I've touched on the subject of menu planning previously in other blog posts. I thought I'd explain what I mean.
You see, not to go on about it you understand, it is essential that we make the most of every penny that is spent. Which, of course, includes food. So, no wandering around the supermarket buying whatever takes our fancy, only to leave it to rot in the fridge because we don't fancy it now, or it takes too long to cook and we couldn't make our minds up about what to make. Oh no.
On a Sunday evening/Monday evening (sometimes it takes two days, what with re-thinks) I sit down and ask the family what - if anything - they are hankering after this next week. Depending on what comes up, I try to fit their requirements into the Menu for the coming week.
So, I make a list from Tuesday (when we do our shopping) to the following Monday and put a dinner dish beside each day. Because I've an 11yo son, sometimes I opt not to include certain items that I think he might be a bit suspicious of and so as not to colour his decision-making about a certain meal. Far better it comes as a surprise, than he decides he hates "courgette & goat's cheese flan" before it even hits his plate. He'll often trundle into the kitchen to have a look at the menu list as a reminder of what to look forward to/peer suspiciously at, later on.
Because I've two males in the household, inevitably a certain desire for junk food raises its ugly head. I haven't outlawed these foodstuffs, I think it is far better to balance them against a healthy meal the next day, rather than have the poor boys salivating at someone eating a bag of chips as we're walking down the road.
I also try not to have too many repetitions on the list, i.e. only one appearance of curry, or baked pasta, or pastry goods, or fried goods. Also, not too many appearances of potatoes in their many guises, as hubby considers them to be no-legged-spawn-of-the-devil.
Seasonality has it's place in the menu list, too. I do try to buy foodstuffs that are in season - for instance sweetcorn - it's right in season at the moment. The inevitability of salads in summer and comfort food in winter is predictable, however we have been known to be eating Impossible Quiche with salad when there's snow on the ground. Such is the difficulty of menu planning - you just have no idea what the weather is likely to be doing by the end of the week.
We have been able to supplement the shopping by growing our own, although don't start thinking in terms of verdant green plots of cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, onions etc. We've started small - lettuce, parsley, chives, mint, oregano, gooseberries, tomatoes and a smegging great rhubarb plant. Ruby has managed to provide four lots of gorgeous rhubarb so far this year - and there's two more lots (at least) on the plant now.
So, by way of illustration, here's our Menu list for the coming week :
Tues : Southern fried chicken, creamed corn and hash browns.
This choice has been borne of my desire to try food blogger Hollowlegs' recipe for creamed corn. (See recipe here). Everything else was dreamed up as being suitable accompaniments. For hubby, the highlight will be the chicken, for son it'll be the hash browns and for me, the creamed corn. :)
Wed : Chilli prawn noodles.
Hubby is in the driving seat on Wednesdays and Thursdays and this is one of his bestest evar dishes. It also has the benefit of being low fat, especially desirable after yesterday's high fat debacle.
Thurs : Tuna pasta bake with crusty bread.
This one was borne of desperation, as we had thought of dishes for every other day but needed to think of a dish that hubby would cook. However, it's one of son's favourites, so it'll do nicely.
Fri : North Indian Chicken Curry with Cauliflower, naan bread and rice.
I'm back in the kitchen on a Friday and have been longing for a "proper" curry, made from scratch with individual ingredients. Along came Anjun Anand's recipe which definitely fitted the bill. Cross your fingers that it tastes of curry - as this has been hubby's complaint as regards my curries previously. Cross your fingers that I can get some decent chicken, too!
Friday is also our top-up shopping day, when we buy all the fresh fruit and vegetables for the weekend plus any bits we might have run out of in the meantime.
Sat : Lancashire Hotpot with broccoli and peas.
Cuts of lamb are just too expensive for us, so I'm exploring using lamb mince. I used it for the Scotch Broth with singular success, so I am hopeful it will do as well for the Hotpot. Having Hotpot on Saturday means that I can do the pastry, ready for the pie the following day.
Sun : Chicken pie, roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli.
This will be my first go at a chicken pie since getting my pastry mojo back. Cooking it on a Sunday means that I can have lots of time to get it right. :)
Mon : Sausages, waffles and baked beans.
A perfect dish for a Monday. Doesn't require any fresh vegetables (as we're shopping the day after and it's been four days since we shopped last) and it's a quick and easy one to do.
So there you have it - our way of menu planning. Quite apart from the savings in cost, because we use everything - and I mean everything - we're being both economical and green. Can't say fairer than that!