Dinner for one: My menu plan for week starting 5 March

Once again I'm going with the Option-based approach to menu planning.

The great news is that I have a relatively clean slate to work with this week, so can start including some new and interesting meals.  Despite some dreadful lapses, such as crumpets for dinner last Monday, I was pretty good about using up what was in the fridge.

I'm still constrained by budget as I still need to be frugal, but nonetheless I'm going to indulge in a few things such as pine nuts as I really do want to recreate the middle eastern lamb dish from last year.

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

Proteins:  1 cooked chicken breast which this week I'm counting as one serve, large piece of salmon that could be 2 serves, eggs, lamb mince which is 4 - 5 serves 

  • 8 serves of protein

Fruit and vegetables: single portion of red cabbage, 1 carrot, rocket, spinach, french beans, pumpkin, sweet potato, watercress, cauliflower, broccoli, onions

  • minimum 25 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: One!! An portion of the Lentil & Vegetable soup I made to use up the wilting vegetables last week!

Herbs, aromatics, sauces and flavourings:  Lemon, limes, garlic, mint, ginger. 

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

'Other': Most of the 'other' consists of glasses with leftover icing and cream from cooking Coffee Cake on Sunday - things that definitely need to be thrown out!

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


  • economical, easy, quick, healthy, minimise sugar and carbs
  • try something new, e.g the Cauliflower & Turmeric soup from Local Milk that I've wanted to try for ages, but cauliflowers have been out of season and ridiculously expensived
  • different textures and flavours than I've been eating of late, as it's all been a bit the same, hence buying lamb mince so I can try the Middle Eastern Lamb again
  • items I can batch cook so I don't have to create something from scratch 14 times this week!

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




Brainstorm meal ideas

  • Salmon with mint gremolata,  roast sweet potato and steamed greens
  • Salmon with red cabbage salad
  • Middle eastern lamb with mint leaves, roast pumpkin, pine nuts & spices
  • Poached chicken with steamed greens cooked with lemon, ginger, garlic, turmeric  and coconut milk
  • Lentil soup
  • Some sort of warm salad using roast pumpkin & the cooked barley that is in the freezer, possibly with the poached chicken or lamb mince
  • Cauliflower soup with turmeric - batch cook so makes several meals
  • Broccoli soup with watercress, rocket & butter beans - batch cook so makes several meal

STEP FIVE:                 

This step is fairly simple. Because I'm using the Options-based method of menu planning I don't need to plot out what I'll eat when. I just need to decide which of the meals I've brainstormed to include in my list of options for the week.

But I'll also note that I need to keep in mind to:

  • use the red cabbage early in the week so it doesn't spoil. Same goes for the mint
  • use the poached chicken on Monday or Tuesday, or freeze it
  • put time aside to batch cook the soups I want to make

Make your Menu Plan

This weeks shopping list   

Extra ingredients are:

Lemon, ginger, garlic, brown onions, broccoli, beans, lamb mince, pumpkin, cauliflower, butter beans, coconut milk, lemons, carrots, walnut kernels, rocket, ginger, pine nuts, kipfler potatoes, round beans, watercress

STEP SIX:                     

Make your Shopping List

Unlike last week, I want to spend a couple of hours this weekend doing some prep and batch cooking some meals so I don't need to start from scratch each night.

Pre-prep I'll do:

  • Make batch of Roast cauliflower & turmeric soup
  • Make batch of broccoli soup
  • Roast pumpkin - I'll have the oven on to roast the cauliflower, so it would be economical to do this now. I'll use the roast pumpkin to add the middle eastern lamb dish and make it into a soup if I don't eat it all.

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!

Ideas for warm salads for one

All these warm salads are great vehicles for using the roast pumpkin and the perfect Autumn meal.

Although I don't have all the ingredients to replicate any of these exactly, I have most of the basic ingredients, so they are good inspiration.

What is especially useful is that I have a lot of 'fillers' in the fridge that are a great base for any warm salad. e.g. I have pre-cooked barley, cauliflower rice, pasta and lentils that I can quickly defrost.

Ideas for using the poached chicken to make the perfect weeknight dinner for one 

Having pre-poached chicken on hand makes it possible to whip up a healthy meal in under 10 minutes, using just one pan. BLISS!

Ideas to use the salmon - both steamed and poached

You can see why steamed salmon is one of my favourite meals - 2 pans on the stove top and just 15 minutes from prep to plate!

More ways to use the salmon, sweet potato and broccoli

As much as I love steaming, my favourite meal right now, and so good for Autumn is cutting the sweet potato into cubes and roasting it with the carrots. It's also possible to roast the broccoli so this really is a one pan meal, though I tend to prefer to steam it.

The sweetness and 'mushiness' that comes from the sweet potato and carrots when they are roasted means there is no real need for any type of sauce.

Examples for dishes using the lamb mince


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
  • instructions, list of ingredients or extra pictures showing how to cook any of the above dishes

And much, much more - ask away!

Related links and extra resources