I only cook because of my kids. Well ,my kids and my husband, if I lived on my own I would live off corn chips and mayo. Lucky for me I have a family who needs to be fed, and lucky for our tiny food budget, I am steadily learning to make an ever growing variety of meals. Sometimes I even enjoy it, but I won’t admit that in public and definitely not in front of my family!
For the last year or so I have been trying to get my head around some kind of menu planning. We do our major shop monthly (we top up with fresh fruit and vege each week or so) and for that to work I need to have a rough idea of what I am going to cook and what ingredients I need. I am not good with a menu plan that has me deciding meals a month or even a week in advance, I often get to Friday and really don’t want to cook spag bol which just ruins the whole idea. I need something that helps me decide what to buy for the month as well as helps me decide what to cook, without being too prescriptive. A ‘seasonal menu’ is my current plan of attack.
My seasonal menu is really just a list of summer meals and a list of winter meals. Each month before I shop I take a look at the list and rough out a bit of a plan. I count the number of dinners where everyone will be here, and when it will be just me and the kids. I count the number of dinners that also need to be lunches for the Baldy Boy (he takes left overs to work for lunch and dinner while on shift). I look at any special events in the months that I might need special meals for or when (lucky me) I might not need to cook at all. From all of that I make a list of meals I think we might eat in that month, sometimes I might allocate a few to actual days but usually it’s just a list on the fridge.
It gives me a nice list of meal ideas that I know I have the ingredients for and some ideas for those nights when it is 5:30 pm, I haven’t taken anything out of the freezer and I know that in less than an hour all the monsters are going to want to be fed all at once! So far it seems to working out ok – even if we do get to the end of the month and eat a few weird meals because I haven’t quite stuck to the plan and there isn’t many ingredient options left.
Despite cooking not being on the top of my loves, the Twinadoes LOVE to cook and despite the fact that it can sometimes feel chaotic with so many cooks in the kitchen, I try to make sure my menu plan has options that let them join in and help out whenever they want to. There is an awesome post over at Design Mum all about kids cooking, what they learn from it and some great ideas to help get you started.
These days the girls have enough experience and understanding that they can help make most meals. They are slowly developing the skills to use a knife (this has not come easy to them) and love to help chopping easy things like mushrooms (they are soft enough to be chopped with a butter knife). They love to do all the fun kid stuff like mixing, kneading, rolling and getting their hands dirty. We often have some really odd shaped tortillas with our tacos! They will stand and stir something on the stove for a good five minutes while I do something else which is a great help. Now don’t freak out, we have been working up to this for a while and they totally get the concept of hot and know what to touch and what not to touch and how to be careful. They have never brunt themselves, unlike their mother who sears some part of her body every time the oven goes on.
So now that it is getting colder (and ok it is not winter yet, but I only do a warm weather and a cool weather menu so for the sake of the menu and the blog title it is!) I am changing over from our summer to our winter menu, compiling my master list of winter meals and looking for a few new things to try.
Some of our favourite meals –
Chicken and Mushroom Pasta (lots of mushroom chopping in this one!)
Super Tacos/Chille with rice and cheesy bread or tortillas
Indian Chicken with Naan bread (lots of odd shaped Naan bread on our table)
‘Tuna and Chips’ – tuna on a bed of rice with a layer of tomato, a layer of cheesey mushroom sauce and a alyer of crunched up chips on top!
Easy Beef Triangles
Meat Pot Pies – we make them in individual little pots
Some new things we are trying or would like to try –
Calzone or Pizza Pockets as we call them
Sausage casserole – still looking for the perfect recipe but I tried a version of this the other night which was ok but not wonderful.
Lentil recipes – I made a great spaghetti bolognese sauce with lentils the other night and I really like the way lentils go sort of velvety in things and almost disappear completely. They make stretching your budget rather easy so I’d like to learn more lentil recipes. I am going to try this pasta sauce next.
Things to bake –
I am working on perfecting my loaf of bread at the moment, it’s getting better but still not right.
Banana choc chip cookies – these are DIVINE!
I want to try these Yoghurt and Oatmeal Muffins as well as remember to make more yoghurt!
What are you all cooking at the moment? Inspire me people!