Meals for One Person - An Easy and Balanced Weekly Menu Featuring Autumn and Winter Foods
Some of Our Favorite Autumn and Winter Vegetables
Planning and Preparing Meals for One - Creating an Easy Weekly Menu of Simple Autumn and Winter Foods
Readers of How To Plan and Prepare Meals for One - Creating an Easy Weekly Menu have asked for more easy weekly menus featuring different foods. They have said they enjoyed planning, shopping for, preparing, and eating the simple, nutritious foods featured in that article. They also said they've enjoyed saving money through planning while not having to make day-to-day decisions about what to eat.
The Sally's Trove easy weekly menus are based on our family's food philosophy: A balanced diet of simple, fresh foods is the foundation of a healthy body and mind. Our family eats cereals and grains, fruits and vegetables, animal proteins, fats and dairy items, as well as the occasional sweet treat. We don't follow anyone's nutrition plan or weight loss diet; we follow only the good food sense that's been passed down in our family from generation to generation, a good sense that I believe accounts at least in part for our family's health and longevity.
This easy weekly menu features foods we associate with autumn and winter, foods such as roasts, winter squashes, root vegetables, cabbages and chards, hearty soups, and citrus fruits.
Easy Weekly Menu Features You Will Enjoy
Cooking One Day for the Whole Week Almost all cooking for the week is done on one day, so during the week all you have to do is assemble already prepared menu items, heat them on the stovetop or in the microwave when called for, and enjoy. Yes, at the end of the week you do have to do a bit of cooking by tossing a couple of chicken breasts into a pan, steaming snap peas, and cooking orzo. But the next night, you will only have to heat the leftovers.
Cooking One Day To Stock Your Larder for the Future The pork roast and hearty vegetable soup recipes are designed to give you plenty of leftovers. Your freezer will be well-stocked at the end of the week for your own consumption later on or for treating unexpected company to healthy homemade food on short notice.
Taking Your Lunch to Work All lunch items on this easy weekly menu require no heating before eating and no special cold storage for the few hours the food may have to wait before it’s consumed. I created the lunch selections at the suggestion of Hub commenter Jacqui who has no way to heat or refrigerate the lunch items she brings to work. When you face a similar challenge, use an insulated lunch bag to assure food safety until lunch time.
An Easy Weekly Menu Featuring Autumn and Winter Foods
Ingredients for the Week
Before you go to the grocery store, check your pantry and refrigerator to see which of the following ingredients you may have on hand. Print the ingredients list below, and then just cross off the items you don't need to buy. Your shopping list is done!
The condiments and seasonings used in this easy weekly menu that you probably have in your pantry are black or white pepper, salt, garlic powder (not garlic salt), Mrs. Dash Original salt-free seasoning, salt-free butter, olive oil, vinegar, and mayonnaise. If you don’t have these on hand, then you’ll have to add them to your shopping list. You might want to see the pantry staples I always keep.
Manischewitz Vegetable Soup Mix
Citrus Fruits - Tangelos
Citrus Fruits - Clementines
Eggs: 2 large
Milk: 1 quart
Yogurt: Three 8-ounce containers
Cheese: 8 ounces
Pork roast: 3-4 pounds
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: 2 fresh or frozen (If fresh, make sure the expiration date is good through Saturday; if not, freeze the chicken. On Thursday, take both chicken breasts out of the freezer and let them defrost in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them on Friday evening.)
Salmon, packed in water: One 7-ounce can
Salad dressing: Your choice, or make this family favorite Russian dressing
Applesauce: 1 small jar
**Stewed tomatoes: One 15-ounce can
**Vegetable stock: 2 quarts
**Manischewitz Vegetable Soup Mix: 1 package
Orzo: 4-8 ounces dry
Granola: 1 cup, or make this wholesome, delicious granola
Oatmeal: 1 cup
Hearty bread: 6-8 slices
Pita bread: 3 unsliced rounds
Citrus fruits: clementines, oranges, tangelos, tangerines, grapefruits: 5 or more
**Grapes: ½ pound
**Pears: 2 small
Swiss chard, fresh: 1 pound
Broccoli, fresh: ¾ pound
**Lettuce: 1 large head iceberg or your choice of salad greens, about 1 pound
**Cabbage, fresh: 1 very small head
**Garlic, fresh: 3 large cloves
**Mushrooms, fresh: One 10-ounce package
Butternut squash, fresh: 1 medium (about 2 ½ pounds)
**Carrots: ½ pound
**Celery: ½ bunch
**Red bell pepper: 1 large
**Grape tomatoes: 1 small package
**White sweet onion: 1 large
**Mixed vegetables, frozen: One 10-ounce package
Sugar snap peas, frozen: One 10-ounce package
Bakery pie of your choice: 1 small
**Soup and salad bar ingredients
Sunday: The Major Prep Day
Before you get to work, make sure you eat a good breakfast or brunch. If you’re hungry while you prepare this food, you’ll be tempted to snack your way all through the food preparation, and then there goes your bakery pie for the week!
Today you are making a pork roast, a large pot of hearty vegetable soup, steamed butternut squash, and Swiss chard. You are also preparing the home salad bar items.
Prep time should be a total of two hours, but you’ll have to pay attention to the kitchen for about four hours because the soup and roast require long, slow cooking.
At first, this amount of food preparation may look daunting, but it’s all about timing. While you are preparing one thing, another is cooking. It may actually take you more time to read through this easy weekly menu than to create it!
A Winter Hearty Vegetable Soup
The Beauty of a Cold-Weather Garden Salad
Starting the Hearty Vegetable Soup and the Salad Bar
You will need a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, large colander, cutting board and knife, a few small bowls for holding the vegetables that go into the soup, and plastic containers or bags for the salad bar ingredients. You will be making the soup and creating the salad bar at the same time.
Pour the two quarts of vegetable stock into the large soup pot and bring to a boil. Then add the contents of the Manischewitz Vegetable Soup Mix, following the instructions on the package. Turn the burner down as low as it will go, and leave the pot lid ajar if necessary. You want this soup base to be at a gentle simmer, not at a rolling boil, for the two hours it needs to cook. Meanwhile…
Wash all the carrots and four stalks of celery. Peel and trim the large sweet white onion and cut it in quarters. Wash and trim the small head of cabbage; cut it in half and remove the core. Put all of these trimmed vegetables into a large colander and let drain.
Finely mince the three cloves of garlic, place them in a small dish, and set aside.
Open the can of stewed tomatoes; drain them and reserve the liquid in a bowl. Chop the stewed tomatoes coarsely, return them to the liquid, and set aside.
Finely dice half the carrots for the soup; grate the other half for the salad bar.
Finely dice all of the celery. Half will go in the soup, the other half will be divided between the salad bar ingredients and the salmon salad you will make later in the week.
Finely dice three-quarters of the onion for the soup, reserving a tablespoon or so for the salmon salad later in the week and an additional tablespoon for Saturday's scrambled eggs. Thinly slice the remaining quarter of the onion for the salad bar and for the pork sandwich you will have on Saturday.
Grate or dice all of the cabbage. If you have a food processer, the job will go much more quickly. One and one-half cups of shredded cabbage will be for the soup; the rest is for the salad bar.
When You Assemble a Salad for Lunch or Dinner
Don’t forget to add sliced grapes, a sliced pear, or citrus fruit segments. These are wonderful, refreshing enhancements to a salad, especially in autumn and winter when we need all the fresh nutrients we can get.
Finishing the Salad Bar
At this point, you have all the ingredients needed for the vegetable soup and many of those needed for the salad bar. While the soup base is cooking, let’s finish up the salad bar.
Wash and slice or dice the sweet red pepper. Place in a covered container or plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Some will be part of the salad bar, and some will be for the scrambled eggs on Saturday morning.
Wash the grapes. When they’ve dried somewhat, store them in an open container in the refrigerator.
Store the grape tomatoes on the kitchen counter, not in the refrigerator. When you make a salad, grab a few, rinse, slice in half, and add to the salad bowl.
Wash and slice the mushrooms. These will be the first of your perishables to go, so keep an eye on them and use them first in your salads. Place in a covered container or plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.
Wash and trim the broccoli for steaming on Thursday.
By this time, the soup base is probably half-way or more through its cooking cycle and the salad bar prep is done. It’s time to make the pork roast and butternut squash.
Making the Pork Roast
Use this best roast beef recipe to prepare and cook the pork roast. Just be sure to set the meat thermometer for pork (170 degrees F) and not for rare beef. Follow the instructions from preheating the oven to letting the roast sit until you carve it. Also take a look at how we thinly slice roast beef for freezing, storing the slices in packages about the shape and size of a deck of cards. You'll be doing this kind of freezer prep with the pork roast on Monday night.
The type of pork you choose is up to you. It can be a bone-in or boneless roast. Just make sure you insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the flesh, staying away from the bone.
Butternut Squash Steamed to Perfection
Butternut Squash for Dinner
Making the Steamed Butternut Squash
While the oven is preheating, cut the butternut squash in half across its midsection, then cut each of the halves lengthwise. Remove the seeds and wash. Cut each quarter into one-inch thick crescents.
On the stovetop, put a vegetable steamer and about one and one-half inches of water into a large saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, add the squash pieces, cover tightly, and turn the heat down just enough to keep the water from boiling over.
When the squash tests for doneness by showing no resistance to a fork, which should be after 25 or 30 minutes, turn off the heat and pour out whatever water remains in the pot. Take the lid off the pot and let the squash cool so that you can handle it safely. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and place the flesh into a bowl. If you like, add a bit of butter, nutmeg, and brown sugar, then mash. You will have half of this tonight and the other half Monday night. When you are ready to eat the squash, heat it in the microwave.
Finishing the Hearty Vegetable Soup
By the time you’ve finished the salad bar, put the pork roast in the oven, and set the cooked butternut squash aside to cool, the hearty vegetable soup base should be at the end of its cooking time. When it is, remove the lid and increase the heat a bit as you add the carrots, celery, onion, stewed tomatoes with their reserved liquid, and garlic. Let the soup come to a gentle boil, then add the cabbage and the 10-ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables. Continue to cook for 15 minutes at a simmer. Then, turn off the heat, place the lid on the pot, and let cool.
In the autumn and winter, when it’s cold outside, I love to put my soups on the covered front porch to cool. If your house has a porch, just make sure you secure the pot lid with something like rubber bands twisted around the lid and pot handles to keep curious and clever investigators out of the pot.
Colorful, Delicious, Sautéed Swiss Chard
Before You Call It a Night on Sunday
Ladle the cooled vegetable soup into individual serving containers and freeze all but two (these are for the Tuesday and Wednesday night dinners). You will have plenty of servings to pull out of the freezer in the weeks to come.
Wrap what remains of the pork roast tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Tomorrow evening you’ll be slicing down the roast for your dinner and for freezing.
Put your insulated lunch bag in the refrigerator so it’s cold in the morning when you assemble your lunch-to-go.
Taking a Break
At this point, the roast probably still hasn’t come to its finished temperature. So now is the time to take a break, maybe pour a glass of wine, and reflect on the beautiful, simple foods you made today. Your refrigerator will be stocked for the week, your freezer for the week and more, and unexpected company will have spectacular homemade food at an instant’s notice.
Making the Swiss Chard
This is so easy. Wash all the chard and put half in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for Monday’s dinner. Chop the chard for today’s meal coarsely and let it dry a bit on a paper towel. Put a frying pan on the stovetop, add about two teaspoons of olive oil and heat on medium. When the oil is warm to hot, add the chard pieces and a dash or two of garlic powder. Turn the heat to low-medium and sauté until the leaf pieces wilt. Then add a splash of any vinegar you like.
Time To Chow Down
Pour another glass of wine, arrange a plate of sliced roast pork, butternut squash, and Swiss chard. Enjoy the beautiful and healthy foods you’ve prepared, and don’t forget to treat yourself to a piece of pie.
Before You Call It a Night on Monday
Thinly slice the remaining roast, reserving a few slices for tomorrow’s pita pocket, and freeze the rest of the slices into individual packages following the instructions for making the roast beef “deck of cards”. Grab a few items from the salad bar, chop them coarsely, place them in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate. When you prepare your roast pork pita pocket tomorrow morning, you’ll add these chopped veggies to the pocket along with the meat.
Monday: The Do Almost Nothing Day
Compared to Sunday, Monday is a breeze even though you will have to steam the chard and slice the remaining roast into individual freezer packages.
Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal, however you like it cooked and flavored. I find plain instant oatmeal packs to be a huge convenience. You can prepare the oatmeal with milk, or have the milk on the side. Follow with a piece of citrus fruit.
Before you leave for the day, place a garden salad, some crackers and cheese, and a container of yogurt in your refrigerated insulated lunch bag and you are set to go. As you probably know, salads begin to wilt rather quickly when they are dressed. There are a few ways to get around this. Many convenience stores carry single-serve dressing packets that don’t need to be refrigerated. Or you could keep a bottle of balsamic vinegar, which doesn’t need to be refrigerated, in your workplace and splash some on the salad when you’re ready to eat. Finally, you can pour your own salad dressing into a mini plastic storage container and add that to the lunch bag.
For dinner, arrange slices of pork roast and the remaining cooked butternut squash in a microwaveable container. Top the meat slices with a couple of spoons of applesauce. As you are cooking the Swiss chard, heat the meat and squash. Enjoy! Don’t forget the piece of pie. You earned it.
Simple Salmon Salad
Drain the liquid from the salmon can, put the salmon in a bowl, and break the pieces apart with a fork as finely as you care to. (If you have a cat or dog, guess who’s going to love the salmon juice?)
Add the diced onion and celery you reserved for this dish when you prepared the salad bar ingredients on Sunday.
Add some freshly ground pepper, a dash or two of garlic powder, a couple of shakes of dried basil or marjoram or tarragon (or all three).
Work the vegetables and seasonings into the salmon with the fork, blending thoroughly.
Add a tablespoon of mayonnaise, more or less depending on your preference, and mix with the fork. Cover and refrigerate.
Before You Call It a Night on Thursday
Take one of the pork roast decks of cards from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator to be ready for Thursday’s dinner. On Thursday, don’t forget to add a spoon or two of applesauce to the sliced pork roast before you heat it in the microwave.
If the chicken breasts are frozen, remove them from the freezer to let them defrost in the refrigerator for Friday evening’s cooking.
Tuesday: Make the Salmon Salad
At this point you should be in an easy rhythm for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is only a matter of assembling and dressing a garden salad, heating the hearty vegetable soup, and slicing some cheese to go with crackers. The only chore you have for this evening is to make the simple salmon salad for Wednesday and Thursday lunches.
No piece of pie tonight for you; you’ll be having that treat with tomorrow’s lunch.
Wednesday and Thursday: So Easy!
Who ever said you couldn’t have pie for breakfast? Enjoy Thursday’s sweet start to the day.
When you assemble your salmon salad pita pockets on Wednesday and Thursday, add some vegetables from the salad bar that appeal to you.
On Wednesday, make enough crusty garlic bread for two nights. (On the second night, you’ll heat the leftover portion of garlic bread in the oven or toaster oven just as the broccoli finishes steaming.) For me, the simpler the garlic bread, the better. Take a few slices of that hearty bread and spread with margarine, butter, or olive oil. Shake on some garlic powder, dried basil and oregano, and if you like, a bit of parmesan cheese. Toast until golden. After you finish your Wednesday dinner, wrap the remaining garlic bread in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter until Thursday’s dinner time.
Before You Call It a Night on Friday
Take out one of those roast pork decks of cards from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw for Saturday’s lunch.
Friday: A Quick, Simple, Chicken Dinner
When you prepare your lunch for today, remember to add the leftover steamed broccoli from last night to the garden salad.
When it’s time to prepare dinner, take the chicken breasts out of their package, put them in a bowl, and dust some Mrs. Dash’s seasoning top and bottom. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan, turn the burner to low-medium, and add the breasts when the oil is warm to hot. Depending on the thickness of the breasts, cook for 5 to 10 minutes on one side, turn, cover, set the heat the lowest it can go, and cook for 10-20 minutes covered. The chicken breasts are done when you make a small slit on the thickest part of the breast and see that the flesh is white, not pink.
Orzo is one of my favorite pasta foods. Boil it according to package directions, making sure you cook enough for tonight and tomorrow, drain, return to the pot, then add lots of butter and salt. (This is one of the few dishes we add salt to.)
Cook the frozen sugar snap peas according to package directions.
When you are done, you will have tonight’s dinner and tomorrow night’s as well.
Don’t forget the pie!
Quick Scrambled Eggs with Sweet Pepper, Onion, and Cheese
Use a non-stick fry pan. Add cooking spray, of you like, and a tablespoon or less of butter. Start with low-medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the diced onion and sweet red pepper, stirring now and again.
Meanwhile, beat two eggs with a fork and add a tablespoon of milk or water to make the eggs lighter. Grate some cheese. A tablespoon or two of grated cheese should be enough. Mix the cheese into the eggs.
Turn the burner down to low and add the egg and cheese mix to the pepper and onion in the pan. Run a non-stick spoon through the mixture to keep the eggs cooking evenly. When the eggs are cooked to your preference (wet or dry), cover the pan and remove from the heat.
Saturday: How about Zesty Scrambled Eggs for Breakfast?
Diced red peppers and onions are the last items to remain in the salad bar, having been put aside during Sunday’s preparation. Make these quick scrambled eggs for breakfast and enjoy with buttered toast.
For lunch, with the last of the sliced onions, assemble a roast pork sandwich. This sandwich brings back fond memories of my Ohio family. Pork, butter, and onion sandwiches sprinkled liberally with salt and pepper were a favorite picnic treat in the summer. These days, I leave out the salt and skimp a little on the butter, but with every bite a rich memory remains.
Dinner is a microwaved repeat of Friday's chicken, orzo, and sugar snap peas and includes the last piece of pie.
Scrambled Eggs Technique
The Week in Review
At the end of the week, the fresh fruits and vegetables are gone. At the same time, the freezer contains a good supply of hearty vegetable soup to make your cooking tasks easier in the weeks to come or to prepare a homemade treat for unexpected company.
A Few Words About Our Easy Weekly Menus
Although our easy weekly menus are designed for those who are living alone, you can modify them to accommodate more than one person.
Our easy weekly menus do not address special dietary needs such as those associated with diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have special dietary needs and you would like to try these menus, please share them with your nutritionist or medical provider so that they can be altered for your circumstances.
Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.