Monday, September 5, 2011

Meal Plan: The New Auto-pilot plan

Today is the school year's equivalent of January 1. We've had the one last hurrah after the elongated holidays of summer, we've enjoyed the lazy days, the pajama mornings, the late bedtimes, but tomorrow.....

In appreciation of the "other new year" and the frenetic pace we know we'll be keeping once I am back on the road and we enter into the public schools system (read: the world of soccer) for the first time, we have created a secret weapon. Our new "Auto-pilot Meal Plan" can be pulled out and slapped into place at a moment's notice. Whether we are hit with an epic stomach flu or find ourselves driving back late from a weekend trip that "seemed like a good idea at the time," or just a case of too much work-travel and not enough time to plan, we will be able to activate six (count them, six!) dinners in a row.

The methodology at work for each meal in this plan is one of ease, frugality and attractiveness (to our kids). We chose this recipes based on what we typically stock in our pantry and freezer, the ability to use similar ingredients in multiple recipes, therefore having to stock or purchase fewer items and those that would let us use the slow cooker as often as possible.

I encourage you to keep track of how many times we hit this "emergency button" between now and June 30...

Here's the plan:

Vegetable chili, brown rice, side vegetable (this week: broccoli)
I will use beans that I've soaked, cooked and frozen, a bag of frozen shredded zucchini and half a can or jar of stewed tomatoes. The remaining half can will be used in the pasta on Wednesday.

Crock Pot Layered Dinner with chicken from the freezer, stored fingerling potatoes and a side vegetable (this week: new Brussels sprouts!)

Pasta with tomato sauce (fortified with bean stock), Romano cheese
The second half can of Monday's tomatoes will be used here to make the sauce. I usually save and freeze the stock from cooking dried beans and add it to sauces and soups later on.

Broiled fish, leftover potatoes from Tuesday and side vegetable (this week: kale)
This fish is the first new thing I will have had to buy for this week's worth of dinners. Everything else is part of our normal stocked pantry or freezer.

Homemade pizza
Using a second can or jar of tomatoes

I will use a leftover pizza sauce and turn it into the meat sauce for the "lasagna." We will probably have a salad, since we will have a chance to go to the Farmer's market or will hopefully have recovered from whatever it was that made us activate the Auto-pilot plan in the first place.

Grocery List for this meal plan:

2 28 oz cans (or 2 qt jars) crushed, stewed or pureed tomatoes (on hand)
1 can or 3/4 C frozen pinto, kidney, rosada or navy beans (on hand)
1 T chili seasoning (on hand)
2 cup shredded zucchini (on hand)
1 cup brown rice (on hand)
1 chicken breast/4 thighs, drumsticks or whatever (on hand)
2 lbs potatoes (on hand)
3 meal's worth of vegetable sides (on hand)
Romano cheese (on hand)
garlic (on hand)
EVOO (on hand)
1 box pasta (on hand)
4 cups Mozzarella cheese (on hand)
1 lb ground beef, turkey, lamb, pork (on hand)
2 lbs of fish fillets (purchased, though I am likely to buy two meal's worth at a time and freeze one)
1 lb frozen ravioli (purchased)

We hope not to pull this trigger too often because even though we like these meals, we would get tired of them. What we are trying to accomplish is a baseline for maintenance. As long as we keep these items in the house and, in the event of "disaster" one of us can make it to the store and pick up a few items (in addition to milk, eggs flour and COFFEE) we'll be okay. Well, at least we'll eat.

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