I tend to be a list-maker and a planner. Previous to being married, menu planning involved sitting at work during a break with a piece of scratch paper, thinking up how many meals I could get from how few items (when you are planning a wedding, you have to be frugal!) and then blazing through the grocery store as quickly as possble to avoid getting ideas while I was there. I was frequently to busy to cook everything I wanted to cook, and ended up out with people most nights of the week, so breakfast foods were my main purchase.
After getting married, I reveled in planning elaborate meals and splurging on large weekly shopping trips. After a couple of months of that, I realized I needed to dial back the food budget. Now that I am working on transitioning to more real food, I find that menu planning is the only way to make both the time and money work. Things need to be soaked, recipes planned around a couple of ingredients stretched into multiple recipes, and enough leftovers created for lunches.
I typically plan the Mon-Fri dinners based on what we get in our produce box, what’s on sale at the store or farmer’s market, and what recipes I have been dying to try. Lunches are leftovers or quick cafeteria salads. Breakfasts are usually some type of premade egg creation or bran muffin-something quick to get us going, followed by a midmorning snack of fruit or vegetable. Weekends are reserved for leftovers and special occasions, and the infrequent cheat meal, like the pizza my husband is at this moment buying. No, it’s not really very good for us. Yes, I am going to revel in it anyway. Splurges are still okay with us.
So, here’s what I have on the list this week:
Tuesday: Mushroom and barley stew, made without the potatoes and corn. Beans are already soaking, and this will be in the crockpot. Since I won’t have much dinner prep, I’ll start a pot of marinara with the tomatoes scheduled to come in the produce box this week.
Wednesday: I got some fabulous sausages from Sea Breeze Farms, also at the market, and will be pan frying those with the marinara that will have been simmering since the night before. We might make a little pasta, or perhaps saute some julienned zucchini or squash.
Thursday: Veggie Stir-Fry, probably in my homemade teriyaki sauce. Ingredients depend on what strikes my fancy at the market (you have to leave some room for adventure). I’m also considering skipping over to the local asian market for some miso and making soup to go with.
Friday: No-pasta lasagna. I’ll have all that marinara, and I have found tons of good ideas online for layering grilled veggies and cheese and sauce. Who needs the noodles?
On Saturday I am picking up our first order from a meat CSA. I can order grass-fed meat from local farms at very reasonable prices that actually compete with the grain-finished stuff I usually buy. I’ll never go back to the antibiotic-ridden, hormone-laced meats from the supermarket, but I was buying meat that wasn’t pastured just to cut down the cost a little. So I am very very excited to see how this meat works out. And putting in the order now means that I already have a few ideas for next week, including chili (with liver meat, don’t tell!) and a nice marinated steak. I also might have found a good local source for pastured eggs at only $2.50/dozen, which is half the price you see at the farmers markets.
So that’s the plan. I’ve got stock simmering from the chicken I roasted last night and beans soaking and I’m feeding my sourdough starter up this week so I can make bread next weekend to take to family friends who just had a baby. I think I will also be making them a quiche. Oh, the fun of planning.
Now off to eat my pizza.