Meal planning hack: Cook from a single cookbook all week (or all month)
In my quest to automate the domestic routine, I've fallen into a casual rhythm of meal planning. Every Sunday evening I look ahead to the coming week's activities and map out the meals. I try to work in at least one pantry meal (something that doesn't require fresh produce), and figure we'll scrounge or get pizza on the weekends. I finish up by jotting the meal choices into my calendar and writing up a grocery list. I do my grocery shopping every Monday.
One detail has vastly simplified my meal planning: choosing recipes from a single cookbook for the week. I write the page number of the recipe next to the note in my calendar, and I keep the cookbook on my kitchen counter so every day at 5pm, I'm ready to go.
This week (for the last month, actually), I've been cooking from The Six O' Clock Scramble: Quick, Healthy and Delicious Dinner Recipes for Busy Families. I got a review copy in the mail a long time ago, and only now have gotten around to cooking from it. The recipes are simple, delicious, and healthy, and the author, Aviva Goldfarb, makes reasonable allowances for picky kids. It's a friendly, conversational book, and I'm really enjoying it (which is saying a lot -- I'm a bit of a cookbook collector).
The book was inspired by The Scramble, the author's email-based weekly newsletter and meal plan that takes all the guesswork out of deciding what to cook. If you're regularly stumped when it comes to planning meals and you're open to some dinnertime variety, a service like this is wonderful (another option: Menu Mailer from Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner).
Once I get my routine down, I plan to prepare at least one "stockpile" meal per week (most likely by cooking a double portion of something and freezing it). Do you have any tricks for keeping the weekday gravy train running smoothly?