By Nicholas Anthony luxury kitchen specialists from London, UK
Dinnertime in your house: a refined and calm affair where every last detail has been meticulously planned and you glide around your kitchen in complete serenity? Or do you suddenly hit 5pm and realise you haven’t got anything ready and with hungry children tugging at your legs, haphazardly scramble something together from what you have available?
For many households, the latter is only too familiar.
Menu planning is something that sounds like a great idea but many of us simply never get round to doing it. However, the idea sounds far more complex than it is and once you get going, you will be surprised how easy it is and the peace it can bring to your daily routine.
We run through a quick guide to menu planning and how you can achieve the desired outcome with the minimum of fuss.
A plan that’s right for you
Every family has different demands and needs so it’s important to make sure that your menu planning reflects your own household.
The mention of menu planning often conjures up images of home-cooked meals which take hours to prepare but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Menu planning simply means thinking in advance about what you are going to put on the table and shopping accordingly so that you have everything prepared. Knowing what you are going to rustle up that night makes everything so much less stressful!
However, even if you lead a hectic and busy life, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a hearty and wholesome home-cooked dinner, without spending hours chopping, stirring and baking. A slow cooker is a wonderful appliance which can save you precious hours and allows you to arrive home to the delicious smell of dinner wafting through the air.
Using a slow cooker simply means setting aside 10-15 minutes in the morning to add the ingredients and then just switch it on and go! Many slow cookers are capable of gently simmering away for eight hours, perfect for when you are at work! Slow cookers are great for food planning.
The other benefit to a slow cooker is that because they cook the ingredients gently and over a longer period of time, you can buy cheaper cuts of meat as they will be transformed into succulent and moist meals which simply fall apart on your fork.
Use your appliances
Before you head to the supermarket, take a look around your kitchen to see what appliances you have that could help you with menu planning.
Buying in bulk and using the leftovers to create a delicious meal is one way to make menu planning much easier. Making broth or soup is a great way to use up leftovers or even make the most of the contents of a veg box. And if you have a blender, or even better, a food processor, home-made soup is an absolute doddle to make and can be ready in less than an hour!
Food processors are in fact a godsend to anyone who plans their menu as they have so many functions; it makes it easier to stretch ingredients that little bit further. Bread gone a little bit hard and stale? No need to throw it out; simply chuck it into the food processor and hey presto! home-made breadcrumbs. And even better, these breadcrumbs can be frozen for between 3-6 months and won’t need to be defrosted when you want to use them – now that is planning ahead! A variety of food makes for great menu planning.
A rice cooker is another wonderful invention which can save you a lot of time as well as making it easier to rustle up perfectly cooked scrummy dishes. Meals like risotto are famous for needing constant attention but with a rice cooker, simply select the risotto setting, and leave the appliance to do all the grafting! You can cook complete dishes such as jambalaya in a rice cooker – a recipe which is wonderful for using up scraps! – and you can even use your appliance to cook non-rice dishes such as polenta, whole chickens, stews, fish; you also steam veg or poach fruit!
Menu planning doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you might think. By combining it with your weekly or monthly shop, you will not just save money but also free up some time as everything will be organised in advance. Making the best use of your kitchen appliances will not just allow your meals to stretch that little bit further, but you might just find that home-cooked delights take no time at all!