Menu planning is such a funny topic - some people love it, others hate knowing what they will be eating for the week, or just don't like the process of sitting down and planning.
However, I think if you are regularly cooking for one person, in order to eat a well balanced diet and not spend a fortune throwing out a lot of wasted ingredients, or alternatively eating a lot of the same thing each night, then menu planning is really important.
Aside from motivation there are many challenges cooking for one person, it can be expensive, hard to make the most of specials because they are often 2 for one, or it costs just a few cents more to buy e.g. a whole cauliflower vs half a cauliflower - but how on earth does one person eat a whole cauliflower, before it goes off, without putting one's self off cauliflower for life.
I actually think it is much harder to eat nutritious, economical and most of all appetising and easy to cook meals for one than it is for any number. My kitchen is littered with half used tins of tomatoes, or tins of chickpeas, or mouldy broccoli to know this. That, and I've wasted hours of my life in the supermarket staring at e.g a bunch of spring onions which cost $1.90 and the half a bunch of spring onions that cost $1.50 - so frustrated at the seeming unfairness of it - the cost of the whole bunch is so much more economical, but will I really eat the whole bunch, therefore, is ending up wasting and throwing out half that 'whole bunch' cheaper or more expensive than buying the more expensive, half bunch in the first place!
My answer is menu plans! And sharing those, so that everyone can get out of the supermarket quicker, and on with the 1 million other activities that are way more enjoyable than being in the supermarket!
Most weeks I share 2 menu plans. The first plan is based on providing a menu of 7 different meals for the week with 7 recipes for one person and aims to use the same ingredients in different ways, so that there is variety in the week, but also little waste. The other is my personal plan, that may or may not be the same as the 7 day plan, depending on how many nights I will be home, and whether I am in the midst of some food fad, busy at work etc.
A quick note about Kale, Quinoa, Rice & Pasta
Kale and quinoa - two words that can severely divide the world. People seem to fall into two camps - 'must eat them' to 'how pretentious and another superfood gimmick'. I'm probably in the former group ..... BUT please don't judge me for it! And where I put quinoa in a recipe - know that in most cases it can be substituted with rice or pasta. Often quinoa is used to bulk up or add substance to a meal, or be a 'vehicle' for e.g. pasta sauce, so it's really up to you what 'vehicle' you choose. Where this is the case I note it in the 'swaps' section of each menu plan.
Seven day meal plans
The 7 day meal plan comes with a shopping list and recipes. It is intended to overcome some of the problems of cooking for one person, e.g. how to use up ingredients, so that you are not eating the same thing each day, but at the same time are not wasting ingredients.
Each menu plan lists the number of serves of vegetables for the week and the variety of vegetables, since one thing I am obsessed about in eating for one is trying to stay healthy and as much as possible meet the recommended quota of serves of vegetables it is recommended we should eat each week.
My actual menu plan for the week
In line with the 'real life' / warts and all approach of this blog and I also share what I actually intend to cook and eat for the week.
For a long time I tried to make the 7 day meal plan and my actual menu plan the same thing. But I realised that my personal plan often includes eating the same thing a couple of times a week, or skipping meals because I'm catching up with friends etc, or I'm home late from work and want to re-heat something I have in the freezer. I realised this doesn't suit a lot of people as there are many people who don't like eating the same thing in a week, don't like freezing meals etc. I like to have plan and shopping list for the week in one place so my personal plan usually includes lunch and breakfast. The interestng part is always looking at what I planned to eat for the week, and what I actually did in the 'Last Week's Dinner's section.
Why share two plans and how to use them
The purpose of sharing my actual plan (sometimes the same as the 7 meal plan) is to show how to be inventive with what you have in the fridge and cupboard at the time, e.g. that even if you have not thought ahead, or made a meal plan, it is usually possible to come up with a decent meal for the evening.
The purpose of the 7 meal plan is for those who want 7 different meals each week and easy access to recipes, and shopping lists and tips on what to make ahead to make the week easy.
Ingredient swaps, tips and time saving hacks
I'm a big believer in spending a bit more time in kitchen one evening in order to do some preparation that will save time and make all cooking quicker and simpler on other nights. For example if you are peeling and chopping vegetables for one meal, it doesn't take a lot more effort, to peel and chop vegetables that you know you will need in a day or twos times. This way you've added little to your time in the kitchen, but saved a lot of time for the future. So in the tips and hacks section, I suggest what makes sense to do ahead of time, and what can be prepared in advance.
A lot of recipes can be adapted to meet what you have available, or what you do and don't like eating, so where this is the case I note it, e.g. dill could be swapped for coriander, salmon swapped for chicken etc. Also some recipes call for chilli - if you don't like spicy food (and that's me) I'll note where this can be left out, or substituted with another spice.
You don't need to read too far in this blog to realise I am pretty obsesses with trying to meet my 'vegetable quota' for the week and having a varied number of vegetables in my diet each week. I am an avid reader of all those '5 & 2' studies, about how it is recommended that for optimal health we need to be eating at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. In fact studies I have recently read about suggest that it should be SEVEN servers of vegetables and 2 of fruit each day! So each week I try and count up the number of 'serves' of vegetables in each menu plan - as well as suggest ways of adding in extra vegetables.
In fact a lot of the reason I cook a lot for myself vs use a meal delivery service is that having tried a couple, other than being very expensive for one person, they are pretty light on the number of serves of vegetables they include.