever meat is on sale in bulk when I'm at the store.  Last month, the grocery store had buy one get one roast...so I bought the max (4).  Costco had a great special last time I was there, so I ended up with 20 lbs of chicken in my chest freezer.  Italian sausage was on sale, so I stocked up on that, too.  When the freezer gets close to full, I stop buying and we just eat the freezer down.

Every weekend, I plan for the week ahead based on what's in the freezer, what perishables I need to use up, what activities we have going on, and, sometimes, on a theme (Mexican week, Italian week, recipes from the cookbook from Charleston week).  I usually cook 3 times per week, sometimes 4.  The weekly menu is posted on the fridge (with a note for cookbook name and recipe page number) so that my husband can cook if I'm home late.

I have one extremely picky child.  He gets to choose one meal a week that he will actually eat, and then the leftovers are his for the rest of the week.  (Generally burgers, chicken, homemade pizza, nachos)

A second meal is either a casserole or a crock pot meal.  I prep as much as possible on the weekend, so we just have to plug it in/throw it in the over on the day we plan to eat it.  When I make casseroles, I always make 2.  One we eat that week.  One goes into the freezer.  The frozen one either comes out another week when I'm too busy to cook, or I have it ready to bring to a friend who is sick or just had a baby (they are all having babies right now!).

The first few weeks of planning were hard.  Now it's a lot easier.  I am better at judging what I'll have time for and for planning how to make meals that complement each other (use up all the buttermilk, etc).

horsepoor

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #25 on: December 12, 2017, 09:13:18 AM »
I keep a stocked freezer, and pantry. I shop once or twice a month at grocery store for veg/fruit or desires.ie I want pho.  Otherwise I open the fridge and cook from what about to go bad. Oh look cauliflower that was on sale and a huge bag of carrots (from Costco). Guess I'll defrost some sale beef and have beef and broccoli"cauliflower". Or caulirice. When I run out of fresh fruit/veg I go to the freezer or shopping. I also will make a stock up run to Costco when the list gets long or I run out of 2-3 staples and am tired of substituting

I get to eat more of what I want. When I want. Just gotta work 1-2 days ahead to defrost.

A stocked freezer/pantry are working for me for now.   Probably helps that I was raised 15 miles from the nearest grocery store so I substitute more than most and don't even think to make a last minute store run. It's just 5 min or less away now. Lol

This is pretty much what I do too.  I was meal planning, but ended up wasting food most weeks because my schedule would change mid-week, or we had more leftovers than expected (or none when I expected some!). Now I usually shop 1x a week, mostly for vegetables and dairy.  Most of our meat comes from a local farmer, so it's in the freezer and needs 0 to 2 days forethought to thaw out.  We always have a steady supply of eggs.  I usually keep some cauliflower rice and spinach in the freezer, and squash, potatoes and onions in the pantry, so even if I don't get to the store, we can eat something with a vegetable in it.  I usually keep beets, carrots and cabbage around as well, since they keep in the fridge for several weeks.

Once a week or so, usually towards the end of the week, we'll have a meal that uses random bits of ingredients - soup, frittatta, fried rice, curry, stirfry, or a spaghetti squash casserole.

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #26 on: December 12, 2017, 09:23:22 AM »
We do weekly planning, not monthly.  Basically get grocery store fliers on Friday night and scan 'em for deals . . . then choose recipes based on what's on sale.  Then we cook everything for the week on Saturday and Sunday.  Monthly meal planning sounds like it would be too hard, and you would still need to get to the store weekly for produce and bread.

jeninco

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #27 on: December 12, 2017, 10:46:38 AM »
Thanks all, this has given me a lot of food for thought! (Pun intended) I think it's that doing all the thinking feels like a lot of work because I'm so new to it, so doing it every week sounds exhausting. In the UK, we also don't have grocery sales and flyers like you do. Prices trend up and down across the year, but fresh stuff doesn't generally go on sale unless it's a few packets about to expire. It's therefore better for me to plan first and then shop with a list from that because I'll know roughly what will be cheap in advance (January = Brussels sprouts and smoked salmon after Christmas, August = tomatoes) based on season and previous experience. I can always do a swap in the shop if I spot a surprising deal. I think I'm going to experiment with fortnightly meal planning for a few months and see how it goes. I'm hoping the massive thinking effort will get easier once Ive done it a few times!

It will, because you'll have a better idea of what you like, and about how long it'll take.
I actually tend to do the menu planning during "enforced down time" -- for me this is "watching" kids play soccer, but it might be time on transit,  or watching TV, or whatever.  Also, someplace in my head is a list of 50 or so recipes, so I can consider options and check the recipes later.

Also, I wanted to note that the list I write on the refrigerator includes "stuff to remember" for the recipe, so if I purchase, for instance, fresh parsley, it all gets used that week rather than partly spoiling.

Mmm, brussels sprouts. We like them pared, cut in half, and roasted in the oven on 425 - 450 (F, sorry British people) until all browned and toasty, then sprinkled with coarse salt. They're good cold that way, too. If you cooked a ton that way, I bet you could eat them hot the first night, cold for lunches, tossed into a pasta dish with smoked salmon (perhaps cut into smaller pieces), then in or near a frittata later in the week. If you have any left.

Actually, that's how my planning usually works. You'll get good at it pretty quickly.

shelivesthedream

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #28 on: December 15, 2017, 02:40:53 AM »
I have a surprising meal-planning hiccup. I talked it over with my husband, and we agreed we're on board generally (in order to cut down buying food we don't eat and to have more variety because it's thought about in advance) but putting down specific meals for specific days isn't working for us because the swapping around gets too confusing. So the plan was to plan ten meals per week (out of fourteen lunches and dinners) and we can eat any meal on any day but we know we'll have the ingredients because we'll have bought them all at once.

But then my husband said that the thing he really isn't enjoying about the meal plan is that it's hard for him to cook things because I've made the plan and all the details/vague recipe outlines are in my head. He's a good cook but hasn't got much time right now, but he does enjoy it. We often cook together, but one of us is always in charge and the other is sous chef. I suggested we plan the meals together, but the plan is all my idea and, to be honest, my skillset, and I'm the one cutting down on paid work while he's still working full time, so I don't want to turn it into some massive extra chore for him that I have to hound him about when I'm supposed to be stepping up around the house.

So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #29 on: December 15, 2017, 03:57:27 AM »
After reading this thread I am the oddball here! I have a large family to feed so I take my budget and divide that by the amount of days in the month. Depending on how things work since the stores are in walking distance though i drive since i haul quite a bit I go a minimum of 2xs a week if sometimes not everyday. I get there in the morning when the doors open and have store to myself. I start with usually the meats,chicken, fish and find out whats on sale or being reduced by asking the butcher everyday. I have gotten to know them pretty well and it goes along way as does with the guys that work the produce department. I pretty much cook everyday based on what I was able to buy that morning or for couple days based on what I got good deals on BUT my ground rules are meals are loaded with veggies so a make monster salads and or pasta salads that have way more veggies than noodles. Then either beef, pork, chicken or fish and a fruit salad. I try to make things that I know the leftovers will be eaten and or a side for the next day.

Bottom line is everyone is a little different and you do what works for you. I agree with focusing on healthy first. I enjoy the store because i get home, get dinner made usually by 8am and then go to the gym, use to be work.  The think is to have flexibility and an arsenal of things that you can make so you can meal plan on the fly based on what is the healthiest options on sale that week.

Dont know if that was much help but works for me and I can honestly say when the kids get home the first thing everyday out of there mouth is " Dad , what did  you make for dinner tonight"! There picky but I have figured it out and most of the time they all get a bit of happiness with there dinner.

Cubert

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #30 on: December 15, 2017, 04:06:32 AM »
My wife is a big fan of Plate Joy. They're an online website that offers up plans based on your eating preferences. Since the Mrs. is a vegetarian, we enjoy nice, interesting, and generally tasty veggie meals with this service.

All that said, being the frugal mastermind in the household, I'd prefer not to use the service (there is a fee.)

horsepoor

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #31 on: December 15, 2017, 05:48:13 AM »
But then my husband said that the thing he really isn't enjoying about the meal plan is that it's hard for him to cook things because I've made the plan and all the details/vague recipe outlines are in my head. He's a good cook but hasn't got much time right now, but he does enjoy it. We often cook together, but one of us is always in charge and the other is sous chef. I suggested we plan the meals together, but the plan is all my idea and, to be honest, my skillset, and I'm the one cutting down on paid work while he's still working full time, so I don't want to turn it into some massive extra chore for him that I have to hound him about when I'm supposed to be stepping up around the house.

So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

I'm not sure this would help, but when I was meal planning, I would use Pinterest and make a hidden board with a weekly meal plan.  Of course you don't have to use elaborate "Pinterest Worthy" recipes, just pin whatever things you normally make to a main board (or a couple if you want to subdivide seasonally, or by type of protein or something).  It also allows you to add notes when you re-pin, so you could note - things like ingredients substitutions, or to make the soup after the roast chicken to use the leftover, or whatever it is your H might need to know.

GuitarStv

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #32 on: December 15, 2017, 08:01:47 AM »
So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

Plan some meals based on recipes . . . that way you can either tell your husband the page of the book the recipe is on, or forward him the link online.  Then he knows exactly what to make, and you can plan away.

mm1970

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #33 on: December 15, 2017, 10:32:55 AM »
Seat of my pants.  I do the grocery shopping before I make a plan (horrible idea!) 

We get a produce box delivery.  I wing it.

I plan a day or two in advance.  When we run out, I plan something else.

Lucky Recardito

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #34 on: December 15, 2017, 11:20:13 AM »
So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

My husband and I took a weekend a while back and tackled this as a project. For us, it had to be a joint effort because we share shopping and cooking duties.

First, we went through cookbooks and identified 20 recipes we knew and liked (and that we both could cook, or could learn to cook). We photocopied them (so they were on sheets of paper, rather than in a smatterings of books and magazines) and arranged them into "week packets" of 4 meals each (since we typically cook about 4 meals per week -- each meal = a dinner & the next day's lunch for two people; a few recipes make 6 or 8 servings and stretch a little further; we also leave some meals unplanned because we both usually wind up with a work-paid lunch once-ish a week; and we tend eat out at least one weekend day... so 4 recipes has been about right in terms of amount of food). When arranging weeks, we tried to think about variety and balancing the weekly spend (for the most part, each week has a chicken dish, a fish dish, something with red meat or pork, and something veggie; no week has more than one expensive meal like shrimp or salmon).

Then DH, who I AM DEAD SERIOUS ASKED FOR THIS JOB turned each set of weekly meals into a shopping list, with all the ingredients for all 4 recipes together, organized by grocery store section (produce, dairy, etc.). The names of each recipe and the full shopping list went in a Google Doc (one doc for each weekly plan -- A, B, C, D, E since we did 5 weeks). These are printed out on paper (but exist online for further tweaking).

Several copies of each week's plan are in a plastic sleeve with all 4 recipes in that same sleeve; all the sleeves are in a binder.

On shopping day, we pull out the shopping list page for the next week in the rotation. We take 10 minutes over coffee to check what's on the list that we don't need to buy because it's already in the house (often rice, spices, oil -- though this system means we easily catch when we we're running low on something), as well as add staples that we try to always keep around (oatmeal/yogurt that we eat for breakfast; hummus and carrots to snack on; tuna and eggs and other stuff that it's easy to make an unplanned meal for out of, booze...). Then we're off to the store and it's easy-peasy.

The whole plastic sleeve then sits out on the counter all week, right next to the stove. That means that whoever gets home from work first can easily see what we planned to cook for dinner and can get started -- with the recipe easily to hand, and all the right stuff in the fridge.

The time outlay to get this set up was kind of a pain, but I'm SO glad we did it. It's made our weekend planning/shopping easy and pleasant (when I used to dread it), and we eat much better. And every so often we'll cook something new (often on a weekend), and then decide whether it should go into rotation. If yes, we set that recipe aside; the plan is to keep creating new weekly plans so that we have even more variety, or can get to a point where the menus are a little more seasonal.

Helpful? Also, we are both nerds. 

Edited to add: Our approach isn't particularly budget-minded, and isn't designed to always be cheapest or necessarily take advantage of what's on sale/in season. But our goal wasn't to cut our grocery spending -- it was to make meal-planning and shopping easier, and we've succeeded.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2017, 11:24:51 AM by Lucky Recardito »

Zoot

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #35 on: December 15, 2017, 12:39:12 PM »
For lunches i make freezer meals (double up on the lasagna, burritos, enchilladas), or buddha bowls for myself.

Today I learned the phrase Buddha bowl.  I love this concept--it's a great way to use up bits of things in the fridge but make it "special."  Thanks for introducing me to this concept!  :)

shelivesthedream

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2017, 02:26:15 PM »
Lucky Recardito: that sounds awesome. I am going to spend some time thinking about how to adapt it for us but wow, thank you so much for explaining it!

TartanTallulah

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #37 on: December 16, 2017, 11:41:04 AM »
I've always winged the meal planning, even when I had lots of children/teenagers in residence. My strategy was to keep the cupboards full of cans, jars and dry goods, the freezer full of food that goes in freezers, do a big supermarket shop once most weeks, and replenish perishables between times if needed (at one point we were getting through a gallon of milk a day). It helps that I love doing mass catering.

The biggest challenge I have now, with only three of us at home, is curbing my quartermaster tendencies and accepting that we don't need to keep enough food in the house to feed an army for a month. It's not as if we don't have a Co-op half a mile away that's open 15 hours every day.

I've told my husband that when I retire our meals will rotate through beans on toast, tinned soup, and pasta with pesto. Since he's the opposite of a foodie, his eyes lit up.

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #38 on: December 17, 2017, 04:18:05 AM »
Iím single so appreciate this is significantly easier for me than anyone catering for a family/others.

I do a monthly shop for anything non-perishable (tins, packets, household cleaning stuff) and bi-weekly local shops for perishables, fruit, veg, bread etc.

I have shredded wheat/weetabix/bran flake type cereal with fruit every day for breakfast. I take a salad every day to work containing, chicken, mackerel, mixed bean salad, potato, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, red pepper etc.

A lot of dinner type stuff is sold for families or couples. Single portions are expensive so I donít buy them. As a result I end up having the same dinners two days in a row quite frequently.

The main benefit of this approach is that I have absolute minimal food waste. Hardly anything gets wasted. The downside is itís not quite as varied as it could be and itís not going to work for people who donít want to have the same breakfast/lunch combos everyday.

I do need to add more variety in my dinner repertoire. Something to work on next year!

lentil

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #39 on: December 17, 2017, 06:56:45 AM »
Quote
So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

I do the meal planning and shopping, and I'm the more versatile/interesting cook. In exchange, my partner is always -- always! -- willing to make spaghetti, or taco salads, or one of his other handful of quick-and-well-practiced meals. Many of the things he cooks involve easy-to-store ingredients, so I can make sure there are always some pasta and jars of sauce in the pantry.

When I make a meal plan, I'm mostly just figuring out which 6-7 of our regular meals sound good this week. I choose them based on many factors -- sales, seasons, what we're in the mood for, what we realistically have time to cook this week, how enthusiastic I feel about cooking in general. As part of this, I often ask my partner if there are things he'd particularly like to cook, and factor those in (or just pick a few that I know he can cook, and plan for him to cook those as the occasion presents). Then I shop for whatever we need -- restocking staples, buying perishable ingredients, making sure we have fruits/veggies for snacking. I end up with a set of meals and a vague idea of which nights we plan to eat them, plus a general sense of how often each of us will be cooking. But it's flexible, so we can usually switch things around quite easily if life throws some unexpected twists into our week.

My partner also really likes it when we cook together. So we've created a ritual of making a "fancy dinner" on Friday nights. It's not really that fancy, usually stir fry or something, but it involves lots of chopping veggies, hanging out in the kitchen, and quality time together. It's a nice way to unwind after the week (although sometimes, if it's really been a hard week, we shift the fancy dinner night to Saturday, and just veg out with leftovers on Friday). It's also not something we have the energy to do every night, realistically.

I have found that new recipes, or anything particularly elaborate, create challenges. It's easy for me to get excited about a butternut squash & parmesan pastry recipe when I'm planning meals. But when it's 6pm on a Tuesday, and I've just gotten home after a stressful meeting, and I realize that I need to peel & dice a butternut squash, measure herbs & spices, grate some cheese, and make a batch of pastry dough...uh, the excitement just isn't there. Same thing for my partner, who often gets over-ambitious when planning ahead, and then suggests eating out when he realizes he just doesn't have it in him to start baking a quiche at 7pm on a Thursday night. So if he really wants to cook something new/complicated, I usually suggest that it would be best as a Saturday or Sunday meal. We can even plan for an "open" weekend day, where we decide together what we feel like making, and do a bonus shopping trip (not quite as frugal, but it does enhance our overall food happiness). Weekdays, we eat our simple, tasty standards. Over time, it balances out pretty well, I think.

jeninco

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Re: How do you do your meal planning?
« Reply #40 on: December 17, 2017, 04:14:55 PM »
Quote
So how do you handle meal planning where one person does all the planning but two people do the cooking?

I do the meal planning and shopping, and I'm the more versatile/interesting cook. In exchange, my partner is always -- always! -- willing to make spaghetti, or taco salads, or one of his other handful of quick-and-well-practiced meals. Many of the things he cooks involve easy-to-store ingredients, so I can make sure there are always some pasta and jars of sauce in the pantry.

When I make a meal plan, I'm mostly just figuring out which 6-7 of our regular meals sound good this week. I choose them based on many factors -- sales, seasons, what we're in the mood for, what we realistically have time to cook this week, how enthusiastic I feel about cooking in general. As part of this, I often ask my partner if there are things he'd particularly like to cook, and factor those in (or just pick a few that I know he can cook, and plan for him to cook those as the occasion presents). Then I shop for whatever we need -- restocking staples, buying perishable ingredients, making sure we have fruits/veggies for snacking. I end up with a set of meals and a vague idea of which nights we plan to eat them, plus a general sense of how often each of us will be cooking. But it's flexible, so we can usually switch things around quite easily if life throws some unexpected twists into our week.

My partner also really likes it when we cook together. So we've created a ritual of making a "fancy dinner" on Friday nights. It's not really that fancy, usually stir fry or something, but it involves lots of chopping veggies, hanging out in the kitchen, and quality time together. It's a nice way to unwind after the week (although sometimes, if it's really been a hard week, we shift the fancy dinner night to Saturday, and just veg out with leftovers on Friday). It's also not something we have the energy to do every night, realistically.

I have found that new recipes, or anything particularly elaborate, create challenges. It's easy for me to get excited about a butternut squash & parmesan pastry recipe when I'm planning meals. But when it's 6pm on a Tuesday, and I've just gotten home after a stressful meeting, and I realize that I need to peel & dice a butternut squash, measure herbs & spices, grate some cheese, and make a batch of pastry dough...uh, the excitement just isn't there. Same thing for my partner, who often gets over-ambitious when planning ahead, and then suggests eating out when he realizes he just doesn't have it in him to start baking a quiche at 7pm on a Thursday night. So if he really wants to cook something new/complicated, I usually suggest that it would be best as a Saturday or Sunday meal. We can even plan for an "open" weekend day, where we decide together what we feel like making, and do a bonus shopping trip (not quite as frugal, but it does enhance our overall food happiness). Weekdays, we eat our simple, tasty standards. Over time, it balances out pretty well, I think.

I try to make sure a week's worth of planned dinners includes a few that are fast and easy, a few that can be made ahead of time, and at least one that will use up leftovers (Frittata, or stir-fry, or straight-up leftovers, for example).  Also, the creation of next week's menu begins by going through the refrigerator to see what's leftover from this week, so everything gets used up.  I really recommend
https://www.amazon.com/Everlasting-Meal-Cooking-Economy-Grace/dp/1439181888: it's quite lovely about using the odds and ends of yesterday's meal to make today's (also, the recipe for green sauce can be made with parsley stems and a decent handheld blender. What's not to like about turning the parsley stems into something yummy?

To answer the original question, however, you probably have to sit down sometime (over coffee? Breakfast?) and talk about what dinners will be for the week. I find this very frustrating, because around Friday morning I'll start to solicit ideas for lunches and dinners, and my husband says "fish" (we live >1000 miles from any coast) and the teenagers will say .. well, if I'm lucky, they'll propose something I can actually make during the week. On the other hand, I'm the one doing 90% of the cooking, so I get to make what I like, so it's not all a bummer.

The "what's for dinner this week" list can include references to cookbook page #'s, as well as notes about substitutions ("beef and bokchoi hotpot, SS p 39, use Napa cabbage, rice noodles"). You'll probably both have to play around to figure out what's helpful. Agree with Lentil: make it easy to switch things around. In fact, it's helpful to have a fallback option that's dead simple -- for us it's often pasta, with sauce from the freezer and warmed-up frozen green beans. It's faster to get that onto the table then to send someone over to Noodles, or Chipotle or wherever.