20 September 2010

Menu Planning

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!


  1. Tesco's opened up here in Blandford some 20yrs ago....After a visit with a friend, l wrote this letter, which was printed, in the Blackmore Vale.
    At this point, l have to say...."I Hate Tescos"
    I have edited a lot out, as it was quite lengthy.
    "I have over the last few months been reading about Tescos, and other supermarkets in B'ford.
    I went along with a young Mum, a friend of mine.
    I had only seen the "abattior" looking building from the bypass.
    I have been a single parent Dad, for 14yrs. I like to think l can compete with most housewifes on most things, and l know my prices.
    I have shopped at Kwiksave since it opened.
    I only looked round Tescos, prices were far to high. Not talking pence, but 20p, 30p, 40p difference. I worked it out, if l shopped at Tescos, I'd be spending an extra £10 a week more.
    So, l suggest to all you housewifes out their,take a good look at your weekly bill, work it out for yourselves, and if you can save at least £10, just think, you could take the old man out for a pint........
    Left a lot out, but that was about the jist of it. Prices!
    And....As a result of that letter....I was barred
    from Tescos in B'ford. Probably still am...Laugh.
    I have NO intention of letting these Supermarkets/Traders get away with screwing us, the shoppers, no way Manuel (or is it Jose').
    The point is, once again, food is NOT dear to buy.
    And, yes Jenny, you are right, re the chicken breasts, you'd have done better buying a whole chicken, at least you'd get 2-3 meals from it.
    But then, l'd got 4, even down to the beak....! lol. :-)
    Right....l'm off my soap box now....Going to continue the rest of my birthday.....! :)
    Now! How many cases of Chanti did l get!

  2. Meal planning is the bane of my life. As soon as I think about it my brain shuts off (hopefully it's stay awake long enough to write this!) But is has to be done! Without a plan we just stare blankly at each other until one of us asks whether there are any emergency ready meals at the back of the cupboard.

    If we get lazyitis and just plan a day or so ahead, that pretty much means going shopping every day for random things, which is stupidly expensive. There's no greater feeling than a good meal plan for the week that uses up lots of bits and pieces, leaving a clean sweep for the next week!

    Your small batch jam and chutneying has re-invigorated me no end, and lots of oddments have recently gone the way of the pickling saucepan.

    Looking forward to hearing how the Friday curry goes (I did 2 years of Indian cookery classes,so I'm very into hearing recipe reviews!)

    Everything else aside.. you call your rhubarb plant Ruby?

  3. That's exactly it, Jane! I can well remember the days of working out what we had in the freezer and not feeling like cooking any of it. Consequently a whole lot of it got thrown away. These days, virtually nothing gets thrown away. I've just been watching "Food" on t.v. and am astounded that 67% of Mrs Average's dairy shopping gets thrown away. What? I can't remember the last time our milk went off - we're constantly buying more. Our cheese hardly has time to get comfortable in the fridge before it's gone - and that goes for Parmesan, too. Eggs don't last either, as between breakfast, lunch or baking, they're gone in a trice. Yoghurt is the same together with smudge (or buttery spread, as it's called). Butter I have to hide at the back of the fridge and make very hard to get to, to prevent it from being used up on toast! I reckon Mrs Average is earning too much, if she can afford to throw away dairy like that!

    Isn't the jam and chutney making fun? I love it. :) I'm really looking forward to making the curry, too. I've got high hopes for this recipe!

    Er, yup, we call our Rhubarb Ruby. What else would you call her, except maybe dessert? LOL


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