As I mentioned in my “No Spend September” recap, the most significant aspect of that challenge was FOOD. Groceries, that is. And thus, cooking, the groceries. Since we decided we weren’t eating out, and because all humans in my household get hungry on a regular basis, I spent a lot more time planning, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up in the kitchen.
I realize that this isn’t a monumental notion: cooking and eating a meal as a family every day, but as I’ve shared before, this is a shift for our household. A good shift, because I like the daily rhythm of sharing a household meal together, but this hasn’t come without growing pains. And particularly during September, when last-minute takeout wasn’t an option, I became even more aware of what this endeavor required of me.
I’m an extremely hip and cool peruser of simple/frugal/minimalist living blogs, and I must say, a common theme I read about is the idea of meal planning. Some have extremely sophisticated systems of doing so. I, on the other hand, opted for post-it notes scrawled with ideas that kept rotating each day. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it helped me to put down on paper certain foods or ingredients we had that needed to be eaten, so that I wouldn’t forget about them and waste them.
Not a new notion, and Pinterest tells me that apparently there is a whole Food Prep Subculture that spends many hours on a Sunday afternoon chopping their hearts out in an effort prepare all the food for the week. I did not do this. However, I did try to think ahead a little. For example, if I knew we had a busy night, I’d be sure to plan on something easy and quick. I tried to cook enough so that we had leftovers, so that lunches would be easy. And I made sure to chop raw veggies into bite-sized sticks, so that they were easy to grab for a snack, and the whole vegetable didn’t get lost to rot in the back of the fridge.
(Have I mentioned the book that I’m afraid is going to ruin my life?) It’s no secret that the energy and resources it takes to raise meat is exorbitant, when compared to producing the same amount of calories from plant sources. This truth, coupled with our extremely limited grocery budget for September (high quality meat is expensive!) forced me to get creative in the vegetarian realm. It was delicious. Chilaquiles! Vegetable curry! Grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup!
Not only did I have my handy Freezer Inventory Sheet helping me decide what was available to cook. But I also had a few meals left from a freezer meal swap I did with some friends. This was extremely handy, and something I hope to continue doing, because it felt like a reprieve from all the prepping and cooking to just pull something from the freezer, heat, and serve.
Good Lord, the dishes! Even before this full month of only cooking and eating at home, I have often felt like I’m drowning in dishes. Does everyone feel like this? I have a dishwasher, which is a huge help, but even so, I am acutely aware of how much time I spend doing dishes. I don’t love it. And I don’t really see a way around it, quite frankly, because I don’t want to use paper products (partially because of the waste and partially because I don’t want to spend the money). This must just be my cross to bear, and I’ve found that it’s a bit easier to endure with interesting podcasts in the background…
Hoping your cooking be inspired this week, dear friends, and your dishes be few.