sunday suppers

Supper has been a defining factor in our day since the birth of our first son.  The thought behind it, the planning, the timing it all has to coordinate.  And factor in the weather, the days activity and the energy level (of both the cook and the patron), and sometimes it is more thrown together than I would like to admit.  But it turns out those meals made when I think I having nothing left in the cupboard, those times when I can’t possibly muster up the energy to make it to the grocery, those have turned out to be some of my favorites.  Perhaps it is a sense of pride of the ingenuity and frugality of such a thing that make me brush my shoulders off, but mostly it ends up tasting really nice.  Garlic, good olive oil and crusty stale bread can go a long way and in a lot of directions.  Its fun to search around in the back of the fridge for the half a leek you forgot about (they seem to last forever!), the everlasting chunk of parmesan and the jar of dilly beans from god knows when (they get better with age I tell you).  To experiment and see what happens is where the true joy of cooking lies for me.  I am still not so far away from the woes of the first trimester where the smell of an onion, in a bag, in a cupboard, was enough to tie my stomach in knots, and I clearly appreciate the beauty of all the smells of the kitchen and take deep  full breaths of them every chance I get.  And now with the herb gardens, both old and new, growing full steam ahead I have a whole new slew of things to sip up the scent of and sprinkle generously on everything.


Recently, my sweet giant husband (whom is fearful of nothing except taking charge in the kitchen) and I (who fears most things such as getting lost, meteors and giant squid but jumps at the opportunity to use some fine ingredients) agreed he would take over Sunday Night Suppers.  He is going to write down the  ingredients he needs, I am going to swap them up with a smile on my face, then I will kick back my swollen feet, rub my buddha belly, and watch my babies run in the grass while with any luck he too falls in love with the sound of sizzling garlic over a hot cast iron pan.


But me?  You’ll find me under this tree in a lounge chair (I intend on buying just for the occasion), sipping on a tall glass of soda water flavored with (gasp) SWEETENED cranberry juice.  Soon enough I will adorn my relaxed self with a tiny baby and a nice cold beer, but that is still some time away….  

but oh a girl can dream….

meal planning

Weekly meal planning is (from my experience) the only true way to eat on a budget.  Each meal is set out, all the ingredients are in your refrigerator/cupboard, and there is no quick and stressful trip to the co-op/grocery store/farmers market.  Soaking grains and beans is not a chore that sneaks up on you, thawing a sauce or broth or stock comes easily.  A few years ago, when we lived in PA, a most wonderful friend introduced me to the beauty of such a plan.  At first it felt old-fashioned, but I am here to tell you- meal planning is the hippest thing a mom can do.  For real.

Each week I sit down before G-Day (you know grocery day) and set out a few inspiring cookbooks or browse a good cooking site.  I pull out two sheets of paper.  I start with the staples.  What are we out of?  Rice?  Olive Oil?  Butter?  Milk?  Dr. Bronners?  Dried black beans? If they are absent, I add ’em to the list.  Then I pop in each day of the week I will be covering.  Some people do this for a two-week stint, some do it for up to a month!  But, I am not that good.  Yet…  I start filling in the blanks thinking carefully about leftovers and how to utilize them to make my evenings easier.  I write the page number and the cookbook down in parenthesis if it’s not a meal I have made many times.  I mostly cook vegetarian, by choice and for financial reasons.  A good chicken in these parts costs about $20.00.  I categorize “good” to be if I can name the farm and know full well that inside my chicken is… just plain old chicken.  Someday I will be able to name the chicken.  (That’s when I will know I have finally made it.)  I make a little list of baked goods I will have to make either in advance or with my boys or in the night when everyone is sleeping.  It’s almost always therapeutic, whether its baking oat cakes before the sun rises, or kneading dough while my children go crazy around my feet.  It saves a lot of money to make your own, for you don’t have to purchase high-priced processed food, and surely it gives me peace of mind knowing what each and every ingredient is.  Deciphering labels is not my favorite thing to do.  (What is dough conditioner anyways?  For bad hair days? hahaha..)  As I am jotting down each nights supper, I write the list on the other slice of paper.  I check the cupboards periodically to see if i have what it takes and if not I write it down.  At the end, I add-on some fruits to snack on, and call it a day.  The list is ready.

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It’s that easy.

I sprout seeds.  I make tortillas.  I cook a lot of dried beans.

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I don’t have any fancy system.  I am not ultra organized, or even spectacularly clean.  I spend under 125 (my newly raised budget…  like I said maple syrup on tap just put me over the edge).  This is a dollar amount that can easily cover any extras too.  Yes, I tote a calculator into the grocery with me.  When my children are there this is a task that is very difficult to say the least, but I have done this so many times now it seems as if the level in my cart dictates the dollar amount.  But, the last few times, I have been making this trip solo and it has been just glorious.

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I pack up my to be used again containers (soaps, shampoos, syrups, oils, grains, flours, milk, cream, all can be found int he bulk isle at our co-op).  I stuff the bags with more bags.   And now I am off.


Do you meal plan?  Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kinda person?  

another day another csa

In almost every town across the country a tiny farm with hard-working folks, beautiful sights, cute fuzzy farm animals, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can be found.  And on many of these farms they participate in a community supported agriculture (CSA).  If you have not ever tried one, now is the time.  If you have…well you probably will nod your head and smile in agreement to this post.

Trying to eat locally can be daunting.  It feels like your food budget can not possibly be spread that thin.  You have kids!  Your significant other eats too much!  Everyone is too picky!  While some of these excuses are quite reasonable (if no one will eat the food why get it?), others just don’t cut it.  I have bought full and half shares at three different CSA’s in three different states.  Each farm does things their own way, and never am I disappointed.  Yes, sometimes swiss chard and collards gets well…boring.  Sometimes you just can’t think of another use for red cabbage.  But, you do.  And you eat it.  And guess what?  It is usually really good.  I mean who would have thought cabbage soup would be so absolutely delicious.  Not me!  But I can now say that Ribollita is one of my most treasured recipes.  Someday I will share that one.

You learn to adapt to the seasonal way of eating.  When at the market you notice things that just don’t seem right.  You start to really contemplate your family’s addiction to things like…bananas or mango.  While these fruits are examples of mother earth’s perfection they truly are not meant to me eaten this way.  It makes no sense.  Besides, they taste better at the source I have heard.

Then comes spring and the asparagus! And the seasonal greens become lettuces, and beets turn into berries and your taste buds welcome and cherish every second of it.  It is exciting to eat.  It is exciting to see what you get next.  Your meal planning revolves around the season just the way it should.  It is extraordinary, I am telling you the truth.

And for the money?  Well, I am the budget queen.  Well maybe not the queen but at least a lady in waiting or something of that stature.  I most often stick to $100 per week for my tiny family.  Although we eat meat rarely, I do roast a chicken most weeks and pick it to the bone.  (Well, that is lee’s job I hate picking chicken)  I make a stock as well and can usually make that chicken last for 3 meals.  I even toss a bone to the baby for those sore gums…does that make me a redneck?  Perhaps.  Otherwise it is lots of rice, lots of eggs, lots of grains, and of course lots of fresh crunchy vegetables.  On that kind of budget you can’t buy too much snack-y food, which is a good thing if you stay home all day, because believe me you- I would eat every last morsel.  Helps the wallet and your waistline if you just make it yourself.

Well, I will step off my soap box.

bok choy