Cooking and Nutrition: Your Toolbox

Cooking and Nutrition: Your Toolbox

While the mechanics of cooking hasn’t changed much over the years (unless you’re into molecular gastronomy), nutritional recommendations seem to shift with the wind. Aside from individual tastes and preferences, we have to consider food allergies and dietary restrictions. That being said, the nutritional suggestions from my vintage 40s and 50s cookbooks make the most sense to me. They are similar to, but more specific than, current recommendations and incorporate some of the things I have found to be true from dabbling in Paleo diets (e.g. not all fat is bad – good fats are good!). That being said, if you have been given specific guidance by your physician or nutritionist, or if you already have something that works for you, please use what you have.

We hear so often the reasons that we need to eat healthy – I’m sure you could each give me about 5. But why do we want to be concerned enough with nutrition to learn more about how to implement it? Why do we need to learn how to plan our meals, cook from scratch, and get the best food for our money?

Meta Given is my vintage cooking heroine. Her cookbooks contain “The Meal Planner’s Creed” which summarizes the answers to the above nicely:

The health of my family is in my care; therefore –
I will spare no effort in planning in the right kinds of food in the right amounts.

Spending the food dollar for maximum value is my job; therefore –
I will choose from the variously priced foods to save money without sacrificing health.

My family’s enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore –
I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety, for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing combinations.

My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore –
I will treat my job with the respect that is due it.

Even if you are a family of one, you are responsible for making sure your family eats well. Here are the items to gather up for your toolbox:

The very basics:

  • A piece of paper. You’ll need at least this to write down your meal plan and to make sure that you’re meeting the daily nutritional requirements.
  • A cookbook or collection of your favorite recipes. Probably obvious, but it’s easiest to start with family favorites or ideas rather than trying to start with a literal or figurative blank page and come up with your own recipes. Be sure to look beyond the recipes – some cookbooks (especially the vintage ones) contain sample menus or suggestions as to what recipes pair well. Oh – and there is so much good information in a lot of them. I have cookbooks that contain entertaining ideas, information on how to set a table properly, how much food to prepare for different sized groups, and much more.

Extra credit:

  • Meal Planning Websites or Apps. There are way too many to name, but most of you have probably heard of PlanToEat (affiliate link) (web-based), BigOven (web-based or Windows), or Paprika (for Mac, iOS, and Android)
  • Excel or other spreadsheet software. I’ve linked a copy of the spreadsheet I use when meal planning below. Essentially, there is a block for each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) each day, and a line item for each of the suggested nutritional requirements. That way you can make sure that the meals you plan end up meeting your nutritional needs as you fill in what you plan to eat. You’ll also notice that I have “themes” filled in (e.g. Monday – Beef, Tuesday – Fish…). Feel free to change them. Some people prefer cuisines instead of main dishes (Mexican, Italian, Pizza Night). You’ll also notice that there is a column to the right of each meal labeled “Calories.” If you track points, you can change it to read “Points” instead. The column totals up for the meal, and across for the day. Feel free to change the nutritional requirements on the left – the entire thing is open for editing. It’s free of charge, so you get what you pay for. 😉

Weekly Menu Planner-Excel

We’ll talk about menu planning and basics of grocery shopping (without coupons – I don’t have time for that, I tried!) in coming weeks.

Do you currently menu plan? Are you the type that plans out template weeks and then just rotate them through? Or do you start from scratch every week?

If you don’t menu plan – what stops you? Do you eat out a lot? Cook from pre-packaged meals? Do you hate structure and prefer to just ‘wing’ it each night?


Sewist, knitter, reader, dancer. Wife. Lover of things vintage and retro.


  1. […] Cooking and Nutrition: Your Toolbox October 7, 2014 […]

  2. I am a menu planner! There is just my husband and me, but I find that I waste so much time and money if I don’t plan. I used to use an Excel spreadsheet, but finally just switched to paper. For some reason, we had a whole pack of legal sized yellow pads. Now, I just draw columns for each days of the week and rows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the legal pad.

    First, I go through our freezer and cabinets to use up the food that we have, then I plan the meals and my grocery list at the same time. We don’t always follow the menu exactly, but it gives me some direction.

    • The ability to track what’s in the freezer is what finally pushed me to start using Plan To Eat. A couple times a year I make a bunch of freezer meals, but I always seem to find one or two lurking behind everything in our upright freezer because I’ve forgotten about it. 🙂

      And I agree with you – I waste a lot of food if I don’t have a plan. Even if I switch around what day we eat stuff on, at least I know what we have to choose from.

Comments are closed.