Thursday, July 06, 2006

What's for Dinner?

Summer has lately become a season for evaluating and revamping household systems. When classes are out for me and E is home all day, I need to set things in place that make life seem vaguely possible. Perhaps especially now that we're in such a tiny apartment!

Yesterday I started out by making my list of things that I feel need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and occasional basis. On the weekly list were the looming, forboding, mountain-sized tasks of planning our weekly meal menu and grocery shopping. I am terrible at both of these jobs. They take hours and hours, all told. Eventually planning the menus falls by the wayside and I give in to wandering the aisles of the grocery store dropping things in my cart that strike my fancy at the moment. This results in huge costs, never quite what I need to make a complete, balanced meal, and too much waste.

(As an aside, sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I didn't have to spend as much time, money, and energy as I do on food every single day. Everything from making meals to fretting over body issues, food issues are a constant in my life!)

Well, today I'm giving something new a try. After googling "planning weekly menu" in a desperate attempt to find some brilliant key to the whole task, I came across this website: DinnerPlanner.com. This site provides a meal planning service to its subscribers for only $5 per month, payable for three months at a time through PayPal. Each Friday morning you receive an email with a link to a new 7-day dinner menu, complete with entree and sides. In addition to the menu, you also can print out your grocery list, which includes everything you'll need to make those dishes (including a sidebar which lists things you'll need, but may already have on hand, such as basil, tabasco, or butter).

The meals aren't exactly off the pages of Bon Appetit (not even their 30-minute meals), but they are certainly sturdy and well-balanced dishes. Truth is, given that I've been resorting to frozen meals (at least they were Trader Joes!) and take-out more than a few times a week, though, the lack of glamour in the recipes isn't so bad in comparison.

The $5/month cost was low enough that I figured I could give the service a try and see how I like it. I printed out my first week of menus this morning and grocery shopped using their list this afternoon. For better or worse, they do not repeat a single recipe for an entire year. So you never have to get in rut with the same old dishes day after day. (The drawback is always trying out new recipes, though.)

For nights when I don't like the meal that's been recommended, I just bought this cookbook from Real Simple: meals made easy.

So, we'll see. In the meantime, though, I'm excited to give this a try. I'll let you know how it's going. (And let me know if this intrigues you enough to give it a try, too!)

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4 comments:

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I love Real Simple magazine.

Let us know how the dinner planner goes. Sounds interesting.

Kim in KCK said...

I can certainly relate! I do enjoy cooking when I'm not worn out from working four other jobs and going to school!

Another website to check out is www.savingdinner.com. I tried the sample menu on the website, and all the meals were a hit with most of the family. I went ahead and subscribed for 6 months to see how it works for us. It is a little less than the $5/month on ther list.

Good luck!

cyen said...

First off, welcome back to the blog-o-sphere! We missed you :)

Perhaps I should put this in the previous post's comments but for organizing you might want to check out this geek site: http://www.43folders.com
There might be a small learning curve as to what this guy is about, but there are some helpful tips scattered around. And he has a pretty good sense of humor.

Oh and my secret to meal planning... Spices and sauces. Pick a meat (chicken, fish, beef), pick a spice (or 10), or sauce, pick a vegetable, and combine all into a large wok. One pot meals are the best.

lorna said...

DD only 'enjoys' about three dishes - all mincemeat based (spag bol, shepherd's pie, and macaroni pie) - she does eat pizza too (praise God) but the fact that hubby doesn't eat with us - so the main meal is at lunchtime is a real struggle.

I've never thought about planning a whole week's menus in advance though. Other than at camp. I'm at new-wine now -cooking for us and eija's family and love it. Today is lasagne :)