Fitness Minutes: (4,591)
6/28/13 10:38 P
I have a household of picky eaters, and my husband comes from a long line of picky eaters so he's no help in enforcing a "no thank you bite." By default we have about dozen main meals that the entire family can agree upon eating. Spark Recipes has been a great help in expanding limited food options.
I like to cook, but I LOVE to be efficient too. Years ago I discovered a meal planning process called "Once-a-Month-Cooking" which has everything necessary to plan, shop and prepare 30 meals for the freezer. The writers set up a logical assembly of multiple dishes. For example, chop everything necessary for all the meals first, then make a huge pot of marinara sauce which will be used in spaghetti, lasagne, and meatball subs.
Since their recipes are chocked full of ingredients my family won't eat (broccoli, tomatoes) AND not always the healthiest of choices (creamed soups, butter, white grains), over the years, I've taken the principles and spend a day or two making the meals my family will eat and freezing them. This is helpful in a number of ways.
1) The freezer is full of different meals to chose from. 2) We have choices for those who don't like the main meal served that night. For example, my son doesn't like chicken. So when the rest of us have grilled chicken breasts, he can pull out a serving of frozen taco meat. (I bought a condiment server from Tupperware which I keep filled with cheese, salsa, jalapenos and black olives to make serving tacos even easier.) 3) I keep a number of the standby dishes in the freezer. No one in the family will ever complain about having "Momma burgers" which go straight from freezer to grill. 4) My husband and I keep two separate serving containers filled with fresh cut veggies and fruit. They are always available at every meal. I've discovered the kids are not opening the bags of chips we put out when we have guest over. 5) I'm thinking about keeping a third serving container filled with salad makings such as shredded cheese, diced hard boiled eggs, chopped nuts, raisins, and left over chicken for build your own salad night.
These are just a few suggestions which work for me when it comes to having something easy and available for dinner ... especially if life takes over planning.
I have a book I use a lot "Glorious One Pot Meals", they are easy and cook quickly. Or I go on line and try to recreate a dish that I have enjoyed while traveling or at an ethnic restaurant. I also try Spark Recipes when they tickle my fancy!
I have a slow cooker cookbook and a diabetic cookbook that I enjoy using for healthier eating. I am amazed how much money and time I save by cooking ahead of time. It took me awhile to get used to eating all of the meals that I have planned. I guess that I started to look in my cookbooks and online for a variety of meals to cook. Usually I cook about 1 1/2 weeks worth of food for 2 on Saturday afternoon. So I end up with extra meals in the freezer so I have a variety of dinners to choose from each night. Freezer cooking takes time to plan and it takes awhile to learn how to get used to the idea of eating all of the meals you preplanned. But, definitely worth the time investment.
One note, for families with children...think of all the extra time you would have in the evenings if you did not have to cook and clean dishes every night. Not everyone has a couple hours on a Saturday to cook, but it definitely can save you time and money long term.
Fitness Minutes: (55,464)
1,751 6/28/13 6:16 P
I like this thread. It's not that I can't plan - it's that I get sick of cooking, even with a kitchen full of beautiful, fresh foods. Forget about asking my dh to cook. Ain't gonna happen.
I love everyone's idea of using the crock pot and intend to research some recipes online. If I can prepare a meal early in the day, it may help me avoid the temptation of going out for supper where I ALWAYS overeat. My problem is that I get a hankering for something not in my freezer. Tonight I want grilled fish, so naturally, we're going out for it. I sure hope I can avoid collapsing into depravity and overdosing on the sides!
In the heat of summer, our "go-to" is usually a salad and sandwiches, or something barbecued. But since Hubby and I take turns meal-planning and cooking, we rarely get to the burn-out stage. Planning meals for the week around what's in the freezer and what's on sale helps eliminate that last minute what-am-I-going-to-make-tonight panic. We cook two main dishes and alternate them for the week -- or however long they last -- so that Thursday/Saturday/Monday will be roast chicken, and Friday/Sunday/Tuesday will be the beef dish, or whatever. Fortunately, we like leftovers. The next week might be pork and fish, or something with a pasta base. By the time we get to chicken again, it will be something totally different, maybe chicken salad sandwiches or a stir-fry. We both like to experiment with new recipes, so it doesn't get boring.
6/28/13 1:04 P
Lucky you, my husband is also into junk food. He insists on having a freezer full of cookies and chocolate.
If I was alone I just wouldn't have it in the house. I do not allow chips in the house, but he gets everything else.
It is so hard, especially in the evening when I am hankering for a snack!
One thing my boyfriend and I started doing a few years ago is making Monday a special meal. We alternate turns and whoever's turn it is has to come up with something new and healthy for dinner that night. We try to make it something we've never had before, or something made in a new way. It's a little bit of a competition between us to come up with something good, which makes it exciting. From this we've started eating all sorts of new things (I got him to try salmon! And shrimp, and he hates seafood!) and we've incorporated some of these new things into our regular line up of foods. It's a nice thing to do as a couple, and he's definitely learned a lot about healthy cooking as a result. P.S. we picked Monday because...well...Monday's are a drag, and it's definitely something to look forward to. I can't decide if I like it better when it's my turn or his :-)
6/28/13 8:33 A
I look for new recipes or look for recipes that I have not cooked in awhile. I talk my husband in to going out to lunch or dinner.
Fitness Minutes: (34,683)
6/28/13 1:06 A
I alternate between themed meals for several weeks, and then whatever I feel like throwing together for a few weeks. When I am working on themes it is Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday (or any other mexican dish), Wonderful Wednesdays (3-5 all time favorite recipes that EVERYONE in the family eats and loves), Thirty minute Thursdays (extracurricular kids activities make it a busy night), Fish Fridays, Sleepy Saturdays (left overs or take out) and New week, new recipe Sundays. I've even compiled a list of 5-8 recipes to fit each category, so we don't repeat a recipe for close to 2 months.
I've just started eating grain free, and my daughter is vegetarian, so it's like Jack Spratt's house around here right now. I have a hard time thinking ahead for what to buy etc. We overlap on fruit and veg, which doesn't have a long shelf-life. I eat meat but it has to be on the side so that she can eat the dish too. I'm glad to see some ideas from the rest of you on where to look for recipes etc!
I, like other posters, plan for a week in advance. I buy some stuff monthly at the suppersize store, and other stuff fresh for the week. I usually cook in large quantities, so freeze and eat meals. tonight, we are eating frozen lasagne, i'm too tired to cook and the teenager still needs to eat.
I never get tired of planning meals. That's the easy part. In the summer I hit the farmer's market and plan my meals around what looked good there. All other seasons, I buy what is on sale in the meat case and build around that.
It helps that we have standard dinners: Tuesday is Tacos (or taco salad for me) and homemade pizza on Friday. We try to do a "Sunday Dinner" on Sundays like a roast or a ham.
It is lunch that I just look at and say "I am just not feeling this." It happens if I am too hungry and missed my morning snack. I am trying to be better.
6/27/13 2:34 P
I don't like grocery shopping so I buy my groceries on the internet and have them delivered. When I am tired of cooking I have a few packaged items on stand by that are moderately healthy.
Fitness Minutes: (385)
1 6/27/13 11:41 A
I LOVE ziplist.com. I tell everyone about it. (I should be on their sales team!)
Not only can you create a grocery list on your computer that you can access from your phone when in the store, you can also add recipes that drop the ingredients you need right into your list. These can be your own homemade recipes, as well as online recipes you find.
INCLUDING Spark Recipes!!!
SO easy. I even have my husband and teenager on the account so they can add things through their phone things that they need.
AND with the Meal Plan connected to my Google Calendar, it posts "what's for dinner" onto my calendar.
It would be cool if my Spark Food Tracker sent their grocery list to my ziplist. Maybe Spark will work that out soon.
Fitness Minutes: (56,956)
4,033 6/27/13 11:36 A
SINCE I EAT HEALTHY AND MY HUSBAND IS A JUNK FOOD JUNKIE, THAT IS NEVER A PROBLEM FOR US. IF I DON'T FEEL LIKE COOKING, I JUST DO A SALAD. BUT HE HAS TO GO OUT TO GET HIS JUNK FOOD AS I DON'T ALLOW IT IN THE HOUSE.
I shop on Thursday and plan meals for a week usually. I have my favorite recipes that I make over and over and sometimes do try a new recipe. I have weight watcher recipes I've used for years and also like the SPARK People Cookbook. In the Summer we eat lighter meals, more fresh fruit and fresh veggies. Any new ideas that are quick and easy and healthy I am anxious to try out. I will check out the website you mentioned and see if it will work for me. Thanks, Irish Ei
I'll echo the others who mentioned Pinterest. I thought it looked like a dumb website for a while until I realized it could help inspire me to find new recipes. I've used it two different ways. One is to create a new board each week to reflect my meal plan and pin that week's recipes. I've gotten a bit too lazy for that and now mostly just pin and then comment on my pin when I've tried the recipe. When I get stuck with menu planning I look back at my old comments to see what recipes I haven't made in a while.
Flipping through a food magazine and dog-earring pages also gets me excited. My personal favorites tend to be Every Day with Rachel Ray, Cooking Light, and Real Simple.
As much as I would like to stick to our menu plans, it almost never happens. Life happens and we always eat well, it just may not be what is on the calendar for that day. I am a big fan of Chow and Fine Cooking - I "make-over" many of the recipes to accommodate my needs.
Fitness Minutes: (8,075)
6/27/13 8:29 A
I'm not much of a cook and I'm not ashamed to say my husband does most of the cooking but we usually have theme nights. For example, on Monday we had Mexican night and we had tacos, Tuesday was Italian night we had whole wheat spaghettis with homemade meatballs and tomato sauce with a salad on the side, last night we had chicken burgers.
Also we try out lots of crock pot recipes from pinterest
6/26/13 9:51 P
I plan dinners for the week and do my shopping on Saturday. Usually Sunday's meal is something that makes leftovers, so there's one night. And if all else fails my husband is a happy man if I give him breakfast for dinner occasionally.
Fitness Minutes: (6,410)
6/26/13 7:55 P
Rotisserie chicken from the store with quinoa/brown rice medley (comes in microwavable bags from Seeds of Change) and a quick tossed salad. I make my vinaigrette once a week and store it in a water bottle in the fridge. Just shake and pour. :-)
My kids' favorite is steamed frozen veggies with chunks of protein (chicken breast, lean beef, etc.) and mashed potatoes. You can put this together in 15 min max. We like mixing it all together. Looks weird but tastes great.
Whole wheat pasta and sauce. I make sauce from scratch in a huge pot and freeze it in containers.
My favorite: A big salad. :-)
What also helps is precooking rice, lentils, potatoes, etc. on the weekend. Then keep it in the frigde and use over the course of the week. You can throw in protein, veggies, and seasoning as you go.
DELTAGIRL43 - for a NON-cook who is trying to plan, AND home schools - that should be really easy.
Make part of the curriculum for the children BASIC COOKING LESSONS and include YOU as a student. (You never know - you might ALL end up being culinary whizzes :-)
As far as finding someone to teach you all, have a friend who is a very good cook and likes healthy cooking. Is a Cooking Teacher from a local school prepared to spend 1/2 day a weekend helping you - for a small fee? Is there a local restaurant who has a cook who is prepared to help you? Then there are always cooking shows for the beginners, on the internet!
I always have a hard time planning meals, especially things that my family likes and that are healthy. I just started menu planning one week at a time. I home school so I have to plan for all 3 meals (believe me, cereal & milk is a meal too). Any suggestions for a non-cook who is trying to plan?
Fitness Minutes: (5,250)
6/26/13 12:33 P
eggs and salsa
Fitness Minutes: (9,861)
517 6/26/13 12:19 P
I always have whole wheat pasta, spaghetti sauce, and can tomatoes on hand for a pasta meal if i need a go to meal. I plan a crock pot meal once a week and more if it is winter time. In the summer I also keep veggie burgers in the freezer for grilling. A grilled burger is always good with a raw veggie tray and cottage cheese.
I use Smart Ones adding extra ingredients and seasonings, or pre-frozen soups, quick salads I make at 3 servings at a time and/or baked beans over toast or Brown rice, Brown rice and veggies, tuna or egg salad, Wendy's chili...
Well, I have learnt NEVER to ask the kids or the DH, because the orders will be extensive and impractical. I have a couple of go to meals that everybody likes, is really easy and healthy. So I just go on autopilot and do a quick family favourite like Broccoli mashed with Potatoes, Garlic and cheese. Or Broccoli soup, with yoghurt. Or melkkos. (Traditional South African meal with boiled milk, flour, raisins, cinnamon and honey) French Toast is also an easy favourite. Or boiled egg salad.
I don't really have that problem because I bulk cook and have a variety of meals in the freezer, in single serves. Some are an entire meal in themselves, and others may be a casserole with is extended with lentils and veges. They are with a variety of meats - chicken, beef, pork, and lamb, and all that needs happen is cooking some veges to go with it. As I cook most of my veges in their jackets (better nutrition and a good way to save money), AND most of the veges don't need scrubbing, it is just a case of putting them in a pot to cook. Sometimes I have soup (from the freezer) and have some toast with cottage cheese and/or a salad to go with it. I very seldom buy dinner, even when I am really "exhaustepated", and even when I have been out the entire day, I can still come home and within 15 minutes be eating a very healthy, balanced dinner.
Fitness Minutes: (3,948)
6/26/13 5:38 A
When i get fed up of planning meals,i usually resort to a takeout or we have a 'brinner' which is toast,tomatoes,mushrooms,beans and eggs,sometimes we add a couple of sausages or bacon to it also all is either grilled or poached which when I'm feeling especially lazy my eldest cooks
I always turn to the whole foods deli or subway when im tired of planning or cooking
Fitness Minutes: (4,601)
577 6/25/13 7:12 P
Make an 'idea' jar, fill it with your favorite dinners.
When those times come when you don't want to decide just pick from the jar and that's what you'll have. I also like the idea of having a hubby's choice night. Either he can do the cooking or get takeout. Just have some ground rules, like it has to be from somewhere which won't derail your goals.
Fitness Minutes: (60)
152 6/25/13 6:46 P
I always have spaghetti pasta for quick meals. I like to saute a sliced onion in some olive oil, add some sliced peppers and finish with some wilted spinach or I might toss in some kale if I have it. I boil some spaghetti and toss it all together. I might even add some leftover chicken if I have it. Then I top it with a little shaved Parmesan and some fresh chopped basil.
So easy and really delish!
Fitness Minutes: (1,818)
771 6/25/13 2:58 P
If I am tired of planning meals, subway is my answer. I love their new chopped salad. It makes enough for 2 portions. Another alternative is a cooked chicken at the grocery store.
Fitness Minutes: (24,670)
2,732 6/25/13 2:46 P
I've been really lazy about meal planning, I have to admit! But I always have a couple of things that I could throw together in a pinch. Sometimes I'll make a stir-fry with whatever veg and protein is on hand. This is fun, because it's a different combo absolutely every time. Salads are the same. Sometimes it's spinach, other times romaine. It may become a taco/Chinese chicken/BBQ chicken salad, based on what leftovers we have lying around. I usually have whole grain tortillas, so I might end up making bean and cheese burritos, hummus and veggie wraps, quesadillas, pizza-dillas (my kids' favorite), etc. I could make any one of these things right now, and I haven't been to the store in a while!
I definitely get tired of being the one who picks what's for dinner every single night. Especially if nobody offers a suggestion and then complains that they don't like what I made. It's different right now, because my husband is deployed and we're eating more kid friendly (but still healthy) foods. But it's also giving us an opportunity to try more meat-less cooking and letting the kids help pick what's for dinner.
Fitness Minutes: (11,285)
6/25/13 1:39 P
I don't get tired of planning the meals that I will be cooking. I am lucky to be living with 5 housemates and we all take turns planning and cooking.
I'm lucky that I work with other foodies so when I get stumped, I have half a dozen people I can go to that I can say "I'm stumped on dinner tonight, feeling lazy, and I have X and Y ingredient at home that I have to use tonight - ideas?" I always walk away with good game plan. We sure do love talking about food!
6/25/13 1:15 P
I try to make it fun by assigning a theme such as:
Orange things. Spin the globe and put my finger on a country. Make a meal in that cuisine. (Kids love that one.) Historical menu - what would so-and-so eat? All salads. Draw ingredients out of a hat. etc.
Sometimes it's still hard and so we go out.
Edited by: BLUEANNIEDOG at: 6/25/2013 (13:17)
Fitness Minutes: (6,082)
505 6/25/13 12:55 P
If I do not feel like planning a meal I will stop by Wendy's, BK or McDonalds and grab a salad (hold the dressing). I also like subway.
6/25/13 12:51 P
I rarely get tired of planning meals but when I do I resort to grilling something and I always cook in batches so there's always something in the fridge/freezer.
Fitness Minutes: (120)
6/25/13 12:08 P
I also do Pinterest, I have a huge arsenal of recipes that I haven't made yet. Also, I buy a new cookbook. I buy used ones off of Amazon so they usually are under $5 even after shipping costs. I was feeling the creativity slump recently, so I bought this book: www.amazon.com/The-Instant-Cook-Donna-Hay/ dp/0060772921/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1 372176162&sr=8-1&keywords=donna+hay+in stant+cook and cooked something from it last week, and am doing 3 of the recipes this week, and will do more next week. Usually doing this will kickstart my creativity and ideas, so even if I'm not using the book, I get inspiration. I have other books that I've only made a few things from, but I got a lot of tangent ideas from them.
I bulk purchase my proteins, so sometimes I have an ingredient, like pork chops, that I don't know what to do with, and all of my go-tos sound boring. So, I go to some of my favorite blogs, put in "pork" and see what they have. Often I'll find a recipe I missed before that sounds really good.
Also, I meal plan a week at a time... that way I can figure out a nice "set" of meals, instead of having to scramble to figure out what I'm eating that night. I get a good variety... like last night I made a salsa chicken and rice dish, tonight is chicken again (trying to use up what's in my freezer), but it's with mustard and herbs. Tomorrow night I'm going to use up the leftover chicken from tonight and probably just make a sandwich with it since I'm getting home later than normal. Thursday is a pork stir fry. Friday is more chicken, but grilled and stacked with veggies and pesto.
Another suggestion is to come up with a "dish of the month". So like, pick something like say, kebabs. Figure out different ways to make them... with meat, without meat, with ground meat, with whole meat, dessert kebabs, etc.
I have a few favorite simple meals that I rarely plan into a week's plan, but that are always there as an "emergency" option. Whole-grain pasta with marinara from a jar and whatever veggies need used up; eggs with soy chorizo (I'm not vegetarian; I just like the soy kind better); canned tuna with whole-grain pasta and random veggies in light bechamel sauce; baked potato with veggies and low-fat cheese and lots of spices. None of these require any chopping (my least-favorite kitchen chore,) and I can get them on the table in minutes.
I've got three main fall-backs for when my creativity is running low and nothing on any recipe site is grabbing my interest:
#1: Call my partner and tell him "Hey Babe, you're grilling tonight --- let me know if you need anything special on the side". Let him worry about being creative for one night!
#2: Drop by the local farmer's market and browse around for something that I haven't seen before, haven't had in ages, or just catches my eye. Fresh produce always makes me hungry so I never fail to walk out of there with the basics for a meal.
#3: Get an absolute basic meat/potato/veg meal cooking, and create a new sauce. I've always pulled out some kind of meat the night before to thaw, so I'll just throw it in the oven to roast with the potatoes and veg while I'm coming up with a sauce. I usually have a few types of cheese in the fridge, so I'll randomly grab one, and then play to see what I can come up with (gorgonzola/curry/peaches or brie/pears/cranberry chutney or provolone/dill/almond are some things that we've liked). I prefer to just play and taste to come up with something, instead of using a recipe, as I find that the playing with it is much more fun than reading about it!
Of course, we do have an occasional evening where neither of us feels like cooking or really cares what we have for dinner. Those are the evenings that we just graze our way through the fridge and pantry. We've had nights of cereal, followed by veggies and hummus, followed by berries, followed by popcorn... well, you get the idea. We just follow our inclinations and nibble throughout the evening instead of having a meal. I track it all to make sure that my nutrition needs are met, and don't really worry about it not being a "meal".
Fitness Minutes: (9,010)
6/25/13 10:45 A
The crockpot is my best friend!!!! I'm constantly looking at recipes and between my weekly meal plan board on pinterest and all the great recipes on spark, I've gotten so much better at this.
Fitness Minutes: (85,768)
6/25/13 8:47 A
I google new recipes constantly! I have quite the collection bookmarked according to the main ingredient or type of meal as well as some of my favourite healthy eating blogs.
Pininterest as already mentioned is awesome for finding new recipes.
Sometimes I'll search based on a certain ingredient. Say I'm in the mood for quinoa, I'll do a search for quinoa recipes. Or my oatmeal is getting boring... oatmeal recipes. You can add "healthy" to your search. When you find certain blogs/websites that have a lot of recipes that intrigue/fit your palette, just bookmark them.
You're going to come across quite a bit of complicated 5-star recipes with ingredients you've never heard of. I skip through those websites and try to find easy, simple recipes that you don't have to be a gourmet chef or spend literally hours in your kitchen making.
I cook a lot and when I need new recipes, I go on the web. I look on Pinterest, FoodGawker, Tastespotting. If I can't find anything there, I go back to my cookbooks and browse through them
Between all those sources, I can usually find something new. There is always the SparkPeople recipe website, too, but I never have any luck there.
6/25/13 8:31 A
I plan meals a month at a time. Each day of the week is "dedicated" to a certain type of protein. For example, Monday is meatless and I usually make a big pot of soup with lentils, beans, rice and it leaves leftovers for Thursday. Tuesday is pork, Wednesday is fish, Friday is chicken, Saturday is a "fun" sort of food day where I might make homemade pizza or a pizza pasta casserole or something, Sunday is beef .
Now that I've got the protein part nailed down, I just have to decide what I'll do with it. For each type of protein, there are 5 or 6 recipes that DH and I really like. So I pick through those, skipping a few weeks before I make the same recipe again. If I come up with a total loss of what to do with, say, beef-- I get out the cookbooks or browse online for a new idea. And add any ingredients I might need, to my grocery list.
Menu list gets posted on the fridge, and I can easily see what I need to take out of the freezer to defrost. If I come home absolutely exhausted and just can't face the thought of chopping, slicing, peeling etc-- my standby meal is tomato soup and grilled cheese.
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