Friday, September 25, 2009

Menu planning and grocery shopping part 2

I've taken what amounts to 45 minutes and planned our meals for the week. A browse through my "to try" cookbooks in Master Cook, plus a flip through my most recent cooking magazines has yielded me a plan.

I do love MasterCook, but it isn't the prettiest software in the world. I guess for twenty bucks, they didn't feel like spending much time on aesthetics. On my meal plan there in the middle, I can insert recipes from my cookbook, most of which I've imported off the web. Thank goodness most cooking magazines have their recipes on the web site. I still love to browse through the hard copy, and that's how I select the recipes I want to try, but then I can go to the computer, pull it up on their site, and quickly import it into my cookbooks. (yes, complete with the source). That keeps me from having to hand-type it in, let's me also import a picture of the dish, and allows me to recycle the magazines when I'm finished with them.

Here's my own personal procedure:

  1. Get a cooking magazine (let's say Bon Appetit for a change, since I use Fine Cooking as my example most of the time) out of the mailbox.

  2. Jump up and down, clap hands and go "yaaaay!"

  3. Put it on the coffee table, look at it longingly, and go back to work.

  4. Finish work, pour myself a glass of wine, sit down and read it cover to cover, turning down the pages of the dishes I want to try.

  5. Put the magazine on my desk.

  6. When I have 30 minutes or so, open the pages to the ones I've turned down, go to the web site, search for those, and import them into Master Cook. I have these separated into "To Try" cookbooks. Like "To Try - Main Course". I don't put anything in my permanent cookbooks that I have not tried and want to cook again.

  7. Recycle the magazine.
Now I have a bunch of things that looked interesting in my "to try" cookbooks. When I want to plan meals, here's what I do.

  1. Sit down at my desk. (Oh, all right, I'm usually there anyway.)
  2. Pull up Master Cook.
  3. Browse through my "to try" cookbooks and insert recipes I want to do that week into the meal plan. I have mine divided into courses so I can pick a salad and a main course, or a salad for dinner, or soup, or whatever.
  4. When I'm finished with the meal plan (about 30 minutes), I click the tools menu and export all the ingridents of all the recipes to the shopping list.
  5. View the shopping list and check the items I don't already have.
    Go to my Pantry, which I set up when I first got the software - it has things I like to keep on hand all the time, like peanut butter and seltzer and milk - and select the items I need from the grocery. Then I click another button and add those to the shopping list.
  6. The shopping list puts everthing in order by section of the grocery. I dink with it a little, to suit the way I shop, then save it.

When it's time to go, I print it out and walk out the door. (The list it prints has handy little checkboxes next to it.)

I didn't always have software, of course. My old-fashioned way of doing it was to fold a piece of paper lengthwise, and write the days of the week on one side, then write headings for the sections of the grocery on the other side. I'd jot down the recipes straight out of the cooking magazine or cookbook and make the grocery list as I went. This was honestly probably faster than my current procedure, but it limited me to the current issue, and if I wanted to cook something again, I had to go dig it out and magazines take up too much storage space.

The amount of time this takes me really is about 30 minutes, not counting the initial browsing and importing time. Now we have a week of meals planned and I don't have to think "what am I going to cook" at 6:00. I just look at the list and pick something. And I know I have all the ingredients in the kitchen, waiting to go.

This week, I've also planned to make another lot of vegetable soups. Phillip and I have both missed having them in the fridge, ready to eat for lunches. I'm going to make some that are good hot, too, since it's "pretend fall". I get to play in the kitchen! Yay! I'll keep you posted.

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