I Heart Menu Planning

11th May 2007

I love to cook, but don’t have a ton of time. When I can, I like to spend a whole Sunday putting up a bunch of frozen dinners. I try to plan our grocery buying so that nothing’s wasted by making mostly frozen stuff, and then having fresh stuff on hand for nights when we have more time to prepare a meal.

Anyway, last weekend the girls were talking about how they hate meal planning, and I mentioned how much I love it. We decided I should share my menus. Most recipes are from Bill Granger cookbooks because those are the cookbooks I’m working though right now.

I’ve linked out to recipes where I can find them, but I don’t have the energy to type in the recipes I couldn’t find online. Buy the cookbooks! They’re excellent and have quality, shiny photos.

This is stuff we’ll keep in the fridge for snacking and super quick meals.

-sliced jicama or turnips
-baby carrots
Mixed salad to have as sides with dinner
6 hard boiled eggs
Fruit salad with honey and rum

Smoothies (frozen fruit, condensed OJ, plain yogurt, psyllium husks)
Turkey sandwich ingredients

These are the meals I spend one whole day making so we have stuff to eat when we’re too exhausted to cook.

chicken with summer vegetables (red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, basil and chicken stock)
Bill’s Spring Vegetable Soup
spiced zucchini soup
coconut bread
Bill’s corn ginger soup
Bill’s lentil soup with parm toasts

These are the foods I’ll make the week after I’ve put up frozen dinners. They’re things that don’t freeze well and have fresh ingredients.

thai fried rice
crab spaghetti
carrot avocado salad (via Chocolate and Zucchini)

These are the meals I’ll make about a week later because they don’t have many ingredients that will spoil quickly.

open-faced omelette
udon noodles (this is a cleanup recipe involving udon noodles, chicken stock, some fish sauce, and whatever veggies you have left over from the crudite or other recipes)

-When I get home, I put the eggs on to boil, then prep crudite and fruit salad.
-I prepare the meals that I need to freeze, starting with those that will take longest to cook.
-I make a list of any fresh food that we should eat first, and post it on the fridge.
-I prep fresh meals whenever you have time in the week to come, and move on to “Will Keep” meals, using any leftover veggies from crudite or other meals to make Udon noodles.
-I have a Manhattan.

45 thoughts on “I Heart Menu Planning

  1. KurtRoedeger

    You eat and plan so much better than my Mrs. and I. Last night was:
    (Mrs.) What do you want to eat?
    (me) I don’t know, what do you want?
    (Mrs.) I don’t know.
    (me) Lets go to the dairy and get Sundaes.

    So dinner was a pineapple sundae. Now after reading your post, I feel all guilty.


  2. Joanna

    Love the idea of posting a list of Needs To Be Eaten First on the fridge. I’ll be stealing that one.

  3. emdot

    I might print this out. Menu planning is pretty much the hardest thing in the entire world for me. You might as well ask me to split an atom.

    I love this post. :)

  4. Ruth

    In my house we pretty much plan meals around what’s going bad and has to be used up.

    Hey, it works for us.

    What is crudite? Do I WANT to eat something that has CRUD in its name?

    My SO makes something he calls ‘slop’. Yeah, it gets the juices going, don’t it?

  5. Jill

    I’m baffled by crudite too.

    There’s a great lass In Victoria BC who has published Vegan cookbooks that also have lots of DIY and natural cleaner recipes And DIY face masks. Really cool cookbooks.

    “How it all Vegan”
    “In the Garden of Vegan”
    “La Dolce Vegan”

    -By Sarah Kramer

  6. deb

    I am so impressed by this effort. I have such a hard time planning ahead what my futsy tastes will be in the mood for two days forward. Then again, I pass a great market on my walk home from work, and enjoy stopping in for whatever I have time or inclination to cook that night. I suspect this won’t always be the case. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Maggie Post author

    Crudite is just raw veggies in a bowl. Like carrot sticks and celery served wuth dip at a party.

  8. Alyce

    Flabbergasted doesn’t even begin to describe what this post made me.

    Are you ready to adopt? me: 33, employed, will clean room when requested, enjoys vacuuming, sings along to radio, babysitting negotiable

  9. Natalie

    OMG! This is the greatest post! I have SUCH difficulty with menu planning, and despite my best intentions always end up forgetting about something that goes bad and ends up in the garbage. Great ideas here. :) Thank you!

  10. Judy

    I love this post! When our little Henry the 5th arrives in October I need to be as prepared as you are. While planning our wedding, I started putting up the fresh Needs to be Eaten First list too. It was great and saved us arguments because he could look on the list, pair a meat and a veggie and start dinner if I was late. A great relationship tip!! I should start that list again for baby time! Thanks.

  11. CocoPuff

    Love this post! I do something very similar. I grocery shop and prep the weeks meals on Sunday, and leave a list of dinners for my husband to start on weeknights since I get home so late. I’ll usually prepare a “labor intensive” meal on Sunday and make enough for leftovers for Monday’s dinner.
    We eat a lot of tofu, so I like to prepare marinades and spice mixes ahead of time. Then we just need to steam or stirfry veggies, and make rice or quinoa. I heart my rice cooker!! It has changed my life. Oh, I also like to keep a variety of canned beans on hand for tossing into recipes(rinse first!)and a huge bag of frozen stirfry veggies in the freezer.
    Thanks for sharing your meal plans! I need to follow your lead and freeze more stuff.

  12. Ruth


    Thanks for the info on what crudite is, although why they came up with THAT name is beyond me!

    Maggie, Happy Mother’s Day!


  13. Tamara

    I can’t believe no one commented on the punchline- the Manhattan that greases the wheels of all this rational productivity. Ha ha ha, I similarly cope with such time spent in the kitchen with groceries. It’s truly challenging to stay on top of properly feeding myself and my husband but by the grace of Trader Joes and vodka tonics, we get by.

  14. Lynda from Canada

    Interesting, “no one cares what you had for lunch”, but we certainly care what you had for dinner!
    Great post! So organized!

  15. The Scarlet Pervygirl

    Wow . . . I didn’t know anyone actually made and drank smoothies. I thought they were just an American legend, like sasquatches: some extreme nutters are able to convince themselves they had an actual experience with them and most people don’t think of them at all.

    But that recipe for one looks seriously good.

  16. Lindsay

    Hehe, Ruth — picture “crudite” as being French (which I believe it is) when you pronounce it. Crew-di-tay sounds a lot better than crud-ite. ;)

  17. Jennifer/The Word Cellar

    My favorite thing about this post (apart from finding a new cookbook to check out and the idea of posting an “eat first” list on the fridge) is the irony of the Twitter update that was on the page when I read it: “An evening with Bryan, Hank, Netflix, and takeout. I love you, family.” I’m right there with you, Maggie. Even those of us who love to cook can enjoy a night off!

  18. Ruth

    Thanks, Lindsay! I was wondering about THAT, too!

    Here in Casa Cave we pronounce it “BAGOFCUTUPVEGGIES.”

    [Because all the bowls are being used for the stinkin’ cats.]

  19. Anne

    Great list! We just started doing the prep & freeze or 1/2-bake and freeze thing more also, and a friend just recommended a book called “The Best Make-Ahead Recipe Cookbook.”
    We’re into pockets (AKA calzones, empenadas) right now, especially Biker Billy’s Camel Pockets, which are palm-sized, containing garbanzo beans, feta cheese, & lots of spices, baked in a flaky pie crust pocket. Mmmmmm! They freeze & re-bake well. I posted the recipe on my blog on 3/31.

  20. Samilja

    You are my food planning hero. Question – do you have any additional suggestions for recipe books that highlight freezable dishes?

  21. Jenny Rough

    I have been trying to make my own smoothies for years. I can never get them to taste as good as when I’m on vacation. Maybe what’s missing is the view of the ocean and beach!

  22. Roo

    Oh my god, are you a Virgo? You must have Virgo somewhere big in your astrological chart at the very least to be like this, I swear. (It’s not a bad thing, it’s just VERY ORGANIZED.)

  23. kt

    I’m impressed. I have a Henry too, and I’m not so good at making things from scratch, but I AM good at making prepared foods from Trader Joe’s into actual meals (e.g., buy frozen pasta, add can of tuna, chopped olives, and crushed red peppers. Serve w/ steamed broccoli, etc.)

    Here’s my smoothie recipe for those who are interested:

    handful of frozen pineapple
    handful of frozen mango
    ~.75 cup of Strauss Family Creamery plain whole milk yogurt
    ~.75 cup of Dynamo w/ calcium (a Trader Joe’s multi-fruit juice that tastes mostly of orange and pineapple)

    Blend and serve.

  24. Melissa

    This is great. I asked my SIL how she does menu planning and she simply said “make a list and go shopping”. Your tips-n-tricks list is way helpful! One thing that we do, also is to buy a few kilos of chicken breasts and freeze 2-4 breasts in a bag. That way, if we are feeling lazy (and need to use the veggies that are about to head south)we pull them out for a quick grill or stir-fry with noodles. Love your smoothie idea. And Happy Mother’s Day!!!

  25. Christine (all the way fromcold dark Canada)

    Oh you do rock! I see why Dooce adores you!

    With two under three I am a big fan of being organized and would suggest a honking big chest freezer as the perfect gift for the birth of a second child (the dishwasher is the necessity after the first).

    I go one step further and make individual sized servings to send with my DH for lunch (he is not allowed to cook) and freeze those too.

    Awesome recipe links too! Bless you domestic goddess!

    Oh yeah, and by the way “crudites” is French and literally translates to (not surprisingly) “crude little things to eat, because only Anglophones would be so lazy as to just eat raw vegetables – Vive la France/Quebec”.

    All that French immersion schooling has finally paid off!

  26. Gillian

    Oh, and may I add that “crudite” is pronounced “croo-du-teh”, not “crud-ite”. Growing up in a bilingual country is awesome. :)

  27. Kathy

    I hate meal planning. So I convinced my fiancé that, since he loves to cook, HE should do the cooking and I’ll do the cleaning.

    13 years later, he’s still a better cook than I am a cleaner. And I STILL don’t plan meals!

    I think I will steal the ‘note on the fridge’ idea for veggies, though. He is forever buying another tomato, a couple of peppers, a head of lettuce…using them…and discovering two days later that the afore mentioned veggies had been previously bought and stored and are now goo.

  28. Terri

    This is the only area where I am organized and do the same thing. Otherwise meals are just too big of an issue. When I first started out I made the huge mistake of not including snacks. I had meal planned, prepped and was ready for the week to come but if you wanted something to eat you were out of luck … everything in the fridge was attached to my PLAN. Now I include snacks and easy subs for “nothing on the plan suits me” … mainly hummus and flat bread/pita. I got a huge block of time to cook things to freeze by ordering my groceries online and having them delivered. If you live where there is a New Seasons market they are fabulous shoppers and the cost of delivery is offset by the cost of gas, getting thru a crowded store, etc.

  29. marn

    Have y’all ever heard of Super Suppers or Dream Dinners? You go to the place where they have all these meals planned and all the prep work done. You spend 1-2 (fun!) hours assembling fresh ingredients into freezable meals. Easy peasy. Defrost & eat later, with salad or veggie. Costs about $3 per serving. DH & I love it…we dine out a lot less often!

  30. emily

    We are so on the same page, my blogging friend. I just posted last week begging for assistance in the kitchen. With three kids and one kind of picky, premediated meals are KEY.

    I am now fasting on apple juice and an herbal mix in subconscious protest while cooking Annie’s mac-n-cheese, Quorn “chicken” nuggets, edamame, and fruit for the next four days.

    Unsolicited advice: Edamame is a blessing when Hank starts with table food. Edamame, tofu (yummy flavored ones too), veggie dogs. string cheese (cut in little small motorskilled chunks), apple sauce or yogurt both mixed with rice or oatmeal cereal…

  31. emily

    If anyone is so inclined, I was being a smarty when I typed in my website on my previous comment.

    The link above will now suffice.

  32. Deb

    YOU are a goddess, this is so NOT my fave thing and I absolutely ADORE you for giving me this, freely and with love. You rock b/c I can do this!!
    Are you going to keep doing it?????
    Did I mention I love you???

  33. Nat

    Feeling a sudden wave of inferiority.
    You’re amazing.

    But I’m also inspired: a freezer full of food from Bill Granger recipes?
    Oh Yeah!

  34. TeenSleuth

    As a newlywed, I’ve been trying really hard to come up with some sort of system for menu planning and using all the food we buy, etc. This is very helpful and brilliant! Anytime you want to share this kind of thing, I am ALL ABOUT IT.

  35. Alli

    These are some great ideas for meal planning. Any tips for what kind of containers to use for freezing food?

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