Meal Planning - Part 2

See - there's a part 2!  Told ya.  The old girl has a few memory connections working.

I heard some good advice years ago about how to meal plan.  Sit down with your family and ask them to name their favorite meals, or just their favorite main dishes.  Make a list!  Your clan might likely come up with 20-30 items!  That's a pretty good start.  We generally cook the same things each month, throwing in a new recipe here and there.  Some of those are rejected, and some go into the pile of "keepers."

Save that list you just made.  It can be a master list of "stuff my family likes and will eat and I won't have to ponder much."  You can probably keep the main ingredients of those meals hanging around your pantry or freezer, putting together a family favorite in a matter of minutes.

When you start with a main dish, or entree, you know you need to round out the menu for both balanced nutrition and pleasure.  Accompanying side dishes should complement the main dish and provide variety in taste and texture, even temperature.

At the Sassy house, we typically have a main dish of some sort of meat or protein.  Most often this is savory in nature.  It seems natural to provide a starch of one kind or another (potato, pasta, bread, rice), a cooked vegetable, and a salad.  You really ought to have a green, fresh salad with each meal.  It ends the meal on a good note, provides vital digestive enzymes, and gives you loads of nutrients you might have otherwise missed during the day.

On the one hand, a varation or two on the main theme is nice - repeat the rosemary from the roast in your herb bread, or duplicate the garlic in chicken marinade into the mashed potatoes.  On the other hand, it's fun to go the opposite direction with flavors, repeating nothing.  Do what pleases you and your family.

Here's a sample meal plan in our life this week, with some notes as to the why:

Monday:  Pan Fried Beef and Pork Steaks, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Carrots, Green Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing.  (I made a pan sauce for the pork steak with white wine, dijon mustard and apricot jelly, finished with butter.  This provided some zing and a bit of sweet to counter the savory-salty of the meat.  The potatoes and carrots gave us starch and a cooked veggie, and the green salad had a sweet-tart dressing that worked with the whole deal, and the dijon was repeated in sauce and dressing).
Tuesday:  Crock Pot Garlic Roast Beef with Mushrooms and Herbs, Rosemary Focaccia, Salad with Vinaigrette.  (I laid rosemary on the beef while it cooked, so repeated the herb with the bread.  The meat had the essence of rosemary, while the bread had the out-right taste.  The crisp and tart salad balanced the savory and cooked things).
Wednesday:  We had dinner at a friend's house!
Thursday:  Mushroom Beef Brown Rice Soup, Freshly Baked Whole Wheat Bread, Caesar Salad.  (The bread dips nicley in the soup.  The soup has meat plus carrots, celery, onion and mushroom and brown rice.  The salad needs to be perky and fresh with a bold flavor to balance the soup - caesar does the trick!)
Friday:  Salmon Patties with Mustard Sauce and Tartar Sauce, Trader Joe's Basmati Rice Medley, Green Salad with Poppyseed Dressing (I'll make the mustard sauce which is creamy and warm for those who like, a tartar sauce which is cold and tart for those who go that way.  The rice medley has veggies in it.  The salad has a very sweet dressing which is needed here.)
Saturday:  Home Made Pizza!  (This doesn't need much except good root beer for the kids, a carbonated malt beverage of local origin for the man, and some sort of red wine for the cook.  But the pizza will have all sorts of 'top your own' options of meat, veggies, anchovies, cheese, sauce, etc.)

Do you see the pattern?  Savory with sweet, cooked with raw, tart with creamy.  Balance, interest, contrast, flow.

Enjoy cooking for your family, or just yourself, or a house full of company.  They will thank you, and you will look back on your efforts with pleasure.
JillMeal Planning1 Comment