One of the hardest tasks in any given week for me is meal planning. Most of our meals require scratch cooking and so thought is required. This would be easier if cost were no object. Steak, salmon, etc. are quick, simple, and yummy, but the budget calls for more time thinking and a bit more creativity. So we plan.
What’s for dinner tonight? Pinto beans cooked in ham stock (home-bottled), rice (with a bit of the same stock), corn bread, apple slices, veggie strips, and, if I can locate it in the freezer, a bit of ham. Cost? Pennies. But it is one of our families favorite meals.
What else is on tap in the coming days?
Leftover turkey (the freezer again) with homemade gravy, mashed potatoes (an easy way to use up the final bit of last autumn’s harvest), garden corn and peas (love that freezer!), and some kind of bread with apple butter (home bottled).
Homemade fish sticks for fish tacos. Served with tortillas, shredded lettuce and cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, taco sauce, sour cream, and just a bit of grated cheese.
Baked ziti (using home bottled tomatoes), salad, and bread. Another favorite!
Sandwiches with crock-pot beef (save the broth when the meat is done, add a bit of soup base, and you have au jus for dipping), and fresh veg.
One night will be a “fend for yourself” dinner. That’s the night we pull all the leftovers out of the fridge, and each assemble a plate from whatever is there. Sometime lots of one or two things; sometimes just bits of this and that. This meal often happens the night before I do the big monthly shop. It is a great way to use up some left-overs, make room in the refrigerator, and it reminds me what I need to use creatively in the next day or so.
We generally plan our meals a week-ish in advance. Planning any further ahead doesn’t seem to work at our house. Food is something that connects with our emotions as well as feeds our bodies, so often we adjust to accommodate what we “feel like eating.” I work off of the Pantry Principle, so the cupboards are stocked with most of what I need at any given time. I shop for sales and mark-downs in order to replenish what we use. (My favorite books for learning about the Pantry Principle are Beating the High Cost of Eating by Barbara Salsbury, and The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn.)
Other favorite meals include spaghetti and meatballs (with homemade sauce), enchilladas, salads, grilled cheese or quesadillas with fruit (and soup if it is cold), tuna casserole, chili, bbq chicken sandwiches, alfredo pasta with chicken, sloppy joes, meatloaf, and meal-in-ones (bread dough rolled as if for cinnamon rolls and filled with meat and a bunch of cheese. YUM!). Whatever meal we are serving includes lots of fruit and/or vegetables-sometimes fresh, sometimes bottled- so that out entire family develops the habit of eating more than just a protein and a starch.
The menus change with the seasons. Spring is the time for strawberry shortcake, and clearing the cellar to make room for the up-coming growing season’s harvest. In a few months, we’ll eat more things utilizing fresh garden produce and less meat. In the middle of winter, we eat more meat and/or homemade soups with less fresh veg. It is the most economical way to feed the family, and ensures that we are eating things when they are at the peak of the season for the best flavor. The best of both worlds!
What’s for dinner at your house?