Rich and nourishing, substantial and warming – there’s a lot to love about winter food. It’s so easy to put together a pie or a stew – even better when you get to enjoy it cosied up beside a roaring fire!
In reality, though, we can’t hibernate all winter long and life can be just as busy during the winter months as the rest of the year. But being busy doesn’t mean you need to turn to eating takeout and processed foods.
Just as my mother used to, I often find myself preparing our dinner in the morning before I go to work, or even the night before. A tasty Salmon, Leek and Fennel Pie, Provençal Fish Parcels or some hearty Devilled Sausages are just a few of the things I like to make ahead, so when I finish work for the day I can just throw them into the oven, have a glass of wine and relax a little while our dinner cooks itself. I love roasts and oven-baked meals for that very same reason – the oven does all the work and there’s no standing over the stovetop stirring and fussing. My tray bake dinners, including my Spanish Chicken Bake and Chermoula Tray Bake, are another favourite way to eat in our house over winter. You can make them up with different combinations of protein and vegetables and flavour them in so many different ways.
During the week I find that serving up some takeaway-style ethnic food is a great way to break out of the heaviness of winter cooking. Whether it’s my Last-Minute Butter Chicken, a Speedy Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-Fry, or some Black Pepper Beef and Broccoli, you get the fun and flavours of food from around the globe without the bill for takeout!
What can be time-consuming and stressful about feeding you and yours is deciding what to eat each night. So to help streamline winter eating I’ve created a six-week meal planner suggesting easy and delicious dinners five nights a week. All the recipes you need are in my new winter annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life: Share the Love.
We assume you'll go out or eat takeaways or leftovers a couple of nights a week, so each weekly planner suggests five meals that you can use on whatever nights that work for you. Feel free to mix up the weeks to suit your plans or suit the appetites you're feeding – you might prefer to choose your favourite few weeks and repeat them!
Most main dishes serve four, but some serve six or more, leaving leftovers for lunch the next day or another meal another night.
I've also put together some menu suggestions for when you want to pull out all the stops and make a special meal for family and friends. There are ideas for all kind of gatherings, from a make-ahead dinner party to entertaining on a shoestring. For those who are cooking for people with special dietary needs there's a vegetarian feast menu and also a menu that's entirely suitable for gluten-free guests.
To make life even easier I’ve created a shopping list for each week’s menu plan and each of the entertaining menus. Scroll down to see the lists, or click the links below to download printable pdfs to take to the supermarket.
Please note the quantities given are sometimes rounded to allow for easy shopping – for example when 2½ lemons are required in one week the shopping list will call for three lemons.
We assume you'll have a few salad greens and vegetables on hand to round out your meals, and that you'll have a few Storecupboard Basics, such as oils and vinegars, sauces, herbs and spices. Scroll down to see a checklist of Storecupboard Basics or download a printable pdf (743KB).
I'd love to hear your feedback about how you use the meal planners and entertaining menus, what you enjoy the most about them – and anything you don't like too! Please let me know on my Facebook page.
Weekly meal planner shopping lists:
Week One – Download a printable pdf (2.3MB)
Week Two – Download a printable pdf (2.3MB)
Week Three – Download a printable pdf (2.3MB)
Week Four – Download a printable pdf (2.4MB)
Week Five – Download a printable pdf (2.3MB)
Week Six – Download a printable pdf (2.3MB)
Entertaining menus shopping lists:
Vegetarian Feast – Download a printable pdf (861KB)
Gluten-Free guests – Download a printable pdf (829KB)
Make-Ahead Dinner Party – Download a printable pdf (811KB)
Entertaining on a Shoestring – Download a printable pdf (772KB)
Midweek Guests on the Run – Download a printable pdf (825KB)
Pass-Around Party – Download a printable pdf (791KB)