Planning Budget weekly menus?
October 22, 2007 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Tips for planning home cooking menus?

So, I've found some previous questions that have been very helpful (and now bookmarked), but I'm moving out to a solo apartment for the first time in a few months (yay!), and am hoping to do almost exclusively home cooking. Can anyone point me to resources (perhaps for the beginning, even premade weekly menus) to help me figure out how to plan a cheap weekly or monthly menu?
posted by frwagon to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Here is a helpful Squidoo lense about menu planning
posted by adriana at 11:31 AM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've found that a lot of weekly-meal-plannning lists have way too much food on them (maybe I'm just always reading the ones meant for families).

When planning for just myself:
1. I sit down on Saturday or Sunday and figure out how many lunches and how many dinners I need for the following week (do I plan to go out to lunch/dinner with friends, etc.).

2. Then I think about what I'd like to cook and eat during the week (is it winter? soup or stew. Summer? salads and sandwiches. Tomato season? Pasta.) Most recipes make 4-6 servings, so I just need to pick out two or three recipes.

3. Go to grocery store, buy ingredients, make food. Store in fridge, eat during the week.

Yes, it takes some practice. It helps to know when things are in season. It's imperative to have a store of recipes you like and can make (cull those AskMe threads you have saved). Definitely have recipes either in books, stored in a system on your computer, or printed out so they're easy to search.

Also, make sure to stock up on basic cooking ingredients that keep: chicken & veggie stock, flour, spices (though only for six months!), frozen veggies, nuts, etc.

Good luck! Cooking for yourself is definitely the way to go. And it doesn't have to be fancy - soups, stews, and casseroles are easy and make copious amounts of food.
posted by bibbit at 12:17 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Along with what bibbit said, the more you cook, the more you'll learn about cooking. So when you go to the grocery store you'll see something on sale and you'll be able to buy it because you'll know what to do with it.
posted by cooker girl at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2007

I know it's going to cost money to buy, but I read Everyday Food every month. In every issue they have an entire week's menu of food - one work week, and a weekend - with shopping lists and everything all planned out for you. Simple recipes, too. And the magazine is tiny, so it's not very expensive. Get a few under your belt and you'll have a month's worth of meal ideas.
posted by twiki at 1:42 PM on October 22, 2007

I would recommend as a great resource for recipes. It has an option that lets you specify what ingredients you have / would like to use and generates possible recipes from there.

I second bibbit's suggestion about stocking up on basic cooking ingredients and also loading up on tupperware so you can refrigerate/freeze lots of stuff, so those nights that you don't feel like cooking you can just microwave leftovers.
posted by perpetualstroll at 4:20 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, invest in a gladward set, and freeze what you don't eat. I think the hardest part of cooking for one is that you get so damn sick of the same thing over and over. Single servings in the freezer are great for grabbing for lunch or dinner.

Some foods are better to precook and freeze. Some food should be partially cooked, like pasta in sauce, so that it doesn't get all overcooked when you reheat.

My favorite is to make/buy pizza dough, shape to appropriate serving size, bake 1/2way through, and freeze. Portion out shredded mozarella, sauce and toppings in baggies. When it's time to eat, heat the oven, thaw the sauce and toppings while it's heating, top in and finish baking.

In about three months, you'll figure out what you like & what tastes good reheated, then make bigger batches of that. There is nothing more splendid than the first time that you can come home after a heinous day, microwave that comfort food from the freezer while you're having a glass of wine and dig into something lovely in 10 minutes.
posted by beezy at 5:13 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can sign up for services like MenuMailier. It's geared for families but I'm sure you could adapt it--they send you six dinner recipes and a shopping list every week. I subbed for awhile, and found that too many of the meals didn't work for my family, but I also found several of our favorite standard dinners through MenuMailer, so it seemed worth it to me.

Like the person above who subscribes to Everyday Food, I also subscribe to one cooking magazine (Cook's Illustrated, in my case) which is one regular source of new ideas.
posted by not that girl at 7:40 PM on October 22, 2007

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