Wednesday, January 9, 2013

making dinner

Once upon a time, I was quite organized when it came to meal planning for the week and shopping sales and preparing dinner.

I had to be, since I worked 4 nights a week. I thought it would get easier once I stayed home full time, but the truth is, I've gotten lazier. Why plan?! I'm here!

I would sort of sketch out a plan here and there, and in the summer it was quite nice to let the harvest decide our dinner. But now, with one child in every activity we'll let him in, and another one in track 6 days a week, and a husband doing tutoring on top of teaching 5 days a week, well our days have gotten a little crazy and I'm finding meal planning to be essential again.

ok, so this is two weeks ago, shhhh. 

I've been meaning to get back into it for a while. Truth is we eat better and spend less when I'm on top of it. But, you know, sometimes it's a pain to do. Other times, I love it. But I find myself being quite uninspired quite often. So, it's a work in progress I suppose.

For winter though, on top of the crazy schedule we are keeping right now, I also want to keep our grocery bill to $50 a week for our family of 5. Which should be do-able, since we have a pantry and basement full of homecanned goodies from summer and two full size freezers, one of which is full of our bulk orders of local beef and pork.

So with some reluctance I started my old method of meal planning a couple weeks ago. Planning meals for a week, checking sale ads, shopping our pantry before the store.

Last week our bill was $56. This week it was $22, though I still have a couple of things to grab.

Last night, I found myself looking at my dinner plans wondering what the heck I was thinking. Since we are currently a one car family and I had an appointment in the morning requiring the car, that meant I played taxi in the afternoon, which was not going to leave any time for preparing the meal I planned.

What delighted me, was the realization that at 3:30, I could change my plans, easily. I could start a from scratch meal (minus the pasta) and be out the door at 4:30, get home at 5:45 and still have dinner on the table just after 6.

All I had to do was pull out some sausage, some cans from the shelf, some frozen veggies from summer - and perhaps the most delightful thing of all, just knead some bread real quick. Bread was a battle for me for years, and as I kneaded it last night it dawned on me how far I've come that I didn't blink at starting a scratch bread at 3:30 for dinner.

In fairness, it is a very, very simple bread recipe (French Bread from Chickens in the Road) but simple is good.

All I had to do was knead the bread, put it in a bowl to rise, saute some sausage and veggies, add the sauce and put it on the wood stove to simmer (more on that later, I've become quite adept at using our wood stove for cookery) and out the door I went. When I came home all there was to do was cook some noodles, put the bread in the oven - and dinner! Ok, so it was only noodles and sauce and bread - but a from scratch meal on the table, with little effort, in no time. Fantastic.

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