Dinner for one: My menu plan for week starting 26 February

This is good menu plan to look at if you want ideas on how to be inventive about using up ingredients you have on hand. It's also an example of menu planning in it's most basic form.  A great method to try if you are short on time or to try the Mt Kosicoko vs Everest approach to menu planning.

So dig in and follow along as I go through the 7 steps of menu planning to come up with a list of meals for this week.

And don't forget, if you have any questions at all about menu planning - it is a topic near and dear to my heart - use the comments section for any questions and I will be sure to answer asap.  I'm still on my (seemingly) never ending quest to find the best format for showing the steps I go through. I am looking for something that helps de-mystify menu planning, sparks ideas and hopefully keeps you inspired to keep up the menu planning routine so I would love to know what you think about this week's effort. If you want to learn more about my menu planning series read here

Fridge and pantry audit 180226 2.png

Results of the 'Audit' - What I have to work with

Proteins:  2 chicken breasts, which amount to 3 serves, 1 piece of salmon, 1 small can of tuna, 1 piece of steak & one frozen chicken breast

  • 7 serves of protein + half a carton of eggs available
    • However, the steak is suffering severe freezer burn and should probably be thrown out. I just can't bear throwing out food. So I keep counting it each week, but not using it! Does anyone else do this?

Fruit and vegetables: 1/4 of red cabbage, 2 carrots, 1 parsnip and 1 corn on the cob - all of which are looking a bit limp and nearly past their use-by date, sweet potato (about 4 serves)

  • 11 serves of vegetables available

Fillers and carbs: There is still a pretty good supply of fillers

  • 6 serves of pre-cooked and frozen  'fillers' - combination cauliflower rice, lentils, barley & pasta & lots of quinoa, rice & barley in the pantry

Pre-made meals: None! Unfortunately I exhausted my supply of soup etc. last week

Herbs, aromatics, sauces and flavourings:  Lemon, limes, garlic, mint and coriander

Nuts, seeds etc. Lots of good things on hand!

'Other': I had friends over for afternoon tea on the weekend, so I have odd bits and pieces left over, e.g. half a can of canned corn, small amount of cooked, diced bacon, home made shortcrust pastry & egg mix left over from mini quiches

STEP ONE:                 

Fridge & Pantry Audit

This is the first stage of menu planning as it shows:

  • what you have on hand to work with
  • what foods need to be used up
  • which foods are most perishable and need to be used first

STEP TWO:             

Review your calendar to identify the number of meals you need & how much time you have to cook.



Number of Meals Needed

This week I'm going to be home every night of the week, and don't have many appointments so I will have time to cook each night.

Calendar: 7 meals at home. I will also be home for lunch, so I really need 14 main meals.

What's motivating my meal choices this week

The drivers behind my menu planning this week are all a bit boring!  I'm still trying to shed those New Year kilos and I really need to reign in my spending as it is month four of looking for a new job! So looking at lush recipes with lots of fancy ingredients. It's all about the basics.  (Which if you know me isn't really how I like to roll!)

Drivers: economical, easy, quick, healthy, minimise sugar and carb

STEP THREE:           

Identify your 'Drivers'



STEP FOUR:               

Work out what meals to include in the menu plan based on review of steps 1, 2 & 3


























Results of brainstorming meal ideas

This step is based on brainstorming ideas for dinner based on:

  • what you have on hand
  • what you feel like eating
  • what needs to be used up quickly to avoid waste
  • drivers for the week
  • new recipe or food combinations that are tempting you

Since I'm trying to use up what I have on hand and can't be bothered looking through recipes, or trying new things (I am sure this phase will pass!) this week I am trying to see what I can use up, based on recipes I know off by heart, or simply 'mixing and matching' proteins and vegetables to make up a meal.

 This can be tricky for people who always use recipes or are new to cooking.

However it's a useful skill for minimising food waste and containing costs. One of the goals of this blog and my Cooking for One Community page is that I hope, that over time you will learn some ideas for creating meals out of what you have in front of you. It's one of the reasons I show photos of what is in my fridge and in my recipes show what the raw ingredients look like.

Tip for beginner menu planners

If you do not feel confident staring in the fridge or looking at your list of ingredients on hand and 'conjuring up' meal ideas another approach is to use Google and type in the main ingredients you want to use up and find recipes that suit.

Back to this week's menu plan for one person!

Based on using up what I have available, the list of ideas I came up with were:

Meals for one using up ingredients on hand

  • Simple Lentil soup: 
    • Use up the carrot, parsnip and corn that are close to perishing. Add the coriander for freshness (3 meals)
    • Buy frozen peas and spinach to include extra serves of vegetables
  • Quiche for one: 
    • Poach one chicken breast and use leftover pastry & egg mix, canned corn, cooked bacon and small bit of broccoli to make a quiche (2 meals) Example recipe here
  • Rice Paper Rolls:
    • Poach the other chicken breast for rice paper rolls with chicken, red cabbage, mint & dipping sauce  (2 meals)
    • Buy extra lettuce and red capsicum to include in the rolls
  • Roast Salmon
    • With red cabbage salad with mint, dressing, cranberries & walnuts & steamed sweet potato 
  • Sweet potato, red lentil & cumin soup (3 meals) Example recipe here and here

Other meal ideas

Although the above provides enough meals for 10 meals, it is pretty low on vegetables and I need to provide for another 4 meals. Ideas for these include:

Chicken, vegetable & butter bean soup: For this I am going to make my go-to Chicken & Vegetable with Butter Bean soup which I will use for lunch and also to freeze a couple of portions to re-build my stock of frozen meals.

Lamb surprise: The only thing I don't get to use up is the mint. I have an absolute craving for middle eastern type flavours with mint, cumin etc. so I'm going to include lamb mince and make up a 'surprise dish' that will be a way of using up the extra red capsicum, red cabbage and will roast sweet potato and make a dish with cumin & mint.  I might also be a bit extravagant & add pine nuts and some hommous. Normally I would make a fajita or pitta bread dish, but because I'm trying to avoid carbs, I'll simply make this as a bowl dish.

STEP FIVE:                 

Make your Menu Plan

Since I'm using the Options Based meal plan this means that unlike other menu planning methods I use not going to lock in what I'm eating on specific days or do a lot of up-front prep. 

However, knowing that some items I have on hand are close to perishing, what I will keep in mind is:

  • make the lentil soup first as those vegetables are so close to perishing.
  • make the salmon as my next meal, so that I can use it while it is fresh and don't have to freeze it, and also because the red cabbage is getting close to its use-by date.

This step means reviewing the meals on my menu plan and noting down any extra ingredients I need to buy.  

STEP SIX:                     

Make your Shopping List

Since I am going to be home most days and will have time to cook I am not going to much prep this weekend. Often I will pre-prepare all the vegetables and possibly batch cook a couple of casserole type dishes. However as I will be home and have fairly simple meals planned - all I have to do now is un pack the shopping!

STEP SEVEN:                 

Do any pre-prep

Recipes & Inspiration

Dinner for one

Below are some of the recipes I will use as a guide for what I want to cook this week.  Some, such as the quiche recipe I will follow almost exactly so I get the proportions right. Others, such as the Middle Eastern Lamb recipe I will just use as a guide, because I'm swapping mint for coriander, not using a wrap and don't have any hummus to use up!

Questions and Comments

Please comment and question away!

Things I can help with include:

  • brainstorming ideas for your own menu plan based on what ingredients you have to hand
  • finding recipes to match the ingredients you have
  • working through any troublesome parts of the menu planning process
  • adapting 4 / 6 serve recipes to single serve recipes

And much, much more - ask away!