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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the week

*salad of lettuce, tomatoes, watercress, cucumber, baby beet greens
*baked chicken, smothered in fresh pesto
*brown rice, cooked in chicken stock, with herbs from garden
*leftover plum-blackberry pie

*chicken fried rice, with egg, garden cabbage, kale, shallots
*fruit salad with apple, pear, blackberries, plums -- all from our garden
banana pudding cream pie (my son brought home a bag of overripe bananas from his office that were going to be thrown out)

*homemade pizza topped with marinara, cheese, basil, olives and fresh tomato
*marinated cucumbers
*sauteed yellow crookneck squash
leftover banana pudding cream pie

bean, rice and cheese burritos
*tomato wedges with 1000 Island dressing
*leftover sauteed summer squash
banana bread

homestyle macaroni and cheese
*kale sauteed in ham fat
*steamed green and waxed beans
banana bread

*Tex-Mex black bean soup (with garden veggies, shallots, Swiss chard, summer squash, plus canned tomatoes)
*fruit salad (plums, apple, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, marshmallows)

*chicken and dumplings, w/ green beans, Swiss chard, carrots
*tossed salad, w/lettuce, tomato wedges and marinated black beans
hot fudge pudding cake

*black bean burger patties, topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella
brown rice cooked in chicken stock with garlic powder and onion powder added
*kale sauteed in ham fat
*fresh plums

*indicates part of this meal item came from the garden or orchard

So, this time of year, our fridge looks somewhat bare, almost all of the time. A good part of each day's meals comes directly from the garden, and is not stored in the kitchen. Like last night, the kale and plums were picked in the afternoon. Looking in our fridge, you would never guess that I could be making meals from it, would you? This isn't an end-of-week look to our fridge, either. It pretty much looks like this every day in late summer.

The day before, I run through my mind what main dish item we should have for the next day's dinner. Then in the morning, I rummage through the fridge for anything that needs using up, to add to dinner.

Last night's dinner :

With the black bean burgers, not only did I have the black beans cooked already, but I also had about 1/8 cup of leftover refried pintos from Saturday's burritos. And about 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette from the bottom of the bowl of last Wednesday's salad. Then the marinara was made with leftover pizza sauce (from Friday), chopped oven-roasted canned tomatoes (made on Monday for Tuesday's lunches), and the juice from the open can of tomatoes. All of those items were sitting in the fridge before this photo was taken. Leftovers rarely get shoved t the back of the fridge, here. If they're not frozen, eaten the next day, then they find their way into a dinner later in the week.

I think one of the things that helps with leftover management, for me, is NOT planning a week's worth of meals ahead of time. When I have menu-planned a week at a time, I have wound up with a lot of leftovers at the end of the week. Just my two cents. So, if you don't menu-plan extensively and you're feeling guilty about it, well, take heart, I don't do a lot of menu planning these days, either.

If you're wondering about our garage fridge, it currently has almost a case of butter, a half-gallon of whole milk thawing, some heavy whipping cream, assorted cheese, some condiments, along with the thawing pork roast for tomorrow's dinner. Our freezers, well they're a different story altogether.


  1. Yum! I have been craving pie lately so that banana cream offering especially caught my eye. Peaches are very plentiful here and I think that I might make a peach pie or galette this weekend.

    I am more like you -- I do think a bit about what I'd like to eat or use up for the week, but generally don't set anything in stone. When I was trying religiously to keep up with a daily meal plan it kind of backfired. Two people are not enough to keep up with the amount of cooking that required. Especially as I favor soups and stews, recipes that tend to be greater than the sum of their parts. My fridge is no where near so clean and tidy as yours though! I collect (it seems) condiments and I also keep more items in the fridge because of the higher air temp down here (even with ac, it gets pretty warm in our house.

    I wanted to let you know that I've been using your pizza crust recipe and we love it! Thanks!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Lucky you! I love peaches, and they're a rare treat for us. Enjoy your peach pie this weekend!

      Oh yes, you are so right -- I'm not even sure I could make a soup or stew for just 2 people.

      I'm glad the pizza dough recipe is working well for you. That's the recipe that came with my food processor about 30 years ago! I use that recipe for several different bread products. It's very versatile.

  2. Hi Lili,
    I also do NOT menu plan for the week. I would almost always have way too much food hanging around spoiling if I did this. I am thankful that I can put together a meal rather quickly and I don't have to think about and dwell on it for long. I know many people NEED to menu plan or meals would never get prepared and I understand that so don't take that comment wrong. I can easily start out with thawing a pound of ground beef and thinking I'm going to make burgers but when I get home from work I decide spaghetti is better. Other times it is a pork roast but then someone wants stir fry so we slice off what we need for stir fry instead. I can cook by the-seat-of-my-pants any day.

    I also don't grocery shop for future meal plans. I shop to have a pantry of choice. That way I can make just about anything with the goods that are there and not just a meal that was planned.

    Last night I was baking chicken but daughter wanted pizza (final meal before heading off to college). I had leftover homemade spaghetti sauce in the fridge and she couldn't believe I was going to use that as the pizza sauce! I used it and it was just wonderful. We also baked the chicken but people will nibble on that today so probably no leftovers. If there are any, I think it will be chicken fried rice. We'll see.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I was just thinking about grocery shopping for a week's worth of dinners, all in one trip. I think I would end up with a lot of spoilage of items that I just didn't get to making, or were the remains of something partially used up. Shopping to have "choice", as you put it, works much better for me.

      Isn't that funny about the perception that spaghetti sauce couldn't be used as pizza sauce. A few year ago, my son had some friends over and they were making pizza, using some of my homemade marinara sauce, and one friend said, "that's not pizza sauce", because it had "chunks" in it. Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce -- it's all basically the same, IMO!

      That's wonderful that you could change up the menu for your daughter's last dinner at home before heading back to school. Good job, Mom! I'm sure that made her very happy.

  3. Trying to comment on Google Chrome as my comment just got lost on Firefox ... sigh ...

    Add me to your list of non-planners. I also have problems with losing track of what is in my fridge if I do too much planning--I do better if I have a general plan for a few nights of the week, and I keep pantry/freezer foods available to throw together quick and nutritious meals. Flexibility can be handy--my hubby found pork butt on sale last weekend for a great price, so I changed my original meal plans (mom was visiting)--he smoked it on the grill and we have enjoyed it! Freezing and reheating it makes quick meals and now that school is approaching, I like to have a few of those on hand for busy weeknights.

    You got a lot of mileage out of your bananas! I love bananas--such a versatile fruit.

    1. Hi Kris,
      It sounds like you've hit upon a system that works very well for you, some planning, but leaving room for a lot of flexibility. I guess I do that t some extent, as I have an idea of what protein foods I want to use each week, but leave the details open until closer to the date.

      How great that your husband found the pork on sale and then smoked it! I would love to have smoked pork all ready and portioned in the freezer. that will make for some tasty and quick meals once school starts back up.

      I hope you and your family really enjoyed this time with your mom. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

  4. Great garden planning as well when you can augment so much with produce from the garden. You are setting some very high bars for us!! With our three veggie pots (maybe a bit more since husband's been growing second generation basil in every available pot around), I can say we eat garden greens at least once every day. I keep a pesto pot in the refrig for dotting toasts, pizzas, tomato soup, spaghetti and almost anything I can think of. Because we have an abundance of basil, we can use it like a condiment and get some greens and healthy seeds and oils that way.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Do you know what I love about growing a garden? I can tweak it ever year, to see how to make it work for us, better.

      I use basil as a leafy green, too. It's packed with nutrients, as are all the green herbs, and even more nutrient-dense than something like lettuce. I can't keep pesto around consistently as you, but we have it about once per week all summer.

      I think you're making very good use of the gardening space that you do have available -- you're growing super nutritious veggies. Good work!

  5. I want pie! Great use of your homegrown produce! I have also changed up my meal planning. I do plan ahead for some days when I know I'll be gone a lot that day, particularly to know if I need to thaw meat the night before. But many days I decide the night before what to do. Occasionally, that day.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Meal-planning was really helpful for me when all of my kids were small. I think the busier I am, the more it helps. And sometimes, I just have something in mind that I want for dinner some night. this week, it's actually tonight's dinner.I've been wanting BBQ pork on buns for several days now. So I did have to plan that one out -- making the buns, thawing the pork and tomato paste, etc.

      It's amazing how many of us non-weekly planners there are in this frugal circle. It must be working for us all!

    2. Must be! I actually used to plan 2 weeks to a month at a time. But you're right, it was at a different stage of life. Kids were small, hubby deployed or gone a lot, I was homeschooling, and I tried to shop as seldom as possible. Life is very different now with the kids older, in school, and involved with more activities, AND having hubby home to help. :) Have a great weekend!


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