Monday, September 29, 2014

A Place at Our Table

Because decorative gourds are cute
I was innocently looking for some dinner inspiration while meal planning last week when I fell down the pinterest rabbit hole and found the blog Living Well Spending Less. The specific post I found intriguing was this one. I know that several friends have taken on the challenge of foregoing non-essential purchases for a month, but I'd never really considered groceries a non-essential. Until I really thought about the incredible amount of food and meal possibilities I have languishing in my freezer(s) and pantry. Starting this last week through the end of October, I'm making an effort to meal plan based on what I already have. (duh, right?) I'm still going to be buying milk, yogurt, some produce and other fresh foods, but the idea is just to start making a dent. Also, I may have felt incredibly guilty after watching A Place at the Table.

Saturday afternoon I went through the bottom drawer of the stand-up freezer, which was where I'd relegated all of the meat that needs to be used first when I was putting away the half-beef. I pulled stew beef, flank steak, chicken breasts and a package of ground beef and put them in the refrigerator to thaw and be used throughout the week.

Yesterday I thought about poaching the chicken to shred and add to a salad, but then I saw a chicken pot pie on the cover of a magazine in the check-out line when I was buying milk (and candy corn...so much for non-essentials) and knew that I already had everything to make a stellar one, so I'd be saving those chicken breasts for later in the week.

When I got home, I still didn't have plans for dinner, J had just gotten home from work, and the clock was striking the ominous four o'clock witching hour. I quickly summoned the powers of pinterest and searched for salads with arugula (to avoid the giant tub of it turning into a green slime wasteland) and quinoa and found this goody; an arugula salad with quinoa, chickpeas (which will always be garbanzos to me), feta and some crunch lent from carrots, celery and almonds. I hate when people say, 'I followed the recipe except...' and then list a novel of changes, but I'll do it anyhow. I used the base of arugula, quinoa, feta and chickpeas, but then got the crunch from a bell pepper and omitted the rest. The lemon dressing was simple, and a big ol' plate was filling without being heavy. I had planned to just make pbj for the kids, but then nixed the idea and served the salad to everyone. Charlie was thrilled it wasn't soup, Henry was excited about the garbanzos (I'd forgotten he loved them at the Farm to Table tasting for them earlier in the year) and Jack ate as much as he would have of anything. Boom. Dinner done. And I'd even forced myself to unload and load the dishwasher while the quinoa was cooking, so clean up was a breeze.

Speaking of freezer clean-out. I feel like every time the fall/holiday baking season comes around I stock up on every variety of chip known to man, only to come home to a freezer full of last year's spoils because one simply cannot make enough Oatmeal Scotchies to validate a purchase of 400 packages of butterscotch chips. After seeing Kate Jones' instagram of cookie dough at 6:30am, I felt compelled to make a batch of Our Best Bites Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used half semi-sweet and half butterscotch chips, which eliminated another collection of quart freezer bags filled with half-used packages of chips. They were absolutely as good as they claim-that big douse of vanilla (I used my own, and it's so good) and lack of cinnamon make them perfect.



Then, because I felt just so efficient in my clean out efforts, a couple days later I made these Banana chocolate chip muffins. I had four brown bananas to use, so doubled the batch because the recipe said it only made a dozen. It does not. I easily got three dozen plus out of the double batch. I added diced walnuts because it makes them delicious, and it was another freezer bag emptied. The kids have loved having both treats in their lunches. I may have also let them have oatmeal cookies for breakfast on Sunday because, well, it's oatmeal.
I'm starting to see a little light where there may actually be some room in Mr. Freeze to get some dinners prepped and ready before baby girl's arrival, which is now officially scheduled for December 4th. 

Do you stockpile food to a certain extent and then 'forget' to use it? What are some of your tried and true use-what-we-have inspiration starting points? 

2 comments:

SAU First Book said...

I started posting a "meat inventory" on my fridge--a list of what exactly I have in my freezer and how much. Every time I pull something out, I cross it off the list or reduce the number left. It has helped immensely not only with using what we have, but also shopping for meat less because I actually know what is out there!

Sally HP said...

That is so smart!