Tuesday, 2 August 2011

On Menu Planning

I am sure I must have mentioned before that when we were first living together, I menu planned religiously. It did not occur to me that there was any other way of doing things. I would sit and plan the menus for a week, then produce the shopping list from that. It was time consuming of course but it was lovely to always know what was going to be for dinner that night, and for all the shopping to be done in one go.

However, as many ladies will surely agree with me, it is draining to be the one in charge of planning the menus all the time. I started to feel really jaded and unenthusiastic for the task and found it harder and harder to make time for it. Eventually one day we went to the supermarket with the idea of buying some fruit, veg, milk, and some fish or meat for each evening. Things didn't fall apart so we carreid on doing that for far too long, and as my working situation took up more and more time and energy and travel, it quite often got the point where I would pop into a shop on the way home to pick up something for tea. The trouble with that is that it is more expensive, and it takes up more time, and when you are tired and hungry you are generally looking for a quick option, which does not make for a happy cooking experience.

More than once, on hearing my complain about the situation, Carl would ask 'why not just start menu planning again?' which is a sensible question, but is rather like telling someone to 'just give up smoking' or 'just lose weight'. There seemed to be a kind of invisible barrier in my way just making it impossible to get back in it.

Another issue is that I feel that there must be an optimum way of eating for good health and enjoyment, but I don't feel we have found it quite yet. I know what we are working towards, but pinning it down on paper and designing a routine with which to bring it about has been a bit elusive so far.

I have previously talked about how we eat less meat and fewer processed foods, but also I like food to be seasonal. With me only working part time as of next week, and other dark clouds on the horizon, budget is a definite factor. Of course, it needs to look good and taste good too! For me meat has to be good quality and free range even if I can't always afford to buy organic. It is important to me that if an animal has died so I can eat it then it needs to have had a good life first. I want to work towards having a kind of menu planning routine, so for example Monday would be fish night, Tuesday would be soup night and so on. I think having that kind of structure will be helpful, and by using books from the library such as 'Women's Institute Book of Soups' I should be able to make sure there is enough variety that it doesn't feel boring.

I have been enjoying getting our shopping delivered again and doing a menu plan to shop from. I do find it is too easy to get fall off the plan though, if for example we arrive home too late to cook or one of us really doesn't fancy what I had planned for that evening. Once I am properly back in the saddle, I would like to find a nice way to display the menu for the week in the kitchen. That way if Carl is back home before me, he could make a start because he would know what we were having (which he has said he would like to do!). I quite like blackboards, but I also saw in a magazine a square artists canvas decorated with silk flowers and ribbon, with a gold peg, and you clip the weekly menu to the clip and just change it next week.

I almost feel like I am writing a book at the moment, to be honest. I have been reading a lot of books about nutrition and cookery, right from the 50s up to today...it is amazing how some ideas which seem newer (juicing) were already being written about 60 years ago! There are elements from different authors that I like and seem to make sense, so I want to try and weave them together to make something that suits us. And then of course we actually need to try using the plan for a few weeks to see how it makes us feel!

At the moment though, a tupical week would start on Sunday with an organic free range roast chicken and lots of vegetables, and perhaps some stuffing. Then on Monday we would use some of the meat in sandwiches for lunch. Monday night would be a vegetable soup (one of my favourites is spinach or watercress with poached egg). Then on Tuesday we might have chicken and vegetable risotto. Wednesday could be a vegetarian dish such as aubergine parmigiana, and then on Thursday I would do something like roasted vegetable pasta. Friday night we may have poached fish, steamed veg and new potatoes, and then on Saturday I might make a pizza (my favourite topping is grated carrot and broccoli). The principle is to have some meat and make it stretch, and then fill in the gaps with vegetable dishes and fish.

There will be more on this at some point in the future...but for now, that is menu planning in our household!


ps Dinah, iced tea is not particularly well known here...the cocktail is probably more widely drunk than actual iced tea. However, I love it! I fear it may not be seen as authentic to you though, for us, iced tea is made by Lipton's and comes in a bottle! I love the original flavour and the peach, and the lemon. We have a chain of tea and coffee selling shops here called Whittards - they have a website - and they sell powdered instant iced tea, so far I have only tried the elderflower flavour and it was heavenly!)

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