Meal Planning: Keep it Simple, Stupid.
I’m hoping you are familiar with the K.I.S.S. acronym. It’s the proverbial stupid. I’m not actually calling you stupid. Get it? Hoping so and moving on. This is an important reminder to all of us. One called to mind by two separate instances in recent history: A moment of crisis and a revelation.
We came home from vacation tired. Happy to be home, missing friends already, and tired. Tired with an empty fridge. And no meal plan. A dangerous combination. I wasn’t interested in a trip to the Local Market. Nor was The Husband. However, there was very little interest in either going hungry or spending money either.
Fortunately for us, The Ladies had not gone on vacation. One very successful round of The What’s For Dinner Game later, Breakfast Burritos. Eggs, potatoes from the garden, leftover peppers and veggies, homemade salsa (the peach variety from Food in Jars) and plain yogurt. Dinner. Done. Yum.
Crisis averted. Further, since I was already on a roll, digging through cupboards and freezers and putting this and that together, why not scribble the rest of the week’s meal plan? Red Lentil Soup, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Tacos. Most of the ingredients are on hand already. One quick trip to that Local Market on the way home from work and less than $50 later, a meal plan for a short week. In place. Everyone feels better.
Bringing me to the revelation: Whatever happened to Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup?
This was my question in a recent conversation amongst fellow frugalistas. Sure, soup and sandwich still exist in a literal sense. Of course. But, we’ve complicated them. As we’ve complicated the whole idea of meals in general and dinner specifically. I am here to tell you a little secret: It mustn’t be fancy.
I do not plan my meals with Pinterest. I love Pinterest for the time it can effortlessly rip away from Corporate Servitude as soon I set my browser glancing it’s direction. But, I do not need it to tell me about the smoked, sun-dried, and tarragon’d variations of my favorite foods. Sometimes, occasionally, infrequently, I dig through the back issues of Bon Apetite gracing my cupboard. Most of what I want to make from there is on my regular rotation though, so why bother?
Regular rotation? How pedestrian! And functional. I keep a list of successful dinners we’ve made in the past. Five star dishes like Sloppy Joes, Clam Chowder, and Roast Chicken. Meals without a recipe. Without a pretty picture. Meals including Red Lentil Soup, Stroganoff, and Tacos of any protein source. At any given time, items on this list probably make up 75% of our menu.
I’m all about the homemade and homegrown. I put a lot of value on food. Above all else, my focus is on tasty good. But, I ask you again, when did it all get so complicated? When did soup and sandwich for dinner still require gussying up? Why does every meal need to be cutting-edge and different? Why does it all need multiple side dishes and a recipe? A recipe inevitably containing an item you do not possesses and the requisite trip to the store. We’ve gotten stuck, thinking meal planning is big and complicated. Because it constantly needs to be new and exciting for our already overstimulated palettes. All meals should not require multi step reductions, cast iron skillets, food processors. Sometimes one pan is ok. Make the basics. With good ingredients. And let that be enough.
There is time and a place for trying new things. Birthdays, Occasions, BBQs with friends. I’ll even make an argument for Friday Nights. It’s just not my average Wednesday. When it comes down to basic vs. takeout. I’m going to roll right back to my basic meals. Survival via homemade quesadillas, tuna fish, and whatever Ugly Garden is providing at the moment. That keeps me skinnier and my wallet fatter than the Phad Thai from down the road.
I’m putting my foot down! Me and my huge grocery bill declare No! No to fancy pants. No to every internet recipe. Dumb it down. Keep. It. Simple. Says I. Does that make me, The Stupid?
Do you get caught in the complicated recipe trap?
What are your basic meals? How do you put together your meal plan?