I’m working on refining meals over here. Cooking for a full house can sometimes feel complicated, right? But nobody has time for complicated (truly, truly). Today we rely on our CSA veggie box, our local neighborhood market and Costco for grocery shopping (side note: I do everything possible to never step into a grocery store). Occasionally a Blue Apron box helps fill in the gaps (love that service so much). Life is so busy and adding an extra couple of hours for dinner has never been realistic so fast, fresh and easy is a good answer.
But how to do fast, fresh and easy regularly? At a manageable cost? I think there’s something to say about pattern. and simplicity. I’m not sure I could make amost the same seven meals every week (something I’ve read a lot about lately) but I do think a a simple menu of grain + veggie + meat/fish a few times a week mixed in with a few all-veggie options is realistic. Going back to the basics – in a good way!, I think we are. All hail the day Kevin moves to a new project at work and can be home in time each evening to take back cooking (right now it averages 7/7:30 so not possible…).
But, here’s my goal:
Have an empty fridge at the end of each week: right now I try to keep only a few days to a week’s worth of food in the house at any given time. I think this is so important to avoid feeling overwhelmed when you open that fridge door. Plus, an empty fridge at the end of the week feels like such a fresh start for the next!
Keep a few dry grain pantry staples on hand: to keep meals simple, I find a pantry with a few grain options is great (quinoa, rice, couscous, polenta…). But just small amounts of each.
Stocked veggie drawer: thanks, CSA! Carrots for roasting, brussel sprouts for sautéing, lettuce + a crumbled cheese for a side…
Frozen and fresh cuts of sustainably grown meat: So we can mix in chicken, pork loin, ground beef as needed.
Meal prep: mix and match each night from the grain, veggie and meat options above using different prep techniques for a little umph. (also, I’d say we eat veggie meals 50% of the time because it really cuts down on cost, those nights the above pattern is the same just minus the meat and add more quinoa). That or throw all three of those food groups into a slow cooker? Mmmm I need to dust off the crockpot.
Another tip: reserve one night for a cleaning out the fridge meal to help with the above.
This plan helps me to stick with my no actual meal planning schedule. Plus, a grocery list suddenly looks a little more like: 4 grains, 2 meats, 5 veggies, 2 cheeses
(we’ll save Costco for the string cheese, yogurt cups and cracker kid snacks)
The above is for keeping it simple ’round here. But here’s where it could get a little fun again – I’d like to add one play meal each week back into the mix. Rather than meal plan for every night, I’m going to try meal planning for just ONE night. This treat meal is something unique to try from a favorite blog or recipe book (like this one! or this one!). Here’s the opportunity to buy rice paper or tamarack sauce or saffron to mix things up. One meal is way more doable than say, seven.
We’ll see how this goes! I feel as though I revamp our food approach seasonally so I’m going to give this a go for a few months.