Save like Nana did. The meal plan.

All my mémoires of meals at my Grandparents place are of delicious cooking!  Nana also baked for every event and get together and sent jars of biscuits away with us on holidays.   Nans cooking was part of life into my thirties.   She had so many family gatherings,  Sunday roasts and celebrations featuring things like giant sponge cakes, cream kisses,  cream puffs, slices and cakes.    It was all amazing.   Thinking  about this I have realised that she had a repertoire of meals she made which we ate over and over on rotation and we never tired of them.   

She never asked what does everyone feel like for dinner as she had it planned,  probably started in some way,  well ahead.   Some things would vary depending on what was in season, in the garden or a good deal but a roast of some sort with lots of vegetables was always Sunday lunch.   Everyone loved it.   Most times during my teenage years her big kitchen table had eight or nine of us sitting around it.  

Other regulars were soup especially one she made with a lamb bone and I have never successfully replicated!

And Pasty slice.  Instead of making a heap of pasties she made one giant rectangle pasty in a huge dish.   It was then cut into slices.  That was delicious.   

Mum also had her repertoire which also included roasts and the subsequent fritters,  tuna mornay,  fried rice,  beautiful soups,  ham cheese and pineapple toasties,  pancakes and probably a million things I have forgotten but I loved those so I remember! 

The thing is that having tried and tested,  reliable meals (that your family like) is a help in itself.  You are not left wondering what on earth to make.   Over time as we learn and try new things our list grows.  
A really good and worthy place on my rotation list has extra points if it provides another meal to use later in the week (or to freeze) and comes from ingredients I always have on hand.
I have noticed even favourites now and then get forgotten about.   Two Bluebirds mentioned Apricot Chicken last week and I wondered why on earth I have not made that in a couple of years?   I just forgot about it.    I have decided to write a list of all the meals I know are always a success and put this list inside a cupboard door.    I am still working on it but my list includes:

Any kind of roast and veggies (Like Nana and Mum.)
Pumpkin soup.
Chicken soup.
Tomato soup.
Apricot chicken.
Chicken Enchiladas.
Beef stroganoff.
Chicken and vegetable casserole or pies.
Lasagne/ Spaghetti bolognese with various vegetable variations.  Also variations on noodles like Zoodles.
Chicken Mondiali Pasta.
Hilde's creamy pasta.
Pasta carbonara.
Chicken Schnitzels and veg.
Warm chicken salad.
Cold meats and salads.
Steak sandwiches.
Fried rice.
Tuna mornay.
Lamb, Haloumi and Hummus. (and salad)
Sausage rolls.
Chicken and Tzatziki wraps. 
Meat pies.
Butter chicken,  
Tikka Masala. 
Sausages with brown onion gravy and veggies.  
Lamb shanks.  
Impossible pie.
Spinach pie.
Baked ham and salads.
Baked meatballs and cherry tomatoes. 
Baked chicken in tomato sauce.
Grilled Chicken topped with avocado and cheese.   
Toasties.   My emergency meal.

There are various cheat things ie things I buy from the butcher that only need cooking and a side of veggies.   No doubt as I think about it I will remember more things to add to my list.  Some things like Tuna Mornay can be made entirely of pantry ingredients.  

Having a list helps when you are just short of ideas, inspiration or ingredients.   We all have times where thinking and making a decision just seems too hard!   Planning ahead means a meal is often at least partly started ie ingredients thawing,  slow cooker started,  some steps taken.
This means that if you often get take away you can reduce that by a lot. 
It means you probably have meals in the freezer for emergencies.
This gives you something to give someone else in a crisis as well as saving dinner when you have your own crisis.

My list will hopefully keep the rotation going and stop me forgetting old time favourites.

If you would share your regular meals it would give us all ideas and maybe remind us of things to include on our own list.   But remember we do not have to be fancy to be good.  Nana cared about nutrition and her budget and all I can remember is beautiful times and good food.  She showed an enormous amount of love and care for us with the incredible amount she cooked over the years.   Memories that last a lifetime and as I make things  I think of Nan...  how would she do it?   What Nana fed us influences what I cook for my Grandchildren.   

PS. My photos are of my own cooking that I think best represents things I have copied from Nan. xxx


  1. This is a great list. I cook from scratch most of the time. I like to do variations of chicken and rice or beef and rice. It's tasty and we all love it!

    1. Your meals sound great. We grew up cooking from scratch and it is so simple as long as you keep ingredients. So much healthier too.

  2. Annabel, Oh how you have brought back memories of Sunday dinners at my grandmother's home. It was always roasted chickens with mashed potatoes and some sort of veggie. Plus her famous apple pie.
    Whenever she made chicken soup I would be running over for some, her chicken soup was as clear as water though the flavor was intense. She never added noodles to the soup but served them on the side, so you got to chose how many noodles you had, those of course were homemade. I have tried numerous times to make her soup but never come close.

    We have some regular meals here.
    Pizza is a stable for using up odds and ends out of the frig.
    Pasta sauce is made in a very large pot and cooked all day, leftovers are froze.
    Meatloaf, Pork Chops, Chicken Thighs are main stables and Fish of some sort on Fridays.
    We alternate with potatoes of some sort and rice as a starch and what ever veggies are on sale that week.
    Frittatas, Pizzas, Wraps and Soup are purposeful uses of leftovers.
    Trying to be frugal and purchase when on sale or clearance to save on the cost of all food.
    Nothing goes to waste.
    Following examples of parents and grandparents.

    1. Rubies, I may have the answer to your grandmother's rich, clear chicken soup. In fact, I'm making some right now. The first trick is to use cooked (not raw) bones. I'm making my stock in the Crock Pot tonight from a cooked rotisserie chicken, so no need to do anything else. Ditto for cooking a ham bone. But I also save raw beef bones and freeze them, so in that case I would bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes before starting the stock. This "heals" the bones and makes for a richer, clearer broth.

      When making chicken stock, I include the skin and also add the sorriest looking vegetables I have, such as celery leaves, a limp carrot, garlic and leftover onion. I usually add a spoonful of boullion base. For extra flavor--and I did this tonight--I poke a few whole cloves into the onion. You won't taste the cloves in the stock, but it will be the most delicious stock you've ever had.

      I'm leaving it to cook overnight on Low. In the morning, I will first remove the bones, skin and vegetables, and discard. I will pick the bones for meat, which I admit is a disgusting job. Then pour the stock into another pan to make the soup. Now here's the second trick: Pour slowly, and when you get almost to the end, throw away the last few tablespoons that has all of the congealed blood, etc., in it. I promise you this will be the nicest, clearest broth you have ever had. It really isn't any more trouble, just attention to detail.

      Mary, just go online and search for recipes for soups that you like. The internet is full of them. The soup tomorrow is going to be chicken vegetable, using whatever veggies I happen to have and a pint jar of canned tomatoes.

      Annabel, this is a great topic. I had a list of meals in a notebook and when the notebook was full, I tore out the pages to update and transfer to my new notebook. Unfortunately, I lost the pages! I have been saying that I was going to re-do the list but just haven't gotten around to it. You are now prompting me to make my list and reminding me of a lot of dishes I need to include. Thank you.

    2. Thank you Rosanne and also Maxine. We would call a clear soup a broth I think. It can be very full of goodness and also used to cook rice or bottles in to add nutrition to those. xxx

  3. A list does help. Without one, I seem to do repeats a bit too often. I have never been able to duplicate my grandmother's bran muffins. Mine are okay, but not as good as hers. Of course, she did not bake from a recipe; it was a "bit of this" and "a bit of that."

  4. Hi, Annabel and Bluebirds!
    Your recipes look delicious and I wonder if you could share the recipe for that delicious looking cake with cream? Pretty please? :)
    In Portugal we have very different dishes and recipes, but even those that I remember eating as a child, are now changing and becoming "gourmet"...
    So, what I try to do is make a weekly meal plan for me and my hubby and I cook the recipes that my mother and his mother cooked whenwe were growing up.
    Other than that, I also try to include mediterranean dishes, as it is one of the basis of the Portuguese diet and the mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest of the world!
    Oh and here in Portugal, they are talking about raising the prices of electricity, too. Again...
    Have a blessed week!

    1. Dear Paula, Thank you! The cake is a sponge and I am working on having a reliable recipe to share, mine is hit and miss. The filling is Lemon Curd... this is on my blog under Jars of Sunshine. Then whipped cream. Give me a little time with a sponge recipe I am more confident to share. I love Greek food... that is my favourite of all so that pretty well represents the Mediterranean diet. Also our climate here is quite similar, we even have an olive grove near us. The electricity prices seem to be world wide, same with food. Not many of us are unscathed! I am very thrilled to have you from Portugal! With much love

    2. Thank you and I'll be waiting for the sponge cake recipe and I'll search for the lemon curd recipe you posted! ;)
      Yes, prices are rising everywhere and that's one more reason we have to have a stocked pantry and stop spending money in things that add nothing to our lives.
      Please, keep on writing and teaching us like you have been doing, Annabel. I don't comment much (one thing I hope to change!), but I love to read your blog and I learn a lot from you and from the other sweet Bluebirds!

  5. I also have The Rotation. If I try a new recipe and it's good, it's added to the rotation. If it's awful, or we just don't like it, it is not. Most of our Rotation comes from the pantry, the stockpile or the freezers.

    1. Hi Maria, I love to find a new thing that we all really like. I am going through my old recipe books to see what I might have forgotten about and what to try

  6. Where can I find recipes for some of the dishes you mentioned in this post? Thank you.

    1. Dear Mary, I have posted a lot of recipes over time. I mentioned the Chicken Mondiali last week. I do not have a recipe index at this stage however you can google The Bluebirds are Nesting Enchiladas, pies, lasagne etc and they will come up. My meat pies will be a meat and vegetable slow cooker casserole... I will make enough to have some left and use the tender meat and veggies to make pies. This is very versatile. And pies freeze well!
      I hope this helps. I will try to post more recipes as I go along. Many thanks

  7. Dear Annabel,
    Well, you once again made a simple subject so interesting along with the other Bluebird comments. My Mom, like my Nana, could put a meal on the table and every bit hot! I have heat some things again come serving time in the microwave! Plus my Nan always had dessert, often a cake. She was German and liked to safe a piece of meat to go with dessert: sweet and savory!
    My Mom made my favorite cake: yellow layer cake with sliced bananas sprinkled with powdered (icing) sugar on them and iced with chocolate buttercream (only!) frosting! The best! When I was 5 I remember being the kitchen helping (?) Mother cook while my just home from hospital sister lay in her basket on a board on radiator. Mother set me to mixing pineapple upside down cake, which I said I could do! Oh my, 300 strokes by hand! But I counted them all out, stirring on the seat of a dining chair to be
    Liw enough for me to stand at!
    Favorites were:
    Baked steak (I used big knife to score top and bottom of beef slices!)
    BBQ chicken ( we lived on a lake with a big butchering kettle my Dad, a welder, made into a BBQ grill with beautiful fitted grill top he made!)
    Frikadeller (Danish meat balls) (for parslied potatoes, I ue canned whole potatoes fried in lots of butter with parsley added and rolled around after browning.
    Sunday breakfast was bacon and eggs with crepe like pancakes with real maple syrup ( locally made!) or hot blueberry compote!!We also used good dishes and gorgeous cups and saucers my Mom collected! Also we had a “spooner mug” for our teaspoons. Now it seems too rustic but I miss it from the table!
    Well, enough fir now! Everyone well. Donna now strong enough to hold silverware after new pacemaker installed! Fingers crossed!
    Thanks again, Annabel , and Live to All from Rick in Florida and M/L Donna in Indiana.

    1. Dear Rick and Donna, I am so glad to hear Donna is doing well after a new pacemaker! I hope and pray she continues to feel better. On one side of my Dads family I had German ancestors. My Great Grandmother cooked many German recipes. Also I grew up in the Barossa Valley. This whole area had a lot of German cooking and traditions as many Germans settled there.
      I love the sound of your Mothers cake and also how you helped when the baby was first home from hospital. These are great memories!
      I like the use of the good dishes and a set table. Everything seems much more special. I want to learn Danish meatballs... I might google this as all our meatballs are in tomato bases where as I would like to try the creamy kind of base. Challenge accepted! With love to you both, Annabelxxx

  8. Oh, I love the idea of making a big pasty bake rather than individual ones! I'll have to try that. At the beginning of the year I sat and made up a big list of meals that I make, and I was surprised at how many ideas I had. It's very handy to look back at when I hit the wall on meal ideas some days, especially during the summer heat! LOL. I loved your memories of food at your grandma's and your mom's tables - I have such lovely memories of my mine, too. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oh, how I miss eating at my Mom's house. She loved to feed us all. I really miss having big crowds to cook for here since our kids all live hours away. It is so much fun to plan prepare for their visits!

    I make my menus on a big wall calendar. Any day that does not get used is circled so that next time I make menus they can just move forward. I save those calendars because I can reference them to make more menus and especially reference the same month last year. This is so helpful if you have kids at home asking what's for supper!

    I did lists probably 20 years ago in my day planner and divided them by proteins to make menu planning easier. They need to be added to and updated. When planning I will plan for several days to have duplicates like the same salad so I can make it in quantity. If I am prepping vegetables I look ahead to see if I will be needing that same vegetable prepped for another day. When I boil potatoes I always do some extra to brown quickly for a breakfast. All these small things add up to make meals easier. It is easy to make doubles of things like muffins and loaf cakes to tuck away in the freezer for later.

    1. I love your thinking re the extra salad to go with the next meal or chopping extra that will be needed in the next few nights. I love to cook extra so all or part of another meal is already ready to go! Great comment! xxx

  10. heool annabel and all, today you are talking about one of my favorite pastimes, cooking and reading cookbooks like novels. we eat a lot of soups around here. fresh or frozen and since there is only 2 of us anymore a big pot of soup(is there any other way to make it) goes a long way. i always try to round it out with some sort of bread or muffins and fruit. tonight we are having bean with bacon soup and homemade buttermilk bread with butter and cherry almond jam. other soups we like are { creamy chicken vegetable, cauliflower, broccoli cheese, sausage kale, } today my husband asked me to make a blackeye pea soup, guess i'll have to look .
    for a recipe for that. maybe one of you have a good one. sometimes we will also have pasta salads pizza,baked potato topped with bacon, broccoli and cheese sauce. that is a meal in itself. salmon or tuna patties or chili cheese dogs over the campfire.. bonnie

    1. Dear Bonnie, I want to do Tuna patties... and I love Broccoli and cheese sauce! You have a great list, thank you! Love

  11. Quesadillas, chicken Villa masala, sloppy Joe, pesto pasta, smoked meats, ham and split pea soup, Stir fry, smoked ribs, tacos, Salisbury steak, roast chicken, charcuterie plates, beef stew, sandwiches....

    1. I love a charcuterie platter. Especially in summer. Thanks for reminding me about that! Oh and I do Pesto pasta with chicken. I forgot that as well! Thank you! xxx

  12. I love meal planning, I live to meal plan :) I plan our meals a year in advance and it work, and saves so much time and frustration and a lot of money. It works because I buy ingredients and so have plenty of options. It also works because there are three nights a week we eat the same dinner, in similar formats. Sunday is always a roast of some kind, Tuesday is always the pasta dish for the week and Thursday is MOO pizzas and everyone gets their own and gets their "junk food" fill for the week without eating junk food. Saturday is always something easy (pies, toasties and soup or haystacks). Either Monday or Wednesday is something using the roast leftovers. This year for the first time I have built freezer meals into the meal plan and it is working really well. Again, everyone chooses something from the freezer, heats it, eats it and they're all happy. And no cooking for me :) The other thing I do is put the meal plan on the fridge and everyone can check to see what's for dinner - saves the constant asking and builds anticipation. Most Australian families have a rotation of about 14 meals they eat regularly, with a total of 30 - 35 that they'll eat every couple of months. We are a pretty boring lot when it comes to dinner variety!

  13. Hi Annabel. This post is full of memories for you and brought a few back for me. Grandma made delicious Corned beef with white cheesy sauce, mashed potato and cauliflower. My other Grandma made the best roast potatoes. They were crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle. I have never got them as nice as hers.
    Bluey's Mum was an amazing cook. Her blowaway sponge was the most beautiful sponge ever. She served it simply with whipped cream and strawberries. She also taught Bluey to cook. Over the years he taught me.
    Tonight we had a plain old chicken casserole. Bluey saw half a lemon sitting on the bench and decided that would be nice in the casserole. It was delicious.
    For us, fish is on the menu once or twice a week. We generally just have this pan fried. In the summer the fish is served with salad and in the winter steamed veg.
    We have a warm chicken salad when our avocado are ripe. We also have nachos when I have made up Guacamole during avocado season.
    Our emergency meal is eggs on toast. It is one of my favourite meals.
    I love this idea of developing a list of rotational meals. It is a lovely reminder to think about those meals that we have forgotten to have.

  14. Would love to hear what the single ladies do for meals ? I find that I don’t cook like I used to because of it. Lonely eating without someone else.

  15. Dear Annabel,
    This is a great topic with so many wonderful ideas. One of the things I do is batch cook. I have a flexible plan where I bake and freeze once a month. I will spend part of a day each month to make English muffins, breads, tortillas for wraps, cookies and things like tea breads and no-roll crackers to last us a month. I plant a lot of zucchini and basil in the garden to pre-make the base for cream of zucchini soup and freeze it. Then when we want to have that soup the base is made and all I have to do is make the cream sauce. I also shred the zucchini and put it into 5 cup or 3 cup packages to freeze to make zucchini fritters or zucchini pie.

    We love soups and I keep the freezer stocked with bone broth and some soups that are already made up, like carrot top soup, onion soup, egg roll soup, vegetable soup. What is put up from the garden is added to the meal plans. I also like meals made from planned leftovers that are served in a different way. For instance, extra rice can be put in soups, be made into rice custard, rice salad, fried rice etc. Extra meatloaf can be crumbled and reappear as meat sauce for spaghetti, chili, or shepards pie. My meal plan book contains all the possible meal combination I've been able to think of and now gets added to depending on what's available at the farm market or grocery store. Cookie

  16. All these meals sound delicious!
    Here are some of the meals I’ve been making lately (all are gluten free):
    Cowboy casserole with a side of fruit salad
    Beef and black bean burritos
    Garlic lemon chicken with sides of rice and broccoli
    Gluten free pizza topped with red sauce, shredded cheese, basil, green peppers, and pepperoni with a side of fruit salad two or more types of cut up fresh fruit mixed with vanilla yogurt)
    Gluten free rice noodles with marinara sauce, side a side of gf garlic bread sticks and green salad
    Lentil chili served with corn chips and baked sweet potatoes
    Chicken vegetable soup served with gf rolls
    Roast beef cooked in the slow cooker with mini gold potatoes and carrots
    Egg roll in a bowl
    Stew using leftover roast beef, more vegetables, and my super secret seasonings (garlic, onion powder, cayenne, and summer savory)
    Have a good rest of the week, Bluebirds! Love, Teresa

  17. As far as I know, my mom did not meal plan when I was growing up. We were very poor so the pantry was slim. Also, my mom is Japanese and could not read English well, so she couldn't really use a cookbook or anything. She was a single, working mom and constantly exhausted. We usually just had some Spam fried rice, canned soup, or maybe ramen noodles, whatever she could throw together in a hurry. I learned how to meal plan when I became a mom. Sometimes we get in a rut with the same meals over and over, and when that happens I let the family choose some new-to-us prepped meals from HelloFresh or another boxed meal subscription. That gives us the chance to try some new recipes, then we cancel the subscription. We have found several favorites this way. My teen daughter loves to cook using those meal kits. She likes that everything was pictured on the recipe card, so she can do it herself and not rely on me. I plan to do the same for my son this fall when he starts "husband training". They are more expensive than buying from the grocery store, but we save by not buying a bunch of ingredients we might not use again. You can also look at the recipes without subscribing--just search "HelloFresh popular meals" or "HelloFresh recipes" -- so that's how we repeat the meal after we find some we like. A few of our favorites from there have been Beef Bulgogi Bowls, Firecracker Meatballs, and Korean Beef Bibimbap. If I were single, I would order meals from them all the time. It's so simple and good.
    My family's favorite meals include baked fish and rice, teriyaki chicken iwith fried cabbage, slow cooker roast beef -- leftovers become beef pot pie or beef stew, chicken corn chowder, chicken and rice soup, beef stew, spaghetti with meat sauce, smothered chicken (cooked with onions and bacon), baked pork chops, parmesan crusted chicken, glazed salmon, smoked sausage and vegetables, chicken quesadillas, chicken stir fry, tacos, Pioneer Woman's comfort meatballs with buttered egg noodles, fried chicken tenders on salad with homemade bbq dressing, tortellini soup, beef stroganoff, scrambled eggs mixed with veggies and leftover rice, chicken alfredo, pork tenderloin.

    We are at a funny point in life. Everyone in my family is busy so we're not usually all home together at mealtimes. My daughter is home from her first year in college and is so happy with most things we make, she's just grateful for homecooked food. My son is a constantly hungry freshman in high school who is disgruntled no matter what I cook, he is in a grumpy phase. My husband will eat just about anything. So I just make something to eat and keep it on the stove or leftovers in the fridge, and if they don't like it they can fend for themselves.

  18. My granny's go to Sunday dinner: Fried Chicken, Potato Salad, tiny green butter beans, and biscuits. She froze the butter beans each summer and they only came out of the freezer for Sunday dinner, never for a weekday dinner. She might add other sides in summer if fresh items were available but that was her basic meal for years and years. I love the smell of chicken frying to this day because it smells like her house on a Sunday.
    My mom planned meals the day of eating. She didn't plan meals as I do now but simply ate what she felt like each day and if that meant going by the grocery to pick up something, she did. I have never done that. I tend to plan meals and though my plans may change during the week if things run out or whatever, I do pretty much stick to the ingredients I intended to use with only the occasional substitute. I never went out to purchase anything especially to make one meal!
    I collected all my most often used recipes and put them in a binder together. I have a listing of things I can make strictly from the pantry in that binder as well as variations on a theme. Say I want to make beans and rice. I can make bean and rice burritos or enchiladas. I can have red bean or black beans with rice. I can make a bean soup. I could have a Southwestern style bean and rice soup. I might season it one way and then season it differently next time I go to make it. Tacos are another example. The obvious taco supper, could also become taco pasta, taco pizza, taco meatloaf.


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