View Full Version : Weekly Poll: What is your meal preparation "style"?

01-20-2011, 07:41 AM
We've had some recent clamoring for a new forum section about cooking and recipes, and it has now been added (http://www.secularhomeschool.com/forums/52-Cooking-and-Recipes). So I thought it might be fun to talk about meal prep this week. Homeschoolers seem to have a wide spectrum of approaches to food and meal prep, and it will be interesting to see if there is a trend in the way we manage our meals.

"Weigh" in!! :cool:

01-20-2011, 09:19 AM
I don't cook. Ever. So I guess my meal prep style is non existant. DH's style is....check the freezer in the morning and pull out whatever meat he decides on for that nights dinner, or decide on something else and plan to stop at the store on his way home from work (he does this when we have fish so it's as fresh as possible). I don't think he thinks about it any farther ahead except in a general sense when he shops for meat (I do most of the grocery shopping but he will go and peruse the meat available and make selections). He'll buy the huge cuts of pork, beef and big packs of chicken; divide them up into smaller portions and freeze them. We do tend to have the same things frequently, especially things that can also be fed to the little guys (Pasta of various forms is a biggie - sometimes with sausage, sometimes with pork, sometimes with chicken parmesan - probably twice a week we have pasta, which is fine with me). We also have burritos once a week, pork or chicken with rice once a week, some kind of stew or chili in the crockpot once a week, steak of some sort once a week, fish of some sort once a week - how many times a week is that now? He does vary sometimes - we had chicken cordon bleu the other day (that's the one with ham and cheese right?).

My input on dinner - he tells me what we are having and I say "sounds good". If I don't have to plan and prepare it, I don't care what he makes.

Kristina Breece
01-20-2011, 09:33 AM
I go shopping with a basic idea of "we'll get x and be able to make y meals this week." On the nights I remember to pull the next day's meat from the freezer, we have a lot of Crockpot meals. But there are definitely days that I find myself scrambling at 5 to start to pull something together.

01-20-2011, 10:01 AM
I only have to cook for my daughter and I because my husband has been dieting and eats when he gets home anyway (several hours after we have dinner), so he handles his own dinner. I plan for a few meals that I'm going to spend time cooking, a few meals that can be quick (left overs, sandwiches, microwavable), and then I plan on eating dinner at my grandparents at least once a week. I've been trying to experiment with some new recipes but the biggest challenge is finding something that sounds good to me and that my daughter will be willing to try.

01-20-2011, 10:08 AM
When I grocery shop on the weekend, I have a vague idea of how many meals I will need to cook that week. I roughly buy for those meals. Although it can get changed or rearranged depending on what is happening. I never think in terms of specific meals and menus.

01-20-2011, 10:38 AM
I do plan out a menu, but only 2-4 days at a time most of the time. I get most of my food from whole foods, and because there are no preservatives, you really have to use it quickly, so i just shop 2-3 times a week at least. I can be slightly flexible . . . like switching the order of things. I can often pull together a meal or two out of things in the freezer or pantry, but not always - since i buy mostly what's on the menu.

01-20-2011, 10:43 AM
When we do the grocery shopping, I make sure to pick up enough meat, fruits, veggies, and side dishes to last a week. Each morning, I look in the freezer, decide what to make for dinner that night, and pull out whatever needs to thaw.

Sometimes, there's something specific I'm in the mood for, a new dish I want to try, or a specific dish we're making for school (we try foods for each time period, geographic region, and culture that we study). I make sure to pick up whatever we need for those dishes when we do the shopping, but otherwise I don't plan speicifc meals. I prefer going by what we feel like eating each night. Making each meal based on whatever we have in the house at the time, makes our meals more interesting & guarantees variety. Plus, now that Dea is starting to cook meals, I have to make sure that we have basic stuff that she can handle (she's not yet ready for more in-depth or challenging dishes, or anything that requires strict attention of the cook).

01-20-2011, 10:44 AM
I dream of planning wonderful meals. The reality, I try to plan but am easily bored by the whole process.

01-20-2011, 10:51 AM
We usually have about 2-3 weeks of meals planned out ahead of time. My husband is out of town during the weekdays just about every week, so it's up to me to cook. Besides homeschooling, I also tutor high school students in the afternoons and evenings, so I don't have the luxury of last minute cooking. Top this off with my kids' oustide activities (4-H, sports, clubs), I just need to know what we're eating and already have it prepped earlier in the day.

We've also found that we save a TON of $ by planning out the meals this way. We buy our meat from 4-H kids (beef, pork, lamb) and can/freeze a lot of produce, so we plan our meals around what we have available and sales at the grocery.

Sounds anal retentive, but it works for us!

01-20-2011, 11:02 AM
Ideally, I plan out six meals for the week (one night is leftover or pancake night) and my husband shops on the weekend. I don't assign a meal to a specific day, but cook based on what I'm in the mood for or what needs to be used immediately. I have a list of all the entrees that I make, broken into categories (chicken, beef, pasta, soup, meatless, etc.) to make it easier to create a menu and a grocery list. Without that list, my mind would go blank when planning meals.

I say "ideally" because some days the time just gets away from me and I don't start dinner in time. Then it's pasta night or time to call for pizza delivery!

01-20-2011, 11:03 AM
I don't cook; I warm stuff up.

We have fresh veggies and fruits in the house, but I don't like to cook or prep or even grocery shop, so meals are often last-minute.

01-20-2011, 11:17 AM
See, while I understand that having specific meals planned works for some people, I just couldn't do it. I cook based on inspiration & mood. I love to cook & am always trying new things. Even when I try a new recipe, I don't follow it, I get inspired by it & make my own version. I keep the house stocked with foods I know the kids & hubby will eat. I then use those ingredients to make whatever I decide to make. Much of what I make is from scratch, and the exact ingredients tend to change each time I make it, based on mood, what we have on hand, what inspired me that day, etc. Having specific meals planned would just be too confining for my cooking style.

Kristina Breece
01-20-2011, 11:22 AM
We usually have about 2-3 weeks of meals planned out ahead of time. My husband is out of town during the weekdays just about every week, so it's up to me to cook. Besides homeschooling, I also tutor high school students in the afternoons and evenings, so I don't have the luxury of last minute cooking. Top this off with my kids' oustide activities (4-H, sports, clubs), I just need to know what we're eating and already have it prepped earlier in the day.

We've also found that we save a TON of $ by planning out the meals this way. We buy our meat from 4-H kids (beef, pork, lamb) and can/freeze a lot of produce, so we plan our meals around what we have available and sales at the grocery.

Sounds anal retentive, but it works for us!

This is what I would like to do. And I manage it sometimes on a weekly basis. I think with practice & out of necessity, I'll get there. As I learn to rely more on my slow cookers, it gets easier.

01-20-2011, 11:29 AM
The problem for me is that i'm so burnt out by the end of the day, 'figuring out' a meal at 4:30 would leave me a wreck. Thats why I have been using schedule for school, too - the planning part is the hardest part for me. If i have no plan, NOTHING will happen. If i have it written down, I just have to follow directions. i just have to find a time when i'm not burnt out to WRITE the plan. I also try asking everyone what they want to eat, and no one ever says anything, or they always say the same thing. Raven wants pizza, Orion wants stir fry, and dh wants pork chops. I do plan the meals I'm craving, but i'm not an instant-gratifcation person - if i'm craving a food, i can wait a few days for it. (oh, and pizza is so much work its every other week at hte most often, i dont much like pork chops, and i'm burnt out on stir fry and it usually makes Orion sick . . )

01-20-2011, 11:30 AM
When I grocery shop, it is partly from a list of what is needed for certain meals and partly what is needed for people in our household to make what they want. I try to cook something several times a week, but beyond that it is fend for yourself, except for the younger ones. If we had the money to afford pizza delivery every night, we probably would have it--or else just go out and eat. On top of my natural dislike of cooking, our kitchen is small and overcrowded, which makes working in it a chore. Still, I should cook more. (I actually did cook yesterday--pasta salad--and when my older son came home from work and I told him there was food ready, he looked so GRATEFUL and AMAZED. I was embarrassed to be a failure at such a mom thing. :(

01-20-2011, 11:46 AM
I keep my garage freezer filled with meat and frozen veggies so the days that I have no meal planned, I can always grab chicken from the freezer and grill it (I do that probably once/week). I usually go to the store twice/week to get other ingredients to make meals. Honestly, I'm bored with cooking lately. I need new recipes or something. My husband travels a lot and when he is out of town me and the kids eat simpler meals which is a nice break.

01-20-2011, 11:50 AM
I do plan our meals, but I do it by what's on sale at the grocery store. It's tough to do at times, but it works for us. I tried to plan and freeze, but meatloaf doesn't look so good when it's your fourth time having it in a month.

01-20-2011, 12:03 PM
We are on a menu plan but it is more like I plan out 7 meals and each day I pick which of those 7 I am going to make, but I don't make something that is not on my plan. I save so much money shopping this way. I don't plan lunches or breakfasts this way. We eat mostly sandwhiches/leftovers/or soups for lunch. And breakfast is not easy with someone who doesn't eat "bready things"(the 4 year old). I generally buy enough fruits and veggies for a whole week and put them in as snacks, with lunches, and breakfast.

01-20-2011, 12:28 PM
Oh, yeah, I also dont have a stand-alone freezer, and my fridge is small . . . so i have very limitted freezer space!

01-20-2011, 12:28 PM
I make a general plan for the next week over the weekend, but leave room for whatever. If I am going out to run errands I like to make sure I have everything for a recipe in case I need to pick something up.

01-20-2011, 12:45 PM
I tend to plan vaguely a day or two ahead at best. Many times I just cook what I can find. I love to go out but we're trying not to do this for financial and dietary reasons. I am slowly planning a bit more in advance, but I like to keep it loose. I wanted to do the cook for a day and eat for a month thing but it just doesn't work for our family.

I've noticed lately that I tend to be taking Mondays as a day to kind of do some extra cooking and prep work in the kitchen. This is working well (except that last Monday was a holiday so our whole week got off a bit). I like making a bit of extra food and then freezing the leftovers. When I take the extra time on Mondays and do the freezing, things run more smoothly.

So little by little we are planning a bit more, but nothing completely scheduled out. We're making a lot of changes to our routines right now and doing it in little baby steps - which is good. We tend to fly by the seat of our pants for most things. Often I've tried to plan or schedule out everything when things felt out of control and then ended up ticked off about the whole thing and bagging it. This time, we are doing weekly family meetings and making small changes at a time and it's working. I expect to add in some very basic meal planning to the family meetings, such as "does anyone want anything special for dinner sometime this week." My DD is a super picky eater so I am hoping having more say will help her be more likely to eat what I make.

Stella M
01-20-2011, 03:17 PM
Other. Normally I do a 7 day menu plan and related grocery shop and stick to it, but over summer I haven't done either and we've been eating whatever we can scramble up that night. I need to get back to menus; we eat much better that way.

01-20-2011, 08:19 PM
I sorta plan. I grab a few recipes that I want to make in the next week (3-5 recipes or so) and make sure I have everything for them. Otherwise I cook whatever. I am very much an "I feel like..." cook. I also have lazy days where I just tell DH to cook and he cooks whatever he wants.

01-20-2011, 11:19 PM
Since I started homeschooling a few months ago, meal planning has been nonexistent. Now that the dust has settled a bit, and Batman and Robin have a curriculum they enjoy, I'm going to try for "occasional" meal planning then the next goal, "weekly". I tend to get so absorbed in flipping through the cookbooks I never actually get around to the "planning" part and until recently was too exhausted in the afternoons to contemplate dragging the kids to the store. I did just sign up for a csa box. Hopefully, that will be a good incentive.

01-21-2011, 03:04 PM
Ahh meal planning! I want to to be good at it....really I do! I want to not say things like "well we have cumin, I suppose it could be spicy and sounds foreign so I'll use it for paprika"!

I have to say I've gotten better since the fall. Before my life as a HS'er I was a substitute teacher and after school program homework tutor. My husband did the bulk of the cooking on Monday through Thursday as I didn't get home from school until 5:15. We painted a part of our pantry/kitchen wall with blackboard paint and I started writing down the days of the week and what I thought we should eat. It helped stay focused and we started saving on groceries. I detest having to run in for one thing as I notice the candy bars tend to follow me home. Tuesday always seems to be leftover day, Wednesday is pasta day, and either Friday or Saturday is pizza so it started making things easier. I always try to do something big for Sunday that can be used in another dish. It's been cold and snowy so we've had quite a few breakfast nights and soup/sandwich nights. Because I don't have a regular paying gig anymore it really helps to plan ahead. I always keep a couple of fall backs around (seems to be mac n cheese, turkey dogs or egg & veggie sandwiches). I also do a lot of crockpot stuff. My favorite is CP lasagna. I'll have to post the recipe soon!

01-23-2011, 04:40 PM
I usually try to plan for atleast 3-4 days in advance, but invariably someone always craves something else, but that's ok. I've been a major foodie for years. In fact, when I actually did consider going to college about 10 years ago , I was looking into culinary school. But, I didn't go because I knew I wouldn't be able to get a job in the field here in town and I would have to drive back and forth. And I had just stopped doing that (after 6 years). Cooking is probably one of the very few things that I am pretty good at without too much effort. I have a killer recipe for 5 cheese lasagne. We are trying to be healthier around here so we eat alot chicken, lean pork, baked fish(grilled if its warm), as many fruits & vegtables as possible. Can't wait until spring because so much produce is out of season right now. I try to stay away from the beef, but as soon as spring hits, everyone (including DD) wants a T-Bone on the grill.

01-24-2011, 11:05 AM
I'm a planner but I'm flexible depending on time and tastes.

I'll plan menus of 2-4 weeks of meals (yellow stickies that get re-cycled). Check in the cupboards (and freezer) for what I already have and make a list for what I need that can be stored and then shop for those items to have on hand for those menus. Also I have a fresh food list divided by menu (on the back of the yellow sticky). I visit the produce man just about every day and get a couple of day's worth of produce at a time (local and in season). The menus are interchangeable, don't feel like pork chops but rather tacos, so pork chops gets moved back and tacos gets moved up. At the end of the planned menu period there may only be a couple of menus left and that is what we'll eat (it's all good anyway) and the planning, inventory, and shopping starts over again.

When I had surgery some time back, beforehand I spent about two weeks to pre-make 28 family dinner meals, vacuum sealed them, labeled them with contents and heating instructions, and organized them in the freezer (meals ready to eat - MREs). Good thing too since there were complications and I wasn't able to walk or stand for more than a month! Hubby burns water so having tasty nutritious meals ready for him to zap in the microwave really saved us! Healthy, convenient, time-saving, and economical. Thinking about doing this (the MREs) again so I can take time off from the kitchen.

01-24-2011, 11:03 PM
I normally just plan the night before. My husband contracts in NC and the town he lives in leaves much to be desired for takeout as well as grocery stores so we load up and we do lots of baking and cooking throughout the week.