Planning Your Weekly Menu
Building a menu is important whether you’re in a restaurant or just cooking for your family, or even yourself. Leftovers, prepared ingredients, and open containers all need to be accounted for, as this is one of the best ways to minimize your food cost beyond just shopping smart. Even home cooks should be able to plan a rough menu of what they’ll be eating a week in advance. For restaurateurs of course, we need to have things figured out in a more far sighted fashion.
If You Are Only Using it Once, You Are Not Using It Right
One of many things that home cooks can learn from a professional chef is the mantra that if you’re only using something once, you’re not using it right. We all have that something in our fridge that we needed for that one thing we made two weeks ago. The way to avoid that is to make sure that anything you’re buying is something you’re going to use multiple times until it’s gone. If you’re watching your budget and want to prepare my Cajun Chicken Salad, take a look at the pepper jelly and green onions you’ll have left over. Do you have something you can do with those?
Try finding another recipe that features green onions to make the next day so you can use up the remainder. Use the pepper jelly in a marinade for pork or chicken, or as a topper on some hotdogs. Don’t look at it as a chore to have to use things before they go bad, but as a challenge to find creative and tasty ways to utilize them. If you have a menu planned out that uses the things you buy multiple times, you should be able to make sure that nothing remains in your fridge for more than a week, so none of your food is going bad and you can free up some space in there for more goodies instead of leftovers.
Dinner Is Great Breakfast
Speaking of, take a lesson from the simple and sensible English cooks – dinner is great for breakfast! Sunday dinner in Britain traditionally consisted of roast or boiled beef, potatoes, and cabbage. Monday breakfast therefore, consisted of a potato pancake called Bubble And Squeak, which was made of roughly mashed cold potatoes, chopped beef, chopped cabbage, and sometimes onions. This was formed into a patty as if for a hamburger, dipped in seasoned flour, and then fried, somewhat like a corned beef hash.
You can base a pretty good menu for your week off of some simple staple products that you’re comfortable with. Your basic shopping is rarely going to change – onions, eggs, milk, potatoes, chicken, beef, pork, rice, vegetables. All you need to do is to vary your flavors and extras from week to week and you can come up with thousands of combinations from those simple basic ingredients.
Planning A Menu For A Dinner Party
If you’re doing a menu for a dinner party or a fancy meal for relatives, you may want to go all out, even buy some things you wouldn’t normally use – it’s a party after all. Consider a good theme and appropriate food to match – barbecue ribs aren’t going to look too great at your son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Sometimes it helps to have a single culinary theme or ingredient to expand on – adding limits is often a way to foster creativity.
For instance, go to a store with a really nice cheese section and get something interesting, bonus points if it’s on sale. Let’s say you find a block of Grana Padano that’s on sale. You can use that for Parmesan crusted scallops, a Caesar salad, a pasta, and then served after dinner in chunks with a little balsamic reduction and a cup of espresso on the side. Or you can use that same balsamic vinegar to tie your meal together – A salad with balsamic vinaigrette, my Pasta Balsamico, and grilled peaches with balsamic reduction for dessert.