this week's menu

By Monday, November 02, 2009 , , , , ,

I can now understand why many families end up with freezers and pantries full of pre-packaged, processed food and frequent the drive-thru for dinner: when you and your spouse both work, you have a very small window of time to make dinner, especially one from scratch. With that in mind, I am going to devote a few postings to provide you with real-life-tested tips and tricks I employ when trying to get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time (reasonable to me is roughly 45 minutes).

My first tip: menu planning. If you have been following my blog at all, you will have noticed that I plan a weekly menu based on my purchases at our farmers' market or our CSA deliveries that just ended for the season. I am lucky to live in Madison, Wisconsin, for many reasons, but a big one is a year-round farmers' market, which allows me to eat locally in the dead of winter.

Menu planning helps me achieve two things: 1) I know what I am making each day, so I don't waste precious time at home scrounging around for something to throw together for dinner and 2) cuts down on my trips to the grocery store and helps me prevent wasting food – I used to buy too much at the grocery store and then end up not using it before it went bad, got stale, etc. After our market run, I sit down with cookbooks, recipe print-outs and magazines and start making my menu. From that, I derive a grocery list. I try to make just one run to the store on either Saturday or Sunday – in the summer this is easier to do since we don't eat a lot of meat; but in the winter, with protein being more of a focus, I may have to do one mid-week grocery run to supplement our menu.

If that sounds like a lot to do, trust me it saves loads of time (and stress) scurring around after work trying to whip something together. If you aren't comfortable with shopping without structure, then go to a recipe site, like, and click on their seasonal section. Pick out recipes you like, make a list and hit your farmers' market and then the grocery store. Give it a shot ... and let me know how it works for you!

At the market
Apple cider from Ela Orchard
Flat-leaf parsley
Grass-fed chuck roast
Kimcot potatoes from Butter Mountain Potatoes – a starchy tator like an russet
Mixed baby greens
Rainbow-colored Swiss chard
Yellow onions

Menu: week of 31 October 2009
Saturday: veggie-infused meatloaf with mashed potatoes and sautéed Swiss chard
Sunday: chile con carne with avocado, scallions and cilantro
Monday: leftovers – either meatloaf sandwiches with parsnip fries or chile con carne
Tuesday: leftovers – whatever we didn't eat the evening prior
Wednesday: sautéed chicken cutlets with mixed greens in a sherry vinaigrette
Thursday: potato "souffle" with almond-parsley pesto
Friday: fried eggs over a warm lentil-spinach salad with lardons

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