Friday, 10 June 2011

Shop Well

It’s Friday!!   Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

And…Scene. *movie clapper*  Demon day ended much as it began.  Unexpectedly.  I finally dragged myself off the couch and went for a run (mostly because I have a dress to fit into for Ascot next week and it might be a stretch) and then everything that comes after the run (stretching, showering, etc) which led to more activity and by the time Pete came home I was feeling slightly better and really looking forward to our Turkey Tacos (we have gotten almost too healthy over here) followed by the last big slice of ginger cake with vanilla thick cream. 
As with last week.  I don’t feel like I have much Housewifey stuff to talk about today.  At the book club last week we discussed this term, ‘housewife’ a bit.  Why do I feel like a housewife now when I am pretty much doing everything I did when I was a student?  I guess the answer is, before, the housewife stuff (chores, food, etc.) was a side venture to my studies, now it is my only focus beyond job searching and putting off writing.  And I guess I prefer the housewife title to the job-seeker title.  Maybe if I was a competent sewer or hobbyist of some sort, the housewife stuff would again be a side venture but, I don’t really have any hobbies.  It was one of my resolutions for this year to find a hobby I really enjoyed.  Six months down and I’m not quite there yet.  Still searching. 
But I do have to say that since taking on the Housewife title I have enjoyed cooking more and more.  I still detest creating the meal plan for the week but I do enjoy the actual cooking.  I am trying out new recipes each week and have started making notes for the next time.  I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this is coming from the girl that thought throwing some canned tuna and frozen peas into Kraft Mac n Cheese was gourmet. 
In light of this budding hobby I am going to let you in on my meal strategy.  I know you didn’t ask, but I’m putting it out there.  Here is why I call it a strategy.  A fridge that is full but cannot offer up a meal is a huge annoyance to me.  Before I learned to cook, I didn’t notice this phenomenon, but now it drives me a bit looney.  Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure my single-hood fridge was a victim but since I considered a bowl of instant rice or popcorn a suitable dinner, I didn’t notice.  If your fridge suffers from this disease, here is the cure. 
Move into a flatshare where you get two shelves in the fridge, one shelf in the freezer and one cupboard to store all your food.  I’m completely serious.  Okay, if you don’t want to sell your home and move into a flatshare, downsize your fridge or, at the very least, declare particular DFZ (de-foodized zones) shelves in the fridge and cupboards.  Here’s why.  When you have limited space you really have to pay attention and plan ahead in order for you not to waste food or money. 
Sit down with your partner or family and think about what is coming up in the week.  If that isn't possible, sit down with yourself and a nice cup of tea or coffee or whatever.  How many meals need to be provided from your kitchen?  Do you have dinner dates or potlucks or whatever?  Do you make breakfast and lunch everyday or do you purchase?  Do you need left-overs for lunches? You get the picture.
Now, decide what those meals will be.  I know this sound Herculean if you have a bunch of people to satisfy, but it is possible.  We do this a few ways.  We have a running list of meals we have a hankering for, or really love, or want to try out.  This has been built up over the past five years.  When we started planning meals we did the same three every week; ‘spag bol,’ sweet ‘n’ sour chicken from a jar over instant rice, lasagna and then some take-away.   We have progressed a bit since then.  When planning the meals, don’t worry about figuring out which meal will happen when, just know that you need to come up with 6 dinners, 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 1 potluck, etc.  You may also take a look in your fridge and freezer and cupboards and see if there is something that needs to be used.  It may also help to make sure you have quick meals as well as time-consuming meals.  So those nights when you just can’t be asked, you know there is a fast meal waiting.
For example, this is what we had down for this week (pay no attention to the effort required, I obviously have more time on my hands than some).
Chicken Pad Thai
Chorizo & butternut salad
Egg, spinach & pepper bake
Carrot & bean soup with leek & feta toast
Turkey taco kit
Pork chop, butternut & tenderstem broccoli
Prawn stirfry (precut veggies and sauce packet)

Pete buys his breakfast and lunch during the week.  I have porridge and blueberries every morning and left overs for lunch or a salad with tuna.  This week I left out the dessert, but we still had half the ginger cake from last week.

Next, figure out what you need to make these meals happen.  What ingredients do you already have?  What do you need to get?  Make a list of what you need to complete these meals. 

That’s it.  Your food shopping list is done and you know that everything you buy is going to be used by the end of the week.  Every time you open the fridge you know that there is a meal that can be made.  It takes the guess work (and so some of the stress) out of meal prep.  Yes? But here's the thing, you still have to go to the store and purchase it all.  With list in hand and meals planned out, I find we don't wander aimlessly up and down the aisles just buying random stuff that looks good.  We also always go together.  I know this isn't possible for everyone, but we go together and we have a system while we are there that we have honed so that we are normally done with groceries (door to door, and we walk there and back) in an hour.  Pete heads straight for the fruit, I gather up the veggies.  We head to the meat which Pete picks out while I move through dairy.  We meet up in the grains, discuss and move off again.  We usually end up in paper goods, take one last look on the list and then Pete heads to a check out line while I run for whatever we forgot.  In line, I pack (four bags at most since we are walking the stuff home), he pays and we are off.
So there it is.  That’s our strategy.  If all goes well, we have a fairly empty fridge by the time we go to the grocery each week and have enjoyed some nice meals with minimal stress. 

Go forth!  Plan, cook, enjoy.

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