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Hi! I’m Aline Lickel, a visual designer based in Amsterdam. Every morning I start my day listening to good music and researching design references, online or at the real world. Here you can see what fascinates me. If you like it, drop me a line. I would love to hear from you. Enjoy! +



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Weekly dinner menu technique

Weekly dinner menu technique

Do you love cooking? Me too. But how could you save time in your day to day, be more creative about what you cook, avoid waste of food and unnecessary trips to the supermarket?

We’ve come up with a really simple technique we called Weekly Dinner Menu.

Wait, are you really talking about life organization in a design blog?
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Well, design is, in essence, the art of solving problems and thinking creatively. So why not thinking about day to day problems that you want to be solved?

I recently read the Ellen and Julia Lupton “Design your Life”, a humorous book about design in daily situations, from bras and peelers to how better furnish your living room. Although I disagree with some points – I still think a toaster is useful and wheeled suitcase is brilliant in most situations – the book actually brings the great possibility of rethinking your habits.

Most of the times we do things just because and, believe me, very likely there’s a better way to do ;-)

What is the menu tonight, honey?
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Every day, around 5:45 PM my husband and I would start discussing, on Google Chat, about dinner. Our typical conversation was:
- Hi honey. I’m so huuuungry.
- Oh, me too. I’m starving!!
- What are we going to have for dinner tonight?
- I don’t know. What do you want to eat today?

After a while… looong while, we would end up deciding what to eat, then one of us would buy stuff, wasting time every single day in the supermarket, to start cooking around 8:00 PM and eating around 9:00 PM, which is extremely late if you have only a sandwich at 12:00 PM and some fruits afterwards.

Moreover, we would cook basically the same things every week: pasta with tomato sauce, burger (Echie makes a really good one), carbonara, perhaps a baked salmon? Not really creative, right?

I bet this conversation is quite common not only between the two of us. If you don’t need to discuss it with a partner, probably it’s easier, but still, you need to decide what to eat and taking this decision when you’re already starving is not clever at all.

How did we solve the issue, then?
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First, we started using a normal shared spreadsheet, but after a while we moved to Trello and it’s working brilliantly. However, the tool itself is irrelevant. It could be a paper on your fridge door if it works better for you.

The idea is simple:

1. Have a Dish List: a list to easily add new ideas of meals. Every time you’re randomly browsing and you come across a good recipe you’d like to try. Put it on your list. You’re working and you remember that soup your mother usually cooks. Put it on your list. Somebody suggest you a recipe. Put in your list. It can grow forever.

Below you see my Dish List with my current week menu on its left:

You don’t need to copy the entire recipe in your meal list (I’ve tried doing it with an app called Pepper Plate but it was so bureaucratic that I quickly gave up).

I usually create a card in my Trello for each dish, with the name of the book + page or a link to the website.

Here I have the card for “Potato Soup with Fried Almonds” and the for the recipe:

2. Create the Week Menu: every sunday, when you’re preparing yourself for the new week, take your dish list full of suggestions and create your week menu. It’s the opportunity to be creative about your food, to try new recipes, to bring back a meal you haven’t cooked for years and so on.

Take into account days you have more or less time to spend in the kitchen, days you’re planning to go out etc. It’s also a good time to check what you already have in your fridge and avoid wasting.

3. Make a Shopping List: once the Week Menu is done, check the ingredients you’ll need and what you already have. Make your shopping list with the items you need and go to the supermarket when is more convenient.

We live in Holland, we use bikes instead of cars, so we go shopping twice a week to be able to carry everything :-) Moreover, I think this is better to have more fresh ingredients.

If you’re not the only one responsible for food at home, make sure you can share all the lists. This way, everybody can take part in the process.

And what about you?
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I’m really curious to know if the Weekly Dinner Menu Technique will also work for you. Or maybe you have your own way to deal with it.

We can together create a solution for a better quality of life, cooking regularly different recipes, without burning your head thiking about dinner, having more time to relax with your family instead of going every single day to the supermarket.

So tell me, how do you usually do?

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  • Carla Duclos | 09/04/2013 | 9:41 am

    We started doing the weekly menu with the weekly/2x week visits to the supermarket. It is working great!
    It is a big waste of time go to the supermarket every day.
    We just started, but I loved it. There is stil a lot to improve, but we will get there.
    What also works great for us to save time is cook batches of rice, beans, lentils. Any time we cook them, we cook a big amount, then we divide in small portions and put in the freezer. On that way, for some meals we just have to plan and cook the side dish that goes with them. The side dish, when the dish works well, we also cook a bigger portion and we eat it for 2 days or freeze half of it.
    What I find great about the weekly menu is that it helps trying new recipes, you can easily plan them, and also have a more balanced and nutrition diet, because you think and plan the meals for a week, so you can balance them.
    Great article. :)

  • alickel | 09/04/2013 | 2:57 pm

    Carla, welcome and thanks for the comment. I’m really really happy to know the weekly dinner menu is already working for you. This is fantastic!

    We also usually cook batches of food, mainly soup, to put in the freezer. This is a super idea! Personally, we don’t like eating the same meal twice in a row. We avoid even having the same meal every week. What we do, then, is cooking the soup of the day in a big amount, then we freeze it to eat again in two weeks. This way, we always have two different soups in the freezer for the whole month or more. Not counting meats and other prepared food we do.

    You also bring another point I didn’t mention in the article: balanced diet. For sure the dinner menu can help a lot if you take it into account. For instance, we try to balance having soup and pasta only once a week.

    Thanks again :-)

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