Friday, January 29, 2010

Food-centric Saturdays

I cook at least one meal every single day of the year. I would do this anyway, because I have to feed myself, if no-one else. But these days, I'm doing it for you, too. I have to cook every day because what happens if I have a disaster, I burn something, or it just doesn't look good on the plate?

Every meal I cook gets photographed. And what you see on the plate is what you get; one serving.
Some of the pics are not that great, but hey, I cook, I'm not a photographer. And I want to eat while the food is still hot, so five or six shots is the max.

I started menu planning in December 2008, and though I still have copies of those menus and shopping lists I have to check and tweak them each week. My menu planning rules have evolved over the last thirteen months, so very often my original menu had more red meat on it than we now eat, or there are not enough vegetables in or with a recipe. Sometimes what I planned originally didn't turn out so well, or took too long to prepare, or I didn't enjoy eating it. I'm planning three meals a day, and I like to ring the changes to ensure we are still eating healthily.

On a Saturday, I update the menu for the coming week and the shopping list with any changes. Then I check the contents of the fridge, freezer and pantry (how I wish I had an old style pantry!) against the shopping list and cross off what I already have.
Chicken and fish I buy from a wholesaler, so they don't generally feature - only if I'm running very low.
Next I add on to the shopping list any toiletries, cleaning stuff and sundries I need.
Check there are shopping bags in the car, and if the weather is hot a cooler bag and a couple of ice bricks. Then it's off to the shops.

Shopping for the week, with a list and pencil in hand, takes a minimum of one hour - usually a little longer.
Sometimes I find something different, like fennel bulbs or okra, or I might find something on 'special'. I'm always wary of specials. I'm normally expected to buy far in excess of what I can actually use before it spoils - and I also have to allocate precious fridge or cupboard space. I will, however, always buy canned chopped or whole peeled tomatoes when they are cheap; I use them a lot, and they are more economical to use when fresh tomatoes are out of season.

Home again. Unpack, repackage where necessary, and pack away. Anything that came in a plastic bag needs repackaging, otherwise whatever it is sweats and spoils faster - bananas, onions, sweet potatoes.
And those little polystyrene plates wrapped in cling film? They drive me nuts! Repackage into everfresh bags or proper plastic boxes, or the bottom of your veg drawer will quickly become overpopulated with dehydrated sugarsnap peas, courgettes and radishes!
Did I buy anything different? If I did, then the menu will need tweaking. Again.

When do you do your planning, tweaking and shopping? Do you shop once a week, once a month, only when you absolutely have to? Do you shop on-line? I'm very interested to hear whether you are happy with the on-line service - freshness, supply etc. Leave a comment and let me know.

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