Monday, August 12, 2013

Meal Planning, Take One

I've never really REALLY tried to plan meals before. I mean, I'll have a general game plan, and I love cooking at home - I have all the tools I need and a large enough kitchen to get things done - but I usually only plan a day or two in advance, taking advantage of the time I have and my limited culinary skills to 'be spontaneous' and make what I can from what I have, or what I can pick up from the store on the way home.

This week, things are different.

I have three weeks left of summer before I start my final year of grad school, which will include teaching a course for undergrads at Rutgers University, and also serving as a teaching assistant at a K-8 school on the UWS 25 hours/week. So, for the next three weeks, I plan to take FULL advantage of my unheard-of free time, because it's all going to disappear quite soon. Hopefully, in the next 21 days, I can develop some meal-planning habits that will carry me through the semester, so that my husband and I can continue healthy and home cooked eating habits, rather than resorting to the old standby of takeout and thoughtless, boring meals.

The produce at my local grocery store, FoodTown, is horrendous. The rest of the store is decent enough, with a whopping four aisles of options, and while the produce LOOKS nice, I really feel like the produce distributors ship us the worst of the harvest. For that reason, we've started purchasing our produce from a store on the UWS, Garden of Eden (locations throughout the city) or the Union Square Greenmarket, depending on where we are through the week, since neither is particularly close to our home. This week's haul from The Garden includes:

plouts (Some hybrid of plums and.... apricots? I'm not sure. We called them dinosaur eggs growing up.)
hearts of romaine
plum tomatoes
poblano peppers
yellow summer squash
sweet onions
red delicious apples (for lunches)

So, with the focus on these veggies, which were mostly on sale, this week's menu is:

Pork Tenderloin Chimichurri (using this recipe) with roasted vegetables (potato, onion, zucchini, carrot) and a green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber)

Cobb Salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot, avocado, leftover chopped tenderloin, hard-boiled eggs, and this dressing. I'm also planning to make a carrot cake.

Pasta Primavera with summer squash and carrots, with zucchini cakes. We're planning to go to an outdoor concert that evening, so I'm hoping this will all pack well, and I know it will be tasty, even cold.

Poblano steak fajitas topped with avocados and onions

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. This is the least homemade, most store-bought meal, as I'm using pre-made tomato/red pepper soup, but I figure, after a week of cooking at home, we'd enjoy something a little easier to make, that feels a little guiltier but still isn't too bad (and still not take-out).

If we still have cucumbers left over at the end of the week, I might try the #10 smoothie recipe.

The emphasis is clearly on the veggies, with only 3 meals even containing meat, and only 2 really focus on the meat. That meat is left over from our Fresh Direct haul (which I briefly mention here and still need to write a full post about), so we didn't have to spend money on that, and the pasta is from the 30 box binge-shopping sale experience. The shopping list to round out the produce trip includes:

jalapeƱos (As a Texas-NYC transplant, I'm embarrassed to not have any at home, but it is what it is.)
tortillas (Again, how am I out of this?? Obviously because quesadillas are a go-to meal.)
red pepper-tomato soup
cream cheese frosting (I don't want to bother making that from scratch, for cost reasons.)
vanilla extract

And that's it! Given that I have a base of other ingredients (flour, sugar, oils, butter, spices, vinegar, etc), and that we already had the meat in the freezer, we're going to have all our dinners for the week at less than $75. Add in our sandwich-based lunches and at-home coffee-based breakfasts, and we're going to eat (GOOD) in NYC for less than $100 this week. I'm very excited about that.

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