Sunday, January 2, 2011

2 January 1957 “Q & A Sunday: Meal Planning and Marketing”

womancooking I often get asked about meals, meal planning, and shopping. How to make lists or plan meals. I think, in many ways, this needs to be a personal thing, based on availability, amount of budget, and the number of people for whom you have to shop/cook.
Some people have their meals planned out to the letter before going to the market. For me, as I like to ‘poke about’ and see what is out there, I simply have a skeleton list. I know that I need enough meat and veg and starch for 7 meals. I know that I need to maintain my pantry list ( a separate list) of things such as flour and spices. When one gets used to simply cooking most of your things in this basic way, it can be rather easy to shop.
For example, I do use frozen vegetables to augment fresh (except in Summer when we eat from the garden). I sometimes use canned things, such as whole plum tomatoes to make homemade spaghetti sauces or casseroles etc. But, for the most part I have found that cooking simple always seems to be the best and truest way to enjoy the food. I do like sauces and other adornment, but still a good pork roast simply glazed and served with roasted potatoes and a green salad is a wonderful meal and quite easy to prepare.
My list, then, will often be broken up into items such as meat and veg. As I will want to choose the best items once there and then the type of veg I might like with the meat I have chosen. By having a running pantry list at home for things such as spices, flours, baking powder, syrup, honey, tea and so on, the main staples of the week are easy to shop for.
We eat no prepared cereal (just steel cut oats and cornmeal) and rarely do I buy things like chips and we do not drink soda. Milk and cream are the only beverages I buy. We drink water with all our meals and usually have a cocktail or a glass of wine.
Here is a sample of the type of food we might eat. As I said, I don’t make the meal plan set in stone before I shop. I simply know to buy for 7 days. I usually use guides such as, I know we need about 4 oz of meat per meal for dinner, so that’s 56 oz or three and a half pounds of meat. This gives me a number when I am looking at meat at a price per pound. I will often buy a bit more than this when meat is well priced.
I honestly believe that simple ingredients cooked well with good seasoning, a pretty presentation, and fresh veg and a good dessert make an easy and happy meal.
Saturday:  Fried Eggs, Bacon (2 slices ea) toast (one each) Grapefruit half (each) Coffee with cream, Jam and butter.
Sunday: Waffles with fresh fruit (Or homemade jam), whipped cream, scrambled eggs, sausage links (one ea) coffee with cream, syrup.
Monday:Steel cut oatmeal (So wonderful-though it takes 30 minutes to prepare) with brown sugar and syrup and bananas. Whole wheat toast (one ea) with Jam and butter. Coffee with cream
Tuesday:Omelet made with leftover veg (or anything. Eggs are a great way to use leftovers, for dinner as well with quiche or soufflé) bacon (2 slices ea), 1 orange sectioned and one apple sliced divided for two. Coffee with cream.
Wednesday:Eggs Benedict on English muffin. sausage link (one ea) coffee with cream
Thursday: Fried Eggs (one ea), pancakes with syrup and fruit. Coffee with cream.
Friday:Corn meal made as hot cereal (simply take corn meal ratio of 1:2 with more liquid. I use milk as it makes it creamier. Let milk just simmer-that’s when it just starts to steam-and add corn meal. stir until thick, about 5 minutes.) Served with warm milk, syrup and fruit, usually bananas/apples and walnuts. Toast with Jam. Coffee with Cream. Friday is a good hot cereal day as it is marketing day for me. We have only one car now so I need to be ready to go and drive hubby in to have car for my marketing and errand day. Easy, good and filling.
Now, for lunch, I simply prepare a ‘third meal’ for hubby’s lunch the next day. So if I were making chops, I would make three and three portions of veg and so on. This way I have made and packed his lunch the night before and can pop it in the icebox for easy morning. For myself I usually eat light. I take an half hour or so and sit down with a pot of tea, a magazine and either tuna sandwich and cottage cheese. Or a salad with crabmeat. Sometimes I have egg salad. I usually have a little slice of whatever dessert I have going, but this I need to lessen so I can drop some pounds. But, not having a child at home and hubby at the office, I really have less cooking mid-day.
Saturday:Pork Chops, asparagus with cheese sauce, carrot and celery spears (usually served in a glass with frayed ends. I saw this as a presentation in one of my vintage books and think it a fun way to showcase simple raw veg, so important in our diet) and dessert (usually a slice of cake or pie, or some cookies. We usually have tea in the evening with this and sometimes a bowl of nuts to accompany).
Sunday:Roast Chicken with stuffing, mashed potato and turnips with garlic, green salad with raw veg (carrots, tomatoes), steamed green beans. Dessert.
Monday:Leftover Pie made with Sunday dinner fixins (chicken, stuffing, etc) mixed with eggs and milk and baked in easy ‘pat a pie’ pastry.  The above recipe are the measurements I use for a one crust pie like this. The other is good for a two crust. This is a great way to whip up a fruit pie last minute. Simply mix fruit with some sugar and cinnamon and a bit of flour and pour in. Either top with crust or make a crumble of butter/brownsugar/and flour and sprinkle on top.

1 1/2 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 C  Salad Oil
2 Tbs milk
patapie recipe
Tuesday:Chicken soup (made with bones and unused portion of innards of chicken for stock), warm bread and butter, rice with mixed vegetables stir fry. Dessert.
Wednesday:Pork Roast with apples and apple glaze. Potatoes and carrots cooked with roast. Celery stalks and radish and olive dish (fresh veg), gravy. Dessert
Thursday:Fried Chicken thighs (often the cheapest cut),Biscuits, creamed onions, fresh salad, Dessert.
Friday:Either I put the slow cooker on before I leave the house for marketing or errands so it is ready for me when I come home and have time to prepare. Or I might take Thursday’s leftovers and make for example creamed mushrooms on toast with the leftover fried chicken warmed, de-boned and sprinkled on. Veg and Dessert.
I am not sure if this is of any help to any of you. I would be curious to know how you plan your meals and what you like to cook. I will sometimes pull out my Cordon Blue Dione Lucas French cookbook and make Bouillabaisse or other fun things, but often I find these type of things also easy in that you are simply using good ingredients in an easy and pure way. Once you begin eating your own foods and realize how easy it is to cook simple and delicious meals, you will toss away those pre-packaged dinners and meals.
Happy Homemaking.


  1. Thanks for sharing your menu! Looks wonderful!

    I plan a weeks worth of meals around what I already have on hand in the pantry/freezer or garden. I cook from scratch and since I also work outside of the home, I plan very simple meals for during the week. I save more time consuming meals for the weekend. I cook mostly meatless meals (per my husband's preference). But we do have meat (local, pastured or grass-fed) once or twice a week.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  2. This was a very helpful post, thank you. (o:

  3. I really have to get better at planning-- I a lot of the 50's and 60's cookbooks I'm into are so helpful about listing recipes with menus for the week as well as a shopping lists, and I STILL end up with way too much of this and none of that and I meant to get the other. I enjoyed reading your menu and meal prep notes!! It's neat to see one in action rather than in the hypothetical. :)

  4. Love the picture & the post!

    I know that it is neither vintage or frugal, but I do hope that since you are living on the Cape, you are using bottled water. The extremely high cancer rate (breast cancer) on Cape Cod has been directly linked to tap water contamination; according to the EPA, even Brittas and filters are not enough protection/precaution..

  5. Wow lady, that's a lot of cooking for breakfast. I'm impressed.
    I too have done away with all the processed meals. Though I occasionally sneak a highly processed grilled cheese sandwich. Such a guilty pleasure to eat american cheese.

    Thanks for sharing your process!

  6. I also forgot to mention that on my hubby's day's off, I simply provide the same formula for lunch (previous day's leftovers). On these days we sit at the table like dinner and breakfast and I also eat a heartier lunch on those days as well. This gives us time to enjoy one another on his days off and of course time for me to do all my homemaking (i.e. cleaning, baking, planning) and ample time for my 'office work' (i.e. my blog/site/writing/and now art).

  7. Reading this just helped me make my grocery list :)

    I'm more of a daily shopper than a weekly one, but some things, like pantry staples or meat for Spouse, are purchased once a week in a bigger grocery run. I shop at a co-op that is on my way home from work so it's easy for me to shop this way. Plus I then know we can always have fresh salad greens or pick up something on sale that day.

  8. Teru_ I WISH I could shop daily, but living on the Cape car-less it is not possible. In the summer I use my bike for the local farmers market, but there is little to get to at a reasonable safe distance without a car here. I do sometimes miss the city for that reason. I would love to shop 'like a French Housewife' daily at great markets. You are lucky. Sometimes we think about moving back to the city, but one never knows.

  9. I also forgot to mention that I have a day each week (which can change but I decide at the week's beginning) for baking bread and dessert. Though I love baking so desserts often get baked throughout the week, simply to try new things out or to fill a sweet tooth's craving!

  10. I generally bake bread at the weekend, but just got a new bread book for Christmas so may be making bread more often for a little while. I tend to do slow-rise breads so they're not particularly convenient to make during the week unless I get Spouse to do some kneeding and shaping while I'm at work.

  11. 50sgal, how often do you bake or make desserts? I know there are two of you in your household, as there are in mine, and baking just seems like a way for me to gain weight!

  12. I make bread once a week. I bake on bread day (it changes on my plans for that week. I honestly approach my life one week at a time as it is the best for me and my planning routine). I also will usually bake at least once more a week, so about twice. Say, on bread day (which happens to be Wednesday this week) I might make a cake or something that can share the oven. Today, however, later on (it is wash day for me) I am going to try a coconut chocolate cream pie. I recieved some coconut flour and want to try to use it in making a crust recipe. I shall share results and recipes of course. I DO struggle with sampling my own baked goods. But, I have got better at trying not to. That will be part of this year, as well, more self control in that area.

  13. I just came across your website and have just loved reading through it! I really like the articles on food shopping/budgeting. I have tried out the budgeting suggestion of 1/5 on meat, 1/5 on carbs, 1/5 on dairy, 1/5 on produce, and 1/5 on pantry that was suggested in one of the other articles you posted. A neat way to plan our menu! I loved seeing what you eat for sample menu plans. Very neat website!!!

  14. Just wondering how you make your vegetables with frayed ends??? That sounds neat!

  15. We don’t have a meal plan. We have talked about making one for the last 25 years, but alas, no time nor energy yet. I try to shop groceries once a week and then I try to get inspired by meat and veg and buy for the coming week. DH and I always shop groceries together. I have a list of what is used and then there are things you always buy, like toilet paper, milk, bread, etc. I don’t have resolutions, but perhaps planning meals should be one.

    You made my mouth water with your food listing. :)


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