Menu planning

2 October 2007

One smart way to cut down on food waste is to plan your menus. This will help you with your shopping, it will save time because you don’t have to stand in front of the fridge every afternoon and wonder “what will I cook for dinner” that decision has already been made and your ingredients are already in the fridge or the pantry.

Like most things we do in this simple life, organisation is the key. If you can invest an hour of your time to make up a menu plan for a month, you can use that plan 12 times during the year. Sometimes you might want to modify it, but if you don’t, you have your menus covered for the next year.

Plan your menu around what's in your stockpile and what you're growing. If you don’t stockpile and shop for grocery on a weekly basis, start off your menu planning by using what you already have in the kitchen. Check your fridge, pantry cupboard and in the kitchen for what food is available to work with. Have your local supermarket flyers on hand so you can plan according to what is on special that week. Make sure you understand the principles of good nutrition and be guided by the recommended requirements for healthy living.

You’ll save time and money if you cook double the quantity. For instance, the tuna casserole listed in my summer menus serves four. We eat it two nights in a row, the second night being the best as the flavours have had time to develop. You can do this with soup, pasta sauces, casseroles, roasts, curries and many other dishes. The meal takes the same amount of time to prepare but the second night you save on the preparation time and you save on the energy bills by just using enough energy to reheat the food. Alternatively, if the meal is freezable, cover the second portions tightly and freeze it for the following week.

This is a sample breakdown of two week’s dinner/supper menu plan; one summer, one winter. We eat no meat or chicken, just fish, vegetables and dairy. I plan for six meals as there are usually leftovers one night. I never plan breakfasts or lunch. Breakfast for us is usually eggs on toast, or toast and tea, sometimes baked beans or weetbix. Lunch is a sandwich made with bread just out of the oven.

1 – tuna casserole, garden salad and sprouts/home grown fruit if available/tinned fruit, homemade buttermilk ice cream.
2 – vegetarian burritos with beans, sprouts and salad/watermelon slices.
3 – crumbed fish, potato salad, tomatoes/homemade banana cake.
4 – garden salad with sprouts, potatoes, boiled eggs and avocado/fresh fruit salad and homemade ice cream.
5 – pumpkin risotto/junket with peaches.
6 – cheese and herb omelet/stewed apples and frozen yoghurt.

1 – vegetable soup with homemade hot bread/apple pie.
2 – vegetable curry/fresh fruit.
3 – crumbed fish, mashed potato, beans, carrots/homemade lemon cake.
4 – pumpkin soup with homemade hot bread/ lemon cake.
5 – bean and vegetable casserole/pancakes with homemade lemon butter filling.
6 – tinned salmon cakes with homemade chilli jam and pan fried potatoes and grilled tomatoes/apple crumble and egg custard.

Buttermilk ice cream
This will make enough ice cream for three people.
1 cup good cream
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk

Place cream in a saucepan and gently bring it up to a slow simmer. Separately in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together. The slowly pour the hot cream into egg yolk mixture, whisking as you pour.

Now you need to make this into a custard. To do that, return the mixture to the saucepan and stir it over low heat until the custard thickens slightly. Don't boil it or it will spoil. It should take about 5 minutes of constant stirring to make the custard. When it's thickened, pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in 1 cup cold buttermilk.

Put this mixture in the fridge until it's cold and then pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the directions of your machine. If you don't have a machine, pour into container, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. When it starts to freeze, get a fork and stir it around, breaking up the ice crystals. Keep doing this every 45 minutes until the ice cream is solid.

Printable weekly menu sheets here.


  1. That buttermilk ice-cream sounds intriguing!

    Question: once you've used the egg yolks, what do you do with the whites?

  2. I freeze the whites, anna. I use them later for omlettes or pavlova.

  3. Ah right, Pavlova - one of my favorites. But I had no idea egg whites can be frozen. :)

  4. Rhonda, I think I've told you before but wanted to let you know that I absolutely LOVE your blog. It's one of the very few places that I make an effort to visit daily as I not only learn from you but am VERY inspired by what you write. Thank you so very much. :o)

    Now a question, where on earth are you buying junket tabs from? We can't find them anywhere these days. (sigh)

  5. Hello Dot, thank you. : ) I get my junket tablets from IGA, I had to ask them to keep ordering it because they discontinued the line. So maybe you need to ask your shop if they can stock it.

  6. Another wonderful post Rhonda Jean. I never knew you could freeze egg whites. Wow....I learn something new everytime I visit. I will be freezing them in the future.
    I will start making menu plans, it seems a much easier way of preparing dinner instead of ( yes that was me standing in front of the fridge)deciding that day. I end up going to the store too often to pick up something that's needed.
    Do you have a "master" list of groceries that you buy on your big shop?

    Thanks, Paula

  7. Hi Rhonda,

    Yum! Buttermilk icecream sounds delicious! I usually just make honey icecream, as I'm rather lazy and don't usually bother with custard bases, but that is one recipe I would like to try!

    I'd like to thank you, also, for your wonderful ideas and inspiration that you provide. I always learn something valuable from visiting with you, and it is such a treat to encounter likeminded souls such as yourself and those who visit your blog.



  8. Dear Rhonda; I am in my second week of menu planning and I already feel less stressed when it comes to meal planning. My children look in the notebook where the menu is kept and they already know what will be for dinner tomorrow and so on.
    Thank you for a great post.
    maria s.

  9. I am catching up on my reading tonight, and it is an absolute joy to spend time here, Rhonda Jean! You have a marvelous garden (going back a couple of posts). All that you shared about what you grow and the view of your home...I enjoyed it so. Thank you, too, for the ice cream recipe here - we will enjoy trying that :) Love to you! Q

  10. Rhonda...there I was standing in front of the fridge wondering what on earth I'd make for dinner. Courtesy of your stockpiling tuition, I am pleased to announce chicken lasagne is on the menu, and I'll make enough to freeze two lots for next week and the week after. Lisa J

  11. What type of food do you feed your fish? I heard that fish food(made from fish) has a high mercury content. I'd like to raise fish to eat, but worry about the commercial food.
    Since you make your own dog food, I'm thinking you have strong opinions about this.

  12. I have found making menus totally worth every minute. It makes things so much easier on me and my budget as my husband and I are still feeding our oldest daughter and her husband since they are both working and going to school full time. Thank you so much for giving me some fresh menu ideas!!Sharon

  13. Another very apt post. Yesterday was my first ever day exercising a menu plan :-) We order organic groceries online every fortnight and find our two fridges full to the brim once they are delivered but we always have wastage of more obscure veges and not-so-popular fruit. Our meat all comes frozen too which makes it very hard for me to cook something that I've come up with on the day... I need to be thinking about it a day ahead to defrost it safely.

    So to deal with the large quantities of very varied veges in particular I wrote a fortnight's menu plan and put it on the fridge. It lists the main ingredients for the dish (excluding things that I always have, like parmesan) and there is also a column that says "need to buy" which includes things like fried noodles (for tonight Chinese noodle salad) and filo pastry (for next week's spinach pie). That way I have a tiny shopping list too for the things that I don't normally have in the pantry etc.

    I feel so much more organised at dinner time now which is essential with our lifestyle (husband working away leaving me unmotivated to cook properly for just myself and two young children, and also extra-curricular activites late afternoon that get in the way of me cooking dinner if I'm not organised).

    I'm looking forward to a future of nil-wastage and smooth-sailing evenings, especially after swimming and ballet lessons when my husband is away at work and I'm going it alone!

  14. Another great benefit of a meal plan.... they say to never go supermarket shopping without a shopping list, or with a hungry tummy. A menu plan gives you that shopping list! YOU just need to be sure you can put the blinkers on ;)

  15. Another great thing about menu planning is that you can make sure all your nutritional needs are met. I have a weekly menu plan that we use. It is very basic, but the flavors change so much with a careful use of various herbs, spices and sauces.

    I like knowing that we are getting all our nutrients without devoting a lot of time to it.


  16. I'm just loving your blog. You post such useful information, great ideas, and much food for thought. Thanks so much for all the time and effort you put into this blog.


  17. A bit more information about locating junket - according to (run by a group of enterprising South Australians who, after the manufacturer of the lowly junket tablet decided it was no longer a viable product, responded to demand and resurrected junket production as a kind of cottage industry) "Junket powder is sold in Health Food stores, various Independent Grocery stores, Franklins NSW and IGA's all over Eastern Australia - for those that cannot get to the shops we have a mail order service."

  18. I love, love, love having menu plans and cannot operate without them!

    Do you plan your brekky and lunch meals and baking for snacks as well?

  19. bel, no I don't. With just the two of us breakfast is simply eggs on toast or beans, or maybe tea and toast or a weetbix or oatmeal. Lunch is always a hot bread sandwich. I make one sweet thing a week - either biscuits or cake, or date scones or pikelets. That will do us all week.

  20. Hi Rhonda.
    As i'm new here, i'm probably way late at posting a reply regarding meal plans, but just wanted to convey what i used to do. Years & years ago when i was a single mum with 2 little boys i lived in NZ on a "solo benefit". The money was pittance & I struggled until I figured out that a 'meal plan' would be ideal in coping with my small fortnightly payment. I bought myself a soft notebook & wrote up each day for a fortnights menu on each Monday, Tuesday etc. On each page i headed Lunch, Dinner & Sweets as well as the veges i was having with each meal, including left overs (cottage pie). On the cover of my notebook i wrote a list of fresh vegetables & how they can be silverbeet washed & cut then left dry covered until ready to cook. Same with Pumpkin etc so i knew exactly what i could prepare ahead. This notebook served as one of my most valuable lessons / ideas i've ever had & once a week i planned a day of home cooking...biscuits,slices, cakes, pie (savoury & sweet), or any bottling depending on the time of year. My small freezer was full. My sons still tell people today that they were the best fed children at school. I still have that same notebook today & will always treasure it. Thank you for reminding me of old times that although they were hard, they were a valuable learning experience. Oh & by the way, back then i also placed money in envelopes. I visit your site each & every day since finding it & thank you from the bottom of my heart. You're so inspiring to hundreds of readers.


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