I was speaking to my masi (mother's sister) in Bombay the other day, and told her that once I have the menu ready for the week, things are a breeze. And she said that it is a good idea to have a menu ready, so in the middle of the week, you don't feel like, 'Oh I don't want to eat this today.' Or your wife or mother will not bore you with the same question, 'What should I make for dinner tonight?'
What had started as a compulsion for me has now become a habit. When I was in school for two years, and also worked, there used to be nights when A and I returned home by 8:30 - 9 PM. The last thing you want to do then is stand over a stove and cook potatoes or make a healthy pasta. So we began making a menu every weekend. A lot of things become easy if you plan your menu for the week on a Friday or Saturday. For starters - your trip to the grocery store becomes much more beneficial. You know what you want, how much and why you want it. As a family member pointed out, since things are planned out, you don't visit the grocery store on a weekday, running to buy single things like onions or a bunch of cilantro (fresh green coriander). Since you are putting ten minutes aside only to make a list, you make sure that a) You make healthy things that are a good balance of proteins and starch and carbs and b) You don't have to eat the same boring roti-sabji (Indian flat bread with dry veggies or veggies with curry) everyday. You can put a good casserole for one day, healthy soup the other and roti-sabji the third. There - we just planned a three-day meal for you in less than five minutes. Also, if you are a picky person - you have a say from the start in what you want to eat. If you say at the last minute that you want to eat something interesting and nice, chances are the ingredients may not be at home. In this case, it won't be so.
It has been a long time now since we have been making menus and putting it up on the fridge. I would like to share some tips that may make your task a little bit easy. I have shared my own lists with you in these photographs. As you see in one picture, you can even combine a to-do-list with it.
1. If there are things in your fridge waiting to be used, see what you can cook with those. It's amazing you can make a good square meal out of humble leftovers, or uncooked vegetables or meat if you have that in your fridge.
2. If you have been really keen to try a new recipe, put that on your list. Encourage your creativity.
3. Make it a point to write your list before you do your weekly grocery. Write all ingredients you need that you don't have at home, especially if it is a new recipe.
4. Very important - don't forget to take the list to the store. Sounds crazy, but don't tell me you have never left your list at home and realized it the minute you enter your superstore.
5. As you make the list, go over in your mind whether you'd like to take leftovers for lunch the next day. If not, please add lettuce, cucumber and basic salad needs to take salad to work.
6. Make your list healthy - make sure to put ample legumes and sprouts and greens to your menu. If you eat any kind of meat, space it out for the five days and include that as well.
7. Last, but very important - don't make your menu boring. If it is, then it is very likely that you'll be tempted to order take-out Chinese food on Wednesday night!
I now come home and make my meal every night. But as a student, I cooked on Sundays for the week. It's your call. If you want, you can also chop veggies on Saturday or Sunday and refrigerate them. It will be so simple to just saute them after that. Depending on your schedule - you can cook daily or every two days or over the weekend if you want.
If you cook at home, and try to eat an overall healthy-balanced meal, please give this a shot. Give ten minutes of your time to a small list and see the difference it makes. It will give you peace of mind and an opportunity to include favorites of what every member in your family wants to eat.
Go ahead, give it a try. And let me know how it works for you.