Friday, January 04, 2013

Week 1: Food Plan

Task: Create a weekly food plan and accompanying budget

What it is: A plan for the household's regularly rotating meals, a food plan allows you to not only plan healthy and cost-effective meals for the family, but also lets you consolidate your trips to the grocery store and maximize refrigerator/pantry storage.

Why I haven't done it yet: I have actually done this before, but between then and now we've had a second baby, a third pregnancy, and a new home and diet plan for me. In short, the old plan has been washed away by exactly the same short-term forces that make it important to come up with a plan in the first place.

What I hope to accomplish: For a long time, I used to scratch my head and wonder when people talked about how you save money by cooking at home. It seemed like most of the times I tried a recipe out of a magazine or cook book, I'd end up spending a ton of money on ingredients and spices that I would use once and somehow never have enough leftover to justify the expense.

Of course, what I've learned since then is that unless you're going to be trying wildly different recipes all the time, after a few days of these expensive trips to the grocery store, your bills will come down dramatically. You'll find yourself re-using a lot of those expensive herbs and spices in the pantry, and realizing that all you need are a couple of vegetables and some meat to feed yourself.

Since we moved in, we've been experiencing an interesting variation on this problem: between my low-carb eating and Sharon's pregnancy-induced nausea (unfortunately, she mostly lacked cravings for food--around 95% of the change in her appetite was made up of aversions), we threw out a lot of the old standby dishes (ah, how I miss dipping french bread crostini into a nice bowl of cheese soup). On top of that, given the fact that pregnant women have tighter restrictions on eating leftovers, it meant that we were making constant trips to the grocery store, only looking ahead by a couple of meals. Despite all the shifting tastes and uneasy stomach, the one constant Sharon experienced was a serious distaste for most kinds of red meat.

(Thankfully, her aversion has lightened up considerably. And with the weather cooling off, we finally have the excuse to enjoy the one kind of red meat that she never lost a taste for: rich, slow-cooked hearty dishes like beouf bourguignon and braised short ribs. We've actually had a coup with the latter: the Latin grocery store down the street from the new house not only sells short ribs, but at $3.99/lb, they're more like the price they were back before everyone realized how fantastic they are when cooked properly.)

In any event, our tastes and schedules have finally settled down, and given the new year, I think it's time to take hold of planning our meals again. I know we can put together a new roster of dishes that will still use a lot of the same components (Mirepoix, I'm looking at you) that I can keep handy, as well as getting a few main pieces of meat which I can turn into different dishes.

One of the dreams I had when we moved in was in getting a freezer chest in the basement, so that we could buy meat in larger quantities (or even primals) and have them on hand. Unfortunately, we had/have some difficulties with the downstairs electrical setup, as well as space in general in our tool room, so the chest has stayed a dream. However, we've recently made some improvements to the electricity and cleared some stuff out from there, so who knows what we might add to the list of tasks for the year? Actually, come to think of it, I'm going to add a new rule--what are we on now, 7? Let's say 7:

Rule #7: If the completion of a task can be immediately built upon by a new task, a new card can be created and immediately selected the following week.

So, for example, if in the process of putting together our food list, I realize that we could really take things up a notch by totally clearing out and reorganizing the pantry (which is about 90% of the way of being it's own card anyway), then that will be next week's task. Of course, I'm only going to do this in cases where (a) it really does segue nicely from the original task, and (b) it's a challenge equal to the other cards (you haven't seen what our pantry looks like).

So here we go: first card of the year. I'll be posting updates on the process starting tomorrow, and we'll all have to see how it goes.

Excited? I know I am.

1 comment:

David O'Hara said...

Nice. As I am becoming a grown-up in the kitchen myself (only took me, what? four decades?) this sounds to me like a good idea.