12 November 2009

cooking, these days

in the weeks before and after our move, i lost all cooking motivation. luckily i did have a few quarts of frozen soup stocked up, so that got us through a little bit. but there was actually about a whole two weeks when i went out to lunch every day. something i almost never do. once we were moved in, unpacking the kitchen was my top priority (well, after putting together our bed, which we did the very first day). i knew that once the kitchen was unpacked, i'd be more inclined to cook. and, well, having food always helps things (especially since i have a tendency to have popcorn for dinner).

last fall i failed miserably at making weekly meal plans. i had a few really good weeks and then just let the whole thing drop off. but i'm going to give it another go. this time, though, i'm being a bit more realistic. i know myself well enough to know that i will not make a whole meal from scratch every night of the week. jared is not always home for dinner (and neither am i) which really diminishes my motivation. so, i'm aiming for cooking two full meals each week (keep in mind, when i say "week" i'm referring to weeknights only- the weekends are another story around our house). this allows for leftovers a couple nights, and maybe one or two nights of snacking for dinner (which may or may not include popcorn).

so, what have we been cooking? our first week of this meal planning coincided with the last weekend of our local farmers market and i decided that i wanted to cook something with pumpkin. i found a recipe for pumpkin saag (a curried pumpkin and spinach dish) in one of my favorite cookbooks. along with the saag, i made some plain basmati rice, and a delicious mango chutney. it was amazing. and one batch of it gave us two dinners and two lunches. i had planned on making some roti to go with it, but i lost a little bit of steam.

that same week, i also made broccoli potato soup (recipe from the same book). soups are key around here in the fall and winter. we try to make a big pot of soup or stew almost once a week. our trick? we always double the soup recipe. this generally gives us enough for a few meals, and then toss one or two quarts in the freezer. those frozen soups really come in handy during busy weeks when this whole meal plan thing gets tossed aside.

so yeah, that was our "meal plan" for week one. this week- we had mashed potatoes with sauteed spinach (leftover from what i bought for the saag) and herbed baked tofu. and tonight, i've whipped up a batch of hummus, and now i've got a double batch of lentil soup simmering on the stove right now.

and now, a question...do you do meal planning? what have you found is the best way to make sure you have a good meal every night (or at least, most nights)? i'm open to any and all tips from your own kitchens!

i realize that i didn't even talk about snacky foods or other staples that we make regularly and always have on hand. i'm going to save that for another post.


  1. I try to check out a few cookbooks from the library each month and just pick and choose recipes from them for my weekly menu plans. Sometimes I end up cooking from one cookbook all week, which is nice because you get a real feel for that cook's point of view. Right now I am waaaay into Peter Berley's book The Flexitarian Table. It's extra good because for each meal you can choose whether to spend the big bucks on lamb (or beef or whatever) or be a little cheapie and eat tofu. And both recipes are excellent. He is a damn good cook!

  2. We make a weekly plan and make one big grocery run. We look at the calendar and make note of what's going on and try to plan accordingly. Some nights require making ahead. With three kids, it is hard to get away with not cooking full meals. With three kids, a lot of things are hard. Tonight's dinner featured picking th onions out of Sarah's lasagna and Joshua was crying because we wanted him to eat his brussel sprouts. Oy.

  3. I know if I plan to make three meals during the week and have enough yogurt for breakfast and fruit for lunch, the rest will sort itself out between leftovers, eating at friends', and eating out.

  4. I'm horrible in this arena and trying desperately to get better. I tend to have grandiose ideas and then am too tired to execute. So I've learned to build in one night of take out, one night of morning star farms and one night of feed the kids something quick they like and we get a frozen pizza after they go to bed. What then works best for me is to have a formula that I just have to fill in - one pasta, one chicken, one bean, one other meat. I know meat doesn't fly in your house, but that's our formula. When I hit a wall is when I do all this planning and then run out of time to get to the grocery store.

  5. I don't do well with meal plans - although I should because when I was little my Mom planned meals out by the month - you could look at a sheet taped inside the cabinet door that had the monthly menu on it...

  6. I don't meal plan. Ever. All we do is think about delicious things we'd like to eat, and then on mondays we go and buy fruits and vegetables to fulfill these wishes (according to what the season brings).
    Then, we try to keep at least one serving of meat or protein a day, and the rest is just improvisation!!

  7. We don't really do meal plans. Our planning is when we find recipes to make prior to going grocery shopping about every week.

    Like you, we make extras so there are leftovers for lunches. Of course, both of us cook and both of us are home for dinner each night, which makes it easier.

  8. i realize i am a bit late on this entry, but i wanted to let you know that i do meal planning.
    i actually wrote a little post about it here: http://natalienoack.blogspot.com/2009/10/little-changes.html

    but- i totally love our meal plans. they are so helpful because we only have to go to the grocery store once a week. also, before making the meal plan, we talk about our week ahead so we know who makes dinner & who cleans up afterward.
    now, we might be a little too organized because we plan sunday - saturday lunch & dinner.

    some helpful things we've figured out...
    -sundays around here are SUPER busy so we always do "leftover sunday." that way, we eat up all of the leftovers in the house & we aren't wasting any food.
    -we love the cookbook "simply in season" because it is cooking within the seasons, the recipes aren't too complicated, & the recipes use minimal ingredients. it is so awesome.
    -i'd also recommend having a recipe that you fall back on often... like "taco tuesday" or "pizza friday"... that way, you don't have to constantly get creative with every meal of the week & you know everyone in the house will like what you're making
    -finally, soups are a GREAT IDEA. they're awesome for lunch the next day, leftover, freezing for other weeks when it is too hectic to cook, etc.

    well, i hope this is helpful...
    enjoy your wednesday!!