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How Do You Plan Meals?



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GA2NEGIRL
Posts: 32
6/16/13 8:13 P

I plan, but not in the sense that I have a menu for 35 meals per week. From a lifestyle standpoint, I live in a very rural area so running to the store is NOT an option. I don't have time! That makes planning and improvising good skills to have.

Breakfast--Exact food varies, but consists of a protein, a fruit, a carb, and a fat. I keep cheese, yogurt, milk, oatmeal, cereal, English muffins, fresh fruit and such on hand for breakfast. I try to eat fruits with shortest shelf life earliest in the week.

Lunch--Is usually leftovers from the previous night's supper and could vary a bit. I think about it as I'm packing it to try to hit around 350 calories.

Supper--This is the meal I really plan. I put together a menu of about 6 meals before I head to the store. I rarely make all 6 in a single week, but it gives me some choices to choose from during the week. I'm looking out usually 2 days at a time for a main meal to ensure I have meats thawed in time. Leftovers make up the balance of the week's suppers.

Snacks--I pack a snack to take to work to include a protein (nuts, cheese, or yogurt) and a fruit or veggie.






LCLAY0
SparkPoints: (2,260)
Fitness Minutes: (1,048)
Posts: 56
6/16/13 7:26 P

I am having a hard time with this. I am not reaching my calories, but I am scared to eat any breads or starchy food. If i stay "cold turkey" I can give myself the advantage of staying on plan. My meals consist of protein shakes, fruits, veggies, and a sensible meal like chicken or fish with a veggie. I am not eating any salt, sugar, or oil.



WHOLENEWME79
Posts: 919
6/16/13 7:16 P

I don't really plan- I usually try to just work with what I have. It usually means frozen protein like sausage or chicken, and 3 sides- usually veggies, though I will throw in a sweet potato or brown/wild rice sometimes.

When I do plan, I usually make something that results in several servings (like skillet lasagna, curries, or jambalaya). Then I have it for a meal each day- Sometimes two. I don;'t get tired of pasta dishes or bakes, so I tend to do that a lot. I've never had anything go bad on me, because I'd much rather eat what I made, especially if it is something I like, rather than a frozen dinner or take out.

That probably wasn't very helpful. Best of luck, though!



VXN9675
SparkPoints: (1,378)
Fitness Minutes: (35)
Posts: 1
6/16/13 6:41 P

I have just recently finished up classes for my 2-year degree and gone from being a full time student with 2 jobs to just having one full time job. I have the time and money to eat healthy, but meals are so hard to plan. It's just me and my boyfriend, and he is a *very* picky eater. Usually if I have something planned to cook, he doesn't want it and I'm stuck eating all the leftovers or just throwing it out, and there's no sense freezing it because it'll just get thrown out anyway. He also doesn't have the same weight loss goals as I do. So, I end up cooking one meal for him and then another meal for myself and that gets tiring too. It's frustrating to me because I feel like I finally have the time to focus on losing weight, but I don't know where to begin. I usually end up eating fast food or a frozen dinner because I don't want to put in the time, expense and effort to cook a meal that won't get eaten. When I do make something, like salad or sandwiches, I end up not feeling as satisfied as I would have with a restaurant meal, and that goes double for him. I'm trying really hard to break our dependence on restaurants! If anyone has any ideas on how to transition picky eaters from fast food to home-cooked healthy food, that would be great!

Edited by: VXN9675 at: 6/16/2013 (18:44)


LDHAWKE
SparkPoints: (19,069)
Fitness Minutes: (1,818)
Posts: 771
6/15/13 8:25 A

I do plan my meals. I like to cook and do all, if not most, of my cooking on the weekends for the upcoming week. (Right now I have a crock pot of jambalaya cooking on low.) I usually start planning my meals for the upcoming week on Wednesday and Thursday. I like to cook so I have a whole list of recipes I would like to try. I go through my list and plan my meals based on what is available in my refrigerator/freezer/pantry. If I really have a taste for something special, I add it to my cooking list. I do most of my shopping on Friday night with some last minute shopping early Saturday morning.

There are times when I burn out from cooking. When that happens, my hubby takes over and gets the grill going.

Planning and cooking is a lot of work, but to me it is a labor of love. There is never a lack of good, fresh cooked food in our home.



NIRERIN
Posts: 11,763
6/14/13 4:57 P

for the containers.
i buy at my local restaurant supply store. they make 1 cup containers that stack [think of what you buy potato salad or coleslaw in at the grocery store, that's what i buy.] and are technically freezer and microwave safe. i tend to freeze in them but dump them into pyrex for reheating. even though things are microwave safe, most of them as only supposed to be used a few times in the microwave, so i get more life out of the container if i don't reheat in said container. i stopped freezing in pyrex because most of my pyrex containers are two cup containers and they don't stack nearly as well, especially when frozen. i love the one cup containers because i can freeze ingredient type foods [like black beans, peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, sauces] and they're easier to get what i want out of than the 2 cup containers. plus, it saves space [and i'd rather get down 2 1 cup containers if i want a lot of food than have half a container of air taking up space in the freezer]. i have a top freezer fridge and the bottom shelf can hold at least 40 of these 1 cup containers with room for bags of frozen veggies. and i should note that my fridge isn't a full size fridge, it's the one about two inches down from the regular full sized. with a side by side i would guess that one shelf could fit two rows, at least three deep and five containers tall, so about 30 containers if you were to devote one whole shelf to it.
with freezer space as with everything else, you have to budget your space. a good amount of space should be allocated for what you go through the most as well as what is the best deal. so if you can get meat for 50% off this week, but bread is only 20 cents off, it makes sense to devote more space to the meat and go lighter on the bread. if you go through ten pounds of meat in a week, having 40lbs in your fridge wouldn't be unreasonable. if you go through three pounds of meat in a week, then 40lbs in the freezer would probably be unreasonable. figure that grocery stores put their sales on on a monthly basis. so most things that are on sale this week will be on sale again in 4 weeks. so all you really need is enough to get you through til the next sale. i think the regular price on catfish at publix is 7.99 per pound. this week it's on sale for 5.99 a pound. last month about this time it was on sale for 5.99 a pound. the middle of next month i anticipate it being on sale for 5.99 a pound. so if i wanted to have it once a week from here until the next sale, 4oz a go, i'd buy about a pound of it. but if i went to the store and saw that it was 1.99 a pound, i might buy four or five pounds and plan on eating a lot more catfish for the next month because that is a really good price on it.
if you're not the sort of person who can remember this stuff, start a price journal. all you need to do is write down the item, the size and the price you paid for it. the next time you buy it, note if the price is different, and keep doing that until you have an idea of roughly what you pay for things. that way when you see a really good price, you know to stock up. and you can skip the skimpier sales in favor of the things that are a better deal.
so if you have four shelves available in your freezer, one might be devoted to meat. another might be bread another might be fruits and veggies and the fourth could be prepared meals. because remember that when you freeze things like your curried veg you're saving money because you will be able to eat something that would have otherwise just been waste. and if you're really trying to pinch your pennies, eliminating waste in the kitchen is a huge money saver.



LOUNMOUN
Posts: 1,235
6/14/13 1:17 P

"Do you guys actually plan out every meal and snack for a week, then go shopping for just those items you'll be cooking or eating? How do you know where you'll be when, how hungry you'll be, what others will need or want, etc.? Does this really work for you?? "

I only plan one meal each day- unless there is a special occasion. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are usually unplanned because we eat the same foods for those times.
Breakfast may be cereal, oatmeal, leftovers, a bagel, a sandwich, fruit, yogurt... whatever people find.
I buy things like fruit, yogurt, cheese, popcorn or crackers for snacks. I also make granola sometimes.
Dh usually skips breakfast and takes lunch packed from home. His lunch is often leftovers or a sandwich with fruit or vegetables, and trail mix/granola.
Dd and I eat most meals at home. A sandwich, salad, soup or leftovers is common for lunch. Nothing particularly challenging.

We are not an eat-on-the-go type family and don't eat out much.
I do not have a separate freezer although it would be nice sometimes. I use my slow cooker, stove, oven, and grill. I do not have a microwave- I reheat food on the stove or in the oven so the plastic containers or baggies that I freeze food in are not used to reheat the food.

I usually just write down 7 meals for the week... 3 or 4 are meatless, 1 is usually soup. I do not assign a meal to a particular day of the week unless it is a special occasion. I post the written menu on the fridge and cross out things as we have them.

I usually only make one new thing a week or every 2 weeks. I do ask dh and dd for input while planning meals. They usually each tell me 1 or 2 things they want to have. Dd will not like everything I plan. I would say she will dislike what I have planned 3 nights every week.

I am not a picky eater. I love to cook and try new things. I don't like to eat processed boxed foods much.
Dh will happily eat anything I make. He has a few favorites but is an adventurous and appreciative diner.
Dd will not eat a number of things and doesn't like to try new things. She would be happy to eat just five meals. Some nights I don't make any food dd wants to eat or she will only want to eat one thing. I don't force her to eat but I also don't make her something different. She can make a sandwich or eat a bowl of cereal a couple of nights each week. Last night she just had yogurt and mango for dinner.




WADINGMOOSE
Posts: 1,044
6/14/13 12:44 P

Oh, and I've gone through periods of planning for a whole week and buying everything on Sunday, but right now we're planning day to day and buying groceries when we need to pick up something we don't have.



WADINGMOOSE
Posts: 1,044
6/14/13 12:43 P

As a couple, I struggle to make either 2 or 4 servings of anything so I feel your pain. We've been working hard to start doing that though since we have the same problem - just the freezer in our fridge.

Try shrinking how much you cook into enough for one meal with leftovers for lunch the next day. This is much easier to do with the whole meat and veggies way of eating, but you can also do it with stir fries and curries and soups with a little math on the ingredients.

Other things that are easy to cook in appropriate proportions are frittatas if you like eggs. We tend to put in enough eggs for a single meal then load it up with veggies.



SWEETEYES0601
SparkPoints: (25,565)
Fitness Minutes: (25,109)
Posts: 387
6/14/13 12:39 P

I plan meals according to what's on sale (as far as meats) at the market and what my budget is. We have a local fruit/veggie stand that is super cheap and ultra reliable.



BITHOO
SparkPoints: (8,472)
Fitness Minutes: (2,249)
Posts: 306
6/14/13 11:49 A

LOL Icedemeter! Thanks; these are great tips.



ICEDEMETER
Posts: 685
6/14/13 11:24 A

Apparently you suffer from the same physical handicap that I do: I am physically incapable of making a vegetable dish with only one or two servings (it always ends up at 6 to 8)!

I freeze my leftovers of things like that in zipped freezer bags, with one portion per bag. I do the initial freeze with them lying flat, but once they're frozen it's easy to stand them up and "file" them like envelopes. They thaw really quickly, and I just dump them in to a microwave-safe bowl to heat up.

I do the same with soups, stews, and sauces (although I've also frozen sauces in an ice-cube tray first, and then dumped the lot of them in to a bag so I can just pull out one at a time).

I'm another one without a family to worry about, but I would say that if you want to sit down and have a family meal together then it would be really easy for you to pull out a single portion of a frozen curry and have that with whatever meat you are serving to the rest of them. They can still have the separate two veg that you've made, but this way you all get to eat what you enjoy.

Hope this helps!

Edit: Apparently LadyStarWind and I think the same (but she types faster!)

Edited by: ICEDEMETER at: 6/14/2013 (11:25)


LADYSTARWIND
SparkPoints: (19,854)
Fitness Minutes: (15,946)
Posts: 1,136
6/14/13 11:23 A

I use gallon or quart size Ziploc Freezer brand. Lay Flat, remove the extra air, and freeze. (I also do this with bulk hamburger,pork chops,etc.) Its nice because you can very minimally thaw it...then "break off" a hunk while the rest stays frozen. Just bend it over the edge of the counter to quarter the contents.... Depending upon how much & what you are freezing, you can even sort of pre-proportion it this way when you bag it up. I write the contents on the top edge of the bag, and date, so I can easily see them on the outer edge of the freezer shelf.

I almost always do the rest of the reheating in my pyrex containers--just easier to handle than the plastics!
patti



BITHOO
SparkPoints: (8,472)
Fitness Minutes: (2,249)
Posts: 306
6/14/13 9:22 A

For those of you who make larger pots of food (slow cooker, stews, soups, etc.) which I do quite a bit of (and then wind up eating for days on end before having to throw out the remainder!):

1. what kinds of containers do you use to store? are there microwave safe options? I keep being told to NEVER microwave anything plastic because of some sort of carcinogen??

2. I have a side by side fridge/freezer, and the freezer always contains frozen meat and bread I bought on sale, as well as ice packs, etc. How do you make more than a couple of containers fit?

3. When you have frozen meals available, do you defrost those and eat with your family but eat different food? Or do you only eat them when you're on your own?

Right now, I have a big container of what I feel is delicious curried veg -- but no one else wants it. I ate some for a dinner; I'll eat more for lunch. But I can't really see eating it twice a day until it's all gone...



BITHOO
SparkPoints: (8,472)
Fitness Minutes: (2,249)
Posts: 306
6/14/13 9:18 A

Re the "short order cook" issue: I know, I also grew up in a home where mom cooked a meal at night, and if you didn't like it you didn't eat. Or you cooked. I have tried that approach, and found that my kids typically would say "that's fine, no problem," and started living on pb&j, yogurt, and cold cereal.

Now, I have nothing against those foods -- but my son is autistic, and would literally NEVER try even a hamburger again if I didn't insist that he try "new" foods. For him, even a burger or breaded baked chicken is an adventure. Because of her brother, our daughter tends to do something similar: she makes plain buttered pasta, and would happily live on it forever.

So I do feel there is something important about, at least a few times a week, fixing a family meal we all sit down and enjoy together. Which is why I do make the 1meat/2veg meals more often than I want to. It provides a reason for Tom to eat "new" foods, and offers Sara a chance to learn HOW to cook something other than pasta or sandwiches. It also, of course, means that we have a family meal at least sometimes, something I want to model for my kids.





STDWYNWEN
SparkPoints: (10,949)
Fitness Minutes: (4,491)
Posts: 546
6/14/13 7:05 A

Hi BITHOO

My advice would be to start with planning one/two days.

If you need fast try a: Taco, spaghetti or sandwich night. Leftovers can be used for lunch.

If you're able, invest in a slow cooker. One pot meals can be a real convenience on days when everyone eat at different times. It also a good way to add in veggies or foods one person might not like on their own.

For breakfast you can make up a batch of scrambled eggs/whole wheat waffles and have them in the fridge ready to heat up in the morning.

Once you get your feet wet with planning the one or two days then you can add on.



KKKAREN
SparkPoints: (209,548)
Fitness Minutes: (87,186)
Posts: 11,487
6/14/13 6:03 A

I plan my meals each day while I'm having my morning coffee. It's only me so it makes things easier. Sometimes I change my mind as the day goes on then I make the necessary adjustments. I copy meals from other days a lot which makes it very easy.



TCANNO
SparkPoints: (92,388)
Fitness Minutes: (62,132)
Posts: 16,628
6/14/13 3:58 A

I do plan my meals. To start with the night before I plan breakfast for the next day.

I spend some time after breakfast planing my meals for the rest of the day including snacks.

You can the change your mind and this helps me to keep to my calorie range.

People who tell me that they haven't got the time I say do what I do and make the time. It is a do or don't do.



LEANNEMW1986
SparkPoints: (2,823)
Fitness Minutes: (966)
Posts: 13
6/14/13 2:02 A

I don't plan meals for the week, or the day even sometimes, my situation is a lot different to yours though, no kids, and boyfriend will eat most things (and if he doesn't like what I'm having he knows where the kitchen is, though I am really lucky and if he is making himself a burger or steak, he will ask me how many calories I have left for dinner and cook me something I can fit in).

I try to plan for a couple of days to save going shopping more often! (though it helps we live within walking distance of the shops), freeze leftovers for when I don't feel like cooking or it needs to be a quick meal, and use up whatever food we have in, it really helps to have mostly healthy food in.



LADYSTARWIND
SparkPoints: (19,854)
Fitness Minutes: (15,946)
Posts: 1,136
6/14/13 1:23 A

My situation is quite different from yours, as I am past the Family Stage and downsized to just two of us (and one daughter living here---but she's pretty much on her own--I don't specifically plan meals to her tastes/desires!)

But my planning hasn't really changed with time--nor with Spark! I have made healthier choices of late, but basically the same old recipes and protocols....

There's a small freezer stash of favorite meats that I pick up on sale, and some homemade soups. Weekly shopping adds whatever veggies sound good or are on sale. The pantry has a stock of brown rice, whole wheat noodles, etc... I almost Always (!) make enough of a recipe to last for 2-3 meals...and sometimes freeze it, but usually eat LeftOvers for several days.

Other than that, now I don't really "plan" much ahead---I've no written plan for the week, although I can certainly see how that could benefit some families and help if you are trying to get your eating in control. When my budget and time were much, much tighter, I did plan 3 or 4 meals as I went through the grocery ads, coupons, etc. every Sunday. Now its more relaxed and rather, Hmmm...what needs to be used up...or What-Sounds-Good that I haven't had for awhile.... One of the Joys of Aging!!!
patti



YOJULEZ
SparkPoints: (15,605)
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Posts: 2,171
6/13/13 10:02 P

I don't have a family but I do meal plan. I have hoards of recipes on my Pinterest saved by type of food, (chicken, beef, pizza, pasta etc). Then, I keep an inventory of what's in my freezer. I do not have a deep freezer, just your usual side by side, and I do buy bulk meat at Costco or at the store when it's on sale. So, after I see what I have in my inventory, I plan it out. I usually try to plan a meal at the beginning of the week that will make a lot of leftovers, so I have those for lunches. My life is pretty scheduled so I almost always know where I'll be for dinner. Every now and then what I have planned to make just doesn't sound good at all, or I planned to grill something and it is pouring rain (despite the weather forecast) so at that point I come up with something on the fly with whatever I have pulled from the freezer. I also keep a couple things around that I can make if I don't feel like what I had planned... stuff like frozen raviolis, or fixings for grilled cheese and soup. My snacks and breakfasts are always the same so that eliminates that problem.

After I have my plan set, I do one grocery shop a week. I really hate having to run to the store in the middle of the week. It also saves a ton of money doing it this way, instead of just wandering around the store and buying what looks interesting.

As for not knowing what other people will feel like, what about implementing a new rule? "If you don't like what I make, you're on your own.". That's what the rule is here. If my SO doesn't like what I make, he can figure something for himself or go out to get himself food. I think he's maybe not liked what I made 1 or 2 times total, and he at least tried it first. I realize with kids it's a bit harder, but at the same time, your kids shouldn't be running your life. They can always have a PB&J.

Edited by: YOJULEZ at: 6/13/2013 (22:04)


NIRERIN
Posts: 11,763
6/13/13 9:27 P

you certainly don't need a deep freezer to bulk cook. i am single, live alone, and this is what i do. when i make something like a curry, i'll make about four portions of it. one i eat that day, one i keep for lunch or dinner the next day, and two i freeze for easy meals later. if you want to up that number to six so your hubby gets one and you get an extra freezer meal, great. but the idea isn't that you have six weeks of meals, the idea is that you can make one bigger meal this week, save some of it for variety later and pull down a few frozen meals to make up the rest of your meals. so since you are busy tuesday, thursday and friday, you might plan on those days being days that you pull down a frozen meal to thaw before you leave the house. on monday, wednesday, sat and sun you look into the freezer and if you have a lot of meals, you pull down one to eat but if you are running low, then you make a batch of something to freeze. so this way you have a few different things in the freezer at all times.
i'm not going to be much help on the family front, but when i was growing up we all ate the same thing. or at least mostly. there were a few meals that i absolutely hated that my mom would make a separate meal for me, but mostly we had what we had and that was it. so instead of having a curry, you might make a beef stew. if you lightly season it, serve the kids, then kick up the spice for you and the hubby, that's one meal that everyone can have with little to no modifications. or if you made chicken pot pie for everyone. include the veggies that everyone likes and a little bit of the ones that not everyone likes. if you bake in individual pans instead of one big pan, you can kick up the seasoning in some of them for you. if everyone else likes meat and 2 veg meals, rotate them in. try and find a sauce you like [say thai kitchen's chili ginger sauce] you can add that to the individual components. or you could do a dry rub on your meat before baking/roasting it. if you're going to cook four meals a week, that means that each person gets one meal planned their way. tweak the last bits of prep if you like to cater a little [baking in separate containers so that everyone gets their level of spice or pizza toppings or burrito/taco fillings, serving out a few blander portions before kicking up the spice], but mainly make one things. make a little bit more so that there will be leftovers and if you notice a surplus of leftovers, have a leftovers dinner night. and again, everyone can make sandwiches or pasta if they really can't stand the main meal.



BITTERQUILL
Posts: 1,370
6/13/13 8:52 P

Double post.

Edited by: BITTERQUILL at: 6/13/2013 (20:53)


BITTERQUILL
Posts: 1,370
6/13/13 8:51 P

When I started here, yes, I pre-planned everything. I chose a number of new recipes and foods to try before going to the store, then saved the recipes we liked. Over time, I got better at recognizing what foods or recipes worked well together for a good macronutrient balance, so I could just head to the store and choose based on sales and cravings rather than a set list, mix-and-match style. I still like to plan at least half of our dinners ahead of time so I don't end up in a rut (chicken, broccoli and brown rice is great, but not every night even with different seasoning profiles), but breakfasts, lunches, snacks and weekend dinners are usually decided on at the store rather than before.

I tend to make enough for a couple of nights any time I cook. If it will take longer than three days to eat it up, I freeze the rest.

It takes practice but it becomes a lot easier pretty quickly. It works well for me, and it doesn't take more than twenty minutes of planning, most of the time. It was a lot slower at first before I had a good stockpile of recipes and food ideas.

Edited by: BITTERQUILL at: 6/13/2013 (23:15)


BITHOO
SparkPoints: (8,472)
Fitness Minutes: (2,249)
Posts: 306
6/13/13 8:31 P

Sparkcoach has recommended planning meals for myself and my family at the start of the week... and I have to admit I'm stymied. Should also mention that I don't have a deep freezer, and can't really afford to go out and buy and run one... though am thinking of saving up!

Meanwhile...

I really dislike basic 1 meat/2 veg meals -- they bore me, and I'd just as soon have an apple and peanut butter. I cook them, but wish I didn't have to. So I make myself some interesting curries and chilis -- but after having 2 or 3 servings, I get sick of 'em. Hubby will have one serving. Kids won't eat 'em. They go bad.

Also: I have meetings or rehearsals on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evening this week (it varies week by week), so have to be done with dinner and cleaned up by 6:45 -- which means I need fast meals.

My son ends school today, so will be home for lunch and dinner, but he only eats the simplest foods (basic chicken, meat, corn, etc.) -- no spice. He's also happy with peanut butter and jelly, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, milk... which he can fix himself.

My daughter is more adventurous, but will be out and busy on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and will need a super-early meal (or super-late). Her fave is pasta. She can cook for herself when necessary.

My husband works odd hours, and is home by 5:30 some nights but not till 9 on others. He says he'll eat anything, but would rather have pork chops and potatoes than anything (did I mention neither of my kids will eat a potato or a tomato, though both will eat rice or corn???).

My usual go-to solution is to have piles of fruit in the house along with a few easy go-to items like hot dogs or chicken sausages... then cook a few things that multiple people like -- breaded, baked chicken breasts to which I can add salsa or cheese/tomato sauce, or baked mac and cheese, or meat loaf... and then let everyone build around those things over the course of the week. Problem is -- that takes care of only about 1/8 of my actual meal planning (it's about 1/2 of dinner, let alone breakfast or lunch for four!).

Do you guys actually plan out every meal and snack for a week, then go shopping for just those items you'll be cooking or eating? How do you know where you'll be when, how hungry you'll be, what others will need or want, etc.? Does this really work for you??



 
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