Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Make the Most of Your Meals (Part 4)

Let's start with some accountability, shall we?

This week, I lost a number of produce items: half an apricot, half a red pepper that was generating its own slime pool, and a red onion. I must keep working to have regular turnover in the fridge, and make it a point to look in the fruit and vegetable drawers on a daily basis.

On a high note, going shopping this week gave me an opportunity to use my new produce bags. I am so thrilled to be done with those wispy plastic bags that are questionably recyclable. One small step on my way to less plastic in the house.

I didn't get a photo of my groceries this week because of hungry kids and jumping into evening meal prep right away. It was mostly produce and dairy, but I did some stocking up because of ridiculously good deals. Counting a dozen ears of bicolor corn from a local farm stand, and a beautiful basket of peaches ($18), I paid $60.59 for food this week.

Photo credit Jonathan Alderfer

Using a store coupon, I bought 5 packs of shredded cheese for $1.48 apiece. I don't think I've ever gotten such a good deal. Now that finally realized I can freeze that cheese, look out! I won't pay $3 a bag again.

Also, by combining an ice cream sale with a coupon, I paid $1.38 each for two 1.5qt containers of summery refreshment!

This week's menu:
Monday: Zucchini Deep Dish Pie to use up a huge zucchini from the garden. I'll add more onion next time.
Tuesday: Stuffed Shells to use up my semi-homemade pasta sauce. I set some aside to give away.
Wednesday: Popcorn chicken from the freezer, corn on the cob, and broccoli.
Thursday: Chicken Parmesan using some prepared breaded chicken breasts and salad.
Friday: Pulled pork sandwiches (meat and buns from freezer) with chips and cut up veggies
Saturday: Dijon-Lime chicken, rice, and leftover veggies. Also chocolate zucchini cake!
Sunday: Waffles and peaches, breakfast casserole

This week I want to give you some suggestions for maintaining a well-supplied--yet not overflowing--pantry. And by pantry, I mean wherever you keep unopened packages of non-perishable foods.

(Wow, look at this picture from an earlier post...I really have gotten a bit overzealous because there hasn't been any empty shelf space in my pantry for a long time. Plus the kids food has it's own cabinet now.)

I'm very pleased to present you with this Pantry Inventory list.  I developed this list after looking through my recipes and what's currently in my pantry. It's a great jumping-off point; please feel free to download it and customize to your heart's content.

A few other thoughts:
  • Consult your pantry every time you are planning your menu for the week. If you are getting sick of seeing something in the pantry, or there are more than three containers of the same thing, you need to find a way to use that ingredient. 
  • One exception to the above rule pertains to seasonal items. I stock up on a lot of things around Thanksgiving, like flour, canned green beans, french fried onions, pumpkin, and baking chips (chocolate, cinnamon, etc.), because the price will not be that low again until next Thanksgiving. I am also noticing a lot of good deals on PB&J and other lunch ingredients since we are in back-to-school season.
  • Some items don't have a very long shelf life. Be sure to check the "best by" dates and rotate your inventory by using up the oldest item first.
  • As you review what you have on hand, don't be afraid to admit you overbought. Find a food bank or worthy organization that can use your donations. They will be grateful.
  • A note about condiments: I have become aware of a condiment force field at my house. For two adults, we have about15 bottles of salad dressing, several BBQ and steak sauces, a ridiculous amount of jellies, and enough peanut butter to keep us fed during a month-long power outage. With this type of food, you can anticipate the need to replace the container with several weeks of wiggle room. There really is no reason to fill your pantry with condiments and sauces unless you hit a great sale.
Next week, we'll talk about stocking the freezer.

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