So you have written out your days of the week, made a note of any activities that will affect dinner time and are ready to start filling in those blank spaces with meals. After day 1, you can’t think of ANYTHING to cook. So how do you come up with ideas?
This is always a good place to start – ask the family for their favourite meals. If there are quite a few, keep a list somewhere and use one or two ideas each week. It is surprising what the family comes up with when asked.
Beyond meat and two veg
Call me slow here but it took me years to realise that most meat goes with any starch. This was really liberating and is a good way of generating ideas. Chicken legs, for example, depending on how you prepare them, can go with mash, chips, pasta, rice and noodles. So if you think roast chicken has to go with roast potatoes (again..), think again. It is lovely served with rice and stir fry or, as we had last night, noodles and stir-fry. Steaks can be eaten with bread, sausages with pasta, fish with rice and so on.
Choose your protein
In our last menu planning article, we mentioned choosing a different protein for each day and working around that. If you are really stuck, just arbitrarily decide to assign a protein to a day eg lamb on Monday, eggs on Tuesday and beef on Wednesday and see if that helps.
Add carbohydrate & veggies
Then just choose your carbohydrate – pasta, rice, potatoes (chipped, baked, mashed, roast, new), noodles, bread. Decide on vegetables, or salad and there you are – a meal planned.
As I said in an earlier article, I usually buy a selection of vegetables rather
than specifically allocating a specific vegetable to a meal but it all usually
works out. I always buy carrots, spinach and frozen peas as basics and then maybe pick up whatever else looks good or is in season.
Or make the starch your inspiration
Alternatively you could decide to make the carbohydrate the focus of one or two days nstead of a protein. Pasta with your favourite sauce, for example, or rice.
Or be a bit saucy
Another way to get your inspiration going is to think of a sauce and then decide what could go with it. Cheese sauce could be used for cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese, tomato sauce goes a treat with sausages and pasta or can be used to make melanzane con parmigiana (try this recipe from BBC Good Food)
Stuck for time or ideas?
If any of the above haven’t got you started, try these quick recipes to get you
Pesto chicken – slice chicken breasts, spread with pesto and grill; serve with salad and rice
Pesto pasta – add pesto sauce to your favourite pasta, add toasted pine-nuts for extra deliciousness
Stir fry with noodles – garlic, broccoli, red pepper, soya sauce and lemon. Add a protein (eg tuna, beef or chicken strips) to make this more substantial.
Do let us have any of your quick meal ideas – we will be writing a post about this soon.
Our next article will look at how to remember all those great recipes!