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Jen’s Food Challenge

October 14, 2010
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OK here’s the thing. I love love LOVE my friend Laura.  If you read the about section of our little slice of the information superhighway, you’ll see that we’ve been friends since we were wee tender little teenagers in college for the first time (well, ok, I had a year under my belt, but belieeeeve me I was far from seasoned).  We moved on from the dorms to share our first real apartment for two years and I really got to know her and her habits when it comes to life.

Basically those habits boil down to this: she does not suck at as much stuff as I suck at. Namely being organized and actually doing what she sets out to do.  I’m proud to tell you that my friend Laura? Got papers done ahead of time.  Yeah. People do that.  Smart people.

I, on the other hand, set out each and EVERY quarter, semester… hell every *week* telling myself that THIS time would be different. THIS time I’d do allll the reading and keep up with every homework assignment.  It’s a little like that now.  I think *this* is going to be the week when I manage to get my act together and actually meal plan effectively, shop intelligently, save money, and don’t let anything rot in the fridge before we figure out what to do with it.

So just in case there is anyone out there who is remotely like me, I’ll lay down my rendition of a week in the life of my food.  And while I’d love to make the excuse that I mother a toddler while working full-time, I would be a dirty, dirty liar.  We’re way better at this now than we were before the baby made everything harder.

So here goes:

Step One: (oh man, did anyone else just involuntarily sing NKOTB? no? just me? fine.) Farmers Markets.

I love the farmers market.  I love that we can walk to the farmers market near our home (and not just because there’s no parking anywhere within a five-block radius of it). I love lazy Sunday mornings when we mosey on down and spend time browsing delicious organic produce, eggs and bread and get some yummy crepes or other treat.  But in my reality? I just don’t always get there.  9 times out of 10 all of our groceries are coming from Whole Foods.  This might change over the winter when rains during the week keep my husband out of the ocean and off his surfboard on some weekends, thereby granting us more family time. We’ll see.

Step Two: Browse Cookbooks, Blogs, and Memory Banks for menu ideas.

I do this. Most of the time.  In fact, the Lovely Laura has helped me out by giving me some of her left-over Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals books that she has replaced or outgrown. I also frequent Cooks.com.  We hit a lot of tried-and-true crock-pot type meals, lots of things with leftovers for kid lunches and future dinners, and stuff we can prep ahead of time for easy cooking.  Since we generally skip the farmers market part, we jump straight into the meal planning.  

Step Three: Make a Grocery List and Go to the Store.

We shop whole foods and we only buy organic vegetables, meat, dairy and free range eggs.  Our grocery bill varies quite widely between $80-100 some weeks and up to $160 one week recently when I was out of quite a few staples.  I try to buy a lot of bulk items because it’s way cheaper and I detest the vast amounts of packaging on lots of items, so if I can eliminate wrappers I’m all for it.  

Step Four: Use What You Bought.

This, my friends is where the rubber meets the road.  The Holy Grail of food, in my book. I HATE wasting food.  My heart aches for what I throw out (and living with a toddler, I throw out quite a bit these days).  So if I can reduce this waste, I’m in.  Before the babe we were pretty diligent about cleaning out our fridge every week before we hit the store again.  We had a lot of random “kitchen sink” type meals over the years… Nowadays though, it’s more difficult since meals really need to be balanced and, while not totally kid *oriented* per se, at least kid friendly… or, to be more specific, person-without-molars-friendly.  Plus we have nights (and days) when we’re both so drop-dead tired we can think straight enough to put ingredients together. We have moments of meal planning failure when nothing really goes together.  In (kind of) short, we waste sometimes. it sucks. it’s true.

So the key for us here is to plan the meals and PREP it all ahead of time.

See, I don’t get home until around 7pm and Masa gets home but has Gus with him so full-on cooking each evening becomes a real challenge. So I’ll try to prep as much as possible, maybe even make a freezer meal on the weekend or something.  

Each night we put together Gus’ lunch for the following day. We also try to do things like wash and cut veggies so they just need to be steamed or dumped into the crock pot, defrost any frozen food we want to eat (by throwing it into the fridge) or even preparing a whole lasagne that Masa can then place in the oven when he gets home.

In the morning, if we’re doing a crock pot meal, I’ll brown the meat and throw it all together.  And get to work 45 minutes late.  Don’t tell my boss, though, ok?

So here’s the rub. What I’ma gonna do here is try to be more diligent and better follow the four simple rules that Laura has laid out for all of us, so that we may become better people.  I will do this for two weeks and I will share with you exactly HOW much I’m saving: money for us, waste for the Earth, time for my family, and, basically, the world.

Follow along, or challenge yourself and let us know how you do!!

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