There are weeks when I feel totally inspired to try something new every day, and there are weeks, when life feels a little too busy, and I default to firm favourites. In that same breath, I also have weeks where in my best efforts, I’ll plan a healthy menu… And then those where I eat two puddings in one sitting – it’s about balance. What does make me happy, is that we very rarely eat take out (referring to fast-food restaurants) – because we’ve become confident in making speedy dinners that comfort. Many of these, i’ll be sharing over posts to come, but for now – I thought I’d share my process for creating a weekly menu.
Something you should know – we do not diet. We do not bant. We do not count calories. I love food and try not to set myself limitations. We do however watch our portion sizes (and wait a mandatory ten minutes before seconds) and are mindful about what and how much we are eating. I also drink a lot of water, I’ve just always preferred it. Everybody’s menu planning is different, based on diets and exercise routines.This is what works for us.
We choose to shop weekly for groceries, simply because we can adapt our food and cooking to our lifestyle and schedules. My husband and I also alternate weeks: so we both have full freedom in the kitchen to get creative and eat our favourite foods.
With that said, let’s get on with it!
Step 1: Check what is in the freezer and fridge. Before starting with the dinner menu and shopping list, this step is crucial. Waste not, want not (and more wallet-friendly). We will usually base at least one menu item from what we have available.
Step 2: Meat-free Mondays. This is a great initiative that I always try to accommodate. With so much inspiration these days, it’s so easy to do. I seem to repeatedly reach for Anna Jones and Ottolenghi for amazing dishes with ordinary ingredients. In Summer, highlight your favourite vegetable in a salad, or in winter, an earthy wholesome soup.
Step 3: The Time-saver. During a week, there will usually be one dinner that will span over two nights. This gives us the night off and less dishes. Typically this will be anything from a lasagna, to my favourite schnitzel-stack to re-using food in a different way, for example: Shred leftover roast chicken, whip up some avocado mayonnaise and serve on ciabatta. Simple, not repetitive and super tasty! Making risotto for meat-free Monday? Tuesday – use the leftovers by rolling into balls, dipping in egg and rolling in breadcrumbs – then shallow fry until golden brown, and you have arancini.
Step 4: The way to his heart, is through his stomach. Or so they say! I do try to keep one night aside to cook something new or adventurous. This might not be something new – this may just be that we make some fresh pasta together, or spend a little extra time in the kitchen. I like to keep it creative!
Step 5: Baking Time. Of course, there has to be pudding. My chocolate addiction runs deep… so deep, that my maid of honour made reference to it in her speech at our wedding! I do tend to bake at least once a week, and usually do so when we have company… And if there’s no time for baking, there is always tea and biscuits.
- Its also good to be aware of what is in season. In the past, I’d just cook what I felt like or what I’d seen in a cookbook, even if it wasn’t in season. However this isn’t always practical – I found myself going from store to store looking for something, and when I found it, it would be very expensive. Using in-season veggies and herbs gives you a chance to get creative with flavours easily available.
- When choosing a dish, I also try to keep in mind the ingredients I’m purchasing. If I purchase, for example, a bag of tomatoes for a salad and know there will be leftover, ideally the remaining tomatoes should be used the same week to avoid expiring, perhaps in a tomato sauce for pasta or soup or, well, however you like tomatoes!
- An area where we have drastically improved on, is herbs. We were throwing away so many little tubs of bought herbs as we never used the entire amount, and those tubs can add up so quickly. So, we started a mini herb garden. It’s still early stages, we only have five herbs at this stage, and we have bigger plans – but the benefits we’ve seen so far have been amazing, and it feels great to be eating homegrown produce.
When in need of inspiration…
I never need to look far with my favourite chefs nearby. I must admit to have a bit of an obsession with cookbooks. For me they are so much more. I appreciate every element: paper type, fonts, layout, photography. I love curling up in bed and going through a cook book from start to finish. A great tool which I stumbled upon and simply must share: Eat your books. You can subscribe and list all cookbooks and magazines (international titles), and then use the site like a search engine. So, for example, you can search by ingredient, author or recipe and it will return all references and advise in which book and page number. Pretty nifty!
I hope this post has been helpful. I’d love to hear your tips and how you put your menus together in the comments below.
Until next time, bon appetit!