Sugar’s menu and grocery list for the week. © Sugar + ShakeGenerally, in the Sugar + Shake household, we eat home-cooked dinners about four or five times a week. Sometimes the planning is well thought out, and sometimes there’s a lot of improvising, grocery store runs and “Cabinet Crap” meals (making use of the random stuff in the fridge and cupboards).

During better-planned weeks, on Saturday or Sunday, I go through the massive piles of magazines, clippings and cookbooks and come up with a menu for the whole week, which, ideally, gets scribbled on some random scrap of paper along with a grocery list. These end up stuffed in my purse or pockets, clipped to the fridge or float around the house. Other weeks, I just kind of wing it and roam the grocery store hoping to be inspired by proteins or veg that’s on sale, or I make only a mental list.  And sometimes, even with a detailed list and thorough menu, we end up going out spontaneously and not cooking and the whole train gets derailed.

In the beginning, I would get attached to the idea of several different ambitious recipes with oddball ingredients and end up wasting a lot of what we bought. These days, I try to be more practical (and economical) as far as trying to pick dishes that make use of ingredients we already have taking up space in the fridge or picking recipes that use the same ingredients, but with different flavors and preparations.

This week’s menu (we’ll see if we stick to it):

I’m making use of asparagus in two dishes, which is something I try to do when buying it since a whole bunch is a bit too much for the two of us to consume in one meal. The beer bread (which also makes use of some salami that I’ve had hanging around a while), salad and risotto all use the same cheese. And the soup will use up some turkey that I made a while back and have had in the freezer, waiting for just such a purpose.

What’s your menu planning process?

Menu planning: piles of clippings, cookbooks and magazines to sort through (this is just a tiny fraction of what Sugar has accumulated over the years), with some of Sugar’s menus and grocery lists. © Sugar + Shake