Do you have a hard time deciding what to cook for dinner? Let’s walk through this menu planning process together. Why decide daily, when you get that task behind you in one easy weekly walk through of your pantry and frig. I also don’t want to decide on something and then discover I don’t have what I need to make the meal on hand.
Let’s get started. Yes, right now. Open your pantry and let’s explore. Quickly jot down the ingredients you have in the pantry. No not everything, but basics. Let me see what’s in my pantry right now and I will plan along.
Well, it’s not bare but there are some normally stocked items missing, but still plenty to prepare a few meals as long as I have some proteins available. Two things just happened, you now are completely aware of what you have on hand and what items you need to purchase on your next grocery store visit.
Here’s what I found.
- Corn Meal
- Bread Crumbs
- Baking Soda and Powder
- Corn Starch
- Soy Sauce
- Arborio and White Rice
- Angel Hair Pasta
- Onion Soup Mix
- Chocolate Cake Mix
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Green Beans (home canned)
- Apples (home canned)
My canned goods are really running low, but I don’t normally keep too many canned items. I prefer fresh or frozen. I hope the garden produces well this year so we can stock up our home canned veggies, especially tomatoes and green beans.
I just jotted down a few shopping items for myself after exploring the pantry (bar-b-que sauce, chicken and beef broth, cocoa powder, and flaked coconut).
Now let’s hit the frig. Same thing, make a list of most items, if your like me there is always butter, mayo, mustard, etc. The refrigerator is stocked a little better. Actually there’s a lot of options.
- Almond Milk
- Heavy Cream
- Sour Cream
- Cheese – lots of cheese (cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan)
- Lunchmeat (ham and chicken)
Some ideas are coming to mind, but now I need to see if the freezer will cooperate but providing the much-needed proteins.
Frozen seafood is not my thing, I prefer to shop for seafood the day I am preparing it for dinner. But in this case, we do have frozen/fresh shrimp caught by my son in Charleston, SC. Better than any shrimp we can buy locally.
- Chicken Tenders
- Chicken Breast
- Chicken Wings
- Pork Chops
I think this will do. Now let’s meal plan. Let’s explore items you normally don’t cook, to make this interesting. I used to just google for recipes, well actually I used to use cookbooks, then I progressed to google, now I’m hooked on Pinterest.
I just searched Pinterest for chicken and angle hair pasta. Wow, what I got back. Creamy Garlic Pasta, Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken, One Pot Lemon Chicken Pasta and so many more. A quick glance at the recipes and I have everything for two and only need a lemon for one of these dishes and presto I have lemon juice on my condiment shelf so that works.
I think I’m going for the Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken it looks delicious and only takes 15 to make it. Add a salad and its great dinner for a busy week night meal. We have everything in our pantry (chicken, olives, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, angel hair pasta and for the salad lettuce, spinach, avocado, asparagus and tomatoes). Now check those items that will be used completely off your available groceries and let’s keep meal planning.
I’m going for shrimp and grits. I could never get my husband to try them on any of our trips to Charleston, SC until our last trip. I knew he would like them. So now I can make them for him one night this week. Check off grits, cream, butter, cheese, shrimp and bacon.
I have an old family favorite that we can use for the pork chops. I do just love them grilled, but right now we are waiting on new grates for the grill that Steve ordered, so grilling is out. I’m going to opt for another simple quick meal preparation. Pork Chops smothered in onion soup. Simply dredge the chops in flour add salt and pepper and brown them on the stove in olive oil. Place the browned chops in a casserole dish. Pour the onion soup mix into the pan where you browned the chops, add two tablespoons of flour and brown, add 1 ½ cups water and some bouillon (you can use chicken or beef broth if you have it on hand, I did not). Let this come to a simmer and pour it over the chops and pop them into the over at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the chops are done. Presto perfect baked chops and gravy. To round off this meal let’s make mashed cauliflower and open a can of green beans – a perfect meal. You can find my recipe for mashed cauliflower here:
Since there is so much chicken, I need to find something else to do with chicken. This looks great and we have all the ingredients – Spinach Chicken Casserole (chicken breast, cream cheese, spinach, olive oil, mozzarella cheese, garlic and spices). I think I will steam some broccoli as a side dish. Again, a quick and easy weekday dinner.
I don’t think it’s necessary to go on, but as you can see, I haven’t even had to make a trip to the grocery store, and we have 4 evening meals planned. There is steak, hamburger and chicken still in the freezer so it should be easy to get though the week with what’s on hand.
Meal 1 – Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken and Salad
Meal 2 – Shrimp and Grits
Meal 3 – Smothered Pork Chops, Mashed Cauliflower and Green Beans
Meal 4 – Spinach Chicken Casserole and Steamed Broccoli
I know, I didn’t discuss breakfast. Well let’s take a look. Eggs, cheese, spinach, ham, bacon, cream cheese, almond milk, heavy cream – everything and more for many outstanding breakfast dishes. Let’s just list a few that you can add to your menu for the week.
Ham and Cheese Omelets with Grits
Scrambled Eggs and Cheese with Bacon
Bacon, Cheese and Spinach Quiche
Blueberry Pancakes and Eggs
Oatmeal with Apples or Blueberries
Lunch items work exactly the same, we are retired so I do often make three meals a day. Mostly simple light meals at breakfast and lunch. Lunch might be a ham and cheese sandwich with deviled eggs; homemade broccoli cheese or chicken rice soup, perhaps just a salad with lunch meat and cheese and maybe a boiled egg. Still again, no trip to the grocery store is necessary.
I know you saying, what about our sweet tooth. Let’s explore our pantry items again. A quick one crust apple pie, apple crumble, chocolate cupcakes, rice pudding or oatmeal cookies, the list can go on and on with just the simple items we have on hand (flour, sugar, butter, rice, cream, oatmeal, apples, etc.).
I realize it took a good hour to create the lists, find the recipes and develop the weekly meal plan. But now you don’t have to fret about what’s for dinner and no time or money was spent at the grocery store. If you don’t keep this much on hand, perhaps its time to stock up your pantry, save yourself the worry of meal planning by being prepared for dining at home with simple and easy to cook healthy meals for the family.