Kitchen Basics: Menu Planning Series – Part Two – The Menu

By January 6, 2014Kitchen Basics

Welcome to step two of our Menu Planning Series!

In this post we’re going to tackle the menu. It may be daunting, but you can do it!

Give yourself an hour or two.

Let’s plan.

(Week one talked about the reason and the research behind the menu plan. It also had the first step to menu planning.)

On to step two…

2. Make a week long calendar. Use pencil (or the computer). Write down the ideas and notes on a separate page and take them with you to the computer to peruse your favorite food blogs (I’d suggest some of my favorites: De Ma CuisineSimple BitesGluten Free GirlEating from the Ground Up, and Joy the Baker), or search through your preferred cookbooks or magazines. Bookmark online recipes, note page numbers from cookbooks, and tear out recipes from magazines. To begin it may be best to use just a few blogs, one cookbook, and one magazine, so it’s not too overwhelming.

3. Think about the types of foods that you like to eat and the ways they can be used. For example, I like to roast a whole chicken. If I plan to roast it on Monday, I know that there will be leftovers (since there are two of us eating). I can freeze the leftovers and use them to make Chicken and Rice Soup on Sunday. I can use the bones from the chicken to make stock for the soup. I could plan a Stir-Fry for Tuesday, doubling the amount of brown rice so I can freeze the leftovers for Sunday’s soup.

4. I like to write down ideas for the sides and main dishes, so I don’t forget something and end up with pasta three times and no rice or beans, and beef four nights in a row. I might start with some basics for sides: pasta, beans, rice, polenta, quinoa, potatoes.

Then I could expand each one to:

Pasta = spaghetti

Beans = chili

Rice = stir-fry

Polenta = cheesy polenta

Quinoa = quinoa risotto

Potatoes = crispy potatoes

Then I could move to adding proteins to the dishes:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

Next add your veggies and fruits:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs (with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes) with homemade caesar salad

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans (with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!)

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts (with carrots, snap peas, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli)

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta with roasted broccoli and cauliflower

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham (with peas in the quinoa risotto) with roasted green beans

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a green salad with homemade vinaigrette

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash)

Add any notes or extras:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs (with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes) with homemade caesar salad – serve with garlic bread, freeze leftover garlic bread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans (with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!) – serve with cornbread, re-heat leftover cornbread for breakfast tomorrow with a fried egg, freeze leftover garlic bread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup, freeze leftover chili for Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese.

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts (with carrots, snap peas, sprouts, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli) – make a double batch of rice and freeze half for Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta with roasted broccoli and cauliflower – leftover broccoli and cauliflower could be used in the Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham (with peas in the quinoa risotto) with roasted green beans  – slice leftover ham for sandwiches for lunches, freeze cubed leftover ham for a Ham and Potato Chowder (meal idea for next week?), freeze small slices of ham to make Hawaiian pizza.

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a green salad with homemade vinaigrette – make extra vinaigrette and store it in the fridge for salads for lunches and for next week.

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash) – serve with leftover cornbread or garlic bread.

Now that I’ve got my meals, I’d look at the calendar and figure out which days they will work best for. 

(Keeping in mind that I might not prefer to have the same food three days in a row, so spacing out the beef, for example. Also remembering not to put the leftover meals at the beginning of the week. 😉 )

Monday 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

(with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes)

with homemade Caesar Salad

Serve with garlic twists. Freeze leftover garlic twists to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Take chicken out to defrost for Wednesday.

Tuesday

Ginger-Citrus Stir-Fry with Almonds and Brown Rice

(with carrots, snap peas, sprouts, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli)

Make a double batch of rice and freeze half for Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Wednesday 

Roasted Chicken with Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Leftover broccoli and cauliflower could be used in the Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

In polenta, substitute for savory with thyme, omit tomato and baking step. Take beef out to defrost for Thursday. If ham is large, take out to defrost for Friday, if not change note to tomorrow.

Thursday 

Three Bean Chili

(with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!)

Serve with cornbread. Re-heat leftover cornbread for breakfast tomorrow with a fried egg. Freeze leftover cornbread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup. Freeze leftover chili for Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Friday 

Quinoa Risotto with Roasted Ham with Roasted Green Beans

(with peas in the quinoa risotto)   

Slice leftover ham for sandwiches for lunches. Freeze cubed leftover ham for a Ham and Potato Chowder (meal idea for next week?). Freeze small slices of ham to make Hawaiian pizza.

Take leftover chili out to defrost for Saturday.

Saturday 

Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a Green Salad with Homemade Maple Vinaigrette

Make extra vinaigrette and store it in the fridge for salads for lunches and for next week.

Take leftover chicken, rice, and bread out to defrost for Sunday.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Sunday 

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

(with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash)

Serve with leftover cornbread or garlic bread.

Now that the hard part is done, pat yourself on the back, step away from the menu, and take a breath.

I’m proud of you.

Now make a note to come back on January 10th to learn more about equipping your kitchen to cook all these amazing meals that you’ve just planned.

Author Rachel Oberg

More posts by Rachel Oberg

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