What’s For Dinner!

If there is no eating in heaven, I’m not going!

On the other hand, I bet heaven has the freshest gardens and the most sumptuous spreads of pot luck foods EVER.  Just look at all the food at any given Mormon function: “Please bless the refreshments that they will nourish and strengthen our bodies.”

Most of us cook every day.  All right, there are those who hit the fast food places and pre-packaged aisles at the food market as well.  I still see lines at popular restaurants every weekend.  The economy doesn’t seem to be slowing everyone down.  But let’s talk about food and budget.

It’s popular to talk about getting the freshest, healthiest, greenest, most organic food on our tables.  If you buy everything fresh that morning, you can have a fantastic meal in the evening, barring the fact that you aren’t concerned about cost.

But we are concerned about cost. And as much as we all like fresh, we are taught to have a manual can opener for our canned soups in an emergency power outage.  I love watching the food channel and will try out new recipes all the time, but most of my cooking comes from ingredients I have on hand in my basement.

These days, I buy items ONLY on sale.  If, say, pasta sauce is on sale, I’ll buy ten or twenty of them.  When chicken goes on sale, I’ll buy a whole cart full, same with ground beef, cold cuts, and hot dogs.  If I buy something good like ice cream, candy bars, or hot pockets (all on sale) I have to hide them and become the food police.  Sadly, those items never last long in the house, once discovered, but they are nice to have occasionally and I just gloat over the price I bought them at.

When I go shopping, I typically have a list in hand.  I love the satisfaction of knowing what I’m going to buy, and knowing how much it’s going to cost me, before I even walk in the store.  And when I walk out of the store, I have spent exactly that.  There is no feeling to compare with that kind of control over the world.  And when I walk into my storage room and see the full shelves…yeah! That feels really good.

Fresh, healthy, green, organic food is a relative term.  I like to see the green in my pocket, and I feel very “earthy” when I know I can eat food anytime I want without having to run to the store.

A typical week’s menu might go something like this:

Sunday–Pot Roast with potato pearls (from the Cannery), homemade gravy, canned or frozen veggies, and a salad with homemade dressing (I never buy store bought, because it’s so easy to make).
Monday—I might throw a frozen whole chicken in my crockpot, (adding veggies or not), and salt and pepper.  I’ll remove the meat, reserve some for dinner and save the rest for another dinner or lunches for the rest of the week.  I’ll save the broth for a soup later in the week, or freeze it.  For dinner, I can throw the reserved chicken into a casserole, salad, tacos, pizza, sandwich, etc.
Tuesday—We don’t have to have meat every night.  I might make a pasta dish.  I freeze large bags of shredded mozzarella, so it’s easy to make pasta, pour sauce over, sprinkle a ton of cheese on top and bake.  Green salad served on the side.  If I’m in the mood, I might make a quick batch of French bread.  I let my mixer do the work, I shape it and throw it in the oven (trick: put the bread in while the oven is preheating; that’s when it rises) and it makes the house smell great.
Wednesday—I like to space my beef and chicken meals apart, so I might try some fish with homemade tartar sauce.  Frozen fish is good as long as you can’t smell it. I like to make my own bread crumbs in the blender, cover the fish with the flour, egg, and breadcrumb routine and fry it up.  It comes out great.  A vegetable and/or salad rounds it out just fine.
Thursday—Sometimes we just have time for a sandwich, before everyone runs out the door with work or meetings.  It’s fun to grill the sandwich, throw in a slice of apple or pear and interesting cheese to add flavor.  I keep a brick in my cupboard, so I can flatten my sandwiches.  With frozen fruit I can make a quick smoothie to serve on the side.
Friday—Usually this is date night, so the kids are on their own.  That’s when the hot pockets come in handy.
Saturday—This is pizza night!  We love BBQ chicken on our pizza.  Always homemade crust, pasta sauce, and various toppings.  Everyone likes to make their own.  If you fold the pizza in half it turns into a calzone.

There are lots of other dinners that are easy to store, prepare, and serve for a quick meal.

Homemade soups of all kinds–great way to get rid of leftover veggies and meat.  Broth or cream based, pasta, so many variations.
Mexican food–Beef, chicken, or just plain beans stretch forever in enchiladas, burritos, soft tacos, etc.  Homemade tortilla chips baked in the oven are the best.
Chinese food–rice with leftover meat and veggies go a long way.
Pasta–all of my kids love to make their own garlic pasta (leftover pasta cooked in some oil and garlic powder), you can throw absolutely anything in a cold or hot pasta salad and it’ll be good.

We all fall into a rut and spend too much money occasionally.  If you are interested in any details to the above ideas, let me know, I’m happy to share.