Monday, May 4, 2009

Menu Plan for the Week

Here's what we're eating for the week. Someone asked me recently how I can manage to plan out what we're eating for the week here at Casa Dena, and I had to tell them the truth: I can't imagine not doing it.

Honestly -- how else do you know what to buy when you go to the store? I try to only go to the grocery store once a week, and with my list in hand that is informed by my menu plan, it's the only way I can conceive of doing it.

Plus, I read an article recently on small ways to cut spending and make our households more recession-friendly, and menu planning was one of those tips. You spend less when you plan out ahead of time what you'll be buying. It seems simple and so self-evident, but it really does work.

In fact, my (wonderful) boss, who has a family of four for whom she regularly cooks, told me once that during a meeting in which she and her partner were refinancing their home, she was asked to figure out how much she spends per month on what. And she shocked everyone, including herself, when she did the math and realized she spends (and I am not exxagerating her, folks) $2,000 per month on groceries!!! For a family of four!!! She nearly fell over in her chair, and so did I when she told me. Now, granted: she shops exclusively at Whole Foods. So she's not bargain shopping. BUT the main reason she spends so much is because she goes to the store nearly every day. She plans only as far as that evening. And lo and behold, she spends more. I tried to convince her to plan for the week, but she said she'd never be able to, that she can't know what she's going to want to eat tomorrow. But I wonder if maybe she's changed her habits in this new economy.

Anyway... here's what's cookin' at our house this week (anything in red is local, seasonal, organic, and most likely from our Farmer's Market ):

  • Monday: Potsticker Stirfry with Baby Bok Choy (I get a bag of those great frozen potstickers at TJ's, fry them up, then add veggies of all sorts. SO EASY. I like it because it's a combination of a budget dinner and incorporates a local, seasonal vegetable.)
  • Tuesday: Potato Latkes & Cabbage Salad (Hubby found some potatoes in our community garden plot as he's been de-weeding it and brought them home to me. I took one look and saw mounds of luscious golden potato pancakes in our future.)
  • Wednesday: Kale Rabe & Shiitake Mushroom Rice with Tahini Sauce (the lovely winter greens are starting to flower, and the farmer's market is ripe with florettes of all sorts; they are delicious!)
  • Thursday: Brussel Sprout Rabe & Sausage Pasta (see what I mean? It's all over!)
  • Friday: Grilled Chicken Skewers & Grilled Asparagus
  • Saturday: Date Night

What about you? Do you plan a week ahead or take it day by day? Do you find you save money with a certain method?

And what are you eating this week?

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Tonight's Potsticker Stirfry... YUM.


  1. Dena - We always do a weekly meal plan too. Saves so much time and wasted food. I always make a list of what is leftover from the week before and incorporate that into the plan, plus what is in the garden or from the market. Good ideas - thanks for sharing!

  2. Exactly: it really does save, all around, on all counts. We rarely have leftovers from the week before, because we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. And I absolutely take that into account in making our meal plan too!

  3. I only shop once a week as well. Sometimes I even plan for two weeks at a time. My biggest pet peeve is people who have to run to the store every day to pick up milk or bread.

  4. Seeing this post in my inbox today reminded me that I've been meaning to create weekly meal plans for...oh, I dunno, a few years now. It seems way more necessary now that we've got the kidlet and want to spend less on impromptu "missing ingredient trips". Getting started seems a little overwhelming, though.

  5. Nzinga, I know! It can be overwhelming at first. That's part of why I post my own meal plans. When I first started doing it, I was dying to know how/what other people did. My hope is that by sharing my own, it might inspire or at least make you and anyone else feel more like a regular person if you're not cooking up filet mignon every night. I try to keep my weeknight meals simple and as one-pot as possible.

    I would suggest making a list of your top 3 go-to meals -- the dinners you cook that flow right out of your hands without thought or effort, that you turn to when your baby is crying or you've gotten home late. What are those?

    Whatever they are, they make up your first 3 nights of your first week's plan.

    From there, is there 1 or maybe even 2 recipes that you have in a cookbook or even on this site that sound relatively easy enough? I can make some suggestions if you like. Or you can click on the "quick + easy" label on this blog.

    If you can do that, you've got your meal plan. Now all you need to do after that is figure out what you don't have on hand, and you've got your shopping list, and voila! You've planned out a week's worth of dinners.

    I've heard this so often I may even post a How To like this, actually.... because like Heather above, it kills me to see people like my boss Kate who have to go to the store every night. It just doesn't have to be that way!


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