Some of my challenges include:
DH refuses to eat leftovers. Meaning any attempt at frugality flies out the window regarding that, plus I am held to a new meal each day of the week.
DH likes meat. (see above re: frugality) Me, not so much. Chicken I can do, that is cook and eat. But DH wants variety, prefers beef, craves pork. My children like all the meats, too, meaning I feel obligated to make stuff for them and find something else for myself.
I've got little ones that make any extended time in the kitchen cooking an impossibility. I know it must be possible, but why do mine cry and screech and hang on me and fight until I have to take care of other matters and end up botching, burning meals? Everything is calm until I need to devote some time, then suddenly it is mandatory that I attend them.
DH cannot stand repeats. I have tried devising menus that consist of meals we all like that are repeated every week, two weeks, month.... no go, DH gets bored with even the month repeats.
Thankfully DH does prefer simple meals; a steak, mashed potatoes, and a simple salad and the man would be in heaven. He doesn't need or even like fancy stuff.
In summation, my goal, healthy, nutritious, frugal, delicious meals that my family just cannot get enough of, is apparently completely out of reach and I don't know why when I know there are others out there who achieve this daily with apparently no effort. Do any of you have any advice for me? Please? I hope?
my partner is somewhat picky too. but he bows his head and says thanks even when it's something he doesn't care for, since he does ZERO in the way of meal planning, shopping and cooking.
some ideas: 1.) ask dh to spend 30 minutes meal planning with you every week. 2.) ask dh to be responsible for cooking 3 nights a week and he can cook whatever his little heart desires. 3.) invest in a good basic cookbook (i always recommend "moosewood cooks at home") and start at one end and make everything in there that looks interesting to you. it's vegetarian with fish. so really it's easy to buy a 4 ounce piece of meat for him, whatever he says he likes, and grill, broil or saute it up for him along with whatever you are making. no leftovers, no waste, no repeating. 4.) pay someone to do mealplanning for you or get a book like "saving dinner" (has web updates) or the mealplanning club on the fly lady website.
frankly if i were you, i would find recipes for 4 weeks and rotate through them. 4 weeks between a recipe is pretty good.
i cook seasonally and my partner sometimes complains in the summer about no mashed potatoes and no fresh stawberries in the winter. but since he lived in spagettios, frozen pizza and mickey ds when he was single i just ignore him.
my son's worst and most needy time is about 4 PM. so making dinner is sometimes a real nightmare. i have fund ways to get around this. TV, friends giving me a hand, activities right in the kitchen, having him cook with me (which is sometimes great sometimes terrible) and sometimes i just wait until his father comes home and then i cook. (good thing about the cook book i recommend, most of the recipes are fairly easy.)
"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift." -- Mary Oliver
For the leftovers, why not freeze them? Most frozen leftovers will keep for several months. With a big crock, it's easy to make double batches, thereby saving yourself even more time and money.
The other thing you might try is semi-homemade meals -- get some of those Thai Kitchens box meals, or Zatarain's beans and rice, or the stir-fry or curry sauces in jars, where you just add meat and vegetables and make a pot of rice or some noodles. Very simple, albeit not so frugal, but it would also be easy to customize those meals by adding meat or sausage to DH's, chicken or fish or nothing to your portion, etc. And they don't make that much, so not a lot of leftovers to deal with. Canned goods and other staples, like frozen ravioli, frozen spinach, canned beans, boxed broth, canned tomatoes, canned fish, etc. are also wonderful for pulling together a quick and healthful meal without much hassle.
I'm lucky in that I've become a pretty good cook through dint of hard work, many hours logged watching FoodTV and surfing recipe sites on the net, and much experimentation. Also very lucky in that DP is not picky at all. He'll eat just about anything I make, and there've only been a few dishes that he's specifically asked me NOT to make again. He's also very happy to have a salad or tuna sandwich or otherwise fend for himself when necessary, or order takeout.
So I hope you don't think I'm unsympathetic when I say that I have to agree with the PP -- your DH, if he doesn't like leftovers and repeat meals, and is picky about what he eats, needs to get in the kitchen and help you plan and make meals. I mean, there's nothing wrong with trying to please your family -- no one's saying you should plunk down any old slop and say "That's dinner, eat it or starve" but it sounds like you are trying to achieve high goals with limited resources. Something's gotta give, right? and maybe the first thing should be the family's flexibility and expectations.
Anyway, good luck, and hope this helps!
I am going to make up some meal plans that spell it all out for me. Another thing I do is get so caught up in the main dish that I'll forget to make and/or serve the side dishes : durrrr! So with a sheet of paper that has the *entire* meal on it, including desert, I should be doing better LOL.
Also, I finally recognize that meal planning is something to which I need to dedicate some time to every week. For some reason, for all these years, I have expected the meals to miraculously just happen, to plan themselves at the very least, to just fall into place with no effort. So if I finally *schedule in* time I know that will help a lot.
I'm so glad I posted. What is that saying? Just admitting you have a problem... LOL.
Not all the recipes are the healthiest in the world and not all of them are frugal, but they are easy with a lot of variety and most are very easy and quick.
I'm a lazy pregnant lady right now so I haven't felt like putting in the 3+ hours of meal planning I used to do every week, so this cookbook has really been a big help for me right now.
And good luck to you. The kitchen is the place I still struggle, too, but I've come a LONG way since I got serious about it last year. Maybe I'll finally be a pro in 5 years.
Melaya (29) - Mom to Z (9) and soon to be I (due Nov 2013)
Birth mom to M (7), O (5), & C (2).
Also, something I do when I meal plan is to have the same type of food on the same day of the week. For instance, my meal plan includes a vegetarian meal on sunday, a roast on monday, ground turkey (you could use crumbled soy) on tuesday, soup with the leftover meat from monday on wednesday (or, a different kind of soup, tomato, broccoli/chz, veggie vegetable if there is no meat left from monday), breakfast on thursday, homemade pizza friday, and leftovers or easy food, or something from the freezer, or we eat over one of our parent's houses on saturday!
So, a couple of examples of sunday dinners are pastoral pie (like shepherd's pie, but veggie) and veggie empanadas.
You can do any kind of roast on monday (chicken, turkey, ham, pork, beef pot roast, lamb...).
Tuesday can be gravey train (our version of ground meat goulash with gravey and veggies, over a starch like egg noodles or mashed potatoes), meatloaf (we use chicken or turkey for this), meatballs with pasta or gravey, tacos, enchiladas, turkey burgers, oh the options are endless.
Wednesday is easy, use the meat from the roast to make a soup or a stew. Freeze it, if you like, and use one from a week past for flavor variety. Or, make a veggie soup, there are so many options for those, too. Make a salad and a different type of roll or bread to go with.
Thursday is breakfast, and the options here are endless, too... blintzes, waffles, pancakes (and so many varieties of those, too--you could make a different type of pancake every time you make pancakes), quiches, omlettes. To keep it inexpensive, you can serve scrambled, fried, poached, etc. eggs with the starchy dinners (waffles, pancakes, blintzes), rather than sausage or bacon.
Friday is pizza night. Pizza night can be different types of pizza (deep dish, thin crust, barbeque chicken, alfredo, calzone), and you can make different types of salads (greek, antipasto, green garden).
Saturday is easy stuff (egg or tuna salad, subs, mac n cheese, hot dogs, brats).
This system makes it easy to not have repeats while still making the planning easy. I plan six weeks out at a time. First I do all the sundays, then all the mondays, then all the tuesdays, etc, choosing a different version of that day's category for each week. And doing six weeks out takes me 45 minutes to an hour, and then it's done for the next six weeks!
Next, there are two books that will change the way you cook, and make you an increasingly better cook as the months and years go on. You can get them both off of amazon. The first is called "The New Best Recipe" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. It is HUGE, has over a thousand recipes, and is the best cookbook I have ever read. There has never, ever, EVER been a recipe that I made from that book that my DH turned his nose up at. They not only give you the recipe, but if you have the inclination to read it, they tell you what they went through to GET to that recipe, exactly the way it is, and the science behind the choices they made. This has improved my cooking because I take what I've learned from one recipe and carry it through to even the "old" recipes that I've gotten from my mom and grandma, and improve upon those recipes. They also add in a lot of times...for instance,they don't just say "whip until smooth", they'll say "whip until smooth, about four minutes." It makes cooking so much easier when you have some point of reference. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!
The second is called "The Kitchen Companion" by Polly Clingerman. Anything you don't know how to do, from sauteing to simmering up fond, you'll find the "how to" in this book! She also gives so many helpful charts like how to freeze specific types of food and what temperature to cook what foods to. Also, a bunch of cool things like how to set different kinds of tables, or how to multiply recipes for large gatherings, but those are just quirky bonuses. It's a really great reference!
I hope that my trial and error helps you. It's taken five years, but I've finally gotten a system down. Good luck!
Mama to two awesome kids. Wife to a wonderful, attached, loving husband. I love my job-- I'm a Midwife, Doula and Childbirth Educator, Classes forming now!
Another suggestion for menu planning (I don't know about the other ones, this is just the one that I've used) is Saving Dinner...you can buy the book or use the website & subscribe to have the menu e-mailed to you each week. The website also has a sample week. IIRC, there are 8 weeks for each season without repeats.
I could cook okay, but didn't have a lot of variety & didn't really know how to plan or how things went together. I used this book a couple of years ago & it helped immensely just learning how to plan, what sides to have, and what I liked to cook. I loved about half the recipes, liked about 25% & would make again, & 25% I could take or leave.
How To Cook Without A Book by Pam Anderson (not that Pam Anderson ) is an excellent place to start a cooking education. She teaches you how to put meals together from what you have, and not necessarily to follow a recipe. She teaches you how to make basic sauces, basic dishes, and then to be able to manipulate those dishes/sauces to work with what you have, without the need to follow a recipe or shop for new ingredients. Ms. Anderson used to be an editor for Cook's magazine, and she knows not only what she's talking about, but how to explain it clearly. Very good book for learning the basics of cooking so that you can branch out from there.