Making Menus

I take a very relaxed approach to menu planning. It's not so much a plan as a sketch.

For most of the week I rely on my storecupboard and freezer to supply meals. These will be meals based around staples like rice, pasta, potatoes or bread. They often feature beans and lentils, cheese, eggs or small amounts of meat such as bacon or leftover roast .
Mondays tend to be fish days as I like to cook it on the day I buy it. I buy fresh fish when it is on offer and smoked mackerel if it is all too expensive.
We eat more meat at the weekend. I buy things like sausages or mince for Saturday and a chicken or a joint of pork for Sunday. We don't always have a roast though. The weekend is also when we have puddings.

Last week, for instance, I bought a pound of smoked haddock, some belly pork and a couple of packets of sausages, I also had some leftover roast chicken in the fridge. As well as my basic veg I bought a large red cabbage and a butternut squash. This is what we ate:

Monday - Smoked haddock and leek tart (using half the haddock)
Red cabbage slaw

Tuesday - Mulligatawny soup (using leftover chicken), bread

Wednesday - Baked potatoes filled with smoked haddock paste (using the rest of the haddock, this, with oatcakes also served as my lunch for the week)
Red cabbage slaw and sweetcorn

Thursday - Feta, chickpea, butternut squash and giant couscous salad with a sun-dried tomato pesto dressing

Friday - Spaghetti with bacon, sun-dried tomato pesto

Saturday - Sausages, mash and onion gravy (made from two tubs of leftover frozen gravy)
Treacle tart and cream

Sunday - Roast belly pork, baked potatoes, braised red cabbage (lots of this was leftover so I froze it in individual portions)
Bread and butter pudding

This week I bought two large organic brown trout which were half price, a large duck which was also
reduced making it cheaper than the chicken I had planned to buy, and a couple of pounds of braising steak. I also bought a chorizo sausage and some mozzarella.

Monday - Trout with oven-fried potatoes, peas and a butter and wine sauce

Tuesday - A pot of spicy beans with bread

Wednesday -  Chorizo hash with fried egg on top

Thursday - Fish fingers, oven fried potatoes, peas and sweetcorn
(some nights I just can't be bothered)

Friday -Pizza

Saturday - Beef stew and dumplings
Apple and quince fool (using apple and quince purée in the freezer)

Sunday - Roast duck, gravy, roast potatoes, braised red cabbage, peas and carrots
Pineapple pud and cream*

There is plenty of leftover potential in this weekend's meals. Any leftover stew will be turned into a meaty sauce for pasta with the addition of a little passata**. Hopefully there will some leftover cream to use in a savoury tart and there will be leftover duck to go in a lentil and barley stew or maybe a pilaff, and of course, I will make a big pot of stock with the duck carcass to go in the freezer. That's three meals for next week already sorted. I may buy mince next week and make a double batch of chilli on Saturday so that I have a meal to put in my freezer. Doubling meals that freeze well is an easy way to fill your freezer with your own homemade ready meals for those 'can't be bothered' days.

I shop on Mondays, so on Sunday evening I make my list. First I jot down my 'basics'. These are the things I buy every single week. They are:
ham or salami
bread flour

Then there are the other things I like to always have but do not necessarily need to buy each week, things like: sugar, honey, frozen peas, potatoes, onions, pasta, baked beans. I check what I have run out of and add them to my list.

I jot down an idea or two for what meat and fish to buy but I am prepared to change my mind when I see what is cheap and what is available.
I do the same for fruit and veg.

When I get home I jot down meal ideas in my diary. Looking back through my diary I see many meals that were never made. My plans remain sketchy right up until the moment I notice that it is 5.30 and that I should really stop playing Angry Birds and feed my family.

* Plenty of fool left; we'll have the pineapple pud another weekend.
**None left!



  1. I am so with you on Angry Birds, very addictive ;)

  2. It's Bike Baron stopping me from getting meals ready on time these days...

  3. Wow your meals are very organised and creative! I wish I had just a fraction of your abilities!!

  4. Can you please post the list on Sunday night and make life easier for all of us...? Ax

  5. I love your meal plan posts - mainly, I suspect, because my approach is almost identical (as is the sort of food I cook). Validation is always good!

    I never remember to take photos as I go though. I am most impressed that you do.

  6. I tried playing Angry Birds once but was laughed out of the study. What a kind, tolerant family you surely have, or perhaps you are a whiz at it and are wasted on blogging?

  7. We're at the stage when I rarely know who will be home when to eat! Pot luck is on the menu far too often here.

  8. Fisherwife6:48 am GMT

    I am in awe of your way of cooking. Here, in the U.S., I plan my meal around the type of meat I am using. Meat is the foundation of my planning. I then make sure there is a green vegetable and one starch. My dad was a butcher, so this is the way my mother did it. We are now trying to cut back on meat for health reasons. My husband owns a fish market so we have that at least once a week. Even typing it I see how ridiculous that must seem to others. Why aren't we eating fresh seafood more than that? I honestly think it is simply a cultural habit that we will have to break.

    I love to read about your puds. The children gathered around my tablet to see the coin in your special pudding. The tutorial on bread I read aloud to my husband and I as I did my mouth filled up with water. It makes more sense to make bread than to buy it.

    Thank you for sharing your traditions, habits and domestic genius with the rest of the world. It is fascinating and inspiring.

  9. You have given me an idea as to what to do with leftover stew, which I tend to freeze for my "can't be bothered night"!
    Julie xxxxxxxx

  10. I go with Magic Bean.

  11. I'm with Magic Bean too!

    I can never understand why people don't have a Sunday roast because it means you don't have to think what to have on Monday/Tuesday and maybe even Wednesday night. I love Monday cooking night!

  12. Adopt me Sue, please, adopt me.... Jo x

  13. Anonymous1:57 pm GMT

    Thanks for the menu planning ideas!

    We tend to plan our menu around meat once or twice a week, and then the rest we start with a 'starch' and move on from there.

    We seriously need to eat more fish. I am appalling at cooking it, so rarely bother to buy it.

  14. You know, I must have been similar when I was a housewife - everything was made from scratch as we had so little money. I recall buying breast of lamb regularly as it was just 28 pence each piece (early 70s), kidneys, chicken livers etc. My repertoire expanded quite considerably in the 80s when there was a little more money available. I do so admire your housewifely ways.

  15. We have a similar approach to menu planning.....I am flexible too, will always change a meal if a bargain is purchased last minute!

  16. Please Please could you share your Chorizo Hash recipe...I have a chorizo lurking in the fridge waiting for inspiration and this sounds as though it would make a lovely Sunday Brunch!
    Hugs Wend

  17. Wend, it's just cooked potatoes fired with onions, peppers and chorizo.

  18. That's 'fried' not 'fired' of course.

  19. Thanks so much for that Sue, I'll be trying it tomorrow! Sounds easy enough!!


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