Everything I ever knew about cooking I learned from my Italian mother-in-law! (Wouldn’t that have made a great title!?) Except it’s not true. 🤔 Since I already knew how to cook, I didn’t need lessons from Mamma Anna. But she did teach me menu planning, albeit indirectly. And I have learned a lot about cooking by living in Italy. (Just eating with Italians is a cooking lesson!)
I never had the priviledge of really knowing my mother-in-law, as we lived far away. And by the time we moved closer, she had developed Alzheimers. But I got good menu tips from her nontheless!
Mamma Anna’s menu
From our earliest days together, Hubby often reminisced about his mother’s simple menu with fixed dishes for every day of the week, like the traditional spaghetti dinner every Sunday or pasta and beans on Monday. He liked knowing what to expect for supper each day, and anticipating it throughout the day. (Is he Italian, or what!?) 😉
But unlike Mamma Anna and her daughters, I didn’t inherit a strong cooking gene. Although a good cook, I just don’t have the same passion for it. And even less so for menu planning, which always stressed me out most of all!
Until I started following Mamma Anna’s menu, that is. Or rather, my own version of it. And I think it really is the simplest menu ever! So easy to remember and use, that I’m sure you’ll love it too. So let’s get started!
Mamma Anna’s Menu – my version
|PLAN MAIN MEAL AROUND|
|Monday Meat||🥩 MEAT (beef, lamb, veal, pork, etc.)|
|Tuesday Beans||🥣 BEANS & Legumes (beans, lentils, split peas, tofu, etc.)|
|Wednesday Wings||🍗 POULTRY (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc.)|
|Thursday Eggs||🥚 EGGS & Dairy (eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese)|
|Friday Fish||🐟 FISH & Seafood|
|Saturday Soup||🥪 SOUP or Salad + Sandwiches|
|Sunday Spaghetti||🍝 PASTA|
Need a plan for your lighter meals too? Just try mixing it up a bit, perhaps using lighter dishes. Try something like this: Monday Macaroni (pasta) | Tuesday Taters | Wednesday Casseroles | Thursday Dairy (eggs & cheese) | Friday Fowl (poultry) | Saturday Sandwiches| Sunday Seafood (fish).
Or do like we usually do, now that our kids are grown and on their own. We often fix leftovers or sandwiches. Or do a typical Italian supper with tomato salad, salame, olives, bread, and vegies in oil (eggplants, artichokes, etc.)
How to plan your meal and shopping
All it takes are three easy steps. And the good news is that because it uses day-theming and alliteration, it’s so easy to remember and use! (Alliteration is simply linking words with the same initial letter, like Monday Meat or Friday Fish.)
1. Plan your main dishes
The main dishes for this menu are based on common proteins. This is to ensure a more balanced, varied intake of them.
- List 7 varied protein items and assign them a day, using alliteration.
(If any items won’t work with alliteration, insert them in alphabetical order.)
- Keep a list of your favorite recipes for each category.
(e.g. Monday Meat: meat loaf, pepper steak, beef stew, meatballs, etc.)
- Choose a recipe first thing in the AM, based on the fresh produce you have.
2. Plan your side dishes
Base your side dishes on other food groups. This guarantees a varied, well-balanced diet, which dieticians say is the key to healthy nutrition.
- Grains, seeds, and nuts
- Seasonal vegetables
- In-season fruits
3. Plan your shopping list
- Add the protein items for the week’s main dishes.
- Check your supply of basic grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
- Add plenty of in-season fruits and vegetables.
What makes this menu so great?
- I know first thing in the morning if I need to defrost or shop for anything.
- I can implement each day’s meals according to what we feel like eating or how much time we have, or even swap days if necessary.
Not only does it ensure a well-balanced, varied diet, but by using in-season produce it’s also economical! And above all it’s so simple that it’s easy to remember and use! Why not give it a try!? I think you’ll be thanking Mamma Anna right along with me!