With these easy menu ideas and some basic pantry staples, you'll have a month's worth of new standby recipes.
A variety of fresh foods
Credit: David Prince

Pick up the short list of ingredients, print out the 10 menus that follow, and make a range of family-pleasing main dishes, mix-and-match side dishes, plus dessert. Once you've cycled through these 10 menus, simply switch the protein you are using in the main dish. Each entrée can be made using chicken breasts, pork loin, or salmon fillet―rotate your protein and one menu becomes three, for a total of 30 meals.

The Ingredients

Bread: Whole-wheat bread can be used to make everything from vegetable toppings to pan pudding. Always look for a dense, heavy loaf or baguette made from whole grains. To freeze bread, wrap it in plastic, then foil.

Broccoli: Choose broccoli with dark green, tightly clustered florets and firm stalks. Don't discard the stalks―they offer the same vitamins A and C found in the florets (but they do require a slightly longer cooking time).

Cheese: These recipes call for various cheeses―Cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss. You can find all of them pregrated, but consider buying hunks instead. The cheese tastes better and will stay fresher longer.

Eggs: Any fresh eggs will work in these dishes, but try the organic variety. They have bright yellow yolks and a discernably richer taste than ordinary supermarket eggs, and they're now widely available.

Fresh herbs: Whether a recipe calls for fresh thyme, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, or mint, rinse and blot it with a paper towel before chopping. In a pinch (or where noted), dried herbs will work, but in most cases fresh is best.

Meat and fish: Each menu calls for one of three lean forms of protein―chicken breasts, pork loins, or salmon fillets. If your salmon fillet comes with the skin on, remove it before cooking.

Milk: Use whole milk for these meals, whether you're making sweet custards or thinning a purée. It's best not to substitute low-fat or nonfat milk; the results will be watery and bland.

Oranges: With vitamin C–packed oranges, you can dress up a broccoli dish or vanilla pudding. Always wash oranges before zesting them, and then remove only the bright outer skin. The inner pith has a bitter taste.

Pears: Anjous are recommended here, but Bartlett or Comice pears will also work. Choose unbruised, firm but not hard pears. A bath of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice prevents sliced pears from browning.

Sweet potatoes: Buy sweet potatoes that are free of blemishes and soft spots. Don't worry if you grab yams by mistake―they come from a different plant but will work just fine in these dishes.

Menu 1

Menu 2

Menu 3

Menu 4

Menu 5

Menu 6

Menu 7

Menu 8

Menu 9

Menu 10

By Jane Kirby and Leslie Glover Pendleton