Monday, 9 December 2013

thoughts on dinner planning and grocery shopping

For several years I have planned and/or made note of our weekday dinners. It started with the dinner project in 2010. I simply wrote down what we had for dinner every day and shared the meals here on the blog once a week. And then I made this Blurb book. In January 2012 I started the What's for dinner project, which I have continued in 2013. Most likely I will keep it up in 2014 also. What can I say? I love food, I love cooking and I love dinner - also, I love being organized.

I already shared my pantry essentials; so now I thought I would share some thoughts on how we (well, mostly I) do dinner planning and grocery shopping.


Both Sølve and I love food and cooking, hence it is something we really prioritize in our everyday life - both when it comes to time and money. This means that I find joy in planning our dinners every week plus we don't really have a specific budget for food (and wine). We normally buy whatever we want and we eat well. This does not mean that we have lobster and Champagne every day though. A good discount on for example chicken filets, tomatoes or mixed lettuce, might be the starting point of a dinner. Also, we try hard to eat all the food that we buy and make; we (especially me) are big fans of leftovers. I think as long as you don't waste your food, you don't loose the money you spent on it. If you understand what I mean.


Normally I cook our weekday dinners and Sølve cooks Saturday and Sunday dinners. Sølve normally does the weekend shopping Saturday morning at a well assorted supermarket. He never writes a shopping list and has a habit of buying too much of everything, so during weekends our fridge is pretty full. Come Monday, I check to see what is left to use for our weekday dinners. I'm a lot more organized than Sølve, so if I plan our dinners well, the fridge is rather empty again by the next weekend and we can start the weekend with a clean slate (or plate...). 

Our local grocery store (with a pretty basic assortment) is just 1 minute away by foot, so if we need any basics during the week, it is no stress to walk over there and get it. Also, Sara's barnehage/kindergarten is next door to the grocery store, so it is really very convenient. If our set up was not that convenient, I'm sure I would try to do all grocery shopping for the whole week in one go. 

By the way, I always write shopping lists, on my iPhone. No app, just a basic note. If I notice we are out of something, I'll make a note of it right away.  


I usually plan the weekday dinners by myself; weekend dinners are usually planned by Sølve and revised/accepted by me. As mentioned, I start planning our weekday dinners by looking in the fridge to see what fresh produce is there to use. I base the dinners on what produce need to be used first. Lettuce, for example, tend to go bad rather quickly. Hence I plan to use the lettuce early in the week and save for example the onion and root vegetables for later. I also check the freezer and cupboards to see if there is anything there to go with the fresh produce. I find that when I plan our dinners ahead, it is easier to eat well, varied and (rather) healthy. 


I normally don't use recipes when planning and cooking our weekday dinners; they are mostly just variations of things I have made before. The what's for dinner and the dinner project archives are helpful reminders of what we have made before*. Sometimes I Google inspiration for recipes, especially based on specific ingredients or techniques, for example beet root greens or pulled pork. I do from time to time actually cook from my cookbooks - or at least find inspiration to make something based on a recipe found in a cookbook, food blog or magazine. 

Finally, you should read Natalie's genius meal planning 101 post. I love how organized she is!   

Feel free to ask questions! Do you plan your dinners? I would love to hear your thoughts! Any tips to share?

* I'm working on a post that I hope will be helpful for both me and you; it will be titled "our easy everyday dinners list". 


  1. Hi Astrid,
    You will soon be having Rose Harissa lamb (I posted the jar today, with recipe, sorry it took so long, I had to get my Australian Christmas posting done first!)
    Sarah xxx

  2. I try to plan our dinners but because my husband's schedule changes frequently, I have to be able to adapt easily to whatever time I'll have for (mostly) uninterrupted cooking.

    I use my phone for two lists each week: a shopping list and a meal list. I make a list of the basics we need (i.e. milk, bread, mustard) and a list of the meals I'd like to have. Then I go back and forth and add the ingredients we'll need to make those meals and/or the meals we can make from the things I'll buy or we already have in the fridge/freezer/pantry. The meal list is always much longer than we'll need, so that there are multiple options for any given day, usually something quick (e.g. grilled cheese), something from the freezer (e.g. meatballs), or something that takes more time (e.g. pasta with swiss chard and sausage). And I always add something fresh to one of the "quick" options to make it healthier.

    No matter how well I plan, we always ending up eating at least one breakfast or dinner in a restaurant or getting take-out because I didn't have time to cook or it was just one of THOSE days. My husband doesn't cook, but he does keep our son entertained while I do. Also, he never complains about anything we eat, even if it's leftovers for three days. :-)

    Love reading about your organized meal planning, Astrid. Thanks for sharing!

  3. My boyfriend is a genius in making meals from the most random of ingredients and he does 90%of the cooking in our house and plans the meals, so it's him that does the groceries shopping list (i add the stuff like washing up liquid and loo rolls and tin foil) but often because he is so good at making meals I find there is nothing to just 'eat'. Everything requires preparation which does annoy me sometimes. But then his meals are so great that you can't complain too much!

  4. We usually plan our workday evening meals at the weekend and do a big shopping session to gather all the necessary ingredients. Just like Nikki, I too have two lists on my phone: the ingredients and the menu.

    Weekends we usually eat out on one day and at home on the other day. Generally it is something involving fresh ingredients (fish, a special cut of meat, vegetables) we only find at the weekend in the local markets, because we actually have time to visit these.

    We mostly stick to the planned menu, but if it happens to skip a dinner then it's all pushed forward and we end up with a planned meal at the weekend (which isn't so bad because unlike work days when we only cook one meal a day - dinner, on the weekends we have 3 meals a day - breakfast/brunch, late lunch and dinner so having one meal guaranteed is welcomed).

    The workdays recipes rotate every two weeks or so and they're old, tried & tasted & adapted. Sometimes on the weekends I might cook something with a recipe from the Internet, but only when it's a new, exotic ingredient.

    Lately (the last two years or so) we've been trying to eat in season ( i.e. no cucumbers, tomatoes & co in winter) and with produce bought from the farmers' market. These decisions changed our menu & diet quite a lot.
    The boyfriend has quite a significant contribution when planning the menu (he's more conscious when it comes to a healthy nutrition, and more informed) and he also contributes to cooking the meals, especially when the grill is involved!

    We rarely have leftovers because I like to make just a little over two portions, since we eat quite late in the evening. If the meal wasn't filling enough we'll have some snacks like cheese and nuts after. Also, the said boyfriend is quite picky when it comes to leftovers (anything that's older than a day really) so making just enough for one meal works well for us.

  5. We just started planning dinners for several days at the time (wa actually used to shop groceries each day). So, I am very muvh looking foward to your ""easy everyday dinners list" ;)



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