Monday, 11 April 2016

My Shop the Kitchen Meal Plan

Happy Monday! 

My next post is about my process to create a menu plan based on "shopping my kitchen". I hope it will give you some ideas on how you can do it too!

The weather outside is frightful. We had snow AGAIN, but I'm feeling super content despite the lethargic start to our spring. I feel well rested, and am in my happy place, all thanks to a wonderful Sunday. Let me explain...

I was up super early to deliver the child to her job for a 7 AM start; I made a quick visit to the grocery store to pick up some fresh produce for the week and was home by 7:30. A promising beginning I would say. After my usual large cup of warm water to officially start my day, I even treated myself to a cup of Kicking Horse coffee, my favourite Fair Trade brand. I'll take that double double please, it's one of my guilty pleasures. Next up was a little banter on the Global News Feed about the government's approach to restricting E-cigarettes and vaping in public spaces. Then, I got to spend some quality time in my rec room near our wood stove with my laptop to do some writing. A weekend treat for me! Yes siree, Sunday was a good day despite the fact that we still needed the wood stove in April, but it is Canada after all, and the weather can sometimes be a little crazy. 
My last 2 budget posts inspired me to challenge myself and prepare my meals for the week entirely from items I had on hand. My goal was to shop my freezer, fridge, and pantry. This little challenge arose because I had just emptied, re-organised my freezer, and updated my inventory list the week prior. I needed to make some space. Why did I have to make space you ask? Why to add some more stuff of course! I had to make room for some of the pork my mother-in-law stored for me in her freezer. You see, I purchased half a side of organic and pasture raised pork from a fabulous local farm (Strattons Farm) at the end of the summer and I didn't have enough space for it all, so my Mother-in-law helped me out. So long story short, while tidying and sorting, I found a few items that had been missed in previous inventory list additions and provided a visual reminder to make use of several items that had been kicking around in the freezer for far too long.

Check out my crazy full freezer! You can see why it's so important for me to keep an inventory list! Believe me, it works. This freezer is very busy. My freezer stores blueberries and strawberries from last years growing season, my half pork order, sale items purchased in larger quantities, several organic whole chickens, and my Bulk Barn purchases, like nuts and seeds, to keep them fresh.  You will also find my home prepared items like cooked beans and lentils, several jars, both large and small, of chicken stock and marinara, as well as freezer friendly make ahead meals too. And last, but not least, let's not forget the small bits and pieces of leftovers... Gravy pucks, leftover cooked meat and single servings of soup, sauces and the like. 

Michelle's Freezer, Fridge, & Pantry Finds

I found several bread bags with 3 or 4 slices of bread, including a collection of bread heels. Some of these were white (shhhhh, sometimes I cave to my daughter's wishes for squishy bread), some bags contained whole wheat, and other were multi-grains. I see a large bread pudding in my future. 

I also discovered half a package of smoked salmon from our Christmas Eve feast and the remainders of the ham from my Christmas Dinner part 2. The smoked salmon would elevate my creamy salmon, pasta and peas recipe to a new level as it is normally made with tinned salmon. I think that a few slices of that ham, finely diced will be a nice add in to a quiche.

Since spring is here, I decided that I better get my large jar of beef barley soup used up. After all, we won't be feeling like heavy soups like this, when and if the warm weather comes. I made a huge batch in January and froze a second meals worth.

I discovered 2 part bags of broccoli florets, both about one third full, one half bag of peas and unopened bags of mixed veggies, peas, and corn. I always like to have a few bags of frozen veggies on hand for those rare occasions that I have no fresh produce in the house or I need a super quick veggie side! I knew that the opened bags of frozen veggies really needed to be used up ASAP! Generally, I only use broccoli florets in my broccoli soup, but I would have to get creative with them since soup was already on the menu. I'm thinking that the quiche I've already thought of would be good spot for these and as an add in for a mixed veggie side. Presto, 2 part bags of broccoli florets used up!

I found a great stockpile of goodies to use up this week. I still have a loaf of bread, some Ozery Bakery Morning Rounds and some banana bread from a few weeks back which will be great for breakfasts and lunches too. I also had part of a container of leftover homemade Vitamix strawberry ice cream waiting patiently to be re-invented, I was thinking strawberry milkshake! These items, plus my regular inventory of organic pork and roasting chicken, frozen fruit, chicken stock, marinara sauce, and 2 bricks of cheese (bought on sale) made for a great jumping off point for my "no grocery store" meals!

Next, after checking over my freezer, I shopped my fridge and discovered a few items that needed to be used up too: I found a container with 2 servings of l mashed potatoes from last week, half a head of cabbage, a half dozen carrots, 3/4 of a bag of apples, 4 stalks of kale, 6 oranges, 3 lemons, half a head of broccoli and a half pound of butter PLUS my regular staples of nut butters, eggs, wraps, and condiments including Dijon mustard, mayo, and jam. Looking even better for a shopping free week of meal prep! I'm thinking that the veggies and the apples will become a warm cabbage and apple slaw - a perfect side with roast pork, the oranges can be used in fruit salads for breakfasts and lunches, and a few of the carrots will work in the mixed veggie side dish with the broccoli florets. 

My pantry is always well stocked with baking essentials like flour, various sugars, baking powder and dried fruits as well as a variety of dried herbs and spices. I still had plenty of onions, and potatoes from a few weeks back and I try to have plenty of oats, pasta, dried lentils & beans, canned tomatoes, pasata, and a few tins of salmon on hand. These are great pantry basics to have. I also have my lots of home canned apple sauce from last fall and several tins of maple syrup.
Here is the dinner meal plan I created for last week. It was based completely on the goodies I had stashed in my freezer, refrigerator and pantry (almost).
Sunday:  Roast pork, roasted potatoes, gravy, applesauce, and a side warm cabbage & apple slaw (sautéed shredded cabbage, carrots, chopped kale and apple chunks with a little cinnamon and maple syrup Mmmmmm). And for dessert, strawberry milkshake made with my homemade strawberry ice cream and some additional frozen strawberries. 

Monday: Beef barley soup with added frozen peas and homemade "Red Lobster inspired" biscuits made a little more healthy. I cut back the butter and sneak in some red lentil purée and brush on half and half seasoned butter and olive oil mix instead of all melted butter. There were even leftover biscuits for lunches!

Tuesday: Creamy fusilli pasta, salmon and LOTS of peas. There wasn't enough smoked salmon so I also used the tinned salmon. It worked well! For dessert, blueberry lemon muffins (with some hidden healthy lentil puree). These also doubled as lunch snacks too.

Wednesday: Sunday dinner ditto - roast pork, gravy with roasted potatoes. Because I only had a few roasted potatoes, the leftover mashed potatoes from the fridge allowed the three of us to have potatoes. Since I only had half a head of broccoli, I bulked up our veggie serving with some leftover warm cabbage and apple slaw. Who would have thought that half a head of cabbage plus the other veggies would make so much? For dessert, apple bread pudding made from those odds and sods of bread found in the freezer and the last of the apples.

Thursday: Broccoli, onion & ham quiche with a potato crust, I used some of the frozen broccoli florets and some of the frozen ham, diced and a little shredded cheddar cheese. I even managed to use the last of the warm cabbage slaw (cause you can never have too many veggies!) and more apple bread pudding for dessert.

Friday: Hot pork sandwiches, apple sauce and peas and corn mixed. Although we had no fries, this is my favourite diner food! My hubby prefers his open faced, but I go for the 2 slices of bread version. It's your choice!

Saturday: Chicken cacciatore using a whole chicken (cut into pieces) and the marinara from the freezer, linguine from the pantry & mixed veggie - steamed fresh carrot julienned & frozen broccoli florets. I made it just a little more special with a grating of real parmasean cheese. No cellulose fibre fillers in our cheese! Yuck. Behold, my chicken cacciatore served family style on whole wheat linguine.
I did end up having to run to the store to pick up some more milk for the fam for cereal and drinks and another dozen eggs to make the quiche. All in all, I think I did well with only having to spend another $10.57 for last weeks groceries and we did not lack in having tasty and nutritious meals that even included dessert.

So, in the end, I pretty much shopped my kitchen in order to make our meals for last week. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can shop your kitchen to make sure you use up your leftovers and make aheads. I used up all the perishables in my fridge so no biological experiments to send to the green bin! My freezer still has a few more things for me to use up before the warm weather shows up, but I am well on my way to using up the older and fall/winter foods in my freezer. 

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