September 23, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
What's the plan, Stan?

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

In June, I mentioned Stan, our contractor. This man, this Stan, ended up being the bane of my existence for the entirety of Summer 2011. For much of the summer, I was constantly having to call him. Then, the tables turned and for the remainder of the summer, he was constantly calling ME. For money. That our insurance was in the process of sending in the form of FIVE separate checks. Money that got delayed partly because Stan's company wanted MORE money and took their sweet time finishing their own damned invoice.

It will be a long, long time before I erase the memory of his phone number from my brain.  Seriously, I have his phone committed to MEMORY.

Anyway, today's title is in celebration of the end of my tortured relationship with Stan. I handed over the last and final check him yesterday.

So. Today I want to talk about menu planning. Hands down, a minimum of menu planning goes a long, long way for me. And when I say minimum, I am not jesting.

Each Sunday/Monday morning, I pull out my cookbooks and a folder of print-outs to get ideas for the coming week. I only plan meals for Monday through Thursday. Friday is a our long-standing take n' bake pizza night. On Saturday and Sundays I usually wing it. Most lunches are scrabbled together with leftovers and whatnot.

In short, I plan for 4 dinners a week and I add the ingredients to my shopping list.  The entire process takes about 15 minutes.   Often, while I am at the store, something in the produce section will catch my eye or happen to be on sale and then I will have my 5th and 6th meals taken care of.

I have a hoard of cookbooks, but these are the ones I use most frequently, so I keep them handy and easily accessible.  I used to have them on the countertop but I prefer them tucked away since it protects them from dust, grease, etc.

My Favorite Cookbooks List

Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India by Maya Kaimal

Simply Thai Cooking by Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu

Simply Mediterranean Cooking by Byron Ayanoglu and Algis Kemezys

Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

The Asian Bistro Cookbook by Andrew Chase

Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala by Maya Kaimal

Awhile back, I had mentioned that Paper Coterie was giving away $40 worth of product.  I spent $17 of my alottment on this handy recipe book:
Full Disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored.  I simply received the recipe book for free.


It took several hours worth of work digging through emails, bookmarked links, past blog posts, etc.  Recipes that had all been printed out previously and existed in a chaotic mess inside a red folder.  But it was worth the work and now, I have some of my favorite recipes in a single book.  In MY book.

I love how many of the recipes have come from friends - old and new.  It was quite a trip down memory lane.

I also love that I was able to use some of my favorite food photos as well.

I will always have a folder full of printouts and whatnot, that is the most exciting part of cooking as a hobby -- that constant discovery of new recipes and fresh ways to use one's favorite ingredients.

What are your favorite meal planning tips?  I am always looking for new ideas on how I can improve my schedule.


Anonymous said...

I do the exact same thing, but it takes me more like an hour than 15 minutes. (I'm a total nerd and I have WAY too much fun planning meals for the week.)I like how it keeps shopping efficient, under-budget and planning eliminates the whole "what the hell am I going to make for dinner" after work on a Tuesday. Great post and smart tips! :)

Goofy Girl said...

Planning meals AHEAD of time?! Wow! Isn't that like cheating?

Our strategy is more like Pantry Roulette. Look in the pantry and see what can be cobbled together into a meal.

Bethany said...

I like to meal plan too. Lately things have been so busy I pick a main protein for 4 meals and wing it from there. The other 3 nights are usually left overs or a whatever one of us is in the mood for kind of thing.

Off topic question-
My 8 year old asked if I could make Indian food one night. We have never had it before. What do you reccommend? I am a pretty good cook, there aren't many things we don't like, but the 3 year old doesn't like too much heat (a little but not much).


Olivia said...

I don't really do advanced planning. We have a fairly big list of our regulars, about 20 dishes between the two of us, that we rotate through.

My husband is the freezer stocker, and he makes sure we always have spaghetti sauce, 3 Nigerian dishes (stews/beans), and 2 rice sauces (tomato and Thai coconut) in the freezer at all times.

I go over our usual meal list and will pick one or two things we haven't had in a while and add those to the shopping list. And we keep a deep freeze full of meat (pork chops, steaks, hamburger, brats, chicken breasts/quarters, turkey wings) we buy in bulk. So we always have something we can put together.

To add some variety I'll try different methods for cooking meat and we try to cook a new recipe every now and then, or revisit something we haven't cooked in a long time.

LoriB said...

Ahhh, Daron's chili made your recipe book! He will be so proud. I've thought many times of creating a book like this but have just not made it happen.

I try to plan at least two dinners a week, but must admit that we end up eating the same things over and over. My boys (big boy included) are not very adventurous eaters so I stick with the basics — stir fry, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers, etc. We are blessed to be fed by my MIL a couple nights a week when they are in town over the winter, which takes some of the menu planning pressure off me.

BTW, I love your Intestinal Fortitude posts. And I am dying over the sandhill plum jelly photos. My grandma used to make that and I've never found an equivalent.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

An hour? That's impressive! Some weeks it takes me that long, but it depends if I am trying new recipes or not. Yep, I also love the money-saving aspects -- also, it keeps us from eating via drive-thrus.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

A simple chicken curry or chickpea curry might be up your alley! Have you ever tried an Indian buffet? That might be a good place to start - then you can sample a variety of things and go from there. If you need help with recipes, email me at cagey333 on gmail!

MLE said...

Hey, that was MY chicken and squash bake thingy to start with!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I know! And I feel bad about that! When I was publishing this, I realized that and meant to email you about it. The problem is that I got it from her and that's how I tend to think of recipes. For example, the Baked Ziti isn't really "Celeste's" and the Chicken Divan isn't really "Caroline's" either. They both got the recipes elsewhere.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Also, MLE,
Honestly, at this point, I think of the recipe as the "one that Anu gave me that she got from Emily" Meaning, she didn't make it up. She has always given you the credit for it and has corrected me in the past on it. :-)