Monday, 2 March 2009

An Afternoon In The Kitchen

Beauty That Moves
Recently, a friend asked me for some help organizing and motivating her in terms of frugal menu planning and healthy food preparation for her busy family of five. I will be spending some time with her very soon to share in detail how these things work for me in my kitchen, but I thought part of that subject would be useful to write about here as well.

Like many of you, I menu plan. I won't focus too much on that today (though I will sometime, we all do it a little differently... can there ever be too many methods of menu planning out there!). Today, I'd like to talk a little bit about how I fill our refrigerator and pantry once a week, preparing for the next several days ahead. This practice has been made top priority recently, I have started a job outside of the house five days a week... a definite change in our household rhythm. I get home at a comfortable hour, 4:00 in the afternoon, so dinner prep is manageable with a bit of planning and a quick glance at my weekly menu plan. But it's everything else - breakfast, healthy and homemade lunches packed daily for three people, snacks for my daughter and her friends, having 'something' on hand for visitors.

These things take planning.

Your well being and your wallet prefer a pantry stocked with wholesome, yummy choices, and you need to put them there. Don't really on the 'forbidden' aisles of pre-packaged food that go up and down the center of the grocery store, most of those things aren't even food. Take an afternoon once a week and be your own food manufacturer.

When planning your pantry/fridge stocking menu, consider the preferences of your entire family. Make sure there is something for everyone, this is very important.

I'm not a strict vegetarian, but I prefer to go without meat or dairy. I am not fussy, give me any fruit, veggie or grain and I'm happy... throw in a piece of something homebaked and my world is complete. My daughter on the other hand, she has tried being a vegetarian but always comes back to being a meat and potatoes girl. I've found that she will eat more fruits and vegetables if they are simply sliced and served fresh on a platter (you'll notice a lot of that on my menu above). This is great for me too as I try to eat as many raw foods as possible. My husband is somewhere in the middle, ultimately he just likes my cooking and is happy with whatever I feed him, as long as there as enough of it! Still, if I haven't cooked meat for 4-5 days he starts making requests. On my menu above I have meat planned for only one day, a venison dish. This will last longer than one dinner so he and my daughter will enjoy it as leftovers for lunch, or they might heat it up on a night when they have mutually agreed that I have served too many beans and grains that week! Also notice there is a Homemade Macaroni and Cheese night... it's pretty rich for me so I'd likely have just a taste and fill my dinner plate instead with a huge salad, but it is my daughter's favorite meal, so it has a place. Just as tofu and kale has a place for me! :)

My point is, there will be many tastes and preferences within a household. Whether it be the dinner menu, the lunch box, or snacks in between. With a little planning and creativity, everyone can eat well and be happy.

This week in the baking/snacks/lunch department I made:

  • sweedish ginger cookies - one pint of cookie dough was put in the freezer for later use.
  • chocolate and cream cheese brownies
  • avocado sandwich spread
  • wheatberry waldorf salad

I stopped there for today's time in the kitchen. Tomorrow it looks like we are getting snowed in so I saved a few things and will finish up my list then:

This list will give us plenty of baked goods for the week (to share with friends too!). I may need to make another lunch salad (I love having big bowls of grain salads on hand in the fridge) at some point in the week, but otherwise we are nicely stocked. Add to this plenty of nuts, fresh fruit and veggies and we are a happy, well fed family.


I hope this was helpful and maybe gave you an idea or two. Keep it interesting, try new things, and enjoy your afternoon in the kitchen.


Marcia said...

I enjoy seeing how others menu plan. I also plot out our weeks worth of menus. As a new vegetarian, my menu planning takes a bit longer but we are eating so many more yummy varities of veggies than we used to! Thanks for showing your kitchen and menu planning. I love when you post recipes! Your rosemary crackers are so very yummy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Heather, I do baking once a week two, but mainly bread and muffins / slices for the kids. Adding grain based salads and a bake tho' sounds like a good use of time.

regards Anna

Matriarchy said...

I want to try your rosemary crackers, but I don't have any nutritional yeast. Is it leavening? Flavor? How would leaving it out affect the recipe? (I'll be snowed in, too.)

Karen said...

heather, beautiful post ... i am jealous of your pantry counter space! could you post the wheatberry salad recipe and the recipe for the ginger cookies AND (hehe) the recipe for the avocado spread at some point? how do you make that keep for a week? if it's like guac, mine turns brown and gross looking within seven days, even in an airtight container. thanks in advance!! p.s. i have personally had that specific tofu, urban oaks farm in NB stocks it. it's yum. ; )

livinginalocalzone said...

Thank you for this post, and, like Matriarchy, I'm so glad you linked to the cracker recipe - I have been looking for something I could make myself that fills the "crunchy" part of a snack urge.

I too bake once a week, rolls, bread, quick breads, flatbread, etc.... it makes it so much easier, plus, having a day set aside for it (well, sort of, but since its unattended time, other house chores also get done) leaves no reason not to.

Its interesting, I never do/did menu planning - just looked for what was available fresh, what pantry/storage needed to be used, and worked out a meal from that. Maybe its from never seeing my parents do meal planning? We still kept "frugal" and vegetarian, but it is much more "as it comes" rather than thought out. I wonder where it comes from? Did you always do menu planning?

heather said...

hi everyone!

matriarchy - it is non-leavening. nutritional yeast adds flavor and nutritional value in recipes, it is rich in minerals, B vitamins (B-12), and protein. some say it lends a cheese flavor to things, substitute parmesan, grated fine if you have it! :)

karen - thanks for the counter love. ;) most of these recipes came directly from cookbooks so i didn't post them. however, the cookies and avocado spread came from the kripalu cookbook, as did the brownies. wheatberry salad came from skinny bitch in the kitch. it'one of the few recipes i actually cook from that book - lot's of fake processed veggie foods in the recipes. get it from the library before you spend money on it, i'm not sure you'd want to own it. the salads and sandwich spreads will last us about 4 days... i often need to whip up one or two things in that department later in the week to carry us through. the avocado spread has lemon in it, keeps it green.

bridge tofu is the best! we are so lucky to have locally produced tofu (middletown). how fantastic that you know of urban oaks!! small world. :)

livinginacalzone - i have done menu planning for years. i find that it keeps me organized, keeps our meals most interesting, and saves me TONS of money!


walk in the woods said...

you have inspired me to menu plan (again); I have done it in the past, but then always give it up - not sure why really.

thanks for all your wonderful advice Heather.


Live Simply Love Strongly said...

What do you use for your bread recipe? Also, thanks for the inspiration. I need to start baking more bread/crackers/cookies stuff, so I don't have to be buying it.

j.c. said...

How do you make your homemade bread last a week? I bake bread and find that it's getting stale after 2-3 days. I've thought about freezing a loaf to pull out mid-week but wonder what you do.

tpals said...

Also, how does everyone store their bread? I've been putting mine in ziploc bags (washed and reused many times) but keep thinking there should be a better way.

Billie said...

My menu planning is super simple because I work 6 days a week.

I shop Saturday night and cook Saturday night and Sunday mornings.

I make one meal for all my lunches and one meal for all my suppers. I also make banana bread. Whatever leftovers exist from my lunch meal usually end up with my honey. He is free to eat from whatever I made for my suppers but tends not to. If he doesn't want to eat my suppers... then he can make whatever he wants. I make sure there is basic food stuffs for him to make his Peruvian meals.

I also cook something for Sunday lunch. If there is anything left over from that... that also ends up as a meal for my husband.

It might sound boring but if you work 55 hours a week every week... you might find anything else to be too much too.

Electronic Goose said...

This is a great peak into how someone else does it--thanks for sharing!

LMJ said...

I'd love to know your bread recipe too as well as how you store all of your baked goods to keep them fresh for the week. Thanks for the great post!

betsy said...

This is fabulous. I have to get better at meal-planning. When I do it, it makes a world of difference especially financially. You've inspired me to try harder!

LMJ said...

Ugh, I see you linked to your bread recipe - sorry and thanks!

heather said...

i added a link to my bread recipe in the original post for those who asked.

a couple of thoughts on bread/ baked goods questions... i as well store our bread in ziploc freezer bags, works well. the recipe i posted is a pretty soft sandwich bread, but no homemade bread will stay as soft as store bought for as long. i guess i've just realized bread isn't really supposed to be that way! :)

some people bake their bread daily...

storing baked goods... i keep about 3-4 days worth in covered glass pyrex containers on the counter and will freeze the rest to pull out later in the week. works great!

Mel said...

Heather you made my mouth water and I have just had lunch! Thanks for the tips and a big, "Yes please" to a follow up post on menu planning which I already do (sort of), but am keen to improve.

Oh and I am afraid I am with your daughter on the meat and potatoes ;)

chickenbaby said...

Heather, I now bake your bread every week & we love it! I make two loaves & freeze one immediately. I find that a loaf keeps for at least 4 days (if we don't gobble it up) in our Tupperware bread keeper. I'm trying to get rid of the plastic, but it's tough. As for the crackers, we're going to try them tomorrow. Do you think we could store them in a tin?


habitual said...

I'm so glad I found this blog! I need TREMENDOUS help in this department... I grew up with a stepfather that is a chef and I'm spoiled & ruined for food. I can't menu plan at ALL.... I don't even know how to think about it. I mean, how do I know on Monday what I will want to eat on Friday?

I am going to read this whole thing and make my husband read it too!

Thank you!

shelle said...

What a great post. I used to religiously plan our menus but have stopped. I got caught in a rut and felt no one was appreciating the time I spent cooking :(
The family does love my baking and weekly I make muffins, sour dough bread and one desert. Not only does it save money but I can control what goes into our food, who really uses all the sugar called for in a recipe?

Karen said...


i'll definitely check out the kripalu cookbook on amazon ... i don't like the skinny bitch books, either. but maybe i could go to the library and photocopy the salad recipe ... lemon juice, you say? i'll try it.

if you're an urban oaks lady, you've definitely met my best friend. for over a year or so, she was a big hand at the farm. her name is sarah, and she has blonde hair and glasses. and my friend ken is a bigger guy with lots of hair and a beard. now that's a small world!

hey, ALL -- i use ziploc bags (reused and reused) for my bread, too. Maybe a wood bread box would be better for the environment? hm. you can look up the Amish white bread recipe (i use organic white spelt flour) ... i can't remember where i got it ... but it makes a perfect loaf that slices easily, tastes great, and so far hasn't hardened up, etc. at all over a few days. good luck to you all!

Jonah Lisa said...

I store bread (made weekly) in a cotton drawstring bag in the bread box. For me, ziplocks make the crust soften too much. I feel like me bread lasts longer and keeps a nice crust in a breathable bag.

Would love your recipe for avocado sanwich spread and wheatberry salad. Mmmm.

Ravyk said...

Thanks Heather, this piece was really informative. Few questions.

Can I please have a copy of the sweedish ginger cookie recipe? I love ginger cookies!

And how long does citrus tend to last in the fridge?

Joy @FrugalMenuMamas said...

It was great to see how you menu plan and stock your kitchen. Thanks for your insight and great photos!

Jennifer said...

I would love to see the recipe for avocado sandwich spread! your baked goods look awesome!