I was reading someone's blog (wish I could remember who) and she talked about her mother having a 6-week rotation of dinners, with certain things made special for holidays, and new recipes slotted in occasionally. She listed some things she considers go-to meals, the building blocks of her menu planning.
That got me to thinking that I have left behind a lot of my go-to meals, and I need to make a new list. One of DD15's old favorite meals was chicken and sauce over rice, made with canned Cream of Chicken Soup. But now, she knows how to make her own sauces from scratch. I used to love Kraft Mac-n-cheese, and now I make macaroni with pesto and parmesan, or DH makes his heirloom baked mac-n-cheese. Our old eating style had more prepared food and meat in it. Dinner went together fast, unless we wanted it slow on purpose. We bought meat each week, and then decided what to have with it. I went to the store at least twice a week, and we were usually out of something.
We eat better now, but we have new problems. When it's time for dinner, we often discover that nothing is thawed, or some key component isn't ready. More prepping ahead is required, and actual menu planning. Especially since I plan to do the Dark Days Challenge, which asks me to try to produce one all-local meal each week from November 15 to March 15. Whew!
We do have daytime go-to meals. Breakfast is oatmeal and fruit (me), or eggs with grits and gravy (DD15), or quick bread and spread. The kids still like cereal a lot. Lunch is homemade soup, or sandwiches made of leftovers, or DD15 makes stir-fry or curry.
We already decided to have meals planned around staples instead of meat. I took a stab at a basic list for each category, and I want to try that method of having a rotation of menus. I'm going for 6 simple dishes in each category (with the other two nights being leftovers or new recipes), and then I can vary the preparation of the basic dish.
Rice: Fried Rice, Cheese Rice, Curry, Dal and Rice, Paella, Jambalaya
Potatoes: Mashed, Latkes, Potato Filling, Baked Potatoes, Colcannon
Pasta: Lasagna, Pesto Mac, Pasta and Sauce, Filled Pasta, Baked Ziti, Asian Dumplings
Beans: Rice and Beans, Pork and Beans, Pea Soup, Refried Beans, Chili, Bean Soup
Bread: Pizza, Quiche, Waffles, Stromboli, Savory Bread Pudding
So, after looking at my fridge and freezer, this is next week's menu:
Mon - Shrimp Fried Rice (needs bacon, eggs, broccoli)Sounds tidy. But, can I stick with planning that is so detailed? We'll see, won't we?
Tue - Bangers and Mash with DD15's White Pepper Gravy
Wed - Chicken and Spinach Lasagna (makes leftovers)
Thu - Red Beans & Rice with Chicken
Fri - Hawaiian Pizza
The all-local meal will be Tuesday - I got the apple sausage, potatoes, and milk locally, and grew the cabbage.
Dinner Prep: Thaw a whole chicken, a pound of sausage, a small bag of broccoli. Make sauce for lasagna, doctor up some for pizza. Roast chicken Tues at lunch, then pick carcass and peel potatoes. Make braised cabbage with sausage. Make lasagna in advance of baking. Make pizza dough.
Regular Weekly Prep: Make bread, yogurt, lebne, quick bread. Cut up pineapple. Brew herbal tea. Make soup (potato leek). Bake a dessert (Jewish Apple Cake).
Shopping: Replenish instant yeast, milk, chili powder, hominy, clementines, celeriac. Take advantage of Thanksgiving sales on turkey (.47/lb Weis). Buy dried apricots on sale, and turkey backs at market to freeze for stock later (.10/lb last year). Giant has BOGO pork roast, butter for $1.99, and 2/$1 tomato paste. Long-term storage: buy rice, salt, and 25# sugar. Look for local organic bulk potatoes.