[Thanks to my friend Camille Armantrout for writing this guest post! She’s a wonderful cook and very organized. — Linda]
“What’s a menu?” someone playfully asked after I mentioned our potato-heavy menu. Oh! I thought to myself, It is so, so many things–shopping list, anticipation catalyst, and money-saver. It’s our road map to an inexpensive local food diet. “Nothing ever goes to waste,” I like to say prompting Bob to quip, “Only to our waists.”
We didn’t always have a menu. Like many, Bob and I used to get home hungry after an eight- or nine-hour day and start thinking about dinner. We’d look in the refrigerator, hoping to come up with something we could make in a hurry without having to run to the store. Or we’d order a pizza. Or open a can of soup and make some sandwiches.
But that was years ago. Now, we always know what we’re having for dinner, sometimes several days in advance, and we can have it ready to eat half an hour after we get home.
It started with a few favorites. We love Italian food so Friday night became Itey Nite, eagerly anticipated vanguard of the weekend. Mexican and Asian soon became standard weekly fare. For as long as I can remember, the Sunday night meal involved potatoes and some chicken-like “meat.” These days we celebrate Sunday night with KFT (Kentucky Fried Tofu).
Bob has always grown food and after all that work it would be a crying shame to waste any of it, so I developed a robust kitchen habit. Nothing makes dinner easier than rinsed lettuce, chopped onions, roasted garlic, pre-cooked beets, and so on. I’d make salads and bake bread, too. After we stopped eating animals, I started making vegan “meat,” too.
A few years ago I doubled efficiency when I found a magnetic dry-erase calendar. I stuck it on the side of the refrigerator next to our prep counter. I plan the menu in black and the prep list in orange. I use an adjacent white board for a shopping list. It is ridiculously easy to stay on track.
Nothing is written in stone. That’s why we use a white board. Whatever comes in the door is what we eat. The menu lets us make the best use of perishable food, helps us meet our goals of eating local, sustainably-grown food, and gives us something to anticipate at the end of the day.
What’s a menu? It’s a guide to delicious, healthy food every night of the week!
Vicki Deem wrote: A menu is exactly like a budget, except that it is for food instead of money. It’s a guide to keep you on track, but subject to change if need arises. If you change the menu for one day, though, you may need to tweak other days to stay on “budget.”