Friday Tips: Menu for the week

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothies, followed by waffles, CSA blueberries and tofu bacon.  It is so fun to have a “weekend” breakfast on a Friday!
  • Lunch: Cucumber and avocado sandwiches for mom and dad, and a tortilla with a veggie dog and avocado for LP (his request).  We also enjoyed some fantastic black bean chips!
  • Mom had a bowl of cheerios for a snack and dad and LP had some crackers
  • Dinner: Quick and Easy Chard Curry from Color Me Vegan and fried tempeh from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  The chard was awesome and the tempeh was meh, but we’re glad we tried the combo.
  • Mom and dad are enjoying chocolate chip blondies for dessert (from Party Vegan!)

Money Matters:
Today we spent the following:

  • $5.00 to park at the hospital today while they did some routine tests on our late baby.  Baby is doing really well – she/he is just super comfortable and not quite ready to emerge!

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap:

Make a Menu

When people come over to our house, they usually comment on our fridge.

The front of our fridge – yes, that is a white board.

While we have some fun family pictures on the sides, the front is all business.  We have lists of what produce we have in which drawer, what leftovers still need to be eaten, etc.  We are a little list obsessive, and I don’t necessarily recommend this to everyone!  But, the one list that we can’t do without is our weekly menu.

Once a week we make a menu of the dinners we are going to have for the week.  We have been doing this for years, and it has helped us save both time and money.  When we have a weekly menu, we avoid the 5:30 conversation that starts “what can we have for dinner?” and it also helps us do some smart and efficient shopping once or twice a week, instead of running to the store each night (which often ended up with lots of impulse buying on my part!)  We also enjoy making the menu.  It gives us a chance to browse cookbooks and think of new things to try, and, during the summer, it pushes us to think of new and creative ways to use the interesting veggies and fruits we get in our CSA box.

When we sit down to make a menu for the week, here are some things we always keep in mind:

  • What produce do we have on hand (or are we getting in our CSA box) that will need to be used quickly?  Some veggies last longer than others, so we always plan meals for the most perishable items first!
  • What do we have on hand in the pantry and freezer?  We usually have a quite a variety of beans, lentils, artichokes in jars, coconut milk, etc. stocked in our pantry.  We try and use what we have before we go out to get something brand new.  Sometimes this means we plan substitutions.  For example, we don’t keep cous cous on hand, but we always have quinoa and brown rice, which we can usually substitute easily.  Also, if we have a large stockpile of black beans in the freezer, we look for recipes and dishes that will use those (like burrito night!)!
  • Are we going to want leftovers?  We usually plan 2-3 things that will have leftovers (like soups, stews, curries, etc.)  However, we don’t want a whole week of massive, complicated dishes that lead to lots of containers of leftovers in the fridge, so we try and balance it out with some dishes that don’t have much (or anything) in the way of leftovers.
  • What will we need to prepare in advance?  During the work week, neither of us really has a lot of time to soak and cook beans, bake bread, make pizza crust, etc.  So, on our menu we make another little list of the things we will need to prepare over the weekend and have ready to make dinner time quick and easy!
  • What do we want to try?  I love to have at least one new recipe a week that we are trying out.  This week we tried the curried chard (a winner!) and fried tempeh (not so much).  It is fun to try something new, and we have discovered some of our favorite dishes this way!

Here is an example of what our menu looked like this week:

Menu:

  • Falafel
  • Grilled veggies (radicchio, beets, zucchini and fennel) and pasta salad (using pesto from the fridge)
  • Quick curried chard with marinated and fried tempeh
  • Lemony chickpeas and chard over coconut rice
  • Biryani (a new recipe to try fromAsian Vegan)
  • Pizza and salad
  • Leftover night

Items to prepare in advanced:

  • Chickpeas (need to soak and cook)
  • Veggie broth (we save veggie scraps up and then make our own broth)
  • Pizza crust dough (we make our own and then let it do a slow rise in the fridge.  It is super easy, it just needs a couple days advanced prep)

This menu system might seem a bit obsessive, but it has helped us really keep our act together on crazy days.  For me, the menu is the main thing that keeps me from saying “let’s just get takeout” when I’m too tired to think about what to make for dinner.  It also really makes our grocery shopping easy!  I think everyone can develop their own version of a meal-planning system, but having a system has been essential to keeping our family well-fed on a budget!

 

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