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Meal Planning Guide or Template?  RSS feed

 
master pollinator
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Does any one know of a good Meal Planner Template or Guide?

I keep a careful eye on my finances and have noticed we probably can save quite a bit of money if we planned meals better, allowing us to buy staples in bulk. By that I mean, we can buy corn for 50 cents a can, but probably buy it for 25 cents a standard can if we bought bigger cans knowing in x amount of days, we would have corn for another meal. The key of course is, planning meals that use similar main ingredients, yet taste different for variety, and are not so spaced out that spoilage occurs once the bulk items are opened. That is what I mean by better planning!

We are NOT pressed for time, so I do not need a service where it generates a meal pan, order form, and automatically sends it to a grocery store for us to pick up. I can do that! I was just hoping to get help in meal planning itself. Any ideas?
 
master pollinator
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I know this doesnt really answer your question, but we work on having pottage every day. All veggie ends or leftovers, gravies, half cans of this or that, chunks of meat, chorizo - they all go into the pot for a delicious lunch which means we never have leftovers. We cool the pot down quickly after lunch, pop it sonewhere cold ready to be added to and heated thoroughly the next day. Then our meal plannjng is litterally what ever meat is on sale at the shop or a can from our reserves if nothing economic is available, prepared with whatever we have, pasta, potatoes, grilled, fried etc, and the rest goes into the pottage with a few extra veg. We treat ourselves when there is extra cash or use pulses and herbs when we havent. We try to do without bulk buys and eat alternatives. E.g. chestnut flour from nuts we gather in autumn.
 
master pollinator
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Once thing I do if I know I will have a specific ingredient is to search for recipes containing that ingredient (or ingredients).  For instance if I have Mustard Greens (right now I have a ton of them) I will google "Mustard Greens recipes" and here's what I found:  https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/10-ways-use-mustard-greens

So I could have ten days of Mustard Greens dishes, all slightly different.

 
pollinator
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You bring up an important issue, Travis. We've found that we save a hell of a lot by meal-planning properly.

It's just us for now, so not terribly complicated, but what we do is plan a large meal that generates significant leftovers for lunches throughout the week that we make on the weekend, or at least prep to cook in the slow cooker early that week. We scale this up if we need to feed more people, either making more, or making another large meal. We like to buy four cup pyrex containers with those gasketed glass lids to both take lunches to work, and to store leftovers in the freezer or fridge.

Personally, I favour things like curries or dahls featuring lentils, quinoa, butternut squash, tomato, and sweet potato, that I can eat either over rice or with naan, or both. I favour recipes that I can keep stocked in dry form in my pantry cupboard because you can buy the ingredients dry, in bulk, and keep them in air-tight glass containers. I also made a great accidental lamb korma with some frozen discounted lamb stewing chunks.

Fully half of our meal planning consists of keeping staples with long shelf lives and knowing how to use them in combo to make meals at need, and combining that with a solid leftovers usage strategy. Rehydrating dessicated and dried goods can require timing, but I think it's worth not losing good food to spoilage.

My parents, owing probably to cultural influences, tend to plan their meals around the meat being served, so the template in that case would be [meat]+[starch]+[large veg or two medium veg sides]=[dinner], say. That dinner formula could be adapted to some extent for non-meat diets, supplementing [protein] for [meat], and the composition switched around for different meals or requirements.

I have occasionally thought about having themed meal nights borrowing recipes from different cultures every week, seven or fourteen different ethnic food traditions on rotation, and several distinct recipes per ethnic tradition, but I think that might be a bit much for even me, and my better half and I enjoy preparing food together in the kitchen.

Still, if variety of taste is an issue, I would resort to the "Italian night" or "Indian Night" or "Stirfry Night" options, maybe not even on fixed days of the week, but just as an organisational tool, where you could have a series of recipes organised by culinary tradition, all based on staples and spices in your pantry, handy, and probably there in the pantry or in a file on the door or whatever, so you can decide, on the fly, "Today is Indian night!," or "...Thai night!," and at once be organised enough to have all the ingredients on hand and not be tied down to traditional boring weekly meal planning.

Great input already here, I look forward to others' meal planning life hacks.

-CK

 
Amanda Launchbury-Rainey
master pollinator
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We and our friends have themed nights as it is a way of enjoying a feast from another culture without ridiculous quantities of leftovers. We also have to rely on people returning from travels to their homelands as other than basic provisions are hard to come by here. But we all love curry night, chinese night, fish and chip night, mexican night etc. Such fun.
 
steward
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Over the years, I have subscribed to "Meal Planners" which basically turn out to be different Menus for each day.

Monthly cooking might help.  That way the bulk cans would make several meals and these would be frozen.  Maybe these links will help:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/once-a-month-cooking-481615

https://www.thespruceeats.com/make-ahead-meals-474871

If you find something like you are describing, please let us know.
 
pollinator
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I usually base my meals for the week on the main meat. Most night include some type of greens. Usually with a second veg to be more healthy and some type of starch to stretch the meat for more meals.

For instance, this week the menu is based on a super saled ham I picked up.
Today is sliced ham, sweet potatoes, greens
Thursday is scalloped potatoes (ham in recipe), brussel sprouts and carrots
Friday is stuffed peppers (mixture will include minced ham, rice, tomatoes) and greens
Saturday is a stirfry with tons of veg with goose (a break from ham) over rice
Sunday is pizza which will be topped with -you guessed it- ham, olives, mushrooms
Monday is a potpie (featuring ham) with a side of greens or broccoli
Tuesday is a cajun hambalaya 😀 With whatever veg needs to be used

On Tuesday, any remaining meat will be frozen and I will cook make bone broth to use to cook a pot of beans that will be added throughout next weeks meals and some will be frozen.  The ham will have also been used throughout the week with breakfast too.  

I keep a couple index cards with the larger main cuts of meat along with a list of the "recycled" recipes so I don't have to come up with a selection each time.  Most weeks I can get five meals out of whatever meat it is with one or two other night different for variety or if I just feel like trying a new recipe. We usually eat two main meals a day. Snacks are usually leftovers, fruit, popcorn or sweet potatoes that I roast ahead of time.

We have been doing this a couple years now and it has become way easier on the budget.  Its helpful not having to rethink the menu from scratch each week.
 
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