Tag Archives: food prep

More Food Planning/Use

Today is the day I usually go to the farm for our week’s food. If I’d been home yesterday, I would put aside whatever remaining foodstuffs from last week I didn’t think we’d use.

I’ve started that effort today instead, but it IS being done.

I’ve also planned what I’ll get at the farm, that makes food use a bit less random!

Finally, I go right by our favorite markets on the way home, so I’ll do the weekly shopping. There’s a package of chicken thawing in the fridge for tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight’s dinner is probably a cheese omelette and salad, or that’s the plan. This is subject to DH’s input, how much and types of cheese we have, etc. We had HM hummus, freshly baked bread, and green salad. It was too hot to cook and I’d been gone all day, no interest in cooking at all!

I culled 2 jars from the pantry as their contents will be replaced, starting today.

This is working! We’ll see if I can keep it up. DH and I have had a few discussions about the “menu plan,” and he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees with my long-term goals: getting us used to smaller, cheaper meals like we’ll have when he’s retired, spending less on restaurants/prefab food, less meat, more veggies, better use of the veggies we’ve paid for (from the farm), and less food waste.

Photo by petra cigale on Unsplash

And for me, the kicker is that this isn’t so rigid that I resent it and it takes away the creativity I normally use when cooking. The I don’t know what to make with what I’ve got randomness is the only piece of cooking I really like: taking a bunch of random ingredients and using up what needs it in a meal.

I know people who sit down and plan a year’s worth of menus at once. I couldn’t do that, any more than I could do something similar to Once a Month Cooking or Mega Cooking. I tend to put pieces aside, not meals. (For example, cooked rice and stems from greens for soup.)

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Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

lobostudio-hamburg-33674-unsplash

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

Self-Cleaning Cooking — Put It To Use (or Try)

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

  1. Use up ingredients! This generates less clean up: you don’t have to deal with storing what’s left. (It generates less waste and happily is frugal too.)
  2. Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)! Each tool or utensil generates two clean up tasks — it has to be washed and put away.
  3. Limit cooking areas! Each cooking area generates one clean up task: cleaning the area after it’s used.
  4. Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! Partially prepared foods may be the best way to cook from scratch, with fresh foods, and limit clean up tasks.
  5. Try using commercial prefab ingredients! These can also save many clean up tasks, but you sacrifice knowing exactly what’s in the food and how it was prepared.

So! Given those, what can I do?


  • Use up ingredients!

For us, that means that I will try and do more bulk cooking. I do this with meats already, that is, when I open a package of 1 lb of chicken thighs, these days I always cook all of it. However, I don’t do this with vegetables say. Items which will store well, I do: cooked rice as an example. But what to do with fresh veggies to handle/store them as little as possible is the challenge here, and I don’t have an answer.

  • Use the smallest quantity of cooking utensils & tools as practical (and safe)!

I think with measuring tools, I already do this. I’ll measure dry ingredients before wet. I’ll use the smallest spoon measure and use a graduated cup measure for items.

Cooking tools? Hm, not so much.

Pans: if items need to be dry roasted (like dry roasted cumin, in a soup recipe I use a lot) and then another ingredient needs to be sauted, wiping the pan out with a paper towel (or not, depending on the ingredient) between makes sense. Using the pan you roasted meat in to make gravy might make sense, but it would usually generate another dish to hold the food taken from the roasting pan.

I have two sets of divided pans: small, almost triangular pans made to fit inside a bigger one and be cooked that way. I wonder if using those more often could help? It might not lessen the quantity of items to be cleaned, but it certainly would lessen the square inches of surfaces needing to be cleaned. There’s only two of us and often I’m only using the bottom inch of a pan . Hmm…..

Cooking utensils: I automatically just reach for tool x or y or z as I’m cooking. I think I need to become more aware of what I’m doing and see if I can just not use the wooden spatula I’ve used for years to saute items, and then need a spoon instead. Why couldn’t I saute foods with the spoon? No reason; I’m just used to doing things a certain way. As I said, this one will require some work on my part!

  • Limit cooking areas! 

This is the same as cooking cools/utensils: I automatically use this cutting board, that knife, the peeler, etc. I will have to *think* before I cook to find ways to lessen cooking areas. (The horror!)

  • Make your own prefab or partial ingredients! 

As I said, I often make a quart jar of sauted onions.

At the end of the summer last year, I made up something which also worked: I made up bags of tomatoes, onion, green pepper, all chopped and ready to go, for marinara for me (no red tomatoes) or my husband (with red tomatoes). I also made up bags of salsa verde for me (no red tomatoes again) or regular salsa for my husband.

I’ve discussed this earlier, I think to limit the number of recipes: I’ll make a red tomato stewed tomato recipe and a nonred tomato stewed tomato recipe. I’ll probably also make salsa verde. Tomatillos, which I love and can eat, are readily available at the farm late summer. A jar of salsa verde is about $3 (or more)! I love Mexican food and use a lot of salsa.

stack of dirty pots &amp; pans

  • Try using commercial prefab ingredients!

Of course, I have done this and do. But I have limited storage and money. In the summer I toss a huge amount of the farm food unnecessarily. Especially since I’m losing my big freezer this summer, finding new ways to use the farm food, rather than buying more prefab food is my mandate.

 

Self-Cleaning Cooking. Is It Possible?

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I’m beginning to think this is a pipe dream.

Even something as basic as sauteeing 1/2 an onion gets involved:

  1. Storage it came from +1 locale
  2. Cutting board +1 thing to wash
  3. Knife + 1 thing to wash
  4. Storage for remaining onion +1 locale
  5. Pan  +1 to wash
  6. Cooking tool +1 to wash
  7. Butter storage +1 locale
  8. Butter knife +1 to wash
  9. Stove to cook it on +1 locale

Potentially there 4 areas (onion storage, unused onion storage, butter storage, stove) which could need to be cleaned, 2 food remainders to deal with (the other 1/2 the onion and the rest of the butter which also might need additional packaging), and 5 items to clean (cutting board, knife, pan, cooking tool, butter knife).

From a TWO INGREDIENT cooking task, there’s potentially 11 items or locations to deal with! No wonder the kitchen is always trashed after cooking a meal!!!

My only “hope” is that if I do my 5:1 item swap, this would involve cleaning or putting away 20 items.

Honestly? I wouldn’t have expected this kind of ratio, that it takes about 5 areas or cooking tools to deal with a single ingredient.

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true through a complex recipe, (You would use the same knife to chop things, for example.)

I tried to do a count like this for the simple recipe I made for dinner last night, 8 ingredients. It kept getting longer, more complicated and then I’d see something I’d missed, and it got longer and more complex. After 3 drafts, I decided to do the simplest recipe I could think of. This one.

There are variables:

  • Was the tool already in use and re-used without washing? Certainly this could be true for the stove, cutting board,  & knife, if not the bread board, butter dish and butter knife.
  • Is the potential cleaning something done as a part of the kitchen’s clean up, rather than because of this recipe? Possibly so for the onion’s original storage locale or the storage for the 1/2 an onion, although maybe not for the storage it is put into?

I am working on a way to chart this stuff so it’s easier. In the meantime, I have relaxed. I am overwhelmed for a good reason, this is confusing as all get out and much more complicated than I ever would have figured!

stack of dirty pots &amp; pans

More About Self-Cleaning Cooking

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I have been working on this, it’s complicated!

There are these considerations:

  • Food storage: put away, recycled, or washed afterwards

There’s not much to be done about food storage. Food comes in whatever packaging or storage it does. You can repackage carrots say to share storage with parsnips, but that doesn’t change the requirement to take the food from storage and manipulate it for your recipe and return the unused portion or clean the storage item or deal with it somehow. Eliminating ingredients doesn’t change this requirement. Buying prefab possibly can, buying Bisquick instead of making pancake batter from scratch can reduce the packaging used: one box of Bisquick, instead of three: baking powder, salt, and flour.

  • Cooking tools used: washed afterwards

Eliminating or cutting down cooking tools is easier. You can decide to not use a peeler and use the knife you’ve already used to top/tail the carrots, as an example.

The easiest for me to eliminate is the tablespoon measure, it’s 3 teaspoons and I have no problem figuring that out. I sometimes look at the recipe and determine the measures required, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon. say.  Then I use, deliberately, only the smallest measure for all of them.

I will use one graduated cup measure throughout the recipe instead of using a cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure, etc. Or, I’ll use the 1/4C measure, like above. If it’s sane, I’ll measure the dry ingredients first, then the wet ones. (It’s easy to undo whatever item savings you may have doing this, because you need places to store the chopped onions, etc. for later!)

There’s a point at which this is totally counterproductive and I try and take that into consideration too!

  • Areas messed: washed afterwards

This isn’t as easy to do something about. Even when you reuse an area, a chopping board say, you still should clean it between uses. And, of course, it will need to be cleaned afterwards. You can limit the number of areas used by reusing them, but the quantity of cleaning required is harder, if not impossible, to reduce.

  • Serving tools/utensils used: washed afterwards

There are some obvious ideas, you can use dinner plates, etc. and serve everything together, instead of serving everything in separate dishes. Again, there are limits.


Trying to find ways to do this, I found this article at Bon Appetit. Here’s my comments about the article:

  • Her first idea is to use oven to table pots, instead of using pots & serving dishes.

My take is: Instead of serving items in the pot you cook it, how about plating food in the kitchen? Then the pot doesn’t need to be oven to table ready. If you have a big family or do lots of complicated cooking, this probably won’t work, but there’s two of us. I rarely use “serving” dishes. I sold all my platters because of this. I just don’t do that kind of cooking. When I take food to neighbors, etc. I use baskets, jars, etc. — no serving dishes.

  • Her second idea is to stop using multiple knives for everything, but to use one good knife instead.

My problem with this is that you increase the amount of dish washing mid-recipe, between cutting chicken and onions, say. That said? I set up a loaf pan with soapy water and put used utensils in it as I go. I try and wash them before the meal is served, to save the knives’ wood handles.

  • Number 3 is to get your timing down so as to make the best use of it.

Absolutely!

  • The fourth item on that list is an addition to 3, that is, clean whatever you can in the short down times between steps.

Again, I agree! You’d be surprised how many dishes you can wash while the micro is reheating your coffee for 1 minute!

  • Don’t use two items when one will do is her fifth idea.

I’ve worked at this for a while now. [I fixed the typo; I’m an editor, right?]

  • Item #6: Rinse and reuse prep tools rather than using new ones.

Also part of #5. In most cases, I’d probably WASH rather than just rinse. It depends on what I’d used it for, when. Rinsing the spoon you used to add the last of the spices to a cooked dish is fine. Only rinsing a spoon used for the initial mixing a dish with raw chicken? Nope.

  • Her last idea is to buy a scale and never use measuring spoons, etc. again.

That’s fine, if all your recipes have weight as well as volume measurements provided. But, many of my recipes don’t.  I’m not really interested in converting 1,000s of recipes so that I know a 1/2 tsp of salt weighs whatever it does. Might be interesting to do for some things. But even the salt won’t work, because you won’t eliminate anything: you need a container to put the salt into, to measure it. If you’re making a curry dish where all the spices are added individually, yeah, sure, use and reuse the same small bowl, but for a beef roast’s gravy?

Even if you use a scale instead of a volume measure, you still haven’t eliminated an item to wash, so like all of these suggestions, I’d take it “with a grain of salt.” [Couldn’t resist that!]


I’m not sure what conclusions this exercise gave me?

stack of dirty pots &amp; pans

( Image isn’t mine, as usual, via images.google.com )

The four areas of mess making (food storage, cooking tools, cooking areas, and serving/eating tools)  was a moment of clarity I hadn’t had before. Unfortunately, the nature of acquiring/storing food, manipulating it for use, and serving it has only so many ways it can be simplified.

More thought required!