Q.  Melissa Asks: Hi, Pam, I’ve been making recipes from your book, The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great for many months now.  I LOVE the roasted fish with veggies….SO easy and tasty.  I’m finally at the point where I want to start to lose weight and I want to use your recipes but I’m having a hard time creating a meal plan.  I know how many calories I should consume.

What I’m struggling with is making weekly menus that make sense in terms of grocery shopping and that don’t bore me.  I don’t want to buy too much of an item that I use in one recipe and then spoils before I use it again.  Would you have any guidance?  Sample weekly menu?  I’m so excited to start this plan but I know the path to success for me will be to plan out each meal in advance or I’ll end up unprepared and going for the wrong food.  Thanks SO much for your help!  You are an inspiration!

A.  I always love getting notes like yours. So glad you’re finding inspiration from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great. I’m not trying to plug How to Cook Without a Book and Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals, but for weeknight cooking I really do cook in the style of these books.

I stock myself with a pretty large number of staples–broth, canned tomatoes (crushed and petite diced), olive oil, vinegar, canned beans, pasta, rice, onions, garlic, Asian condiments, cheese yogurt, eggs, and lots of veggies with a long shelf life as well as meats, poultry, and seafood that I keep in the freezer. (Just this morning I decided to make stew. Four minutes in the microwave the meat was practically thawed.) From week to week I buy salad greens, seasonal vegetables and fruit.

With staples, frozen meats, seasonal produce and a set of techniques and formulas that I have internalized,  I’ve got the freedom and flexibility to eat what I like rather than do lots of advance planning.

This may not be the advice that you’re looking for, but I sure hope it helps.