It’s been a (very very ohmygod very) long time since my last post, so I thought I would ease myself back into blogging, as it were, by not trying too hard to post pictures and discuss recipes.  Instead, I wanted to talk about something that I sit down and do every weekend: our meal planning.

Please be warned: I am about to divulge some seriously OCD stuff about myself.  I wish I could be the kind of person who could walk into a market with no plans, the kind of person who could pick up a couple of porkchops and not only immediately dream of 5 different dishes to make with them but would also know exactly what to buy while I am in the store.  Sadly, I am not that kind of person, so I have to meal plan.

First, I do try to plan in a bit of flexibility by only planning about four meals a week (sometimes five).  I always leave Friday and Saturday nights open for last minute dinner plans with friends.  Not to say we’re popular or that happens often, but if we were and if we did, we wouldn’t have to worry about when to use up already purchased food.

I also usually plan a complicated meal for Sunday, one that introduces a new technique, so that I have the time to really focus and learn because  I am reeeeeeeediculously slow in the kitchen.  Like, I will take five minutes easy to dice an onion, a task that you would think would grow faster by repetition.  It does not, at least not for me.

So besides those two caveats, here are the rules I follow when planning a meal:

1.  One chicken dish.  Because I like chicken and because it’s really versatile.
2.  One vegetarian dish.
3.  One red meat dish (usually beef or lamb) OR seafood dish.
4.  One pasta dish OR sandwich dish OR pork dish.  Paninis are pretty much one of my favorite things on earth but I find it difficult to balance either of these types of dishes with vegetables as they tend to be carb-heavy and unhealthy, but they’re also easy so I typically pick one or the other.  And as for pork – Martin is a huge fan but I am not so it tends to get sidelined a little.

And usually if i I make a fifth meal, it’s because of this rule:

5.  One “I just saw this recipe that looks amazing and OMG I have to make it right now” dish.

Overall, the key is variety.  I want to make sure I am not making too much of any given thing.

For inspiration, I turn to a lot of different sources.  My major one is an idea given to me by Amy – it’s a Google Doc that I maintain of recipes I’ve found while browsing online.   Which I keep organized with a clickable Table of Contents because I can:

Hey, just keeping it real.  Real organized.

For recipes I’ve already made, I keep myself organized with MacGourmet.  It’s a great application and the syncing capability with the iPad is a great plus!  Now if I could just get Martin to build me a handy-dandy little stand for while I was cooking … 🙂

I am also a huge cookbook hoarder so I’ll often pick a couple at random to browse through.  My favorite cookbooks at the moment are:

Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter

What I like about both of these cookbooks is that there is a focus on simple foods done with fresh and high quality ingredients.  I think that’s my main goal when I cook.  I mostly just want to always know what I am putting into our food and, by extension, ourselves.

For good all-purpose cookbooks, my favorites are The Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and the yellow The Gourmet Cookbook.  For good online recipe resources, I turn to Serious Eats, Southern Living and The Food Network.  I also think that the blogs Simply Recipes, One Perfect Bite and Food Wishes are great.

And there you have it.  My crazy meal-planning strategies.  Now that I’ve shared mine, please share yours.  I’d love to hear!