weekly meal plans – September

The days are getting colder and life is getting even busier – not sure how that is possible as it felt pretty busy already! Even when the week is looking scary I always make time to plan our meals. We need a plan on the crazy weeks more than ever, and that few minutes of planning means I only need to cram in one trip to the shops.

Because life has been so busy I’ve been a bit rubbish about adding my meal plan to my site each week, so this time I’m adding a few of my plans in one post. I always share them, along with the meals I make each night on Facebook and Instagram so be sure to follow me on there to get them in real time. Every month I’ll share the menu plans and some recipes in my newsletter so sign up for it here if you haven’t already. Here are my meal plans from earlier in the year.

As always we make one meal each night and anyone who doesn’t like part of it just leaves it. Less drama and less time cooking.

Week 1

Back to school meal plan for the first week back. Nothing takes more than 30 minutes of hands-on cooking so I can crack on with my mountain of work. After a summer of treats I’m trying to pack as many veg in as poss – also to use up all the things we have growing in our raised beds. As always we have one meal each night and if someone doesn’t like something they leave it or pick it out.

Tuesday – Luckily I spatchcocked a chicken (you could use pieces on the bone instead) and froze it, raw, with garlic cloves, sliced red onion, lemon and middle eastern spices a couple of months ago. Marinating before you freeze gives the flavours double chance to sink in – once as you freeze and once as you defrost. After a few hours defrosting in the bag I can just throw her in the oven, along with some baby potatoes and peppers. She’ll roast for about an hour and we’ll have the roast chicken and veg with chard from the garden tonight. Eldest child didn’t eat the peppers, youngest didn’t eat the chicken. No drama. Leftovers will go into a salad for lunch tomorrow and bones will go into the freezer to make stock for another night.

Wednesday – Tonight I’m using some chunks of roasted butternut squash that I found in the freezer to make a risotto. To up the greens I’ll make some pesto to stir in.

Thursday is a kind of fish pie but with cauliflower mustard purée instead of spuds.

Friday – So tired at the end of this first week back at school. This easy dinner is just what I need – A pack of fresh gnocchi, a pack of tender stem broccoli. Cut the broccoli stems in half lengthways. Lay everything on a lightly oiled tray. Sprinkle with oil, salt and pepper and roast at 200c(400f) for 30 mins – check the broccoli after 20 and pull it out if it’s charring too much. Once the gnocchi is golden and crunchy serve the lot, sprinkled with red wine vinegar underneath a big scoop of bolognese sauce from the freezer. About 10 mins of hands-on cooking gives me time to crack open the wine and collapse.

Out Saturday and Sunday is the first day back at rugby so I’ll throw the chicken thighs, tomatoes, sliced fennel, olives and a glass of wine along with a can of beans into the oven to cook slowly while we’re out. You could easily cook them in a slow cooker/crockpot of you have one. This recipe is very similar.

Week 2

Our first full week of school and a crazy work week so I’m making the most of what I can grab from the freezer or what can be shoved in the oven with minimal fuss. Nothing on here takes more than 30 minutes hands-on time but a few tricks will make everything taste as if it has been slaved over.

Monday – I pulled sausages and some pasta sauce from the freezer at breakfast time so they would be defrosted by dinner. At dinner time, I boiled pasta, threw the defrosted tomato sauce in with some frozen peas. Mixed everything together and threw it in the oven with some sausages. I’d cut the sausages into small chunks before I froze them, so they cooked in about 15 minutes. A meal like this won’t win any prizes for innovation but it fed a crowd of hungry children in the mad dash between football and Beavers.

Tuesday – I’m recipe testing for my book and made this roast mushroom and bean pasta. I’ll tinker with the recipe a bit more but I loved how the earthy mushrooms and beans got the thumbs up from everyone with no meat in sight and only one tray to wash.

Wednesday – I made this easy Italian fish stew and it was delicious. I made double of the basic sauce, before the fish was added then froze half the sauce for an even quicker dinner in weeks to come. fish stew
Thursday – I’m teaching tonight so dinner is a bit of a frantic affair (actually most nights are frantic). I took chicken breast, snipped with scissors into chunks then dunked in a bowl of egg beaten with smoked paprika and salt. Then the pieces are lifted into a bag of crushed rice cakes and grated Parmesan and shaken until they’re coated. No dietary reasons for the lack of bread other than I didn’t want to dirty my food processor and I could crush rice cakes by hand in the bag.
I cooked them in the oven and, on a different tray, I roasted some halved tomatoes and courgette (zucchini) chunks that I’d tossed with a little oil and dried herbs de Provence (oregano would work). While that cooked, I simmered giant cous cous in a saucepan with passata (see this recipe for how to cook it in the sauce). The whole thing was piled up, I squeezed lemon over it all and grated some Parmesan over. Clean plates all round.

Friday – We had planned to have tacos but wound up craving steak so we had that with these oven baked chips instead. The taco ingredients stayed in the freezer so nothing was wasted.

Saturday – In an attempt to save money and stay healthy, we’re making our own curry instead of getting take out. This curry recipe is an easy one to make in bulk and have for a low effort dinner.
Sunday – another slow cook, leave it in the oven dinner. This time beef in red wine, a recipe that will be in my book. The roast potato recipe is here and here’s the carrot and swede mash.

Week 3

Lots of quick, flavour and veg-packed dinners for my crew and lots of recipe testing for my book. I’ve been inspired to make my first kedgeree having just devoured a new book – the brilliantly named ‘Pimp My Rice’. I always try a new recipe each week, sometimes more. Other nights are frantic grabs from the freezer. Other nights I make double and freeze for future frantic nights. Regardless I always add a two minute freshener of fresh herbs, crunch and acidity to liven up what we’re eating.

Monday – The boys’ friends are back and their love of pasta knows no bounds. So I made my pea pesto and stirred that through pasta for them. We had the pea pesto later with some grilled salmon.

TuesdayI’m making my first ever kedgeree (one pot colonial Indian spiced rice and lentils with smoked haddock and herbs). Something I’ve never fancied at breakfast, the time it is traditionally served, but am all over for dinner. 5 mins chopping and frying, then lid on and a 30-40 minute gentle cook while I get back on email and dash to grab the boys from school. I’ll turn it off when we get back and then finish it just before we eat. I’ll add a version of the recipe to my site once I’ve tinkered a little more.

Wednesday – Meatloaf recipe testing – not a great success so I’ll work on that one a bit more before sharing it. I’d love to know your meatloaf recipes so please send them over.

Saturday – another try of the mushroom pasta recipe I posted last week. Almost there!

Sunday – A change of plan. I cooked my speedy Thai stir fry on stage at The Great British Food Festival. The demonstration kitchen rules at this event meant I couldn’t give out samples to the audience so we brought it home for an easy dinner. Bonus!

Week 4

Monday – I have loads of boys here between football and Beavers (cub scouts for US friends) again so I go with a crowd pleaser, make ahead meat-free pasta bake.

I made a batch of 30 minute ratatouille (Aubergine/eggplant, courgette/zucchini, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, oregano, garlic and peppers/bell peppers), I split the finished ratatouille and half of it was blitzed into a smooth pasta sauce. I haven’t got time to make two meals a night, but this keeps everyone happy. When the boys have friends over I’m a bit less strict on us all eating the same thing – otherwise they’d never come back!

We had the un-blended ratatouille later with salmon and roast cauliflower. One of the boys’ friend’s mum texted me for the recipe as soon as he got home – a sign of a keeper. I’ll add the detailed recipe to my site asap so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get it.

Tuesday I’m testing kofta recipes – Indian spiced kinda meatballs. I’ll make double and freeze some for another meal. The boys will eat theirs in flatbreads.I’ll share the recipe when it’s perfect.

Wednesday is an easy oven-baked salmon with courgettes and lemon.

Thursday needs to be super speedy and re-heatable as we’re ships in the night. So bolognese from the freezer with roast gnocchi and broccoli. The same as Friday of week one.

Then we’re off cooking duty Friday and Saturday as we’ll be camping. I made these easy flapjacks to take iwth us and they helped keep us going in the rain and mud.

Sunday is a shove-it-in-the-oven-and-forget-about-it (while we unpack muddy camping gear) stew with baked potatoes, carrot and swede mash and green beans, similar this Spanish chicken recipe.

I’d love to see what menu plans and dinners you end up with, so remember to share on my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Tag your posts #ystcook so I can see!