Thursday, December 27, 2007

Planned, Crockpotted and Frozen

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Get Rich Slowly. Today I found a few old threads on eating cheaply. While the article is good, the string of 100 or so comments is even better. I love reading people's ideas on how to do better things we all have to do anyway, things like eating!

So today I've been mulling over ideas for meals, and rueing the fact that I can't just sit down and menu plan, because I'm not going to be home to cook next week! Nonetheless, there's nothing that says that you can't plan ahead, so I'm trying to think up a strategy for cooking after the babies and I all come home again.

I love menu planning. I love making good food - veg and omni - full of good spices and good produce. I love filling up my cart at the ranch market with a ton of produce, more than you'd think our family could eat in 2 weeks, paying only $25 for it, and knowing that we're going to eat it all, because I know exactly what meals all of it is going to go into. Yes, we will use 15 onions and those four bunches of cilantro. The jalapenos? I have a plan for them. That giant bag of potatoes? You haven't lived till you've had my potato chickpea curry (really! ask my husband!).

So, I don't want to give up menu planning or the ranch market, but I am thinking that streamlining my food-prep process even further would be good because, well, I'm going to be (Lord willing and Christ tarry) taking care of two toddlers and two newborns all day (and night) when I get home.

Here are my ideas, and I'd love to have any of your brilliant suggestions too!

1) For the past month and a half or so, I've been doubling every meal I make and freezing half of it, so that my husband won't have to cook while I'm in the hospital. What if I kept doing this after I come home again? That would cut my cooking time about in half - I'd only have to cook every other night. But we wouldn't have to eat the same thing two nights in a row, because we'd have a freezer stash to draw on. So if we had corn sausage chowder one night (fresh), and we didn't eat the frozen portion till two weeks later, well, we'd be just about ready for it again. I really like this idea. Doubling is a bit more work, but not as much as making the same meal twice, not nearly.

2) Right now we usually eat for lunch whatever we had for dinner the night before. But what if I planned lunches too? Not a different thing every day, but one thing per week. Say, a big pot of bean soup and a couple loaves of rosemary foccacia? We could have soup and bread for lunch every day, and that would mean more dinner leftovers in the freezer. Lunch meals would have to each be cheap, delicous, and probably vegetarian. Here are the ones I've thought of:

-the aforementioned potato-chickpea curry,
-bean soup and bread,
-bread and hummus,
-homemade marinara over pasta with cheese,
-bean and cheese burritoes,
-lentil soup and corn muffins.

It'd be pretty easy to do a big batch of something at the beginning of the week and then just eat it all week long, especially if I did something from the freezer for dinner that night. That'd still just be making one meal that day.

So, bouyed up by visions of yummy legume creations, I went ahead and bought, with some birthday money, a cookbook I've wanted to have for a long time: Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I had it out from the library onece and loved everything I made from it (seriously: rosemary foccaccia - SOOOOOO good). I figure I'll drool over it at the hospital and make menu plans for when I get home.

So, anyone else figured out brilliant ways to make yummy, cheap, healthy food for their families? I'd love to hear about it. Maybe our comment thread can surpass the one that inspired this post!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. dinner tonight? Curried chicken in the crockpot, over rice. Mmmmm.


Meredith said...

Sounds like an excellet plan!

I rarely make enough to double, but the logic makes perfect sense. Now if I can only get in the swing of buying twice as much at once!

Ma Torg said...

Well, my dinner planning is similiar...doubling or tripling every meal for tons of leftovers/freezer meals. I currently cook just 3 times a week. However, for lunches, we just have sliced cheese and fresh fruit everyday. Very easy, no 'cooking' involved and very nutritious. Also, if you get on wic, the cheese is free!

Sarah Marie said...

Mmmm... I LOVE curried anything! I do chicken, chickpeas, and cauliflower and I can't get enough of it, but I'll have to try potatoes next time!

Nathan and I bought a chest freezer over the summer and it was such a good decision. I have homeade empanadas, pierogies, marinara sauce, veggie chili, half a dozen kinds of soup... freezer meals can be healthy and delicious! And things like empanadas and pierogies are kind of time consuming to make, but making LOTS while you're already making SOME isn't that much more difficult, so I froze big batches of them. My next project: potato knishes. :)