January 5, 2011

Menu planning and kitchen basics

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times.  "When you fail to plan you plan to fail".  Sometimes I need to be told something a thousand times, and other times I need to say it the same number of times.  Anyway! It seems that planning family meals 3 or 4 days out works best. Why not a week, you might ask? Well, certain fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs are not at their peak at a week, and sometimes I just like to order a pizza.  Although, I totally advocate going to the grocery store only once a week, but in reality it's more like every 5 or 6 days, which averages out to 5, maybe 6 times a month.  Grocery shopping can be frustrating (why do all the people have to shop on Friday?), time consuming, and expensive.  Planning my meals in advance helps save me from all those above-mentioned ills.  I try to plan meals around what I might already have on the menu, and put on the grocery list for next week what I think I'll make.  Having said that, I'll choose one or two meals a week that I need "special" ingredients for, and by that I mean stuff I normally don't have on hand, otherwise most of the meals I make come from what's in the pantry.

Great pantry basics:

low sodium chicken broth
canned mushrooms
white wine
balsamic vinegar
top ramen (you'd be surprised)
canned tomatoes & tomato paste
canned tuna
variety of pasta
canned beans

Of course the fresh ingredients you keep in the fridge should change as the seasons, incorporating farmer market goods whenever possible.

Tonight I put a whole chicken in the crockpot with aromatics, and tomorrow I'll take the meat off the bone.  Andrew wants chicken enchiladas on Friday, and the rest will be used Sunday for either chicken tortilla soup or chicken and dumplings.

Slow cooker chicken

1 whole chicken, washed, then covered with water in the crock pot.  Add large chunks of onion, celery, carrots, and 2 bay leaves.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook on low heat over night. 


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