Making menus


This was my breakfast yesterday: spinach and berry walnut salad with light feta cheese and a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette next to a baked turkey sausage patty.

I posted this to Facebook and people raved about how good it looked. Then I shared a secret: I didn’t make the  salad myself, nor the sausage. They were pre-made at the stores. The salad was from Metro. I just added the feta and dressing (which I did make myself with some olive oil and raspberry balsamic vinegar). The turkey sausage patty was bought at (of all places) Walmart and baked for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven (flipping over once halfway through). I could have made these from scratch, yes.

But sometimes, you just want something quick and easy. With buying the pre-made (but fresh versions of these) foods, it makes meal-making pretty quick and easy. This post isn’t about short-cuts — though I encourage you to make whatever short-cuts you wish or to make everything from scratch if you so wish. No, this post is more about menu-making, to help my friend out. 🙂

Keep in mind that what I’m suggesting below is just that: a suggestion. Feel free to go your own route and try your own pairings based on foods you enjoy. These are based upon my own palette and repertoire. If you hate something on the list below, substitute it out with something you love. These are just some starter suggestions.

Breakfast Suggestions

Main dish/food Side dish Other option #1 Other option #2
Omelette Mixed berries Salad or raw veggies such as cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes Grapes
Homemade ‘Egg McMuffin’ made with whole wheat or thin English muffin, low fat cheese, egg and turkey bacon Baked rosemary potatoes (toss them in a ziplock with olive oil and rosemary and a bit of salt, then spread on a baking tray in a single layer and bake at 350F for 30-40 mins or so — parboiled & cooled potatoes cook up faster) Cherry tomatoes Fruit, berries, etc.
Breakfast salad (such as spinach, berries & walnuts) Turkey sausage patty (leftover from dinner) Fruit, berries, etc. Granola bar or handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, etc.

Lunch/Brunch Suggestions

Main dish/food Side dish Other option #1 Other option #2
Baked tuna croquettes Salad of your choosing such as garden, Caesar, spinach, etc. Cucumber slices Cherry tomatoes
Tomato soup Grilled cheese sandwich Apple slices Cucumber slices (you could substitute carrot and celery sticks, if you’d prefer)
Sausage patty or large link (leftover from dinner) Spinach and berry walnut salad with light feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing Cherry tomatoes Cucumber slices
Tuna salad sandwich or wrap w/lettuce Salad of your choosing Soup of your choosing Cut raw veggies with dip
Cold cut sandwich or wrap (I prefer a fat free turkey) with low fat cheese and lettuce Salad Soup Cut raw veggies with dip

Dinner Suggestions

Main dish/food Side dish #1 Side dish #2 Notes / Side dish #3
Baked hamburgers (bake on broiler pan or wire rack on top of baking sheet at 350F for 30 mins, turning over once halfway through) On whole wheat or thin buns (optional); you can easily just serve this on the side with a salad of your fixings instead if watching your carb intake Fixings of your choosing such as cheese (light or regular), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sauteed mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, etc. Side garden salad with dressing of your choice
Meatloaf (bake at 350F for 1 hour) Steamed corn on the cob Baked potatoes OR mashed potatoes Boiled frozen peas or broccoli (some kind of green veg)
Baked chicken breasts, marinated in fat free Italian dressing (bake at 350F for 1 hour) Boiled new potatoes Green veg such as sauteed asparagus or boiled green beans. Try roasted carrots tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing before baking. Sauteed mushrooms (good for piling on top of the chicken), gravy, mushrooms in a wine sauce, etc.
Baked chicken breasts coated in bbq sauce (bake at 350F for 1 hour) Steamed corn on the cob Homemade vinegar-based coleslaw Sliced watermelon (dessert)
Sausages (pork, turkey, beef or chicken), either links or patties (large links can be baked at 350F for 45 mins or patties for 30 mins, turning halfway through) Microwaved rice (cooked in liquid of your choosing, such as chicken broth, alfredo sauce, etc.) Steamed corn on the cob or boiled green beans Roasted cauliflower or broccoli
Roast beef (baked at 350F for 2-3 hours, depending on size, or thrown in a crockpot for 4-8 hours depending on preferred doneness) Potatoes of your choosing, though a garlic mashed potato is quite nice or boiled new potatoes Boiled frozen peas Another veggie of your choosing and/or Club House or frozen Yorkshire puddings, gravy (Club House or canned works well)
Slow-cooked beef stew (recipe is in this blog) Hearty multigrain roll or bread

About the Dishes

Places where ‘cheats’ can be done, to simplify and speed up meal prep are as follows:

  • Burgers and sausage patties can be bought pre-made. To avoid a lot of extra preservatives and such, buy the freshly made patties from the meat counter.
  • Veggies for the stew can be bought frozen and simply added near the end of the baking/braising period, so as not to over-cook.
  • If you like canned tomato soup, you can use that instead of making your own, but if you’re going to make your  own, use canned no-salt-added tomatoes (to control the sodium level if you prefer) and use either an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the vegetables. This soup generally only takes about 20-30 minutes on the stove to make.
  • The corn on the cob can be steamed for 9 minutes in a microwave steamer.
  • Omelettes can be made with egg substitutes for dietary concerns or ease/speed of making up the meal.
  • If you prefer fresh ingredients, do what I do: sit at a table after shopping and pre-chop everything in prep for your week’s meals. Place into ziplock baggies or similar airtight containers in the fridge until you are ready to use them that week.
  • Don’t go through wraps or bread too much so you’re afraid it will go moldy before you get through it? Place individual servings in sandwich bags, then place the sandwich bags inside a large freezer bag and throw it into the freezer. Take the portions you will need out of the freezer the night before and place on the counter to thaw overnight.
  • Regarding the stew: don’t waste time browning the meat — toss it all in seasoned flower and add it to the pot as you’re adding the broth and vegetables. The meat will still cook well if you slow-cook the stew and won’t have that chance of burning. The flour added to the meat will slowly thicken the stew in the oven over time. Bake at 325F for 2-4 hours depending on the size of the meat chunks/amount of stew. The longer it bakes, the more tender/fall-apart the meat will be and the thicker the stew will be.
  • If you need potatoes parboiled, do so the night before and then stick in the fridge once cooled. That way, they are ready to go the next day.
  • Roasted potatoes can be made with frozen vegetables to cut back on how much chopping/prep you need to do. Just toss these into the casserole dish straight from the freezer!
  • Use frozen vegetables for stir-fries.

These are just some suggestions based on my own personal menu which I make often. Feel free to mix and match. I hope this helps someone! 🙂

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