Until recently I have always found the process of how to menu plan difficult. I definitely find knowing what we’re going to eat for a week a stress buster but it’s more the “where do I start”. I find sitting with a blank page the easiest way to make my brain go blank. There has to be a process to developing the menu plan otherwise each week becomes nothing but a chore. General, conventional, menu planning seems to follow three main approaches:
1) Theme nights: Meat free Monday, Mexican night, take away…etc. So far this does not work for me at all.
2) coupons. I understand why some people base meals around this as it does mean a cheaper shop but as my primary focus on my menu plans is to get them as nutritionally balanced as possible this isn’t the way for me.
3) looking through cookbooks and magazines. This is the approach my man used to take and it certainly works but it can easily result in very expensive shopping.
The other issue I found was that most menu plans don’t even mention lunch. Not only do myself and the baby eat lunch at home every day but I have to provide two meals for my partner as he works long shifts. That’s a lot of meals and a lot of cooking.
Ultimately what I found was that as there are so many variables influencing what I eat it makes sense to start with them, and it worked!
So, here’s what I do
I start by asking myself a whole lot of questions. Are we near the end of the month? If yes this usually means a tighter budget.
What is in the store cupboard that we can use? What needs used up from last weeks shop? What’s in the freezer? What are my partners shifts this week? What season is it?
While doing this I make mental notes such as “lots of frozen cauliflower. Could make aloo gobi, cauliflower with a mustard and leek sauce or a pasta bake.” or ” That couscous needs used. Let’s have it with roasted veg and he leftovers can go in a wrap with hummus for lunch.” that sort of thing.
I’ll then slot in those meals and then plan around them. Maybe they need accompaniments. I have a tendency to base most meals around the carbohydrate component because carbs are good! This way I tend to eat more of a variety. Once I have my carbohydrate I add my protein and vegetables. So if I’m having rice do I want dal, black bean chilli, Thai curry or stir fry with it.
So that’s my general approach to planning my meals. Do you have any useful tips for vegan menu planning?