Do You Have a Plan?

From the time I was a little girl, I loved spending time with Dad in the kitchen, learning from the master. When my sisters and I were old enough to fully participate in the meal preparation, Dad held a weekly menu planning meeting. Each of us picked a night and planned the family dinner – main course, sides, whatever else. Mom and Dad took the remaining nights.

From the planned menu, my parents created a shopping list and bought supplies accordingly. When I left home, this habit of planning and shopping accordingly continued. Sure, when something like chicken or fish or what have you goes on sale, I take advantage and stock up. Stocking up helps formulate the following week’s menu.

The menu is posted to the refrigerator door for two reasons. First, I know at a glance the night before what needs to be moved from the freezer to the fridge for the next night’s dinner. Secondly, I don’t get those questions of “what’s for dinner?”

When planning, I make notes BEFORE putting together the menu. If we are attending a birthday party, I won’t plan a big meal or dessert – no one wants a big meal after filling up on slices of pizza and birthday cake. If we have an obligation that would prevent me from cooking that night, I might simply note “Fast Food” or “Chinese Take Out” or whatever. Friday’s plan usually say “Left Over Night – Everyone For Themselves.” Fridays are a good night to clean out the fridge before shopping on Saturday morning.

If I know in advance that work is going to be a late night, I’ll plan something simple or quick for that particular night.

Menus were especially helpful when I went back to work and Kiddo was in charge of all the cooking during the week. Not only did I have each night’s supper planned out, but I had a cheat-sheet of recipes for him to follow, with little details such as “4:00 PM – Chop Vegetables for Stir-Fry” or other details that would help Kiddo have dinner ready when we walked through the door. (Most nights he started dinner, and I finished it).

Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean dinner is carved in stone. At the bottom of the weekly planner it clearly states “Above is subject to change without notice”. While I added that to the planner as a joke, it’s also my “out” when I simply don’t feel like cooking or when life has other plans.

So often I hear people say “I don’t know what to do for dinner tonight.” Either that or they talk about standing in front of the fridge, peering inside and scratching their heads. What I find most baffling about the lack of planning is that they can shop without one.

This brings about a question – do non-planners shop on the way home each night or do they do a weekly “grab” of whatever and take it from there?  While I might make Thursday’s dinner on Monday because it works out better as the day unfolds, I have a plan and all the ingredients on-hand. So I cannot imagine winging it every night. Nor can I imagine the waste and added expense in the food budget to live each day without a clue. Grocery stores are set up for non-planners. You’ll walk by all the “grab” items to get to the real food. Don’t believe me? Run into the grocery store for a carton of milk or a loaf of bread. You’ll walk out $40.00 later with all sorts of cookies and chips and other things you might not have bought otherwise.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the subject, for what they are worth. I am a planner by nature . . . are you?

12 thoughts on “Do You Have a Plan?

      • Shopping is an everyday thing, and is for most Norwegians, at least in Oslo. When I lived in Canada I would shop maybe twice a week …even then I wasn’t great at planning but made due with what I had. Here in Oslo, if you throw a stone in any random direction, you’re bound to hit a grocery store. You walk by thinking, “oh yeah, I need some milk for the morning” and then you walk out thinking, “damn, how did milk become three bags worth of groceries?!” I’ve gotten a lot better in the past few years since we realized how much food we were wasting. Now I only waste veggie scraps, and even then they make good soups.

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      • It’s interesting to learn these things., I live in an okay size farming community – but even then it is several miles to the nearest “limited” grocery store, so shopping involves a lot of planning ahead to make it all in one trip.

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    • Hi Chef Mimi, I just have to chime in on your comment. I wholeheartedly disagree that planning has any baring on providing adequate nourishment. As I mentioned in my comment, I’m not much of a planner, as my wife and I both work (as do most couples in the 21st century), but given my experience in the kitchen and food knowledge, I can provide three balanced meals a day for my three year old son. People who know how to cook and have an understanding of nutrition can certainly whip up something on any given weeknight that is not loaded with salt, sugar and fillers. A lack of responsibility for nourishing one’s own children stems from ignorance and an unwillingness to learn. Some people do plan their meals extensively, but what hits the table are hot dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, etc. Those heavily processed foods are cheap, and meal planning becomes a budgetary concern, not a health concern. Just because somebody plans to eat broccoli and salmon four days from now, doesn’t make them any more responsible than the overworked parent planning it an hour before cooking it.

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  1. For me, meal planning is budgetary without sacrificing health. Sure, processed prepackaged foods are cheaper than cooking from scratch – fresh foods cost more. At least where I live it’s more expense to buy fresh foods than to buy prepackaged meals. When I plan, I see what’s on sale and where. Example, this time of the year (Lent) – it means an abundance of fish on sale, so my plan will take this into consideration. Personally, I known far too many parents who do the fast food thing because they either don’t know what else to do or don’t have anything in the house to cook and it’s easier to run to McDonald’s or the Pizza place then it is to put together a meal on the fly. When I stop to thing about it – they talk about how fat Americans are – how unhealthy our eating habits are – on my drive home from work, I don’t pass a single grocery store, but I do drive by every assortment of fast food imaginable. Hum – never realized that until now. Anyway, having a meal plan doesn’t necessarily mean I know what I’ll be cooking four days from now. It does mean that the night before or morning of I can look at my “plan” and know what’s available.

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  2. No I don’t have a plan yet I’ve been meaning to for so long. I am still wondering what I’m cooking for dinner tonight. How disorganized. I need to start…planning today, I know!

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  3. I am doing so much better planning-now that I have time to plan. 🙂 Another perk of retirement. In the past planning might have meant knowing a day (or maybe 2) in advance. One of my favorite pearls of wisdom on the subject of planning is : Failing to plan is planning to fail.” In other others of my life I did try to live by this- to a certain degree!!

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