how to manage your weekly foodstuffs

starting at the end of last year i made a fairly significant change in my food habits. i mean, i am not anywhere near perfect (as my foursquare checkins at wafels and dinges will tell you), but nearly every day, i eat a salad for lunch. and i bring it from home. and i pack one for the bouncer too. i also usually have a home cooked dinner – the bouncer’s idea of “dinner” is “pick up my phone and see what’s close by on grubhub” – and i am wise enough to know this is far from economical or healthy.

when we first moved in here i was a little obsessed with the idea of domesticity and i was trying to make magazine and pinterest meals every night. guys, this doesn’t work when you have a full time job. it just doesn’t. i’ve narrowed it down to a rotating standard of 4-5 easy and healthy things (including keeping salad ingredients at the ready), and if i want to do something fancier i’m saving it for a weekend. some of our faves are crockpot pulled pork, fajita night (i put mine in…you guessed it, a salad), roast chicken with veggies, whole wheat ravioli with chicken sausage. the theme to follow for these dinners is quick – i was burning out, walking in the door, hunkering down to prepare a meal, and scrubbing dishes until 10pm (because the bouncer is really poor at division of household labor and i don’t like having to ask for things). i’m open to other suggestions if you’ve got them too!

amy, a long time ago, gave us the hint of precutting your veggies and storing them for the week. oh, she was so right. do you know lettuce is pretty hearty? do you know you can chop it and store it in a bag for like, days? you can. as a matter of fact, you can cook chicken strips (seasoned with homemade fajita seasoning) and black beans (seasoned with s+p, garlic powder, and a freaking ton of cumin. cumin is the answer), precut lots of lettuce, red pepper, tomato, and other veggies of your choosing, and then it will only take you five minutes at night to make your salads. bonus points: packing blueberries, blackberries, raspberries in little baggies for grab and go purposes for snacks.

another thing i love to do for breakfast is make these pinterest egg muffins. jesus, what did i even do with my life before pinterest? i don’t know. anyway, if you make these in jumbo muffin tins, just one is a decent breakfast (i use 12 eggs for 10 “muffins”, with a hearty spoonful of sausage and peppers at the bottom of the tin). they keep for the full week in a tupperware in the fridge.

as i mentioned, i had this crazy cooking schedule going on, and i simplified it significantly. bonus to this is that i’ve pretty much memorized my grocery list. i’m lucky enough to have a grocery store right at the end of my block, a five minute walk, and i can be back to my house in 40 minutes having acquired everything i need for the week. mostly.

because i use a LOT of produce, and not everything keeps, and i have a two room apartment in nyc, i do sometimes need more than i have room to get on my first shot – even though lettuce keeps well, i do not have room for five heads of romaine. i am the kind of person who does not leave home after i’ve gotten home. as a matter of fact, once i come home, it is bra off and pajama pants on, and that is how it is until showertime the next morning. i used to be exhausted by simply THINKING that i would need to leave the house after i got home BUT i have found a solution. i have sort of a fruit stand/mini grocery store that is on my walk home and feels entirely less stressy than an entire grocery store. i often stop there mid-week and stock up on some fresh fruits and veggies. i make sure to carry my canvas bags with me that day, and i am set.

all of this frees me up to watch bunheads and fondly reminisce about stereo watching it at my house and declaring the dog (a husky/corgi mix) the cutest thing she’d ever seen and vowing she’ll get one and name it doughnut.

tips and tricks, friends? time and money saving maneuvers? hand’em over!

5 thoughts on “how to manage your weekly foodstuffs

  1. I discovered that Tesco do pre-chopped, frozen onions, tomatoes and mixed peppers. Now I buy a bag of each every time I get groceries delivered, and it saves a LOT on prep time/energy. Peppers (and I mean what you’d call bell peppers) have become weirdly expensive in the past couple of years, so it was startling to discover that it was cheaper by weight to buy them pre-chopped and frozen than whole (same with tomatoes; by the time I discovered the onions the energy was worth more to me than the money anyhow), but definitely good news. The only fresh veg we use weekly that I can’t get buy in that form are mushrooms, so instead we buy them in bulk every so often and then just chop a ton of them and freeze them in a sandwich bag.

    Also, for ages now we’ve been cooking in bulk. Instead of making two portions’ worth of something, we’ll make four or five. It doesn’t take any longer to cook, and it means that instead of having a bunch of separate 90-minutes-total cooking/washing up occasions, you have just one to produce the bulk quantity that you’ll portion out and freeze. Then on subsequent nights you can microwave/re-fry a portion with any extra herbs/other fresh ingredients you fancy. Some days my mother comes over and helps me make two or three different meals in this way, so that we can alternate them on different nights on re-heating.

    Also, it’s really worth trying out the supermarket’s own/value brand for basics. There’s trial and error involved as sometimes the price means the quality is poor (infamously in our house, this included Tesco Value Rice Crispies which were undercooked and became soggy pap in milk), but things like pasta, rice and noodles are fine, and when you compare premium brands with value ones, the difference is remarkable.

  2. I’ve just started learning to cook for myself for the first time ever and it’s a HUGE change. I try not to put away any vegetable that needs washing until it’s washing and sorted in a way that I can grab easily and it makes a big difference in my motivation level to actually cook something real, instead of just staring blankly into my fridge before settling on a piece of bread.

  3. Food is really expensive here–I’ve told you that before–and it really kills me what I could spend in a grocery store at one go. I am big on dried beans cooked in a slow cooker; they freeze perfectly. I started back up on my organic vegetable delivery this year, which is actually affordable if you are buying a larger order, because I found that the stuff wasn’t waterlogged like it can be in the grocery store, and so it stayed fresher longer. The bad news is that we had a huge drought hit and it ruined their production for a while, so I went back to the store and the sopping wet lettuce and green onions.

    This summer I’ve really only had to worry about myself so I haven’t been super balanced about my eating or shopping. I’ve done lots of leftovers and actually eaten pretty badly. I’m wondering what it’ll be like when I start cooking for two again, but I’m really motivated to make everything less work.

    1. you know how jealous i am of your veggie deliveries. i hope there’s something comparable in winnipeg for you. i must try this dried beans thing – i use the ones from a can and I KNOW, THE SALT – i rinse them very well. but teach me your crock pot magic.

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