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.