Those of you who have followed me for a while will have heard me banging on about meal plans. If I don’t plan, we don’t eat well. Simple as that. My how to plan to cook post from a while back is one of the most popular articles on my site so I wanted to expand on it this year.
How I’ll share my meal plans and recipes this year
One of my new year plans is to share my weekly menu with you all so that it will inspire you to plan too – hopefully! You’ll also start to see patterns of how my plans work so that you can start making your own plans with the recipes and meals you love.
I’ll be sharing my meal plan each week on here and on social media, so be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – where I’ll also share pictures most days of the dishes I make. Some of the recipes will be from my site, others will be going into my book which will be out later this year. Every two weeks I’ll share the menu plans and some recipes in my newsletter so sign up for it here if you haven’t already.
Scroll down for my first week menu plan and some of the recipe links.
To give you an idea of the boxes I need to tick with my meals…
I need my meals to be ready in about 30 minutes of hands-on cooking. That means that I can be off doing other exciting stuff like folding laundry or working while things cook in the oven. The actual chopping, prepping and finishing off needs to be done in less than 30 minutes. Some of these meals are done and dusted in less than 30 minutes so are great for the nights we’re all in late and I’ve not had any time to prep during the day.
I’m often working in the evening or we have leftovers from my recipe testing or cooking classes so there are sometimes strange things on there like Christmas stuffing recipes in August!
Most days I’m cooking dinner for:
My never full husband who does tons of exercise and needs to eat lots. He is rarely home when my boys eat dinner so I plan for meals that the boys can eat earlier and he and I can eat later – the same meal either reheated or finished off for us later. Or the boys have our leftovers for their dinner the next day.
My two boys aged 5 and 6. They’re both good eaters but they are children so of course they try on the ‘I don’t like that’ attitude regularly. I still only make one meal and they just eat the bits they want with a bit of cajoling from me if the veggies aren’t being eaten. I’ve be writing more about this area soon as I know it is a huge one for so many parents.
I’m pretty easy but depending on the time of year and the tightness of my jeans I may have a few less of the stodgy parts of the meal and add some extra veggies to my portion.
Week 1 meal plans and recipes
Here’s what we’ve had this week….
Roast cauli, carrot, chickpeas with tahini, lemon, watercress and flatbread.
Dinner was based on this recipe. I added chopped carrots along with the cauliflower and chickpeas as I roasted them. Then I scattered the roasted veg on a bed of watercress that I quickly chopped and dressed with the juice and zest of a lemon, salt, pepper and a bit of good olive oil. I drizzled the finished thing with some pomegranate molasses for a bit of sourness and sweetness. You could use balsamic instead.
I also made this houmus and threw in a few random bits of basil and parsley that were fading in the fridge. I pulled some wholegrain flatbreads from the freezer and warmed them in the oven briefly. If I’d been so inclined (I wasn’t), I could have made my own flatbreads using this recipe.
We made our own wraps by spreading the houmus on the bread, stuffing the veg and chickpeas in and then rolling up with varying degrees of neatness and efficiency.
I kept some of the veg back for my lunch the next day and tossed it with tuna and a bit more salad.
You’ll get plenty of protein from the houmus and chickpeas but if the whole meat-free Monday isn’t going to sail in your house, you could add some crumbled feta, goats cheese or shredded rotisserie chicken.
Inauthentic sushi bowls with smoked salmon, brown rice, avocado, roast carrot, greens, pistachios, tamari, lime, cucumber and ginger.
These bowls are a great way of using up random things and are so fast to make if you keep cooked rice in the freezer. You’ll notice over the coming weeks how often I reach for my frozen rice, so I urge you to make some by following this method and you’ll be able to use it too.
Using chopsticks means my boys are much more likely to eat everything, slowly but I don’t care. These chopsticks are great for small hands. They give enough novelty for them to focus on the means of transporting the food rather than the greenness of the food. You may need to add a little time to dinner time as eating this way is slower though.
To make our sushi bowls, I grabbed some of my ready cooked rice from the freezer and defrosted it in the microwave so that it was piping hot. Then I let it cool slightly while I grabbed the other parts of the dish. Protein came from smoked salmon leftover from Christmas – you could use smoked trout, cooked salmon, prawns or any other fish, chicken or steak.
The only other cooking was to steam some broccoli – you could use any greens. Then I chopped cucumber and dressed it with some grated fresh ginger, lime juice and salt. I chopped up some pistachios (you could use sesame seeds). I also added a blob of last night’s leftover houmus and some sliced avocado as you need something creamy to balance the crunch of the cucumber, greens and nuts. I dressed the rice with some tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), lime juice and zest and then made up the bowls. The grown ups added more grated ginger, coriander (cilantro) and chili to ours at the table.
Chicken thighs with slaw and baked potatoes.
I kept this simple flavour-wise in my menu plan and bought all the main ingredients and then decided I fancied Indian flavours when the night came. I recommend this if you are worried about committing to what you’ll eat in advance as it gives you the flexibility to change things up midweek without doing extra shopping. I could have made it a more Italian or French dish by using regular potatoes and lemon and thyme or rosemary, or something else from the spice cupboard on the chicken and a different dressing on the slaw. Any of my dressing recipes would work.
A detailed recipe will be in the book but if you’re happy to try your hand with less detail…
I roasted chicken thighs with skin on and bone in. Before putting them in the oven I scattered them with sea salt, smoked paprika and garam masala.
I cooked whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes to go with this. I scrubbed and pricked them with a fork. Then I microwaved them for 10 minutes then put them in the oven on a tray half way through the chicken cooking time.
I made a bowl of slaw from shredded red cabbage, courgette and carrot and dressed it with lime juice and zest, salt and some plain yoghurt and finely chopped coriander. I scattered the finished salad with pomegranate seeds and served the baked sweet potatoes alongside.
A change of plan.
The plan was to make a curry but the day got away from me so instead I grabbed some ragu from my freezer and we had it with pasta, chopped watercress and some leftover roast veg. Life always gets in the way of a good plan so it is essential to have some good easy meals to grab from the freezer. I’ll share my ragu recipe in the book but here’s another easy pasta sauce recipe that you can freeze. I’ll share the curry recipe soon.
Smoked haddock, celariac mash, lemony brussel sprouts.
I’m writing this on a Friday so excuse the change in tense. Our fish man comes to the door every Friday so we’re having smoked haddock – this is hard to get in the US, or you may not like it. You can substitute any fish.
I love my fish cooked simply – pan-fried or roasted in the oven then served with mashed potato or my mashed celariac (celery root) or cauliflower mash as it has a soothing fish pie vibe – perfect for the end of the week. Then I fry a couple of cloves of garlic, sliced, in butter and add shredded brussel sprouts and a couple of spoons of water. Put the lid on and cook until the sprouts soften. Finish them with lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and serve alongside the fish.
Steak, spinach salad, celariac and potato wedges
I’ll make some of these oven cooked fries – to be a bit healthier I add some finger sized chunks of celariac to the potatoes and roast them together. I’ll serve them with a really good steak from our local farm shop which I’ll pan fry, leave to rest and then cut into slices to make it easier for the boys to tackle. I’ll make a baby spinach (or watercress or rocket) salad that I dress with mustard, oil and vinegar or one of these dressings.
Soup, cheese on toast and fruit.
We’ll be out for a pub lunch so I’ll grab some soup from the freezer before we go out and reheat it for dinner. I’ll make some cheese on toast for the boys to have with it. I always have soup in the freezer, here are some of my soup recipes.
Ask me for a personalized menu plan
If you need more help, I’m now offering a personal menu planning service wherever you are in the world. After an initial conversation to help me understand your lifestyle, I’ll create a weekly menu plan, detailed shopping list and recipes for your family to suit your dietary needs, likes and dislikes and what time you have available to cook. I’ll also be on hand to Facetime or Skype you and go through the plan each week, talking you through the recipes and answering any questions. Just drop me an email and I can run through how it works in more detail.