Menus and Leftovers

My goal lately has been to make sure I have a weekly dinner menu in mind before I head into the store.  Sometimes that means scribbling one on the back of the grocery list that looks like this:

Monday – Mexican

Tuesday – Fish / Veggie

Wednesday – Grilled chicken / potatoes / salad

Thurs – Pizza

Friday – Out

Even this at least gives me an idea of what I need to buy, or don’t need to buy, at the store.  With a menu like this, unless ground beef is on super sale, I’m not buying it.  I don’t need burger buns or pasta.  You get the picture.

Some weeks though, the menu is more fleshed out and is often based around what’s leftover in the fridge.  This week I had a tiny bit of butternut squash puree leftover and also some pinto beans.  We had way too many tortillas in the fridge as well, from me being in the store thinking “I bet I need tortillas.”  I definitely needed something Mexican on the menu this week…I only had to create meals for 3 days because of some celebrations and visitors we’ll be dining out with during the week.  So, here’s how it went down:

Monday – Quesadillas.  I used the butternut squash puree in 2 of them (mine) and mashed up the pinto beans to use as a spread on the other ones (for the BF).  I sauteed the last of some baby spinach, onion and pepper and a chicken breast.  These quesadillas were huge! This required nothing new from the store.

It’s almost more like a grilled stuffed soft taco than a quesadilla.  Still, they were super easy and great!  The butternut squash added just a hint of sweetness and some Vitamin A.

Wednesday – Split pea soup with ham.  I have half a ham steak in the freezer that needs to be used up.  I love split pea soup and since fall is beginning it seems a good time for that.  I didn’t have to buy anything at the store for this either!

Thursday – Risotto with Shrimp and a green salad.  We always have about 6 different kinds of rice and grains around.  Right now I have brown rice, white rice, arborio rice, sushi rice, cous cous, bulgur wheat and quinoa.  Seriously.  I also often have shrimp in the freezer.  If I can catch them on sale, then I buy them.  I’ll add green peas to the risotto as well (also a freezer staple).  I did buy a few more salad ingredients at the store, but nothing for the main dish.

Things I always buy:  pizza dough, apples and yogurt, another kind of fruit (this week bananas), potatoes (I keep a 5lb bag around), and I usually buy a second green vegetable.  This week that was a bag of NewStar Cooking with Spinach baby spinach.  I used it several times over the weekend, yesterday for lunch, and tonight.

I find that making menus, even sketchy ones, helps.  I don’t have to come home and wonder about what to cook or run by the store.  Everything is already here and ready to go.

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2 responses to “Menus and Leftovers

  1. I have tried about a million times to get in the habit of doing this but it never sticks. Either my menu is too rigid or I decide to be lazy and just make pasta or I forget that I even did one. I know there are myriad reasons why it’s a good idea, I just can’t seem to find the wherewithal to stick with it! Add it to the list of “in-progress” improvements!

  2. That’s why I said sometimes even a general “chicken this night” “tacos this night” menu works. To me it ends up being way less stressful because at 8 in the morning you know what’s for dinner. There’s no scrambling at the last minute…but it does take a while to get used to doing it.

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