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Do you use a menu-planning service?

bpath
5 years ago

Over on Carrie's Gadgets thread, I mentioned that one of my favorite "gadgets" is my menu-planning service I subscribed to for several years. It changed my life, and my family's.

First off, I am not a creative cook. I can't look in the fridge and pantry and come up with a meal. DH can, Mom can, I never learned. I used to go to the grocery store, spend $200, and have no idea to make for dinner. One day my 7-year-old said to me "Mom, which are we having with the rice and peas tonight, chicken? Or fish?" Yeah, it was that bad. So, as a fluttering FlyBaby (you Flylady folks know what I mean) I took a leap of faith and subscribed to the Saving Dinner menu-mailer.

Bam. Suddenly my grocery bill dropped to $120 a week for four people. I knew exactly what to make for dinner. Meat and produce didn't go yucky in the fridge. DH brought leftovers for lunch to work many days and didn't have to go to the sandwich shop. My kids ate more variety. WE ate more variety. My kids ate, and liked, KALE! Everyone asked "yum, what's for dinner?"

Even better, I learned how to cook. I actually use my Joy of Cooking as a reference and source. I am much better at throwing together a meal from odds and ends in the house. Granted, that's often stir-fry, and that's fine with me.

I'm hoping that the next thing to change my life is an induction cooktop, but that will cost a lot more than a subscription to a menu planning service.

I know there are a lot of these services out there, with different focuses. Do you use one?

Comments (40)

  • johnsoro25
    5 years ago

    I am totally intrigued and looking into this right now! My kids are terribly picky and we have fallen into a rut. Maybe this will help! Thanks for posting :)

  • funkycamper
    5 years ago

    I subscribed to Saving Dinner years ago. I've purchased trial/demo meal plans from Happy Herbivore, Don't Waste the Crumbs, and a few others that I'm too lazy to go scrounge them up to give you the names. I've liked each of them. It's been awhile since I've used them so I don't feel comfortable writing any type of comparison or review.

    I use an app called Pepperplate on my phone/tablet. It also has a website. I've been adding my most used recipes to it. It's super quick and easy to add recipes from the web. A bit more time to type them in. You can create a weekly menu and it will generate your shopping list. You can also create a menu for an individual dinner (main course and sides).

    This is especially nice for special occasions and entertaining. When I name them, I put our guests last names into the name so I know what I've served them and don't repeat it (unless they've asked me to, lol).

    I've also inputted some of the menus/recipes that we especially liked from the services I've tried.

    What I like about this is that I can customize weekly menus to the type of items in our freezer, which is currently filled with halibut and salmon from DH's annual fishing trip to Alaska, and for what is available seasonally in my area, and to our specific tastes. I can also look at the weekly ads and choose meals based on what's on sale. I can also add to the shopping list staples needed in the pantry, toiletries, etc.

    Of course, I still need to answer the "what am I going to cook?" question myself but I've been slowly working on creating a series of weekly menus that I can pull up and rotate through them so it's not like I'm starting from scratch each week as I can pick and choose from the different individual dinner menus that have worked well. Ya know, where the sides perfectly complemented the main dish. And plug them into the weekly menu so I'm not having to ponder each meal. Also, DH is very willing to tell me if there's anything he has a hankering for so I can just plug in what he's wanting.

    Because the weekly menu plan includes the ability to add breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack, I can create everything for the week. If I know we're not going to be home several nights a week and will be eating out, I can just ignore adding recipes for those nights.

    Anyway, it's a bit more work to put together but I like how customizable it is for our food preferences, what we're in the mood for, and such.

    Good grief, didn't mean to be so verbose but I just really like the flexibility.

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  • sjhockeyfan325
    5 years ago

    No, but maybe I should! (I commiserate regarding the rice/peas and "what" :-))

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Pepper plate sounds good, I think I may be ready for that! Saving Dinner has morphed since I subscribed, and I think that now you can customize it more, like to take advantage of your local sales or seasonal foods.

    I don't subscribe anymore, I have a few years of menus saved up! Every Wednesday (the day my store's weekly sales overlap) I take out my binder o' menus, pick one from the current season, check which/how many meals I want to make that week, pencil-mark the items I need from the shopping list and add my own grocery list (breakfast, lunch, snacks) and head blithely to the store. I can be in and out in half an hour! And I don't have to go back to the store for a whole week. Except maybe for bread. And Milk if DS#1 is home (he's a milk-guzzler). But since that's ALL I need, I put on my blinders and buy nothing else. This menu-planning really saves money!

  • beachem
    5 years ago

    I've never used a menu planning service but I've been menu planning after I got married. I lost my mind the first year because I always cook from scratch and spent 3 hrs every night cooking after a 14 hr day of work.

    I then played a game of making healthy, fresh 3 course meals with only 15 minutes max of personal work/cooking time and as low cost as possible. I was able to get down to $1.20/person per meal at times.

    The key is to make your meats and soups ahead of time.

    I like go to the store every other day for my vegetables. It's not necessary but I don't like to buy a lot for 2 people. We either have to binge or throw stuff away otherwise. For example, I got a $5 box of greens yesterday and that's at least 8 meals for us because of my menu planning combo.

  • funkycamper
    5 years ago

    3 hours every night! Wow, beachem, you had your DH spoiled.

    Our local grocer puts together big bags of veggies and fruit that are starting to go bad and prices them for $3.00 each. They're all different depending on what was thrown in. I will often pick one up as the stuff has not yet gone bad, it's just starting to turn that way. I will go through my own fridge and anything that's no longer fresh will join them and be used for for soups, stews, chowders and casseroles. I will use the fruits for breads, muffins, or even in a dessert. Or smoothies.

    They do the same with meats that are still good but not super-fresh. I'll sometimes take a chance on them to add to the soups/stews. I've never bought any yet that are actually bad and they are usually less than 1/2 price.

    If I make more than we can eat, they freeze well. Good for DH to heat up if I'm not home.

  • beachem
    5 years ago

    My trick is to make the meats/soups on the weekend then freeze it in single servings. I then mix and match to create meals each day.

    When we eat it's not so much a planned menu as "what would you like to eat honey? Here are your choices."

    If he picks salad then he has about 12 options or I choose if he doesn't care. Our menu is probably a lot more limited than our poster because unless it's 15 mins or less, I don't make it anymore unless it's for my parents.

    DH was spoiled because in my culture everything is made from scratch and we spend a lot of time cooking. Even the yogurt he eats is made from scratch by me.

    My dad spends about 24 hrs to make Pho broth on a simmer. Egg rolls is about 6 hrs of chopping, wrapping and cooking.

    That can probably be reduced once the kitchen is done and I introduce my dad to a food processor. Manually mincing 2 bags of carrots along with 6 other vegetables is mind numbing.

  • debrak_2008
    5 years ago

    No meal planning service but rather premade crockpot meals. You can do the same and they don't have to be crockpot meals.

    You spend a few hours preparing about meals with fresh ingredients. Lots of crockpot (and other) freezer meals online. When I need a meal for the next day, I just pull out a meal (just pick a bag (ziplock)), put it in the fridge overnight and the next morning put it in the crockpot. Sometimes I forget and still put it in the crockpot frozen. When you come home you have a home cooked meal.

    It's easy to just grab a bag without thinking too much.

  • funkycamper
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Eeek! Yes, buy your dad a good food processor for Xmas! :)

    We do a lot of crockpot and stir-fries. I'll often prep and fill the crockpot for dinner the next night at the same time I'm prepping for stir-fry so I'm really only cooking every other night. While I make liberal use of the food processor and smaller chopper, I'm also pretty quick with the knife so none of this takes too long. And I'm not above buying frozen blends of veggies and then just adding a few fresh ones to them or things like pre-sliced mushrooms (which cost the same as whole in my local store). I will also double some meals so we can pull the extra out of the freezer on a particularly busy night. And I often cook up a big batch of things like rice, beans, lentils, dried peas and such so I have extra that just needs heated up to go with the stir-fry or throw into a casserole. Most meals around here are made from scratch but are pretty quick and easy to put together. I do like to play with recipes but I can usually just punt with different sauces and seasonings to give things variety.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    I love my crock pot. It's like someone else made dinner!

  • Jancy
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I hate to admit this but I very rarely cook. Once in a while during the winters I used the crockpot and dinner came out great. I purchased a 6 quart electric pressure cooker (InstantPot) last year (which is a slow cooker also) and I love it! I cannot believe I actually use this. I use it weekly and thats a lot of home cooking for me! Makes quite a few dinners and great for freezing.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    I was always afraid of pressure cookers from the "old days" but I hear so many good things about them now. I may consider one. I'll look into InstantPot.

  • Jancy
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Don't be afraid! They lock when under pressure so can't be opened unless pressure is released. I got the instant pot 7in1 on amazon and really like it. It has many more functions even yogurt but have only used it on manual. I think I'm trying oatmeal tomorrow in it.

  • autumn.4
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    whoa whoa whoa - $120 for 4 people? You had me at hello! I need more information.

    We are a fam of 4 - 2 growing always hungry boys and I can't get my bill under $250 bucks a week (and that does not include beef as we do a 1/4 of a cow)! That is a stinkin house payment! I do buy fresh fruit and veggies though as they are so much better and so much better for you.

    Honesty - but I am embarrassed at my lack of being a great food
    budgeter. I don't usually even make a list and fly by the seat of my
    pants. If I buy something on sale like a 2fer to last 2 weeks it
    doesn't work because they eat the 2 bags of whatever in that week so I
    am never ahead - I think I need to hide it. And I might add that I
    consume hardly any of that budget. If I don't
    take it to work and put it in the fridge there I don't get to eat it
    period.

    So how exactly do you manage that and I have to ask - are you home in time to prepare dinner nightly? I used to work p/t and had a much easier time with that but now I don't get home until 5 o'clock every night and it's so hard to do it then and eat at a decent time AND I am not prepared at all. I need to get better at the crock pot but if I put it in at 6:30 and don't get home til 5 that is a really long time. So sometimes we have breakfast for supper which you think would make the budget better but no it doesn't make a dent.

    Thanks for this post. I need to get my act together and I'd love to cut my budget!

  • romy718
    5 years ago

    Bpathman - "I am not a creative cook." That is me. I need help but I'm not sure what kind of help I need. We are empty nesters. DH rarely gets home before 7p, frequently around 8p. When we redid the kitchen, we got a speed oven & steam oven, hoping that would help me get meals for two on the table in the late evening. Nothing has really changed. Life has finally calmed down & I really want to get better organized & feed DH healthy, tasty meals. I've been meaning to get over to the Cooking Forum. I need recipes that are good. I get discouraged when I spend a lot of time on a new recipe & it doesn't turn out. Cooking forum? Menu planning service? Recipe/ cooking website?

  • sherri1058
    5 years ago

    I also need help! My DH has advocated a rotating menu for years, but I really am not interested in chicken every Wednesday. kwim? I think that what might work for me is to assemble a library or binder of tried and true recipes based on meat (chicken, pork, beef) that I can go to for everyday meals. Just as an example, I got an e-mail from all-recipies today with a recipe for a chicken dish that we love and I totally forgot about. 'nuf said.

  • hatethecold_gw
    5 years ago

    This: "Mom, which are we having with the rice and peas tonight, chicken? Or fish?" really resonated with me. I signed up for a trial week of saving dinner today. Curious to see how it goes! Love this thread and knowing all you people with fabulous kitchens still have struggles too!!!! Thanks for starting this, bpathome

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Autumn, with bills way under $200 even DH took notice! (He also noticed the new menus...and liked it.) When I started my boys were 4 and 9; when the older one reached about 12 the bills started creeping up (and prices rise, too). I do tend to stock up a little when something is on sale, so that helps, but really, it all balances out. Like, I may not buy the pork tenderloin on the list because I have 4 in the freezer)

    Also, we are not big snackers.

    And, now this is key, I do not shop at a supermarket that has all kinds of things NOT on my list! I go to a grocery store.

    I am, typically, home to make dinner at a reasonable hour. It is a challenge to be motivated to cook after a full day at work, menu planner or not. Some people who are more forward-thinking than I am prep everything earlier (in the morning, in the afternoon, the night before, the weekend before) and just pop it in the fridge. I'm not that organized! But if I can peel, chop, and trim at 5:30, make the pick-up runs at kid activities and come back, I'm ready to cook at 6:30. (Actually, I'm ready to kick back with a glass of wine!)

    Sherri, I certainly wouldn't want to rotate through the same 6 recipes every week, that's why I subscribed. We do have chicken almost every week, but always a different recipe and I choose the day. Having a recipe pop up in my email sounds intriguing, though :)

    HateTheCold, I'll be interested to hear how your week of Saving Dinner goes! I wish it were a one-month free trial to really get a feel for it. But I must say, after my first week I signed up for 3 months, and then I was hooked. I tweak for our likes, and I use a lot less cumin than Leann calls for!. I'm not a current subscriber ( I cycle through two binders full of several years of menus) and I see that she has some new features and options.

    Romy, I pity my DH when the last kid goes to college in a couple of years. I still don't really enjoy cooking that much. The menu planner makes it much easier and much more pleasant, but I'd still rather not! He loves to cook, but he gets home after 6 and he is HUNGRY. Like you, I'm afraid I might not be motivated to cook for just two that late. I'd be happy with nachos and a glass of wine.

  • beachem
    5 years ago

    For those who feel that they're not creative and don't like to cook much, just think of the meals as three parts consisting of filler, meat, and vegetable. This is how you keep cooking time during the week down. All you have to do is mix things as you feel like when you look in your fridge.

    Filler can be soup, lettuce wraps, or fruits. It can be eaten before or after the meat dish. For growing hungry boys, focus on stews for the filler. Make one different kind once a week and freeze in single serving. My soups have been fine for up to six months frozen with no preservatives.

    With meats, the reality is that you eat the same thing all the time since there are only 4 kinds, chicken, turkey, beef and pork unless you hunt. Cook one type of meats once a week and freeze in single serving. However, cook it in multiple flavors via marinades. For example, I grill chicken: Lemon Pepper, plain, spiced with Cayenne Pepper, Jerk rub, Caribbean flavor etc. all from one large pack.

    For vegetable, we buy fresh every two days if needed because it's my preference. I tend to steam or roast. Both methods are low work and I just throw in the steamer (pot) or Breville then I take off to relax. Vegetable can be salads and I use the frozen meat to make interesting salads such as Chicken Cashews, Filet Mignon Gorgonzola, Spicy Kale, etc.

    We don't have a kitchen right now but I started using my system again this month to help DH lose weight. For last week, we had the following dinner with very little cooking and few items. We used the one pack of chicken that I bought on sale for $5.72 - 6 large chicken breast and a $5 pack of salad greens.

    1) Tomato Mozzarella Salad, some sort of salad, Parmesan Breaded Tilapia with Lemon Caper sauce, and oranges. Made with a microwave, Breville, plastic fork and a knife. 25 mins because of the Tilapia cooking.

    2) Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Turkey Arrabiata and Thrifty Rocky Road ice cream.

    3) Spicy Roasted Corn, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, and Lemon Pepper Chicken. It was too huge so we didn't have dessert later.

    4) Chicken Cashew Salad with Spicy greens and multigrain toast. Lots of greens so only one dish and no dessert.

    5) Tomato Mozzarella salad for me and Chicken Blue Cheese salad for DH. Honeycrisp apples.

    6) Spicy Chicken Avocado Micro Greens Sandwich on Multi Grain bread. One chocolate mini donut.

    7) Lemon Pepper Chicken with steamed Broccoli Parmesan. Chocolate covered pretzel.

    We also had multiple salads and sandwiches/wraps with the same chicken and greens for lunch. We've only been able to get through half a box of greens as of today. Our meals are more limited since I can't make large amount of soups for freezing.

  • Texas_Gem
    5 years ago

    I honestly didn't even know something like this existed until a few days ago.


    I should tell my mom about it though, she absolutely hates cooking and when she does do it, she cooks as quickly as possible.


    Something like this might help her better prepare tasty dishes for herself and my diabetic dad instead of relying on prepackaged/ processed foods to get dinner on the table.


    Thanks!!

  • aliris19
    5 years ago

    Texas - me neither; never heard of all this. It sounds amazing! No way I could be this organized though. I come from the opposite end of the spectrum, cutting my cooking-teeth on CSA boxes that would arrive with mounds of mysterious stuff and you'd have to turn it into something edible through the week. It was a game.

    That service is sadly defunct, but it did teach "Creativity", I guess you could call it. Sometimes I feel very critical of myself for never following a menu. I think the prompts would be very freeing! Last night's meal was called "Journey To The Center Of The Fridge Chicken". It was, oddly enough, quite delish. But I'm envious of you-all who plan so efficiently....

  • autumn.4
    5 years ago

    I actually LIKE to cook but I absolutely cannot look at a pantry and go hmmm, yes I'll throw this together. I *wish* I could also cook by taste like my dear mil can. She just add a 'little of this' and a 'little of that' and can tell if a dish is missing something and then what that something is! I need a recipe - I like directions. I follow them exactly the first time and then might vary it the next time. I also like to try new things but nothing gets me more than working hard on something and then it flopping and going to waste. So the rut is born out of that. We have the same things over and over and over. Blah. Typically it's a meat (grilled in the summer), a vegetable and then a starch. I do make a few favorite casseroles. I have tried to introduce fish but not too much success with that. Snacking abounds here but not by me.

    I do try to chop onions in bulk and celery and freeze it so it's at the ready. I use those in soups and we just had our first chicken noodle of the season. :)


  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    "Journey To The Center Of The Fridge Chicken". ROFL!

    A friend makes "Muscoes" for dinner when they are going to be leaving for a week or more; she cooks with the things that "must go" before they leave.

    I'm naming my version of those: "Remains of the Fridge" stir-fry! Ew, maybe not...

    i am absolutely not organized, and my kitchen is original to this traditional 1960s house (I started with the planner in our original 1957 split-level). I use my menu planner because I'm not organized or creative. It does all the planning for me.

  • alerievay1
    5 years ago

    I am a pretty good cook, but I loathe menu planning, so I finally signed up for Cook Smarts nearly a year ago. It suits my cooking style, which is fairly simple, a variety of foods, and mostly from scratch. I found a lot of menu planning tools required either a ton of prep on the weekend or relied on a lot of packaged foods, neither of which works with my tastes and schedule. It's also basic enough that my husband, who is a pretty novice cook, can do a lot of the prep before I get home.

    It is a matter of finding what works for you, though. I know lots of people prefer doing weekend prep or a big "cook up," but those haven't worked well for me long term.

  • mrspete
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I think some of us "have the cooking gene". I have it. Food obeys me. Food jumps out of my refrigerator, into my pots and pans, and I just "know" what extras to add so that my meals look like something from Chopped. My mom has it. My grandmother had it. My great-grandmother most definitely had it.

    My aunt didn't have it. Don't get me wrong: She was an incredible woman who could do about a thousand things that I can't do, but she was missing this item in her personality or genetic make-up. Thing is, she LOVED to entertain the family and had a great house ... but she couldn't plan the food. She'd volunteer, "I'd love to have the family over for New Year's Eve, but what should we eat?" And with about 30 seconds of thought, my grandmother and I would make something up: Let's make the theme soup and sandwiches. Everyone brings one or the other ... and my Mom'd add in, "Except me. I'll bring a cheesecake for dessert." And my beloved aunt'd look at us as if to say, "Wow, soup and sandwiches, followed by cheesecake, and no need for big planning. That's brilliant! How'd you ever come up with such a great plan?"

    If you don't have it, this planning site sounds like a great idea for you. My aunt would've loved it.

    If you don't have it and want to try something new, consider BATCH COOKING. I love it myself: When you find something on sale, cook a bunch of it, and freeze it in batches. Don't try to cook five different meals and freeze them: Just make spaghetti sauce, but make a ton of it. Then you're "excused" from cooking for several meals.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Alerievay, that site looks delicious in more ways than one! I like the "guides" along the side. And the "stories" with the recipes. I'm reading "Honey-Mustard Salmon with Corn & Peach Salsa + Avocado Creme "and it really speaks to my inner "word girl".

    Hmm, I may try a sample menu! Thanks for mentioning it!

  • alerievay1
    5 years ago

    Bpathome - you're welcome! It's definitely worth the $6 or so per month to me.

  • beachem
    5 years ago

    @autumn4 I love the idea of chopping onions and celery in bulk then freeze. That's brilliant. How long do they last?

    I struggle with throwing away celery all the time.

  • Bunny
    5 years ago

    I don't have any problem coming up with ideas. I know how to cook. But I'm tired of it. I want someone to do the shopping and cook it all for me.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Linelle, exactly. :-) There are companies like Plated where it all comes to you, but you still have to cook it.

  • autumn.4
    5 years ago

    This is a great thread, lots if things to check out!

    Beachem-totally forehead slap moment when I was discussing celery and needing only a little bit and the rest always goes to waste and mil said well why don't you just freeze it? I had no idea you could! I bet 6 months or so. I can't say for sure since I haven't monitored but maybe only twice have I pulled a pack out and had to pitch it due to freezer burn. Mil always had a large garden and they ate fresh, canned or frozen almost exclusively. Dh doesn't know how good he had it-or maybe he does. :O

    Linelle-sounds good to me!

    I would love to cook like mrspete and like my mil - healthy and tasty and on the fly. I always thought if they have any cooking classes local I would enjoy taking one but there aren't any around here.

  • artemis_ma
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    No, I have never subscribed to one. I just figure, minimize unhealthy sugars, starches and oils, and just cook with healthier variants if you think you need them. Worked for me. Also, cook lots of veggies and seafood. I'm afraid most of those menu plans assume you have bland, no-seasonings to speak of, tastebuds. And that you'd actually enjoy eating dried out white-meat chicken.

  • zorroslw1
    5 years ago

    I want a cook, cook the meals, clean up and leave until the next meal. AND, while food is cooking she can do the laundry and clean the bathrooms.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Artemis, that does sound awful :-\ Thank goodness I signed up for one that doesn't do that :-)

  • funkycamper
    5 years ago

    Autumn, I don't think you need cooking classes. I never knew how to cook anything until I moved out of the house. My mom was seriously OCD and wouldn't let us in the kitchen. I literally taught myself how to cook basics with a cookbook called "The I Never Cooked Before Cookbook". It explained everything. For example, when it told you to boil something, it had photos of what boiling water looks like. It had photos to explain the difference between chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing. It was incredibly helpful since I didn't even know how to anything. I think I could pour cereal and make taste. I had never even made cookies before.

    I'm certainly no gourmet cook but after familiarizing yourself with the basics, you can start throwing things together with some success without taking a class, imho. Like, after cooking a few Mexican dishes using recipes, you learn the basic ingredients, flavor profiles for sauces and seasonings, and then just start throwing things together using those basics in different ways. Using beans, rice, various hot sauces and seasonings often used in Mexican dishes, some chiles, and then a variety of vegetables, you can make sautes, soups, salads, casseroles, whatever using meat/fish/poultry as your protein or even the cheese (if you're vegetarian or want to do a vegetarian meal once in awhile) or the beans (ditto for vegan eating).

    When I do this, things might not be the least bit authentic to that cuisine, and I substitute a lot so I don't have to run to the store for something, but if you have a pantry of basics, it's not that hard to throw together something tasty.

    I hate grocery shopping so I do wish someone would do that for me. I sometimes send DH but he always gets some odd stuff and spends too much, lol. And I really don't like thinking up what to cook so I'll often have DH grab the protein out of the freezer. Whatever he grabs, I cook. Or I'll just reach in and close my eyes and grab something.

    Batch cooking does help. I often will cook up a big pot of rice (usually a wild/brown rice combo) and keep a container in the fridge to heat up as a side or throw in a soup or casserole. I do the same with dry beans, peas and bulgurs. I always have couscous and quinoa on hand because they cook up quick if I'm out of rice. So sides are easy.

    A variety of fresh veggies and a few bags in the freezer of Asian and California blends make it easy to throw a veggie side dish together. I buy cleaned/bagged salad mixes, mixed greens, and baby spinach making it quick and easy to put together for a salad or toss in the last few minutes of a stir-fry or saute.

    And multi-meal planning works well. If I make a roast, I save some for French Dip sandwiches the next night. Or I might boil up a chicken or two and use the breasts for stir-fry and the meat off the rest of it for chicken enchiladas or some other casserole or a soup.

    At least once a week dinner is my own Muscoe soup or casserole using the stuff that is starting to go but isn't bad enough to throw out. Thanks for that, bpathome, as I just call it Clean Out the Fridge Food. Muscoe sounds more purposeful.

    We don't eat out much. I can't see paying $20 for a meal that I can make for $5 at home. And I figure the time to go there, order, wait, eat, and go home takes longer than it does for me to cook and clean up.

    I don't have a cooking gene or special skills. I just decided to be fearless in the kitchen. Most things you make, if they don't turn out right, are salvageable somehow. The rare times it's not, the dog enjoys a treat. :) I think of it as a way to play.


  • Nothing Left to Say
    5 years ago

    Interesting Artemis, I have not ever used a meal plan (though they have often sounded intriguing). But I don't think the purpose of most of them is explicitly dieting or super-healthy food. The reviews I have heard have generally talked about minimizing waste by having recipes that work together to use things up (ie roast chicken one night, chicken salad for lunch the next day and chicken soup at the end of the week so the whole chicken gets used).


    My fear has always been that my picky family won't like very many of the recipes. I tried freezer crockpot meals during our recent remodel--did all the prep before the remodel and cooked them in the crockpot during. They were mostly a bust with my family. Ds and dh both liked one meal. Ds and I liked a different one. No one liked the other two and Dd hated them all. Sigh.

  • bpath
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    "Fearless in the Kitchen" is the title of your next book, Funkycamper! I had a cookbook similar to yours called How to Boil Water, but I think yours is better. I'm going to see if I can find it for my son who's in his first apartment.

    I agree, the way to learn to cook is, sadly, to cook. And the way to learn to prepare a meal is, to prepare meals. They are NOT the same thing. I've learned soooo much since I started with my planner, and I'm not afraid of my hulking Joy of Cooking anymore. In fact, now it's a lovingly marked up treasure trove of how to select and store each food, simple cooking including how to bake a potato, easy delicious dinners that can be made quickly, as well as more daring fare.

    My spice storage expanded from one paltry turntable to 3, and now I buy things where I have to ask the produce manager what it looks like. You know those charts in magazines of "how to use herbs"? Now I USE those charts! And when "I" got to tell the customer next to me that no, you DON'T have to buy the whole ginger root, just break off a "thumb", I felt like I'd really made it.

    Using my planner taught me how to cook and make good meals for my family (and no, sometimes there's a bust, but that's life) and how to venture out on my own. But, I STILL use it because it removes that nightly stressor of what to make, do I have what i need.

  • funkycamper
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    That's hysterical. I'll dedicate that book to you just for the great name. Well named because I'm sure some of my meals would inspire fear, too. Eat at your own risk!

    I don't think that particular book is in print anymore but there are similar ones out there.

    All the reasons you state are perfect reasons to subscribe to a meal planning service. Even just for a short time. That's the same type of stuff I learned from my time with Saving Dinner, too. Especially the concept of prepping ahead and multiple meals from something, like roast->French dips->shepard's pie or chicken->chicken casserole->soup. Like you, my spice/seasoning use increased with more variety. And more sauces, too.

    We put so much time and thought into our kitchen remodels, it seems a shame to not actually use them.

    ETA: I checked out CookSmarts. Great website and blog. I signed up for the sample menus and I can see why it's popular. I loved the charts and infographics. I printed out about 20 of them to put in my kitchen binder. They will save me constantly looking up certain info, like how hot certain meats should be or what seasonings go with which items, flavor profiles, etc. Good stuff.

  • farmdrmer
    5 years ago

    I don't post much in kitchen forum but I love this thread. I use plan to eat, which is more like a recipe organizer. You can pin recipes from the web or input your own, then drop it into the calendar feature. It automatically makes your grocery list based on the recipes which you can access on the phone app while you are at the grocery. I also can't pull something together off top of my head, I need to plan ahead to make it smoother at my house. I really love plan to eat. But it doesn't do the planning for you, which sometimes would also be nice I think! (In this season of life anyway!)