Menu planning…inspiration for the week.

Do you ever find that week in, week out, it’s tricky to think of what to have as a main meal? We found ourselves in that predicament after our boys left home for Uni, so I started meal planning…

I‘m still not sure exactly what happened…

Maybe it was the lack of structured mealtimes that opened up as a chasm after 20 years of post-school teas, or maybe we just ran out of ideas for meals.

But somehow, we’d gone from foodies who had a rough plan for the week’s food to fridge nomads, staring forlornly at the shelves totally out of inspiration.

As a result, we’d end up just chucking something together and not really enjoying mealtimes in the way we used to.

With two teenaged boys in the house, we had to plan ahead as just rustling something up for hangry, tired boys is never pleasant.

So, at the end of September last year, when they disappeared back to their Uni houses, I decided that things needed to change.

I had a magnetic weekly shopping planner that lived on the fridge door, so I found a wipeable pen and placed them both on the table. I sat down and was about to start googling, when my eyes glanced across my bookshelves of cookery books.

In that moment, I decided that I was going to go old school and browse the cookery books.

In the next moment, I decided that I was going to make an occasion of it. I moved to our dining table, lit a candle, made myself a mug of tea and sat down.

Then I started flicking through the books…

The recipes that caught my eye and were relatively easy to do were allocated to a day on my planner and, after a few detours into reading a particularly interesting introduction to a book, I soon had a week of really tasty meals planned.

The recipes I chose presented a varied diet, including meat, fish and a veggie recipe. As we’re both busy, I often choose recipes that we can repurpose into another meal a day or so later – so for example, a chicken casserole can become a pie for another meal with the addition of ready roll puff pastry that we keep in the freezer.

We shop at the local farm shop for many of our staples, but have a delivery every two weeks of bulk items. So I then went into our online shop and added any ingredients I was missing.

The first time, I think I spent about an hour, reminding myself which books we liked and generally enjoying the calmness of an hour well spent.

Now, if I’m in a rush, I can plan the week in about 10 minutes, but if I have time I make it part of a calmer Sunday moment – enjoying my mug of tea and taking inspiration from the talented chefs.

Here’s the stack of books I’m currently working my way through. The Roasting Tin and the Jamie Oliver one are both one pot recipes so we have less washing up as well – result!

Buddha Bowls by Hannah Pemberton – Buddha bowls are a lovely way to use up ends of cheese, the odd carrot that’s left and the last bits of a chicken and this book has been invaluable for interesting salads

The Joyful Home Cook by Rosie Birkett – We’ve only cooked a couple from this one so far, but looking forward to using more of the recipes in the summer.

The Hairy Bikers Ultimate Comfort Food by Si King and Dave Myers – This one has been very popular, practical, no-fuss dishes. The prawn and fish balls were absolutely delicious.

The Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer – Another one we use regularly. I can recommend the Smoky sausage, sweet potato and red onion traybake.

One by Jamie Oliver – We’ve cooked quite a few from this book too and the Cajun chicken traybake is on this week’s menu plan.

River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – As soup fans, we really liked the Five root soup with bacon recipe.

I’ve linked these to Amazon as I could find them all on there (these are not affiliate link), however, I often click and look at the second hand ones available on there and buy them. You can also regularly find some of them in charity shops or if you have an independent bookshop near you, it’s always good to support them. You can also find a lot of the recipes online with a google search, so please don’t feel you have to rush out and buy a load of books to do this.

Anyway, I hope you find this useful. If you have a favourite recipe why not share a link with us all in the comments below?

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