Thursday, 17 November 2011

First step - Menu Planning/Shopping lists

I thought I'd  have difficulty finding a meal planning calendar or system. It was difficult - but not because I couldn't find it - but because I found SO many! I was overwhelmed. I like to make quick decisions but for this - I was slow as molasses. Which one was the right one, which did I like best, which helped me along the most.  I spent hours ssearching, poring over pages, printing, testing and looking them over. This may be a case of 'still in denial'.

In any case, after taking stock, I made my two week menu and shopping list. Here is the menu:

Week 1:
Monday: Lasagna
Tuesday: mushroom pasta with salad
Wednesday: Pesto chicken with rice
Thursday: leftover lasagna
Friday: homemade pizza
Saturday: jacket potatoes with meatless chili
Sunday: Roasted chicken dinner

Week 2:
Monday: Taco salad (using my own taco seasoning mix)
Tuesday: sausage rolls with salad
Wednesday: Creamy chicken tomato basil soup with garlic bread
Thursday: Thanksgiving - going to friends
Friday: homemade pizza
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: spaghetti bolognese with salad

If this sounds expensive - it's not. I buy pasta in bulk and store it in air-tight containers. I reuse the chicken leftover from the Sunday roast, the pizza dough is handmade (see recipe below) and each child/adult gets to put their own toppings on. I make my red sauce and use it for pizza, lasagna and spaghetti. I make my own soup (see recipe below). I grow a basil plant in my kitchen window and make my own pesto - sometimes with pine nuts, and often with walnuts (depends on which is the better price).

I also shop around for the best price, any offers from stores. I bought the ingredients for this two week menu plan for £48.75 at Tesco, Morrisons and the farmer's market at Carol's school (every Wednesday). I will have to buy some fresh salad greens for next week, but otherwise I will have fed my family of four on less that £55 for two weeks. That's £110 a month. But it takes work, looking for the best prices and then going to the stores alone is a pain. But I have a large Tesco near me, and my husband works by a huge Morrison's store.

I'm sure I can do better and I will keep trying. I'm still not at thrifty as I would like, but I am getting there. I'm starting to make my own snacks for the kids, which they are loving. That is coming soon!

Chicken Tomato Basil Soup

1 1/2 cups chicken chunks
2 cans (400g) of chopped tomatoes (pureed in blender)
1 large white onion, julienned
1 1/2  cups cream/milk (or to your liking)
1 large bunch of basil chopped
1 tbs olive oil

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent (about five minutes). Add the pureed tomatoes. Bring to boil, then turn heat down to simmer. Add chicken and milk. Stir through. Five minutes before serving, stir in basil until wilted. Serve immediately. Serves 2 large or 4 small bowls.

You can leave out the chicken if  you want a nice lunch with crusty bread or a toasted cheese sandwich. Depending on the milk you use - it can be quite rich and always filling. Don't slice the onion too small - long strips are best. It adds a nice hearty crunch to the meal. I often stir in leftover rice or pasta (orzo is great) to make it more of a dinner meal.

Homemade Pizza Dough

1.1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup whole wheat flour
5 ½ cups bread flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let sit until creamy (approximately ten minutes). Stir the olive oil, whole wheat flour, salt, and four cups of the bread flour into the yeast mixture. Mix in the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out into a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about eight minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place (I set this bowl in my oven) to rise until doubled in volume; about one hour. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and form into rounds. Cover the rounds and let them rest for about ten minutes. Preheat the oven to 210C degrees. Shape your dough using a rolling pin and top with your favorite toppings. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese and crust are golden brown.

*Note that this recipe actually yields three crusts. Two of these can be frozen for later use in a freezer-safe bag. You can also increase the amount of whole wheat flour (for a healthier crust) and omit the same amount of bread flour. Play around with the ratios until you achieve the desired taste and consistency that you enjoy. This is a family favorite in our house. The two other crusts can be used for calzones.


  1. Hi, just called in to say thank you for becoming a follower of my blog. I hope you enjoy visiting. I've pinched your recipe for pizza dough to add to my collection. I'm afraid I'm not as organised as you when it comes to meal planning. It's what's in the freezer, what's left over from the last meal or what's on offer down the street. It makes for interesting meals!
    Love from Mum

  2. Mum, glad you like the recipe. It's easy and everyone always loves it. Thanks for stopping by.


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