My menu plan for week starting 7 May

Didn't get around to menu planning on the weekend? Week slightly out of control? Decided to wait until next week to get back on track?

Read on to learn why it's still worth doing - even if it's already Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

A simple menu plan that allows you to answer the  'what will I make for dinner tonight' for the remainder of the week. Even if it doesn't bring a sense of calm it should alleviate one source of stress.

Wednesday was the day I started menu planning this week. I got back from holiday on Sunday and had friends for dinner Sunday and Wednesday and didn't quite get organised inbetween. (Despite going to the supermarket 3 times! Agghhh!)

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

Step 1 Fridge & Pantry Audit

Ouch! This step was far from pretty!

Diving into the depths of the vegetable crisper wasn't fun. I didn't think I'd be away as long as I was, so many things I thought would last didn't.

Seeing so much food go to waste did however spur me on and reinforce why, even if it's mid-week, it's worth doing some sorting, meal prep and menu planning.

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Results of the fridge and pantry audit - what I have to work with and use up this week

 

Proteins:  a carton of eggs available plus fresh chicken & beef mince and 3 individually frozen portions of beef mince and off cuts of salmon that amount to 1 serve

  •  10 serves

Fruit and vegetables: spinach, rocket, zucchini, watercress, onion, garlic, ginger, green beans, broccoli

  • 20 serves

Fillers and carbs: There is still few bags of pre-cooked pasta and lentils in the freezer, plus a good supply of red lentils, green lentils, rice, barley, millet & quinoa

  • 6 serves

Pre-made meals: The supply is diminishing but I still have one serve of frozen chicken soup and after prep, 2 serves of chicken with turmeric, coconut and cauli rice

  • 3 serves

Herbs, aromatics, sauces and flavourings:  Lemon & coriander

Nuts, seeds etc. Walnuts & leftover toasted pine nuts

'Other': Since I've been away, there isn't much miscellaneous food needing eating in the fridge. Unfortunately no leftover scones or cake like last week!


Step 2 - Review diary to determine number of meals needed & time free to cook

This week I'm uncertain how my week will play out. 

I think I will be eating at home Wednesday through to Sunday, but I'm not 100% sure. So the main goal is to have 5 meals available, but rely on what I have to hand, using up what I have to hand.

e.g. I got carried away at the supermarket on Sunday evening when broccoli was on special (I know I'm more likely to swoon over a broccoli special than a discounted designer handbag!). But reality has set in and I can't see how I am going to eat it all, so I will make it into soup that I can put in the freezer.

Calendar: Most likely 5 meals at home. I will also be home for lunch, so I really need 10 main meals.


Step 3 Understand my 'drivers' 

I'm on a 3 week kick-start weight loss 'thing'. e.g not a diet per se, but just being super conscious about food choices and trying to eat super well. I'm also still very budget conscious. Yep, it's all fun with me at the moment!

But I also need to be conscious the weather forecast is littered with words like 'coldsnap', 'arctic conditions', 'polar winds' etc. So I need to be realistic and realise I am likely to want warming comfort food and account for that in my menu plan.

Drivers: economical, easy, quick, healthy, minimise sugar and carbs, have some warm, comfort style foods available that are also healthy


Step 4: Brainstorm what meals to include based on review of steps 1, 2 & 3 

This week, I've got a lot of things to get done so I don't want to send a lot of time cooking. This means making things I already know how to cook and concentrating on healthy, quick and economical.

Saying that I did discover a new food blog and just loved the picture  for Moroccan Beef so took that as inspiration for the dinner I cooked for friends on Wednesday night.

Meals I'm planning

Broccoli soup (4 meals)

I'm going to make a big batch as it's one of my go-to 'health kick' meals and I can freeze what I don't use.

 

  • Use up the zucchini, broccoli, watercress, rocket and spinach.
  • I decided to add the small portions of ginger and garlic I had left. I don't normally put ginger or indeed watercress into broccoli soup, but I think it will 'match'. It means these small amounts of produce won't get wasted and also enhance the nutritional value . Recipe here

Moroccan inspired beef mince with greens (1 meal)

  • This is the picture below. It was delicious!  I saw the picture on xx xx blog and was inspired to make it but amped up the nutritional value by piling in the greens, spinach, rocket, watercress, broccoli and green beans. If you count the onion that's six serves of vegetables. Unfortunately I didn't have as much leftover as I thought, so it only gives me one meal to add to my menu plan.

Chicken with turmeric, cumin, greens, cauliflower rice and coconut milk (2 meals)

  • This meal was leftover from Sunday's night's dinner with my friend. So I will freeze it into 2 portions in case I don't get around to eating it. 

Other meal ideas

Salmon patties with sweet potato (2 meals)

I've got small offcuts of salmon fillets in the freezer that need using up, but are suffering freezer burn. I should really do something with them otherwise I will end up throwing them out.

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Step 5: Make a Menu Plan

This week I'm using  hybrid version of my Options Based approach to menu planning and my Classic Approach to Menu Planning - hence you will see below that I've got a plan of what to eat when, but some days I've also listed options! I don't think I can preempt what I will feel like, and as much as I'd like to really push my weight loss goals along and have Broccoli Soup for dinner I think the polar winds and arctic conditions mean it's more realistic to include an option for more hearty meals.

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Step 6: Make a Shopping List

Since my menu plan is based on using up what I'd bought earlier in the week, there is not really anything I need to buy. I'm short on vegetables and if I choose to make the salmon patties I will need to buy a sweet potato, but for now I'm going to leave those things to buy if I need them.


Step 7: Do any Meal Prep

I decided I wanted to make this week as easy as possible cooking-wise so whilst I was making the Moroccan dish for dinner with my friend on Wednesday I pretty much prepped everything else the fridge so I could 'grab and go' or 'go and cook'!!!

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I've written about the advantages of pre-prep before so won't rave again, but it is so useful. Today I:

  • chopped the chicken and froze it, flatpacked in a sandwich bag. I hate dealing with chopping and cutting chicken, so if I can do it in one go with other things, and it is chopped and ready to make a curry, stirfry or one pan dish out of, it's a massive time saver. It also means it will thaw much quickly, so easy to use for last minute meals.
  • froze remainder of beef mince, as didn't think I would get around to eating it this week
  • washed, chopped and prepped all the ingredients for the Broccoli Soup, so all I have to do is cook it.  This was such as smart move, and makes it sooooo much more likely the soup will actually get made.  As I had the chopping board out and was chopping onions, garlic and ginger for the Moroccan dish I simply chopped extra of each and put them aside for the soup. 
  • similarly I was prepping beans, broccoli, spinach and watercress for the Moroccan dish, so I simply prepped all vegetables I had to hand and either set them aside for the Moroccan dish, added them to the bag of broccoli soup ingredients or put them in the fridge, prepped and ready to 'grab and go' when cooking during the week.

Wrap up

As always the whole purpose of such a detailed way of sharing my own menu planning process is to help spark ideas and possibly 'a-ha' moments that might help unlock the secrets of menu planning, convince you of the benefits, or if you a committed, but lapsed menu planner - help you get back to it!

I know it's hard to always get or get back to the discipline which is why I shared this week's plan, even though it was really only half a week.  

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
  • recipes for any of the meals in my meal plan
  • adapting 4 / 6 serve recipes to single serve recipes

Useful links

Food waste challenge

How to menu plan - the Options - Based Approach

How to menu plan - the Classic Approach

Batch cooking & freezing proteins