I am a Southern homemaker at heart. Honestly, ya’ll. For example, when my then-boyfriend (now husband), Ryan, proposed to me, a million things ran through my mind. Amid the images of wedding dresses, flower arrangements and honeymoon locales, I could clearly picture our post-wedding life, including all the fabulous and delicious meals I would make…
Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not even a little bit.
This pains my inner-chef, because, as little as I do it these days, I really do like to cook! Having a full-time job and social committments several days of the week leaves little time during the evening to cook. And then there’s making sure we have all the ingredients for a recipe…ay yi yi. Looks like it’s soup and sandwich night again.
As I’ve found out, I’m not alone: many of my friends and family members describe themselves as being in the same situation. Below are two of the main reasons why I (and probably many others) are stuck in this “boring dinner” rut, as well as an introduction to my “Weekly Menu” idea.
1. Complex (and therefore, scary) recipes – I’m always up for trying something new, but there are a couple of things that intimidate me to the point that I won’t even try them (including, but not limited to, bread with yeast, melting chocolate and anything involving ginger root). Yes, this is probably ridiculous, and yes, these things probably wouldn’t be that bad if I would just try them. But I won’t. I think (and hope) everyone has that one (or two or three) culinary process / ingredient that scares the heebie jeebies out of them. Therefore, when faced with the option of trying a recipe with said process / ingredient or falling back on the faithful spaghetti with red sauce, it’s likely spaghetti will win. Which means our taste buds lose.
2. Strange and/or too many ingredients – Relatively speaking, my arsenal of spices is in the growing stages. I may have cinnamon, but I do not have anise. I use garlic and basil regularly, but haven’t dared venture into marjoram or coriander territory. Therefore, I am totally open to buying ingredients specifically (and only) because a recipe calls for it…but I do have my limits. Spices are not cheap, so unless I know I’m going to use the entire jar of tarragon, I have a problem spending the money on it. As a result, I pass on recipes I really want to try merely because they call for ingredients I can’t justify buying. The same thing happens when recipe ingredient lists go on and on…and on and on. Simplicity, please!
3. Wasting food – Speaking of too many ingredients: I can’t tell you how much food (and money) we’ve wasted over the past year alone from food that goes bad before we can use it. While some of this is just our own silliness, most of this waste is the ingredients leftover from recipes that didn’t call for the whole amount. Every time I throw out food, I picture the cash I spent to by it (“There go $1.75.” and “That was a waste of $5.”). And that makes me sad. And a little angry.
I was in an especially frustrating cooking rut when it occurred to me that there had to be a solution. There had to be a way to prepare delicious, unique meals while avoiding my hang-ups (as discussed above). During a three-hour drive across central Ohio (where the flat landscape and minimal traffic made the ideal “thinking” environment), I had it: a weekly meal plan based on one simple, short grocery list and weeknight-friendly recipes. And so the idea “Weekly Menu” was born. This is totally a work in process, but here is what I’m thinking: each weekly menu will provide the following:
1. Five dinner recipes for four people (or sometimes more. We only have two people in the house, but we love leftovers. And I love not having to make separate lunches.);
2. A complete grocery list of ingredients, as well as a list of “kitchen staples” (salt, milk, butter, etc.), needed for the recipes;
3. An estimated budget; and
4. Fun extras (for example, breakfast and lunch ideas for leftover ingredients, and cooking techniques).
I hope to have the first weekly menu posted within the next week. Depending on how successful I am at all these recipes, my goals would be to post one every week (but hopefully at the very least, twice a month). I would really appreciate your feedback. Don’t be shy! Let me know what you think.