Monday, 14 May 2012

Meal Planning and food ideas

I've been reading a lot recently and watching a lot of vlogs on meal planning and grocery shopping. It's all very interesting to me, I think because it is something that comes quite naturally to me, as I am quite the list-maker and organising freak. I see a lot of women planning their meals out of cookbooks and shopping weekly for everything all at once. But for me, being the planner that I am, I often have a good stock of things in my pantry and freezer that can create a meal easily. I keep a good stock of tinned tomatoes on hand, carrots in the fridge, potatoes in the cupboard and frozen peas that can accompany a meat meal at a moment's notice. When I plan the meals for the week, as I have been doing it without really realising until I saw that there was almost a cult following of such procedures online, I do it in my head by quickly assessing my stores and then the freezer.

I also like to plan meals that I know will be good for a day or so in the fridge, as I am fond of appreciating my culinary efforts for longer than just one meal. I rarely, if ever, make a meal that lasts for only one meal. I think it comes from being the leftovers person in our little family of four when I was growing up. My mum told me recently that she hates leftovers, and now I see that they were given always to me, not to anyone else in the house. It explains why I treasure the ability to eat a roasted meal for breakfast now when it would make others gag to smell cooked meat at 8am.

I also see the merit in cooking meals that can stretch the contents of my freezer or pantry. For example -I might have a lot of chicken in the freezer and use it for two meals that call for chicken cooked the same way, so I save time on the method and end up with a little variety. It may look as though I've worked twice as hard but the first step of the two meals was to cook chicken in a pan. I do that for a half kilo of chicken and then separate the meat to continue two separate processes. I might do this to make both a buffalo chicken dip and a chicken and tomato pasta recipe in the same space of time, then have one in the oven while the other is on the stove top.

Right now I know I have a lot of chicken in the freezer and a lot of minced beef. I have a chicken curry on the stove as I write this and am planning to eat that for tonight's meal and tomorrow's (I made double this time because Shan's 'chicken curry' spice mix is a favourite of ours and we often wish it lasted longer than it does when I make the regular quantity). I have a good stock of lasagne sheets in my pantry and a few bottles of pasta sauce, so I will make my husband's favourite lasagne when the chicken curry is finished, and I will make the lebanese kibbe (ground beef baked with bourgel and pine nuts and cinnamon) that he likes after that. Each meal that I plan is large, as my husband is terrible with time and seems to come home anywhere from 6pm to 9pm some days so gone are the days I would think dinner time was at a set time and make him steaks or chops to see them dry out waiting for him to get home. I make him curries and casserole-type meals so he can just put things into the microwave when he gets home or is hungry late at night, and as I am almost always tired after 4pm these days with a baby and small child I find that cooking at lunchtime is easiest. Then I have the rest of the day to tidy (or try to tidy, in our tiny and toy-filled space).

So while writing this I have planned my meal for the next 6 days. 3 main meals, to be eaten over 2 days each.
If you make sure that each time you go shopping you stick to a list and buy a good stock of ingredients that your family will use up regularly, you will never run out of things or need to keep running to the shops at the last minute. We only run out of fresh bread and sometimes snacks the kids go through too quickly. We never ever run out of the essentials like toilet paper or pasta or shampoo or tinned tomatoes or potatoes. List making is key. If you keep a magnetic notepad on your fridge and simply add too it as you use things up, you will never run out of anything.

This week's list of meals with ingredients is as follows:

Chicken curry - chicken breast, onion, garlic, shan curry mix, dried ginger, natural yoghurt, rice.

Lasagne - ground beef, onion, tomato pasta sauce, oregano, lasagne sheets, butter, flour, milk, cheese.

Kibbe - ground beef, bourgel, cinnamon, onion, pine nuts, bay leaf, butter, salad greens, natural yoghurt.

Of course we have extra salad greens and fresh tomatoes with our meals, and we may have leftovers for lunches or eggs with toast or quick sandwiches, but those ingredients are part of our regular food stores too. My husband has favourites he likes to eat regularly so I stick to those, as well as adding invented meals every now and then if the mood strikes me.

I hope this has been useful xx

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