We all know the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Sometimes I read things online or hear conversations that really leave me wondering if it is time to remind ourselves of this and, dare I say it, get back to basics.
Today I read a comment on social media from someone who wanted to know if there were any good Apps for menu planning. I do have an iPhone and have several Apps on it but certainly do not need one to plan a menu for the week.
If you can make a decision on what to eat for dinner, make sure you have the ingredients, prepare the meal and serve it to your family then you are capable of menu planning – and it does not require an App or any other gadgetry. A pen and back of a used envelope work quite well.
Some people plan for a month, others have a 4 week rotating menu or a set dish each week such as Monday night is pasta and so on. Some make a fixed decision about what meal on what day or the opposite view is a list of potential meals and choose what suits each day.
There seem to be as many ways to plan a menu as there are people but here is my take on it.
I plan meals for the coming week – 6 or 7 nights – and do it each weekend before I go shopping. I know what staple pantry items I keep and the first step is to check for anything in the refrigerator which needs to be used up. I also make a note of the types of meat I have in the freezer and take into account what is growing in the garden. Basing our meals on what is seasonally available is important to me and nowhere is this more evident than what is in your own garden. Take into account any family commitments eg: sports training, late meetings, social events. I then make a list of meals using the ‘rules’ I have set up. These are unique to me but I am sure you will have some of your own. They may relate to pricing, type of food, preparation time and so on.
My ‘rules’ are that in a 7 day period there will generally be one fish, one chicken and two red meat dishes with the remainder vegetarian which will include at least 1 egg-based meal. Also, I try to make sure I rotate the carbs in a meal and do not have rice on consecutive nights. Our meals are gluten-free but that is really no problem for me – it is simply how we eat. The weekday meals must be able to be made ahead and reheated or prepared quickly due to long days at work and commuting. I generally prepare enough of at least some meals to freeze for another week.
Then it is simply a matter of roughing out a plan on a piece of paper. From this you can then make a shopping list and buy only what you need for the week. This will assist in eliminating wasted food and save you money.
I think the aspect of menu planning that people find the most daunting is actually thinking of meals to add to the list. If you are struggling with this just start by keeping a notebook and writing down meals as you think of them and the meals you eat each night until you have at least 12 meals and use that as the basis of your plan.
There is nothing particularly clever or high tech about menu planning. It is simply a method of taking the angst out of deciding what to eat for dinner each night. It removes the fallback position of “let’s grab a pizza/fish and chips/hamburger” and puts you in control.