Several years ago, after reading this wonderful book, I decided to do up a simple menu plan. This changed my life! Menu and grocery planning for the week as well as food prep ahead of time has become so easy, almost effortless. This saves me lots of time, probably also some money and waste.
I've changed my plan a few times, but I've always come back to this one that works well for our family and that we use every week, all through the year:
Monday - dahl or lentil dish (often some kind of lentil soup or lentil based dish)
Tuesday - beans (can be beans with rice and/or tortillas, bean burgers, bean loaf or some kind of bean stew or oven baked bean dish)
Wednesday - soup or chili
Thursday - tofu (most of the time marinated, baked or sautéed with veggies and rice or quinoa)
Friday - vegetable curry or other vegetable based dish (could be roasted veggies, ratatouille, etc.) with chapati, rice or other grain (quinoa, bulgur, couscous, etc.)
Saturday - homemade pizza
Sunday - pasta
I use this plan year-round because it never gets so hot here in summer that I can't cook or bake (we always have a bit of a breeze from the ocean). Soups can be warming in colder months, but equally nice to make in summer when we have lots of fresh vegetables to pull out of the garden and pop into the soup pot. Soup is also good campfire food, the same goes for beans and dahl or curry. Tofu and vegetables are great grilled on the barbecue and pizza and pasta are easy meals to have after a day spent outside, whether it was snowshoeing in winter or playing at the beach in summer.
My menu plan is SIMPLE. I enjoy cooking and feeding my family healthy and well balanced meals, but I don't like, nor have the time, to spend hours in the kitchen working on one meal. Therefore, I cook simple meals. I think the best food is homemade with love, it doesn't need to be complicated or fancy. I do try to be mindful about the food I prepare and I make the effort to make almost everything from scratch. I also cook every day, all of our meals (here in the Islands, we don't have many restaurants open outside of summer or the convenience of being able to pick up prepared foods that suit our vegetarian diet and with four kiddos it's expensive to eat out or take-out).
We don't tire of following our simple meal plan, because I often try new recipes. I have many cookbooks that help me to plan and vary what we eat (more on that in another post). There are many ways to serve legumes, grains, tofu and vegetables. I believe it's comforting to the children to know what to expect, what they will be eating on what day (or when very little, to know what day it is based what we are eating!).
My menu plan is mostly a supper menu plan. I cook one main meal per day. For lunch, we often have leftovers, soup (I do make soup more than once a week for lunches and always have some extra jars of it in the freezer) or sandwiches. I always have some hummus, veggie pâté and raw veggies on hand to make sandwiches. On most days we have cereal or granola and toast for breakfast, I make porridge in my slow-cooker (I start it when I go to bed the night before) once a week (we can reheat leftovers if any on some other mornings) and I make pancakes on Sundays. For snacks, we have fruit or smoothies, rice crackers or bread with butter, peanut or sunflower butter and honey or jam. On baking days we have muffins or cookies.
I usually bake bread two to three times a week. I bake muffins and cookies once a week and sometimes scones or a pie or cake on the weekend. I love to bake and I could do a whole other post just on that.
Unlike most people, I don't cook more elaborate meals on weekends. I cook simple meals all week and on weekends. During the week, I'm busy with homeschooling and I prefer to use the extra time that I have on the weekend to sew, knit or read.
Once every so often, I do like to spend a whole day or two in the kitchen and just cook as many things as I can to stock my freezer. If I have a really busy day or if I just need a break, it's nice to have some things on hand for a meal that just need to be heated up.
Always when cooking I say: "why make one, when you can make two?" Whenever it's possible (depends on what I'm making of course), I make double, even triple batches for leftovers or to freeze. It doesn't require much extra work and it saves time.
I invite you to visit the other blogs sharing their ideas on Feeding Our Families: