Saturday, November 1, 2008

Menu Planning

One of the big things I've been working on in my menu planning is to be really conscious of using up food before it goes bad. I will admit, over the years of learning to keep house, I've had a bad habit of letting certain things expire or go bad before we eat them up. Leftovers, not so much. However, certain condiments or even fruits and vegetables...yeah, those went bad a lot. I think a much of the problem stemmed from really not being fully aware of what is in the fridge at all times. I was always good about cleaning it out (i.e. tossing the bad stuff), but not so much about the planning ahead to make sure it doesn't go bad before we eat it!

Any ways, long story short, as I'm planning, one of the first things I do is check to see what we have and what needs using up. Rather than determining what we might want to eat first and then seeing if we have the ingredients, I'm starting at the opposite end and determining what ingredients I have and then determining what I can make from them. It's really helping the budget out with only having to buy one thing to fill in a gap rather than buying 5 things so we can eat whatever meal it is that sounded good. And it's forcing me to increase my cooking repertoire looking for recipes that use the ingredients I have! (For those veterans of you out there who are much better at this sort of things than I am, shake your head all your like, but I'm figuring it out!)

A secondary goal of mine is working on stretching food.

Nearly two months ago now, as I began seriously working on the whole menuing thing, I started trying to incorporate a "meatless meal" into our week. Why? Because it's cheaper! And I think it's good for the body as well. Besides, I never have time to cook breakfasts, and as so many of those are meatless, it just fits in really well.

The other thing I've been doing is seeing how I can stretch the meat at meals where we do cook meat. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 pound of hamburger, I'm seeing if I can use 3/4 of a pound (add more filler to make up the difference) and using the other 1/4 of a pound in something else that doesn't call for as much meat. Actually, because (continuing my example of hamburger) packets often contain a little bit more than a pound of meat, setting some of it aside for a second meal really doesn't effect the amount of meat in the current meal.

I've come to realize that when I cook, I tend to use whatever is in the packet (I know, I know, the stores just love me!). I guess it's that whole convenience thing. Rather than thinking, "hey there's an extra 3 ounces of meat in this packet, why I don't I brown it all, set aside some of it for a meal tomorrow that calls for meat, and then make the rest of whatever meal I'm making today"...I instead just use the whole packet.

Any ways, those are some of the habits I'm focusing on as I really try to develop good menuing skills.

So, this week, I was going to give you a glimpse of my dinner menus for the past week. Telling other people my plans tends to make me a little more conscious of actually following through on said plans! Although since I've already followed through on these plans, I don't know the logic on that. Oh well!

Sunday: I made roast chicken with green beans and baked potatoes (made in the crockpot! How? Very simple. Wash them, poke holes into them, rub them in olive oil and salt, wrap them individually in foil, and cook for 4 to 6 hours on high in the crockpot. Very little mess and they come out fantastic!).

Sunday afternoon, I stripped the rest of the meat off the bones, and boiled the bones for broth (some to be made into soup and some to be frozen to be used in a soup at a later point)

Monday: Scrambled eggs and toast. Yummy! I love breakfast for dinner!

Tuesday: Chicken Enchiladas (made with the chicken from the roast on Sunday) and Mexican rice (made my own; turned out pretty good...well...other than the whole burning the bottom of the rice thing...have to work on that!).

Wednesday: Pork chops and Apples and broccoli and mashed potatoes. A new recipe for me (developed by the whole menu planning thing of looking in my fridge and going, "My brother just gave me a ton of apples - what do I do with them?" (and as of yet not being brave enough to try making gluten free apple pie...something to attempt in the nearish future I believe). I will post this recipe (well, my version of this recipe) sometime soon.

Thursday: Leftover day. Because Chris leaves for class at 5:30, I've designated this leftover day every week.

Friday: Mexican Omelet (this requires ground hamburger - or in my case - ground turkey). I made stuffed peppers on Saturday and set aside some of the turkey to use in this. Tasty recipe from my Mum which I had never actually made until just recently.

Saturday: white chili with corn bread

Sunday: roast beef and baked potatoes (I bought a big bag of potatoes the other day - got to use it up!) This will be for Chris with the plan of freezing some for a later time, but it will also translate into lunches for the week for him. Sadly, beef and I are truly not getting along very well, so I will not be partaking. However, I'm a sucker for Poor Man's Pasta, so I think I'll make that do! Besides, I bought the roast awhile back - prior to realizing my bodies new aversion to beef - and it really needs eating up. We're supposed to have a guest this weekend, but I'm not sure if that's going to pan out or not. I think I'll go ahead with the roast regardless.

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