Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This week's plan

Thursday is grocery day for me.  I use this handy list:

It's organized in the order of our local HEB.  I couldn't figure out how to post it here as a word document, but email me if you want it.  (Props to Beth for helping me make the list.) It saves me from the frustration of getting to the end of the store only to realize, when we're all tired and hungry, that I forgot one thing at the far end.  I'm really trying to get down to one grocery store trip a week, and eliminate that "other" trip for the few things I forgot.  I keep this list out on the counter all week and mark things as I notice the need, and then sit down with it when I plan the next week's meals before shopping.

When our CSA picks back up next month, I'll do more planning around what I'm getting from there.  Some weeks we get a LOT of produce, so that definitely takes some prioritizing in the menu.  But for now I'm getting everything in one place, on one list.

On to the meals:

At least two days:  turkey legs and roasted corn, baby.  The fair is in town.

Day 3: Spicy romano chicken.  This is a pasta dish that I copied and adapted from a restaurant.  I'll put the recipe up for you; it's Justin's very favorite thing that I make.

Day 4:Stir fry.  Lynsey's pork (chop or tenderloin), with some mixed peppers and broccoli, maybe asparagus, carrots, onion, peas, whatever else I have, over brown rice.  I usually use a jarred sauce, but maybe I'll go from scratch this week.  We'll see.

Day 5: Breakfast for dinner.  I just made multigrain waffles (whole wheat, cornmeal and rye) from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food last week, but they were so good I want to make them again.  Don't be scared of the grain; it makes them feel like real food, not so much like candy.  Local eggs, some bacon and fried potatoes to round it out.  I need a better waffle iron, though.  Mine is tiny and took forever to cook enough waffles for everyone.

Day 6: Roast chicken.  Again from Yonder Way Farm.  Roast potatoes, asparagus & carrots with it.  Rolls (maybe) and salad.  I'll roast two chickens and use the extra in Day 7's meal.  Make broth from both carcasses (overnight in crock pot).  Save extra potatoes for breakfast tacos.

Day 7:  Chicken pot pie.  Will definitely put this recipe up; it's from The Best Recipe, my favorite cookbook.  A lot of other people's favorite thing that I make.  Hint: the homemade broth is important.  Sorry.

Breakfast is always oatmeal or toast for the kids, and toast or tacos for me. (It used to be green smoothies, but I've not wanted them during this "meat & potatoes" pregnancy for some reason.) I make breakfast tacos once a week or so in a big batch and heat one up each day.  Tortillas with scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage or potatoes, and cheese.  Easy breezy.

Lunch is leftovers or sandwiches for the most part.  Occasionally pasta.

How I approach menu planning:

I do this on my Mac lapbook, using iCal.  This lets me see other appointments while I'm planning, so I know which days need a crock pot meal or something quick.  This week, the stir fry will coincide with errands in Houston.  It also lets me put several meals on auto repeat.  Certain favorites are scheduled every two or three weeks indefinitely.  Days when the kids have afternoon activities like gymnastics have a repeating cycle of low-maintenance meals, like crock pot, stews, casseroles, baked potatoes, etc. that are ready when we walk in the door. I also have "try something new" scheduled to appear once a month.  So when I sit down to plan a week, two or three nights are already done automatically. 

I like to plan for leftovers, too.  Example in this week:  leftover roasted potatoes make good breakfast tacos.  Extra roasted chicken is good for the pot pie, or chicken salad, or casseroles.  Last week I made beans and cornbread one day.  We had bean burritos for lunch on two days, and then I refried what was left as a side for tacos.

Steph asked a good question about planning for weekends, and how to handle changes in plans without wasting food.  I think it's a great question so I'm repeating it here.  This was my answer, but I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts:
...a couple of [our scheduled meals] will rely on meat in the the deep freezer, so if we end up going out instead then i just skip that meal and the meat stays frozen. same thing with pantry staples like pasta. or just move everything forward a night. thursday is my grocery day, so if we went out unexpectedly then i move a meal to that night and plan one less meal for the next week. does that make sense? and sunday night is unreliable for me. i'll plan something, but usually i'm tired and don't want to cook, but don't want to go out either, so we have something fun and simple like nachos or pancakes. the system works better if i just go ahead and plan that, rather than plan a "real" meal.
If I move a meal from it's scheduled night, I just need to double check the ingredients.  Fresh produce may not be able to wait 4 or 5 days, chicken may be past its prime by that day, etc.  So I schedule those meals shortly after grocery day, so that if they get bumped I have some wiggle room.

Any other recommendations?  I really hate throwing away food.

Any requests for recipes or tutorials?  If I'm not great at it I'll bet someone on here will be.


Traci said...

Thursday is my grocery day too...usually! I am envious of your iCal plan is handwritten on paper and I cross reference with the calendar..very homey and more time consuming. I want to re-read how you rotate if you use a meal on the night you did not plan for....that is challenging for me too. I almost always change the date of a planned meal according to my emotional eating needs ;-) YES! Put up that Chicken Pot Pie recipe and the Chicken Romano too..thank you Brandi.

Steph said...

yes please, on the pot pie and chicken romano recipes!

The Kramer Family said...

Hey! Love the menu ideas. I need to be better about considering what we have going on that day and cooking accordingly like you do. That is a great tip!

I discovered the Green Bags (as seen on tv and also on an end cap at HEB:). They really help keep produce fresher longer. Really! I know with buying some things organic, they just don't last as long because of the lack of preservatives. But, the Green Bags seem to give them a few days longer to get me through to the next batch.

Thanks Brandi!