I’ve continued on my quest to find more efficient approaches to food shopping and meal planning, particularly since I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and my spouse and I both have several intense projects to finish up by the end of the year. So I’m making a concerted effort to be less fancy and more prosaic in my cooking, and more efficient in my shopping.
One of the books that turned up on my searches was 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies, by Susan Nicholson. I borrowed it from the library and was reasonably pleased with it. I am not usually a fan of the forced jokiness of Dummies books, but for this topic, which could have been deadly dull, it worked. The bulk of the book is a set of 52 weekly dinner meal plans, one for each week of the year, and the associated recipes. Each week has a combination of more and less complicated recipes, but none of them are particularly hard, and none of them use exotic ingredients. In fact, I found the meals I tried edging on dull, which is why this is not the perfect book for me. But if you are not much of a cook, or if you have small kids or other picky eaters, this could be a great resource. (My only other quibble is that she didn’t include weekly grocery lists – annoying that you’d have to go through and make your own each week rather than at least starting with a premade list and editing it as necessary.) It’s not so different than an emeals plan, but a lot cheaper – the book came out in 2010 and it looks like used copies are easily found for around 10 bucks, which gives you a year’s worth of plans and recipes.
Another book on this general topic that I would wholeheartedly recommend is Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead-and Freeze Cookbook. A lot of freezer cookbooks are hopelessly stuck in the 1980s, with tons of casseroles featuring cream of whatever soup and really dull recipes. This one had modern, fresh recipes and a lot of great ideas about making meals and starts of meals ahead. I also got this from the library and the only reason I haven’t bought it yet is because I have a tiny top-of-fridge freezer. (Oh, for a chest freezer someday!)
The other thing I’m going to be trying out is Blue Apron, which is a service that ships you the raw materials and recipes for 3 dinners a week for a $10 per person per meal cost. I’d read about it earlier this year but they were only in the East Coast and Midwest at that point; they’re in most of the country now. My first shipment is scheduled for the day that this post will go up, so I will keep you posted on what I think.