Gourmet Garnish by Shiraz: Menu Planning

Having dedicated over three decades of his life into perfecting the art of crafting memorable gastronomic experiences, Shiraz Kotwal is an authority in Culinary Management, known for curating the most elegant-yet-fun culinary know-hows across the board – from Corporate Events, intimate Sit-Down Dinners, Restaurant Management, Casual Brunches, as also your everyday Home-Dinners and Kitchen Management! Shiraz offers a Special Discount to Parsi Times Readers who wish to avail his professional services and consultations. Connect: E-mail: shirazkotwal@gmail.com  or Call/Message: +91 9833720369

Hello all! Was lovely to receive the plentiful response from you – have tried my best to respond to all. Having shared, in the previous issue – how one could tackle the eternal question in nearly every house – ‘What Do I Cook?’ – this time, let’s move on to another aspect which will go a long way in saving it all – effort, money and heart-burn – ‘Menu Planning’!

Moving to the desk, after a heavy meal of aapru mutton curry-chaval, with my large sunshine, yellow cup (my aunt calls it a bowl) of black coffee, I’m reminded of the adage, ‘If you don’t have a plan and leave your food choices to chance, chances are that these choices will stink!’

Sipping that bowl of black gold, I reminisce my Catering College days and my ‘Food Production’ teacher, Mrs. Mukherjee, a wiry, spritely lady of 70 with a spring in her step and her crisp cotton sarees. It was here I learnt how significant Menu Planning is to the experience of a successful, home-cooked meal, enjoyed by all!

Here are a few Main Benefits of Making A Weekly Menu Plan:

You Will Save Money: When you make a menu plan, it goes hand-in-hand with making a grocery list for the week. Going to the store once results in fewer temptations and impulse purchases. As you get into the groove, you’ll be able to plan your menu around the store’s sales too.

Less Stress: If your family eats three meals a day, seven days a week, you have to come up with meal ideas twenty-one times a week. If your family is as picky as mine, that means you also have twenty-one small arguments. A weekly menu plan lets you schedule meals everyone will happily eat.

You’ll Save Time: Making just one trip to the store is just the beginning. With proper planning of your weekly menu, you’ll be able to turn leftovers into entirely new creations, saving you an enormous amount of time.

You’ll Eat Healthier: Once you’re not making decisions at the last minute, you’ll be able to think about whether your family is eating an appropriately varied diet. Are they getting a balance of proteins-carbs-fats-fruits-vegetables? Planning in advance helps you take charge and improve nutrition.


Menu planning is an art and a science. Start by taking into consideration the following crucial aspects that lead to a well-balanced and planned menu:

Make Your Menu Versatile: Eating the same cuisine gets mundane – after all, variety is the spice of life. To make meals interesting, introduce different cuisines as preferred by the family – alternate between Indian, Asian, European, Italian, Parsi and of course, home-made fun snacks like burgers, sandwiches, dips-and-chips, bhel-puri, and so on. For those who are thinking, “Oh, but I don’t know how to cook this cuisine,” I suggest you simply get online and see what catches your fancy. Or, you could do a search with available ingredients and the cuisine preference.

Ease of Preparation: In these challenging times, as we try to keep our heads above the water, spending hours in the slogging away in the kitchen is the last thing on our minds. Hence, when planning a menu, choose a good number of easy-to-prepare foods. I know we love our elaborate roasts and souffles, but let’s schedule these for days when you have more time at hand or during holidays, when the family can join in and cook together!

Disciplined Methodology: The most challenging part of creating a weekly menu plan is simply deciding to make one and then sticking to it. It’s tempting to view this as a chance to try out a dozen different recipes or cooking techniques. That’s a sure way to burn out quickly, once you realize you’ve made too much work for yourself. So maintain discipline in sticking with the meals you’ve decided upon.

Keep The Number Of Items Per Meal Manageable: Let’s be realistic – usually these days most of us cook a one pot meal or max – two dishes per meal. Don’t go all out making 4-5 dishes for one meal and tire yourself out completely. And to ensure that limiting the number of dishes per meal works out, get together with the family once a week and collectively decide upon the dishes – and note the decisions taken in writing in a simple table, which brings us to the next point…

Maintain A Weekly Menu Planning Table: This has been one of the most crucial instruments of ensuring peace at home! Note down the dishes that have been collectively agreed upon – and then simply stick to it! A simple and typical Weekly Menu Plan has been known to resolve a host of those typical issues at the dinner table!

Once you’ve filled it, put it up on the fridge. The family will know what’s on the menu and there will be no questions, moans or grumbles about meals anymore!

Oh, and, like I mentioned in my previous article – ensure you take a break from the kitchen once a week or fortnight to order in from your favorite restaurant or a home-chef –  that is your small contribution towards creating demand!

Finally, it’s as simple as this – I wish to encourage you to leave room for flexibility. You may know what you’re to cook for the week, but if your taste buds demand otherwise, it’s alright to make a switch. Preparing a family menu cultivates variety and simplicity to your menu planning. So go for it, and let me know how that worked out for you!

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