Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu planning - part one

I know plenty of people who never menu plan or have never even thought to. Some people think it inhibits creativity and boxes you in.  It’s a bit like people who write books, lots of them think plotting/planning is creative death.
When I write a book I like a rough outline. I know sometimes I will deviate from it and plans will change and I’m prepared to be led wherever my characters want to take me.
I’m the same with menu planning. I like looking at the list on my fridge and knowing that we have the food and the ingredients  to keep us nourished for the week but if my husband’s shift changes or friends invite us over for dinner I am happy to change my plans.
I happen to have a husband with a rather unpredictable job which means some days he starts work at 5am, sometimes he starts at noon and some days he doesn’t start at all, so flexibility is key.
I find menu planning saves me stress and money. We have been on a no-takeout policy around here since January 2010. I think we have had take-out for dinner maybe twice in all that time.  At $20 a week that’s quite a saving.
I’m also a very lucky gal because my lovely husband is a great cook. If I have a menu plan on the fridge and I am held up I can say “pick something off the list” and he can make dinner. 
I menu plan in two ways. Sometimes  when life is extra crazy I just plan for the week ahead and other times I plan for the month.

The weekly plan
If I’m doing a weekly plan and I have a vague idea of my husband’s schedule I like to plan around that and my daughter’s schedule and mine.
For example she has activities that keep her out until 7.30pm Monday’s and Wednesday’s but she is ravenous when she walks in the door. On Thursdays I take her to clarinet from 5.30-6.30pm so there isn’t anyone here to cook then.
I also try and incorporate the following into the menu
-          Chicken
-          Red meat
-          Meat free or not so meaty meal (eg quiche, risotto, vegetarian pasta, spanokopita)
-          Fun (pizza, tacos, burgers, myo crepes)
-          Restaurant style ( a fancier more labour intensive meal)
-          Something DH cooks (So I get a night off)
-          Roast (this might be the beef or chicken or pork…it gives us meat for sandwiches and usually for another meal eg a pie, a stir fry)
-          Leftovers or a makeover meal

So our menu might look like this:
Monday – slow-cooker pot roast
Tuesday  – oven fried chicken, cornbread and coleslaw
Wednesday  – quiche
Thursday – spaghetti and meatballs
Friday – homemade pizza
Saturday – bbq
Sunday – paella
How will I have reached that menu?
Well I buy meat that looks good at a good price wherever I see it so firstly I look in my freezer. What have I got? A piece of beef? A whole chicken? Prawns and chorizo? Lots of eggs? And what haven’t we had lately…we really don’t want to eat roast chicken three weeks running or too much pasta or rice either.
You can search all over the internet for lots of information about menu planning.

Come back later for planning the monthly plan