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)
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
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.