I guess the best place to start is with why do I meal plan. When it was just my husband and I and we worked late nights, we would get home and spend forever trying to decide what to have for dinner. After the go-around of “I don’t care,” we’d just order take-out. By the time we got to the end of the month, we’d wonder where all of the money had gone…and that is when the planning began. Back then, he used to help with the cooking and planning. Now, it’s mostly up to me.
The two things I cannot live without when it comes to my meal planning are: 1. A soft cover Moleskine book. I keep it on me at all times to write down ideas for dishes or items to buy. I use the left side of the book for the weekly menu and the right side for the ingredients (pictured). Having everything on record in the book also allows me to easily go back and access previous menus and ingredient lists. 2. A full size freezer in my basement. I often make a double recipe and then freeze the leftovers. I try never to let food go to waste. If I have bananas going brown, I bake a banana bread and throw it in the freezer. You never know when you’ll be entertaining last minute or going to someone’s house and need a quick dessert (I never show up at anyone’s house empty handed…my grandmother z”l would be mortified if I did!).
The first step in my planning is to take inventory of what we already have in stock in the house. Perishable food takes priority in the meal plan. I then look at the calendar for any night meetings, dance classes, choir practice or anything else that would limit the amount of time that I will have to prepare dinner. You always have to be prepared to “Heat and serve.” Once I have account of everything in stock and the whereabouts and timing of all 5 of us, I start asking the tough question…”What would everyone like to eat this week?” The response to this question is the usual, “Whatever.” I accept that from my husband, but I keep pressing the kids. It’s important for them to have input and know that one of the nights will be a meal that they picked.
Now to the actual meals. I try to include poultry, fish and dairy (we have a Kosher home) at least once per week. We do have red meat, but not on a weekly basis. Dessert is only served on Friday and Saturday nights as a treat. During the week it’s fruit (Clementines, a.k.a. Cuties, are a big hit).
Here is the menu for this week. I’ve included links to some recipes (click on the dish) and other recipes will be posted on another page (once I figure out how to do that).
- Homemade Pizzas with various vegetable and soy-meat toppings
- Wilted Spinach Salad
- Banana Bread and Grapes (We had company so we made an exception on the dessert rule).
- TIP for Clevelanders: Go to Alesci’s on Mayfield Road on Fridays, they sell bags of dough 4/$1. I usually buy a bunch and throw them in the freezer.
- Turkey Burgers with Sliced Tomatoes and Onion
- Hot Dogs
- Baked Beans
- Roasted Cauliflower and Zucchini
- TIP: I shred a little more than half of a zucchini into my turkey burger patties. It sneaks in an extra vegetable that my son pretends he doesn’t like and it helps keep the burgers together.
- Baked Ziti
- Mixed Green Salad
- Green Beans
- TIP: My baked ziti calls for half a tub of marscapone cheese and by the time I used to get to the other half, it went bad. Now, I make two full baked zitis and the extra one goes straight into the freezer.
- Salmon (my kids like it baked with olive oil and seasoned salt)
- Israeli Couscous Soup
- Steamed Broccoli
- TIP: Buy Steelhead at Costco. It’s less-expensive than Salmon and tastes/cooks exactly the same as Salmon.
- Leftover night (we almost always have a leftover night and it’s usually Thursday. By then, I like a break from cooking and Friday I always make a fairly large Shabbat dinner.)
Friday – This week we are having Shabbat dinner at our synagogue with about 40 families. Our normal Friday night dinner is usually a variation of challah, soup, chicken, rice or potatoes, veggies, dessert and fruit.
We’re having company this Saturday for lunch and maybe dinner and there’s no such thing as too much food so here’s the day…
- Spinach Artichoke Dip and crackers
- The Pasta House Company Salad
- Israeli Couscous Soup (Yup, it’s that good that it’s worth eating twice in one week. And because I made it weeks ago and put it in the freezer, it’s great for our company that is spending Saturday with us…no prep work!)
- Macaroni and Cheese Casserole for the kids
- Assorted Veggies
- Coconut Cream Pie Squares
Sunday is a great time to pull something out of the freezer or eat what’s left from the past week.